“The Kennedy cult,” Frank Rich writes in a New York Times Magazine piece, “generally gets a waiver on reality checks.” Perhaps this cultist, who confesses to finding the thousand-day presidency “beautiful, even erotic,” counted on such a waiver when writing his delusional commemoration of the 35th president’s assassination.
Take it from Frank Rich: Don’t blame a Communist for the president’s death. Blame the American Right.
Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy in Dallas forty-eight-years ago today. Even before Lyndon Johnson’s presidency began, the assassination narrative did. Did you know that the John Birch Society was big in Dallas? That Dallas was once in the Confederacy and Kennedy hailed from the capital of Yankee America? That Victor Lasky’s anti-Camelot JFK: The Man & the Myth topped the city’s bestseller lists? Such is the flimsy stuff of connect-the-dots historiography.
“What defines the Kennedy legacy today is less the fallen president’s short, often admirable life than the particular strain of virulent hatred that helped bring him down,” Rich writes. “After JFK was killed, that hate went into only temporary hiding. It has been a growth industry ever since and has been flourishing in the Obama years. There are plenty of comparisons to be made between the two men, but the most telling is the vitriol that engulfed both their presidencies.” Alas, the vitriol that engulfed John Kennedy’s two successors, and Barack Obama’s two predecessors, dwarfed the vitriol directed at either of America’s most recent Democratic presidents from the North.
For Rich, understanding why has less to do with who the assassin was than with where the assassination occurred. He implores readers to remember “the role played in Oswald’s psyche by the torrid atmosphere of political rage in Dallas.” But he presumably wants them to forget that the “political rage” Kennedy’s assassin tapped into emanated from Moscow and Havana, not Dallas. Rich devotes one line to debunking, or at least deflating, the notion that Oswald’s activism as a Communist motivated his noxious act. “Immediately after the assassination and ever since, the right has tried to deflect any connection between its fevered Kennedy hatred and Oswald’s addled psyche with the fact that the assassin had briefly defected to the Soviet Union,” Rich writes. But West-to-East migration was hardly a pedestrian occurrence at the height of the Cold War. Can one credibly dismiss the defection as a minor bit of information mitigated by its brevity, particularly when one makes the curious case that right-wing extremism fueled the left-wing assassin?
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