Commentary Magazine

Article Preview

Will We Never Be Free of the Kennedy Assassination?

- Abstract

The fall semester is almost gone, and it’s time to order books for a spring course I have offered at Brandeis University for more than 30 years: “The Idea of Conspiracy in American Culture.” I have found the perfect book, for my purposes, from the profusion of tomes on the Kennedy assassination that have appeared in this 50th-anniversary year of that mesmerizing tragedy. Some are freshly written, others are essentially rehashes of older works gussied up with unfulfilled promises of startling new revelations.1

In the course, I cover the assassination and other cases that have provoked conspiratorial theories—the Lincoln, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations; the Sacco and Vanzetti, Hiss, and Rosenberg cases; the alleged murder of Vince Foster by or for the Clintons. Usually, though not invariably, I am a skeptic in these cases, accepting the official, the governmental, view. Apart from one period in the late 70s when I briefly wavered, I have publicly defended the conclusions of the Warren Commission for nearly 50 years. I agree there was one shooter only, named Lee Harvey Oswald; no satisfactorily proven conspiracies to employ him; no massive conspiracy in operation well before the killing and long after to cover up the first conspiracies; no even more massive conspiracy to frame an innocent or merely peripheral Oswald. In brief, on the Kennedy front, I am persuaded, and I attempt to defend to my students and readers, the notion that, all in all, given what we now know, the Warren Commission got it right.

About the Author

Jacob Cohen teaches in the American studies program at Brandeis University.