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It’s a somewhat esoteric question to ask what was worse, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 or the four commercial jet plane attacks on America on September 11, 2001. In one case, the victim was an inspiring and idealistic president of the United States; in the other it was 3,000 innocent people.

What we can attempt to do is to assess how America and the rest of the world responded to each of these tragedies. There is an enormous difference. and yet it is rarely analyzed

In short, the response to Kennedy’s assassination was that the world pulled together and, within the United States, remarkable legislation was passed that advanced civil and economic rights. In contrast, the response to nine-eleven was one semi-necessary war; one thoroughly useless war, and fragmentation on the American people, with a particular growth of negative feelings towards Muslims, both in the United States and overseas.

Kennedy’s assassination was in many ways a double loss for the American people. First, we lost a visionary president who had had a level of charisma that the rest of us could only envy. Second, he was succeeded by a president, who though very well intentioned, was as dull as the land from which he came in Texas was flat. It was as if we had been kicked in the stomach. One moment our president inspired us and set a realistic path of progress. The next moment wewere bored to death and uninterested in his ideas.

But Lyndon Johnson surprised us all. As a former Senate Majority Leader, he was extremely savvy and knew how to play the political game with all three branches of government. He also knew how to appeal to the American people, not eloquently but practically.

Perhaps his greatest sense of political acumen was that he made John Kennedy into even more of a martyr than Kennedy’s death represented. Kennedy death became a fulcrum for the enhancement  and legislative passage of progressive policies. Johnson took Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights legislation and embellished it with an urgency and intensity that Kennedy never could have done himself. Johnson worked with Congress to pass civil rights legislation on public accommodations, fair housing, education, and perhaps most importantly, voting rights. Johnson also created or expanded agencies such as the Department of Education and Housing and Urban Development.

Having grown up poor, he had a special empathy for others who were poor, whether they lived in inner-city ghettos or the hollars of West Virginia. He initiated a War on Poverty under the administration of the Office of Economic Opportunity. All of his progressive work was known as the Great Society.

While President Kennedy’s assassination was one of our nation’s greatest tragedies, at least some positive developments occurred in the wake of his killing.


There were some positive developments following nine-eleven. In many ways the country pulled together, most particularly the people of New York, especially those with relatives and friends who were victims of the World Trade crashes and implosions.

However, the government’s reaction, under the leadership of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and other neo-cons was deplorable. They half-heartedly went into the Afghanistan to track down Osama bin Laden and quickly gave up the cause, even though they were close to finding him. Bush and others made up a story of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction and being a hiding place for al Qaeda. Both were false, but the arguments were enough to lead the country into a fruitless war, one in which all but twenty-three senators affirmed their support.

The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy went into full effect, taking budget surpluses from the Bill Clinton years to tremendous Bush deficits. Not only did direct spending to the military go up, but new contractors such as Halliburton made a fortune off government largesse. In the meantime, Bush did nothing as the seeds of the recession of 2008 were growing. Wall Street was running rampant. Homeowners were losing their houses because mortgages were unrealistic and often invisible. Unemployment was rising as jobs were outsourced so that CEO and corporate board members could profit off the sweat of third world labor.

Bush was often praised for his “bullhorn speech” near Ground Zero in New York shortly after the attacks. But it was more of a bullying speech in which he advocated revenge over reconciliation. He had no interest in negotiations with those behind the attacks. He considered the hijackings and subsequent destruction as acts of war rather than criminal actions.

Part of the tragedy goes back to December, 2000 when the Supreme Court selected Bush to be president over Al Gore. While it is unlikely, though not impossible, to hypothesize that nine-eleven would not have happened or would have been foiled had Gore been president; it is likely that in its aftermath, the country would have sought justice and healing rather than belligerence.

Having just returned from visiting the JFK Memorial Museum in Dallas, it’s difficult to think of any act over the last fifty years being more harmful to the country than President Kennedy’s assassination. But it serves no purpose to argue between JFK’s assassination and nine-eleven. What is important for us to remember is how Lyndon Johnson, at least until he mired the country in Vietnam, did much to help the country. It’s hard to think of anything positive that George W. Bush did. The tragedies cannot be compared without considering what happened in their aftermath. And what happened following the events is precisely what currently separates progressives from conservatives.

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Comment Preferences

  •  asdf (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tirge Caps, skohayes, JTinDC, trumpeter
    ...what was worse, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 or the four commercial jet plane attacks on America on September 11, 2001.
    ... it serves no purpose to argue between JFK’s assassination and nine-eleven.
  •  An unnecessary question (6+ / 0-)

    Vote Democrat! Because drinking piss is better than eating shit...

    by Tirge Caps on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 08:33:52 AM PDT

  •  Really... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MrJersey, jsfox

    ...I don't understand the point.  They're both the kinds of tragedies that occur in a nation in which we have broad freedoms of intellectualism and personal movement.  As Franklin said, democracy is dangerous.  I think that's the only lesson to be learned - security and freedom are a trade-off.  If we're going to be free, there is risk in doing that.  This kind of analysis, otherwise, serves no useful purpose.  

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

    by CrazyHorse on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 08:53:58 AM PDT

  •  Hitler or Stalin - (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MrJersey, jsfox, skohayes, trumpeter

    who had the best hair?

    And other stupid questions.

    Still enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 08:59:38 AM PDT

  •  The Bush tax cuts.... (0+ / 0-)

    affected more than just the wealthy.  They affected the middle class as well.  Just like Kennedy's did.

  •  Psychologically, 9/11 was worse. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MrJersey, worldlotus, ahl

    I lived through both events.

    The assassination of Kennedy made the country mourn. We lost some innocence. But we held together. The primary reaction was to determine how we could build on JFK's legacy. LBJ took full advantage of that.

    9/11 made this country crazy. Bush stoked and manipulated 9/11 to push a toxic foreign policy and damn near tore this country apart in the process. It so didn't have to be that way. We were ready, as a country, to do many things after 9/11. Bush chose the absolute worst path to lead us down.

    Liberals: Taking crap for being right since before you were born. - Driftglass (and the amazing Professional Left Podcast at

    by briefer on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:02:02 AM PDT

    •  9/11 made this country crazy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      roseeriter, briefer, ahl

      a craziness that continues today long after Bush is out of office. We live with this craziness daily.

      We are still being stoked and manipulated.

      We accept quietly a war in Afghanistan that come fall will start its 12th year, and we live with the promise of troop withdrawals hopefully in 2 1/1 more years. What is not crazy about that?

      That both candidates for president do not even mention the Afghanistan war - What is not crazy about that?

      We still have a toxic foreign policy.

      9/11 made this country crazy. Bush stoked and manipulated 9/11 to push a toxic foreign policy and damn near tore this country apart in the process.

      "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand? David Crosby.

      by allenjo on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:10:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We were at first (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hey338Too, skohayes, trumpeter

    a bit torn as to whether this diary should be thrown into today's pile of Worst Diaries. However given the stupidity of the question we were left with little choice.

    So thanks for your entry.

    The WDC Judges

    Republican Family Values: Using the daughters from your first wife to convince everybody that your second wife is lying about your third wife.

    by jsfox on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:02:29 AM PDT

  •  9/11 was much worse. In 1963, the generation of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Kennedy's peers had been through the crucible of WWII and knew that life was a fragile commodity that could be snuffed out at any moment.  It was tragically sad, the end of an era of light and hope in our nation, but it brought the nation together to try and keep that hope moving forward.

    By 9/11, the country was much more narcissistic with many of the American people thinking that the world revolved around them and their concerns.  Life was just one big reality TV show and then terrorists attacked them in the place that they thought they were safe.  As we see, the American people were able to stomach any outrage be it war, torture, electronic eavesdropping, extraordinary rendition, imprisonment without formal charges, and any other host of loss of traditional American freedoms, just to make the world safe for "Dancing With the Stars" again.  

    And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

    by MrJersey on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:13:02 AM PDT

  •  Bush v Gore was worse (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The coup d'etat that has sent this country into a death spiral.

    WTF!?!?!?! When did I move to the Republic of Gilead?!

    by IARXPHD on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:14:12 AM PDT

  •  This is not a useful debate (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Adelard of Bath, trumpeter

    I lived through both.  There was a loss of innocent behavior when Kennedy was shot.  It was the beginning of a lot of wars.  There was a loss of everything pretty much over 911 because the warmongers made the fear factor real via media and excuse to kill globablly.  There is no which is worse.  Destruction is destruction.
    Fear is fear.   No compassion for fellow man is equally bad.

    I think I would delete the diary.

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:18:30 AM PDT

  •  They both lead to long, senseless wars... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room." - President Merkin Muffley

    by Farkletoo on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:37:58 AM PDT

  •  please have some memory and respect for (0+ / 0-)

    the thousands of people who died on 9/11.

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 10:14:12 AM PDT

  •  Topography (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Diary states:

    Second, he was succeeded by a president, who though very well intentioned, was as dull as the land from which he came in Texas was flat.
    Johnson came from the part of Texas known as the Hill Country. It is not flat.

    An image from the web site for the LBJ State Park

    johnson hill country

  •  NO QUESTION, (0+ / 0-)

    The JFK murder was the worst....The first time I realized the GOV'T would lie about a BIG thing....

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