Heartfelt reasons, however crazed, certainly are compelling. They can even be loving in this bloody context. Fromme and Hinckley sing an impassioned duet, “Unworthy of Your Love,” to serial killer Manson and fetching young film star Foster, respectively. Sometimes they are over the top (Fromme: “You are wind and devil and God”) and sometimes relatable (Hinckley: “Set me free — how can I turn your love to me?”).
Smart lyrics. In “The Gun Song,” Booth and Czolgosz express praise and wonder at the invention: “All you have to do is squeeze your little finger. Ease your little finger back — you can change the world!” The above survey of impulses for killing a president doesn’t include racist hatred, so deeply embedded in the psyche of this country that death threats to Barack Obama began when he was a senator. Thank goodness, and the Secret Service, that Assassins seems historical rather than out-of-date.