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"...we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier—the frontier of the 1960's--a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils-- a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats."
—John F. Kennedy, Accepting the Democratic Party Nomination for the Presidency of the United States, July 15, 1960
"Jack could be shameless in his sexuality, simply pull girls' dresses up and so forth. He would corner them at White House dinner parties and ask them to step into the next room away from the noise, where they could hold a 'serious discussion.'"
—Lem Billings, a close friend of JFK.
Often called JFK, Kennedy was President of the United States from 1961-1963, whose assassination in office gave rise to a million Government Conspiracy theories. He was known for his particularly inspirational turns-of-phrases in his speeches and overseeing an era of American history rife with social and political turmoil.
Kennedy, the second son of bootlegger-turned-political patriarch Joseph Kennedy, rose to prominence during the Second World War when, as commander of the torpedo boat USS PT-109, he heroically rescued several members of his crew when the boat was sunk by the Japanese, which after the war led into a career in the Congress and Senate, before his successful run for the presidency in 1960. Many credit (at least partially) his defeat of Richard Nixon in the 1960 election to the first televised presidential debate; the new medium favoured the young, handsome and media-savvy Kennedy over the nervous and less camera-friendly Nixon (in fact, polls showed that most people who listened to the debate on the radio felt that Nixon was the victor). Kennedy was also the first Irish Roman Catholic president, in an era where people still openly wondered if a Catholic could ever put his country over Rome.
1960 was actually a very close election indeed, with the popular vote margin (at 0.1%) being the closest of the 20th Century, the Electoral College skewing things somewhat. More specifically:
- Kennedy won 11 states by 3% or less, with Nixon winning 5 with the same margin.
- California went from Kennedy to Nixon on absentee ballots.
- A Southern Rights candidate, Harry Byrd, picked up 15 Electoral College votes off unpledged Democrats (including 8 from Mississipi) and one "faithless" Nixon elector. Byrd was a segregationist, actually closing some of Virginia's public schools to avoid desegregating them, in one case (Prince Edward County) for five years.
- A very strange Alabama election, where electors were chosen individually and it being possible for Nixon to have actually won the popular vote as a result. We'll never know.
- Illinois coming down to Cook County (the Chicago area) with allegations of widespread fraud- namely the dead voting for Kennedy. Texas (Lyndon Johnson's home state) also had allegations of fraud ("Kennedy won Texas with the help of live Catholics and dead Protestants"). Nixon publicly refused to back a recount, but privately went for one. Legal challenges carried on until summer 1961, with the only impact being Hawaii switching from Nixon to Kennedy after a Democratic challenge.
- The contest was filled with controversy over civil rights and over Kennedy's Catholicism.
Kennedy was arguably our second handicapped president (FDR being the first, natch) given that he had Addison's disease, and some have argued that if he weren't wearing his back brace in Dallas, he might have been able to duck and avoid the gunfire.
A youthful, glamorous and invigorating figure, along with his attractive wife Jackie and his young family Kennedy was seen as introducing a new and liberating era to American political and cultural life after the stifling and stuffy days of The Fifties, and his time in office was dubbed "Camelot" soon after his death. Despite this, his short term was filled with crises and political upheaval, such as the C.I.A-directed 'Bay Of Pigs' invasion of communist Cuba, which went belly-up when Kennedy — pissed at being left ignorant of some details of the invasion, which was a hold-over from the previous administration — refused to support the invading Cuban exiles with air-support. Publicly, Kennedy took sole responsibility for the resulting failure, which dented his popularity, but privately he blamed the C.I.A and took measures to limit their power and influence — something which, following the events of 1963, many conspiracy theorists would take note of.
This failed invasion soured relations with Cuba (never that strong to begin with) and eventually led in 1962 to the Cuban Missile Crisis — in response to this invasion attempt, the Soviet Union began supplying nuclear arms to Cuba, leading to a U.S-led blockade of Cuba. Tensions rose drastically, and it seemed very likely that World War Three was going to be declared any minute; fortunately for the human race, cooler heads on both sides prevailed, and the Russians withdrew (following secret negotiations during which Kennedy promised to remove missiles from Turkey). In the face of a major crisis, Kennedy showed firmness and resolve, and emerged as both a national and global hero. Shortly before his assassination, it was President Kennedy's intention to reach a détente with Cuban Premier, Fidel Castro, and to withdraw all US military advisers from Vietnam.
Despite this international business, the Civil Rights Movement caught him off guard as activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Riders really starting to challenge racism throughout the South. Unfortunately, the South was the Democratic Party's power base so Kennedy was really leery of alienating the southern states until they started getting so brutish on TV, frantically trying to preserve White power that the White House had to respond.
One thing Kennedy is still credited for championing is the American space program. When he issued a challenge to the nation, to put a man on the moon and bring him back to earth alive before the end of the decade, people called him crazy. How crazy? Ask Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin and you'll get an answer. Just remember to duck if you ask Aldrin how crazy the space program was.
On November 22nd 1963, Kennedy visited Dallas, Texas as part of campaigning for his upcoming run for re-election. As his motorcade passed though Dealey Plaza, shots were fire; Kennedy was hit in the head and throat, and rushed to hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Although an ex-marine, Lee Harvey Oswald, was later arrested and identified as the main suspect of the assassination, numerous irregularities in the record — along with Oswald's own assassination, by a mob-connected nightclub owner named Jack Ruby — soon gave rise to numerous conspiracy theories about who had really killed Kennedy, involving conspirators as wide-spread as The Mafia, the Soviet Union, lots of Cubans both pro- and anti-Castro (anti-Castros being pissed about Kennedy's failure to support the Bay Of Pigs, widely believed to be the reason the invasion failed; pro-Castros being pissed about the invasion to begin with, not to mention the President and C.I.A's ongoing "let's try to kill Castro as often as humanly possible" policy), the CIA, and Kennedy's Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded him as President . A commission headed by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren later identified Oswald as a "lone gunman". In 1979, the House Assassinations Committee concluded that Kennedy was probably killed as a result of a conspiracy, contradicting the Warren Commission's results, on the basis of a single piece of evidence (a dictabelt recording); this evidence was re-examined in 1983 and subsequently discarded.
For the record, the "Single Bullet" theory is still the official and most complete version of events, as far as current evidence is concerned. Despite questions raised on this subject, there is not enough solid evidence to conclude otherwise. The History Channel conducted a reconstruction a few years ago, using a man in a bucket truck at the height of the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, shooting at a convertible at the correct distance from him, moving at the correct speed, with dummies made of ballistic gel and inserts similar to human bone. The result was the bullet almost, but did not quite match the exact trip of the original bullet, but did go through both bodies (Kennedy and Connelly) at a close measure, slightly deflecting because the bullet in the recreation was off by a fraction of an inch from the travel of the original bullet and struck a different bone in one of the dummies. Please don't start an edit war over this.
Kennedy's legacy is somewhat controversial; many view him as an idealistic liberal icon who would have averted many of the controversies and social strife that bedevilled Johnson in the mid-late sixties (including The Vietnam War and social unrest over Civil Rights), whilst others claim that he was an average president who, had he survived, would have been just as tarnished by these controversies. The idealistic viewpoint also tends to overlook that Kennedy was an inveterate womaniser whose affairs were legendary and whose conquests reportedly included at one point Marilyn Monroe. Some people think that makes a bad president, as if his sex life really makes any difference to running the nation — although given that some of the ladies he was reputedly connected to also had connections to organized crime figures, unfriendly governments, prostitution and other similarly unsavoury links, it's not entirely prudishness that governs this viewpoint; Jack Kennedy could be slightly... irresponsible when it came to this part of his life, which could have led to trouble down the track. Nevertheless, many fictional portrayals of him tend to lean to the idealistic side.
And concerning the quote above, for proof that you will never be as badass and pimpsational as Kennedy, go ahead and try that "Hey baby, let's go have a serious discussion" line on any girl and then come back and tell us how much sex you didn't have. Apocryphal stories abound on Kennedy's promiscuity; allegedly he once told reporters "I'm not done with a woman until I've had her three ways."
Kennedy was, and to an extent still is, near worshipped in Ireland. Though not the first president of Irish descent (Andrew Jackson was the son of Scots-Irish immigrants), his Catholicism and interest in Ireland won great affection in that country, especially after his visit in 1963. His sister Jean would later serve as ambassador to Ireland.
The Kennedy family has remained in the public eye for decades and is considered by some to be a Big Screwed-Up Family. Members of the family are well-known for their charm, exuberance and continual misfortune, mostly in the form of untimely deaths for them and their associates; this is referred to as "the Kennedy curse." While the aforementioned Jean still draws breath, JFK's final living brother, long-time Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, passed away on 25 August 2009, which may mark the end of the Kennedys' public prominence as there does not seem to be anyone in the family who is poised to step into the national spotlight. ...At least, no one bearing the Kennedy surname; the extended family includes a number of notable figures, including Arnold Schwarzenegger who was connected by marriage.
Due to his iconic status, still liable to be invoked by fanboys and wannabes, who thereby tend to make themselves very much liable to the Wannabe Diss.
His Presidency lasted exactly one thousand days.
Note: Please only add examples where Kennedy appears as a character. If he is only shown in order to be assassinated, put the entry under Who Shot JFK?.
Kennedy in fiction
- Thirteen Days focuses on the Cuban Missile Crisis from the point of view of Kennedy and his senior advisors.
- Red Dwarf presents an unusual solution to the mystery of his assassination: Kennedy himself did it. From the Grassy Knoll. Or rather, Kennedy from an Alternate History in which he survived his assassination attempt and was later impeached due to his affair with the mistress of a mob boss, which led to the Soviets winning the Cold War.
- JFK's clone is the Jerk Jock and one of the main characters of Clone High. Foa suppah, he, er, uh, wants a pahty plattah.
- In Watchmen, JFK appears in a flashback, meeting Dr. Manhattan on the White House lawn.
- Another flashback in the opening montage shows the Comedian shooting JFK from the Grassy Knoll.
- A 2007 Teen Titans comic book written by Silver Age author Bob Haney and deliberately emulating that era's wacky hijinks has the team rescuing JFK from alien mods who kidnapped him, replaced him with one of their own, and made them their ruler to fight a tribe of savage space hippies. In the end, JFK and the Titans convince the two warring races to work through their differences, our young heroes return to Earth to find that the alien impostor had solved the Cuban Missile Crisis and been assassinated, and swear to keep JFK's true whereabouts a secret while the President leads the mods and hippies in a war against evil robots. Whew!
- In the episode "Profile in Silver" of the 1980s version of The Twilight Zone, a distant descendant of JFK who is a professor of history uses a time machine to travel from the 22nd century to 1963 to "witness" Kennedy's assassination. He prevents it instead, which in turn triggers World War III. At the end of the show the professor ends up taking Kennedy's place at Dealey Plaza and is assassinated, while Kennedy ends up in the 22nd century and teaches history.
- The Simpsons example. Abe Simpson beats up Kennedy after mistaking him for a Nazi ("Ich Bin Ein Berliner").
- Uh, not to mention the fact that Mayor Quimby's character is based off of Kennedy, from accent to womanizing to mob ties, even "Ich bin ein Springfield."
- Forrest Gump meets him when he becomes a member of the All-American team. And tells him that he really has to pee.
- CSA: Confederate States of America features JFK as the first Northerner elected since the American Civil War. He supports the abolition of slavery as well as giving women the vote. Ultimately, he gets shot in this timeline as well for those views, essentially killing any progress he made toward his goals.
- Alternate Kennedys, a 1992 anthology of 25 Alternate History stories revolving around the Kennedys; David Gerrold contributed "The Kennedy Enterprise", which has an alternate JFK as an actor who went on to portray the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
- In ~Assassin's Creed~ II, it's implied that JFK was part of the Assassins. And it is all but outright said that Lee Harvey Oswald was a Templar who shot him, apparently to recover a Piece of Eden, then used a used another one to make a hologram of the two guys on The Grassy Knoll.
- A Mad TV skit showed him encouraging Bill Clinton to continue with his philandering.
- The Last Hurrah has a character named Kevin McCluskey, who runs against the incumbent mayor, Frank Skeffington. McCluskey is a telegenic but politically inexperienced candidate with a fancy education, a pretty wife, smiling kids, a respectable war record from his service in the Navy, and more good looks than brains. It should be noted that James Michael Curley, the alleged real-life basis for Skeffington, served briefly in the United States Congress, and the person who replaced him in his Congressional seat was a young but ambitious neophyte politician named John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It should also be noted that the original novel was published in 1956, four years before Kennedy became President, making this a strange real-life case of Retroactive Recognition.
- Comedian Vaughn Meader made his name as a spot-on impersonator of JFK; his album of Kennedy skits The First Family was very successful, until Kennedy's assassination killed it, along with Meader's career.
- Though JFK himself once said in a press conference, "I've listened to Mr. Meader's record but I think it sounded more like Teddy than it did me."
- Superman met President Kennedy on several occasions in the Silver Age, including the classic tale "Superman's Mission For President Kennedy," which was origianlly to be published in late 1963 but was pulled after JFK's assassination. The story was finally published several months later, per the request of President Johnson and the Kennedy family. Thanks to comics' sliding-scale timeline, the above tale was rewritten in The Eighties as "Superboy's Mission For President Kennedy."
- Supergirl also met President and Mrs. Kennedy soon after her existence was revealed to the world in February 1962. Jack said "I know you'll use your super-powers not only to fight crime, but to preserve peace in our troubled world!" She said, "Thank you, Mr. President, I will," but what she was thinking was "The President's wife looks.... gorgeous!"
- Parts of the JFK assassination was featured in the movie The House of Yes. One of the main characters modeled herself after Jackie-O.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops, being set in the 1960s, naturally features JFK. In the regular story mode, Kennedy meets Alex Mason, the player character, and authorizes the assassination of the Big Bad. Later, it's revealed that Mason was brainwashed to kill Kennedy by the Big Bad, which he may have actually done. In The Stinger of story mode, Kennedy and Robert McNamara, along with Richard Nixon, interrogate Castro on the recent missile crisis. Then, zombies invade the Pentagon. And you get to kill them as Kennedy.
- The Kennedys, a 2011 miniseries looking at the Kennedy family's rise to public prominence and their Glory Days during the 1960s, focuses heavily on JFK. It received a certain amount of controversy because of allegations of historical inaccuracy and highlighting some of the negative aspects of the family, which was helped by the fact that several of the producers (including Joel Surnow) are outspoken conservatives). Of course, Your Mileage May Vary.
- Kennedy appears in The Two Georges (which also features his old enemy Richard Nixon in a prominent role) as a newspaper publisher sympathetic to an extremist 'liberation' movement operating within a North America which, after a peaceful resolution to what would have become the American War of Independence, remains subject to a British hegemony. He tries his legendary charms on the main female character — who, notably (and apparently rarely) is actually discomforted and repelled by his advances, considering them borderline sexual harassment.
- Stephen King's novel Eleven Twenty Two Sixty Three deals with a man traveling back in time to 1958 to prevent the Kennedy assassination. It ends rather badly. Vietnam ends with Saigon being nuked, India and Pakistan have a limited nuclear exchange. Russia collapses, and Maine ends up becoming part of Canada. Also, due to terrorism, and the aforementioned nuclear exchange, most of the planet has to deal with terrible radiation poisoning. Even worse, due to the amount of times history has been changed by the protagonist, and others, going back in time, the entire universe is in danger of destroying itself. Luckily, he hits the Reset Button.
- Johnson was known to be extremely ambitious in wanting to be president, and was disappointed at being called up to be a fairly powerless Vice President