The evil that led to the death of JFK is among us today…

June 14, 2016

Another world, another time. I ran across a clip of President Kennedy (JFK) talking about Social Security and the need for a national health care program. He was so easy to listen to, so eloquent without being stilted or dense in wordage. And he was a rich kid and maybe a bit like FDR, who some called a “traitor to his class”. He talked of looking out for “working people” who did not want a hand out, just some assistance. He gently mocked the men of business who said a minimum wage would wipe them out and destroy the self-reliance of working people.

I was only a freshman in high school when JFK was assassinated, but I remember him.

On this clip, listen to his reference about the men in straw hats and canes (how quaint).

Kennedy might be thought of as a liberal in today’s politics but I think he more accurately would be described as “progressive”.  At one time there were progressive Republicans, in fact, if memory serves me correctly, it was the Republicans who had the original progressives. Think of Teddy Roosevelt.

Whatever. JFK was not perfect, and he made major errors — the Bay of Pigs comes to mind (although it was set into motion by the previous Republican administration).

But he stood up to the Soviet Union in Cuba and he forced two Southern Governors to step aside when they tried to bodily prevent black students from entering publicly-funded universities.

He was cool under fire. He did not engage in bombast. And yet he could be forceful. He had the gift of charm that worked with women and men. Well, not completely: unfortunately, in his push for civil rights he faced a recalcitrant congress. Back in his day there were still segregationists in the Democratic Party (they would later move to the Republican Party when LBJ pushed through civil rights legislation. The party of Lincoln, who freed the slaves, became the modern party that tried to keep the descendants of slaves down).

Today’s Republican presumptive nominee for president is a rich man who claims to be beholding to no one. Whether that is true or not, he seems mainly to be concerned about himself, about his brand as a tough guy, who insults who he pleases, dispenses with manners, and encourages divisions in society and violence that can go with it. And he is not a bit eloquent and his message is always a bit unclear (except for the hate and violence part) or short on details and subject to change, literally from one minute to the next.

We just don’t have politicians like JFK today.

I’m not sure how he would fare in today’s atmosphere. In fact, today’s atmosphere is a lot like the hate-filled atmosphere in Dallas, Tex, where JFK met his end.

(That is not to say that there were not gracious and civil-minded people in Dallas — admirers and the curious crowded the streets to see him and were horrified when they either saw what happened or got the news, but the hate mongers had their effect then and seem to now.)

Oh, and one more thing. All those chicken hawks who talk tough militarily, who never served themselves, seem so small standing in the shadow of JFK who served as a skipper of a PT boat in the South Pacific in World War II, and rescued men of his own crew after enemy action.

 

 

 


It began with the promise of youth and then Camelot died…

November 22, 2013

A half century ago now President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and I look back:

I think I got my initial look at politics perhaps during the mid 1950s when I was just a little lad indeed. But I watched the political conventions and found them to be as entertaining as anything I had ever watched on TV. All those people wearing funny hats and displaying signs and chanting for their candidate. And that was back when the candidacy was actually decided at the conventions, rather than that endless string of primaries and straw polls we have today.

And then my mom let me stay home from school the day of Dwight Eisenhower’s second inaugural because the local high school band was in the parade in far-off Washington D.C. , and it was being televised.

Mr. Eisenhower was a grandfatherly old man. He of course had been the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, as Gen. Eisenhower.

But the election of 1960 offered something new. The old man could not run for a third term because a new constitutional amendment had just passed forbidding that.

So now, this time, no matter whether the Republican won or the Democrat, the new president would be relatively young — in his 40s. Comedians told jokes about the babyish candidates.

But there was no doubt that the more handsome and more lady-killer looking one was the Democrat John F. Kennedy, often referred to as “Jack” Kennedy. And we all know the story that Kennedy clobbered Eisenhower’s vice-president Richard Nixon in the televised debates, or at least the first one, because Kennedy’s makeup was better under the lights and he had a fresh tan, whereas Nixon either was not wearing makeup or it was bad makeup, and he was just coming off an illness. In actual debating it was probably a tie, and it is said that many who listened on radio gave Nixon the win.

As we know, Kennedy, or JFK, as he would become known, went on the win the election (Nixon got his turn a decade later). JFK wore a top hat to the inauguration but I think that was where he lost the hat — after that it was that bushy red hair brushed back (or was it forward?) on his head. And seemingly overnight the style of men in hats was gone — although of course many men still wore them, my dad included.

Glamour and youth took over the White House. JFK had striking good looks, and he had a charming and gracious and cultured wife, Jackie. And they had two darling children, Caroline and John John. While not everyone loved the Kennedys, overall they took the nation by storm. It was as if we had royalty in the White House and the public was taken in by the pageantry created by the forces supportive of Kennedy and the media in general I suppose. Jackie gave a televised tour of the White House showing how she was refurbishing it. The whole Kennedy White House and presidency took on the name of “Camelot” after a current play about a mythical kingdom where the days were sunny and happiness reigned.

There was a major foreign policy misstep early on. Kennedy had signed on to an ongoing secret operation initiated in the previous Eisenhower Administration in which the U.S. military would give some support to a band of Cuban exile anti-Castro forces who were to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and according to the plan spark a popular uprising against the communist dictator. It failed miserably from the start and seeing the sure disaster JFK cut the U.S. support. It was a major embarrassment when it soon became public.  But later he became a hero by standing up to the Soviet Union and forcing our arch cold war rival to remove missiles aimed at us from Cuba.

And Kennedy vowed to fight the communist insurgency in Vietnam by supporting the government there, although initially all the talk was about a country in the same area called Laos.

But all of that was in the background. We were not yet mired in a ground offensive in Southeast Asia. I doubt most people even knew where Vietnam was on a map yet.

No, then it was all goodwill via JFK’s Peace Corps sent all over the world to help those in developing countries live better lives — youthful volunteers spreading hope from the good ol’ USA around the globe.

And he urged the nation to get fit with 40-mile hikes. My dad and I even took one — not 40 miles though. Well that was one hike, actually my dad and a brother and I did take a hike that long and more into a wilderness area in the mountains.

JFK exuded the spirit of can-do for the nation. He vowed that we would put a man on the moon before the decade was out (and of course we did). And during his days in office we put our first men into space and kept up with the Soviet Union in the space race and soon surpassed that nation.

Kennedy seemed to be for all the correct things: he was strongly anti-communist and pro-civil rights. Night after night people were now seeing terrible scenes on TV of black people demonstrating to get equal voting rights in southern states, only to be beaten back by water cannon and dogs and police with billy clubs.

JFK was pushing for civil rights legislation. This of course was not popular in some circles.

And then he went into the south, to Dallas, to campaign for another term in office.

And on Nov. 22, 1963 he was gunned down in a motorcade on a Dallas Street.

(And while that city was a hotbed of anti-Kennedy feelings and even those making violent threats, I don’t mean to imply we know the motive for the assassination. We don’t.)

Fifty years later we don’t know if there was but one assassin or how many shots were really fired and whether there was a conspiracy and if so by whom. Theories abound, everything from pro-Castro forces, to anti-Castro forces, to the CIA, to vice president Lyndon Johnson, to organized crime, to anti-civil rights forces.

What we do know is that Camelot died on that day. The sun was no longer guaranteed to shine. But we also survived as a nation and there was an orderly transition of power.

And ironically a man from Texas, the state of the city of JFK’s death, Dallas, took over as president and pushed through JFK’s civil right’s legislation.

There has never been anyone like JFK since. We’ve had some charmers, Bill Clinton, at least, but he does not even come close to the JFK mystique.

I mean why do even Republican candidates often cite JFK as their inspiration?

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Check out Tony Walther’s Video Weblog: http://youtu.be/j-LPEiZ-Z5M


Comparing JFK assasination to 9/11, and have our own security concerns turned us into a police state we’ve always fought against?

November 4, 2013

I’m not sure what has been the most momentous thing to happen in current events in my lifetime, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or the 9/11 attack on the U.S.

With the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination coming up (Nov. 22) I was thinking of those two events. In my life, perhaps, the JFK assassination has had more significance. I was a freshman in high school. I paid attention to current events and read a weekly news magazine and watched Huntley-Brinkley and Walter Cronkite newscasts on TV. I knew that not everyone loved JFK even if the hype in popular culture seemed to indicate otherwise. Still, he and his family were something different and exciting for much of the public. The president was relatively young (in his 40s), when compared to the previous presidents, and I guess JFK and wife Jackie and children Caroline and John John were the first mediagenic first family. And JFK had that strange but fun-to-listen-to Boston/Irish accent where he pronounced Cuba as “cuber”, and in his press conferences, of which he held many, he would flash that magic, magnetic smile, often along with some expression of wry humor often via innuendo, which to any guy seemed cool and probably to any girl or woman, well, whatever…

But when it came to things like the Cuban Missile Crisis when the nation was actually concerned that it might end up in nuclear war at any second with the standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, he presented himself as a steady reassuring hand as he soberly addressed the public. He just seemed to say the right thing.

They say he was not a top student at Harvard (I don’t know, maybe he kept up the “gentleman’s c”) but he was eloquent in speech and always seemed to make the well-reasoned and convincing case.

He was staunchly pro-civil rights but had to deal with the political realities of the times. It would take the older and much more seasoned congressional wheeler-dealer Lyndon Johnson, JFK’s vice president, to push the civil rights legislation through after he assumed the presidency, upon the assassination of JFK.

The assassination of JFK blew our whole world apart. While he had his detractors much of the nation seemed enthralled with him and his family. They were like royalty almost. And maybe that is what someone or ones were afraid of.

I’m not a conspiracy buff by any means. But I have to wonder if his assassination was not a CIA job. That theory has been posited before of course. I have a book by some woman who claims to have been a lover of Fidel Castro (I mean one of his lovers) and who claims that she was with the CIA and that they were mad about JFK’s abandoning the Anti-Castro forces in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation. I think her book is rather obscure and she may have well been just trying to make some money. You think? But still…

We know that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin. We also know that he did not just pop up out of nowhere. The CIA and the FBI already knew about him and yet why did they not make sure where he was that fateful day in Dallas? Well, back then maybe we did not have that much capability in tracking people? (We had a hard time finding Osama Bin Laden is nearly plain sight.)

And what made me think of all of this is the recent and ongoing revelations as to how much our own government via the National Security Agency and other intelligence branches is spying on its own citizens — eavesdropping on phone calls, emails, and other world-wide web data. It is also spying on friendly foreign leaders and in the process the president himself (which he claims not to have known about — and that is bad either way). I mean what possible reason or justification is there to spy on our allies? And is not an agency dangerous if it is spying on the president? J. Edgar Hoover, the late director of the FBI, was infamous for blackmailing high officials with the dossiers he held on them.

And then to 9/11. In the first direct attack on U.S. soil since the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, a group of terrorists pulled off the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, hijacked four airliners, and ran one into the Pentagon. And the baffling thing is that our intelligence agencies had the names of these guys and I guess their descriptions on their watch list and yet they were allowed to board airliners. Okay probably too paranoid conspiracy-centric here, but did someone want this to happen? We know that forces behind the rather dim-witted former president George W. Bush were pushing for war in the Middle East and even published a paper that opined we needed a new Pearl Harbor to wake the electorate up — and along comes 9/11 with the numbers of dead very close, close to 3,000 in each.

The death of JFK put LBJ in office. I have no doubt that he had good intentions, but he was perplexed over what to do about the ongoing situation in Vietnam, threatened by an ongoing insurgency that would result in a communist takeover of South Vietnam. And it was simply understood at the time that we had to stop communism anywhere we could. While JFK was trying to keep from sending actual American combat troops there, while supporting the anti-communist side nonetheless — we only had military advisers in the theatre — LBJ eventually sent as many as a half million U.S. troops there, even though he knew from almost the start that the situation was hopeless. But ever since China was lost to the communists in 1949 during a Democratic administration, Democrats had to be on guard not to lose anything else. The fear of being weak in the face of the communist threat forced President Harry Truman to send troops to save South Korea (a highly unpopular move at the time).

And the lives of so may young Americans (and the their loved ones) were forever changed by LBJ’s actions. I probably would not have gone into the Army if it were not for the Vietnam. In some kind of twisted logic I joined the Army, figuring I would be drafted soon enough anyway. The draft lottery had not been put into place at that time. But I was sent to Germany. But one of my brothers was grabbed by Uncle Sam and put into the Army and sent to Vietnam. Fortunately he did his tour and came home safe and sound. But such was not the case for nearly 60,000 American troops who died and thousands more who were gravely wounded. And besides that: all the lives torn apart. Wives who lost husbands and parents who lost children and so on.

(Even though I joined the Army I was not much of a soldier, but I am glad I served if for no other reason than I can say I served. I am proud that all the boys in my family served. My oldest brother served 20 years in the U.S. Navy.)

So, anyway, the 9/11 disaster was used as a pretext to get our nation into war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We all know what that has wrought, nearly 7,000 dead Americans over a decade (thousands more wounded) with no discernible good to have come of it and trillions of dollars drained from our treasury. But of course we can’t afford to guarantee health care to our own citizens, the troubled Obamacare program notwithstanding, and have to cut back on aid to the poor, and we fail to invest in our infrastructure.

So, it is hard to choose as to which event was more momentous, the JFK assassination, or 9/11. There is no correct answer. It depends upon your age, really, and your own personal situation (you may have lost someone in the current wars).

And then again, with the result that intelligence agencies have been so emboldened to turn on the public they are supposed to protect, maybe 9/11 is the more momentous.

We are all so accustomed to giving out our Social Security number and our email address and we are so wired-in now with commercial interests knowing our personal tastes and information and every move, that we almost do not notice that we have become something close to a police state worthy of the old Soviet Union or East Germany or Hitler’s Germany. So far, no discernible ill effects, but overnight that all could change, the apparatus for the evil of control over all humans by a minority is already in place.

There is talk (or maybe it has already happened) of domestic use of drone aircraft by local law enforcement. We may not fear it as much when used elsewhere, but here?

We really need to pause and think about all of this.