One of the most compelling underlying forces fueling Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories stems from the unconscious unwillingness of the American people to believe that an impotent loser like Lee Harvey Oswald could so profoundly and permanently alter history. A great man and a farsighted visionary like Kennedy, the idea goes, demands an evil genius of equivalent greatness and vision to bring him down. Either that or a vast conspiracy.
Whatever you may believe about the forces behind the Kennedy assassination, the notion that nothing less than a Samson is needed to shift the pillars of the earth is potent but false. Fools really do kill great people for foolish reasons. The murder of an Archduke really can start horrible and devastating wars. A stomach ailment really did inconvenience Bonaparte at Waterloo and decided the history of Europe for the next two centuries. And sixty-two million Americans really did vote for a moron for President of the United States.
We could adduce his spelling mistakes, we could remind you of his numerous fugue state-inspired word salad-infused rhapsodies on topics he knows absolutely nothing about, we could wax lyrical on the findings of the Dunning-Kruger effect. But on Monday, Trump himself handed us the most elegant exemplar of all, of how we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the President of the United States is an idiot – when he told us he must meet with Vladimir Putin for 90 minutes in Helsinki without witness or recording device because he wants to “avoid leaks.”
That is not the rationale of a man with contempt for his listeners, but of a man who has such misplaced confidence in his own intelligence that he thinks his explanation is plausible. With the chutzpah of J Edgar Hoover, and barely one third the intelligence, Donald Trump really does think he’s fooled us yet again. Hell, let’s face it, some of us really do want him to be smart. Because the alternative is almost too horrible to be contemplated: there is a lout, a loser, a complete craven crybaby, a pissant little fool in the Oval Office today. And we put him there.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.