I was never a “Kennedyphile”; life-long southern conservative Republicans usually are not. Sure, I was a starry-eyed 15 year old teenager who understood “Camelot”, and can recall to this day where I was at 2 p.m. EST on Friday, November 22, 1963. I was heading to fifth period “Solid Geometry”, when news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination was broadcast over the public address system at Hinton High School, in Hinton West Virginia. School was cancelled and Mom (Blanche Callaham) a history teacher at the high school drove me home that afternoon. The car ride discussion was all about previous presidential assassinations and ones that had been attempted. No real fear in Mom’s voice, although later in life she confided that she feared the worst might occur – riots, and possibly even some open national rebellion. I felt an air of sadness for the loss of the President; however, life in the Callaham family resumed a normal cadence soon after the President was laid to rest the following Tuesday.
But wow! Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Kennedy sure struck a nerve when I read the book recently. Not only does O’Reilly capture the moments directly around the actual assassination; he leads readers through the ups and downs of Kennedy’s tumultuous 2 years and 10 months as President – and tumultuous may be an understatement.
Sexual relations; international and national political intrigue; racial injustice; civil rights; party and petit politics; domestic tranquility interspersed with violence and arguments; gun rights; mental health; states’ rights; it’s all in the book. The back drop for O’Reilly’s fact based book includes World War II, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, Marilyn Monroe’s death, the Mafia, Hollywood, Texas, Washington D.C. and more.
Along with rumors the facts bear out that many people may have wanted John Fitzgerald Kennedy dead. Go no further than Kennedy’s Vice President, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Johnson was noted as the chief political power broker in Washington prior to his acceptance of the nomination to be Vice President on the Kennedy/Johnson ticket in the 1960 national election. Once elected, in part by carrying Texas by a mere 46 thousand votes (the reason Johnson was on the ticket), JFK and his younger brother, Robert Kennedy, did everything they could to erode Johnson’s power. Most, including Johnson, felt that JFK would dump Johnson from the Democrat ticket in the 1964 campaign – some even thought JFK would choose Robert Kennedy as his next running mate. My, my, how far the mighty fell!
Internationally, Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev would be likely suspects if there was a plot to kill Kennedy. Castro clearly knew of Kennedy’s direct involvement in the batched attempt to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Khrushchev on the other hand lost credibility when he withdrew offensive nuclear missiles in the face of an American Naval blockade during the resultant Cuban Missile Crisis.
You want an angry Central Intelligence Agency along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the plot, how about the Secret Service; it’s all there in fact. Each of those vaunted agencies could easily bear some guilt either through omission or commission.
The Mafia connection to the CIA, spurned Hollywood lovers, bruised star egos, all factor in the book – not as fictional characters but as real people in real well documented situations. Away from the glitter of “tinsel town” and the beautiful people, there are plenty of “good old boys” that may have played a part.
I’ve read excerpts from the Warren Commission’s Report concerning Kennedy’s assassination. I’ve seen and read the “stuff” put out for public consumption by numerous conspiracy theorists. I’ve also read plenty of supposed expert documentation for both sides of the issue; lone gunman versus conspiracy plots linking various culprits’ involvement. And truly, until reading Killing Kennedy I always leaned towards some sort of conspiracy involving our government’s covert involvement.
Now, after reading O’Reilly’s book, a book that ties up a lot of loose ends into a singular, fascinating, hard to put down read; I’m convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald, acted alone, and fired three shots at John Fitzgerald Kennedy, two of those shots killing the 34th President of the United States. History may prove me wrong, but the book is a great read!