Friday, November 20, 2009

What if it had never happened?

This Sunday, Nov. 22, is the 46th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. It was Nov. 22, 1963 that John Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in the downtown streets of Dallas.

That day has always fascinated me for any number of reasons. And by the way, if anyone ever wants to read a definitive account of that historical weekend, read "Four Days in November: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy" by Vincent Bugliosi, famous for his prosecution of Charles Manson.

Anyway, driving to work I was thinking how different history would have been had Oswald never pulled the trigger, if Kennedy's limo would have driven calmly through Dealy Plaza on the way to his speech at the Dallas Trade Mart. In other words, what if Kennedy had lived?

I was talking about this with editorial page editor John Kanelis. Kennedy would have been re-elected in 1964, and served two terms. We agreed that the U.S. still would have been bogged down in Vietnam, and because of that, I think Kennedy's reputation would not be near what is since he was martyred in death.

What happens in 1968? Lyndon Johnson, not Hubert Humphrey, runs against Nixon. John K. doesn't think Robert Kennedy would have run for president in 1968 because his brother would have advised against it. So no Robert Kennedy assassination.

Nixon narrowly beat Humphrey in 1968, but I'd say Johnson wins because he would have cut into the George Wallace southern vote that year. And if that were the case, the chances of Nixon winning in 1972 aren't high.

And so there's no Watergate scandal, no President Ford. John doesn't think Jimmy Carter gets elected, and Ronald Reagan's clout becomes very muted. It's fascinating what-if stuff.

What other incidents in American history, had they not occured, would have changed America more? You might say Pearl Harbor in 1941, but the United States would have eventually been drawn into World War II anyway. Perhaps Sept. 11, 2001, and all that has transpired since then.

The one day in the 20th century that comes to mind would have been if the atomic bomb had not been dropped on Japan in 1945. That likely would have meant an invasion of Japan and as much as a million American lives lost over the ensuing years.

John's dad, who was serving in the Philippines at the time, was one of thousands and thousands who would have been part of the Japanese invasion. As he said, he wouldn't be here today if not for the bomb. So John, like many his age whose fathers were in the South Pacific at the end of the war, are big fans of then-President Harry Truman.

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