The Assassination Obsessives – UPDATED

:::UPDATE:::: Bob Owens is getting fed up with the media’s breathless-seeming anticipation of the martyrdom of Osama::: END UPDATE:::

The worst thing about the Baby Boom generation – besides their delusional belief that everything that came before them needed changing because it was all wrong or lacking in sufficient meaning, is that they keep wanting to re-create those “seminal” moments of their adolescence and young adulthood. That’s why in the late 80′s our entertainment was stuck on “The Wonder Years,” “Thirtysomething” and “The Big Chill,” and it’s why the war in Iraq was never going to be narrated as anything but “The Vietnam Quagmire.”

The assassinations of the 1960′s could arguably be called the signal events of the age. The murders of JFK, RKF and Martin Luther King were public events of great drama, lasting psychological impact and “shared” experience, which brought out the best and worst in people, sometimes at nearly identical moments. In the past few years it almost seems like some people of bad will would not be unhappy to see a dramatic, destructive assassination happen again, for reasons I don’t pretend to understand.

Think I’m wrong? Hello, George W. Bush was only a candidate for president – just a candidate – when the “snipers wanted” notices were flashing under his picture on a late-night talk show, and the assassination chic continued apace, reaching its nadir with a tv-movie dramatization of the seemingly-wished for assassination of Dubya.

Now, after Barack Obama’s tremendous surge, the ugly assassination theme has quickly resurfaced, although this time it’s being expressed as concern over the candidate’s safety rather than as active wishing for his demise, which is at least an improvement, but this fixation on assassination is still interesting. In Obama’s case, the issue is being raised by a writer at The Huffington Post who – for reasons I cannot discern – seems to think Halliburton or Blackwater or someone connected somehow with the Bush White House will try to kill Obama. I can’t figure out the reasoning, but to people for whom every evil in the world begins and ends with George W. Bush, on whom all bad things must be blamed, I guess it makes some sort of sense.

I don’t know if some folks have yet figured out that George W. Bush is not running for president in ’08, but eventually they’re going to find themselves deprived of their Hate Doll. Where they’ll put all that energy when he is off the world stage is anyone’s guess. It will have to go somewhere. Folks on the right who have been feeding on Hillary Hate will have the same problem, btw, if she loses. Hate – like love – is a force. When the object of your hate is no longer available it must go somewhere. If it does not go outward, it will go inward. But that’s food for another post.

A second writer wonders if Bill Clinton, fretting about his wife’s dwindling support, made a subliminal suggestion that Obama should be done in, based on this bit of Clintonian babble:

“Nobody would be happier to see all this go away than us. But you can’t ask somebody who is at a breathtaking disadvantage in the information coming to the voters to ignore that disadvantage and basically agree to put bullets in their brains,” [Bill Clinton] said.”

Allow me to say, I think the writer is off-track, here. I am certain Clinton did not mean that Obama should be assassinated. I think what me meant to say was: “…people who vote using only the information provided by a biased media are essentially putting bullets to their own brains.” I think that’s what he meant. The truth is, Bill Clinton – vaunted as a great speaker – is, on paper, a clumsy speaker who says almost nothing memorable, as indicated by the dearth of any substantial words by the 42nd president in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. His meaning is often fuzzy, possibly because of his habit of trying to have every word every way at all times.

I find two things ironic:

1) Bill Clinton is worrying about people voting only on the information provided by the same media that has been happy to help him and his wife for 15 years and has filtered his successor into near-invisibility.

2) Both of these “assassination” fears originated – as did all of the Bush-assassination fantasies – on the left. I know that means something, but I’m not sure what. I assume it has something to do with the terrible assassinations of three remarkable American men in a formative decade, about hagiography and “feelings” and narcissism, too. Someone trained in psychology and analysis will have to figure that one out.

The baby boomers have been a generation all-too-comfortable living their lives and working out their issues in public, and public “events” from The Kennedy Assassination/Funeral to the Chicago Convention to the Challenger Explosion to 9/11 have served as cathartic catalysts or backdrops to their never-ending, frolicking subterranean explorations of themselves and their psyches. First they wanted to dismantle “the establishment” and the dominant culture. Then they wanted to re-create moments of deep impact. I don’t know what it means. A few years ago, in a late-night ramble, I wrote:

I think of these baby boomers – in truth I am one of them, on the tail end: The children of The Greatest Generation – “the children of their sacrifice,” as Bill Clinton called them. A generation so in love with itself that it was able to turn to the generation before, the one that saved the world from Fascism and Communism, and sneer at them, rejecting their traditions as vapid, their faith as naive and their sense of honor and duty as mere mechanisms triggered by guilt.

I think with their kids, The Greatest Generation dropped the ball. They came out of a depression and a war so eager to give their children everything – to rebuild the world around their children – that they threw things out of balance. The children who had never suffered or “done without” retorted with a wiseass, “Oh yeah? Don’t tell us we cannot have what we want; don’t tell us there must be consequences for our actions; don’t dare to define the truth to us. Everything that came before us is suspect and probably wrong.”

Not everything that came out of the boomer generation was bad, of course, but – as Bill Kristol has noted, the civil rights advances of the 1950′s were mostly accomplished by the tail-enders of The Greatest Generation.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe the boomers look to re-creation because they deconstructed everything that came before. Their parents had those old bourgeois “illusions” of family, faith and community to guide their lives and give them meaning, security and a clear sense of themselves. Having cast all of that aside, all the boomers have to cling to are themselves, their media, and the “greatests hits” of the soundtracks of their lives. Your thoughts?

Just noted that Dr. Sanity is also writing on this. I’m hoping some of the blogshrinks will explore it further.

Meanwhile, security is being beefed up for Obama.

Siggy – who makes his living pondering this stuff – does some more musing on this topic, and he gets progressively explicit in his thoughts on a mindset that demands martyrs or saviors. That’s actually very interesting when you recall that after Dubya was in office, there were multiple headlines talking about how Bill Clinton was the “Savior” of the world.

Related: Kill Bush Chic Has Never Been About Bush.
For Popes and Presidents it feels like 1981 out there.

Small Dead Animals linked. Thanks Kate!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Pal2Pal

    I was 17 and a brand new freshman in college when JFK was assassinated. At the end of that long and horrible day, I knew that I had changed. I remember calling back home from Michigan to New York and begging my Mother to explain it all to me. She said, “Dear, today you have become an adult. Your childhood is forever over.” Then I heard my Mother, a lifelong Republican and certainly not a Kennedy supporter, cry. That was almost as shocking as the events of the day.

    As to Baby Boomers – I am a Charter Boomer and lived those years of the sixties in all their misery and violence. I can’t speak for others, but with me and my friends, the complaint against our Greatest Generation parents and relatives, many who fought in WWII, was the negativity. My parents were terrible misers and seemed scared all the time about spending any money. Every dime was saved that could be saved. They had little faith in America or the American Dream. They were products of the Depression and to their dying day they remained forever scarred by that experience. Even though they were both professionals and we lived a solid upper middle class lifestyle, they never bought a thing they didn’t need, never took any chances or risks. I had an entrepreneurial bent and they did everything to discourage it. Failure, it seemed, was always knocking on the door in their minds, even though not in fact, since they were both considered successful. It was the driving force in my childhood — potential impending doom.

  • stephanie

    I guess it’s not all that surprising to me that the left is so concerned, always, about assassination. In modern history, the political leaders assassignated in their lifetimes were, after all, by and large figures from the left, not the right. Just as those who lived through the depression were afraid that financial catastrophe was always just around the corner (see commenter above), those on the left who watched their icons be assassignated are always afraid that it will happen again. It’s human nature, I believe.

  • Joseph

    I would have to say that Pal2Pal’s characterization strikes a clear chord with me. Now that both my parents are gone, what I remember the most is how fundamentally unhappy they were, despite relative material success and the formula of home ownership, a new car every five years, family [by which is meant the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving Dinner, of which they staged many], and sending their only child to college.

    The reason is that their lives were ruled by fear. The family they wanted, and that so many on the right still want,is the family of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson–a world where there nothing more serious than Ozzie discovering a button missing off his new cardigan sweater as soon as he walks into the Malt Shop. The family they got was that of Archie Bunker, where you had to deal with the fact that the Black Jeffersons
    were moving into the neighborhood.

    Whether my attitude as a fifty-five year old man is “self indulgent” or not, I can certainly say that my life has been far happier than theirs. And this is despite losing a home to predatory lending, owning a new car only once in my life, never making a “family”, losing several “careers” to the slow dissolution of American values and American life, and passing through the fires of mental illness.

    I have faced all of this with dismay, but never for a moment
    with fear and never for a moment with the impulse to do wrong merely because it was expedient and safe. As “greatest” as they were, I don’t think many of my parent’s generation could have said that in their heart of hearts. I can.

    And I am radiantly happy in consequence, and confidently expect to be so until the day of my death.

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  • Sam L.

    Perhaps, and just maybe, what Bill meant to say was that if people were to get information only from the MSM, and to believe that information, given his belief(??) that the MSM is out to get Bill and Hill, then they (B&H) might as well shoot themselves. That’s what I see in it.

    Given Bill, though, Aristotle and Heisenberg were pikers: Aristotle with a yes/no either/or dichotomy, and Heisenberg with a one or the other, we just don’t know which it is yet. Bill’s statements can be interpreted over one of the flattest bell curves ever–so maybe he’s the Rorschach test.

    Changing subjects, my parents were 20 and 15 when the Depression started, but I never had the impression that they lived like it never went away.

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  • Terrye

    I have seen people from the Great Generation save slivers of soap and put them in a sauce pan to melt to make new soap. That is how afraid of spending money they were.

    We are all products of our time and place. It is true they saved America, but they also were prone not only to negativity but to political movements every bit as reactionary or radical as we might see today. Martin Luther King was of that generation, so was the man who killed him.

  • Hootsbuddy

    Last week I heard Dick Morris on the radio the morning after Obama’s Iowa speech. He may be a bulldog, but his political instincts are not to be ignored. He’s no fan of Obama, but he was clearly appreciative of Obama’s charismatic presence, specifically comparing him to Bobby Kennedy whose incredible extemporary remarks on the occasion of King’s assassination were linked in your post. (Thanks for that, incidentally. I had not heard that speech before…You Tube is a wonderful asset!) You raised a good question when you wondered “can you think of anyone on the national scene who could pull this off, today?” That was in 2004, but Dick Morris, of all people, may have supplied an answer.

    I don’t expect to hear Obama quoting translations of classic poetry, but I have heard enoough to know that his bulb burns every bit as bright as anyone else’s on the scene today. His wife was on C-SPAN yesterday campaigning in New Hampshire and came across as his perfect complement, a Princeton grad who also went to Harvard, but whose presence was as down-to-earth as any ordinary person could ask. I, for one, am deeply impressed with both of these people.

    But your subject was about the fear of assassinations, with the implication that such fears seem to rise from what you and many derisively call “the Left.”

    I can relate to the previous comments because I, too, was a child of the Sixties, reared by parents whose lives were lived in the long shadow of the Great Depression. That experience left scar-tissue on a whole generation that never went away. But as a response to your question, that is irrelevant.

    What is relevant is that those of us whose lives were shaken by the Kennedy and King killings were impacted by another kind of life experience, more visceral than that of economic hardship. But I want to point out that not all of us responded in the same manner and I, for one, am tired of being lumped together with oversimplified characterizations that do not apply to me.

    This is true: No one can mention the names of Kennedy or King without coupling them with their killing. Whether or not the bullets came from the right or the left is very much beside the point. The fact is that they stood for values that today are coupled with the Left, and they were martyred. It may be that their martyrdom did, if fact, advance their causes. I don’t know. But this much I do know…it is an uncalled-for insult to suggest that those of us who stand to the Left are paranoid because we fear for the safety of the most prominent figure to rise from that quarter in recent years.

    There is not space in a comment thread to lay out the details, but I have spent my entire adult life trying in vain to live, think, act and behave like a good Conservative. That’s what is supposed to happen when you grow up, I hear. But after three decades in management, with earnings passing the Social Security contributions cap over twenty years, I remain deeply committed to the plight and lifestyle problems of the working poor. I cannot escape that sentiment, and the mean-spirited, tough-talking attitudes I hear coming from sanctimonious voices emmanating from high places make me want to hurl. And when those voices toss in irrelevant insults I just get angry and want to turn the page, roll my eyes and forget it.

    In short, I, too, am concerned about the threat of assassination. I recall that attempts were made on the lives of Reagan, George Wallace and others. John Lennon was killed. In most cases the perpetrators were less political than just crazy. Please, let’s just let concerns be concerns…and not try to warp those concerns into yet another Left-bashing rhetorical device.

    My generation has messed up enough in many real ways. But I’m getting tired of being beat up for stuff that isn’t relevant. Please, give it a rest. It’s damn hard to be part of the “loyal opposition” when your sanity as well as your loyalty are under attack.

  • igout

    The preceding generation might have been the ant, but we’re grasshopper. I think many of will live to regret that we didn’t inherit our parents’ terror of being poor.

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  • igout

    It’s interesting that that religion of peace which has a standing policy to terminate those who leave the faith doesn’t get mentioned. Only a redneck bigot seems to fit into that piece of ideological carry on.

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  • philwynk

    Never underestimate the power of Dr. Spock.

    The Boomer generation was raised on the advice of Benjamin Spock, who rejected the discipline-heavy tactics of prior generations in favor of a more sensitive, respectful approach. Spock, himself, decided that he had been wrong by the end of his life, observing that his advice had resulted in a generation of brats.

    The things we find difficult to stomach in the leftists we encounter — arrogance, unreason, narcissism, lack of intellectual integrity — are all manifestations of a lack of discipline. The rampaging depressions among our generation, the Prozac Nation, manifest the same thing.

    It may all, ironically, turn out to be that we were coddled too much, not spanked enough, and had too little expected of us.

    (Unrelated to this topic, please visit my political blog, “Plumb Bob Blog: Squaring the Culture,” at Thanks.)

  • Pal2Pal

    I mentioned my Mother in my first comment being a life long Republican. She entered Berkeley at the age of 16 and graduated 3 years later. The year was 1929. She was on her way to a Master’s degree in Economics when the market crashed in 1929. She told how most of those years were years of her generation exploring the rising socialist/communist groups that were abundant during that time. When you leave college with a Masters and the best job you can get is typing envelops in a department store credit department, it makes you ripe for those types of movements. She went on to bigger and better things in her life as economic conditions improved, so she never succumbed to the left like many of her friends. “Just lucky,” she said. However, on the eve of my marriage, she wrote me a letter that I still have. In that letter, she listed the four women she most admired. Two of those four were Ruth from the Bible, “whither thou go, I will goest,” and Corretta Scott King. It is wrong to attribute the King movement of the Sixties to the left. It was all encompassing, crossed generational and political lines and was a message of inclusion. It touched a nerve in all of us of any age.

    However, as the JFK assassination was a shock to the nation’s psyche and shook the very foundations of this country, the RFK and King assassinations had not near the same effect since we were already numb to the violence of those times. RFK is the only Democrat I have ever considered voting for and I was very attracted to him, sad when he was killed, but not shocked to my very core like I was with JFK. There was so much violence, so many riots that destroyed and burned, so many killed, that after awhile you could no longer process the events as anything more than headlines. Demonstrations became mechanical (much like the anti-war over the hill hippies stage today), speeches were by rote. The years from ’68 thru ’78 were years of people going through the motions, sleepwalking, if you will, through a decade that brought us to Jimmah Carter. Carter was the wake up call that led to Reagan’s appeal to come back to a love for this great country. He gave us permission to be proud of America again, he gave us back the right to feel patriotic, to cheer and see hope. He appealed to those of us who were younger with his message of hope, he appealed to the Greatest Generation because he was one of them and managed to still see America as great.

    And that is why I can’t stand the Left. Their message is one of discouragement, of bad times, always pointing out what is wrong with us and with America rather than what’s good and right. My Mother used to say, they are stuck in the 1930s. King appealed to the same goodness and right of the American people just as Reagan did. His “I have a Dream” speech, one of the finest speeches ever given, was all about hope for a better future because we are a good people, not the message of the Left that we are all bad, with nefarious motives, and that if we would only let those who know best rule, then everyone would get their chicken in every pot and we can all sing Kumbaya and be happy. America dismissed that mindset and we got King and Reagan, the rest of the world worshiped at the feet of Stalin and those like him and what did they get?

  • TheAnchoress

    Hootsbuddy, you wrote: This is true: No one can mention the names of Kennedy or King without coupling them with their killing. Whether or not the bullets came from the right or the left is very much beside the point. The fact is that they stood for values that today are coupled with the Left, and they were martyred. It may be that their martyrdom did, if fact, advance their causes. I don’t know. But this much I do know…it is an uncalled-for insult to suggest that those of us who stand to the Left are paranoid because we fear for the safety of the most prominent figure to rise from that quarter in recent years.

    I’m not arguing with a word of that (although I think that JFK (not RFK) had sentiments that would – today – be more in line with the “conservative” side, though I would characterize him a classical liberal, which I like to think I am._ BUT…when did I say that the left was PARANOID for fearing for Obama’s safety? All I did was note that BOTH ideas of assassination – fearing it for Obama and wishing it for Bush – originated from the left. I’m wondering why the left is so assassination-obsessive.

    I don’t think you mean to mischaracterize what I wrote…but I want to make that clear, anyway.

    And I appreciate all the thoughtful comments.

  • Hootsbuddy

    Thanks for clarifying.
    You didn’t use the word.
    Sanity did…headlined at the link.

    Maybe I’ve been listening to too much talk radio. My skin is getting too thin.

  • Jean

    I understand why the Baby Boomers’ parents were afraid and “unhappy”; they were always preparing for the worst. My parents aren’t BB but rather the “Silent Generation” – their childhoods began in the poverty of the ’30s and continued in the WWII years of rationing and paperdrives. When I got my first apartment, my father commented that they’d never lived alone in their lives – no one could get by without sharing the rent, living with relatives, or (if male) spending at least a few years in a barracks because of the Draft. That’s saying a lot, isn’t it?

    My grandparents came of age during the Depression and had all sorts of odd jobs (many of them dangerous) to make ends meet. My great-grandparents? They had probably the most scarred generation. My maternal great-grandmother was 13 when President Garfield was assassinated by the nutcase Charles Julius Guiteau; Mrs. Lincoln was still alive and the American psyche was still scarred by the Civil War. She lost everyone but her father in the Great Thumb Fire (America’s first National Disaster). Right about the time her husband and she started to have savings, the Crash came.

    My mother told me once that she doubted my generation would ever see the material gains that hers had. She grew up with no electricity and malnutrition; she now lives in a time when electronic devices are relatively disposable items and even teenagers can buy things on credit without collateral.

    I must say something, though, about the generosity of the Silent Generation and the Boomers’ parents. These are people who would pinch pennies but spend dollars on other people. And they volunteered. To me, it’s been amazing to read newspaper archives from the post-War years and find letters of complaint that basically ended with “what can *I* or *we* do to change this situation?” That’s the Kennedy and King generation right there.

  • Rip

    What Bill Clinton meant was that we shouldn’t expect Hillary Clinton, who he believes to be at a disadvantage because the media doesn’t seem to like her as much as they like Barack Obama, to rhetorically “put a bullet in her brains” by ignoring that disadvantage.

    His words don’t seem that vague to me, personally.

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  • Terrye

    If you want to imagine a scarred generation, think of the people who lived through WW1, then the influenza epidemic which killed hundreds of thousands of people, only to see war break out in Europe less than 20 years later. For all of our concerns today, we can not really imagine the kind of trauma those people saw and lived through. They would have been the parents of the Greatest Generation I suppose.

  • KevinB

    I’m a libertarian, so I don’t consider myself left or right, but I have to admit as soon as Obama went from a curiousity to a serious candidate, I wondered if he’d make it through to the end of the campaign.

    I think Richard Pryor put it best a few years back when he said (approximately) “The problem with the Japanese in WWII is they’d only seen laid-back Hawaiians and Californians. They didn’t realize that there will still white boys in Alabama that had to be kept on leashes.” I’m not trying to slur any particular state, but I don’t doubt that there are at least a few hundred good ol’ boys who would froth at the mouth at the thought of a black president. I don’t know when his Secret Service detail kicks in, but I hope it’s soon rather than later. I’m afraid America would take a terrific beating from itself if this tragedy were to happen.