By TAL KOPAN, Politico
As the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination approaches next month, polling released Tuesday as part of a new book about Kennedy’s legacy shows that he remains one of the most highly rated presidents of the past 50 years.
Asked to rate all the presidents from 1950-2000 on a scale of 0 to 10, Kennedy scored the highest, at 7.6. He was followed by Ronald Reagan, at 6.9, Dwight Eisenhower, at 6.8, and Bill Clinton, at 6.7. None of the other presidents scored above a 5.0.
Nevertheless, Kennedy would not be Americans’ first choice to bring back as the next president, if any former leader alive or dead could serve again. Asked who they would most want to bring back, 24 percent of adults chose Reagan, 21 percent chose Clinton and 13 percent chose Kennedy. Abraham Lincoln was next, at 9 percent.
The findings, from a survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted this summer, were released Tuesday to coincide with the release of a new book from University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, which takes on evidence of popular conspiracy theories about Kennedy’s assassination and analyzes his lasting legacy.
At a press conference unveiling his book at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Sabato said it was the findings on the impact Kennedy’s life has had that most struck him, not the findings about his death.
“The most important thing didn’t have anything to do with the assassination, it was the fact that even though John Kennedy had a terribly abbreviated tragic presidency, he’s actually lived for 50 years through nine successors,” Sabato afterward told a handful of reporters, which included press from the U.K., Germany and Korea.
The 624-page book, “The Kennedy Half Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy,” was the result of five years of research, and it examines the findings of the Warren Commission and House Select Committee on Intelligence on Kennedy’s death as well as the ways that Kennedy’s successors invoked him in their own presidencies.
Sabato said the other important takeaway from the book was debunking one of the most widely cited conclusions of a conspiracy in Kennedy’s death, the conclusion by the House committee that a police recording proves there were more gunshots than Lee Harvey Oswald could have fired.
“The second finding clearly is the assassination one, because there has been so much cynicism generated about the assassination and so many of the theories are just bogus, they’re just completely wrong. Now we haven’t eliminated all possibilities, but we certainly have taken one right off the table,” Sabato said.
In a preview of the book to POLITICO, Sabato unveiled Monday that a key piece of evidence used by the House committee investigating Kennedy’s assassination to support a conspiracy theory about his death was disproven by his research.
Sabato’s study found that an audio recording from a police officer’s motorcycle that purportedly captured the sound of four gunshots, none from the grassy knoll, was actually nothing of the sort. The police officer was more than two miles away from the motorcade where investigators had previously placed him, Sabato said, and the sounds on the recording are not gunshots at all.
The audio was part of a collection of recordings of all police dispatch communications in Dallas made the day of Kennedy’s assassination, and Sabato announced Tuesday that as part of the book project, the entire 30,000-word audio and transcript of those will be released as part of an app next week.
On Tuesday, Sabato said that his research also confirmed that the Warren Commission’s investigation into Kennedy’s death was inadequate, and a definitive explanation of the day’s events is likely lost forever. In rushing to release findings that confirmed what they wanted to believe, Sabato said, the Warren Commission’s actions have left us with as many questions than answers.
“The many inadequacies of the Warren Commission have condemned us as a nation to 50 years of unending suspicions and cynicism about the assassination,” Sabato said. While the American public was willing to pay whatever it took and wait as long as needed for the commission’s findings, “instead the Warren Commission’s shortcuts and hidden deceptions have led to a half century of second guessing and a cavernous credibility gap.”
Sabato said while he believes Oswald fired the shots that killed Kennedy, Americans will likely never know if he acted alone or was encouraged or supported in his actions by anyone else.
A key missing piece of the puzzle, Sabato said, are documents from the CIA and FBI that are sealed until October 2017, and he urged the public to do its part to ensure that release isn’t blocked, including asking all 2016 presidential candidates whether they will seek to prevent the release of any of the documents.
“No one can write the definitive book on this subject without examining those documents,” Sabato said.
The book and app are part of the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ larger Kennedy Legacy Project, which also includes an online course, a website and a forthcoming PBS documentary.
Source and special thanks: Politico