Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I think we all have much more important things to worry about than this:

A new mini-series about John F. Kennedy's presidency ... is the brainchild of Joel Surnow, a creator of the Fox action show "24" and an outspoken political conservative. That raised alarms among Kennedy partisans when the History channel said in December that it would pick up the project.

Now a documentary filmmaker who makes no secret of his liberal politics is releasing an Internet video in which Kennedy scholars say the scripts offer a portrait of the president and his family that is, at best, inaccurate, and at worst, a hatchet job.

"It was political character assassination," the filmmaker, Robert Greenwald, said of the screenplays in a telephone interview....

JFK has never struck me as a great progressive hero. (My favorite fun fact, gleaned from this book: Kennedy gave money to the campaign of Richard Nixon, his fellow Cold Warrior, rather than Helen Gahagan Douglas, his fellow Democrat, in the 1950 California Senate race.) And most of the supposed outrages found in the screenplay so far seem like small beer:

For example, they say the scripts refer to exit polling for the 1960 presidential election when exit polling had not yet been invented; and that President Kennedy introduced the Peace Corps during the Bay of Pigs crisis in April 1961, when in fact he signed an executive order creating the corps one month earlier.

In another scene cited, a Secret Service agent approaches the president while he is having sex in a pool with a young woman who is not his wife; in yet another, the president asks his brother Robert, "What do you do when you're horny?" and tells him that if he doesn't have sex with unfamiliar women "every couple of days I get migraines."

Well, both the pool-sex story and the migraine story come directly from ... er, Seymour Hersh. The belief that JFK liked a bit of strange on the side is not a wingnut-only conspiracy theory -- to put it mildly.

But it does seem that this is Wingnut World still seeking revenge after actually getting revenge:

... the debate around "The Kennedys" recalls a similar flare-up around the mini-series called "The Reagans" that CBS was to show in 2003. In that case the network canceled its planned broadcast after conservatives criticized the project -- before it was shown, and based on scripts and portions of the film.

The Reagan mini-series was bumped to cable. That was a win for the right. But it wasn't enough of a win. Another win was needed. So there's this -- and this is merely on cable, so surely there'll have to be even more payback down the line. I'm sure Joel Surnow or someone else on the right is hard at work on an FDR miniseries that focuses exclusively on adultery, Japanese interment camps, and "forgotten men" who didn't find work. And that one bloody well better air on a network.

I am amused, though, by the right's Kennedy obsession. I think I understand it: it's less because of Ted Kennedy's liberalism or Robert's late-life conversion to the antiwar cause than it is about, well, cosmopolitanism. The Kennedys are Eastern, Ivy League, cultured wealthy Democrats; their lifestyle, combined with their politics, is what allegedly makes them enemies of right-thinking heartland Americans. Every time a Republican effete-baits Barack Obama, or Al Gore, or Mike Dukakis for heaven's sake, it's basically a way of saying the Democrat is a Kennedy. And yet the Kennedys are widely admired, which is what's galling to the right, and must be reversed.

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