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Fifty years after JFK’s inaugural: left-on-left violence, ideological pornography.
“And so my fellow Americans; Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” — President John F. Kennedy in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961
“I have to tell you, Rush Limbaugh is looking more and more like Mr. Big, and at some point somebody’s going to jam a CO2 pellet into his head and he’s going to explode like a giant blimp. That day may come. Not yet. But we’ll be there to watch. I think he’s Mr. Big, I think Yaphet Kotto. Are you watching, Rush? — MSNBC Host Chris Matthews on Rush Limbaugh
It was to be the beginning of a new American golden age.
Instead, it ended in a horrifying display of left-on-left violence that set the tone for what can effectively be described as the moment the stage was set for today’s liberal media obsession with what amounts to ideological pornography.
The inauguration of John F. Kennedy as the 35th President of the United States took place on a crisp, cold New England-style day fifty years ago this week. So long ago — yet so memorable to any alive in the moment.
There had been a snow storm the night before, blanketing not only Washington but a considerable portion of the East Coast. The storm had created chaos of a sort in Washington, but by the designated morning of the ceremonial day the Capital was sparkling under a bright blue sky.
American televisions were still broadcasting mostly in black and white. The television series Bonanza, a Western saga about widowed Virginia City rancher Ben Cartwright and his three sons, was one of the audacious new programs broadcast in color for those lucky few who had color TV sets. But most of America tuned into one of the three television networks of the day — veterans CBS and NBC along with the newer, less viewed ABC — to see the new president sworn-in in black and white.
Even in black and white the images dazzled. The old president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the hero general of a war still barely fifteen years distant, looked like Norman Rockwell’s ideal of the kindly grandfather. The famous big grin that reminded Americans of why they had always liked Ike was still in place. But of a sudden there was a consciousness that, well, he did seem old at that.
That feeling, universal at the time, was accentuated for reasons well beyond the fact that the old president was giving way to the new. What made the event so riveting — the first of its kind in the television age — was the inescapable visual of the old man’s successor.
John F. Kennedy this January inauguration day was a mere 43 years old. The last time — the only time — America had had a president of such visible youth and energy was a full sixty years earlier. Theodore Roosevelt, age 42 when he received word that William McKinley’s death at the hands of the left-wing anarchist Leon Czolgosz had elevated him from the vice-presidency to the White House, was now a distant if fond memory. Indeed, TR’s daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth was still a Washington celebrity — and a Kennedy favorite.
To look back at the images of JFK, hatless and coatless as he took the presidential oath that day, the trademark thatch of chestnut hair to become the model for a generation of politicians, is to be reminded that his youth was — and is — very much a part of America’s self-image. “I say this country must move again,” he had exhorted during the campaign, and this day gave the exhilarating sense the forward motion had begun.
Remembered now for the famous phrase that summoned a generation to “ask what you can do for your country” — in fact the speech was also significant for what it said about the state of American liberalism of the day.
Kennedy was celebrated by his admirers for his cool, calm rationality. And that very rationality had made of John F. Kennedy a member in good standing of those who were unafraid to look unblinkingly into the eye of the Communist Soviet Union and see, as Ronald Reagan would later say, “an evil empire.”
Kennedy had run to the right of the celebrated anti-Communist Richard Nixon in 1960.
In the very first line of his opening statement in the first Kennedy-Nixon debate, Kennedy had made it abundantly clear where he stood.
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