Robert D. Mather, Ph.D.

TheConservativeSocialPsychologist.com Blog
Review of "The Man Who Killed Kennedy"

People have a general fascination with conspiracies and palace intrigue. As Dan McAdams (2006) pointed out, people also gravitate toward a narrative of redemption. The only thing people like more than watching someone fall from grace is watching them climb back to the top. By all counts, Roger Stone’s “The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ” fulfills the desires for conspiracies, palace intrigue, and a fall from grace. While redemption is certainly not in the cards for Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) or John Kennedy (JFK), an unexpected redemption does take place with the portrayal of the misunderstood, good at heart, and always under attack Richard Nixon.

 

When I worked in a maximum-security prison, I could count on the inmates lying to me at least 70% of the time and telling the truth at best 30% of the time. A problem came when they told the truth, because no one believed them. Political strategist Roger Stone is a seasoned member of the political world, and his task was to sort through the information provided at different times by shady characters and to create a coherent narrative. He has done that well. Once you realize that Stone 1) provides verifiable information that you might want to follow up on, and 2) he fills in the gaps with some of his personal knowledge from his political experience, then you will recognize the plausibility of his argument that Lyndon Johnson orchestrated the assassination of John Kennedy. At the very least, the book is interesting and entertaining for every single page.

 

Early in the book, Stone tells of a drunken Richard Nixon offering his veiled insights into LBJ’s role in the assassination. He also outlined LBJ’s general vulgarity and the famous Box 13 scandal where LBJ magically found enough votes to win the 1948 Senate election with a little help from his shady friends. John and Robert Kennedy’s father had been highly involved with the mob, and helped secure John Kennedy’s election with Chicago votes. Robert Kennedy aggressively pursued destroying organized crime as well as taking down LBJ. All of this serves to connect some of the major players and to establish joint motives within the conspiracy.  

 

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover allegedly blackmailed people with great frequency and had his role minimized during Robert Kennedy’s term as Attorney General.  The book suggested that LBJ used the CIA and the Mafia to have JFK killed and blamed Cuba as cover. Both Cuba and the KGB reports showed they believed LBJ did it and Barry Goldwater believed it as well. Stone alleged that George H. W. Bush, H. L. Hunt and Clint Murchison were involved.

 

The CIA had previously attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro using the mob. Stone offered his take on what had happened in the Watergate Scandal and its relation to the Kennedy assassination. He also described an interesting connection between Gerald Ford and the FBI during Ford’s time on the Warren Commission. Additionally, LBJ was known to have heavily promoted Bell Helicopter contracts for his personal financial gain.

 

In an interesting insight that speaks to motive, John Kennedy was going to replace LBJ for the next presidential ticket, possibly with Terry Sanford. John Kennedy had courted big oil money in his election and when elected then went against the oil depletion tax at the beginning of his term, a move that would harm big oil (a staple in Texas, were LBJ was from and financially invested). LBJ’s mistress Madeleine Brown worked at Jack Ruby’s club, and Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald.

 

Malcolm Wallace was a hit man who allegedly killed department of agriculture inspector Henry A. Marshall for LBJ. John Kennedy’s assassination day parade route was changed to go past the Texas Book Depository at the last minute, with the sharp turns included to help them route to the Trade Mart. John Kennedy joked the day before his assassination about being assassinated. Richard Nixon was in Dallas the day before the assassination, and Bill Moyers ordered the top of the car removed the day of the shooting. Ultimately, the oath of office that took place on the day of the assassination with Jackie Kennedy looking on now seems more like LBJ as Scar from the movie The Lion King.

 

Stone also proposed evidence that the CIA developed Oswald to take the fall and the mob used Ruby to silence him. Interestingly, Prescott Bush pushed for Nixon to have his son George H. W. Bush as the Vice-Presidential Candidate in 1968, and ultimately George H. W. Bush became Director of the CIA. There was an exploration of the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of Robert Kennedy, such as the famous woman in the dress, the role and position of a security guard, and whether there were 8 versus 13 shots fired.

 

Stone criticized Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Kennedy” for neglecting important facts that implicate LBJ’s questionable actions. Of course, Bill O’Reilly’s book series is based on only presenting verified facts. That doesn’t mean that what Mr. Stone presented is not verified, but rather that Mr. O’Reilly likely did not deem them sufficiently verified to include them in his book. That is part of the appeal of Mr. Stone’s book, that it explores other potential scenarios for which there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence. Indeed, Stone masterfully lays out the argument for Lyndon Johnson’s guilt.

 

Three final interesting events discussed were Operation Northwoods, the USS Liberty, and the Victorio Peak Gold heist. Operations Northwoods was a proposed CIA operation that would have the U.S. government engaging in real or falsified acts and blaming them on Cuba to justify a war with Cuba. The proposed acts included blowing up a U. S. ship, shooting down a U. S. plane, and sinking boats of Cuban refugees, all to be secretly carried out at the direction of the U. S. government and blamed on Cuba. Stone alleged that Johnson arranged to have Israel attack the USS Liberty in 1967 to blame Egypt and justify going to war with Nasser in Egypt. He accused LBJ of being responsible for 51 deaths in his lifetime, resulting from his arranged 17 murders and the 34 serviceman who died on the USS Liberty. Lastly was the Victorio Peak gold heist, where he accused LBJ of allegedly stealing hidden gold from government land at Victorio Peak in New Mexico.

 

How much of the book is true? Stone is forced to rely on death bed confessions and hearsay from the dark corners of the political sphere. Still, the unified theme from their recalled details, combined with verifiable evidence in archived, public parts of the investigation lead me to believe that much of what Mr. Stone has put together has merit. What I do know is that the book was worth buying, worth reading, and I was intellectually engaged every minute that I read it. Who better to guide us through the dark side of politics than Roger Stone? He’s a man I fully trust to know every inch of the underbelly of politics and to shine light on things that we may not want to see. I thank him for putting together information in a way in which no one else has had the courage.

 

References

McAdams, D. P. (2006). The redemptive self: Stories Americans live by. New York: Oxford.

 

Stone, R., with Colapietro, M. (2013). The man who killed Kennedy: The case against LBJ. New York: Skyhorse.

 

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