Everybody projects their hopes on the future. Do we impose our wishes on the past, too? The man who killed John Kennedy fifty years ago today wasn’t a CIA operative or a John Birch Society member in good standing. He was a Communist who migrated to the Soviet Union, took a Russian wife, and littered the streets of New Orleans with handbills in praise of Fidel Castro. Facts can really mess up a narrative, which is why conspiracy theories were invented.
Rather than accept the reality that a “silly little Communist,” as Jacqueline Kennedy aptly put it, killed the president, great numbers of small people weave elaborate, politically flattering fictions that usually involve dark cabals comprised of caricatures of those they hate most—shadowy intelligence operatives, ribbon-chested devotees of the military-industrial complex, Texas oil millionaires, etc. This is a form of narcissism, in which one’s own devils become the devil figures for larger-than-life leaders.
June 24, 1985. The home of Senator Edward M. Kennedy in McLean, Virginia. The event? An endowment fundraiser of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Present was the Kennedy “A-Team.” The host, of course, was Senator Kennedy. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was front and center with her two children, Caroline and John. Ethel — Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy — was there, her oldest child, daughter Kathleen, on stage with her. The audience? The men and women of the Kennedy New Frontier, the larger circle of family and friends. And, of course, wealthy endowment donors.
At the center?
President Ronald Reagan and First Nancy Reagan.
There was a reason for Reagan’s presence, a particularly touching reason at that.
I am slightly grateful for Obamacare.
It’s not going to cause a 21st Century Great Awakening toward the perils of Leviathan government. If history is a guide, any such increase in citizens’ focus on the harm done by politicians will likely be temporary, given Americans’ short memories in the face of claimed good intentions and free lunches.
But for today, disapproval of Obamacare is at its highest in a least a year, with the number one reason, according to Gallup, being “government interference.” Price increases come in a distant second. Maybe all is not lost.
If you’ve not heard of the “Complete Streets” movement, count yourself lucky. You’ve managed to avoid the acrimonious Bike Lane Wars. And don’t ask about them at social events. “Bike lanes, I put that now in the category of things you shouldn't discuss at dinner parties,” a New York City Councilor tells us. “It used to be money and politics and religion. Now you should add bike lane.”
Barring an event of Biblical proportions, Friday’s news coverage, on air, online, and on paper, will be all-JFK all the time. But my 50-year John Kennedy story is for today, which is 50 years out from the late president’s first full day of campaigning for the 1964 presidential race. It took place in Tampa. I was on hand for a chunk of it.
Presidential visits (and the traffic nightmares they bring with them) are almost routine for Tampa now, such is the importance of Florida’s 29 electoral votes. But JFK’s 1963 visit was the first time a president in office had come to Tampa. It was a big deal for what was then a sleepy Southern town of about 275,000 souls. There was a cover story for JFK’s visit, something about celebrating the anniversary of the first commercial flight, which took place between Tampa and St. Petersburg in 1914. But the real reason was politics. JFK had lost Florida in 1960 to Tricky Dick by fewer than 50,000 votes, and didn’t want to lose the Sunshine State again in 1964. He wanted to charm the locals, and he succeeded.