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David Talbot : The Kennedy Family and the Assassination of JFK


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Re: the Kennedy family and the JFK case -- after Bobby's death, as I write in the book, they had no heart to pursue either of the assassinations. I believe that Teddy and some of the children, as you say, suspect a conspiracy. But they lacked RFK's investigative drive. The children, as Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (Bobby's eldest daughter) told me, were raised to look forward, not backwards. This, of course, likely produced its own emotional damage --several of Bobby's kids famously had very difficult times coming of age. But it's not really up to the family members to solve the case -- that should be the job of the judicial and political systems, as well as the media, all of which have miserably failed in their jobs.

I think the ordeal of Martin Luther King's family is instructive. When some of them tried to reopen the investigation into King's murder during the Clinton administration, they were pilloried in the press for bringing "shame" to their sainted father and called kooks. Clinton finally ordered Atty Gen. Janet Reno to look into reopening the case, but she made it clear that she thought it was foolish and quickly disposed of it. I'm sure the lesson for all here was that if the Kings or Kennedys tried to make the assassinations into a crusade, they will be punished for their pains, and nothing will come of it.

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Mr. Talbot,

Permit me to argue that the words of Robert Kennedy you quote on page 268 supercede, in terms of what they reveal of RFK's grasp of the truth, the exquisitely evasive, "One of your guys did it" chestnut:

"'If the American people knew the truth about Dallas,' RFK told [an old family friend], 'there would be blood in the streets.'"

You bring these words to our attention within the following context:

"As soon as RFK concluded his brother was the victim of a high-level plot -- which he communicated to family members and even the Soviet government within days of the assassination -- the very next thought that must have occurred to a passionate patriot like Bobby ... was surely enough to freeze his heart. If I move against the conspirators at this point, with a slipping grasp on the machinery of government, it could spark an American inferno." (emphasis, for clarity, in your original text)

The intriguing direct quote is, for me at least, newly encountered. You have chosen not to identify the "old family friend" in question, and you do not provide an endnote that might shed further light on this matter.

But the implication seems clear.

RFK knew the truth.

Will you be more forthcoming on this matter?

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Charles -- if you're saying that B's rhetoric tends to be inflated and tendentious and bombastic, I completely agree. And yes, I was entering speculative territory when I suggested that Bobby might have worried about provoking a civil war by aggressively confronting his brother's killers immediately after Dallas. This theory was, as I say in the book, floated by MS Arnoni in Minority of One in Jan. 1964, and I found it intriguing enough to entertain as a possible motive for Bobby's silence (but not the main one).
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David,

Perhaps I was less than artful in the articulation of my point and the posing of a relevant question. Permit me to try again.

To which "old family friend" did RFK posit, "If the American people knew the truth about Dallas, there would be blood in the streets"?

Of critical significance: When was this statement made?

Why did you not source the quotation?

Further: Given RFK's predilection for multi-tracking, if you will, have you reason to suspect that over the years he purposefully sent well-meaning friends and colleagues down what he knew in advance to be blind investigative alleys in order to deflect attention from those whom he understood to be the real culprits?

Why do such a thing? For the same reasons that drew him to the conclusion that "only the power of the presidency" could solve his brother's murder.

I'll end with a rhetorical question: The presentation by Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg of a Profiles in Courage Award to Gerald Ford remains one of the most troubling and, to this day, haunting images in the history of this case. The irony rolled in over Boston harbor like a fog bank that day ... thick, obfuscatory, redolant with threat. Was there a message to be detected within the gray swirls and eddies?

Again, I thank you for your time and wish you great success with Brothers.

Best,

Charles

Edited by Charles Drago
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David,

Would you care to comment on U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy's published statement of a few years back that he believes Castro killed his Uncle Jack, and/or on Kennedy cousin Kerry McCarthy's participation in JFK Lancer conferences?

The former, I'm told by an authoritative source, was a characteristically knee-jerk reaction to an unanticipated question. But I'm not sure that I buy this explanation.

The latter situation is rather more intriguing. Ms. McCarthy is an extraordinarily well-spoken and thoughtful person. She is another recipient of the Kennedy family's traits of wit and verbal cunning, and I thoroughly enjoyed the few hours we spent together in Dallas.

Yet I could not shake the sense that she was on a mission with passive and active agendas: get a sense of who's who and what's what, and signal that the family, at some level, is appreciative of researchers' intelligence and passion.

Charles

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I have always been of the opinion that the Kennedy family knows exactly what happened to JFK and RFK, but are in no position to do anything. As pointed out by David, look what happened to the King family- (and Judge Joe Brown)- when they tried to obtain justice. Reno became ....a disgrace to say the least.

At a COPA conference in Dallas on the 34th anniversary I met a Kennedy cousin and got to ask the question I have always wanted to ask: "Does the family read conspiracy books?" , and was told "Absolutely. Especially John. " (And look what happened to him).

I daresay the family is hesitant to discuss this matter not only out of fear of ridicule, but out fear for safety. And who could blame them? Poor Ted, this must weigh on him horribly.

Right after Clinton told aids to look into JFK strange things began to happen. This stuff is bigger than the president. These forces more powerful and still in control of the history that was not. We need more brave souls in the press like David Talbot and Jeff Morely...but what are THOSE chances?

Dawn

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Greetings, All.

I notice in David's book that he correctly points to the significance of William Walton's "back-channel" mission to Moscow to convey RFK (and Jackie's) message that they suspected a domestic conspiracy; and in any event knew that the Soviets weren't behind Oswald and/or the assassination. (David also has a good point when he wonders aloud why mainstream media and historians did not seem to understand the significance of this when One Hell of A Gamble was published in 1998.)

I further would note that among the Soviet era documents given to President Clinton in Cologne in 1999 and later declassified was a telegram sent on 11/25/63 from former Soviet First Vice-Premier Anastas Mikoyan, reporting on his conversations the prior day with U.S. officials at the funeral and a subsequent White House reception attended by Jacqueline Kennedy and LBJ, indicating to Moscow that, " . . . the US government does not want to involve us in this matter, but neither does it want to get into a fight with the extreme rightists; it clearly prefers to consign the whole business to oblivion as soon as possible."

In my mind, Mikoyan's telegram provides evidence that the U.S. strategy of pinning the assassination solely on Oswald - as

outlined in the memo by Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to Bill Moyers (originally drafted on the evening of November 24) - was being disseminated to the rest of the world even as it was being developed. The playbook for the Warren Commission was in essence being written weeks before LBJ even agreed they would be established.

In any case, although the telegram does not make it clear who at the reception gave "we're not going to hang you guys or Cuba out to dry on this and start World War III" message to Mikoyan, it would be interesting to know if Jackie was in any way involved in disseminating it, especially given the similarties to the overture that Walton would soon make.

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Charles:

I believe, without checking my notes, that RFK said that to Morton Downey Sr. -- the Irish crooner who was one of old Joe Kennedy's best friends. And yes, you're right I did have a footnote lapse there, which I'll have to correct in a future prinintg (if there is one). I recall that it came up in one of my interviews as well as an earlier Kennedy book. You're right that this RFK quote might be undersourced, and I might want to reconsider it altogether in a future printing. But the other Bobby statement to which I believe you originally referred -- the one he made to Harry Ruiz Williams -- "One of your guys did it" -- is definitely not in this "old chestnut" category. Both Williams and Haynes Johnson, the Washington reporter who was in the hotel room with Williams at the time, are first-hand sources for this. And I interviewed Johnson (Williams is dead, but also told the story before his death) and believe him to be entirely credible.

As for Patrick Kennedy's Castro accusation, yes, he clearly seemed to be winging it. I don't believe that he -- or any of that generation of Kennedys -- has invested any serious effort in investigating the crime. And your citation is the only time I've ever heard a Kennedy make that charge. A number of Kennedys -- including Ethel, John Jr, and Bobby Jr -- have met with Castro in recent years. None of them, as far as I know, believed Castro was the culprit.

Joe Kennedy -- RFK's eldest son -- gave me what I felt was kind of a Kennedy family blessing when I spoke to him for my book. But none of the family members I interviewed were able to shed any real light on the crime(s) for me. My best information came from former Kennedy officials (and their relatives/survivors) and family friends whom I interviewed (as well as documentary research).

I've seen no evidence that RFK knowingly sent aides down dark alleys. He definitely was using some trusted confidantes to explore various leads for him. But it's not clear to me why he would mislead them.

And yes, sad about Caroline and Jerry Ford -- one of Hoover's useful idiots on the Warren Commission. The irony is indeed ripe.

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Thank you, David, for your informative response.

By choosing the term "chestnut" -- which is synonymous with "warhorse," and is most commonly used to describe a well-traveled standard tune (of the Tin Pan Alley variety) -- I meant to indicate the quote's age and frequent citations. Its legitimacy, I agree, is beyond dispute.

The Patrick Kennedy quotation appeared in an article published in the Providence Journal (my hometown daily newspaper) -- I'm guessing about six years ago, but I can be specific if you need the info.

As for RFK misleading his aides: I have no evidence to support such a hypothesis. Rather, it occurs to me that one way to signal to the watchers that he was not dangerously on the right track would be to send his minions on wild goose chases.

In any event, I deeply appreciate your willingness to engage on these issues.

Best of luck,

Charles

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As for RFK misleading his aides: I have no evidence to support such a hypothesis.

Charles

If there is no evidence to support a theory, then the theory should be discarded in favor of lines of inquiry that look more promising.

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As for RFK misleading his aides: I have no evidence to support such a hypothesis.

Charles

If there is no evidence to support a theory, then the theory should be discarded in favor of lines of inquiry that look more promising.

Yawn.

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I have always been of the opinion that the Kennedy family knows exactly what happened to JFK and RFK, but are in no position to do anything. As pointed out by David, look what happened to the King family- (and Judge Joe Brown)- when they tried to obtain justice. Reno became ....a disgrace to say the least.

At a COPA conference in Dallas on the 34th anniversary I met a Kennedy cousin and got to ask the question I have always wanted to ask: "Does the family read conspiracy books?" , and was told "Absolutely. Especially John. " (And look what happened to him).

I daresay the family is hesitant to discuss this matter not only out of fear of ridicule, but out fear for safety. And who could blame them? Poor Ted, this must weigh on him horribly.

Right after Clinton told aids to look into JFK strange things began to happen. This stuff is bigger than the president. These forces more powerful and still in control of the history that was not. We need more brave souls in the press like David Talbot and Jeff Morely...but what are THOSE chances?

Dawn

Dawn, Could you elaborate on "strange things began to happen.

Terry

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Charles, thanks for your clarification on "chestnut" and the Patrick K. quotation. And thanks to you and other members who are giving the book a close read. Glad to be in the Forum and chatting away, until the winds pick me up again and blow me down the book tour path.

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...

Right after Clinton told aids to look into JFK strange things began to happen.

...

Dawn

Would you mind expanding on that Dawn?

I'm unclear on the timeline here.

*When, did Clinton ask aids to look into JFK and when did strange things begin to happen?

*("When" can be expressed in approximate dates, parallel events, relation to prior or later events, etc.

Just a rough idea of "when" would be great.)

Thanks.

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I have always been of the opinion that the Kennedy family knows exactly what happened to JFK and RFK, but are in no position to do anything. As pointed out by David, look what happened to the King family- (and Judge Joe Brown)- when they tried to obtain justice. Reno became ....a disgrace to say the least.

At a COPA conference in Dallas on the 34th anniversary I met a Kennedy cousin and got to ask the question I have always wanted to ask: "Does the family read conspiracy books?" , and was told "Absolutely. Especially John. " (And look what happened to him).

I daresay the family is hesitant to discuss this matter not only out of fear of ridicule, but out fear for safety. And who could blame them? Poor Ted, this must weigh on him horribly.

Right after Clinton told aids to look into JFK strange things began to happen. This stuff is bigger than the president. These forces more powerful and still in control of the history that was not. We need more brave souls in the press like David Talbot and Jeff Morely...but what are THOSE chances?

Dawn

Oops, just now saw that you asked the same thing. Sorry Terry.

Dawn, Could you elaborate on "strange things began to happen.

Terry

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