Book Review: Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Rielly

“Oh, no, no, no. Oh, my God. They have shot my husband. I love you, Jack,” Jackie Kennedy cries. “They’ve killed my husband. I have his brains in my hand”.

Killing Kennedy chronicles John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s life; beginning with his swearing in to office as 35th President of the United States of America, detailing his political, personal and family life with his gorgeous wife Lady Jacqueline “Jackie” Lee Bouvier Kennedy, and the activities leading up to his assassination on the 22nd of November, 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald.

This book counts down to the assassination that rocked the nation.

JFK was a rich kid turned Naval War Hero after saving the men of PT 109 in 1943. He learnt to take charge and lead even while in the White House; with The Bay of Pigs, the Invasion of Cuba serving as a lesson in cowardice. This prepared him to deal decisively with the Soviet Union Leader Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As well as being an astute political leader, JFK was a legendary philander. JFK had an almost insatiable desire for sex, and there was no way Jackie; with her other responsibilities as First Lady and mother, could keep up. If he didn’t have sex he would be moody, and everyone in the White House would know this. The women were so many the Secret Service couldn’t keep track. No woman was off limits for JFK, from secretaries in the White House, superstars and mafia conquests like Marilyn Monroe, to a 19 year-old he had in Jackie’s bed.

However, he tried to be respectful of his wife, and only had women over during the weekends when Jackie was away from the White House with their two children, Caroline and John Jr. Nevertheless, she knew about his affairs but chose to look away.  She on the other hand, was a model wife focused on raising their children, renovating the White House to create the new Camelot, and travelling around Europe in search of the classic fashions and art. She was a super star, and everywhere she went, everyone wanted to see the first lady of the United States of America.

But JFK changed after the Cuban Missile Crisis. JFK saw how close he came to losing everything, and realized how much he loved his wife and his family. He became a devote husband to Jackie and they grew inseparable, conceiving a third child – Patrick, who died a few days later.

JFK was a charismatic leader who loved to interact with the people. On State visits, JFK, known to wade into the crowds with Jackie to shake hands and speak with Americans, was a security nightmare for the Secret Service. He liked to be seen, and is the reason he was in a drop-top convertible when he was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.

With respect to his health, this great president was plagued by a myriad of medical woes, a closely guarded secret by his administration. Besides chronic back pain and headaches, he suffered from Addison’s disease; a disorder caused by insufficient production of certain hormones in the adrenal glands, evident in his puffy eyes and his occasional in ability to walk without crutches.

JFK supported the Civil Rights Movement against segregation because he knew it would play a pivotal role in the next Presidential election and he wanted to be reelected. After watching Martin Luther’s speech; I have a dream, JFK decided he wanted Luther on his team but was mindful of Luther’s indiscretions, which included organised orgies, could mar his immaculate political image.

Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK’s killer, was a former U.S. Marine who defected to the Soviet Union, lived in Minsk and married a Russian lady, Marina. But the Soviet Union wasn’t what he hoped for, so disgruntled, he returned to the United States with his wife, but remained sympathetic to the communist nation. He couldn’t fit in or hold a job, and was often violent with his wife, causing her to leave him many times. Oswald believed he was a man destined for greatness, but didn’t know how to achieve it. In this search, he became  a wanderer, frustrated and depressed. Hence, when the opportunity to kill the President of the United States of America fell in his lap, he took it.

Unlike his prior assassination attempt on and anti-communist supporter where he let off only once and fled, he stood by the window, took aim with his rifle, fired three times, making sure he wasn’t a failure again.

“Jackie’s arms are still wrapped around her husband when the front of his head explodes. Brains, blood, and bone fragments shower the First Lady’s face and that pink Chanel suit; the matter sprays as far forward as the limousine’s windshield visors.”

****

The book gives detailed accounts of Lee Harvey’s activities and suggests that he is the killer, with time, opportunity and a grand motive, despite the numerous conspiracies surrounding the president’s murder.

Unlike many well-written books I’ve read, this one left me feeling disappointed and heartbroken.

The title is Killing Kennedy so it’s obvious John Kennedy will die. However, this book is so well-written that you get intimate with him as a person; a father, a brother, a husband and your president, that as his assassination draws near you start to hope that this well-known and sensationalised story ends differently.

It doesn’t.

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