November 22, 1963: Kennedy Assassinated

Hard to believe that the Kennedy assassination was half a century ago.  Back in 1963 I was in second grade, but I was not in school.  Sick with pneumonia, my mother had taken me to the doctor and he had prescribed penicillin.  After getting my prescription filled my mother took me home.  She turned on our television set and I planted myself on the couch to watch it.  As we watched television we saw the initial news flashes that President Kennedy had been shot.  This was on a Friday, and the remainder of that day and the weekend, my mother, father and I and my brother practically lived in front of the television set, riveted by the around the clock coverage, something unprecedented in this country before that dreadful day.

America was stunned at the idea that a President could be assassinated.  It had been 62 years since the last President had been assassinated and the country had grown complacent.  Conspiracy theories began almost at once, fueled by the surrealist murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby and by the inability of liberals to accept that their icon John F. Kennedy, ironically a very centrist Democrat, had been felled by a deranged Marxist, rather than by some sinister right wing cabal.

What was the impact of the Kennedy assassination on American history?  Probably minimal.  The economy was in good shape so Kennedy was doubtless going to be re-elected in 1964, especially with newsmen not covering his constant womanizing and his addiction to painkillers from a back injury he sustained during World War II.  Contrary to the imaginings of some liberal commentators, Kennedy was a cold warrior to his core, and the idea that he would have avoided the Vietnam War is fanciful.

Assuming that Kennedy had slaughtered Goldwater, a fairly safe assumption, he would probably have embarked on something like the Great Society in 1965, many components of which were actually stalled New Frontier initiatives, made possible in 1965 by the sweeping Democrat gains in Congress from the 1964 elections.

It is interesting to contemplate how Kennedy would have confronted liberal criticism of the Vietnam War.  It is possible that he would have fought resolutely against it, and based upon his views up to his death that is a logical conclusion.  However, I suspect that he would have been just as much a political chameleon as his brothers Bobby and Teddy, and he would quickly have moved left as the Democrat party moved left.

However this is all speculation.  Due to the events of a half century ago the tale of John F. Kennedy ended abruptly at age 46, all his possible tomorrows being rendered matters of fiction only, and outside the realm of history.

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Published in: on November 22, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)