Papa Joe and Booze
The Kennedy dynasty was founded in part on the bootleg whiskey trade during Prohibition. The family patriarch, Joseph Kennedy, was a rumrunner during the Golden Age of the mob. He was an associate of none other than Frank Costello and Meyer Lansky. He was part owner of a racetrack and a heavy gambler. Even after Prohibition his mob ties continued. This came into play during his son's ascension to the White House and may also have played a role in the assassination.
Joseph Kennedy lived to bury three of his sons (Joseph Jr., John, and Robert), plus endure many other family tragedies, including a crippling stroke that left him paralyzed and speechless in his last years. This was after he promised the Mafia to reign in his son Bobby's crusade against organized crime. He was never able to fulfill that promise to the mob.
Like many men with mob ties, Joe Kennedy craved respectability. His fortune was made in the underworld of violence and criminality, and he pushed his sons to succeed in the legitimate world. In 1938 he was appointed ambassador to the Court of St. James (a fancy phrase for England) by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This was ironic because Kennedy came to America as a poor Irish immigrant, and the relations between the English and the Irish had been strained over the millennia. Kennedy had to resign after he advocated the policy of appeasement regarding Nazi Germany. This gave him the reputation as a Nazi sympathizer at a time when Roosevelt was inclined to enter the war as an ally to Great Britain against Hitler. The Kennedy name became tarnished, but better days were on the horizon.
Sins of the Father
Joseph Kennedy's firstborn son, his namesake and the first one on whom he had transferred his dreams, died during World War II. The burden then fell on his second son, John F. Kennedy. A hero in that same war, he was elected to the House of Representatives and then later the Senate. As a senator, he announced his intentions to seek the presidency in the election of 1960.
His opponent was Richard Nixon, who had served as vice president for eight years under the popular Republican president Dwight Eisenhower. In addition to his formidable wealth and good looks, Kennedy had an arsenal in the liberal glitterati of Hollywood. And foremost among the constellation of stars was Frank Sinatra and his pals.
Rumble in West Virginia
John Kennedy had one significant obstacle in his quest for the White House — he was a Catholic. There was a strong anti-Catholic sentiment among some, particularly in the Bible Belt Protestant South. The ostensible fear was that JFK would be taking his orders from the pope in Vatican City.
John Kennedy's main opponent in the Democratic primaries was Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey. Beating Humphrey in Southern states was key, and the primary in West Virginia (a state that was 95 percent Protestant) was seen as a make-or-break vote for Kennedy. It would take a miracle for the New England Catholic to score a win in this unfriendly land. Divine or diabolical intervention was required.
One assassination conspiracy theory places the blame on right-wing oil men in Texas who were not fond of Kennedy's religion or politics. Some of these shadowy characters also pop up theories involving the Mafia, Lyndon Johnson, and anti-Castro Cuban groups.
The rumor is that Joe Kennedy persuaded Frank Sinatra to ask his “friends” to use their influence to help JFK win the primary. Sinatra approached his pal, Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. Giancana exerted pressure on the rank and file of the Teamsters and other unions to vote for Kennedy. This may have made the difference. JFK won the primary, Hum-phrey bowed out of the race, and JFK was assured the nomination of the Democratic Party.
One Brief Shining Moment
Kennedy beat Nixon in what was the closest election in history until the 2000 Bush versus Gore contest. And he allegedly had help with it, too. Mobster Sam Giancana, Mayor Richard Daley, and other allegedly crooked politicians in the city of Chicago supposedly stuffed ballot boxes to ensure a Democratic victory. Similar deceit is said to have occurred in Texas. Even with their help, the difference was only about 100,000 votes. John Fitzgerald Kennedy became president.
John Kennedy's decision to make his brother Robert the attorney general of the United States was a very controversial move. Many Washington insiders despised the Kennedy family, and in their eyes this was just another example of the unrestrained arrogance of the patrician Kennedy clan.