Divided AmericaPolitics

JFK was Hauntingly Similar to Trump

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by Xan Holbrook

One of the key problems of being President of the United States is that you’re meant to be a symbol as much as a leader.

It sounds like an easy sell, but it means that you often have to conform to a blandest common denominator which appears to be in control, when, in fact, you’re nowhere close to being in control. As with many problems of adulthood, there aren’t any grown-ups to fix our problems. Image becomes God – the plastic grins, the interminable hand shakes, kissing babies, and all the rest of it. That, and the money is crap.

As no one needs reminding, this need to appear aloof and high-mannered is now under attack from all angles by the current administration. Given that this imbecile sits atop the mightiest arsenal assembled by humankind and atop a horde of plunder to inspire scaly penis envy in Smaug, it’s understandable that any reasonable person would conclude that this premiership is heralding the apocalypse.

Well, allow me to ease your worry by reminding you all that we’ve been here before.

Not only that, but that it was during one of the most revered administrations of the last century. The reality behind the saccharine Camelot moniker (yet more evidence, as if any were needed, of the US Establishment’s romanticizing of absolute monarchy and hereditary rule) bears some pretty ugly parallels with current times. Stop me if you’ve heard any of the following lately…

John F. Kennedy’s time in the Oval Office, examined through the lens of hard fact, was bizarre and pathetic. So far from being the progressive torchbearer and prematurely extinguished flame of his myth, he was a philandering, underhanded, short-fused, short-sighted boy of privilege, who bought his election and engendered an atmosphere of raw paranoia. Even before his election campaign, he had a Pulitzer Prize awarded to him for a ghost-written book. This started with wild accusations on the campaign trail, which forced him to be the first of many to realize Eisenhower’s premonition about the Military-Industrial Complex

His foreign policy was hyperactive and distraught, marred by a cascade of profitless posturing, clumsy assassinations, abortive proxy wars and reckless brinkmanship (the last of these resulted, at least, in one of Christopher Hitchens’ most notable verbal bullets).

Not only does his butcher’s bill include foreign despots and mendicants, as well as the luckless citizens of countries determined to not give a shit about America’s global standing, but thousands of future casualties in the quagmire of Vietnam (a stand he had to take after he sponsored a coup against his own client). He entertained delusional political theories, wild goose chases, and batshit schemes of his advisors and brothers

His moves and measures were petty and empty, such as his defiant-looking Ich Bin Ein Berliner speech, which he made only after letting the East German government imprison its own citizens. The genuinely urgent issue of Civil Rights was met with indifference on the most part by Kennedy’s staff, even as the country grew ever closer to what Martin Luther King described as “the flashpoint of negro rage.” Such vital issues as segregation and equal voting access were chucked on the congressional to-do pile, rather than through the means of an executive order. More often than not, JFK’s policy was most swayed by the demented whims of his overseas clients, his kleptocrat backers, and the bullies in his own cabinet.

On the note of his backers, not only did Kennedy have a vicious Machiavellian father, but also a political retinue from Hell. Sam Giancana, the head of the Chicago Outfit, has his name crop up time and again with JFK’s. Involved in both assassination plots of Fidel Castro and Rafael Trujillo, he remarked that the CIA and La Cosa Nostra were remarkably similar in how they operated. Many of the persisting assassination theories have Mafia involvement in some way tied to them. 

Giancana

Giancana was not only mixed up in Kennedy’s public life, but his private one, too. Judith Campbell Exner had affairs with both men, with the Secret Service smuggling her in and out of the White House, as well as sleeping with Outfit associate John Roselli, himself groomed by the American security services. The President’s repeated sexual misconduct, and constant humiliation of his wife, is well-documented. This seedy subtopic, however, is a gateway into a more realistic route into what helped kill the man.

Despite presenting himself as the picture of health, Jack was anything but. Addison’s Disease, chronic urethritis and prostatitis (resulting from untreated VD), diarrhea, collapsed vertebrae, colitis, exhaustion…and a whole feasting-table of drugs to keep him going, including ones administered by Mac “Dr. Feelgood” Jacobson.

Not “Dr. Feelgood” but…

These brain-shagging analgesics and amphetamines were not used medicinally, but rather Kennedy would have been hopeless without them. This is no small matter, given that he was most heavily medicated during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I said in the previous paragraph that his ill-health was a key factor in his death. I can hear your scoffs from across the world. But bear this in mind – the back brace he used, the one which hid his failing spinal condition from the world, was what held him upright, unable to avoid Lee Harvey Oswald’s killshot.

Barring a bullet to the head, and the ability to give a half-decent public speech, the mirror this holds up to our own time is clear: a philandering, underhanded, short-fused, short-sighted boy of privilege, who ghost wrote a greasy-grinned book and engendered an atmosphere of raw paranoia, once again in the seat of power.

Just don’t resort to murder this time, folks. That would only make him a legend, rather than a let-down.

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