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Larry Sabato on JFK's Assassination and Legacy

By    |   Tuesday, 03 Dec 2013 01:56 PM

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, discussed his book titled The Kennedy Half Century on C-SPAN's After Words program with Craig Shirley, author of a book on President Reagan titled Rendezvous with Destiny.

To me, two Larry Sabatos emerged from the program. One was the clinical analyst who has looked at the work of the Warren Commission objectively and, along with three quarters of the American people, according to consistent poll results, found it unconvincing. The other was the wide-eyed devotee of the dual cults of the presidency as an institution and of JFK in particular.

Despite the fact that Shirley is also an expert commentator on the presidency, he, too, has succumbed to the spell as he proudly states that he has committed Kennedy's inaugural speech to memory.

Sabato reviewed the evidence and went to the trouble of commissioning an analysis of the dictabelt recordings that some theorists assert contain evidence that there were more than a few shots fired at the president. The analysis rules out gunfire as the source of the noise, and Sabato concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald probably acted alone, but that the case is not in fact "closed," as some other authors have argued, because there are too many unanswered questions.

His most important point is that any conclusion must be held in abeyance pending release of thousands of documents that have been sequestered on the orders of President George H. W. Bush until 2018. He stressed that the public has an interest that whoever is president at that time take steps to release those documents, so that an informed assessment can be made.

Sabato's theory is that because all subsequent presidents used Kenney speeches to promote their own agendas, such as Reagan's use of Kennedy's advocacy of tax cuts to stimulate the economy, that means the events of an entire period can be attributed disproportionately to the influence of a supposed "great man." Ironically, the Reagan administration had its own JFK — Jack F. Kemp — who invoked Kennedy in his own campaign for the enactment of stimulative, "supply side" tax cuts.

Also ironic is the fact that objectively, if one were to credit a Kennedy with dominance over policy for half a century, it would be a different Kennedy — Ted — who served almost that long in the Senate, championed an extensive and expensive healthcare program and anointed another mediocre, distracted senator, Barack Obama, as president, an office Ted himself never attained.

One would hope, but not expect, that a professional pundit could apply more skepticism, not to say cynicism, to such extravagant claims. This might have led such a pundit, and perhaps his readers to consider whether it is healthy for the polity to invest so heavily in the presidency as an institution and, by extension, in a succession of individuals who have come to the office with great self-regard and little else to justify their acquisition of the enormous power of this office.

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Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, discussed his book titled The Kennedy Half Century on C-SPAN's After Words program with Craig Shirley, author of a book on President Reagan titled Rendezvous with Destiny.
Kennedy,Sabato,Shirley,document
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2013-56-03
Tuesday, 03 Dec 2013 01:56 PM
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