Friday, 13 January 2012



The horrible irony is that the President succeeded in what he set out to accomplish in Dallas. Mrs. Connally was rushed to Parkland Hospital and pronounced dead at one thirty in the afternoon. Senator Yarborough requested Vice-President Johnson’s intercession and received a moment with the governor to express his condolences and promised his close cooperation in the future. All former wounds were sincerely healed with a touching embrace by the two previous adversaries.

I need not remind my readers that I became an overnight hero. I have considered what heroics involve, and everyone from Billy Mitchell to Sergeant York was right. A hero is someone who does the only thing possible in a situation he accidentally walks into.
That night I went to my temple and saw Jack Ruby praying. He approached me and said, “What are you praying for, Norm?”
The question took me by surprise. “Well, Jack,” I answered, “If I was a better man, Mrs. Connally would be alive today.”
“No,” he answered, “If you were a better man, John Kennedy would be dead today.”
Then he walked away. To Ruby I was clearly no hero. However he seemed unique in his opinion.

The next morning Vice-President Johnson appeared at my door without advance warning. I was dressed in a bathrobe and felt self-conscious. Is this what they meant by the Kennedy administration’s informality?
“I’m sorry I disturbed you, Mr. Mandel.”
“You could have called first,” I answered, and then realized who I was talking to. “But since it was you,” I feebly recovered, “There was no real need.”
“Mr. Mandel, may I be seated?”
I invited him in, he apologized for disturbing my Sabbath and then came right to the point.
“President Kennedy is extremely grateful to you, has been briefed on your writing and promotional talents and requests that you join our team as a speech writer and image builder.”

It took me a few moments to formulate my response. “Is the President aware that I work for the Teamsters?”
“Of course. That’s why we have a Secret Service.”
“You could have fooled me yesterday.”
“Yesterday is too complicated to talk about yet. You can be assured that you are classified as a loyal citizen, not a security risk, despite your employers.”
“Tell the President that I am deeply honored and will accept if my employers offer me a leave of absence. That, I can assure you, is not a certainty.”
“Yes, it is, Mr. Mandel. We contacted Mr. Hoffa personally and have received his blessings on your appointment. Welcome to the team.”

The Vice-President left, and I sat down to contemplate my fate. Why was I always among the favored few? I was only a good student of journalism at Wayne State, not a great one, yet as soon as I graduated I was offered the Dallas position in the Teamsters’ organization. And if it were not for Marilyn, I would never have been in the position to save a President’s life. Was I blessed, lucky, or was someone greater than I watching over me and sending me headlong towards greatness?

I turned on the television hoping there would be news about the assassins. The dauntless reporters came up with information that made no real sense to me. The young man with the curtain rods was one, Lee Harvey Oswald, a former defector to the Soviet Union. One of the assassins actually worked for the CIA and was involved in the training of Cuban refugees who were later slaughtered at the Bay of Pigs. The other two were known Mafia hitmen with twenty-four acknowledged hits between them. Could such a motley group actually have formed a conspiracy somehow? Either that, or by a grand coincidence, hoods, communists, and anti-communists had all gathered at the same spot, at the same time, to do the same thing.

I turned off the set and began thinking. Did I really want to work for Kennedy? Certainly I had voted for him in 1960 believing him to be more pro-Labor than Nixon, but my employers supported Nixon as less of a threat. Still, I was swept into the Kennedy fold by the youth of the man, the glamour of his wife and the intelligence of his advisors. He seemed right for the times, an era where monkeys traveled in space, and some television shows were being broadcast in color.

Kennedy seemed an optimistic choice, and I am by nature an optimist. There was no reason not to be. I had a first rate career, my country was the greatest in the world, possibly in history, and there was no end in sight to our accomplishments. We were the greatest cultural force on earth, and our great artists such as Lucille Ball and Frankie Avalon were heroes to the world, and no country, big or small, could ever defeat us militarily.

Yet I had some doubts. Could Kennedy stand up to the communists like Nixon did in the Kitchen Debate? Would he have the nerve to tell Kruschev where to get off? I feared he admired some things about the socialist way of life and was soft on Communism.
When he let those gallant fighters bleed to death on the beaches of Cuba my worse fears were confirmed. He had not sent in our Marines to rescue those brave Latin democrats, and I knew in time Castro would come to haunt him. I didn’t know how soon after the haunting would begin.
But, in my mind, Kennedy redeemed himself during the Missile Crisis. Any man who would offer a nuclear showdown on behalf of American security, had guts. Clearly, he was not soft on Communism, just a true liberal. Yes, I admired him, true with some misgivings, but I would be proud to work with him.

ECC12:12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

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