Monday, April 7, 2008

Personal Aside: Defining Moments of the `60s: No. 1: The Kennedy Assassination….The `60s Defining Moment No. 2.


No. 1: The JFK Assassination.

The responses to “`60s Defining Moment I,” the Kennedy Assassination, were all so good I decided to forego giving them grades because all of them were well-written and hugely appealed to the historian in me. Frank Nofsinger’s contribution told how he was in Dallas and watched the Kennedy procession sweep by on the street: priceless anecdote. Lovie’s Leather hit the nail on the head, I think, in pointing out that Oswald was a Communist, had made a trip to the USSR as a defector et al. This is the kernel of truth modern media like to sweep under the rug.

Carl Riker is a little overboard in my estimation describing the benign quality of the Birch Society but I forgive him for his priceless anecdote about meeting Gen. Edwin Walker at the home of Julius and Opal Butler…adding the delicious detail of how Gov. Otto Kerner caused the tollway to swerve at their command. Matt Nelson says it was a mob hit. This has been surmised but never proven but with which Frank Nofsinger agrees which is interesting. Michael Becker is right on the money by pointing out that the Kennedy trip to Dallas was made to make peace between the warring factions of Ralph Yarborough and John Connally, adding a few good nuggets of his own. Excellent.

John Powers writes saying there was no plot per se. He’s right, of course although he doesn’t comment on the fact that there is no doubt Oswald was a Communist sympathizer. Now for my money Leon Dixon is over the top, conjecturing how many of FDR’s buddies and Martin Luther King, Jr., he alleges, were also Reds. No application here, if you will excuse my saying so. It’s interesting to note that only one of you bought the whitewashed media version—Ray McInemy, Sr. who sent me a private email. With only one buying the media-politically correct version, it’s a lot fewer than I had imagined.

Joseph Pine doubts if “anyone now alive knows how and why JFK was killed.” No, that’s not right. There is considerable proof that Oswald was a Communist or Communist sympathizer and was enraged at Kennedy for his Cold War actions. After some ruminating, Kevin Doran comes to the right conclusion: “Oswald was a Communist.” “Hank” is agnostic on any reasons: “Oswald decided for reasons known only to himself and God that he would shoot the president.” That’s not what the historical record says.

Actually, I’m thrilled with your responses and the number who were absolutely correct with the scenario that has been steadily downplayed since Nov. 22, 1963—that Oswald was either a communist or communist supporter and thus the Left killed Kennedy. The Schlesinger-Sorensen-Halberstam mythology perpetuated the idea that there was paranoia, far-right anger and America’s so-called fear of the world, worry about social change and pro-violence. There is no doubt that Jackie Kennedy sanitized and romanticized her husband’s death by linking his era with Camelot. By steering writer Theodore H. White to the musical play, she led him to write that with Kennedy’s death America “lost its innocence.” What rot. The Kennedys tongue-in-cheek knew of a forthcoming assassination attempt against Diem in Vietnam and said nothing--and staged an invasion of Cuba undercover. “Innocence” my foot.

But see how the music lingers? “Let it never be forgot, for one brief shining moment…” That stuff was Jackie’s creation with a bit of realism since there was adulterous behavior between Guinevere and Lancelot never let it be forgot. But this is poetry. The record shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist who had previously defected to the Soviet Union and returned here. Fidel Castro was his idol and Kennedy had authorized the Bay of Pigs invasion, had negotiated the removal of the ICBMs from Cuba which Castro hated. Castro was outraged at the pullout of the missiles. Oswald belonged to the “Fair Play for Cuba” committee, was captured on film distributing literature. Simple as that.

Kennedy botched several tests in the Cold War— screwing up the Bay of Pigs by not sending air cover, not responding to the building of the Berlin Wall, winking with Henry Cabot Lodge at what they knew would be the assassination of Diem…but nevertheless, JFK was a very definite fatal casualty of the Cold War. This reality was very-very unpopular with the Left in the U.S. to say. They were very skittish about the Left and communism taking the blame for this…so they revert to anti-right wing and utilized Jackie’s Camelot poetry. Conjectures that JFK may have been killed by the Mafia (largely right-wing theories) or the CIA (Oliver Stone and the Left’s theories) are all very interesting but unproven. What we do know is that the man who killed him was a Communist sympathizer if not Communist in toto. Period.

Now to another defining moment of the `60s…

No. 2. “Griswold v. Connecticut” 1965.

Conventional Version. What was more unreasonable, archaic and reactionary than a state law that prohibited the use of contraceptives by married couples—and banned the sale and distribution of these contraceptives in that state? But a Connecticut law, dating from 1879 did this. Sure, it was never enforced—rather like a law forbidding spitting in the street. Nevertheless it was on the books. But it was on the books.

New Haven Connecticut’s Planned Parenthood League decided to get the law ruled invalid. Beginning in 1961 their appeal moved all the way up to the Supreme Court but it didn’t work. A majority of the Court refused to hear the case. One justice, John Marshall Harlan, wrote an opinion urging the court to take the case, saying that in his estimation “a statute making it a criminal offense for married couples to use contraceptives is an intolerable and unjustified invasion of privacy.” “Invasion of privacy”: interesting words.

Harlan’s “invasion of privacy” statement interested Planned Parenthood and its top lawyer decided to build a rationale around “the invasion of privacy.” If it was an invasion of privacy, was there a right to privacy? New Haven’s PP began again. This time the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, Estelle Griswold, opened a birth control clinic in New Haven in association with Dr. Buxton and strove strenuously to break the law and get arrested.

They distributed and sold contraceptives and after notifying the authorities they were doing so, got themselves arrested which is what they dearly wanted. Accordingly, Griswold and Buxton were fined $100 each. Their appeal again made the circuit up through the system. By the time it got to the Supreme Court once again, it was 1965. This time the Court agreed to take the case and Justice William O. Douglas wrote the majority decision finding the law unconstitutional. But to do so he had to devise a “right to privacy.” There was no such right enumerated in the Constitution. So Douglas wrote that a “right to privacy” had evolved from the Constitution in what he called “emanations from penumbras” which he had deduced from Harlan’s 1961 dissenting opinion. Everybody looked up the two words. “Emanations” means “emissions” so no problem there. “Penumbra” is an astronomical term describing a partial shadow from an eclipse of a sunspot—another way to say that the right to privacy evolved in an uncertain way. Thus the “right to privacy” was cobbled together and became part of future judicial interpretation through the decision.

Conventional opinion argues: Well, what’s wrong with a right to privacy? Who wants government invading their bedroom telling them how to perform the marital act?

Your Assignment: Either confirm or re-write this version. Was the Supreme Court right in protecting us from the cops rushing into our bedrooms…or should it have allowed the law to remain a dead letter which it had been was in Connecticut since 1879? I expect to hear from Frank Nofsinger, Connecticut’s correspondent to this website. Tell us what this ruling led to and what in your estimation makes it a defining moment in the 1960s. Good luck. Once more, congratulations to most of you on your perspicacity and to the remainder on giving it the old college try. .


  1. Tom-
    Sorry to disappoint, but at the time of "Griswold v. Connecticut" my family and I lived in Dallas. We did not arrive in The Peoples' Republic of CT until almost twenty years later. I can say that at one time CT was a very morally conservative state, due I'm sure to its early Puritan roots, and the growth and flowering of the Catholic Church here. I have read that after "Griswold" CT maintained a policy favoring childbirth over abortion. This was tested many times especially in 1977 in "Beal v. Doe," which ruled that CT's policy did not impinge on the fundamental right of privacy recognized in "Roe." All attempts to alter this policy were vigorously put down by the Church.

    In the latter part of the '80s something changed. Bills were introduced in the CT Legislature to liberalize "reproductive" matters across the board. Suddenly the Archbishop clammed up. The bills passed, making CT as liberal a place as anywhere in the country. Did somebody show the Old Boy the money?

    I believe the decision in "Griswold" open the faucet allowing the drip drip of Planned Parenthood and the rest to erode moral conservatism thus making it a Defining Moment.

    To jump back to JFK, I went with the Mob angle in that they were still in Cuba believing that Castro was the same as Batista. Therefore, JFK was a thorn in their side as well. I recognize that Oswald was a commie. It is the Ruby angle that doesn't jibe. Theories that Jack Ruby loved JFK are laughable. He was given a contract to kill Oswald, and that contract was not likely issued by a Russian or a Cuban.

  2. When I was taking Constitutional law in law school Griswold was taught but Roe v. Wade was an after thought. That is how important the Griswold decision was to developing the 'right of privacy' in the Constitution. The Court could have ignored the case on grounds that it was a dead statute or they could have struck down the statute on grounds of a violation of due process. Instead Justice Douglas went through the various amendments of the Bill of Rights and found that the privacy interest was an important component in many of them. Thus the unwritten right to privacy was born. Roe gave the right to privacy to a woman but an unborn child, whether viable or not, gets no such right. The Court discussed in the Roe opinion the strength of the woman's interest in some detail but it never stated why this interest should outweigh the state's interest in protecting unborn human life.

  3. Ruby was a long time communist organizer and agitator. The Griswold story is substantially correct missing only the Jewish involvement from NARAL and the ACLU (more over the top stuff, I'm sure but where is Solzhenitsyn's most recent book in English)? The Warren Court is guilty of many sins but Griswold was one of the main ones.

  4. elizabeth alexanderApril 7, 2008 at 3:37 PM

    You publicly took me to task for saying you don't understand how black people think and feel. You don't. I don't entirely, but I have had reason to become very close to more than a few people who are black. I got just a glimpse behind the curtains they keep closed.

    What I suggest you do, is to go to John Kass's Sunday column on the net, and read ALL the postings that have been written under the column.

    Then see if you think black and white people know each other at all. E.A.

  5. It should be noted that John Marshall Harlan, who wanted the Supreme Court to take up the issue of the contraceptive ban, was considered the most conservative member of the Warren-era Supreme Court, and was highly respected.