Thursday, October 25, 2012

Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly ad Martin Dugard

I could not wait to  receive this book as a gift because I loved the Killing Lincoln by the same authors and  yet I did not think they could do it again.  They have!  This is a wonderful book, all 311 pages including the references and I  devoured it.  I was a Kennedy kid in college, he was my first exposure to politics, I adored JFK and the Camelot mystique.  When he was assassinated I was devastated.  Over the years I have read everything about the  Kenndys and the investigative reports, I even have Sotheby's massive tome published when Jackie's Estate was being settled.  I was a Kennedy junkie with JFK  and Bobby; that stopped with Ted Kennedy especially his Chappaquidick adventure. 

I was intrigued, what could they write that I did not already know?  But they did. Some  small details such as pages 135-137,   the bringing and transporting the Mona Lisa, Lisa Gherardini, not sure I ever knew her name before.  I well recall the publicity in  January 1963 about bringing her to the White House, then again, I remember  most of the events described in this excellent work.

I read  this book accompanied by a nagging feeling of impending doom; yes I knew what would happen, but I knew what would happen with Lincoln as well and did not experience that same sensation reading Killing Lincoln.   Perhaps the feeling stemmed from the history that I lived.  The same old questions rattle through my mind, what if Oswald had not bee permitted  back to America?  What if JFK had not gone to  Dallas?  What if this never had happened?  But what if's are fantasy and all that pondering is meaningless.  Today in our polarized country with the poorest excuse of a President in my life time, I loved reading about JFK and how he was the President of the country, of all the people.  O'Reilly and Dugard write that JFK stopped defining himself  by party affiliation, yes he was a consummate politician, but he was the people's man, for the entire nation.

I learned that he was far worse a philanderer than I ever knew with his various bimbos escorted to the White House in Jackie's absence; he outdoes Bill Clinton.  I imagine today he would not get away with that conduct.  He as a faithful Catholic attended mass regularly; I wonder if he confessed or did not consider his trysts sinful.   I also learned that JFK suffered far more from physical complications than I ever imagined and even used crutches sometimes to walk, though not in public.  It sounds odd to read about JFK taking a bath, when showers predominate today.  I remember huddling with the other girls from our 4th  floor in the  TV room, (we shared a room and did not have our own TV's back in those dark ages!), October 22, 1962, and I remembered  the JFK TV speech about the Russians and missiles in Cuba.....page 117 " The 1930's taught us a clear lesson:  Aggressive conduct if allowed to  grow unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war.  This nation is opposed to war.  We are also true to our word.  Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country and to secure their  withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemishpere."   On page 119, the authors  say that  most  Americans today who lived through that event  remember where they were and what they were doing...just as their parents remembered  Pearl Harbor and the death of President Roosevelt.  "The terrible news that he now delivers to the public, will make this moment stand forever in the minds of everyone who is watching."  We in the east  were sure the end was near; the depth of detail in this  book confirms, had those missiles gone off most of the East coast and inland would have bee decimated.  He ended that  speech as his 1961 inaugural, "grabbing his listeners by the heart--or by "the nuts" as he often likes to say--and rally their emotional support."  That closing line,  "Our goal is not the victory of might but the vindication of right.  Not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom--"" 
   On page 242 the authors pose how and when the "destruction of Camelot" might have started--the Bay of Pigs, the  anger of Fidel Castro, and the furious reaction in the CIA,  or when JFK severed his ties  with Giancana, Sinatra and the Mafia and allowed his brother, Bobby to prosecute them as Attorney General.   

George de Mohrenschildt, a shadowy Russian college professor who befriended the Oswalds when they arrived in Dallas in 1962 also had ties to Jackie  Kennedy; he  was a new character to me.  He committed suicide in March 1977 just as O'Reilly a young reporter knocked on his door.  It adds to the pondering. 

The book ends powerfully   Page 262  "..each person has dreams about the future--dreams that sometimes come true.  Such is life.  Yet life can end in less time than it takes to draw one breath."  Loved this book.

It is clearly 5 ***** +