I was struck this morning while reading the New York Times story on the billionaires who are funding the Republican efforts to remove Barack Obama from the White House, just what a distance we have traveled in the nearly fifty years since JFK was assassinated. And then I thought, “but nothing has really changed”. Fifty years ago Right Wing Texas Billionaires like H.L.Hunt and Clint Murchison Sr. were scheming how to remove John F. Kennedy from the White House. No one has ever proved that these men, who were so close to J Edgar Hoover and Lyndon Johnson, actually staged a coup d’etat, but the very fact that we have moved from the thought of real assassination by gun to character assassination by money is at least some sign of progress.
Last night my wife and I watched the wonderful four hour American Experience film on Bill Clinton. What is so striking was that within weeks of his inaugural, the Right Wing, with full acquiescence from the Republican leadership, set out to delegitimize Clinton through character assassination. Of course Clinton was stupid enough to hand the assassins some ammunition by playing around with an intern, but other than lying about a blow job, there was absolutely nothing to Kenneth Starr’s four year $40 million Whitewater investigation. The same characters (Koch, Adelson, Simmons, Perry, Crow) have now set out to spend what ever is necessary to assassinate the character of President Obama. Adelson says he is will to spend $100 million to get rid of Obama.
What scares me is the continuation of the socialist-style economywe’ve been experiencing for almost four years. That scares me because the redistribution of wealth is the path to more socialism, and to more of the government controlling people’s lives.
Part of this character assassination is the continuing “Obama is not a Christian” bullshit that we hear from Santorum, Gingrich and even the Reverend Franklin Graham. And this is where I get pretty sad, because in some ways we have regressed culturally since 1961. In 1962 Major General Edwin Walker, who had been forced to resign from the Army after writing that Harry Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt were communists, organized a counter demonstration by local armed Klansmen against the integration of the University of Mississippi.
After a violent, 15-hour riot broke out on the campus, on September 30, in which two people were killed and six federal marshals were shot, Walker was arrested on four federal charges, including sedition and insurrection against the United States. He was temporarily held in a mental institution on orders from President Kennedy’s brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
So in 1962 a crackpot like Walker was sent to a mental institution. Today, he would probably have a right wing talk radio show with millions of listeners. In 1962, fringe organizations like the Klan or the John Birch Society were forced to the margins of society and had no access to the mass media. That is not the case today. The crazy anti-science screeds financed by the Koch Brothers or the “Obama is a socialist” rants backed by Adelson are proof that, with enough money, the truth can be obliterated and that Joseph Goebbels was right—“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”