Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Dreading the half century

The date comes inexorably closer: in just over a week, on 22 November, we’ll be marking the half century since John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

It’s going to be agonisingly painful. The worst is going to be watching so many people mouthing platitudinous tributes, though we know that they wouldn’t vote for him in a month of Sundays, if they had the chance.

Not of course that they’d have that chance today. No one with Kennedy’s track record with women would even get a look in for a run for the White House, let alone winning. Kennedy’s behaviour in this respect would leave Bill Clinton looking like a shrinking teenager at a school dance but, with a complacent press, JFK sailed right on through all of that whereas poor old Bill got impeached for his pains (well, Hillary’s pains, not to mention Monica’s).

Of course, Bill wasn’t just paying the price for a quasi-JFK-ish inability to keep his flies zipped. He was also paying for Richard Nixon’s opponents who had the gall to impeach him. The guys on Nixon
s side of the aisle had never forgiven the way Tricky Dicky was treated, and were chomping at the bit for a chance to get their own back.

Jimmy Carter was far too decent to give them the pretext, so they had to wait for Bill. And did he give them the opportunity they wanted. In spades. You could almost see them mouthing the words ‘we’re going to get us a piece of Democrat President.’

None of them see the irony that the action against Nixon was for a major offence: abuse of power, betrayal of his oath to uphold the constitution, a breach of a 200-year old principle that no one, not even the highest office-holder in the land, is above the law.

Clinton’s offence was serious, but essentially domestic.

These characters clearly can’t see the implications of equating the actions of a man who subverted the very nature of US government with those of a philanderer. Sad. I wonder if anyone could explain to them what it says about their own side?

The heirs of those guys are in the Tea Party now, and I dread to hear them praising another, murdered Democrat. Perhaps they won’t. Perhaps they’ll have the decency to keep their traps shut.

On the other hand, they are the Tea Party, so they probably won

There’s nothing new about all of this. Right and left of the US likes to speak highly of many other dead presidents. Jefferson, for instance, or Lincoln.

You think anyone in the Tea Party would vote for either of them if they came back and ran for office today? Free thinkers? Committed to Liberal principles? Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase, for Pete’s sake. Can you imagine the shutdown there
’d have been if the Tea Party had been around when that particular bit of big government was going through?

I at least will be commemorating the anniversary on Friday week with sorrow. Losing JFK, above all to such a despicable act, left the world a sadder place. But I have to confess that he isn’t the Kennedy I miss most. That honour goes to the man I fear is the best president the US never had, his brother Bobby.

Three Kennedy brothers.
Was the greatest the smallest?
We’ll never know how he would have performed as president. But I still feel he deserves that accolade, if only for one event in his tragically short life. 

On the day Martin Luther King was murdered, Bobby Kennedy was campaigning for the Presidency in Indianapolis. He learned of the death as he was travelling to a rally deep in an African-American district; many of his aides felt it would be too dangerous to proceed with the plan, but he insisted.

He gave no campaign speech but informed his audience, many of whom hadn’t heard the news, of what had happened, to its howling dismay. He didn
’t flinch but went on to make a brief call for peace which included the words:

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

There were riots that night in over a hundred US cities, but not in Indianapolis.

Now there’s a man whose absence we should still be regretting.


Anonymous said...

Although it is long past my bedtime, I'm gonna have to check out the "Louisiana Purchase." Don't know if I she say Thank You.


David Beeson said...

I hope you enjoyed your voyage of discovery. And it didn't keep you awake too late.

David Beeson said...

The really amazing thing - the purchase price, for pretty much the whole of the MidWest, was about $234m in today's money. What would that buy you today in say Minneapolis? A couple of blocks?

Anonymous said...

Nice piece, but you've gone and confused a whole bunch of people who have absolutely NO IDEA what he Louisiana Purchase was!

David Beeson said...

Oh, damn.That really wasn't my aim. I've read too many books about Thomas Jefferson and forget that others haven't...