One of the things November 22 changed was my wedding: we were scheduled to get married on November 22, 1980, until I protested that I did not want to have the anniversary of what was going to be one of the happiest days of my life coincide with one of the most traumatic days in my childhood, and in the nation’s history.
On this date in 1963, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated while traveling through Dallas, Texas, in an open-top convertible. Kennedy was, in some ways, the opposite of Donald Trump, a youthful, inspiring, charismatic President who radiated promise and good will, and who seemed poised to lead a united and vibrant America into the second half of the 20th Century. It was all hype: JFK’s was the ultimate “golden dancer presidency” even before Barack Obama. As P.J. O’Roarke writes this week in Commentary, Kennedy “was a man of no abiding political principles, a plagiaristic pseudo-intellectual, a liar about his health and fitness, and a gross philanderer. But, it turns out, he also wasn’t a very nice guy.” Yet he made the nation feel good, optimistic, excited about the future. His sudden death was shattering and transforming in ways, I would argue, even 9/11 couldn’t match.
The previous assassination had occurred when McKinley was shot, leading us into the era of Teddy Roosevelt and Progressivism. Kennedy’s death made the U.S. lurch into the Vietnam era, campus activism, civil rights protests, Richard Nixon and Watergate, and the drugs, sex and cynicism of the Sixties. They might be listening to more boring music in the multiverse where JFK lived to a ripe old age, but I’d take my chances with it.
Talk about an ethics train wreck! Gross incompetence allowed Kennedy to be vulnerable to a sniper that day. The Dallas police let Jack Ruby shoot and kill Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. The official Warren Commission report of 1964 concluded that neither Oswald nor Ruby were part of a larger conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy, but few believed it, and irresponsible conspiracy-mongers from Jim Garrison to Oliver Stone were able to exploit the giant holes in the report to plant a cancer of suspicion and distrust that has thoroughly metastasized. In 1978 Congress issued a “preliminary report” that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy” that may have involved multiple shooters and organized crime.
That was one magic lugee.
1. And while we are on the topic of cult figures who died tragically…Netflix’s “The Crown” has revived all-matters-Diana, and now the BBC has reopened an inquiry into how journalist Martin Bashir arranged his sensational interview with the late Princess in which she openly attacked the Royal family and Prince Charles. A two-part documentary that aired on the British network ITV on last week included allegations that Bashir used dishonest tactics to earn Diana’s trust and persuade her to tell tales “out of school” with candor unprecedented in Royal Family history.
The documentary claims that Bashir used doctored bank statements to convince Diana that royal employees were being paid to spy on her.The British Broadcasting Corporation, which originally aired the interview on its “Panorama” program, announced that it would open an independent investigation into the allegations.
Martin Bashir? Where have I heard that name before? Oh, right, now I remember. He was the MSNBC host who had to resign after saying on the air that someone should shit in Sarah Palin’s mouth. But surely someone like that would never use unethical tactics to get the scoop interview of the century…