RCP Morning Note - 5/29/2013

By Carl M. Cannon

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Good morning, it’s Wednesday, May 29, 2013. Congress is still not in session, and taking advantage of the lull in the action, President Obama departs Washington this afternoon for a political fundraising trip to Chicago.

Today would have been John F. Kennedy’s 96th birthday. It’s hard to think of JFK as an old man. In our minds he is forever youthful because he died young. He was only in his first term as president – and the father of young children – when he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet on that grim November morning in Dallas.

But on this day, in 1917, Rose Kennedy gave birth to the second of her nine children at home on Beals Street in Brookline, Mass. His older brother, Joe, had been named after the patriarch of this Irish-American clan; and the matriarch of the family named her second son after her own father, John Francis Fitzgerald – “Honey Fitz,” a former U.S. congressman, beloved Boston mayor, and devoted Red Sox fan.

They would call the boy Jack.

I’ll have a brief word on the life and death of America’s 35th president in a moment. First I’d point you to our front page, which aggregates, as it does each day, an array of columns and stories spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from RCP reporters and contributors:

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Oregon Health Care Advances Despite Critical Report. Lou Cannon reports on a study that has fueled critics of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The Path Forward for Conservative Reform. Ben Domenech argues that politicians who can connect with the people and deliver on their limited government promises are the GOP’s best bet.

Quantitative Easing: A Guide for the Perplexed. Stephen Oliner of the American Enterprise Institute untangles the seemingly mixed messages Ben Bernanke issued last week on Capitol Hill.

The Physics of Bridge Collapses. In RealClearScience, Tom Hartsfield zeroes in on the lessons of the I-5 bridge failure last week in Washington state.

Top 10 Countries With the Greatest Scientific Impact. Some entries in this RCS slide show might surprise you.

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From the beginning, President Kennedy’s assassination filled Americans with sorrow and anger, but also a morbid belief that there was more to the killing than met the eye. This was not necessarily so, but those suspicions have only metastasized with the passage of time.

In 1993, author Gerald Posner sought to lay the conspiracy theories to rest in an exhaustively researched tome called “Case Closed.” The book sold well, and was well-reviewed, but it did not alleviate Americans’ skepticism.

In his preface – and, remember, this was 20 years ago -- Posner noted that some 2,000 books had been written about the Kennedy assassination, most of them taking issue with the Warren Commission finding that a lone gunman killed the president. (The latest addition to this collection is co-authored by colorful political consultant Roger Stone, a former Richard Nixon campaign aide who now plies his craft as a political provocateur and man-about-town in Miami Beach.)

I don’t agree with any of the conspiracy theorists, but I understand what drives them. In “Case Closed,” Posner put it this way: “The notion that a misguided sociopath had wreaked such havoc made the crime seem senseless and devoid of political significance.”

I’d phrase it this way: it’s hard to accept the idea that gods can be slain by midgets. The hard truth, however, is that it happens all the time. It happened on Patriots Day in Boston only last month. Life is not always fair, as President Kennedy reminded us himself.

“Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco,” he said at a March 21, 1962 press conference. “It’s very hard in military or in personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.”

Kennedy knew what he was talking about. He had lost his older brother in World War II, and he had nearly died in the Pacific. Instead, he survived and was awarded medals and acclaim and a charmed political career that landed him in the White House.

Yet he knew that gods do not always prevail. He also believed that if human beings didn’t start learning to settle their differences non-violently the horrors of the 20th century would be revisited, and magnified, in the future.

“Mankind must put an end to war,” is the way he put it during a 1961 address at the U.N., “or war will put an end to mankind.”

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Editor
Twitter: @CarlCannon

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