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22 November 1963

Posted by acdtest on November 22, 2003

22 November 1963

fter reading through (OK, skimming, mostly) a number of predictable articles remembering that horrific day forty years ago today, I was disappointed but not surprised by the lack of any attempt at an at least capsule assessment of what, beyond the obvious, was so important about JFK and his murder. Typical was the perfectly idiot assessment by William F. Buckley who, after going tediously and irrelevantly on about the failures and lack of political substance of the Kennedy White House years, concluded that “the legacy of John F. Kennedy is his sheer . . . beauty.” That’s it. The whole of Mr. Buckley’s assessment of JFK’s importance and the importance of his murder. But then, what would one expect of a political ideologue, especially of an opposing ideology, other than something that idiot.

For my own thought on the matter, and for the limited purpose of this brief weblog entry marking that terrific event forty years ago, let me say simply that one of its effects of lasting importance to this nation is that it robbed America of that rarest of persons: A politician of more than merely political substance; one who by his intelligence, vision, character, demeanor, and force of personality raised the perception of that corrupt and squalid profession to the level of one worthy of the best and brightest of men and women. By his example JFK made politics seem not only a respectable profession, but a desirable, worthy, even noble one; a profession to which to aspire; one capable of achieving great and enduring things.

Which is not to say JFK was above slick, even underhanded, political maneuvering whenever necessary in order to secure and sustain his position. But that’s a built-in part of the American political system even when engaged in for the most noble of motivations and purposes. What was different about JFK was that one always sensed that he engaged (and engaged expertly) in all the less noble aspects of politics not because they were the most expedient way to his goals, but solely because they were things inescapably part and parcel of the game as it’s played in this country. Absolutely necessary things. Sine qua non things impossible to avoid or give short shrift without imperiling mortally the entire enterprise.

I’ve no doubt whatsoever that had JFK served a full two terms as president of this country, whatever else his tenure of that office may have accomplished (or not accomplished), it would have changed, at every level, the face and substance of American politics forever and to this country’s huge and enduring benefit, and have made a political horror such as, say, the Nixon White House a thing absolutely inconceivable.

On 22 November 1963 a lone gunman, acting on a lunatic impulse, robbed this nation of that legacy and that future.

Such is the indifference of Providence.

UPDATE (1 December at 1:10 AM Eastern): Weblogger Greg Hlatky of A Dog’s Life takes exception.

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