JFK Reads the Declaration of Independence

The things you can find on the internet.  Then Senator John F. Kennedy reading the Declaration of Independence on a radio station WQXR in New York  on July 4, 1957, the year of my birth.

Published in: on July 7, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on JFK Reads the Declaration of Independence  
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October 21, 1960: Fourth and Final Nixon-Kennedy Debate

 

 

The fourth and final Nixon-Kennedy debate.  Most pundits scored this debate a draw.  Although the debates are famous, I do wonder if they exerted much impact on the election outcome.  They certainly were more dignified and issue oriented than our wretched presidential debates this year.  Of course that would have changed if the colorful, to say the least, private life of John Kennedy had been front and center.  However, it was a different world back then.  Many reporters knew that Kennedy was a womanizer.  This this was at a time when  the personal sins of most politicians were not revealed by the press.  Whether this was a good or bad thing I will leave to another post.  However, our world is so different now, that such reportorial discretion is almost unimaginable, at least if the politician has an R after his name.  Even with Democrats, the media is so diverse, such news would have a hard time being kept under wraps for any length of time.  Go here to view the entire debate.

Published in: on October 21, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 21, 1960: Fourth and Final Nixon-Kennedy Debate  
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Musings on the Diem Coup

 

Fascinating memo dictated by President Kennedy on the Diem Coup on November 4, 1963.  Kennedy expresses regret about the coup.  His analysis of it, and its likely effects, is impressive.  Not so impressive is Kennedy allowing an action to take place which he had such misgivings about.  What Kennedy would have done about Vietnam, if he had not been assassinated eighteen days after he dictated the memo, is one of the great what ifs of post World War II American history.

Published in: on March 31, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Musings on the Diem Coup  
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The Manchester Affair

william-manchester-1922-2004-american-everett

 

In my personal library is a tome by John Corry, then a New York Times reporter, entitled The Manchester Affair and published in 1967.  The book details the battle by Robert F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy against the late William Manchester, historian and biographer.  Prior to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Manchester had published a laudatory look at Kennedy, A Portrait of A President.  After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, both Robert F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy were looking for an author to give an “official” Kennedy view of the death of JFK.   Manchester, who was the third author the offer was made to, jumped at the chance.

The book became something of a chase after the White Whale by Manchester who read the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission several times before it was published, interviewed well over a thousand people, including both Jackie Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy twice, and suffered a collapse from exhaustion.  He finished writing the book, The Death of a President, in 1966 during an eight week stay at a hospital in Portland, Connecticut.

The Kennedys were dismayed by the volume:  Robert F. Kennedy by the hostile attitude in the book towards President Johnson and Jackie by too much blood and gore in the depiction of the assassination, and by Manchester revealing too much of her private thoughts, which she had confided in him, during the day of the assassination and the days following.  (Robert Kennedy hated LBJ, a sentiment returned with interest by LBJ.  However, he understood that a book that would appear to be a hired Kennedy “hit” against LBJ would do him no good if he decided to run against him in 1968.)

Manchester, who viewed his work with the love of a parent for a child, was willing to make some revisions, but not nearly enough to placate the Kennedys.  The Kennedys foolishly filed suit to enjoin the publication on the grounds that Manchester had violated the terms of his original agreement with the Kennedys, (he hadn’t), thus greatly enhancing the interest of the public in the book.  The suit was settled by Manchester in January 1967 agreeing to  cut some 1600 words and seven pages from the 654 page book.  Manchester described the cuts at the time as “harmless” and the settlement was a face saving device for the Kennedys retreating from a legal fight they could not win.  The book was a massive best seller, selling over a million copies, and Look magazine paying the then unheard of price of $650,000.00 for serialization rights.  Manchester went on to write such acclaimed works as his biography of Douglas MacArthur, American Caesar, still the best of the many books on MacArthur in my opinion, his two volume look at Winston Churchill up to 1940, subsequently completed after Manchester’s death by another author, and his haunting memoir of his service as a Marine in World War II, Goodbye DarknessA Memoir of the Pacific War.

 

 

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Published in: on January 6, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Manchester Affair  
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Presidential Assassins: Lone Gunman

 

A trifle over 62 years separated the assassination of William McKinley and that of John F. Kennedy.  The American people had grown perhaps complacent in the thought that Presidential assassinations were a thing of the past, although Giuseppe Zangara could easily have assassinated President-Elect Roosevelt instead of Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak in 1933, and Puerto Rican terrorists came perilously close to assassinating Harry Truman in 1950.  Nevertheless, the assassination of John F. Kennedy hit America hard.

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.

Conspiracy theories have flourished almost before Kennedy’s corpse was cold, a great many people unwilling to accept that a frustrated loser like Lee Harvey Oswald could have been the assassin of Kennedy.

Born in 1939, Oswald had  a troubled childhood.  A psychiatric assessment he received as a juvenile could be a summation of his life: Oswald the assessment concluded had a  “vivid fantasy life, turning around the topics of omnipotence and power, through which [Oswald] tries to compensate for his present shortcomings and frustrations.”  As a teenager he began to read about socialism and quickly became a convert to that doctrine.

Joining the Marine Corps at 17, he qualified as a marksman.  His fellow Marines referred to him as Ozzie Rabbit and Oswaldskovich because of his Communist leanings.  He was courtmartialed after accidentally shooting himself in the elbow.  He left the Marines on a hardship discharge in 1959, claiming that his mother needed his support.  Traveling to the Soviet Union he lived there until June 1, 1962 when  he left for the United States with his Soviet wife and their daughter.

He and his family settled in Dallas where his mother and brother lived.  In March 1963 he purchased a 6.5 mm caliber Carcano rifle.  On April 10, 963 he attempted to assassinate retired U.S. Major General Edwin Walker at Walker’s home.  Walker was a figure on the far right in Dallas.  The attack failed and Oswald escaped without being discovered.  Traveling to New Orleans in May 1963 he found work and attempted to set up a Fair Play for Cuba, a pro-Castro organization, chapter in New Orleans.

In September 1963 Oswald traveled to Mexico City and spent five fruitless days at the Soviet and Cuban embassies, fruitlessly attempting to get permission to travel to Cuba and the Soviet Union.  The Cubans regarded Oswald as a nut and rejected his application to travel to Cuba.

On October 3, 1963 he was back in Dallas and on October 16 was hired by the Book Depository.

On November 22, 1963 at 12:30 PM, Oswald fired three shots from the sixth floor of the Book Depository, killing Kennedy who was passing by in an open motorcade and severely wounding Governor John Connally. During his attempt to elude capture, Oswald shot to death Patrolman J. D. Tippit with a revolver.  Oswald was captured at the Texas Theater shortly before 2:00PM.  During two days of interrogation, Oswald denied that he killed either Kennedy or Tippit.

On November 24, 1963 at 11:21 AM, as he was in transit from the Dallas Police headquarters to the county jail, Oswald was shot to death by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

With that, the conspiracy theories were off and running, with some 42 separate groups being blamed for the Kennedy assassination.  I have seen nothing to convince me that Oswald was not the assassin and that he acted completely alone.

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 inner demons that drove Lee Harvey Oswald, 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 February 18, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Presidential Assassins: Lone Gunman  
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Cuban Missile Crisis Speech

The world came very close to nuclear war half a century back.  The above video is of the speech that President Kennedy gave fifty years ago on October 22, 1962.  Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in placing nuclear missiles in Cuba brought the world to the brink.  The crisis was ultimately resolved with the removal of the Soviet missiles in exchange for two  agreements between the US and the Soviet Union:  1.  No invasion of Cuba by the US and 2.  The removal of obsolete American Jupiter nuclear missiles from Turkey and Southern Italy.  Unsurprisingly the US kept secret the removal of the Jupiter missiles.  Surprisingly the Soviets also kept mum about the removal of the Jupiter missiles which led to the perception abroad and within the Soviet Union that Khrushchev had lost his confrontation with Kennedy, and paved the way for the Central Committee coup led by Leonid Brezhnev which toppled  Khrushchev from power in October 1964.  Here is the text of the speech: (more…)