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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Almost Brilliant - The Left Before The Fall - Nov 22, 1963

REALCLEARPOLITICS.COM

From a distance of nearly 50 years, the liberalism of 1960 is hardly recognizable. It was comfortable with the use of American power abroad, unabashedly patriotic, and forward-looking. But that was before The Fall.

In his eye-opening new book Camelot and the Cultural Revolution, Jim Piereson argues The Fall was the assassination of President Kennedy. It represented more than the tragic death of a young president, but the descent of liberalism from an optimistic creed focused on pragmatic improvements in the American condition to a darker philosophy obsessed with America's sins. Echoes of the assassination -- and the meaning attributed to it by JFK's admirers -- can still be heard in the querulous tones of contemporary liberalism.

Close, I would argue that the crux was 8/2/64. But it amounts to the same thing.

The real John F. Kennedy wasn't the paladin of liberal purity of myth. He was friends with Joseph McCarthy. In his 1952 campaign for Senate and his 1960 presidential campaign, he got to the right of his Republican opponents on key issues. "Kennedy did not want anyone to tag him as a liberal, which he regarded as the kiss of death in electoral politics," Piereson writes. As president, he was vigorously anti-communist, a tax-cutter and a cautious supporter of civil rights.

His kind of liberalism -- "tough and realistic," as Piereson puts it, in the tradition of FDR and Truman -- was carried away in the riptide of his death.

Here are some of the remarks JFK was to make that day:

"In less than 3 years, we have increased by 50 percent the number of Polaris submarines scheduled to be in force by the next fiscal year, increased by more than 70 percent our total Polaris purchase program, increased by more than 75 percent our Minuteman purchase program, increased by 50 percent the portion of our strategic bombers on 15-minute alert, and increased by too percent the total number of nuclear weapons available in our strategic alert forces. Our security is further enhanced by the steps we have taken regarding these weapons to improve the speed and certainty of their response, their readiness at all times to respond, their ability to survive an attack, and their ability to be carefully controlled and directed through secure command operations."

That does not sound like the left, does it?

In a crucial and counterintuitive interpretive act, the nation's opinion elite made JFK a martyr to civil rights instead of the Cold War. Kennedy had been killed by a communist, Lee Harvey Oswald, who a few years before had tried to defect to the Soviet Union. Liberals nonetheless blamed the assassination on, in the characteristic words of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, "the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots."

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