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The debate over the JFK assassination reopens -- was there a conspiracy?


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Monday May 28, 2007 08:00 EST

Chris Matthews gets it wrong -- again

I have a Chris Matthews problem. I want to like the guy, and in fact, in person I do. Years ago, I met Chris at the San Francisco Examiner, where he broke into journalism after serving as a congressional aide for Tip O'Neill. He was the Washington columnist for the Examiner, where I worked as the editor of the Sunday magazine, and I occasionally assigned him political features. Chris is an utterly charming guy to hang out with, a voluble and genial political junkie, in that Irish-American way, who can babble away forever on the ins and outs of the great electoral game. The problem with Chris, I found out, is that when you try to edit this babble, you quickly discover there is not much there, except for the fleeting Beltway wisdom of the moment. I discovered you don't go to Chris for deep thoughts -- he's a skitter-across-the surface, ADD kind of guy, with a knack for channeling the insta-commentary of the bars on Capitol Hill.

This sort of Washington chatter is fine when it comes to jawing about polls and campaign personalities and other ephemera. But when it comes to the major issues of our day, Beltway pundits like Matthews -- and the guests he stocks his show with -- have been consistently wrong, again and again and again.

When lynching Bill Clinton for a consensual sex act was all the rage in Beltway circles, Chris was among those baying the loudest for his blood. When Iraq seemed like a cakewalk, Matthews got all weak in the knees over Bush in his flight suit. (Of course, when the war didn't look like such a slam dunk, he shifted with the political winds.)

Matthews revealed more of his bone-headed Beltway-think on Sunday, when he devoted a segment of his CNBC talk show to the book by his "friend David Talbot." (Note to Chris: "friends" don't blackjack friends on national television without giving their pals a chance to respond.) Turning to his panel -- which included the inevitable Howard Fineman and Gloria Borger -- Matthews puzzled aloud how any journalist in his right mind could question the Warren Report. He suggested that I just couldn't accept the fact that "a loser like Oswald can kill a Kennedy." This prompted equally inane musings from Fineman about how assassination is the "price we pay for living in the chaos of democracy." And Borger offered something about the American need to believe in "grand conspiracies" rather than accepting the fact that JFK was "felled by a confederacy of dunces." Whatever that meant. But the most idiotic remark was offered up by another of my "friends" (in the way that word is loosely used in Washington) -- Andrew Sullivan. He revealed that he was only 3 months old when JFK was killed, and his generation just doesn't really give a damn about the assassination.

The show's only voice of reason was that of Josephine Hearn, a 20-something reporter for The Politico, who sharply disagreed with Sullivan, saying that she has been fascinated with the mystery of Kennnedy's death ever since she saw the film, JFK, at age 13. Perhaps Sullivan's 40-something generation (or more likely, jaded representatives like Sullivan) find the subject a dreary bore, but it's reassuring to hear that young people like Hearn find something such as, well, a violent regime change in an advanced democracy of some interest. Hearn also set Matthews and his nit-witted duo, Fineman and Borger, straight. Americans are not obsessed with Dallas because they are prone to dark, primordial thoughts. It's because we still "don't really know" what happened in Dealey Plaza, since Oswald was conveniently silenced before he "had his day in court." This clear and bright thought lingered briefly in the air, before being promptly ignored.

It was the confederacy of dunces who had the last word. Matthews let fly another blast of conventional Washington wisdom. JFK was a Cold War hawk, he insisted, so Brothers must be wrong to suggest that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy that came out of hard-line national security circles. (This militant version of JFK is held with religious-like conviction inside the Beltway -- including among conservative Democrats like Matthews -- which is one reason the book is causing so much consternation in these circles.) Fineman, for his part, scratched his head over the fact that most Americans reject the lone-nut theory of Dallas, and lamented the loss of public faith in "the powers that be." (And, he left unsaid, in media windbags like him.)

When Chris says, as he did on his show, that Vincent Bugliosi has settled the case and journalists like me should just pack it in, that's just the old Matthews I know -- winging it, not knowing really what he is talking about. He just picked up this bit of wisdom in a couple book reviews he read somewhere, and believe me these critics were just as conventional in their wisdom as he is. Matthews hasn't read Bugliosi's gargantuan masterpiece of sophistry. Even journalists with infinite more patience than Chris haven't accomplished this Herculean feat. He hasn't read my book either, which he also demonstrated on his show. The fact is, pundits like Matthews and Fineman and Borger keep playing their endless loop -- Americans like conspiracies, Oswald was a lone nut, the conspiracy would have been revealed long ago if it existed (by aggressive journalists such as these three bloodhounds, no doubt) -- because it's easy and safe to do so. They can play the part of the wise, level-headed commentator, without doing any real investigation into the crime. An investigation that would soon disturb their deep complacency.

In the ad for his talk show, a gritty Matthews promises "not to let anything get by me." But the Beltway press has let EVERYTHING of importance get by it -- from assassinations to wars to assaults on the Constitution. Plagues of locusts could befall us, outbreaks of boils, black rains of toads falling from the skies, the dead could rise from their graves -- and still, Chris and his panel would be jabbering away about Hillary's poll numbers in Iowa and John Edwards' haircut. While these "watchdogs" of democracy have been busy congratulating themselves on their vigilance, the henhouse has been reduced to a whirl of bloody feathers.

-- David Talbot

http://www.salon.com/books/authors/talbot/...hews/index.html

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Talbot was unfairly outnumbered in that intvu but he wasn't prepared either. He should have left out the parts of his book he wasn't willing to drop at least a few coins in NARAII's copiers for. You haven't really earned your stripes until you visit the stacks and flip through the films. Talbot told LA Times this week he doesn't "paw" over documents. So, what, you go to all the guy's buddies and expect truth and corrections to flow from their lips almost half a century later? Did Talbot talk to RFK? RFK shoulda coulda woulda but he didn't and here we all are with those boxes of "Cuba secret war" files in JFK Act to decipher on our own.

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Fineman: "...accepting the fact that JFK was "felled by a confederacy of dunces." wha..? plural? must have been a momentary glitch...? He probably meant "a Confederacy of Elites", but that perhaps would make him the dunce.

Edited by John Dolva
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Talbot was unfairly outnumbered in that intvu but he wasn't prepared either. He should have left out the parts of his book he wasn't willing to drop at least a few coins in NARAII's copiers for. You haven't really earned your stripes until you visit the stacks and flip through the films. Talbot told LA Times this week he doesn't "paw" over documents. So, what, you go to all the guy's buddies and expect truth and corrections to flow from their lips almost half a century later? Did Talbot talk to RFK? RFK shoulda coulda woulda but he didn't and here we all are with those boxes of "Cuba secret war" files in JFK Act to decipher on our own.

This is a problem I have with David's book. It relies too much on interviews and not enough on documents. This is a book written by a journalist rather than a historian. Yet these documents do exist. That is why Larry Hancock's book, Someone Would Have Talked, is so good.

Alan Brinkley (Allan Nevins professor of history and the provost at Columbia University) in the International Herald Tribune has given probably the fairest review of the book.

Talbot's interpretation of the Kennedy years is at odds even with many of the most sympathetic accounts. Kennedy did show signs in the last months of his life of reconsidering some of the premises of the cold war and of doubting the wisdom of Vietnam. But few historians would describe his presidency as a radical challenge to the status quo. Kennedy declined to escalate the Bay of Pigs invasion and the missile crisis, to be sure, but his differences with the hard-liners who opposed him were mostly tactical, not strategic. He wavered between bold, liberal visions of the future and conventional cold war thinking. His inspiring American University speech in the spring of 1963, calling for peaceful cooperation with the Soviet Union, was followed weeks later by a bellicose denunciation of Soviet power in Berlin. His private suggestions that he wanted to end the Vietnam War were accompanied by public actions that made terminating the conflict far more difficult for his successors. He and his brother were skeptical, at times even contemptuous, of the C.I.A. But as Talbot himself makes clear, that did not stop Robert Kennedy (presumably with the support of his brother) from continuing to encourage the C.I.A. to undertake covert actions to undermine Castro. John Kennedy was a smart, ambitious and capable president, with moments of greatness. If he had lived, he might well have become the heroic figure Talbot claims he was. But the reality of his foreshortened presidency was much more complex and inconsistent than Talbot acknowledges.

One would expect such an important historical argument to be accompanied by substantial evidence. Talbot has relied heavily on his own extensive conversations with Kennedy friends and colleagues and their widows, sons and acquaintances.

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  • 4 years later...

Here's partial transcript of Chris Mathews putting his foot in his mouth again, and Jerry Policoff's response.

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Friday, April 15th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Friday show

http://jfkcountercoup.blogspot.com/

…MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with the grassy knoll. That was the place in Dallas — near the Texas Book Depository — that thecrazies believe people shot at President Kennedy from.

Well, to the conspiracist mind, it's important to always have a grassy knoll. It's their grotto of denial, aplace to travel mentally and find deliverance from reality. Those who don't like reality need a grassy knoll to get through the night.

I do not wish to do injustice to thesedesperados. I know exactly why people need grassy knolls. They needthem because they cannot bear the suffering that truth brings to the heart andto the mind.

How could some loser—some misfit who wentto the Soviet Union because he thought he liked communism and believed he could find a happy life there, then came home and fall hard for Fidel Castro on there bound, how could this squirt kill the regal Jack Kennedy? It doesn'tbalance out, does it? How could a nobody kill such a great somebody?

Well, worst yet, how could a man of a hardleft—a communist—kill Jack Kennedy. Why wasn't it a right-winger whokilled him? Then we could blame it on them?

I've got it. We'll come up with aconspiracy theory—don't actually have to prove anything, of course, thatsays—just say it. Just say it. It really was a right winger. It's that guy - oh, those guys over in the grassy knoll. Don't you getit? It was the right wing that killed our hero.

Well, a half century later, we've got anew grassy knoll, another place for retreat for those who can't stand a hardtruth. The truth is that Barack Obama is the president of the United States. Got it! President of the United States, duly elected leader of the countryliving right there in the White House.

And they can't stand it. They can'tstand that it is, in fact, a fact. No way around it. No way.

Just look at the history books. Look at the newspaper. Dang it! This guy is president. He was elected president. A majority of the people wanted him president and went out and voted for him.

How do we change that? How do wechange that reality?

I got it, with this—it didn'thappen. You see, he wasn't born here. He's not eligible to bepresident.

I read it somewhere that he's fromsomewhere else. Can't put my finger on it but he's not really anAmerican, you see? Not natural born anyway. He's from out there somewhere.

So, last night, the boobs in the Arizona legislature voted to require the candidates for president hence forth approved other documents besides the official document that the state of Hawaii issues as a birth certificate. Theywant circumcision, baptismal records. They want something that nobody'sever wanted before from any candidate before.

What they really want is the same thing grassyknoll people want even now—deliverance from the truth they cannot handle.

Donald Trump—take a bow for giving newhope to grassy knollers everywhere. Wow!

That's HARDBALL for now. Thanks forbeing with us.

http://www.msnbc.msn...chris_matthews/

JERRY'S RESPONSE

Dear Chris,

I was not surprised by your arrogant and ignorant denunciation of conspiracy theorists who believe JFK was fired upon from the "Grassy Knoll." Of course the last official investigation of the assassination came to that same conclusion, based in parton scientific acoustics tests that virtually proved it (despite claims to the contrary those tests have never been refuted).

I find myself wondering, however, if you ever read your former boss and mentor's book "Man of the House," inwhich Tip O'Neill writes:

I was never one of those people who had doubts or suspicions about the Warren Commission's report on the President's death. But five years after Jack died, I was having dinner with Kenny O'Donnell and a few other people at Jimmy's Harborside Restaurant in Boston, and we got to talking about the assassination. I was surprised to hear O'Donnell say that he was sure he had heard two shots that came from behind the fence. "That's not what you told the Warren Commission," I said. "You're right," he replied. "I told the FBI what I had heard but they said it couldn't have happened that way and that I must have been imagining things. So I testified the way they wanted me to. I just didn't want to stir up any more pain and trouble for the family." "I can't believe it," I said."I wouldn't have done that in a million years. I would have told the truth." "Tip, you have to understand. The family—everybody wanted this thing behind them." Dave Powers was with us at dinner that night, and his recollection of the shots was the same as O'Donnell's.

So I guess O'Donnell and Powers can becounted among the "crazies," as can Tip O'Neill for passing on whatthey told him without attempting to refute it."

You are entitled to believe what you wantabout the Kennedy assassination, but branding people who believe something else based upon eyewitness testimony and scientific evidence as "crazies"says a lot more about you than it says about them.

Jerry Policoff

Edited by William Kelly
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The Chris Matthews Show

The debate over the JFK assassination reopens -- was there a conspiracy?

On this morning's The Chris Matthews Show, the host mentioned his good friend David Talbot had written a new book.

He and the panel spent a few moments discussing why conspiracy beliefs still persist today.

Matthews made it clear that he believes the Warren Commission was correct. There was no dissent from the rest

of the panel.

Matthews said, "I have to believe it happened the way it did...." It's not so much Matthews' opinions, but rather

the uninformed and simplistic ways he manifests them.

Perhaps NBC will provide a transcript in a few days, but its really not worth listening to; Propaganda in its most insidious form, masking as news journalism.

http://www.thechrismatthewsshow.com/index.php

As one of the most prolific of the promoters of the "lone assassin/lone shooter" concept:

Beyond absolutely any reasonable doubt, LHO was engaged in conspiratorial activities which ultimately lead to the assassination of JFK.

The only question being: Did the conspiracy itself turn to JFK as it's target?

Or, did LHO go "rogue" and thereafter take it upon himself to become the true "lone nut assassin" as protrayed.

Neither of which is likely to ever be sufficiently answered this many years after the event when most trails and involved persons are now deceased.

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As one of the most prolific of the promoters of the "lone assassin/lone shooter" concept:

1) You believe that improperly prepared medical evidence trumps properly prepared medical evidence.

2) That the 15+ people who described the back wound as consistent with T3 all suffered the same mis-perception.

3) The real kicker: that multiple inches of JFK shirt fabric, multiple inches of JFK's jacket fabric, and JFK's jacket collar all occupied the same physical space at the same time in order to line the bullet holes in the clothing with a SBT neck entry.

Have fun demonstrating #3, TP. :blink:

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3) The real kicker: that multiple inches of JFK shirt fabric, multiple inches of JFK's jacket fabric, and JFK's jacket collar all occupied the same physical space at the same time in order to line the bullet holes in the clothing with a SBT neck entry.

Welcome to the wonderful fantasy world of www.OVERSELLERS.com...

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Have fun demonstrating #3, TP

Well! Since the "butterfly" pattern of blood found on the back of the shirt worn by JFK clearly demonstrataes that a "fold" existed in his shirt at the time that this blood stain became embedded within the shirt, that too is not that difficult.

Guess that you "garmet experts" just do not have the experience with the Rorscach Tests that others of us have or else you would have caught on to the simplicity of proving this long ago.

OHHHHHHHH! So difficult.

P.S. As an again reminder, each and every one of the three autopsy surgeons agreed that the wound of the upper back/shoulder, was superior to the clavicle.

In event that, as a purported "garmet expert", you wish to base your knowledge (or lack thereof) of this wound location on statements by those who never laid their hands on JFK's body, then who am I to debate your right to demonstrate such ignorance.

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Have fun demonstrating #3, TP

Well! Since the "butterfly" pattern of blood found on the back of the shirt worn by JFK clearly demonstrataes that a "fold" existed in his shirt at the time that this blood stain became embedded within the shirt, that too is not that difficult.

A "fold"? No, Tom, you need a fold in excess of three inches in both the shirt AND the jacket. That's six-plus inches of fabric entirely above your C7 SBT inshoot.

All the Dealey Plaza photos show JFK's jacket collar in a normal position a fraction of an inch above the base of his neck.

Tom, how could the jacket collar and a half-foot of shirt + jacket fabric occupy the same physical space at the same time?

Guess that you "garmet experts" just do not have the experience with the Rorscach Tests that others of us have or else you would have caught on to the simplicity of proving this long ago.

"Prove" what? That clothing has folds? Yes, we know that clothing has folds in them when you wave your arm like JFK in the motorcade.

Tom, turn your head to the right and glance down at the shirt fabric along your right shoulder-line. Then raise your right arm to wave and observe the movement of your shirt as your raise your arm.

The shirt fabric INDENTS along the shoulder-line. Every time.

OHHHHHHHH! So difficult.

P.S. As an again reminder, each and every one of the three autopsy surgeons agreed that the wound of the upper back/shoulder, was superior to the clavicle.

The earliest accounts from the autopsy put the wound at the level of T3.

In event that, as a purported "garmet expert", you wish to base your knowledge (or lack thereof) of this wound location on statements by those who never laid their hands on JFK's body, then who am I to debate your right to demonstrate such ignorance.

You demonstrate an ability to repeat fact-less assertions over and over. Your pet theory requires a half-foot of shirt/jacket fabric bunched up entirely above the base of the neck without pushing up on the jacket collar just above the base of the neck.

According to LN theory, the jacket collar and the massive shirt/jacket bunch occupied the same physical space at the same time.

Such a scenario is contrary to the nature of reality, which is why you can never replicate your "garment" claims, Tom.

Edited by Cliff Varnell
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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest Robert Morrow

When was the parade route actually outlined?

Does anyone know when the Secret Service actually decided on the Trade Mart?

The Trade Mart was picked because it was the latest, greatest thing going on in Dallas. A shining jewel. Even though the security was horrible over there, the venue was so attractive. Lots of openings for a shooter to stand over there.

The Women's Pavilion at the old Texas Fairgrounds (if that is what is was called) was a very dull, non-attractive venue. Great security though. I think it had a low ceiling and a red floor. Just yucky and not "presidential." I think it was built by the WPA in the 1930's and was dated by the early 1960's.

Constance Kritzberg was the one who explained to me that the Trade Mart was a no-brainer choice (if you leave out the concept of "security.") It was a much prettier place.

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As one of the most prolific of the promoters of the "lone assassin/lone shooter" concept:

1) You believe that improperly prepared medical evidence trumps properly prepared medical evidence.

2) That the 15+ people who described the back wound as consistent with T3 all suffered the same mis-perception.

3) The real kicker: that multiple inches of JFK shirt fabric, multiple inches of JFK's jacket fabric, and JFK's jacket collar all occupied the same physical space at the same time in order to line the bullet holes in the clothing with a SBT neck entry.

Have fun demonstrating #3, TP. :blink:

Might I recommend a subscription to "THE GEORGE COUNTY TIMES", which beginning in the first week of November and continueing throughout the month, will (attempt*) to explain a few of these items to you, along with a few of the facts related to the one and only true "Magic Bullet".

*"It is impossible to win in argument with an ignorant man"

William G. McAdoo

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