As media predictably gush and fawn over John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, it seems a metaphysical certitude precious few will take an honest look at his actual accomplishments as president.
Fox News Sunday did exactly that this week with Brit Hume saying, "[H]e has been the subject of the most successful public relations campaign in political history" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I want to pick up on something that Bob and George said, and that is, that I think a fair reading of history would be that President Kennedy's promise exceeded his accomplishments, and perhaps, the most resonant thing was in fact his death. Why do people 50 years later care so much?
BRIT HUME: I think he was the coolest president we ever had. He was just a cool guy and therefore, appealing.
WALLACE: If you look at the pictures of him that we're running, he’s impossibly glamorous.
HUME: Yes. No question. I think, however, that despite the thinness of the record that you just mentioned, that George mentioned, he has been the subject of the most successful public relations campaign in political history. The notion that he was a great president, indeed, perhaps, in some surveys he’s been listed the greatest president, is really a remarkable testament to the ability of those who have so admired him and others to have built this man's legend, and it is a legend bordering, I think, on myth.
Before readers scoff at the potential political heresy on display, consider what Kiplinger was going to publish the week Kennedy was shot but scrapped as a result of the assassination:
Kennedy’s political stock is probably at its lowest point…even lower than after the Bay of Pigs. Doubts about him are bipartisan, a consequence of irritations over civil rights and Washington scandals and a fouled up Congress…the evidence of indifferent leadership.
The conservatives cuss him out for “stirring up a racial mess,” and getting Congress all mixed up in a long civil rights controversy. So the conservatives are punishing him by delaying most major bills.
And liberals criticize party leaders. They’re especially sore because Kennedy lets Congress drift aimlessly…“he’s not doing enough” to speed action on tax cuts, housing, civil rights, aid to education and a whole raft of bills that are clogged up in various committees.
But Kennedy’s biggest problem is his loss of POPULAR support for the broad legislative program he thought Congress would pass for him. Even tax cuts have not aroused people…they regard them suspiciously. And civil rights seems to be running into reaction from white voters. As for most of the rest of Kennedy’s ideas, the great bulk of people show strong signs of not caring a hoot whether they pass or they don’t.
After the assassination, this lead story in the weekly Kiplinger Letter of course got pulled. But 50 years later, it's a stark contrast to the media meme that JFK was an extremely popular president before his death riding high in the polls to a certain reelection victory the following year.
Folks seem to forget that Kennedy was in Dallas that day trying to shore up support due to concerns that he might not win Texas in 1964.
Now I know this might seem like heresy as we approach the anniversary of his death, but it's a far cry from Stephen King's marvelous book "11/22/63" wherein our nation and the world if JFK had not been assassinated is described thusly (spoiler alert):
Kennedy was re-elected, but the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was never passed. Controversial Alabama governor George Wallace became president in 1968 and escalated the Vietnam conflict into a nuclear war that ultimately precipitated numerous other atomic conflicts around the globe. The state of Maine seceded from the United States and is now a Canadian province. Massive earthquakes have sunk several Japanese islands, and scientists predict that the earthquakes will escalate in intensity until they eventually tear the world apart circa 2080.
This from a perilously liberal author.
To be sure, what King wrote is fiction.
However, how much of the legacy of JFK is indeed because he was the coolest president we ever had as Hume said - and that the liberal media adore him - as opposed to the truth, and is it possible for this to be honestly analyzed without it appearing disrespectful given the tragedy of his death?