John F. Kennedy

Meanwhile, in the Timeline Where JFK Lived…

A counterfactual, a hoax, and a video

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And now my guardian angel, Clarence, will show me a world where I was never born.

What would have happened if the CIA the KGB you and me the OswaldBot 2000 missed his target on November 22, 1963, allowing John F. Kennedy to finish out his term? You can never prove a counterfactual, but I think the evidence is pretty strong that (1) the country would have suffered through the Vietnam War anyway, and (2) the president probably would not have been able to pass a domestic agenda that was anywhere near as sweeping as LBJ's. Put another way, the liberal nostalgists who dream of bygone Camelot would probably like that timeline even less than they like ours. (A question to ponder: How would it have affected the '60s protest movements to have a Kennedy instead of a Johnson in the White House?)

If all that New Frontier nostalgia is getting you down, I've got one Kennedy link for you that is mercifully devoid of reverence: Paul Krassner's classic hoax "The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book," which many readers took to be true when it first appeared. Published in 1967, the piece pretends to be a series of outtakes from William Manchester's popular tome about the assassination, The Death of a President. It begins with some material that was well known to journalists but had not yet been reported, such as the president's infidelities, and then it grows steadily less reliable, culminating in…oh, I won't spoil the ending for you. But I will warn away anyone who doesn't want to read anything involving Lyndon Johnson's genitalia.

Bonus link: I talked about JFK conspiracy theories on Canadian TV this morning.

NEXT: Obamas to Host French President for State Dinner

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  1. …the president probably would not have been able to pass a domestic agenda that was anywhere near as sweeping as LBJ’s.

    No Great Society???

    1. So then Oswald the Communist got part of his wish, making the US more like the USSR. Gee, thanks, dude.

  2. Who is this popular JFK fellow? He seems like a real up-and-comer.

    1. I hear he pushes big tax cuts for the rich and is a big anti-Communist. Must be a Tea Partier.

      1. I heard that McCarthy dated his sisters and worked with his brother.

      2. Also a huge racist…so definitely a tea pirate.

      3. Pro-lifer, too. Very hawkish on foreign affairs. He might even run to the right of Ted Cruz.

      4. He wanted to shore up the currency too, with silver certificates instead of FRNs.

      5. Okay, we’ll compromise. We can have JFK’s 70% tax rate on the rich. You win.

        1. Reduced from 91%. I’ll bet he didn’t say, “Ok, we’re finally at 70%, the perfect income tax rate.”

        2. Sure, Toady.

          Of course, regardless of the top tax rate revenues relative to GDP have remained pretty much constant.

          So unless your purpose is simply to “punish the rich”, there really isn’t much point.

      6. His dad helped the Nazis.

      7. I heard he sent Soldiers to Vietnam even before Nixon.

    2. I’m not sure, but I think he was lead singer of AC/DC briefly between Bon Scott and Brian Johnson.

  3. There was a really cool episode of Quantum Leap. It not only supported the lone assassin theory, it also had Sam jumping into the body of Clint Hill, the secret service agent that jumped on the back of the president’s car as it accelerated away. Al reveals in the final scene that by jumping into Hill’s body, Sam prevented an alternate timeline in which Oswald also shot Jackie Kennedy.

  4. Only nine and a half more hours until we can all get back to our normal lives once again…

  5. National Lampoon covered this in, like, 1977. JFK would’ve invaded Ireland and all the liberals like Tom Haydon were glad to sign up to fight a just war, whilst Belfast was carpet-bombed.

    1. On Sunday, we’ll be remembering the 50th anniversary of Ruby shooting Oswald.

      Next year, on September 24, we’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Warren Report.

      And finally, on December 20, 2041, we’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Oliver Stone’s JFK.

      Get comfortable, people. We’re in for a long series of 50th anniversaries.

      1. Um, Dr. Who, hello!

    2. “Girls go down for boys who sign up.”

      “Fighting Father Daniel Berrigan with Our Boys in Northern Ireland”

      In that timeline, the assassination happened but Jackie was killed and JFK unscathed.

      Reason used the cover for that issue to illustrate one of the recent articles on the whole legacy.

      Damn, I wish I still had my NatLamp collection. Keep hoping they’ll reprint them in book form even though the material is dated.

      1. “Girls go down for boys who sign up.”

        Dammit, why wasn’t this the case in 1985?!!

      2. I have that one, bought it when it came out.

      3. I’ve still got mine, from issue #1 but not quite until the (sad) end. And almost all (except for the last few) are in the official NatLamp yellow binders by year. Bonus: first binder includes the Harvard Lampoon Time magazine parody that served as a pilot for the magazine. Reasonable offers considered, though note that shipping will be a bitch because it’s about five linear feet of magazines. Just add @gmail.com to my handle if you’re interested.

      4. I was surprised Reason didn’t use that NatLamp cover to illustrate THIS blog posting. What a wasted opportunity.

        I may still have that particular NatLamp out in the garage somewhere. After I recycled all the others, I kept that one and the special-product Animal House book. I haven’t seen either in years, but I think they’re still outside, if I can muster the fortitude to explore the depths of the bric-a-brac jungle that my garage has become.

  6. I’ll never understand why Dr. Manhattan didn’t stop that bullet.

    1. Cuz Moore is a left wing nut job and could not have a dystopian 60s and 70s with Kennedy as president. Had to be Nixon.

  7. Maybe if JFK hadn’t dissed Frank Sinatra, we wouldn’t have to be hearing about him endlessly this week.

    1. I buy that more than any other theory except that Oswald was a nutcase.

    2. You’re hearing about Sinatra endlessly this week? Actually have been hearing a fair amount about him on WFMU, where of course he’d be a major focus of this week.

      1. Second best radio station right after WREK

    3. Maybe if Fidel Castro was a better baseball player.

  8. Why didn’t anyone tell me that JFK was dead!

    1. Brace yourself.

      I have some news for you… its about Lou Reed…

      1. Wow this is the worse day ever.

        1. Well I still have the Browns, they have never let me down, Super Bowl champions 32 years in a row.

          1. It was so sad when Art Modell autoerotically asphyxiated himself right after he announced his plans to sell the team rather than do something hideous like take a huge bribe to move to another state. What an honorable man.

            1. Well, if the golden girls hadn’t turned him gay, he never would have asphyxiated in that tragic fashion.

  9. In one of Heinlein’s Lazarus Long books there is an timeline where Kennedy isn’t shot. The Presidential terms from 1960 onwards are: JFK, JFK, RFK, RFK, Teddy K, Teddy K and then the world is consumed in a nuclear fireball.

    1. Teddy didn’t kill a woman in that timeline? Or would that not have mattered following an JFK-RFK dynasty?

      1. Actually, IIRC, the gathering on Chappaquidick (SP) was a reunion of people who had worked on RFK’s ill fated campaign in ’68. So in a timeline where neither Jack nor Bobby was killed, it’s also possible that the party that Teddy was driving Mary Jo Kopechne to a secluded part of the island to rape her back to her hotel from wouldn’t have happened.

    2. So far, Lyndon Baines Johnson was the only president who could’ve served for longer than two terms, post-22nd Amendment. As he took over the Kennedy term with less than 24 months to go, he could have theoretically served not only the 1965-1969 term, but also the 1969-1973 term.

    3. Wasn’t Scudder elected in 2012, instituting a religious dictatorship in that timeline?

  10. The earliest known example of alternate history musings is Livy positing the results of Alexander the Great expanding his empire to the west, rather than to the east. Livy’s altRome defeats Alexander.

    1. Probably. Not like the legions didn’t kick Greek ass later.

      1. Rome would have recovered troop levels from the end of The Latin War, and the Samnites weren’t enough of problem to warrant a military response yet, but Alexander would have been at his peak strength and Rome would have been his first stop.

        It’s an interesting set-up.

        1. My money is on the Romans. Let’s call Warty Hugeman and see if he can check an alternative timeline for us.

          1. Can you imagine the modern world after Warty Hugeman ravaged The Roman Republic and Alexander the Great’s armies?

            I’m thinking giant robot sunflowers shitting raccoon brains as they orbit neoPangaea.

            1. Yes, perhaps he would create an observer-based reality. Who else do we know who time travels?

              1. We all do, but it’s a one-way trip to the grave.

                1. Wait…what?! I want my money back, this ride sucks!

                  1. The Three Laws of Thermodynamics, expressed in Casino terms:

                    1) You can’t win
                    2) You can’t break even
                    3) You can’t get out of the game

  11. I like my alternate version of the 1960s: Kennedy isn’t assassinated and lives to see the 1964 election. He beats Goldwater by a significantly closer margin than LBJ did but after being re-elected he dies of a drug overdose the same way Michael Jackson would.

    So the JFG legacy is forever tarnished and the rest of 1960s happens as we remember them.

    1. A lot fewer prostitutes than I imagined.

      1. That’s the reason why the 1964 election is so close. J. Edgar Hoover decides to send Kennedy a reminder of who’s the most powerful man in America by leaking evidence of Kennedy consorting with disreputable women.

        Unfortunately Goldwater is too honorable to capitalize on it and insists on sticking to message and thus looses a squeaker. Kennedy than makes plans to wag the dog by escalating the Vietnam thing before croaking after taking a potent drug cocktail to cope with the stress and the pain from his bad back.

        1. But in that version, how does Pickett’s Charge end?

      2. That’s the reason why the 1964 election is so close. J. Edgar Hoover decides to send Kennedy a reminder of who’s the most powerful man in America by leaking evidence of Kennedy consorting with disreputable women.

        Unfortunately Goldwater is too honorable to capitalize on it and insists on sticking to message and thus looses a squeaker. Kennedy than makes plans to wag the dog by escalating the Vietnam thing before croaking after taking a potent drug cocktail to cope with the stress and the pain from his bad back.

        1. And the server squirrels’ plot comes to fruition.

        2. Does Kennedy nuke North Vietnam?

          1. No. But the Peace Confrence fell apart when Kennedy nailed Ho Chi Minh’s wife.

  12. Meanwhile in the timeline where I live, I parsed that headline double-blind as being written in a world where there was never a JFK about a fictional world in which someone named JFK lived.

  13. If JFK had survived two terms, all the sex scandals would have come out in the 1970s just the same.

    That would have killed the “Kennedy Mistique”.

    In that respect alone, the world would have been a much better place.

    1. I’d bet that had he not been shot, there would be no Kennedy Mystique.

      1. There was a Kennedy Mistique going at the time. The media were fawning over JFK and Jackie so much that the MSM hype over Obama in 2008 looks like a distant, relutant preference by comparison.

        1. Yeah, but by the time he served two terms as president everyone would have been bored by them or worse if some of the juicier scandals came out or he started world war 3 or something. And I bet RFK wouldn’t have been such a big deal either if his brother had served two terms as a mediocre president, gotten us into Vietnam, etc. Who knows?

          1. The more I learn about RFK, the more thankful I am that he never got to be President.

  14. You can never prove a counterfactual, but I think the evidence is pretty strong that (1) the country would have suffered through the Vietnam War anyway, and (2) the president probably would not have been able to pass a domestic agenda that was anywhere near as sweeping as LBJ’s.

    As much as I like the multiverse theory, and fiction based on what-if timelines, I think this works a lot better in fiction than in political speculation.

  15. I will warn away anyone who doesn’t want to read anything involving Lyndon Johnson’s genitalia.

    My stomach thanks you for that. I ate lunch not that long ago.

  16. I think I like the Red Dwarf alternative timeline best:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tikka_to_Ride

  17. Coincidence, or time warping on itself?

    In 1963, Kennedy was shot by Oswald.
    In 1863, Lincoln was shot by Boothe.

    Kennedy and Lincoln each have 7 letters, with n in the middle.
    Oswald and Boothe each have 6 letters.

    Both VPs behind the attacks were named Johnson.

    Kennedy was a liberal from the Northeast.
    Lincoln was a liberal from the then Northwest Territory.

    Kennedy was shot from behind while riding in a car with his wife.
    Lincoln was shot from behind while sitting in a balcony with his wife.
    Kennedy’s car was a Lincoln.
    Lincoln bought his theater tickets with a Kennedy half-dollar.

    Boothe jumped from the 6th floor balcony to the stage, breaking his ankle.
    Oswald jumped from the 6th floor of the book store to the grassy knoll, spraining his knee.

    Boothe ran from the school theater to a bookstore to hide.
    Oswald ran from the school bookstore to a theater to hide.
    Both assassinations are now in the school books, but not in plays.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…..29442.html

    1. Lincoln started a war that got thousands of Americans killed.
      Kennedy started a war that got thousands of Americans killed.

    2. Oddly enough, there is a glaring factual error in ye Puffington Host’s post…very early in it. 1863?

      1. But Lincoln using Kennedy half dollars is completely true.

        1. IIRC, Lincoln actually had to buy tickets for himself and Mary to attend the performance that night.

          Can you imagine any President going to Disneyworld and actually paying for the ride tickets nowadays?

  18. Hey hey, ho ho, JFK has got to go!

  19. Very cool mention of Paul Krassner’s article! I’ve been corresponding with him on some Yippie history. Luckily the nearly last living Yippie is a very cool guy with enough time on his hands to answer my tedious inquiries.

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