John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Remembering Kennedy

Posted on November 22, 2013
John F. Kennedy, White House color photo portrait.jpg

"John F. Kennedy, White House color photo portrait" by Cecil Stoughton, White House - This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 194255.{B9C835C6-2EF1-4C3F-A600-B4BE064F1A20}&type=Image. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

You can see Robert E. Lee’s home from the Lincoln Memorial and if you squint hard enough (and have enough of an imagination) you can see the eternal flame, where Jack Kennedy is buried.

As Lincoln was murdered at the end of the first Civil War, Jack Kennedy’s assassination marked the beginning of the second Civil War.

It should come as no surprise that Kennedy was murdered in Dallas.  Despite the big crowds that came out to see him, folks down there hated the Irish Catholic Yankee.  And according to a new book by Roger Stone, “The Man Who Killed Kennedy,” it was the Vice President who disliked the President the most, and he was the man who did him in.

Stone, a former Nixon aide and a notorious Republican operative, has penned a great read, full of interesting facts and provocative conjecture.

The book portrays Jack Kennedy and his brother, Bobby, as naïve and flawed, unaware of the deals their father cut with unsavory characters to get them to the White House, morally compromised, ruthless in pursuing their enemies but heroic in their efforts to fight corruption.

Lyndon Johnson, on the other hand, has few redeeming qualities in the book.  He is an amoral sociopath, a philanderer who had more women than both Kennedys combined, a killer who ordered the murders of anybody who stood in his way, even the President.

I don’t know if the Stone theory is true or not, but I am not ready to completely discount it.

But Lee Harvey Oswald did not kill Jack Kennedy on his own. I am pretty certain of that fact.  The single-bullet theory put forward by the Warren Commission was laughable, and the folks who participated in that “blue-ribbon” panel had a vested interest in keeping the truth away from the American people.

50 years later, you have to wonder if we can now handle the truth.  My guess is that we can’t.

Kennedy, in Chris Matthews’ phrase, is an elusive figure.

Were his womanizing ways an example of an immoral soul or did they reflect the Madmen era that he lived in?  Was in over his head as President, as the Bay of Pigs fiasco demonstrated, or was he skilled far beyond his years, as his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis might suggest?  Is he over-rated by historians or does all the glamour distract from his true historic legacy?

How you view Kennedy is reflection of how you were raised, what religion you believe in, and where you are from.

I’m Irish Catholic, so I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Kennedys, even though my father voted for Nixon in 1960.  Dad likes to point out that Kennedy lost the debates to Nixon if you read the transcript or listened to it on the radio.  Sadly for Nixon, most people watched it on television.

I read the other day about a woman who attended an all-girls school in the South, and upon the news that Kennedy was shot, she said that a cheer erupted.  Nice.

Sam Tannenhaus wrote an interesting story in the New York Times about how the Tea Party movement was really born during the Kennedy Administration.  Similar doomsday rhetoric, similar fiery sermons from similar Baptist preachers, the similar talk radio hosts, but the same hate funded by the same kinds of billionaires.

Of course, back then the Tea Party was dividing the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party, but the key contours of the debate remain the same.

As the shots rang out on Dealey Plaza, a new era was ushered in.  Kennedy might have been a moderating force, but upon his death , social revolution engulfed the 1960’s.  First race, then sex, then class, as the political parties reordered, the Democratic Tea Party slowly and then all of a sudden became Republican, and the Second Civil War truly ended with the election of Barack Hussein Obama, the first African American to be elected to the White House.

Obama didn’t win by hook or by crook.  He won fair and square.   And he won reelection, and as much as I didn’t want him to win, he did.  And he won in bastions of the former Confederacy, in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.

The Second Civil War is over.  While things aren’t perfect in America today, they are better than they once were on many levels.  A black man can win the highest office in the land, fair and square.     Corruption in politics isn’t nearly as omnipresent as it once was.   Poverty now is better than poverty back then was.

But we still have some deep problems in this country.  The middle class is under assault.   The government is seemingly incompetent and the Congress has lost the respect of the people.  Racial animosity still exists.  And there is a moral breakdown in this country that is alarming and destructive.

150 years and a few days ago, Abraham Lincoln said, “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

He concluded, “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Words to remember as we remember the life and the death of Jack Kennedy.