“What a good question.”
Those words, uttered earlier this morning by Dan Rather during a two-hour interview with George Noory on syndicated radio program Coast to Coast AM, were in response to the host’s hypothetical about how John F. Kennedy might have fared as a 2016 presidential candidate. “Reporters are so aggressive nowadays,” noted Noory, “and it’s no secret that Kennedy was a womanizer, his administration supported assassinating other government leaders. There’s several people they went after, two of them they got. They tried to get Fidel Castro, did not. Would he make it as a politician today? With his lifestyle?”
Rather thinks yes. “Look at the case of Donald Trump,” he said. “I don’t mean this critically or opposing him, but Trump’s personal history is not the kind of personal history that you’d expect a presidential campaign to have. Since a Donald Trump can make it today, with the baggage that he has, I think that John Kennedy not only would be effective but he would be a tremendous campaigner today, because he wouldn’t have to keep some of these secrets. For example, the womanizing.”
“Remember, Nelson Rockefeller got knocked out of the presidential nomination in 1964 because he was in the process of divorcing,” Rather continued. “And Gary Hart got knocked out in 1986. These days, here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, and that kind of thing, not only does it not knock you out, but there’s some present evidence that it might even help you.”
“With all of his personal political skills, a John Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan, the kind of candidates who have a certain magic about them. My contention is they would do well at any time, under any circumstance.”
When Noory took a few calls, one listener asked if the Texas newsman, now 84, thinks there was more than one shooter in Dallas in 1963. Rather answered that he believes the evidence is overwhelming that Lee Harvey Oswald was “a shooter and the only shooter.” On the topic of Oswald being part of a larger conspiracy to kill Kennedy, Rather admitted he is open-minded and that evidence may present itself in future years. But at this moment, he feels the weight of the evidence confirms that no one who knew Oswald conspired with the shooter on the assassination.
Rather agreed with Noory’s astonishment at the current presidential campaign, commenting that he’s never seen anything like 2016, dating all the way back to his first coverage of a campaign in 1952. Right down to the fact that Trump and Hillary Clinton have the highest negatives, in combination, of any candidates in modern presidential history. Rather first encountered Clinton and Trump in, respectively, the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“In 2000, Trump was making noises about running for President, and I did a 60 Minutes II report about him which he didn’t like,” Rather recalled. “So things got a bit frosty after that. But I will tell you two things about him. One, Donald Trump is smart. He brags about being smart, and that’s not very attractive. He’ll tell you in a minute how great he is. But he is smart. And he is a strategic thinker.”
“Hillary Clinton is so much different in person from what she projects on TV. In person, she’s a very personable personality. She relates to people very, very well. She listens; she’s a very good listener in person. She is also smart, very smart… She doesn’t project on television anywhere near what she projects in person.”
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