Rich: 'What Killed JFK' Was Dallas's 'General Atmosphere of Hate'

On Monday, Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters noted how former New York Times op-ed writer (and before that, theater critic) Frank Rich, who now plies whatever his trade is at New York Magazine, criticized MSNBC's Chris Matthews for writing a "man-crush of a biography" about John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated 48 years ago today.

Monday evening, Allahpundit at Hot Air identified a particularly egregious contention in that same very poor Rich piece, namely that "the hate that ended his (JFK's) presidency" which inspired avowed communist and Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald to commit his heinous crimes (Oswald also shot Texas Governor John Connally in JFK's motorcade and killed Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit later that day) came from the right. Really. What follows are selections from Rich's risible self-righteousness:


Though he was onboard for ... (the Warren Commission's) conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin, ... ("Death of a President" author William Manchester) did not buy its verdict that there was “no evidence” of any connection between Oswald’s crime and Dallas’s “general atmosphere of hate.”

Manchester is uncharacteristically contentious about this point. He writes that “individual commissioners had strong reservations” about exonerating Dallas but decided to hedge rather than stir up any controversy that might detract from the report’s “widest possible acceptance.” While Manchester adds that “obviously, it is impossible to define the exact relationship between an individual and his environment,” he strongly rejected the universal description of Oswald as “a loner.” No man, he writes, is quarantined from his time and place. Dallas was toxic. The atmosphere was “something unrelated to conventional politics—a stridency, a disease of the spirit, a shrill, hysterical note suggestive of a deeply troubled society.” Duly observing that even the greatest presidents have been vilified in their time—Lincoln as a baboon and Jefferson as “Mad Tom”—Manchester saw something “more than partisan zeal” at work in this case. He detected “a chiaroscuro that existed outside the two parties, a virulence which had infected members of both.” Dallas had become the gaudy big top for a growing national movement—“the mecca for medicine-show evangelists of the National Indignation Convention, the Christian Crusaders, the Minutemen, the John Birch and Patrick Henry societies.”

Immediately after the assassination and ever since, the right has tried to deflect any connection between its fevered Kennedy hatred and Oswald’s addled psyche with the fact that the assassin had briefly defected to the Soviet Union. But at the time even some Texans weren’t buying that defense. An editorial in the Dallas Times Herald chastised its own city for supplying “the seeds of hate” and “the atmosphere for tragedy.” The editor of the Austin American wrote that “hatred and fanaticism, the flabby spirit of complacency that has permitted the preachers of fanatical hatred to appear respectable, and the self-righteousness that labels all who disagree with us as traitors or dolts, provided the way for the vile deed that snuffed out John Kennedy’s life.”

Sure, Frank. Two left-wing newspapers (the Austin paper is legendarily leftist; the Times Herald was columnist knee-jerk liberal Molly Ivins's home for many years) blaming an atmosphere of right-wing zeal for left-wing violence, and that equals "some Texans." That soooo seals the argument. Zheesh.

As Allahpundit wrote:

It’s oddly comforting to know that the same sort of smear merchants who tried to pin the Gabby Giffords shooting on the right, including Rich’s former colleague Paul Krugman, were doing their thing with JFK’s assassination too almost 50 years ago. At least, it seems, things haven’t gotten worse over time: If they couldn’t pin Giffords on us, then by God, they’ll pin something on us. Looking forward to Rich’s inevitable essay on whether John Wilkes Booth was, kinda sorta, the first tea partier.

Here’s what I really want from the left: A systematic treatment of when and how “climate of hate” reasoning about collective responsibility can fairly be applied to an act of violence. It used to be that a nutjob had to at least agree ideologically with the group that’s being blamed, but Rich gets us a step away from that. Under the Oswald theory, ideology no longer matters; all that matters is shared “hate” for a particular target. By that logic, I guess, the Al Qaeda sympathizer busted by the NYPD yesterday for targeting police could be blamed on OWS since both are angry at the cops.

Just another reason not to take Rich seriously. It's surprising and too bad that at least some New York Magazine readers do.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.