AMERICA’S SHIFT TO LIBERALISM
By the end of the 1950’s, many Americans were ready for new directions and a more active federal government. McCarthyism had run its course after the Senator accused the United States Army of being infested with communism. He was humiliated before a national television audience. With the danger of the McCarthy mindset diminished, the nation’s intellectuals and critics felt more confidence in expressing their disenchanted opinions. The more liberal presidential candidate in 1960 was Democrat John F. Kennedy, who was opposed by Republican (and conservative) Richard Nixon. Young (43), handsome, charismatic, and well-spoken at the first ever televised presidential debate, Kennedy won the closest presidential election in history to that point and began his quest for a “New Frontier.” His Vice-President was long-time Washington politician, Texan Lyndon B. Johnson.
KENNEDY’S DOMESTIC PROGRAMS
JFK’s domestic programs aimed at helping the poor and minorities were not very successful. Congress was still quite conservative. Southern Democrats were more likely to vote against Kennedy’s social and civil rights reforms than to support them. The fact that Kennedy had won his election by such a very narrow margin was proof that he did not exactly have a nationwide mandate for wide-sweeping reforms. In fact, Democrats even lost one of the Senate seats from Texas, when John Tower became the first Republican since Reconstruction to win statewide office in Texas in 1961.
THE ASSASSINATION occurred in Dallas as JFK was on a tour of the South, attempting to generate good will among the southern voters toward his 1964 re-election campaign. Texas Governor John Connally was also wounded in the attack.
The apparent assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was arrested in a movie theater after killing a policeman who attempted to stop him for questioning. Unfortunately, Oswald himself was murdered by Jack Ruby before Oswald could be adequately questioned. This has contributed to a myriad of “conspiracy” theories–blaming everyone–from the Russians to the Mafia to Vice-President Lyndon Johnson–for the president’s murder. Modern evidence now includes a 3D computer simulation that shows clearly how a single bullet could pass through JFK and into Connally, as JFK’s seat was elevated to make him higher than Connally. This new data casts doubt on the popular theories that there was more than one gunman. The government’s Warren Commission (September 1964) investigated the murder and promoted the theory that Oswald acted alone.
According to Oswald’s own brother, Oswald was a “loser”, who always craved attention and wanted to be important. He was unable to attain status in any socially acceptable way. He had already attempted to assassinate U.S. Army General Walker but missed. He had taken a job at the Dallas book depository prior to the public announcement of Kennedy’s route through town. It was a crime of opportunity—not meticulously planned–and exactly the sort of thing Lee Harvey Oswald would do.
Regarding Jack Ruby’s killing of Oswald, Ruby had gone to the telegraph office to send money to one of his employees. He had even brought his pet dog in the car with him (which does not suggest premeditation). Western Union was close to the police station where Oswald was, and Ruby dropped by to get a look at the assassin. When Oswald appeared to be sneering at the press, Ruby flew into a rage. He always carried a gun and killed Oswald as an unplanned crime of passion, as he was a big supporter of JFK. He was known to be hot-tempered and violent. As he pulled the trigger, Ruby said, “He killed my president.”
Some say that Kennedy’s death, 11-22-63, was the day the United States began to tear apart. Numerous marches, riots, assassinations, and protests reached a peak shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, Texas will forever be linked with the assassination.
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