In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the murder of President Kennedy—just seven weeks away—Open Road Integrated Media has released four ebooks: Kennedy Justice by Victor Navasky, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye by JFK disciples Kenneth P. O’Donnell and David F. Powers, Case Closed by Gerald Posner and Not in Your Lifetime by Anthony Summers.
I began my JFK observance with Not in Your Lifetime. Summers, an Irish investigative reporter, tells a great mystery story. With almost all the players now dead, he weaves interviews he conducted for earlier versions of the book, the records of the Warren Commission and the House Assassination Committee, photographs, rumors and stories, into a well argued case which points to, but can’t quite conclude who was behind the killing of JFK.
The cover up of the Kennedy assassination shows the price of secrecy in government. According to Summers, only hours after the assassination, the new president, Lyndon B Johnson, realized that the public had to calmed. Public opinion had to be steered away from demanding revenge against Cuba and the Soviet Union.
Johnson appointed a Commission with the implied mission of determining that the shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Jack Ruby, who murdered Oswald three days later, both acted on their own. Ever the wheeler and dealer, Johnson went to the Republicans to make sure the fix worked.
He appointed the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Earl Warren as chair. Warren had been the Republican governor of California. He appointed to the Commission, Allen Dulles, who had been pushed out as head of the CIA after the Bay of Pigs disaster. Dulles steered the Commission away from asking too many questions of the intelligence community. To keep Congress in line, Johnson selected the Republican leader of the House, Gerald R. Ford (later to be President). Johnson brought the Democrats into the fix. He appointed Hale Boggs, Democratic leader of the House, to the Commission. The ambitious staff lawyer Arlen Specter (later to be Senator from Pennsylvania) concocted the single bullet theory which explained how there could be only one shooter.
The fix worked. The Warren Commission declared that Oswald and Ruby acted alone. The story has held for five decades, though critics abound.
Contrast the secretive Warren Commission with Watergate. Thanks to the Warren Commission, the conspirators got away. With Watergate, we had government in the sunshine. There were investigations by both the House and Senate, where partisanship acted as a check on both the accusers and the defenders. There was an independent prosecutor. There was an independent grand jury. There were independent, competitive and aggressive news media. The Watergate conspirators went to jail and the guilty President was forced from office.
If you like conspiracies, organized crime and espionage, this book is a bonanza. Not in Your Lifetime gets my highest recommendation.