Jump to content
The Education Forum

From Playing with Fire by Lawrence O'Donnell

Recommended Posts

From Playing with Fire by Lawrence O'Donnell. 

The moment Bobby Kennedy learned that his brother had been shot, he leapt into action:

"[Upon learning that his brother John F. Kennedy had been shot,] almost immediately, out of his shocked, choked silence, Bobby started doing a lot of talking. In the next forty-five minutes at Hickory Hill, still not knowing his brother's fate, Bobby used the phones to circle the wagons.

"Keeper of the president's secrets, steward of his reputation, Bobby, wearing sunglasses to hide the horror that was only just beginning to over­come him, did what he always did for President Kennedy. He started getting things done.

"He called McGeorge Bundy, the national security adviser. He told Bundy to change the locks on JFK's White House files: the most impor­tant stuff was to be moved immediately to the national security office and put under guard. He called the Secret Service. They were to uninstall the secret Oval Office and Cabinet Room tape recorders.
"At 2:30 p.m., [FBI director J. Edgar] Hoover called Bobby back. 'The President is dead.' Eight minutes later, the CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite announced that news to the nation.
President Kennedy with his brother Robert, 1963
Who did it? As the awful day wore on, that became Bobby Kennedy's only question. Somehow his horror and overwhelming grief focused, in those early hours, on a desperate need to know.

"The CIA. That was Bobby's first thought. He called John McCone, director of the CIA, and asked him to come over, right away. McCone ar­rived minutes later. Bobby wasted no time. He put the question directly to McCone. McCone was startled. Though he was director, he felt there were things about CIA activities that Bobby knew more about than he did. RFK had been deeply involved in covert activities, among them assassination attempts on Fidel Castro. Many in the CIA hated JFK; among other things there were rumors that he'd been planning to restructure the agency, dis­sipating its power. McCone was Roman Catholic. These two grieving men shared a language of faith, and they fell back on it now. The CIA director swore to Bobby Kennedy by everything they both held sacred, in fear of eternal damnation, that the CIA was innocent of the death of President Kennedy. Bobby believed him.

"Certain Cubans were also on Bobby's list. There were Fidel Castro and his operators in Havana, of course. They had reason enough to kill JFK. JFK's operatives had tried to kill Castro. But there were also the anti­Castro Cuban exiles in the United States. They felt betrayed by JFK's withdrawal from the Bay of Pigs operation. A U.S. warship that the exiles had expected to support the invasion of Cuba had pulled out, leaving them stranded. And the FBI had received intelligence of threats against the president from exiled Cuban freedom fighters.

"It was late afternoon now, and the Kennedy children were coming home from school. Bobby spent time hugging and comforting them. The radio reported the arrest in Dallas of Lee Harvey Oswald. Early news on Os­wald placed him with Cuban exiles who had been plotting against Castro
in New Orleans.

"Kennedy called Enrique Williams. Bobby was close to Williams, a leader of the Cuban exiles still hoping to invade Cuba and oust Castro. Williams was in D.C. that day, meeting at the Old Ebbitt Grill with his exile compadres. On the phone with Williams, Bobby was accusatory.

" 'One of your guys did it,' he told Williams.

"Williams denied all knowledge. Bobby hung up. The list was so long, so bewildering. There were Mafia kingpins with reasons to have JFK killed. Sam Giancana, the Chicago mobster, had shared a girlfriend with JFK. Bobby himself, as attorney general, had drawn Giancana's and others' ire by aggressive investigation into their activities. To Giancana's face, Bobby had compared the mobster's laugh to the sound of a little girl.

"There was big labor, hardly above committing murder, often indistin­guishable from the racketeers that Bobby had spent so much time harass­ing and prosecuting. Jimmy Hoffa, the leader of the Teamsters, was on Bobby's suspect list that afternoon. But so was the Soviet regime. So was Lyndon Johnson. Any and all of them could sound plausible enough to keep the world guessing for the rest of the century. Hundreds of books would be written about what was driving Bobby Kennedy crazy that afternoon. Who killed JFK?"
Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics
Author: Lawrence O'Donnell
Publisher: Penguin Press
Copyright 2017 by E. B. Productions, Inc.
Pages: 68-70
Edited by Douglas Caddy
Link to post
Share on other sites

Starts off pretty decent then it cops out.

RFK suspected the Soviets?  Then why did he and Jackie write that letter to Krushchev telling him detente would be placed on hold?

In no book I have  read about RFK did I see where he suspected Johnson. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Jim: I agree. While the cover-up was clearly meant to be used to persuade people that Russia was "behind it" or, at least, that LHO was a Communist, that was simply not true. I think Jim Douglass' book, JFK and the Unspeakable, makes it quite clear that JFK and Khrushchev used their "back channel" to communicate in a very positive dialogue to find ways to reduce nuclear proliferation and pave the way for peace. Dick Russell's work shows how the KGB tried to upset the plot. And the work of those writers and yourself, supports such findings. No one needed to tell LBJ what was going to happen to be able to trust how he would react. RFK's ability to find out what happened to JFK was comprehensive and very quick. I know that there was very little that RFK didn't know about the facts of what happened, despite his decision with EMK and the others, to leave it alone until RFK could be elected. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is such a key topic.

I mean, just what RFK was up to at this time and his inquiry into the his brother's death.  

Just from those first calls he made, its clear he thought it was a domestic plot.  And that is what he told Khrushchev.  

And then came 1968, and what I like to call the descent into the maelstrom.   Both King and RFK in two months.  

1968 marked the end of an era.  The premature death of the sixties.

 I like to classify that great decade in three parts: the hopeful Camelot Sixties 1960-63; the protesting and  Angry Sixties 1964-68; the stoned sixties, 1968-69, typified by Woodstock.  With four assassinations in five years, by this time everyone decided that is wasn't any use, give it up, escape into rock music and drugs. 

They killed it and that photo of RFK on the floor of the pantry with Romero holding his head up is an elegy to what happened.

Edited by James DiEugenio
Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...