About a month ago, Biden delayed for at least a year the release of papers and records pertaining to the JFK assassination, absurdly citing concerns about the Covid-19 Pandemic. Via the NY Times:
The pandemic has created backlogs for multiple federal agencies, resulting in pileups of visa applications, unprocessed Social Security benefits and backlogs in F.D.A. inspections.
On Friday, the White House announced another administrative casualty: a delay in the release of a trove of records related to the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy.
The White House statement, signed by President Biden, did not make clear exactly how the coronavirus had delayed the release of the records, which must be released to comply with a 1992 congressional act, but said that the national archivist reported that the pandemic had a “significant impact on the agencies” that need to be consulted on redactions. A National Security Council spokesman said classified material could not be viewed remotely.
The 1992 law required the government to make public the last of the Kennedy assassination documents by Oct. 26, 2017, unless the sitting president opted to withhold any for national security reasons. The Trump administration did release a trove of J.F.K. assassination records in the fall of that year. While the documents have been intriguing to researchers and conspiracy theorists alike, they have not conclusively changed the previous understanding of the assassination.
Right, so Covid, which began in 2020, is to blame for decades-old documents not being released. Sure.
Also, we’re told that the JFK assassination is Settled Science™, it was carried out by a Lone Nut™ named Lee Harvey Oswald with no accomplices; there’s absolutely no conspiracy in any way, shape or form, and this matter was settled decades ago by the Warren Commission. But also the government can’t release any documents that shed light on this assassination carried out by one man and one man alone because… reasons. And Covid.
For people who definitely, totally have nothing at all to hide, they’re certainly acting like people who have a lot to hide.
Now, of course most of the people who were likely behind the assassination have been dead for a long time. LBJ died in 1973, Curtis LeMay died in 1990, Allen Dulles died in 1969, McGeorge Bundy (hell of a name) died in 1996, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr died in 1985, Richard Helms died in 2002, Dean Rusk died in 1994, Lyman Lemnitzer died in 1988, Richard Bissell died in 1994, and J. Edgar Hoover has been dead since 1972–most of these guys were dead even before the passage of the 1992 law. This is not an exhaustive list, but those names are considered the major players behind the assassination.
But there are still direct descendants of those directly involved in the assassination alive today, and presumably they’re all prominent individuals. For example, Poppy Bush (Bush 41), who was longtime CIA and rumored to have been involved in the events in Dallas on that fateful day in 1963, is now dead, but the Bush family is still very much in the public eye.
In 2019, I wrote an in-depth post about the JFK assassination and concluded that Lyndon Johnson was behind it because he A. hated the Kennedys, B. had the most to gain from Kennedy being taken out, C. was from Texas, where the assassination was carried out, and D. was probably the most powerful and influential man in Texas at the time.
Well, obviously LBJ was living in Washington as the Vice President at the time, but you know what I mean. He was the boss of Texas back in those days–no deal was made in Texas without LBJ getting cut-in, and certainly no assassination of a President would be allowed to take place in Texas without LBJ’s say-so.
As the man calling the shots in Texas for most of the 1950s-1960s, LBJ would have been perfectly capable of arranging not only a hit, but the cover-up of the hit as well. Anybody who would need to be on-board and paid-off for a high-profile assassination–police, prosecutors, local politicians, etc.–Lyndon Johnson undoubtedly had influence over.
But the more I read about it, the more it becomes clear that while LBJ almost certainly had a central role in the assassination plot and was the primary beneficiary of it, he may not have been the ringleader–in other words, the originator of the plot. If anything, he was just the guy who rubber-stamped the plot, which originated from within the Pentagon (i.e. the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and the CIA–in other words, the Deep State.
LBJ had a whole host of motives for going along with the plot, but he may not have been the originator. The way LBJ’s role is summed up by Peter Dale Scott, who wrote a book in 1993 on the assassination, is in alleged remarks LBJ made to the Joint Chiefs: “Just get me elected and you can have your war.” They had their motives, LBJ had his, and they teamed up to take out a common enemy, JFK.
If not LBJ, then who was the ringleader? Well, it’s tough to say because it was most likely a plot devised by a number of powerful Deep State actors, the most prominent of whom I named a few paragraphs above. While all of those guys were probably involved in the plot, it’s difficult to say who was truly the ringleader, the mastermind, among them. My money would be on either Allen Dulles (former head of the CIA, fired by JFK in November 1961), Curtis LeMay (Chief of the Air Force and a complete psychopath) or J. Edgar Hoover (FBI Director since 1924). Or Maybe Lyman Lemnitzer: he was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1960-1962, and he was “reassigned” (a backdoor firing) by Kennedy after proposing to frame Cuba via a false flag attack to gin up public support for a war that would ultimately overthrow Fidel Castro and his communist government (Operation Northwoods, which only became public knowledge in 2006).
This is a photo of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1961, and it’s possible that these were the men who were central to the plot to assassinate JFK:
However, while some or all of these men probably played a prominent role in the JFK assassination, as I said earlier, they were far from the only ones involved.
I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to find out who, exactly, was the first person to bring up the idea of assassinating JFK, but I also don’t know that it really matters all that much. I think the real point is that there was a group of very powerful men within the government who wanted Kennedy gone, and they were all part of the plot to take him out. Which one of them was actually the first to vocally broach the subject to the rest of them is, to me, not quite as important as understanding that it was a group of men with shared interests who all cooperated and masterminded the assassination.
The way to think about the JFK assassination is to view it in the context of the Cold War and America’s place in the world following World War II: America went into WWII as one of the most powerful nations in the world, and it exited WWII as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. With most of Russia, Europe and Japan decimated by the war, and China in the midst of a bloody civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists, America in 1945 was the world’s sole superpower. That was when America transitioned from member of the International Community to full-blown empire–the New Rome, or as a more recent example, the new British Empire.
No longer was the American government primarily concerned with running the country–now it was running the world. And doing so is messy business. 1945 is when the America we know today was born–when everything that happened in the world became our business, and when we began meddling in just about everybody else’s affairs. The business of running a global empire and exerting influence to all the far-flung corners of the globe is quite complicated, not to mention difficult, and so it necessitated the establishment of a large, permanent military and foreign policy apparatus–one with lasting power, and not subject to the whims and pendulum swings of partisan politics.
Prior to WWII, America did not have much of a military presence–not just globally, but also domestically. That’s why there was a draft for the war, and it’s why much of the American economy had to be mobilized for the war effort–in other words, companies like Ford, General Motors and Chrysler went from producing cars to producing tanks, bomber planes and artillery rounds. At that time, there was no significant defense contracting industry–no Northrup Grumman, no Raytheon, no Lockheed Martin. At least not as we know them today. America didn’t have much of a peacetime military presence, so there was no need for a defense contracting industry. Existing industries were simply converted to military production when the need arose.
There was also no CIA prior to WWII. The US government’s intelligence activities were until that point conducted largely on a decentralized basis (in contrast with the later Central Intelligence Agency), with the executive departments of State, Treasury, War and Navy all having their own internal intelligence and “code-breaking” divisions. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the direct precursor to the CIA, was established by an FDR executive order during World War II and was helmed by legendary spymaster Wild Bill Donovan, pictured below.
The OSS later became the CIA–and a permanent government agency–after the passage of the National Security Act in 1947. (Donovan, who died in 1959, is known today as the founding father of the CIA, and was the chief visionary behind at least the CIA part of the National Security Act.) Same with the Joint Chiefs of Staff: established out of necessity during WWII, made into a permanent government fixture even during peacetime with the National Security Act of 1947. The Pentagon was built for and during World War II.
After World War II, all the institutions and agencies and industries that were crucial to the war effort were not disbanded. As we just went over with the National Security Act of 1947, they were pretty much all made permanent. America now has a large, permanent peacetime military force (the “standing army” that Thomas Jefferson warned about centuries ago). We now have a large, permanent defense contracting industry that exists solely to build weapons, vehicles and munitions for the federal government. And we have a large, permanent military/intelligence apparatus, now known today as either the Intelligence Community or the Deep State, depending on your point of view. This all came about following WWII.
Why were all these wartime measures made permanent even after both the Nazis and Imperial Japan were defeated? Well, simple: because the Communists were still out there. The Cold War began almost immediately after World War II ended. And the belief was, if America did not remain vigilant and continue imposing its will throughout the world, the whole world would fall to communism. And that could not be permitted. Additionally, in his famous 1944 book “The Road to Serfdom,” Friedrich Hayek described the birth of the military-industrial complex thusly:
“…[S]ome of the men who during the war have tasted the powers of coercive control… will find it difficult to reconcile themselves with the humbler roles they will have to play [in peaceful times].“
And thus the military industrial complex was born. And it did not take long for it to begin throwing its weight around.
By 1950, America was back at war–this time with the Chinese Communists, who had just won their long civil war with the Nationalists in 1949, in Korea. By 1953, the CIA was already in the business of overthrowing governments: their first victim being Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, whom the CIA took down in conjunction with its British equivalent, MI6, because his nationalization of Iranian oil posed a serious threat to British Petroleum, BP. It was not until 2013 that the US government formally acknowledged its involvement in overthrowing Mossadeq. The following year, the CIA overthrew the government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz–and this coup’s origins dated back to 1952, while Truman was still President. The CIA then had a hand in overthrowing the Prime Minister of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, in 1960.
The Dulles Brothers–Allen, who was in charge of the CIA from 1953-1961, and John Foster, who was the Secretary of State during the Eisenhower Administration from 1953 until his death in 1959–were basically running American foreign policy during the 1950s. The Dulles Brothers were the first real bosses of the early Deep State, and under their watch, the power of the Deep State grew enormously throughout the 1950s, so much so that by the time he was leaving office in early 1961, President Eisenhower felt compelled to warn the nation of the growing power and influence of the military industrial complex in his famous farewell address.
The important thing to remember here is that the early Deep State’s chief concerns during this time were to vigorously oppose communism all over the world, and to maintain American hegemony in the “free world” (i.e. the non-communist nations). However, even back in the 1950s, massive conflicts of interests were already becoming apparent, mainly in the form of the defense contracting industry: if the government is paying all this taxpayer money for the latest cutting-edge weapons and military technology, it’s going to want to use those new toys. That’s what Eisenhower was talking about in his farewell address.
But for our purposes here, we’ll focus mainly on the early Deep State’s ongoing fight against communism, because there were a lot of hardcore–even bloodthirsty–anticommunists populating the ranks of the Pentagon, CIA and foreign policy establishment of the 1950s.
Most Americans have heard of the CIA–they know what it is. But I doubt most Americans are fully aware of what the CIA truly does. When asked, most people would probably say the CIA are America’s spies who gather intelligence about our enemies around the world, and while that’s technically correct, the more accurate description of the CIA is that it is how America runs the world, or has run the world since the early Cold War. Most people believe the US military is how America runs the world, but in reality, the military is just the muscle–the CIA is the brain. Take the killing of Osama Bin Laden, for example: yes, the Navy SEALs conducted the mission to take him out, but it was the CIA that found his hiding place in Pakistan.
The CIA is America’s foreign intelligence agency. Officially, its task is to gather intelligence and information from around the world and present it to the elected decision-makers in Washington, who will act on it.
But early on, the CIA realized the immense power it possessed. It is literally the eyes and ears of the most powerful military the world has ever known. It has tremendous power in shaping American foreign policy, and within a few years of the CIA’s official founding in 1947, it had already gotten to the point where the CIA was not only shaping American foreign policy, but outright deciding it and carrying it out on its own. It did not take long for the CIA to become “self-aware,” and realize that not only could it inform US foreign policy, it could outright determine it.
The CIA Director is an extremely powerful person, and Allen Dulles may have been the most powerful of them all.
This is the situation John F. Kennedy stepped into when he became President in 1961. America was the superpower of the western world, but the Soviet Union was the superpower of the rest of the world, and this rivalry loomed large over just about everything. The Deep State was now nearly 20 years old and had largely taken the business of running and maintaining the American Empire (in official terms, “pursuing America’s interests”) out of the hands of the civilian government, i.e. the President and Congress. Eisenhower, however, as a former general and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during WWII, was largely in-line with both the ends and means of the Deep State in regards to American military and foreign policy. He was “their guy.” Either that, or Eisenhower had quickly lost control of the Deep State and was basically a bystander in regards to his administration’s foreign policy by the end of his 8 years in the White House. It’s probably a mixture of the two, as, again, Eisenhower did try to warn the nation of the growing power of the military industrial complex as he was leaving office, indicating the Deep State was already out of control by 1961.
JFK’s first clash with the Deep State happened almost immediately upon taking office with the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961. The Cuban Communists, led by Fidel Castro, overthrew the Fulgencio Batista regime in early 1959, nationalizing American businesses and interests on the island. Prior to Castro, the US had a very large presence in Cuba–oil, sugar, coffee, tourism, etc. (In fact from the 1920s until 1959, Cuba was the prime vacation spot for wealthy Americans. Remember in Godfather II how the Corleone family has major business interests in Cuba?) The US foreign policy establishment, again, chock-full of anti-communist “hawks,” believed that the US could not tolerate a communist government just 90 or so miles off the coast of the Florida Keys, and immediately began trying to figure out how to get rid of Castro.
By early 1960, the CIA was planning and funding the Bay of Pigs invasion, which would involve a bunch of Cuban exiles living in Miami launching an invasion of the island and, along with US air support, ultimately overthrowing Castro and restoring Fulgencio Batista to power as a US puppet regime.
But the Bay of Pigs invasion was not going to be able to be carried out before the end of Eisenhower’s term. There would be a new President by the time the Cuban exiles were trained and ready to invade. While Richard Nixon, Eisenhower’s Vice President, had been responsible for overseeing the operation, he narrowly lost the 1960 election to Kennedy, so JFK was that new president, yet the CIA was planning on carrying out the operation nonetheless. After all, Allen Dulles and his late brother John Foster had basically run US foreign policy for most of the 1950s, and they expected that to continue under the 43-year-old and seriously inexperienced new President. However, as the planned amphibious invasion was to be carried out by both sea, land (the landing of the trained exiles at the Bay of Pigs) and air (bombings carried out by the US Air Force), it was a joint effort between the CIA and the Pentagon. When the invasion was launched and the exiles landed on Cuban soil, JFK canceled the US air support, which essentially doomed the invasion to failure, due to word of the invasion reaching the news and spreading around the world.
The falling-out between the Deep State, which desperately wanted to depose Castro, and the Kennedy White House, which was both concerned with the optics of the whole thing and uncomfortable with the degree to which the Deep State was calling the shots, was almost immediate. And irreparable.
From that point on–again just a few months into Kennedy’s tenure–there was mutual distrust and resentment between the elected civilian government and the unelected “shadow” government. JFK fired Allen Dulles as CIA Director in November of 1961, which made things even worse between the two sides.
Kennedy was deeply depressed and angered with the failure. Several years after his death, The New York Times reported that he told an unspecified high administration official of wanting “to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” However, following a “rigorous inquiry into the agency’s affairs, methods, and problems… [Kennedy] did not ‘splinter’ it after all and did not recommend Congressional supervision.” Kennedy commented to his journalist friend Ben Bradlee, “The first advice I’m going to give my successor is to watch the generals and to avoid feeling that because they were military men their opinions on military matters were worth a damn.”Via Wikipedia
The Bay of Pigs disaster caused the Deep State to judge Kennedy as a weakling, a lightweight in way over his head who could not be trusted, and who would have to be circumvented and overruled when it came to US foreign policy. You can see where this is going.
In Cuba, the Bay of Pigs invasion was a massive success for the fledgling Castro regime. Castro, who to that point was having trouble establishing firm control of the island and consolidating support, became a national hero for repelling the American attack. Support for his revolutionary government skyrocketed, and Cuban animosity against the United States grew. It pushed the Cuban government into closer ties with the Soviet Union, and led directly to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, just a year-and-a-half after the Bay of Pigs.
There is a phenomenal article from 2010 written by Andrew Gavin Marshall on the JFK assassination and how it all links back to his repeated clashes with the Deep State. In addition to the Bay of Pigs, Marshall writes that in the summer of 1961, the Joint Chiefs wanted Kennedy to authorize a preemptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, which disgusted Kennedy. There was also Operation Northwoods, which Kennedy instantly rejected.
The Cuban Missile Crisis, however, may have been the final breaking point. In October 1962, US intelligence learned that the Soviets were constructing missile sites in Cuba, and this development brought the US and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war.
The Deep State, of course, led by the Joint Chiefs, wanted to bomb Cuba back to the Stone Age, and were getting dangerously impatient with Kennedy’s reluctance to start a full-fledged nuclear war:
Air Force Chief Curtis LeMay, who had been advocating nuclear war with the Soviet Union since the early 1950s, thought Cuba was a “sideshow” and told the President that the United States should “fry it.” LeMay, himself a member of the Joint Chiefs, “was in the habit of taking bullying command of Joint Chiefs meetings,” and with LeMay leading the charge for war, “the other chiefs jumped into the fray, repeating the Air Force general’s call for immediate military action.” LeMay even did something remarkable for a military official:
“He decided to violate traditional military-civilian boundaries and issue a barely veiled political threat. If the president responded weakly to the Soviet challenge in Cuba, he warned him, there would be political repercussions overseas, where Kennedy’s government would be perceived as spineless. “And I’m sure a lot of our own citizens would feel that way too,” LeMay added. With his close ties to militaristic congressional leaders and the far right, LeMay left no doubt about the political damage he could cause the administration. “In other words, you’re in a pretty bad fix at the present time,” LeMay told Kennedy.
Kennedy asked him to repeat what he said, LeMay obliged, and Kennedy retorted, “You’re in there with me.” Kennedy soon left the meeting with McNamara, “the confrontation with his top military men had clearly disturbed the commander-in-chief. Later he told an aide that the administration needed to make sure that the Joint Chiefs did not start a war without his approval, a chronic fear of JFK’s.” After Kennedy and McNamara left the meeting, a secret taping system in the office recorded the conversation between the generals, who “began profanely condemning Kennedy’s cautious, incremental approach to the crisis.”
LeMay’s right-hand man, General Tommy Power, who even LeMay regarded as “not stable,” had taken “it upon himself to raise the Strategic Air Command’s alert status to DEFCON-2, one step from nuclear war,” and ensured that the Soviets knew it. The White House was completely unaware of Power’s actions at the time.
This is why I think it’s possible LeMay was the ringleader of the assassination plot.
Ultimately, the White House–basically JFK, RFK and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara–was able to hold the Deep State wolves at bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but Kennedy was on thin ice when all was said and done:
Robert Kennedy became the conduit through which the back-channel negotiations took place with the Soviets that ultimately ended the crisis without catastrophe. Nikita Khrushchev recounted the situation in his memoirs, in which he explained that Robert Kennedy “stressed how fragile his brother’s rule was becoming as the crisis dragged on,” which struck Khrushchev as “especially urgent.” Robert Kennedy warned the Soviets that, “If the situation continues much longer, the president is not sure that the military will not overthrow him and seize power. The American army could get out of control.” Khrushchev even later wrote that, “for some time we had felt there was a danger that the president would lose control of his military,” and that, “now he was admitting this to us himself.” Thus:
“Moscow’s fear that Kennedy might be toppled in a coup, Khrushchev suggested in his memoirs, led the Soviets to reach a settlement of the missile crisis with the president. “We could sense from the tone of the message that tension in the United States was indeed reaching a critical point.”
Thirteen days after the crisis began, the Soviets announced that they would remove the missiles from Cuba, with the US agreeing to remove missiles from US bases in Turkey and “pledging not to invade Cuba,” which Kennedy and future presidents would honour. At the announcement of the end to the crisis, General LeMay roared at Kennedy, “It’s the greatest defeat in our history,” and that, “We should invade today!” A defense analyst at the Pentagon, Daniel Ellsberg, who was consulting with Air Force generals and colonels on nuclear strategy at the end of the crisis, remarked that after the settlement was reached, “there was virtually a coup atmosphere in Pentagon circles,” explaining, “not that I had the fear there was about to be a coup – I just thought it was a mood of hatred and rage. The atmosphere was poisonous, poisonous.”
Now, you could argue that it was the Soviets who started the whole Cuban Missile Crisis in the first place, so it’s not as if the Joint Chiefs were unprovoked. But as we know from the resulting deal between Kennedy and Khruschev that ended the crisis, what the Soviets really wanted was for America to remove its missile sites from Turkey, which the Soviets viewed in basically the same light as America viewed Soviet missile sites in Cuba.
After the deal was struck and the crisis defused, the Soviets realized that they would be far better off with Kennedy in charge than the Deep State. Kennedy was level-headed and sought peace, while the Deep Staters were itching for war.
But the Cuban Missile Crisis caused relations to deteriorate even further between Kennedy and the Deep State. Yet again Kennedy had gone against them, and their patience with him was running out.
1963 saw things get even worse. Kennedy delivered his famous “Peace Speech” at American University in June of 1963, making it clear that he was steadfastly committed to preventing war. Given everything going on behind the scenes in the administration, the speech was almost certainly a message to the Deep Staters constantly pounding the table for war. It was, I believe, Kennedy’s attempt to get the public on his side when it came to the Cold War, so that whenever he’d meet with the Joint Chiefs and the CIA guys, he’d be able to confidently say that he represented the will of the American people, who sought peace, not war.
But there was one part of the Peace Speech that particularly enraged the Deep State, and it was the part where Kennedy explicitly mentioned the Soviet Union and the Cold War:
Kennedy further stated, “Let us reexamine our attitude toward the Soviet Union,” suggesting an end to the Cold War, and then remarked: “We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough – more than enough – of war and hate and oppression. We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it.” Kennedy famously proclaimed, “We all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
This was not particularly to the liking of the National Security State, a proclamation for America to follow “not a strategy of annihilation, but a strategy of peace.” Kennedy even stated that America would “never start a war.” As Robert McNamara later recalled, “the American University speech laid out exactly what Kennedy’s intentions were,” and that, “If he had lived, the world would have been different, I feel quite confident of that.”
McNamara’s response here is quite interesting. We can infer from it that Kennedy had a considerably different worldview from Lyndon Johnson and the group that took over following the assassination, and that Kennedy’s death resulted in both America and the world being taken in a very different direction than it would’ve gone had Kennedy not been killed. I’m sure this is all incidental, though.
At any rate, the Peace Speech was a direct shot across the bow of the military-industrial complex–the warmongers.
However, by this time in 1963, with Cuba in the rearview mirror, the Deep State was already turning its attention to its next target: Vietnam. This would set the stage for the final confrontation between JFK and the military industrial complex.
Now it must be said that Kennedy throughout his time in office did consistently send more and more troops to Vietnam. When Eisenhower left office there were 900 US military personnel there, and Kennedy sent a further 16,000. But Kennedy’s official policy was the US presence in South Vietnam was to assist the South Vietnamese government in its war against the Communist revolutionaries, not fight them directly.
The Vietnam war of the late 1960s and early 1970s was very different from the Vietnam war of Kennedy’s time in office. If we go by total casualties, only 195 of the total 58,193 US soldiers that were killed in Vietnam died between 1956, when US military operations in Vietnam began, and the end of 1963, when Kennedy was assassinated. The bulk of the US casualties were from 1965-1971, peaking in 1968 at 16,592.
However, Kennedy’s policy of assisting and advising the South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem was, by mid-1963, pretty clearly failing. Diem, a brutal dictator who oppressed and persecuted Buddhists (I’m sure you’ve seen the famous photo of the Buddhist monk who lit himself on fire in protest–that was in South Vietnam in 1963), was both incompetent and corrupt, and the Vietcong were winning the war.
As you’d expect, there was a disagreement in Washington over what to do about Diem and the rapidly deteriorating situation in South Vietnam. The Deep State wanted to overthrow Diem, replace him with a more favorable puppet regime, and escalate the US’ role in the conflict, while Kennedy would not commit to such a plan and was instead working to cut the US’ losses and get out of Vietnam as soon as reasonably possible.
Kennedy issued National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263 on October 11, 1963, and it called for the withdrawal of 1,000 US troops from Vietnam by the end of 1963, and further stated that the “major part of the US military task can be completed by the end of 1965,” implying that the US would be pretty much out of Vietnam by that time. Kennedy wanted to put off the full withdrawal from Vietnam until after securing his reelection in 1964, because he knew he’d be slandered as weak on communism for doing it, and that would hurt him politically. NSAM 263 was kept secret from the public for a while before being revealed to the press by McNamara on November 20, 2 days before Kennedy was killed.
A few weeks after Kennedy signed NSAM 263, on November 2, 1963, Diem was overthrown in Saigon and killed by the South Vietnamese military, with CIA support. The Kennedy administration’s official position towards the Diem coup plot was hands-off, meaning don’t intervene if it happens, but also don’t facilitate it. Kennedy was reportedly “shocked and dismayed” to learn that the plotters had murdered Diem during the coup, and while he certainly wasn’t against the idea of regime change in South Vietnam, he hadn’t explicitly authorized it. The CIA had taken matters into its own hands.
Three weeks after Diem was deposed, Kennedy befell the same fate. Now obviously this is where things get murky, but what we do know is that Lyndon Johnson took over the Presidency, and the war in Vietnam was almost immediately escalated significantly.
Most of the details of how the assassination plot actually came together and was subsequently carried out are left to speculation, and likely will remain that way for some time.
The Warren Commission, which was convened by LBJ in the week following JFK’s murder, ostensibly in hopes of “getting to the bottom of it,” was a joke. There were massive conflicts of interest that should’ve invalidated the whole thing. For one, if any serious criminal investigation of the President’s murder was actually taking place, there is no way Lyndon Johnson would have been permitted to appoint the investigators of it. Lyndon Johnson, as the primary beneficiary of the murder, should have been viewed as a prime suspect. If a rich man is murdered under mysterious circumstances, aren’t the main beneficiaries in his will the prime suspects?
On top of LBJ’s involvement, there is no way Allen Dulles should’ve been a member of the 7-man Warren Commission, either. Allen Dulles was fired by JFK as CIA Director in late 1961. How on earth could he be trusted to fairly and impartially investigate JFK’s murder? He hated JFK. The Warren Commission was the cover-up crew.
The Warren Report and its conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy and did it alone is today officially considered the final word on the Kennedy assassination. Read any mainstream biography of Kennedy and it will almost invariably defer to the Warren Report as the definitive account of how and why JFK was assassinated.
However, while most Americans know about the Warren Report, what is less-known is that there was a subsequent government investigation into the Kennedy assassination undertook by a US House Select Committee on Assassinations, begun in 1976 and completed in 1978, that concluded that JFK was, in fact, probably murdered as a result of a conspiracy. Yet the HSCA further stated that the probable conspiracy did not involve the governments of the Soviet Union or Cuba, they also said the conspiracy did not involve any organized crime group, any anti-Castro group, the FBI or the CIA. The only possibility it left open was that it may have been carried out by some individual rogue members of either the mob or anti-Castro Cubans. What about senior government officials, perhaps? Well, the HSCA investigation wouldn’t dare go down that path.
An obvious question that pops up regarding the HSCA findings is regarding the “anti-Castro Cubans”: they were all heavily involved with the CIA back in the early 1960s. How can you rule out the possibility of CIA involvement if you can’t rule out the involvement of anti-Castro Cubans?
Well, if anti-Castro Cubans were in fact behind the JFK assassination, it was because they went “rogue” or something like that. But then this leaves us simply with a variant of the “lone wolf” explanation, with the only difference being that it can only be considered a “conspiracy” because it involved more than one hypothetical person. But the bottom line here is still that it had no connections to anyone in a position of power, and no greater political significance.
And of course, nobody buys that. But at the very least, the 1978 HSCA report gives us credible reason to doubt the Warren Report’s official status as the be-all, end-all account of the JFK assassination.
And as we all know, just two days after Kennedy’s assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby while in police custody, thus depriving Oswald of the opportunity to defend himself in court. The assassination was blamed on one man, and that man was dead within 48 hours of the assassination, meaning his side of the story would never see the light of day.
Now it’s certainly possible that Ruby was simply an angry and patriotic American who wanted vengeance against the man who killed the President. Let’s think about it: if a beloved President were killed, don’t you think there would be a lot of the slain President’s supporters wanting to kill the assassin? It’s entirely plausible.
But the fact remains that it was to the Deep State’s advantage that Oswald was taken out of the picture. It was a big loose end tied up. Had Oswald survived and been able to defend himself in court, the nation likely would’ve borne witness to him denying he did the killing and blaming it on God knows who. The fact that Oswald was killed so shortly after Kennedy’s assassination essentially solidified the “lone gunman theory” in the official record for good.
Ron Unz, in his 2018 article recounting of how he went from a Warren Report believer to a certified JFK Assassination Conspiracy Theorist, had this to say on the matter of Oswald and Ruby:
[E]lements of organized crime, individuals with CIA connections, and anti-Castro Cubans were probably participants in the assassination plot. Oswald seems to have been working with various anti-Communist groups and also had significant connections to U.S. intelligence, while his purported Marxism was merely a very thin disguise. With regard to the assassination itself, he was exactly the “patsy” he publicly claimed to be, and very likely never fired a single shot. Meanwhile, Jack Ruby had a long history of ties to organized crime, and surely killed Oswald to shut his mouth.
And Oswald wasn’t the only “loose end” that was tied up:
Many others may have suffered a similar fate. Conspirators daring enough to strike at the president of the United States would hardly balk at using lethal means to protect themselves from the consequences of their action, and over the years a considerable number of individuals associated with the case in one way or another came to untimely ends.
Less than a year after the assassination, JFK mistress Mary Meyer, the ex-wife of high-ranking CIA official Cord Meyer, was found shot to death in a Washington DC street-killing with no indications of attempted robbery or rape, and the case was never solved. Immediately afterwards, CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton was caught breaking into her home in search of her personal diary, which he later claimed to have destroyed.
Dorothy Kilgallen was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and television personality, and she managed to wrangle an exclusive interview with Jack Ruby, later boasting to her friends that she would break the JFK assassination case wide open in her new book, producing the biggest scoop of her career. Instead, she was found dead in her Upper East Side townhouse, having apparently succumbed to an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills, with both the draft text and the notes to her Jack Ruby chapter missing.
Shortly before Jim Garrison filed his assassination charges, his top suspect David Ferrie was found dead at age 48, possibly of natural causes, though the DA suspected foul play.
During the mid-1970s, the House Select Committee on Assassinations held a series of high-profile hearings to reopen and investigate the case, and two of the witnesses called were high-ranking mafia figures Sam Giancana and Johnny Rosselli, widely suspected of having been connected with the assassination. The former was shot to death in the basement of his home one week before he was scheduled to testify, and the body of the latter was found in an oil-drum floating in the waters off Miami after he had been subpoenaed for an additional appearance.
These were merely a few of the highest-profile individuals with a connection to the Dallas assassination whose lives were cut short in the years that followed, and although the deaths may have been purely coincidental, the full list is rather a long one.
I wonder what the HSCA thought of its two key witnesses being murdered shortly before testifying? Of course, you could write both murders off as coincidences–after all, the guys were mobsters, and that’s what happens to mobsters: they get whacked. Their deaths may have had nothing at all to do with their cooperation with the investigation.
But it’s also possible that the people who wanted to keep Giancana and Rosselli quiet reached out to the mobsters’ enemies and reached what we might call a “mutually beneficial decision.”
Nonetheless, the killing of JFK represents the moment the Deep State truly took power in this country, and it has been in charge ever since. Not 20 years after its formal establishment, the Deep State had turned its meddling in foreign governmental affairs inward and carried out a regime change in America. Kennedy wanted peace, but the military industrial complex wanted war–and the military industrial complex got its way.
Is it so surprising, though, that the CIA, created as the means by which the US government would overthrow uncooperative foreign governments, would do so here in the US? It’s literally what the CIA was established to do. Congress created a monster with the 1947 National Security Act.
And if you think the Deep State was done after the Kennedy assassination, think again.
In 1968, both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, and, like with JFK, the official explanations for both is that they were killed by “lone nutcases.” MLK was the leader of the Civil Rights movement, and by the late 1960s, a vocal opponent of the Vietnam war. He was no friend of the Deep State, either, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover despised King. There are many out there who believe the FBI was behind King’s murder. The FBI’s records on the investigation of the King assassination remain classified, and won’t be made public until 2027.
Bobby Kennedy, who had served as JFK’s Attorney General and essentially JFK’s right-hand man in his repeated battles with the Deep State, was by 1968 a US Senator running for President. The interesting part is that RFK challenged the sitting Democratic President, Lyndon Johnson, which is a highly unusual thing to do. It’s very rare that an incumbent President is seriously challenged from within his own party’s during the primaries while seeking reelection, but RFK jumped in the race, along with antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy.
But despite winning a resounding landslide election in 1964 on the back of widespread grief over the recently-slain JFK, by 1968 the Vietnam war had seriously damaged Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and his standing with the American public, so much so that he was seen as vulnerable by many in his own party. After a surprisingly close victory over McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary in March 1968, it was confirmed: Lyndon Johnson was on shaky ground. On March 31, Johnson shocked the nation by announcing he was withdrawing from the race and no longer seeking reelection.
The Democratic Primary became a three-man race between RFK, McCarthy and Johnson’s Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey, who was seen as the favorite of the party establishment. Humphrey had the lead in delegates for most of the race, as RFK and McCarthy were splitting the more liberal, antiwar wing of the party between themselves.
However, after winning the California primary on June 5, 1968, it appeared RFK was well on his way to consolidating support in the liberal wing of the party, bumping McCarthy out of the picture, and setting up a one-on-one showdown with Humphrey that would be decided at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in late August.
Unfortunately, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated immediately after delivering his victory speech in Los Angeles. A lone nut yet again: a Palestinian by the name of Sirhan Sirhan, who later claimed he was “brainwashed,” and a “patsy” (just like Lee Harvey Oswald claimed). Humphrey went on to become the 1968 Democratic nominee after the antiwar wing of the party failed to rally around a single candidate as an alternative to Humphrey.
Would Bobby Kennedy have won the Democratic Nomination, and subsequently the Presidency, had he not been assassinated?
No one can know for certain.
But would he have been assassinated if he didn’t at least stand a good chance? The fact that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated lends credence to the belief that the Deep State thought he would win. And if he won, then they’d have another JFK on their hands again.
Not only that, but, as Ron Unz astutely points out, Bobby Kennedy was also running for President so he could get to the bottom of his brother’s murder and bring the killers to justice:
To the extent that notions of a JFK conspiracy had ever crossed my mind, I’d considered the argument from silence absolutely conclusive. Surely if there had been the slightest doubt of the “lone gunman” conclusion endorsed by the Warren Commission, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy would have launched a full investigation to avenge his slain brother.
But as Talbot so effectively demonstrates, the reality of the political situation was entirely different. Robert Kennedy may have begun that fatal morning widely regarded as the second most powerful man in the country, but the moment his brother was dead, and his bitter personal enemy Lyndon Johnson sworn in as the new president, his governmental authority almost immediately ebbed away. Longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who had been his hostile subordinate, and was probably scheduled for removal in JFK’s second term, immediately became contemptuous and unresponsive to [RFK’s] requests. Having lost all his control over the levers of power, Robert Kennedy lacked any ability to conduct a serious investigation.
According to numerous personal interviews, he had almost immediately concluded that his brother had been struck down at the hands of an organized group, very likely including elements from within the U.S. government itself, but he could do nothing about the situation. As he regularly confided to close associates, his hope at the age of 38 was to reach the White House himself at some future date, and with the government in his hands then uncover his brother’s killers and bring them to justice. But until that day, he could do nothing, and any unsubstantiated accusations he made would be totally disastrous both for national unity and for his own personal credibility. So, for years, he was forced to nod his head and publicly acquiesce to the official story of his brother’s inexplicable assassination at the hands of a lone nut, a fairy tale publicly endorsed by nearly the entire political establishment, and this situation deeply gnawed at him. Moreover, his own apparent acceptance of that story was often interpreted by others, not least in the media, as his wholehearted endorsement.
Killing Bobby was not simply a matter of keeping him away from the levers of power. It was a matter of necessity: if the Deep State didn’t get rid of him before he became President, he was going to blow the lid on the whole damn conspiracy and have them all hanged for treason of the highest order. It was either him, or them.
With the Vietnam War as a political millstone about his neck, President Johnson decided not to seek reelection in 1968, opening the door to a last-minute entry into the Democratic race by Robert Kennedy, who overcame considerable odds to win some important primaries. Then on June 4, 1968, he carried gigantic winner-take-all California, placing him on an easy path to the nomination and the presidency itself, at which point he would finally be in a position to fully investigate his brother’s assassination. But minutes after his victory speech, he was shot and fatally wounded, allegedly by another lone gunman, this time a disoriented Palestinian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan, supposedly outraged over Kennedy’s pro-Israel public positions, although these were no different than those expressed by most other political candidates in America.
All this was well known to me. However, I had not known that powder burns later proved that the fatal bullet had been fired directly behind Kennedy’s head from a distance of three inches or less although Sirhan was standing several feet in front of him. Furthermore, eyewitness testimony and acoustic evidence indicated that at least twelve bullets were fired although Sirhan’s revolver could hold only eight, and a combination of these factors led longtime LA Coroner Dr. Thomas Naguchi, who conducted the autopsy, to claim in his 1983 memoir that there was likely a second gunman.
I never knew this, either.
Meanwhile, eyewitnesses also reported seeing a security guard with his gun drawn standing immediately behind Kennedy during the attack, and that individual happened to have a deep political hatred of the Kennedys. The police investigators seemed uninterested in these highly suspicious elements, none of which came to light during the trial.
Now this security guard, Unz did not mention his name. So I did some research. What I found was that the man in question’s name was Thane Cesar. Cesar died not long ago, in 2019, and was living in the Philippines. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. noted Cesar’s death at the time with a since-deleted post on Instagram (in fact it’s deleted because RFK Jr. was banned from Instagram), saying that there was “compelling evidence suggesting Cesar murdered my father.” Although RFK Jr.’s Instagram page is deleted, the post he made about Cesar was not, and the text is still available on the internet:
Thane Eugene Cesar died today in the Philippines. Compelling evidence suggests that Cesar murdered my father.
On June 5, 1968, Cesar, an employee in a classified section of Lockheed’s Burbank facility, was moonlighting as a security guard at the Ambassador Hotel. He had landed the job about one week earlier. Cesar waited in the pantry as my father spoke in the ballroom, then grabbed my father by the elbow and guided him toward Sirhan. With 77 people in the pantry, every eyewitness said Sirhan was always in front on my father at a 3-6 feet distance.
Sirhan fired two shots toward my father before he was tackled. From under the dog pile, Sirhan emptied his 8-chamber revolver firing 6 more shots in the opposite direction 5 of them striking bystander and one going wild.
By his own account, Cesar was directly behind my dad holding his right elbow with his own gun drawn when my dad fell backwards on top of him. Cesar repeatedly changed his story about exactly when he drew his weapon.
According to the Coroner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, all 4 shots that struck my father were “contact” shots fired from behind my dad with the barrel touching or nearly touching his body. Cesar sold his .22 to a co-worker weeks after the assassination warning him that it had been used in a crime. Cesar lied to police claiming that he’d disposed of the gun months before the assassination.
Cesar was a bigot who hated the Kennedys for their advocacy of Civil Rights for blacks. I had plans to meet Thane Eugene Cesar in the Philippines last June until he demanded a payment of $25,000 through his agent Dan Moldea. Ironically, Moldea penned a meticulous and compelling indictment of Cesar in a 1995 book and then suddenly exculpated him by fiat in a bizarre and nonsensical final chapter. Police have never seriously investigated Cesar’s role in my father’s killing.
In my opinion, the coroner’s official report is the holy grail here. How can it not be viewed as proof that Sirhan Sirhan didn’t kill RFK?
Let’s continue with Unz, though:
With two Kennedy brothers now dead, neither any surviving members of the family nor most of their allies and retainers had any desire to investigate the details of this latest assassination, and in a number of cases they soon moved overseas, abandoning the country entirely. JFK’s widow Jackie confided in friends that she was terrified for the lives of her children, and quickly married Aristotle Onassis, a Greek billionaire, whom she felt would be able to protect them.
The one notable exception, of course, being Teddy Kennedy, the youngest of the Kennedy brothers who was at the time of both his brothers’ assassinations a US Senator representing Massachusetts, having been elected in 1962. Ted remained a US Senator all the way until his death in 2009 at the age of 77.
Why didn’t he take up Bobby’s mantle and pursue his brothers’ killers? Why did he live his entire life apparently accepting the official story on his brothers’ assassinations? It’s impossible to say, but if I had to guess, I’d say it probably has a lot to do with Chappaquiddick.
About a year after Bobby’s assassination, in the summer of 1969, Kennedy was driving home from a party, drunk, with a 28-year-old woman named Mary Jo Kopechne. While driving across a bridge, Teddy lost control of the car and careened into a body of water. Kennedy was able to get out of the car, but Kopechne wasn’t, and she died. Kennedy claims he attempted to rescue her but was unable, so he swam to shore and went home. He didn’t report the accident to police until the next morning. He was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and received no further legal discipline for the incident. Although the public doesn’t know the entire story of what happened that night, the “Chappaquiddick Incident” followed Teddy for the rest of his life, tainting his public image for good. A movie was made about it in 2017.
I’m going to go out a limb here and say that Very Powerful Men held Chappaquiddick over Kennedy’s head and used it to extort him, threatening to reveal the truth to the nation if he ever stepped out of line. Chappaquiddick was the main reason Kennedy’s 1980 Presidential bid failed, as people had not forgotten even after 11 years. Chappaquiddick kept Teddy Kennedy out of the White House and made it so he would never have the ability to direct an investigation into his brothers’ assassinations.
Additionally, and this should be pretty obvious, Teddy was surely afraid for his own life. He probably lived his whole life–or at least a good chunk of it–fearing that he would end up like his brothers if he rocked the boat at all. He toed the line because he didn’t want to be killed.
And so, the official story is that both King and RFK were killed by lone nuts, and their killings were not part of any sort of grander conspiracies. It’s quite a series of coincidences, however, especially considering JFK, MLK and RFK were all thorns in the side of the Deep State. Even if the Deep State didn’t assassinate the Kennedys and MLK, the Deep State certainly benefitted from their assassinations.
At the very least, the Deep State is incredibly lucky–consistently, too. Lone nutjobs just kept on taking out political figures the Deep State viewed as threats.
But while RFK was the last major assassination in American history, this does not mean the Deep State was no longer controlling and manipulating American politics behind the scene.
Before we move on to Part II of this series, which is about Watergate, we must at least discuss the Lyndon Johnson aspect of the Kennedy assassination. Again, Johnson was the one who had the most to gain from Kennedy’s death, the assassination happened in Johnson’s home state of Texas, and the Kennedys and LBJ hated each other. These are facts.
But the more immediate reason that LBJ went along with the plot to get rid of Kennedy may have had a lot to do with the Bobby Baker Scandal, which was unfolding right around the time of the assassination, and seemed as if it was only a matter of time before it implicated LBJ himself.
This is an excerpt from a New York Times article, published on January 26, 1964, barely two months into Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, entitled “MAJOR POLITICAL SCANDAL LOOMING IN THE BOBBY BAKER CASE; As It Becomes Further Unraveled Many Persons Are Expected to Be Named as Having Played a Role in His Wheelings and Dealings.”
“WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 —The Bobby Baker case is rapidly developing into the political scandal of the middle sixties. As more details of this incredible tale of spiraling fortune by a once‐obscure Senate clerk multiply, the more it becomes likely that other names than those of Robert Gene Baker and his immediate partners will become involved.
This week, the White House was struck a glancing blow by the testimony before the Senate Rules Committee of a principal witness in the case. President Johnson regarded the disclosure of the gift of an expensive phonograph from Mr. Baker five years ago sufficiently disturbing to issue a personal disclaimer of wrongdoing. It is difficult to recall a similar incident from the past.
Persons here familiar with the case, however, suspect that there are others of lesser station than the President who are in for far more serious embarrassment if this tangled skein is unraveled down to its core.
There is no evidence to date that Bobby Baker, a salaried public servant, broke any law as his net worth zoomed from $11,000 in 1954 to more than $2.5 million in 1963. But there is strong evidence that it could not have been done if he had not been who he was—the shrewd, aggressive, popular young majority secretary of the United States Senate who claimed as friends and patrons during almost two decades some of the most prestigious members of that establishment.
It does not exculpate Bobby Baker to say that he took his cue from his betters. But the fact remains that by “growing up in the Senate”—which he did from the age of 14 — he matured in a moral climate where the habitual wheeling and dealing in the coin of politics, privilege and the reciprocal good turn tends to dull the sensibilities.
What they are saying here, accordingly, is that Mr. Baker didn’t get where he is all by himself. And the studiedly cautious deliberations of the Senate Rules Committee ara being watched with keen interest —and a touch of cynicism—to see who has been riding with him.
What has Bobby Baker done to get himself into the hot water of his present notoriety? The background of his story is this:
He came to Washington from a little town in South Carolina 20 years ago as a Senate page —one of those agile, blue‐suited youngsters who run errands for the members. He was bright, ambitious and eager to please. He liked the Senate and the Senate liked him. His two‐year term was extended a couple of times. Then he moved up to the Democratic Oak Room; then to the office of the majority secretary, and in 1955, with the solid support of the then majority leader, Lyndon B. Johnson, the Democrats elected him majority secretary.
In the meantime, Bobby Baker had finished high school, earned a law degree, gotten married, and taken to Senate politics the way a sponge takes to water. The only man more versed in this arcane art was his boss, Lyndon Johnson, who found in him a trusted first deputy in the intricate business of running the Senate. He was “Lyndon’s boy,” a title that carried weight not only in the Capitol but also in the market places downtown where no commodity is more sought after than influence.
How Mr. Baker got on the financial escalator is one of the unanswered questions of his career. When he got on is fairly clear. It was some time between 1954, when he declared a net worth of $11,025, and 1957 when he claimed it to be $84,133. His Senate salary in those two years was $9,000 and $12,500, respectively. In February, 1963, his salary was $19,600 but his claimed net worth was $2,256,855. His financial statement was featured by an impressive portfolio of stock and real estate holdings, and by some equally impressive bank debts in cities as far away as Dallas and Oklahoma City.
Dallas, huh? I’m sure LBJ had nothing to do with that.
Bobby Baker is an extraordinarily nimble and resourceful financial operator. His most successful feat apparently was to get in on the pre‐public offerings of the stock of an obscure mortgage guarantee company that needed Government help to get started. Once it got started it paid off like a slot machine jackpot—tenfold and upwards. He cut a number of friends in on this, including at least one member of Congress.
The most daring of his exploits revealed to date was his negotiation of a 15‐day “phantomn” loan of $100,000 from a local bank to beef up the assets of his Maryland motel so that it could qualify for a Government disaster loan. The $100,000 was a bookkeeping fiction but Mr. Baker and his partners got the Government loan.
This is the only instance strongly suggestive of fraud that the committee has revealed so far, and at least one member of the group — Senator Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania — has urged that the facts be referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution. The F.B.I., incidentally, has been conducting its own investigation into Mr. Baker’s financial edifice, but no prosecutive action has been hinted.
There is inevitably much speculation here on how deep and how far‐ranging an inquiry the Rules Committee is prepared to make. Senator B. Everett Jordan of North Carolina, the chairman, is a man of a kindly and equable temperament who finds the inquisitor’s role an uncomfortable one. His stock reply when asked if any Senators discovered to be involved in the case would be asked to testify is: “We aren’t investigating Senators.”
He is even more adamant in saying that a White House aide, Walter Jenkins, will not be called for questioning. Mr. Jenkins’s testimony on the gift of a phonograph to Senator Johnson and an alleged kickback on an insurance premium on the Senator’s life is contained in an affidavit. It has been contradicted at important points by a witness who testified under oath.
The chairman’s hesitancy—if that is what it is—is understandable at least. For the Baker affair has an ominous potentiality for the Democratic cause and for some individual Democrats in and out of Congress. Whether any of these individuals are actually victimized or not, it is a dead certainty that the Bobby Baker case, whatever its ultimate resolution, will haunt the Democrats’ table in 1964 like the ghost of Sherman “Banquo” Adams.
Even though it was a serious situation, it is a delight to read these old time news articles. In my mind, I’m reading the whole thing in that black-and-white newscaster voice.
At any rate, the “Bobby Baker affair” was quite the scandal, although nothing ever came of it as far as Lyndon Johnson was concerned. Baker got 18 months in prison for tax fraud, while LBJ managed to escape unscathed and wound up being resoundingly reelected by a massive margin in the 1964 election, and that probably had a lot to do with the fact that he was President and as such was able to get a lid on things, with some help from his close pal and neighbor J. Edgar Hoover, who apparently blackmailed the Senators involved in the investigation.
The scandal was unfolding as early as September 1963, while JFK was still alive, and there was some concern that it had the potential to bring down LBJ and thus deal a likely fatal blow to the Kennedy 1964 reelection efforts. To that end, there was talk of replacing LBJ on the ticket with Kennedy’s good friend, Senator George Smathers of Florida.
The Times article doesn’t mention it, but the scandal also involved bribery and sexual favors, in which Baker would throw lavish parties featuring high class hookers for politicians Baker wanted to vote a certain way. From the sound of it, Bobby Baker was the Jeffrey Epstein of his day. One of the women (not a hooker) in Baker’s circle, Ellen Rometsch, wound up becoming one of JFK’s many mistresses, although JFK’s periphery involvement in the Baker scandal was kept quiet after his death due to a deal cut between Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and Hoover, in which RFK allowed Hoover to proceed with wiretaps on suspected communist Martin Luther King.
The idea that LBJ had no involvement in the Baker scandal defies belief. As the Times article pointed out, Baker was LBJ’s top deputy during LBJ’s time as Senate Majority Leader. Baker was LBJ’s right-hand man; LBJ had essentially mentored Baker as his protege since arriving in the Senate in 1948 when Baker was just 20 years old. Baker, instead of moving to LBJ’s Vice Presidential staff, stayed behind in the Senate Majority Leader’s office, presumably to serve as LBJ’s eyes and ears there. Maybe it was also due to good foresight on LBJ’s part, too, as he could probably see that Baker was a liability to be associated with, and that it would be best for LBJ to distance himself from Baker before any scandal blew up.
The point here is that the scandal posed a great threat to then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who not only was poised to be booted from the Kennedy ticket, but also faced potential legal trouble. The only way out for Lyndon Johnson was up–to the White House. LBJ had to get rid of Kennedy in order to both escape the scandal and avoid being replaced.
But it was ultimately JFK’s own fault that he had to deal with the scheming Lyndon Johnson in the first place. Kennedy, as we all know, was an obsessive womanizer who banged every chick that got within 50 feet of him. The guy was literally addicted to sex in almost the same way that people are addicted to cigarettes. (He was also addicted to amphetamines but that’s another story.)
Kennedy’s sex addiction was a massive liability for him, and it made him prone to blackmail. Seymour Hersh, in his 1997 book “The Dark Side of Camelot,” recounts several of Kennedy’s affairs that nearly blew up into scandals that would surely have sank his 1960 Presidential campaign.
There’s a story in the book about how one of JFK’s assistants, a woman named Pamela Turnure, was renting a Georgtown upstairs apartment and Kennedy, as a Senator, would often come over to bang her. The problem was that the lady who lived downstairs, and rented the upstairs apartment to Turnure, saw Kennedy coming and going all the time, and it pissed her off, so she threatened to expose the affair to the press while Kennedy was running for President. She even went as far as to bug the upstairs apartment to listen in on Kennedy and Turnure, and took photos of Kennedy as he left the apartment. The Kennedy campaign and the media were able to suppress the story.
There was also this high-class hooker from New York that Kennedy was plowing and allegedly even fathered an illegitimate child with at some point in the late 1950s. This, too, never made the news.
But this doesn’t mean Kennedy never paid the price for his womanizing. In fact, it may have been the reason he paid the ultimate price.
Because, according to Hersh, Kennedy’s womanizing was how Lyndon Johnson was able to blackmail his way onto the Presidential ticket.
In Hersh’s account of the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, the Kennedys and all their closest advisers had decided on a running mate, and it was not Lyndon Johnson. It was Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri. They liked Symington a lot and thought he would help them win California in the general election. The decision was final. It was a done deal. They had made up their minds: Symington would be the running mate. They offered Symington the job and he accepted.
But before they could announce it to the press, at the last minute, LBJ–who at the time was the powerful Senate Majority Leader (in fact there’s a biography of LBJ by Robert Caro entitled “Master of the Senate”)–along with fellow Texan, longtime House Speaker Sam Rayburn, who was also an extremely powerful man and who left such a legacy on the Hill that one of the three House office buildings is named after him, intervened.
Hersh was able to get ahold of the previously unpublished memoirs of longtime Kennedy confidante and strategist Hyman Raskin, who was present in Los Angeles at the 1960 Democratic convention, and Raskin writes about how LBJ blackmailed his way on to the Kennedy ticket:
“In Raskin’s account, Stuart Symington was always at the top of Kennedy’s short list of running mates. That list was ‘precipitously and totally discarded,’ Raskin wrote, when Kennedy met early on the morning after his nomination with Johnson and Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House. At the meeting, Kennedy was ‘made an offer he could not refuse.’ In other words, Raskin assumed, Johnson blackmailed his way into the vice presidency. Raskin could not learn which aspect of the Kennedy history was cited by Johnson and Rayburn in making their threats, but he had no doubt that their morning meeting with Johnson disrupted months of careful planning and put the Kennedy campaign staff in an uproar.”
After being officially nominated for President, JFK was supposed to go to a meeting of party leaders to announce his selection of Symington, but JFK was “running late.”
“‘When I was supplied with the facts and circumstances later,’ Raskin wrote, ‘It was clear that the reason Jack was ‘running late’ was a phone call from either Rayburn or Johnson. “I know that his brother Bobby was not with him when the call came…”
A few hours later, after JFK’s brief speech to the delegates, a distraught Bobby Kennedy telephoned Raskin and told him to cancel the meeting of party leaders.
The party leaders, told that the meeting was off, began to gossip. ‘It was obvious to them that something extraordinary had taken place, as it was to me,’ Raskin wrote. ‘During my entire association with the Kennedys, I could not recall any situation where a decision of major significance had been reversed in such a short period of time…’
By the next morning, Thursday, July 14, word was all over the convention that Johnson was to be Kennedy’s running mate.
Clark Clifford recalled that he was summoned early the next morning–before his morning shave–to another meeting with a disconsolate Jack Kennedy, who said: ‘I must do something that I’ve never done before. I made a serious deal and now I’ve got to go back on it. I have no alternative.’ Symington was out and Johnson was in. Clifford recalled observing that JFK looked as if he’d been up all night.”
Jack Kennedy was scheduled to host a luncheon later in the day for his immediate staff. He entered the dining room, followed by the usual horde of journalists and cameramen, spotted the avuncular, white-haired Raskin, and, as Raskin remembered it, dragged him to a window seat, saying “Come with me. I have to tell you something.” As they walked, Kennedy asked Raskin:
“Have you heard the news?”
“What do you think?”
Raskin shrugged, and Kennedy said, “You know we had never considered Lyndon, but I was left with no choice. He and Sam Rayburn made it damn clear to me that Lyndon had to be the candidate. Those bastards were trying to frame me. They threatened me with problems and I don’t need more problems. I’m going to have enough problems with Nixon.”
Raskin, as he wrote in his memoirs, remained haunted by the conversation. “The substance of this revelation was so astonishing that if it had been revealed to me by anyone other than Jack or Bob, I would have had trouble accepting it.”
Hersh was never able to find out for certain what, exactly, Johnson and Rayburn said to Kennedy to make Kennedy abruptly change his mind, but he was able to take an educated guess.
“The only Kennedy insider to discuss the vice presidential nomination publicly over the next 35 years was Evelyn Lincoln, Kennedy’s personal secretary, who told British journalist Anthony Summers that she was convinced in mid-1960 that J. Edgar Hoover and Johnson had conspired. Hoover was known to be personally close to Johnson–they lived on the same street in northwest Washington–and had for years provided Johnson with information about Kennedy’s private life.
In ‘Official and Confidential,’ Summers’ biography of Hoover, published in 1993, Lincoln was quoted as saying Johnson ‘had been using all the information Hoover could find on Kennedy–during the campaign, even before the convention. And Hoover was in on the pressure on Kennedy at the convention… about womanizing, and things in Joe Kennedy’s background, and anything he could dig up. Johnson was using that as clout. Kennedy was angry, because they had boxed him into a corner. He was absolutely boxed in.’
In a later interview for this book, Lincoln told of finding Bobby and Jack deep in conversation early on the morning of July 15: ‘I went in and listened. They were very upset and trying to figure out how they could get around it, but they didn’t know how they could do it.’ She did not hear any mention then of a specific threat from Johnson, but, she added, ‘Jack knew that Hoover and LBJ would just fill the air with womanizing.'”
“The principals are long dead, and the world may never know what threats Lyndon Johnson made to gain the vice presidency. Kennedy knew how much Hoover knew, and he knew that the information was more than enough to give Johnson whatever he needed as leverage. Kennedy’s womanizing came at great cost: he could be subjected to blackmail not only by any number of his former lovers, but also by anyone else who could accumulate enough specifics about his affairs–even an ambitious fellow senator.”
This is the most ominous part, though:
Kennedy found a way to make the best of it after the imbroglio over the vice presidency. He explained to Kenny O’Donnell, a longtime Johnson-hater, as O’Donnell wrote in his memoirs: “I’m 43 years old. I’m not going to die in office. So the vice presidency doesn’t mean anything…”
If Kennedy really did say that, it’s quite amazing.
In fact, it was his selection of Johnson as president that ultimately would ensure he died in office. The vice presidency meant quite a lot, and Kennedy should’ve known so considering the lengths LBJ went to to get it.
The point here is that Kennedy himself is partly to blame for his own death because his indiscretions, which made him susceptible to blackmail.
If Kennedy wasn’t an out-of-control womanizer, he may never have been killed.
Kennedy could not have been so naive that he really believed all LBJ wanted was to be Vice President, right? The primary value of the Vice Presidency is that it can often be a stepping stone to the White House, either by way of an untimely Presidential death or by acting as the launch-pad for a Presidential campaign 8 years down the road.
Kennedy must have assumed that LBJ simply had his eyes on running for President in 1968.
And maybe that was LBJ’s original plan in 1960. Maybe he did truly plan to serve loyally as Kennedy’s Vice President for 8 years and then seek the White House on his own in 1968.
But my suspicion is that everything changed once Kennedy actually became President. Kennedy’s policies toward Vietnam and the Soviet Union put him at odds with the Deep State, a group with which Lyndon Johnson was strongly aligned. And the unfolding Bobby Baker scandal meant the clock was ticking on LBJ: he had to get rid of Kennedy or Kennedy was going to get rid of him.
The next part of this series will focus on the second major coup in American history, the Coup of ’74: Watergate.
Look for it sometime next week. It’s a great deal more complicated than the Coup of ’63, as it was carried out not by an assassination but by a manufactured scandal.
Really interesting article. When can we expect part 2?