Editor’s note: A version of this essay was delivered at a symposium on “The Kennedy Phenomenon” on November 19, 2013. Additional papers from the symposium will be published in future issues of The New Criterion.

The fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination presents us with a flood of books and television documentaries retelling a story that has become so familiar that it almost seems like a nursery rhyme—a very torqued and twisted nursery rhyme. But this prodigality of media seems less a definitive act than an efflorescence of despair at the prospect of really understanding this familiar stranger whose death and transfiguration are always so much with us. Kennedy contains...

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