Thursday, October 20, 2011


There are so many bad books on the Kennedy assassination - and that statement spans the whole breadth of views - when a new one comes along, I need a special reason for reading it.

Years ago, I read Mark North's Act of Treason, and, while it does not stand out as a major contribution to understanding the assassination, it did cover some new ground and it documented its central theme that J.Edgar Hoover almost certainly knew in advance of a planned attempt on Kennedy and did nothing to prevent it.

Of course, that does not mean Hoover directly had anything to do with the assassination. We already knew that Hoover hated the Kennedy brothers, and that the Kennedy brothers hated him. Animosities do get in the way of duty for many people with great power, and how easy it might be for Hoover when his agency isn't the one charged with presidential protection.

The new book is a very thin one physically, and, as far as this reviewer goes, it is even thinner in terms of genuine information, making no contribution to the case.

Basically, the author sets out one somewhat plausible set of events and participants and pats himself on the back for solving the case. There is no proof here of the author's overall thesis that the local Dallas Mafia, aided by the New Orleans' Mafia and some French drug contacts, carried out the assassination. The author further believes, again without proof, that they did this in some unspecified manner in secret collusion with Lyndon Johnson. 

Many have come to the conclusion that the assassination was a mob hit, although I still regard the idea as only one of three candidates and not the strongest, but few have thrown Lyndon Johnson into the mix, although there was a now-forgotten play written a few years after Kennedy's death called MacBird!. The title says everything you need to know.

Johnson was a hateful and crooked politician, and the Kennedy brothers had the same kind of relationship with him that they had with Hooover, and Johnson was facing possibly career-ending revelations from aggressive investigations into the Texas way of doing business and politics. That said, it is a very long way to go to asserting that Johnson entered into a plan to kill the president. Five days left blank and unaccounted for in Johnson's diary which the author discovered prove nothing in a court of law.

I have no hesitation in saying Johnson's ethics would allow him to do such a thing - he was an unholy piece of work - but I have always regarded Johnson as quite a coward for many reasons, and cowards do not act so boldly.

The author has several annoying habits apart from reaching the most extreme conclusions with little or no direct evidence. He keeps writing about all the powerful individuals who "betrayed America" in Dallas. I find that kind of whining quite unpleasant, and I have no idea what it even means to "betray America" in this context.

One of the reasons I have against the "mafia theory" is simply that there are many indications that Jack Kennedy was on good terms with the mob. We know he received a briefcase with a million dollars in cash from them during his campaign for president, a gift reportedly in recognition of his father's past long association. We know that Jack Kennedy enjoyed friendships with the likes of Peter Lawford, a member of the "rat pack" often associated with mob-run casinos. Lawford is also said to have acted as a major procurer of women for Kennedy.

We also know that Kennedy had an intimate relationship with a woman named Judith Exner who just happened also to be the girlfriend of Chicago's mob boss, Sam Giancana. There was also the relationship with Marilyn Monroe, a messy one involving both Kennedy brothers, and Marilyn was a woman who also knew Sam Giancana.

So the total relationship between the Kennedy brothers and the mob remains murky and complex. Yes, Carlos Marcello, New Orleans boss, definitely had it out for brother Robert who embarrassed and hounded him. But mobsters do not take on gigantic earth-shattering tasks like assassinating a president without overwhelming general approval from their major associates. The act would put all their assets at risk.

The book lacks even an index, an important part of any book purporting to deal with history.

Recommended only to be avoided.