May 17, 2006

Ed Driscoll on perhaps the only assassin who's ever mattered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 17, 2006 3:06 PM

You think reconstruction wouldn't have altered significantly w/ Lincoln still in office?

Posted by: Timothy at May 17, 2006 3:21 PM

No, Grant was very much in favor of Reconstruction. The nation tired of it, as we almost always quit on the peace.

Posted by: oj at May 17, 2006 3:27 PM

I meant as opposed to Johnson, not Grant, though I see your point.

Posted by: Timothy at May 17, 2006 3:30 PM

"The nation tired of it"

What is the "it" to which you refer? No honest attempt to rebuild & integrate the South back into the Union was even begun. There was lots of malice & precious little charity.

Posted by: b at May 17, 2006 3:38 PM


OJ might. I don't.

The article under discussion hints at the irony of present day Democrats veering towards the politics of Lee Harvey Oswald instead of that of Jack Kennedy. Cute idea. (does this verify Osama's strong horse theory)

When clicking thru to the Dr Sanity link, it is proposed that the Democratic Party is moving towards the politics of Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Robert Kennedy. Therefore future support of Islamism (not likely Sirhan Sirhan was raised a Christian, later a Baptist, later still a Seven Day Adventist, and later still a Rosicrucian of all dang things)

Regardless of that, lets remember there is one more Kennedy and I hope he lives many more years and dies peacefully, because I can only take so much of the Democratic Party's fads.

Posted by: h-man at May 17, 2006 3:44 PM

OJ: Must disagree. Reconstruction's problems arose largely from the tensions between Andrew Johnson and the Republicans in Congress. By the time U.S. Grant came along, the patterns were set.

Lincoln would not have had Johnson's difficulties in dealing with Congress, so he would have almost certainly done better.

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 17, 2006 3:50 PM

The aftermath of JFK's assassination had the effect of giving LBJ carte blanche for both his domestic and foreign programs for roughly the next two years on either side of the 1964 election. That meant not just the Civil Rights Act, but Vietnam and the Great Society. Yet at the same time -- and in the same way elites in the northeast dislike George W. Bush because of his roots elsewhere and his lack of embarassment about that -- there were folks out there who were either close to the Kennedys or sympathetic to them that saw Johnson's accent to the White House as illegitimate, especially since the assassination occcured in Texas, and in their mind, all 10 million residents were in some way responsible.

That dislike for Johnson was channeled into opposition to him from the left, since opposition from the right would have validated many Republican criticisms of the administration. Their belief that this was the path back to power was aided by the media, which both loved the images of the Kennedy White House and thought the more liberal path Jack's younger brothers were taking post-1964 were the Wave of the Future (the difference between Bobby and Teddy being Bobby was no doubt smart enough to understand most of this posturing was an election ploy, while Teddy actually believes the stuff). It also didn't hurt that the young radicals were media savy in providing coloful images at a time when TV was making its major move into full color broadcasting.

Combine the all that and have those people affirming each others' beliefs about being on the cutting edge of political thought, and you end up by 1972 with the Pauline Kael remark that Nixon couldn't have won in a landslide because everyone she knew voted for McGovern.

Posted by: John at May 17, 2006 4:11 PM

Lincoln had the same problems as Johnson with Republican radicals.

Posted by: oj at May 17, 2006 5:13 PM

Both parties agree with Sirhan.

Posted by: oj at May 17, 2006 5:14 PM


That's what reconstruction always is.

Posted by: oj at May 17, 2006 5:15 PM

I tend to reject the theory.

Lincoln would have been far better at managing reconstruction than either Johnson or Grant.

McKinley was a status quo Republican, while TR shook things up in dramatic fashion.

King may have turned into scum (like Jackson), but may have done much to forestall our current race issues.


Though the theories can be debated and bandied about, I'd gravitate toward the opposite view - that ONLY assasins (and Independent Candidacies and 3rd parties and Ballot Alternatives) matter.

Absent the occasional competition from outside forces, Americas 2 party system is an engine of decline and stagnation.

As the current power structure cuts off remaining avenues of competing ideas and ideals, the status quo becomes the stagnant quo, and the empire fails.

That's my theory, and I think I'll stick to it for now.

Posted by: Bruno at May 17, 2006 5:18 PM

Gavrilo Princip didn't matter?

Posted by: joe shropshire at May 17, 2006 5:28 PM


No. The Europeans would have taken any excuse.

Posted by: oj at May 17, 2006 5:39 PM


King had already turned much farther Left than Jesse's ever gone.

TR was mostly bluster controlled by a GOP congress, though it would have prevented Wilson--that's a pretty big carom shot though. More interesting is if the assassin had killed TR when he shot him.

Posted by: oj at May 17, 2006 5:42 PM

Re: JFK Assassination as Watershed Event

Horse pucky. The Arc of the Boomer was an independent variable. Probably some synergistic boost from the assasination, but nothing more.

Posted by: ghostcat at May 17, 2006 6:11 PM

I look forward to reading thoughtful comments taking issue with the selection. Can't aging hippies understand that most of us don't think Jack was a saint, nor to we think he reigned over Camelot. He was an intellectually challenged coward who stole the election and then proceeded to turn the White House into a bordello.

In three short years he allowed Castro to dig in and Khrushchev to build the Berlin Wall. His death opened the flood gates for the Great Society spending and gave the far left moonbats the opening they needed to turn Democrats from being just wrong headed politically to being insanely pro-Soviet. The lunatic fringe took over the public schools, they consolidated their hold on higher education and the media. I could go on, but everyone reading this blog knows all about it already.

Posted by: erp at May 17, 2006 7:45 PM


Posted by: jdkelly at May 17, 2006 7:49 PM


Liberalism was a spent force by then, which is why the Democrats nominated the conservative over the liberal. Lee Harvey revived it.

Posted by: oj at May 17, 2006 7:50 PM

It's no exaggeration to say that at the time there was a tendency to blame Texas and especially Dallas for the assasination. I remember that when Navy played Texas in the 1964 Cotton Bowl there was some talk of how the Middies were going to avenge JFK's death by beating the Longhorns. That pretty much died out after Texas crushed Navy.

The Eastern liberals who dominated the Democrat party never really accepted Johnson, even when he was pushing through an agenda which if anything was to the left of the New Frontier. Once Vietnam heated up they went looking for another Kennedy. When that option was denied them they backed away from Humphrey, possibly costing him the election. They then gravitated to Teddy, whose midnight misadventure permanently ended their dream of a Kennedy restoration.

Since then they've had two presidents but never fully warmed to either. Their hope now is Hillary, but to some of the liberals she's, in the words of one of my left-leaning friends, "too conservative."

For older, leftist Boomers (born 1946-1950) and their slightly older siblings, nothing's been the same since November 22, 1963. But these people revere a mythical figure, not the person JFK really was.

Posted by: George at May 17, 2006 8:25 PM

There were a lot of converging factors that killed liberalism. Basically, the liberal elite lost self-confidence in itself for a variety of reasons.

1) The race riots FOLLOWING the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Acts and affirmed success of the '50s Civil Rights Movement. Although this is merely the routine peril of raising expectations faster than it can be fulfilled, it was truly a shock to people who do not understand the darker side of human nature.

2) The mismanagement of the war in Vietnam. LBJ and McNamara were not good war leaders, and Westmoreland was the wrong choice for the theatre. Like now with Bush, people did not think the President had a real vision on how to achieve victory. Losing a war always discredits the regime that pursued it.

3) The rise of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and other far left movements. These were Baby Boomers with very little idea on how the world is and easily swayed by rhetoric and academics because they did not have the hard knocks experience as a corrective. The SDS made a conscious decision to turn the Democrats into a leftist party, as opposed to early decisions by Socialists to run their own. Alone, this would not have resulted in anything lasting, but they were able to exploit the lack of confidence by traditional liberal elites to gain power.

4) The destruction of the old Machines. Whatever their faults, the pols who ran the machines understood the bread and butter issues that mattered to Joe Six-Pack. The increase in primaries and reforms at conventions eroded the power of the Machines to the benefit of the radicals.

5) The mid-60's were the high water era of liberalism. The Great Society failed and liberalism did not have answers why. Liberalism could have recovered and corrected mistakes and formulated new doctrines, but with the radical voice raised, the radicals were pushing the exact wrong policies which discredited liberalism even further.

The mythologization of Kennedy probably aided the radicals, but not to the degree of the above. The real problem is that when JFK died LBJ became President. He had an overwhelming influence in Congress and got everything he wanted done.

Whenever someone has that amount of power, mistakes will happen and not be easily corrected. Less influential pols would have accepted advice and been forced to compromise, probably limiting the errors, keeping liberal self confidence, and allowing corrections of mistakes.

Instead, everything was staked on LBJ's bets, and when he lost, he lost everything.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at May 17, 2006 8:33 PM

If Lincoln had lived the Supreme Court might not have eviscerated the 14th Amendment and Civil Rights Act of 1868, rulings which soon after inspired the South to enact Jim Crow.

Posted by: pj at May 17, 2006 10:13 PM

There was little that Lincoln could have done. Slavery and secession were defeated but the South was not willing to give up white supremacy, nor was the North willing to make the necessary sacrifices to end it.

Posted by: andrew at May 18, 2006 12:43 AM


"necessary sacrifices"? I don't understand.

Posted by: ratbert at May 18, 2006 9:59 AM

pj: Eviscerated? It's the whole de facto constitution, handing all power over to the judiciary. If this is eviscerated, I'd hate to see it enforced.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 18, 2006 11:12 AM

andrew: One likes to think that there is a chance, however slim, that if the Southern economy had been properly rebuilt after the war, then the social/racial resentments & tensions could have been greatly diminished.

Posted by: b at May 18, 2006 12:55 PM