Carlyle Group’s Latest Acquisition: the JFK Library (!)

Some things you truly cannot make up. Like this: the museum and archives celebrating and exploring the life (if not really wanting to investigate the death) of John F. Kennedy is getting a facelift—courtesy of….the Carlyle Group.

This development was noted, without much fanfare, in a variety of major media. If there was a smidgen of irony, I missed it.

Yet, consider this: The ultimate globe-girdling corporation is playing a major role in preserving the memory of a president who at the time of his death was engaged in what may be described as mortal combat with outfits not unlike Carlyle—if smaller and less global. (I write about this in my book Family of Secrets but you can learn a lot more about JFK versus the corporations in Donald Gibson’s Battling Wall Street: The Kennedy Presidency.)

[amazon asin=1608190064&template=*lrc ad (left)]Kennedy was locked in grim battle with oil and steel and banking interests, hated by mining giants and soda pop companies, resisting pressures from the burgeoning defense industry, and on and on. The list of the offending and the aggrieved was endless. Executives were taking out ads to excoriate him, and even showing up at the White House to practically spit in his face.

“Those robbing bastards,” JFK told Walter Heller, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, when Heller mentioned the oil and gas industry. “I’m going to murder them.”—as cited in Family of Secrets, from audiotape held by John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

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Why is the museum getting a facelift? Apparently, it is to “enhance the visual and interactive offerings.”

Does none of it have to do with the still-mysterious fire that broke out at the museum complex in Boston at approximately the same time as the bombings of the Boston Marathon? Initial news reports suggested that the fire might somehow be linked to the bombings, an event that led to the precedent-setting lockdown of a major American city in a military-style operation.

As with, well, practically everything about that day, we have since been assured that there was in fact no deeper mystery regarding the museum fire—that its cause was accidental and its timing a coincidence. And of course it may well have been, though I (a past user of the archives’ services) was struck by what seemed like a sheepish lack of openness on the part of library personnel when I made inquiries. Call it a reporter’s instincts.

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