Tuesday Reads: 11/22/63

John and Jackie Kennedy on November 22, 1963

Today is the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Every year reams of material about media that long ago day are produced by the media. But even though a congressional investigation determined that a conspiracy was behind the murder of JFK, the media narrative never changes: most writers claim that Oswald was the only person involved.

In my opinion, if Oswald killed Kennedy, he could not have done it alone. If you watch the videos of the assassination, it’s very clear that bullets hit Kennedy from both back and front. Witnesses reported hearing three shots. Witnesses at the scene ran toward the “grassy knoll,” the direction from which shots came. I think Oswald was a patsy, as he himself claimed after his arrest. A great deal of evidence has been released over the years, and a number of books have been published that clearly demonstrate that powerful forces wanted JFK dead. But the media continues to defend the “lone gunman” theory, because if the truth were publicly acknowledged, they would have to admit that there was in fact a coup in the U.S. 48 years ago today.

I don’t know who was really behind the assassination of course, but I suspect rogue elements in the CIA, the FBI, and possibly the military. Obviously we will never know for sure, because the cover-up began immediately after the murder–in Dallas, where doctors saw wounds that were apparently tampered with before the official autopsy took place at Bethesda Naval Hospital–at which federal agents refused to allow the President brother Bobby to attend, according to David Talbot’s book Brothers: The Secret History of the Kennedy Years.

Talbot also wrote that neither Bobby Kennedy nor Jackie Kennedy ever believed that Oswald had killed JFK. Bobby immediately suspected the CIA, which Jack Kennedy had vowed to “splinter…into a thousand pieces and scatter to the winds.” Bobby also suspected that Lyndon Johnson was involved.

One of RFK’s goals in running for President was to reopen the investigation into the JFK assassination. But we all know what happened to Bobby.

Richard Nixon was obsessed with finding out what happened to JFK, and he once “joked” about LBJ being involved.

All I know is that Johnson didn’t want anyone looking too closely at what had happened. He wanted the “investigation” to be wrapped up very quickly. President Johnson

immediately set up a commission to “ascertain, evaluate and report upon the facts relating to the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy.” Johnson asked Warren if he would be willing to head the commission. Warren refused but it was later revealed that Johnson blackmailed him into accepting the post. In a telephone conversation with Richard B. Russell Johnson claimed: ” Warren told me he wouldn’t do it under any circumstances… I called him and ordered him down here and told me no twice and I just pulled out what Hoover told me about a little incident in Mexico City… And he started crying and said, well I won’t turn you down… I’ll do whatever you say.”

Not a very auspicious beginning for a thorough, unbiased investigation.

I’m by no means an expert on the assassination literature, although I’ve read several recent scholarly books about it in recent years. For anyone who is interested, I recommend reading some of what Joseph Cannon has written on the subject over the years.

What I think is that on that day in November 48 years ago there was essentially a coup, and after that Presidents knew that if they really tried to take on the CIA, they might end up dead like John and Bobby Kennedy did. The longer I live and the more I see what has happened to our government, the more strongly I believe this.

I do not by any means consider Jack Kennedy to be a “great President.” His time in office was far too short to permit a real evaluation. I honestly don’t care about Kennedy’s sex life or about his relationship with his wife Jackie. I don’t believe either Jack or Jackie was a saint or a villain. I think they were flawed human beings. But I do know that when they were in the White House, there was a sense of hope in the country. There was a feeling of a new beginning, of new possibilities. And I know that those feelings died with Jack Kennedy on 11/22/63.

Kennedy had signed an order to remove the American advisers from Vietnam, but Johnson immediately reversed the order. He plunged the country into a bitter bloody war. He also did some good things. He managed to get Congress to pass some of the legislation that Kennedy had championed like the Civil Rights Bill and Medicare. But Vietnam brought LBJ down and then we got Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan, and Bush I. We had a bit of a respite with Clinton, but Bush II managed to wreak as much or more destruction as Reagan had. How would things be different today if Kennedy had lived? We’ll never know, of course; but the country has sure gone to hell since he died.

There will be hundreds of articles about JFK’s death published. I’ll link to just a few that I’ve read recently.

Famed horror writer Stephen King has written a fantasy novel in which a man travels back in time to a few years before the assassination in order to try to stop Oswald and save JFK and America (King is convinced that Oswald acted alone).

On one end is 2011. An unpopular diner has finally been bought out by L. L. Bean. The diner — and the time portal inside it — may last a few more weeks in the footprint of a burned textile mill.

On the other end is America under Eisenhower. The mill churns out white smoke. “Vertigo” is showing at the outdoor movie theater — on its first run. The Kennebec Fruit Company isn’t a curio for tourists; it sells oranges. And John Kennedy, the young senator from Massachusetts, is still alive.

The rules of the rabbit hole into the past are outlined in the first pages of the novel. Al Templeton, the owner of the diner, explains them to Jake Epping, an English teacher at the local high school. Walk to the back of the pantry. Mind the 60-watt bulb overhead. Expect the smell of sulfur. And keep walking until you feel your foot fall.

Suddenly you’re back on Sept. 9, 1958. It’s 11:58 a.m. There are, Al says, only two conditions. One, it’s not a one-way trip. It doesn’t have to be. But when you return, no matter how long you’ve stayed in the past — two days, five years, whatever — only two minutes have gone by in the present. Two, each time you go back to the past, there is a reset. Like a Magic Slate. It’s 11:58 a.m., and everything you did on your previous trip has been erased.

I haven’t read the novel, but Frank Rich has, and he’s written a lengthy article in New York Magazine in which he argues that Kennedy faced a barrage of right-wing hatred similar to that directed at President Obama in 2011.

At the two-year mark of February 1963, the Times Washington bureau chief James Reston lamented that the “exuberant optimism of the first few months of the Kennedy administration” had given way “to doubt and drift” in a Washington nearing “the point of paralysis.” The president, Reston wrote, was “a moderate confronted by radical facts,” among them “a whopping budget deficit and an alarming army of the unemployed.” Kennedy was in “trouble both with the conservatives who think he has gone too far and the liberals who think he has not gone far enough.”

Unlike Obama, JFK enjoyed consistently high poll numbers, still hovering near a 60 percent approval rating in November 1963. But that fall, both Newsweek and Look speculated he could lose his bid for reelection in 1964. The hatred he aroused, while from a minority of voters, was heated and ominous. On Sunday, November 24, 1963, the Times was packed with elegiac coverage of the leader who had been slain that Friday. But the No. 1 book on the nonfiction best-seller list, as it had been for weeks, was JFK: The Man & the Myth, by Victor Lasky, a newspaperman who would years later enjoy a second vogue on the right as a die-hard Nixon defender after Watergate. Lasky’s thick slash-and-burn Kennedy book, which even questioned his World War II heroism as the skipper of PT-109, was a precursor of the Swift Boat hatchet job on John Kerry.

Rich writes of Stephen King’s novel:

But another controversy from the assassination—one that has never received remotely the attention generated by the endless “grassy knoll” and “second gunmen” debates—is forcefully revived by King: the role played in Oswald’s psyche by the torrid atmosphere of political rage in Dallas, where both Lady Bird Johnson and Adlai Stevenson had been spat upon by mobs of demonstrators in notorious incidents before Kennedy’s fateful 1963 trip. As the time-traveling Epping gets settled in that past, he describes an inferno of seething citizens, anti-Semitic graffiti on Jewish storefronts, and angry billboards demanding the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and equating racial integration with communism. That last one, King’s protagonist observes, “had been paid for by something called The Tea Party Society.”

That “Tea Party Society” is the novelist’s own mischievous invention, but the rest of his description is accurate. King’s touchstone is The Death of a President, by William Manchester, a meticulous biographer and historian who was chosen by Jacqueline Kennedy to write the authorized account of the assassination. Manchester received cooperation from almost every conceivable party, the Warren Commission included, but after the Kennedy camp read the manuscript and objected to the disparaging treatment of Lyndon Johnson, as well as some (G-rated) domestic details about the First Couple, Mrs. Kennedy filed a quixotic injunction to halt publication. Her brief, failed effort only enhanced the book’s blockbuster appeal; soon after its release in 1967, The Death of a President became arguably more prominent than the Bible in middle-class American households. In his afterword to 11/22/63, King says he was “deeply impressed—and moved, and shaken” when rereading it. It’s hard to disagree. But what also struck me in a rereading was Manchester’s stern rejection of one major Warren Commission finding. Though he was onboard for its conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin, he did not buy its verdict that there was “no evidence” of any connection between Oswald’s crime and Dallas’s “general atmosphere of hate.”

Manchester is uncharacteristically contentious about this point. He writes that “individual commissioners had strong reservations” about exonerating Dallas but decided to hedge rather than stir up any controversy that might detract from the report’s “widest possible acceptance.” While Manchester adds that “obviously, it is impossible to define the exact relationship between an individual and his environment,” he strongly rejected the universal description of Oswald as “a loner.” No man, he writes, is quarantined from his time and place. Dallas was toxic. The atmosphere was “something unrelated to conventional politics—a stridency, a disease of the spirit, a shrill, hysterical note suggestive of a deeply troubled society.”

The ultra-right wing hasn’t really changed all that much–but today the haters are mainstream, treated by the media as “moderates.” In JFK’s day they were in the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan; today they control the Republican Party.

Here’s an interesting piece by Edward Lane of Wichita Falls, TX: Who Really Killed President John F. Kennedy?

Although many eyewitnesses said they thought the gunfire came from a grassy knoll in front of the President’s automobile, the Warren Commission determined the shots came from the Texas School Book Depository Building behind Kennedy. The Commission also said a lone gunman fired all the shots.

The Warren Commission, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, in 1964 ordered that much of its records be sealed for 75 years until 2039.

Why all the secrecy if, in fact, the government wanted the American people to be confident that they were getting the truth?

Although many eyewitnesses said they thought the gunfire came from a grassy knoll in front of the President’s automobile, the Warren Commission determined the shots came from the Texas School Book Depository Building behind Kennedy. The Commission also said a lone gunman fired all the shots.

The Warren Commission, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, in 1964 ordered that much of its records be sealed for 75 years until 2039.

One Wichita Falls man today speculated as to why there was need for secrecy until the year 2039.

He said he was puzzled by the need to keep the public in the dark for so long.

“Evidently they want to wait until everybody is dead before they release those records. Who are they protecting?” he asked, as he thought about one of the darkest days in American history.

Most of the sealed records belong to the CIA and will automatically become public in 2017.

And why are “long lost tapes” related to the assassination still turning up?

The tape is titled “Radio Traffic involving AF-1 in flight from Dallas, Texas to Andrews AFB on November 22, 1963.”

It consists of in-flight radio calls between the aircraft, the White House Situation Room, Andrews Air Force Base, and a plane that was carrying Kennedy press secretary Pierre Salinger and six Cabinet members from Hawaii to Tokyo when the president was assassinated.

Many Americans are unaware that there was an attempt to assassinate JFK by a New Hampshire man only a month before he was murdered in Dallas. A week later there was another foiled attempt in Chicago. Neither involved Lee Harvey Oswald.

This post is getting way too long, so I’ll end there. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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30 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: 11/22/63”

  1. janicen says:

    November 22 is also the one year anniversary of the passing of my Aunt Connie. I just wanted to give a nod to an inspiring woman who had a large impact on my life. I’m so glad I was able to be at her side during the final days of her 96 years on this earth. RIP Connie.

    I agree with your assessment of the Kennedy assassination. There is more to be known. I remember many years ago watching a show about it on PBS. In the show, it was explained that the reason for Nixon’s reputation for paranoia was that he knew that the CIA was involved in the assassination, and he was terrified of them. The show also connected the Watergate break in with the conspiracy. If you recall, many of the players involved in that were names that came up in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. If I remember correctly, these men believed that the Democrats had info in their safe that connected the CIA to the Kennedy assassination and hence the break in.

    • bostonboomer says:

      There definitely is a relationship between the JFK assassination and Watergate. HL Hunt is on of the main ones.

      • trixta says:

        Wonderful article! And, yes, HL Hunt appears to have been involved, according to a deathbed confession to his son: http://www.rense.com/general76/hunt.htm
        In my own way, I commemorate JFK on November 22 each year. The future and promise of this country was robbed on that fateful day.

        I do have one quibble, however. IMHO, the right wing vitriol against President Clinton was far worse than the push back from the so-called Tea Party (which by the way was hijacked by the Republican Party as a way to tame it. And the msm made sure to demonize it too.). As I recall, the vitriol in the 90s congealed into a blatant conspiracy against Clinton by any means necessary. Character assassination (esp. via MS-NBC and Fox, but CNN too) and impeachment was their weapon of choice. Even the phrase CDS — Clinton Derangement Syndrome — emerged into the American lexicon as a result. IMHO, the current Republican push back against BO is rather tame. And BO has the media on his side to boot! In any case, BO has not only continued, but enhanced GWB’s policies. (I always wondered why Donna Brazile and Karl Rove were email buddies before and during the 2008 Primaries.)

        With regard to the Tea Party, the original populist movement for smaller government also included many Dems (esp. over 50 years of age) as a result of Obamacare — all of whom were protesting against the new Health Care law (and the robbing of Medicare to pay for it) at town hall meetings. As a result, the Democratic politicians stopped their town hall meetings. (I also recall Obama shills Sebelius and McCaskill claiming that Medicare was no longer necessary.) The original TeaPartiers have wanted (and still want) nothing to do with the Republican Party and its establishment elites (Rove, et al.) Even Ralph Nader recognizes the populist strain from the hijacked Republican Party strain.

      • janicen says:

        Yes, yes, and yes, trixta. I used to say the same thing during the Clinton “assassination”, at least with Clinton they were only guilty of character assassination. Not so with Kennedy.

  2. Delphyne says:

    I remember that day vividly. I was almost 14 and in school. The teacher broke the news to us and then broke down crying. We were all sent home for the day and school was also closed for the funeral so that we could watch it on TV. The shock, disbelief and sorrow in everyone was palpable, and watching Oswald get shot on television just added to the unreality of it for me.

    Wonderful post, BB – it wasn’t too long at all. In fact, it left me wanting more! I’m looking forward to reading all of the links.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I was about the same age, Delphyne. I lived in a very conservative town in Indiana, but everyone in my hs was crying, and when I left I saw people crying on the streets. Most people today can’t imagine people feeling like that about a president.

      • HT says:

        Wonderful article BB. I too was a 13 year old and remember it vividly, even though I’m a Canuck. Came home from school with a friend expecting to watch Jungle Jay Nelson on Buffalo TV, and found ongoing news coverage about the assassination. It was terrible and left both of us in tears. My parents came home later and were distraught, as was everyone else I knew. He represented Hope in a way that the current occupant of the WH can only dream about. Don McLean was incorrect – the music really died in 1962.

      • HT says:

        Oops, I meant 1963.

      • Branjor says:

        I was 10 at the time, not quite 11. It wasn’t announced in school. I heard it on the street after school. I was a little young at the time to understand the impact of JFK’s assassination on the country’s morale, but I sensed that it was very sad. People crying. I had never heard of “Lyndon Johnson” until that day.

      • Fannie says:

        Me three, living in New Orleans………As a matter of fact, a friend just mailed me a gift, Chris Matthews book on JFK………………haven’t opened it yet.

  3. Pilgrim says:

    Boomer, your articles are always so well written and interesting to read.

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    I’m one of those convinced that Oswald acted alone. A lucky shot by an unhappy, disgruntled young man who only a short time before tried to shoot aTexas Right Wing looney and fell short of the mark.

    A failing marriage, an undistinguised military career, a dysfunctional upbringing, and a useless attempt to live in the Soviet Union, this unemployed nobody living in a rooming house with a wife and two children he had difficulty supporting, led to him trying to make a name for himself by whatever means.

    This anniversary of that day in Dallas is illustrative of how time flies. America lost whatever “innocence” it had that day which has led to the unfolding the events that has passed since that time.

  5. Boo Radly says:

    Looked forward to finding your post on this anniversary – going to read all the links. Thanks BB – you do this so well.

  6. janicen says:

    Wow. Mittens’ first TV ad has a blatant lie in it. What’s going on here? It is sure starting to feel like we are having Obama served up to us on a silver platter.

    http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/11/21/374147/breaking-first-romney-tv-ad-falsely-presents-mccain-campaign-quote-as-obamas/

    • bostonboomer says:

      Sometimes I wonder if the Republicans must have a conspiracy to reelect him.

      • quixote says:

        When I have my foily hat on (Looks nice, doesn’t it?) I think the Repugs see this as an opportunity:

        1) Obama can be trusted to advance the corporate agenda. No problem there.

        2) He’s an incumbent, so his chances of winning are fairly good anyway. No point sinking money and political capital into a losing cause.

        3) After four more years, B0 and the Ds will be so hated, the Rs have a good chance at sweeping everything. A win.

        4) By giving the loonies what and who they want this time, and then having him lose big, they can tell them to shut up and vote during the election that matters in 2016. Shutting up the Tea Party would be a Big Win.

        So it’s a win-win-win-win. It makes perfect sense to me that the Republican mainstream strategists / oppo researchers may be glad to stand back and let the crazzies run their course and lose.

      • Gregory says:

        Quixote, I guess it seems like a win-win-win-win scenario to them except everybody loses. If all of these power brokers and strategists think that trashing the country so that they can win an election then they are repugnant in the extreme and I consider them to be traitors to our country. It is country 1st, always!

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Please keep this in mind. JFK fired Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA, over his role in the Bay of Pigs, which was planned under Eisenhower. It happened just a few months after he took office, and he wasn’t at all happy about it. Then after Kennedy was murdered, LBJ appointed Dulles to the Warren Commission, and Dulles pretty much controlled the “investigation.” Important witnesses like Jack Ruby weren’t even called to testify! Other witnesses claim that if what they had to report wasn’t in line with the preconceived narrative, they were ignored or threatened.

  8. dakinikat says:

    Megyn Kelly Calls Pepper Spray a ‘Food Product, Essentially’

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/11/megyn-kelly-calls-pepper-spray-a-food-product.html

    There’s a really funny twitter channel up now with stuff like this:

    “Beheadings: They’re really close haircuts, essentially!” #fakemegynkelly

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Pregnant woman kicked in the stomach by Seattle cop and then pepper sprayed has miscarried.

    http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/11/21/pregant-woman-blasted-with-pepper-spray-by-spd-reportedly-miscarries

    • Gregory says:

      Oh my, that is so sad. I wonder if the fetus worshipers will want that policeman to be prosecuted. I am betting, NOT! Hypocrisy is the American way.

  10. foxyladi14 says:

    I also think there was essentially a coup.

  11. Riverbird says:

    In November 1963 I was a young typist at a stock brokerage. Active in the civil rights movement in my free time, I felt uncomfortable around the right-wing brokerage employees. For example, they passed around copies of “None Dare Call It Treason,” a book explaining how the author believed communists had infiltrated the US government. The John Birch Society was a popular organization at the brokerage.

    The morning of November 22, I heard shouts and laughter coming from the big office where the brokers had their desks. I went there and heard someone bellow, “They should have shot Jackie too!” Not all of the brokers were happy, but no one seemed sad that the president had been shot and, as we learned a short time later, killed.

    I went home, got together with friends, and we cried all weekend. My boss, head of research at the brokerage, fired me a week or two later.

    • bostonboomer says:

      What a heartbreaking story! I remember that book, None Dare Call It Treason. The John Birch Society was big in the town I lived in. I’m glad you got away from those creeps–hope you were able to get another job quickly.