Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly

Killing Kennedy

Summary
  1. O’Reilly once again does an amazing job detailing the life and context behind the assassination of JFK by Lee Harvey Oswald. Camelot refers to how people around the world considered the president and his life – an idyllic place where nothing could go wrong.
Key Takeaways
  1. The similarities between Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy are eerie
  2. Kennedy had medical issues throughout his life and twice was read his last rights
  3. Lee Harvey Oswald is a communist and when Kennedy is sworn in he has defected and is in Minsk. He soon realized he wants back to America. He was a sharpshooter in the army
  4. When JFK was 26 his ship, PT 109, in the South Pacific was destroyed by the Japanese. In a leadership role but uncomfortable in this position. He finally takes charge and realizes only he can save his men. This changes his thoughts on leadership forever
  5. Bay of Pigs – April 1961. A covert invasion to try to overthrow the Cuban government. Embarrassing failure and although has backing of American people, makes two powerful enemies – Castro and the CIA director, Alan Dulles who is fired soon after
  6. JFK was very close with Frank Sinatra but after his mob ties were confirmed JFK quickly cut all ties
  7. JFK had many extramarital affairs, Marilyn Monroe being the most renowned. They began flirting right after he won the presidency and it soon turned physical. Jackie knows and is disgusted as she thinks JFK is taking advantage of an emotionally hurt woman. He soon distances himself though to avoid controversy
  8. Oswald returns from Russia in 1961 to Dallas
  9. LBJ gets tasked with traveling the world and loves being most powerful man in any room outside of America
  10. Civil Rights are full blown in this time. The president and his staff keep a close eye on MLK as they like his message about racial equality but are also worried that he is a communist sympathizer
  11. Cuban Missile Crisis – Kennedy finds out in October 1961 that Russia has installed nuclear missiles in Cuba. This is the biggest challenge he has yet to face. He takes a strong stance against them and Oswald takes great offense since he believes that the USSR has the right to protect the communist island from the U.S. This is what Khrushchev believes too and thinks JFK’s use of quarantine vs blockade (act of war) is cowardly. Khrushchev tells his ship to ignore the blockade, believing JFK will back down like he did in the Bay of Pigs. JFK holds firm and Khrushchev relents a little bit. JFK promises not to invade if the missiles are removed and will allow their nuclear missiles in Turkey to remain. After 13 long days, Russia relents and disarms the missiles, ending the Cuban Missile Crisis
  12. Oswald is getting increasingly violent with his wife and starts collecting guns. He is soon fired and on April 10, 1963 he decides he needs to kill someone. He decides to target walker, an ex-military man who is starkly anti-communist. He missed completely but manages to not leave any clues
  13. After much practice and planning, Oswald feels ready to carry his plan through. At 12:30 PM on November 22, 1963 Oswald sets up at the Texas Schoolbook Depository where he worked and shot Kennedy. He let off three rounds, 1 missed completely, 1 went through his neck but would not have been fatal and the last exploded his skull. He manages to escape the building and walks away. About an hour later a cop stops to question him and Oswald kills him too. He then tries to hide in a theater but is caught and taken to jail. Jack Ruby, a man with mafia ties and who owns several strip clubs is extremely upset by the assassination and decides to take action and ends up killing Oswald himself
What I got out of it
  1. I always knew the popularity of JFK and Jackie but had no idea they were the first power couple and were revered everywhere they went. O’Reilly describes JFK’s growth as a leader while President and how his assassination kicked off a series of events that rocked the 60’s and 70’s.

  • Bobby Kennedy is the attorney general, more because JFK values his opinion than for his legal savvy
  • America absolutely loves Jackie Kennedy. She is more introverted than JFK and has had issues childbearing – stillborn and a miscarriage. Has two healthy children though – Caroline and John Jr.
  • Eisenhower and Kennedy butt heads as Kennedy is the youngest president elected and Eisenhower the oldest and feel America needs very different things – fixing social woes and moving on from McCarthyism are Kennedy’s main goals
  • His inaugural address is a promise and becomes an instant classic
  • Father was extremely controlling and tried to handle everything. Had one child lobotomized, tried to sleep with his kids significant other and more. Family puppet master
  • JFK keeps a coconut as a reminder of his boat explosion. Also, his older brother Joe who his father determined would be the politician was shot down in an airplane during the war
  • JFK gets elected to congress with the help of his “Irish Mafia” – advisors and supporters
  • Kennedy has awful back pain, often using a cane to get around but never in public. Swims naked in a hot pool to soothe his back
  • Can read up to 1,200 words per minute and splits his time between periods of intense focus and restorative breaks. Is a creature of habit. Up at 7, news, same breakfast, 45 minute nap in the afternoon, sex every single day (often not with Jackie)
  • Found physical contact a burden
  • Jackie kept her smoking a secret and was a very mysterious person, not ever truly revealing herself even to her husband. She is very hands on with raising her children
  • JFK has a quirk where he can’t wear any piece of clothing too long, often changing many times per day
  • Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista and gained international acclaim – going to speak at Harvard and meeting Nixon and Eisenhower
  • Kennedy had a life threatening adrenal gland disease
  • LBJ was perhaps the most powerful senator in history and left for the VP where he had almost no power. Him and bobby were bitter enemies
  • Bobby became JFK’s mouthpiece and confidant when he wanted to express something strongly. The brothers felt that they were alone and their advisors were useless
  • In order to gain face in the international community and stop or at least slow the spread of communism, America invades Vietnam
  • Jackie takes control of renovating the White House and knows every detail. She shows the changes on a tv show that became one of the most watched specials in history. Jackie has become JFK’s most valuable political asset as the whole world loves her
  • Jackie also knows of her husbands many affairs but deals with it as she believes he truly loves her and for powerful men it might be “natural” she is deeply hurt by this but plays it off. JFK has so many mistresses the secret service begin covering for him and so does the press. If he didn’t have sex everyday he would be a different man – angry and with headaches
  • A couple FBI agents speak to Lee as they know he has just come from the Soviet Union. They feel uneasy with him but soon decide to close his case
  • Bobby is gaining such power that people are predicting he will win the next presidency and possibly teddy after that – a 20 year Kennedy dynasty seems inescapable in the early 60’s
  • Monroe’s death is still quite murky but to this day nothing implicating Bobby Kennedy has arisen
  • JFK ignores and does not include LBJ on important decisions and meetings. Bobby, Jackie and the even the White House staff dislike him too. LBJ has hardly anything to do but takes a strong stance for racial equality, hoping this will help him with his chances of becoming president
  • Bobby becomes the voice for Civil Rights and soon after JFK puts his full support behind it. Made many enemies with this stance, especially since many equated Civil Rights with communism
  • MLK had many affairs and him and JFK share many similarities and political savvy
  • The power struggle between bobby and LBJ rages on but the Kennedy’s are clearly winning
  • JFK takes a trip to Europe and it becomes even clearer that he is the most popular and charismatic man in the world
  • The Kennedy’s lose another son, Patrick due to a premature birth. It crushes the family
  • Kennedy was developing into a truly great world leader and enacting legislation that would have great benefits for America and her economy. He went down to Texas for fund raising and part of his campaign trail – much of this state was starkly anti-Kennedy
  • Oswald leaves New Orleans and heads to Mexico in hopes of making his way to Cuba. However he doesn’t have any luck and heads back to Dallas where his wife marina is
  • At this time Dallas was very conservative and had the highest midterm rate in Texas. Kennedy’s advisors tell him not to go due to recent violence
  • Oswald has always wanted to be a man who is remembered and since he is bitter that the president seems to have everything, killing him seems like a very good plan.
  • There are disputes as to who’s jurisdiction this falls into and the Dallas police won’t let the presidents body leave Texas
  • Jackie eventually remarried to shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis who died 7 years after their marriage
  • Jackie died in 1994 at the age of 64
  • John Jr. Died in a plane accident with his wife and her sister
  • LBJ passed the historic Civil Rights Act but mishandled Vietnam and chose not to run in 1968
  • Bobby was also killed shortly after the California primary at the age of 42 on June 6, 1968

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