Tom Wicker died today. Unless you are of a certain age, you probably don’t know who he was. His coverage of the JFK assassination earned him the respect and admiration of a lot of people. One of the things he reported during the chaos after the shooting was the content of the speech Kennedy was en route to deliver when he died. Here are some excerpts:
The speech Mr. Kennedy never delivered at the Merchandise Mart luncheon contained a passage commenting on a recent preoccupation of his, and a subject of much interest in this city [Dallas], where right-wing conservatism is the rule rather than the exception.
Voices are being heard in the land, he said, “voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness.”
The speech went on: “At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the greatest threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.
“We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will ‘talk sense to the American people.’ But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.”
Kennedy was fighting The Stupid, too. Mr. Wicker made sure we knew that in his first report. Rest in peace, Tom Wicker.