Killing Kennedy presents a chronological map of JFK’s life, from being a privileged young man to becoming President of the United States. It’s an amazing story, and one that has mostly been misrepresented by the Camelot myth; O’Reilly and Dugard do yield to the majesty of the Kennedy Administration but also acknowledge the darker sides, including JFK’s extramarital affairs, his physical deterioration, and the vanity that may have played a part in his death.This book both succeeds and fails in its own right, but I see it as more of a failure due to the lack of new information which would excite readers. By now, it seems as a drawn out story that everybody knows.
The book succeeds in showing the many problems that defined Kennedy’s days in office. The early 60s had the Bay of Pigs disaster, the Cuban Missile Crisis, rising tensions in Vietnam, and the Civil Rights movements. Not only did these major events both test and strengthen Kennedy as a leader, but they altered his philosophical perspectives and outlook for the country. It’s these moments that O’Reilly and Dugard show Kennedy’s true complexities as a man, and how his hope for a more peaceful existence was greatly extinguished with every new problem he faced.
There are instances where O’Reilly and Dugard challenge what is known to the public of Kennedy’s assassination. For instance, O’Reilly and Dugard write that Kennedy’s blood stained the front visors of the limousine, suggesting that the shots were fired from the back, while ignoring the fact that the motorcycle officers behind the limousine were also spattered, implying a shot, or shots, were fired from the front. O’Reilly and Dugard also paint Kennedy as a man who avoided confrontation, using his brother to deal with anything unpleasant. These are but two of the numerous assertions that are used to support the official version of the assassination without acknowledging the appropriate counterpoints.
Deciding to ignore the House Select Committee on Assassinations’ finding that JFK was ‘probably’ killed as the result of a conspiracy and that the majority of Americans continue to believe that they have been deceived by their government, O’Reilly and Dugard point the blame at a misguided Oswald as the assassin. They acknowledge that he had no hatred toward Kennedy, but that killing him would give Oswald the opportunity to become the ‘great man’ that he believed he was to be. The authors’ decision to overlook evidence to the contrary in offering a ‘fact-based’ book does not stand up to scrutiny. The fact is, upon investigation nearly all of the evidence implicating Oswald in Kennedy’s death, from the weapon he supposedly used, to his marksmanship abilities, to his actual whereabouts at the time of the shooting, have come into question.
Killing Kennedy is not so much an objective and comprehensive glimpse into JFK’s assassination as it is yet another attempt to support the sanitized version of events that have been told in history books for the last five decades. It’s unfortunate that, given the passage of time and the mass amount of new evidence, readers who are new to the debate will be exposed to such a superficial retelling ‘ and might not know better than to accept it as fact.
...(download the rest of the essay above)