Masochism: The Left After Camelot


On November 22, 1963, Left and Right came together briefly in an awful contemplation. A hostile mob surrounded the headquarters of Barry Goldwater, the prospective Republican nominee against John F. Kennedy in 1963, chanting “Murderers!”

On the other side, the Eastern Republican establishment also got into the act. Immediately after Kennedy’s assassination, Richard Nixon phoned FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and asked, “Was it one of the right-wing nuts?” Even in the Goldwater camp, there was suspicion that Kennedy had fallen victim to a right-wing assassin. Denison Kitchel, the manager of Goldwater’s senatorial campaign, muttered, “My God, one of the Birchers did it.”

This conspiracy theory, fueled by the media even after the arrest of committed Marxist Lee Harvey Oswald and the airing of his far-Left résumé, did more than distort the facts of the Kennedy assassination—it changed the course of liberalism.

When Kennedy died, so did liberal anticommunism, and what began was the “blame America” first school of the Left.
Whether in the form of race riots or angry demonstrators gathering outside American embassies in Vietnam or Iran, liberal politics post-1963 was driven by the desire to find something corrupt in Cold War-era American society. Oswald’s palm print was found on the murder weapon, but in the view of liberal columnists like James Reston it was really American society that had pulled the trigger.

In this way, Kennedy’s death starkly demonstrated the political divide. The Right accepted that a Communist deadbeat such as Lee Harvey Oswald had the motive to kill a Cold Warrior like Kennedy. But the Left, despite its supposed maturity about Communism’s penchant for violence, opted for denial.

During the Kennedy era, liberalism argued for a big government to contain Communism abroad and at home. Abroad, this would be done through military and economic aid to countries menaced by communism, such as Laos, Greece and Vietnam. At home, New Deal-programs designed to deal with poverty, Communism’s alleged breeding ground, would be enacted. A prerequisite for both of these approaches succeeding was trust in the government, from both its employees and its citizenry. But after the Kennedy assassination, something changed within liberalism. The Left would never look at its government — or its country — the same way.

Unwilling to accept that Oswald was inspired to act by his Communist beliefs, liberals looked toward their own government as the culprit. Robert Kennedy, who mere weeks before the assassination had been pushing the CIA to boost efforts to kill Fidel Castro, asked the agency even after Oswald’s arrest and the exposure of his sympathies for Cuba, “Did one of your guys do it?” Denial that a Communist could have killed Kennedy afflicts the Left even to this day. A search for a more politically satisfying sniper — a Cuban exile, say, or a CIA spook — has obsessed them since 1963.

For such theories to be plausible, Kennedy has to be portrayed as an enemy of anti-communist right-wing forces. Hence, his characterization by liberals since 1963, in the words of filmmaker Oliver Stone, as an “American Gorbachev,” a courageous dove who was trying to end the Cold War.

But far from ending the Cold War, JFK was continuing, even intensifying it. He put more military advisors into Vietnam as a means to show Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev his backbone. Both the Kennedy brothers were pressuring the CIA to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and reportedly had an invasion of the island planned for December 1963. Far from attracting the ire of the anti-Communists, the real Kennedy mirrored their thinking. But none of this fit into the post-1963 mentality of American liberals. For them, Kennedy had to die for civil rights or for détente. Only his anti-Communism was ruled out as an acceptable motive.

What made the Left’s refusal to accept that one of their own might have carried out the assassination all the more curious was that within a few years of Kennedy’s death the far-Left would spawn many similar characters. Militants in the Oswald mold, they made targets of the same establishment liberals that JFK had represented. From the New Left came the Weathermen, a paramilitary group that, like Oswald, engaged in rifle practice and expressed sympathy for Castro’s Cuba. Like Oswald, too, they trained their sights not on conservatives like William F. Buckley Jr. or Barry Goldwater but on anti-Communist liberals like Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey.

The fact that Kennedy’s assassin was a Communist sympathizer with possible ties to Cuba’s intelligence service (and perhaps even the KGB) fits uneasily into a political script in which the president is seen as a liberal martyr. By contrast, seeing Kennedy as the victim of an unmonitored CIA or sinister Southern corporations allows the modern Left to justify its opposition to counter-terrorism policies in the War on Terror and its disdain for free-market capitalism. The truth, in other words, is politically problematic.

With Kennedy’s assassination, the American Left became progressively unhinged and, as evidenced today, still clings to the paranoid school of history by claiming Putin elected Trump.

Ron Capshaw is a Senior Contributor to The Liberty Conservative from Midlothian, Va. His work has appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator.


  1. LBJ murdered JFK.

    throat if it’s the last thing I do.”

    Robert Caro describes the LBJ-RFK relationship post 1960 Democratic convention, where RFK had moved heaven and earth attempting to keep LBJ off the 1960 Democratic ticket. Caro:

    John Connally, who during long days of conversation with this author was willing to answer almost
    any question put to him, no matter how delicate the topic, wouldn’t answer when
    asked what Johnson said about Robert Kennedy. When the author pressed him, he
    finally said flatly: “I am not going to tell you what he said about
    him.” During the months after the convention, when Johnson was closeted
    alone back in Texas with an old ally he would sometimes be asked about Robert
    Kennedy. He would reply with a gesture. Raising
    his big right hand, he would draw the side of it across the neck in a slowing,
    slitting movement. Sometimes that gesture would be his only reply; sometimes,
    as during a meeting with Ed Clark in Austin, he would say, as his hand moved
    across his neck, “I’ll cut his throat if it’s the last thing I do.” [Robert Caro, “The Passage of
    Power,” p. 140]

  2. : Lee Harvey Oswald was U.S. intelligence and he shot NO ONE on 11/22/63. Oswald was a pre-selected CIA patsy for the JFK assassination.

    1) “Oswald and the CIA” book by John

    “The Last Investigtion: What Insiders Know about the Assassination of
    JFK” by Gaeton Fonzi

    3) “Spy Saga: Lee Harvey Oswald and US Intelligence” book by Philip Melanson

    4) “History Will Not Absolve Us” by Martin Schotz (Chapter 5 “Oswald and U.S.
    Intelligence” by Christopher Sharrett)

    5) “Me and Lee” book by Judyth Vary Baker (Oswald’s mistress in New Orleans,
    summer 1963)

    6) “Crossfire” by Jim Marrs “Was Oswald a Spy” – p. 189. “Did Oswald Work for
    the FBI” – p. 226

    7) “Destiny Betrayed” by Jim DiEugenio,
    Chapter 7 “On Instructions from His Government” (2012 edition)

    8) “A Certain Arrogance: U.S. Intelligence’s Manipulation of Religious Groups
    and Individuals in Two World Wars and the Cold War – and the Sacrificing of Lee
    Harvey Oswald” book by George Michael Evica

    9) “Accessories After the Fact” by Sylvia Meagher, Chapter 19 “Oswald and the
    State Department’”

    10) “Coup D’Etat in America: The CIA and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy”
    by Alan Weberman & Michael Canfield, Chapter 3 “Was Oswald a CIA Agent?”

    11) “Oswald in New Orleans: Case for Conspiracy with the CIA” by Harold

    12) “Oswald: The Truth” by Joachim Joesten (1967)

    13) Chapter 9 “Fingerprints of Intelligence” in “Reasonable Doubt” by Henry

    14) Chapter 14 “Oswald and the CIA” in “Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy” by
    Joachim Joesten

    15) Chapter 12 ” Was Oswald a Government Agent” in “Breach of Trust: How the
    Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why” by Gerald McKnight

    16) Chapter 13 “Spies” in “Farewell America” by James Hepburn

    17) Google “Lee Harvey Oswald’s reading habits summer 1963” by Judyth Vary

    18) Google ” Lee Harvey Oswald—a U.S. Intelligence Agent: The Evidence by Hal

    19) Google “The Death of a President by Eric Norden in The Minority of One,
    Jan, 1964”

    20) “The Search for Lee Harvey Oswald” by Robert Groden

    21) “I am a Patsy! I am a Patsy!” by
    George De Mohrenschildt

    22) Google “Oswald and the FBI” by
    Harold Feldman, The Nation January,
    1964, pp 86-89

    23) “Missing Links: Oswald: Footprints of Intelligence” in
    Missing Links in the JFK Assassination Conspiracy by Ralph D. Thomas, pp.

  3. This is one of the dumbest articles on this case in a long line of really clueless articles.
    Fact: Oswald was CIA.
    Fact: Warren Commission was led by one of the plotters, Allen Dulles.
    Fact: The FBI knew it was the CIA after they traced the bullets to a batch ordered by the CIA, but the CIA was blackmailing Hoover re his homosexuality, so he stayed silent.

    This data is out there. Either you are 1) not curious, 2) not intelligent, 3) not persuadable by facts, or 4) not honest. What you are not is anywhere near the ballpark of reality.

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