Book Review: Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard (2013)
Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot*(2013)
*The title of the book is depicted above in roughly the same order as it is shown on the cover, with the celebrity political polemicist, Bill O’Reilly’s name across the middle of the front cover in type about two inches in height, and the actual title and probably the actual author (Martin Dugard) in fine, or less prominent type.
Did you know that John F Kennedy was a speed reader? If not, you will by the time you finish reading Killing Kennedy, as O’Reilly/Dugard mention it at least three times. He could read 1200 words a minute, just one of many attributes separating Jack from the adoring public. And Jackie spoke at least three languages. Little wonder they became the world’s first power couple in politics. Did you know that Kennedy was youthful, tanned and handsome? And that Jackie was beautiful and stylish? You will by the time you finish the book, as references to Jack’s handsome, tanned physique are almost as frequent as are references to Jackie’s stylish beauty.
But far more importantly, and seriously, did you know that Kennedy’s assassination was eerily analogous to Lincoln’s? (The story of which comprises another book written by O’Reilly/Dugard, similarly branded, Killing Lincoln, which I read, and have reviewed here.)
In O’Reilly’s “Note to Readers” which I assume is something like the preface or prologue most often seen at the beginning of books (but perhaps calling it a preface or prologue, what with all those syllables, would have confused O’Reilly’s readers), notes the similarities between Lincoln’s and Kennedy’s lives. Allow me to list them, verbatim, from the book:
~Lincoln was first elected in 1860, Kennedy in 1960.
~Both were assassinated on a Friday, in the presence of their wives.
~Their successors were both southerners named Johnson who had served in the Senate.
~Andrew Johnson was born in 1808, Lyndon Johnson in 1908.
~Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846, while Kennedy was elected to the house in 1946.
~Both men suffered the death of children while in office.
~The assassin Booth shot inside a theater and fled into a storage facility, while the assassin Oswald shot from a storage facility and fled into a theater.
Now let’s take each of them in turn. Everyone knows the profound significance of centuries in our Julian calendar system of numbering days and years, a system which begins with the imagined date of the birth of a Jewish peasant in Palestine. I can see what O’Reilly is getting at here—Kennedy and Lincoln being elected a hundred years apart is significant because every hundred years, the wheels of history rotate one full turn (because, well, a hundred is such a pretty number; it is a centennial number, in our base-ten numbering regime), and a mark made on the circumference of the wheel will touch the path it is following every hundred years. The mark on the wheel of history left by Lincoln’s election touched the path of history again (albeit at a further point along the path) when Kennedy was elected a hundred years after Lincoln thus Kennedy’s presidency, while not a repeat of Lincoln’s, was destined to rhyme. And rhyme it did, what with the disintegration of the Union, the threat of nuclear holocaust, the emancipation of slaves, and the escalation of involvement in a civil war in a foreign land with which each man had to deal.
This hundred-year cyclical view of history simplifies and explains things quite well. William Howard Taft, a tall, portly white man from Ohio whose grandfather was purportedly America’s first Taft, is Barack Hussein Obama’s hundred-year antecedent. Taft was elected in 1908 on the Republican ticket, but was Teddy Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor, and Teddy Roosevelt, like Taft after him, held a “progressive” political philosophy. How is Obama’s political philosophy most often characterized? Indeed, as progressive. And Obama’s daddy may very well have been the first Obama from Kenya to reach America’s shores (though he didn’t stay long). And Obama is tall. Obviously O’Reilly’s on to something with his hundred-year cycle of history.
As for both Kennedy and Lincoln being assassinated on Friday, everyone knows that bad things happen on Friday. Jesus was crucified on Friday, which is how the day came to be known as “Good Friday”, since ultimately his crucifixion saved all humanity from the sin of its existence. Before Christians of the modern era got hold of it, the day was known as Black Friday, and it was treated as the worst of all Fridays, which were all generally considered unlucky and evil. And of course, Lincoln, the savior of the United States of America, the preserver of the Union, the emancipator of the slaves, practically had to be crucified, er, assassinated on a Friday. John Kennedy, the tanned, athletic, handsome and youthful representation of America’s future greatness, a future even greater than the hegemonic ascendancy it enjoyed the world over at the time, also had to be assassinated on a Friday. The idyllic idealism of Camelot had to be shattered on a Friday, because Friday, the sixth day of an arbitrarily rendered accounting system for time, really is inherently unlucky and evil. Even O’Reilly should get this. Christ, Lincoln and Kennedy–all crucified on Friday. Coincidence? I think not.
That both Kennedy’s and Lincoln’s successors were named Johnson and born in the ’08 hundred-year historical cycle is not, however, remarkable. Johnson is a very common name, and it takes roughly as long as each of them had lived in order to amass enough political capital that they might be considered worthy of the Vice-Presidency. Considering O’Reilly’s hundred-year cycles of history, anything less than their having been born in the same year would have raised eyebrows. What is remarkable, and ultimately sends a chill down the spine when it is realized, is that both men were hard-scrabble Southern white men—born into poverty only to scratch and climb their way to power. And for each man, upon assuming the Office of Vice-President, ultimate power was just an assassin’s well-placed shot away.
Given the poor Southern man’s venal hatred for all things sublime and beautiful, such as were the Administrations of Kennedy and Lincoln, and his lust for things just out of his reach and station in life, it is remarkable that either of Kennedy or Lincoln lived as long as each did once they sold their souls to the Southern devils in order to get elected. Of course, Lincoln only lived a few weeks into the ascendancy of Andrew Johnson to the Vice-Presidency. Lyndon Johnson took a bit longer—practically three years—until he achieved the pinnacle of power he’d always sought. Though it was never proved that either of the Johnson’s had anything overtly to do with assassinating their betters, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how Booth and Oswald, both themselves Southerners, could pick up the vibes emanating from each of the Southern Vice-Presidents. Woe is bound to befall a president who picks poor white trash from the South as his running mate.
That both Lincoln and Kennedy were first elected to federal office in 1946 is simply a derivative of the hundred-year cycle of history, and is to be expected. ‘Nuff said about that.
That both men lost a child while in office could be directly traced to having sold their souls to Southern demons in order to get elected. The sins of the father are visited upon the sons. Never mind that Lincoln’s child died before he picked Andrew Johnson as his second term running mate—God knew what he was planning to do. And never mind the Kennedy’s child was born severely premature, with little chance to survive more than a few days, or even hours (the child died a little less than two days after it was born)—God’s punishes as God sees fit.
That Booth assassinated Lincoln in a theater and fled to a storage facility, while Oswald assassinated Kennedy in a storage facility and fled to a theater is another derivative of the hundred-year cycle of history rule. Lincoln’s assassination started in a theater and Kennedy’s ended in one, making a perfect, rhyming bookend to the cycle.
Thus with this auspicious start, O’Reilly/Dugard settle in to relate, in present tense, and from a perspective of omniscience about the character’s thoughts and feelings, the end of Camelot. It reads something like an extended People magazine article, but without the journalistic integrity. Enjoy.
This one gets no stars. Don’t even line the trash can with it, as you might pause while tossing in a beer can to read a bit, imperiling both your integrity and your IQ.