JFK’s Fate

“Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years” by David Talbot is a compelling read. And bear in mind, I’ve never been a Kennedy fan. I never even bought the Irish-Catholic thing. Would that Bill Clinton’s boyhood idol had been Harry Truman and not JFK.

Anyway, you don’t have to be a conspiracy obsessive to conclude this: In retrospect, it’s amazing that – for all the Camelot choreography and charm – John F. Kennedy made it through almost three years of his presidency.

Start with a truly rogue, Cold War-revved CIA that never accepted Kennedy and kept him out of key loops. Then there were Strangelovian generals such as Curtis LeMay who found Kennedy and his Ivy League coterie frightfully weak on the Communist threat and no friend of pre-emptive warfare.

Having speech writer/advisor Ted Sorensen, a World War II conscientious objector married to a Quaker, sitting at JFK’s right hand only made it more visceral.

Kennedy would always be considered a liability on national security and the military. As the scion of Joe Kennedy, he was also the suspect son of a disgraced (World War II) appeaser with Mob ties.

Then add the vendetta-hungry Mob that knew that the elimination of JFK and the elevation of Vice President Lyndon Johnson would likely sandbag Attorney General Robert Kennedy – and reduce a sustained assault on organized crime as an administration priority.

Some Mafia kingpins, notably Chicago’s Sam Giancana, considered JFK the avatar of betrayal for reneging on political debts and unleashing his brother on the Mob after Mafia help in the 1960 presidential election. Other bosses, such as Tampa’s Santo Trafficante, who was heavily invested in Havana hotels and casinos, never forgave JFK for backing off on air cover for the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. Trafficante’s circle included lots of apoplectic Cuban exiles.

New Orleans’ powerful Carlos Marcello had already been deported once by Robert Kennedy. Both Marcello and Trafficante had enjoyed a veritable treasure trove of loans from the Teamsters’ Union pension fund. All this was at risk from Robert Kennedy’s crusade against Jimmy Hoffa.

And then there were JFK’s notorious liaisons – from celebs to hookers to foreign nationals – all of whom represented the quintessential worst-case scenario for a sitting U.S. president: blackmail. Plus Vietnam. At the time (1963), there were 16,000 U.S. military advisors in Vietnam. By all accounts, JFK had no intention of escalating the war. His domino-theorizing generals disagreed, often vehemently and disrespectfully.

And it hardly helped that Southern segregationists were inflamed that the Kennedy Administration would use U.S. troops, however reluctant to mobilize, to ensure that James Meredith could enroll at the University of Mississippi.How ironic that it would be a lone, unaffiliated gunman who ended Camelot

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