By Rich Zeoli

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Years of forensic examination and scientific research have consistently shown that Oswald, and Oswald alone, fired the shots that killed the 35th president of the United States.

Yet the conspiracy theories persist. I forget who said it or where I heard it, but someone wisely concluded that the idea that a loser like Oswald could have singlehandedly destroyed Camelot is simply too much for us to accept. JFK was the embodiment of American idealism. Young, brave, heroic, with a beautiful family and vibrant years ahead of him. Oswald was a broke wife beater. No way he could have done this alone. So we invest in conspiracy theories to help us cope. But deep down we know the truth. It wasn’t the Russians, or the CIA, or the mafia. It was a down on his luck Marxist sympathizer who murdered one of the most admired presidents in American history.

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But the second gunman on the grassy knoll persists because denial is a wonderful psychological tool.

Much is the same with President Donald J. Trump and the left’s Russia conspiracies. In their minds, the idea that this reality star with an itchy Twitter trigger finger could have beaten Hillary Clinton, a former United States senator and secretary of state, is simply too much for them to swallow. So they invent conspiracy theories to help them cope. But deep down, they know it’s true. She was an awful candidate who took Michigan and Wisconsin for granted; failed to connect with white working-class voters; and created a massive scandal by choosing to keep a private email server.

But let’s blame the Russians. Or the mafia. Or the CIA. Or all of the above. Because how could this guy with zero political experience and a knack for saying crude things to Billy Bush have beaten her when all the polls showed this election was a lock. It was her time and he was just so offensive! So it had to be the Russians who…

Who did what exactly?

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That’s the part no one seems to be able to answer. Even if it turns out that Carter Page, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort are secret investors in a Russian Mafia Putin Vodka syndicate, it doesn’t change the fact that Trump won the election fair and square. No one has even been able to offer a credible accusation that Trump did something with Russia that affected the outcome of the election. But the conspiracy theories persist because denial is a wonderful grieving tool.

I have no doubts the Russians were rooting for Trump. So what? It doesn’t mean they did anything that affected the outcome of the election. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but Putin didn’t keep Hillary from campaigning in Wisconsin. Putin didn’t convince Hillary it was smart politics to say she’d put coal miners out of work. Ol’ Vlad didn’t suggest hiring a novice like Robby Mook to run a social justice warrior campaign that made the white working-class the bad guys.

And it was Hillary Clinton, all by herself, who decided to use a private email server, though I have no doubts the Russians found that particularly amusing.

Trump won the election all by himself (with the help tens of millions of dedicated supporters and a very effective campaign team) but blame the Russians and ignore the lessons of history.

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Conspiracy really can be a wonderful coping mechanism.