Friday, April 4, 2008

Personal Aside: Defining Moments of the Sixties—Your Turn.


Defining Moments: How We Were Misinformed.
There is little doubt that a handful of events in the 1960s were so misinterpreted by liberal historians (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Ted Sorensen, David Halberstam et al) the media that they changed our society…and in particular the Democratic party. That party changed from an entirely acceptable alternative to Republicanism to a left-wing ideologue’s dream. Let’s see how you react to a series of events. I’m going to start with the first one and give you the politically correct liberal contemporary Schlesinger- media version…and ask you to write a paragraph in Reader’s Comments either verifying the current impression or changing it to what you believe is the correct version. I just want to see how you interpret these events. I’ll give you your grade. Here is the first event as pictured by the media which began the accepted version. Warning: Sometimes in this test the accepted version will be the correct one by historical standards. There will be some examples where media and historical facts agree.

In this test, signify that you either accept the conventional version or supply a version yourself…not just illusory but what you believe is the truth

Oh yes: I will be the final judge on which version is right. If you think this is authoritarian, well, yes it is but that comes with owning this blog. Your grade will be published with the next website posting Monday. Here goes. I’m using material supplied by theologian-philosopher George Weigel who selected these defining events.
I: The Kennedy Assassination, November 22, 1963.
Conventional Version: Right-wing paranoia was rampant in Dallas. Adlai Stevenson had visited there a few weeks before and was jostled rudely by a crowd and was struck on the head by a placard bearing a right-wing slogan. He thought about warning the president not to go. What was inflaming the city was fear of communism, the drive then current to impeach Earl Warren who had moved the Supreme Court to the left endorsing public school desegregation “with all deliberate speed,” removing prayer from the public schools. Also right-wingers were increasingly disturbed by rising agitation of civil rights demonstrators. A disgruntled Dallas ex-army major general named Edwin Walker had inflamed right-wingers by signing up with the John Birch Society. He had called Harry Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt and Dean Acheson communist sympathizers. He had run for governor of Texas in the Democratic primary in February, 1962, an election won by John Connally, frustrating the right. Dallas was a “seething madhouse.” “Something awful was likely to happen there and it happened to John F. Kennedy who had gone to Dallas to defend the politics of reason against the politics of irrational fear. Kennedy was martyred by unreason.”

Your Assignment: Is this version right or wrong? In one paragraph in Reader’s Comments either accept the court historians’ version or supply your own revisionist one based on facts (not supposition). DON’T USE SEARCH ENGINES OR REGURGITATE GRANDMA’S CONSPIRATORIAL THEORIES BUT MAKE IT YOUR OWN WORK, USING HISTORICAL FACTS YOU CAN VERIFY. THE HONOR CODE EXISTS. I THINK I CAN DETECT CHEATING.
`60s Defining Moment II will be published here Monday.


  1. John Thomas MCGeeanApril 4, 2008 at 2:57 AM

    The Warren Commission studied the assination and concluded Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Many of the bystanders thought shots came from the "Grassy Knoll" in addition to the shots from the warehouse. I personally believe there was a mafia connection. I know the mob worked to get JFK elected and his brother Robert F. Kennedy--the Attorney General--had put the heat on the mob and some say they were angry. I am skeptical about these theories. However, the Jack Ruby assination of Lee Harvey Oswald--Ruby did have mob connections--leads me to believe that he wanted Oswald silenced. His story of wanting to spare Mrs. Kennedy does not wash. I do not see it as a "right wing conspiracy" at all.

  2. The real battle and the reason Jack Kennedy went to Texas in November, 1963 had nothing to do with the John Birch Society or General Edwin Walker, both of which were fring elements, even on the political right. The real reason was the split between Kennedy loyalists, led by Senator Ralph Yarborough and the LBJ loyalists led by Governor Connally. There was a belief among the Kennedy people that the LBJ people would sabotage JFK's reelection by throwing Texas to the 1964 Republican nominee. The LBJ people thought the Kennedy supporters were trying to take over the Texas Democratic party, which they had run since the Reconstruction. Moreover, the LBJ people were concerned that many people close to JFK wanted to dump LBJ off the 1964 Democratic ticket.

    JFK and LBJ made that trip to Dallas in an effort to heal the split between the two factions.

  3. From 1962 to 1968 my wife and our family lived in Dallas. I was employed by Texas Instruments Government Products Division located on Lemmon Avenue just south of Love Field. The motorcade passed slowly down Lemmon Avenue and standing on the lane divider (as were hundreds of people) I or anyone could have dropped a grenade in their limo. No one even dropped a ripe cantaloupe. Almost all cheered and applauded. 95% of my co-workers either supported JFK, or were apolitical. There was a handful of Birchers, but no one took them seriously. It must be remembered that Texas was part of the Solid South, Democratic since Reconstruction. The Schlesinger-Weigel statement is a masterpiece of pulp fiction as far as I'm concerned.

  4. Complete fabrications. Kennedy money had purchased West Virginia showing that Kennedy dollars could trump red neck know nothingism. Kennedy needed a forum in which he could sell out his nominal Catholic faith. While there were right wingers in Texas and Birchers everywhere (their literature on many subjects stands well the test of time)they were no factor in Kennedy's death. The Warren Commission was a complete coverup missing the Jack Ruby/Communist connection. Democrats of that era were hesistant to demonstrate their affinity with communists. Rosa Parks comes to mind, MLK had top communist advisors, the Catholic Senator McCarthy had been on the trail of major liberal media folks who had been on the Communist Party payroll and the self protective frenzy of those liberals was still in force and directed against anyone from the right (who were right, actually) including WFB who recently died. Governments lie and we are still not clear on the JFK murder but we are clear about the lies.

  5. All other things being equal, Schlesinger likes to dream up political narratives that fit his version of the truth, regardless of historical accuracy.

    There are any number of reasons people would want to throw melons at Adlai 2, for example, but that does not equate into a conspiracy to kill the president.

    The simple explanation is that Lee Harvey Oswald was erratic in everything but his aim with a rifle. Given his track record of bizzare behavior, it seems much more likely that he was deranged rather than part of a calculated plot.


  6. I believe the Kennedy assassination was a mob hit. In the mid-90s I wrote a book on Chicago labor history that is used in the Chicago high school system. In doing research for the book I found a picture of Jack Ruby (then Jack Rubinstein) on the front page of the Chicago Tribune (Dec. 9, 1939). He had been arrested in the killing of a reform leader of the Scrap Iron and Junk Handlers' union. That was a Chicago union that had been targeted for mob control. There was not enough evidence and Ruby was released. The mob took over the union and Ruby continued to work for the mob in Chicago for another 10 years. He was then sent to Dallas to manage mob activities there and changed his name to Ruby. He started working for Carlos Marcello who was the mob boss in the southern states. Attorney General Robert Kennedy had been trying to get him deported to Guatemala (he had been deported once, almost killed and escaped back to the U.S.) and his hearing was scheduled for November 22, 1963. Marcello and Jimmy Hoffa, Teamsters Union head, had business dealings in the southern states. In the days before November 22, Ruby is known to have made calls to high ranking Teamster officials. Hoffa's son has acknowledged his father knew Ruby. "So what", he said. That is about all I know from my book research and I don't know where Oswald fits into the picture exactly but I am convinced this was a mob hit.

  7. Although the assignment did not call for opinion on the cause of the dirty deed, I do agree whole heartedly with Mr Nelson.

    Opinion shared by many living in Dallas at that time was that one shouldn't go around porking mob boss's frails, no matter who they are.

    These opinions were of course formed after the tragic events.

  8. I met General Walker at the Oak Brook home of Julius and Opal Butler when he was there as a house guest. His discussions were downright fascinating and disturbing. Julius and Opal Butler were ardent millionaire conservatives part of the Butler Paper fortune and the Butlers who hosted polo games and got Governor Kerner to bend the TriState 294 around Oak Brook. The Butler family also developed Oak Brook into the nice area it is today. That being said, these people and their friends were far from being crazy extremists. They were very concerned with the leftist socialist movements that eminated from communist ideals. The Butlers also hosted the John Birch Society functions in the western suburbs. In those years the John Birch Society WAS the focal point for the Conservatives across the country. There was no talk radio, Heritage Foundation, etc. The Butlers funded the American Opinion book store in Oak Park to educate people on conservative ideals, their daughter Heather married into the McKinney Catholic family of Boston who were noted for their "For God and Country Rallies" in Boston. Mrs. McKinney was even named "mother of the year" in Boston. The McKinney's son Richard was secretary of the John Birch Society before it moved to Wisconsin. Robert Welch was a regular guest in the Butler home. And yes there was quite an ego driven tiff between Welch and WFB.

    The wackos, crazies, commies were the left from Hollywood to the Roosevelt Clan. They were not the well meaning people in the John Birch Society. I hate to see people today, conservative or liberal try to tar and feather the conservatives from the past who were patriots in every sense of the word. Curtis B. Dall, a regular dinner guest at the Butlers, often spoke against the leftists in the Roosevelt years. He was on the exchange floor when the stock market crashed in 1929. He also pointed out the banking excesses during the Depression in his book about FDR which which is relevant reading for those concerned about the Fed/Stearns/Morgan deal.

    The conservatives of the time were the backbone of Goldwater support. But they were vilified by the left at every turn. It is a shame today to see them continuously attacked by modern conservatives and liberals. There would never have been any Ronald Reagan Presidency without these people carrying the torch of freedom.

    The left is such a hateful crowd who have insidiously insulated themselves from well deserved and valid critism.

    Julius Butler till his dying day fought the good fight, finally taking on the anti-abortion cause. His last battle was with the US Government over taxpayer funded abortions.

    If you want to despise something, despise the people on the left who have led the United States into immorality. It is they how should apologize for the Holocausts that Communism and its variants brought to the world. Dare we say Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, and their killing fields not to mention the killing fields of abortion.

    It is sad that today JFK would look "conservative" by comparison to the leaders and candidates we have today.
    Yes we as a country have slipped that far....

  9. Lovie's LeatherApril 4, 2008 at 3:41 PM

    First, let me apologize for not addressing the issue you raise, Tom. Whether or not what George Weigel wrote about actually was actually going on, it has no basis for conclusion with respect to the Kennedy assassination. Was Dallas a hotbed of conservative anger? I don't know. But, Kennedy was killed by one lone nut job communist sympathizer. Oswald travelled to the Soviet Union, supposedly trained there, and was deported from there because the Soviets' thought he was a security risk (supposedly). Oswald, acting alone, kills a capitalist president for whatever reason crazy communists kill people (being neither crazy, nor communist I feel I can't really comment). Ruby, who was not at the scene of Ray's murder until after Ray was supposed to be moved (The guards were late in leaving with Ray), killed Ray for whatever reason terminally ill, easily angered people kill the president's assassin. Despite Mr Weigel's assurance that Dallas was a hotbed of conservative unrest, the politically conservative had nothing to do with the Kennedy assassination in any way.

  10. I wonder if anyone still alive knows for sure exactly how & why JFK was killed. The stated hypothesis that he was killed by "unreason" is laughable.

    I lean toward a scenario involving Cubans angered over the Bay of Pigs. Howard Hunt in his last book stated that this could have been possible, but that he didn't know.

  11. JFK was trailing in the pols nationally. They were worried about the 1964 election. Texas was a critical state. He went there to shore up his supporters.


    A loser named Lee Harvey Owsald lived in Dallas. He decided for reasons known only to himself and God that he would shoot the President.

  12. I wasn't there. I have no real idea what Dallas was like in 1963 but George Weigel's narrative surely was the "conventional wisdom" at the time. Polls at the time also confirmed that Kennedy was not popular in Texas and that was no doubt the reason for the trip. That said, are there any records of John Birchers and their ilk shooting someone? I don't think so.
    Oswald was a communist. He was also probably a mental case.