John Forbes Kerry is one of those upper-middle-class East Coast types of estimable lineage and impeccable credentials (St. Paul’s, Yale, U.S. Navy) whose tribal habits were the subject of the late sociologist E. Digby Baltzell (The Protestant -Establishment, Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia, etc.). Baltzell popularized the term WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant)—-although Kerry is Roman Catholic, not Protestant—and explored the historic WASP ascendancy in American business, education, cultural institutions, and government.
Kerry, of course, has been a senator, ran for president (with John Edwards) in 2004, and is currently our secretary of state, an exalted post often inhabited by Kerry types (Elihu Root, Henry Stimson, Dean Acheson, Cyrus Vance). But as Kerry often demonstrates, a glittering résumé, stiff manner, and sonorous voice do not necessarily connote brainpower; and except for twice marrying into serious money, Kerry has seldom struck The Scrapbook as being especially brilliant. Self-centered, self-entitled, self-confident—by all means; but smart? Just ask the Iranians, the French, the Syrians, the Russians, the Israelis.
Of course, it is entirely possible to be not especially smart but still possessed of common sense, or at least the capacity to exercise good judgment. Yet here again, The Scrapbook has always been impressed not by Kerry’s shrewd mind or subtle wit but by his occasional bumptiousness. This was never more apparent than the other day when, in conversation with NBC news reader Tom Brokaw for a special on the subject of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, he said the following:
To this day, I have serious doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I certainly have doubts that he was motivated by himself. I mean, I’m not sure if anybody else was involved—I don’t go down that road with respect to the grassy knoll theory and all that—but I have serious questions about whether they got to the bottom of Lee Harvey Oswald’s time and influence from Cuba and Russia. I think he was inspired somewhere by something. . . . I think, after a certain period of time, and that period of time may well have passed, it is totally appropriate for a country like the United States to open up the files on whatever history can shed light on.
This is breathtaking on so many levels that The Scrapbook will list them in numerical order.
First, it is astonishing and even contemptible that someone fourth in line from the presidency should suggest that there are facts about Kennedy’s murder, and Oswald’s role in it, that are available but have yet to be revealed. This implies not only that five decades of Democrats and Republicans in government have jointly engaged in an elaborate cover-up, but that Kerry’s own colleagues—-including, perhaps especially, President Obama—are in a position to disclose the truth about the assassination, but choose not to do so. The Scrapbook can only hope that, after the Brokaw interview, the president suggested as much to his subordinate.
Second, if the secretary of state is prompted to publicly disclose his “doubts” about Oswald’s role in Kennedy’s murder, shouldn’t the senior member of the cabinet feel some duty to publicly explain, exactly, what he means, and why? The secretary of state is in a much better position than The Scrapbook to demand the facts from official sources.
Third, no one doubts that there are details still to be learned about Oswald’s contacts with Cuba, especially since our diplomatic relations with Cuba are exactly the same as they were a half-century ago when Oswald visited the Cuban embassy in Mexico City, and was handing out leaflets for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee on the streets of New Orleans. However, the solution to that problem is not to give ammunition to conspiracy theorists on national television but to stop appeasing the Castro regime, as the Obama/Kerry State Department has been doing, and demand the facts from Havana.
Fourth, and by no means last, The Scrapbook is more or less at a loss for words in response to Kerry’s final observation—“I think [Oswald] was inspired somewhere by something”—but we’ll give it a try.
Mr. Secretary, no one will ever know precisely why Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy: Oswald, as everyone knows, was himself shot to death two days later, and the world is left in eternal speculation about what were probably the same enraged, inchoate, undigested, psychopathic thoughts that motivate most assassins. Of course Oswald, in Kerry’s words, was “inspired somewhere by something.” But to know the answer to that mystery is to understand, as well, why a senior government official with long experience in political office would not only stumble upon such a subject, but do so in a way that is bound to be repeated, misconstrued, and exploited in malicious ways—and, not least, insult his colleagues in government service.
But then again, we’re talking about John Forbes Kerry.