Wrong, Jesse Jackson -- JFK's Murder Had Nothing to Do With Civil Rights

Ever notice how Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and their divisive ideological brethren see anything and everything happening today through only one prism, that of race?

It's also how they view history, even when the specific event cited had nothing to do with it. (Audio after the jump)

On Ed Schultz's radio show Friday, Jackson provided an example of this when discussing events that preceded and followed the March on Washington 50 years ago (audio) --

JACKSON: The dream was to end the humiliation. The next dream, Ed, was the public accommodations bill to make it illegal in 1964. Then the dream in '65 was the right to vote. Let us not forget that blacks could not vote but until '67 most white women in the South could not serve on juries and 18-year-olds could not vote. You couldn't vote on college campuses, you could not vote bilingual. So all of that came out of that season of struggle and while the dream speech was a big deal, I think Medgar Evers' assassination on June the 12th was a big motivating factor for action and of course the Birmingham bombing on Sept. 15th after the speech and then President Kennedy being killed Nov. 22nd. All that was the same season of struggle.

SCHULTZ: Amazing, the '60s, unbelievable time and push for change in our country.

John F. Kennedy, civil rights martyr -- you'll hear much along these lines in the coming months.

Jackson is half right -- Kennedy died in the "same season" as Evers and the victims of the Birmingham church bombing, but in a different "struggle" -- that of the generations-long global conflict known as the Cold War, when Kennedy was the quintessense of cold warrior.

Jackson's curiously careful wording here is no accident. He surely knows that to state outright that JFK was a civil rights martyr would not only be egregiously inaccurate, but would dishonor the memory of those -- such as Evers, King and the four little girls in that church -- who actually were.

It does, however, come as no surprise that Jackson implies this about Kennedy -- this is what liberals have been claiming for nearly 50 years, starting at roughly the same time Walter Cronkite broke the news that Kennedy was dead.

Within hours of Kennedy's murder, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in a released statement that "a great and good President has suffered martrydom as a result of the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots."

That same day, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield said of his fellow Democrat that Kennedy "gave that we might give of ourselves, that we might give to one another until there would be no room for the bigotry, the hatred, prejudice and the arrogance which converged in that moment of horror to strike him down."

In his excellent book "Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism," James Piereson describes how Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, also suggested that Kennedy was a victim of the civil rights struggle.

Pierson cites Johnson's message to Congress two days after Kennedy's funeral when he declared that "no memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long." The following day, on Thanksgiving, Johnson "advanced this theme further and perhaps finally established it as the official intepretation of the assassination, at least among liberals," Piereson wrote. In his Thanksgiving message, Johnson stated, "Let us pray for His divine wisdom in banishing from our land any injustice or intolerance or oppression to any of our fellow Americans, whatever their opinion, whatever the color of their skins, for God made all of us ... in His image."

Unfortunately for those who intepreted Kennedy's death in his manner, the evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald was motivated by racial animus is even flimsier than that for innumerable conspiracy theories that emerged from the case. In fact, just the opposite appears true. Few good things can be said about the man, but among them are these -- based on what we know of him, Oswald abhorred racism and segregation.

We also know that Oswald was an outspoken and bellicose communist to nearly anyone within earshot, one who defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 at the height of the Cold War and returned to the US less than three years later, disenchanted that his socialist utopia fell short of expectations.

All of fifteen months later, he tried to defect again, this time to Cuba by way of the Cuban Embassy during a visit to Mexico City in September 1963. Oswald was initially turned down by the Cubans after they were warned by the Russians that he was unstable and erratic. Within days of Oswald's return to Dallas, news that Kennedy would visit the city in November received major play in local newspapers. By the middle of the month, Oswald learned from a family friend of a job opening at the Texas School Book Depository, before it was publicly known that Kennedy's motorcade would pass by the building.

It was the building from which Oswald fled within minutes of the shooting in Dealey Plaza, the only employee not found after police quickly sealed the building. Shortly thereafter Oswald killed a Dallas police officer, yet more evidence of a guilty and desperate man in flight. By then he had left seven children fatherless, all in single day, including his own two.

Much has been made over the years of the parallels between Kennedy and Lincoln, of their lives, presidencies and deaths. But an obvious parallel between them is seldom mentioned -- just as Lincoln was a victim of the Civil War, shot by an embittered partisan, Kennedy was a victim of the Cold War, killed by a devoted left winger.

We can thank Jacqueline Kennedy for the Camelot fantasy that still enshrouds Kennedy's memory, conveyed from her to sympathetic Life magazine scribe Theodore White only a week after Kennedy's death. But she was clear-eyed when it came to the malcontent who murdered her husband -- "He didn't even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights. It had to be some silly little communist."

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts