If only it were just about the color of his skin.
With all due respect to Jimmy Carter, the racist component of Obama-hatred has been undeniable since the summer of 2008, when Sarah Palin rallied all-white mobs to the defense of the “real America.” Joe Wilson may or may not be in that camp, but, either way, that’s not the news. As we watched and rewatched the South Carolina congressman’s star turn, what grabbed us was the act itself.
What made the lone, piercing cry of “You lie!” shocking was that it breached a previously secure barrier. It was the first time that the violent rage surging in town-hall meetings all summer blasted into the same room as the president. Wilson’s televised shout was tantamount to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. When he later explained that his behavior was “spontaneous” rather than premeditated, that was even more disturbing. It’s not good for the country that a lawmaker can’t control his anger at Barack Obama. It gives permission to crazy people. [continued…]
Eventually, [William] Manchester [author of The Death of a President, published in 1967] had to go to Dallas. Once there, he walked everywhere, including the entire five-mile motorcade route, from Love Field onto Main and then Houston and Elm Streets, past the Texas School Book Depository Building, searching for spectators and, in Dealey Plaza, possible snipers’ nests.
He discovered deep political enmities that had simmered at the time of the assassination, not just against the Kennedys but among the Democrats as well. Indeed, that’s what had compelled Kennedy’s trip to Dallas in the first place: John B. Connally, the conservative Democratic governor, was at war with the more liberal Democratic senator Ralph W. Yarborough. Even a formidable Texas politician like Vice President Johnson couldn’t put out the oil fire the two men had ignited. Kennedy didn’t want to lose the state in the upcoming ‘64 election, so he’d agreed to go to Dallas in an attempt to heal the rift.
Manchester also discovered that Dallas “had become the Mecca for medicine-show evangelists … the Minutemen, the John Birch and Patrick Henry Societies, and the headquarters of [ultra-conservative oil billionaire] H. L. Hunt and his activities.”
“In that third year of the Kennedy presidency,” Manchester wrote, “a kind of fever lay over Dallas country. Mad things happened. Huge billboards screamed, ‘Impeach Earl Warren.’ Jewish stores were smeared with crude swastikas.…Radical Right polemics were distributed in public schools; Kennedy’s name was booed in classrooms; corporate junior executives were required to attend radical seminars.” A retired major general ran the American flag upside down, deriding it as “the Democrat flag.” A wanted poster with J.F.K.’s face on it was circulated, announcing “this man is Wanted” for—among other things—“turning the sovereignty of the US over to the Communist controlled United Nations” and appointing “anti-Christians … aliens and known Communists” to federal offices. And a full-page advertisement had appeared the day of the assassination in The Dallas Morning News accusing Kennedy of making a secret deal with the Communist Party; when it was shown to the president, he was appalled. He turned to Jacqueline, who was visibly upset, and said, “Oh, you know, we’re heading into nut country today.”
Manchester discovered that in a wealthy Dallas suburb, when told that President Kennedy had been murdered in their city, the students in a fourth-grade class burst into applause. For Manchester, who revered Kennedy, such responses, encountered throughout Dallas, were deeply offensive and would influence the book he was about to write.
Manchester also learned that in 1963 there had been 110 murders in Dallas—“Big D”—in what he described as the city’s “dark streak of violence.” “Texas led the United States in homicide, and Big D led Texas,” he wrote. He would come to believe that Dallas’s charged political climate had been a factor in the assassination, helping to further unhinge the already unstable Lee Harvey Oswald. [continued…]