The PJ Tatler

Frank Rich Is Wrong: Hate Didn't Kill Kennedy, But It Is Killing Civil Discourse in America

Today marks the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The slain president’s wife, his successor, and the liberal media blamed the murder on Dallas’ “climate of hate.” That smear cast a pall on the innocent citizens of that city for decades. I know, because I grew up in the shadow of Big D and in the shadow of Kennedy’s killing. For decades after Nov. 22, 1963, you could go anywhere in the country, tell anyone you were from Dallas, and if you spent enough time with that person, Kennedy’s assassination would inevitably come up.

Frank Rich chose to mark the 48th anniversary by smearing Dallas, again, and by extension conservatives of the present. It’s a column which should get him ridiculed and fired; no one who is so irresponsible with the hard facts of life has any place in the commentariat.The title gives Rich’s game away. It’s “What Killed JFK?” not “Who Killed JFK?” as it should be. A “what” is much easier to abstract, isolate, and attack than a “who” who had inconvenient opinions and motivations, and a madness to move.

The cold, hard fact of that day in Dallas is this: Whether Kennedy was killed by a lone gunman or by a conspiracy that included others, Dallas’ “climate” had nothing to do with it. Dallas was the scene of the crime but wasn’t responsible for it. Lee Harvey Oswald was not a mainstream Dallas man. He would not have been a Tea Partier. Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist. He had defected to the Soviet Union, become disillusioned, and returned. He had tried to travel to Cuba and failed. If hate was Oswald’s motive in Kennedy’s killing, the hate lived in the chest of a man who had failed at life, had rejected the freedoms of his country, and used bullets to write himself into the history books. Lee Harvey Oswald was an America-hating leftist.

Or, alternatively, Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy to stop his Vietnam policy or whatever the Oliver Stones of the world think. You make the call. Either way, Dallas is not collectively guilty of Kennedy’s death anymore than Washington DC is collectively guilty of Lincoln’s.

To the extent that his politics are relevant today, Lee Harvey Oswald belongs to the same ideological strain that later gave us Pentagon bomber Bill Ayers. That same strain of politics can be traced through a certain church in Chicago, right to the camps in Oakland, Los Angeles and Wall Street. People who subscribe to this strain of thought blame others for their feelings of powerlessness. They reject American freedom and damn America. They accept some violence as a legitimate political tactic. They despise America and want to bring her down to create a moment in which they can rearrange power to their benefit.

But I’m less interested in them at the moment than I am interested in Frank Rich. His column shows that in all the decades since Kennedy’s murder, the left has never really changed. They blamed Dallas for Kennedy’s death then, and they blame Sarah Palin and conservatives for the senseless shooting in Tucson this year. The facts of the story change, but the smear stays the same. Frank Rich blames “hate” for both, but the only hate on display is his own. It blinds him to the fact that Oswald was a man very much of the left, and that the Tucson shooter had no discernible ideology at all. But men of the left such as Rich prefer to assign collective guilt on their political enemies. Without pushing that collective guilt on others, their own lives have no meaning. They cannot convince themselves of their own superiority without an inferior other to hate. And collective guilt is a useful tool to intimidate. There is a reason that Saul Alinsky has found such a receptive audience among the left. They’re fueled by hate; Alinsky gave them the means of channeling that hate toward useful (to the haters) ends.

Frank Rich’s hatefulness is killing civil discourse in America. It dishonestly condemned an entire city for generations and turns an innocent campaign map into a murder map. It replaces individual responsibility with collective guilt, and turns what should be a unifying national tragedy into corrosive partisan crossfire.