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John F. Kennedy: Liberal or Conservative?


John Simkin
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One doesn't govern with the elected representatives that you wish you had in Congress; but must govern with those who have been elected. [With apologies to Donald Rumsfeld for the paraphrasing.] Were the Kennedys to refrain from dealing with racist politicians, they'd have garnered support from a handful of elected representatives in each party, and no legislation would have been passed.

Let us remember accurately the political topography of 1963 and just who populated the corridors of power at the time. "Ultimate Sacrifice" doesn't seem to do so; let us not make the same mistake.

Of course, it is necessary to do deals in order to get elected. The point is, how far do you go? You also have to consider the consequences if you have no intention of keeping these promises. For example, JFK had meetings with Richard Bissell and Allen Dulles before he was elected. JFK promised to take a hard-line on Cuba. In fact, during the presidential election, he attacked the Eisenhower and Nixon for being soft on communism in regards to Cuba. In return, JFK was told about the plans to arrange for anti-Castro exiles to invade Cuba. I suspect he was also told about the plans to assassinate Castro just before the invasion. Even though the CIA have always denied this was part of the plan, it does not make much sense without combining the two actions.

JFK also did deals with the Texas oil industry, promising to leave their “oil depletion allowance” alone.

JFK also sent RFK down to the Deep South to promise no legislation on civil rights. Maybe, his father even made promises on his behalf to the Mafia.

The problem about making promises is that if you break them you will be punished, either by the electorate or by the pressure groups you have let down.

One also has to look at the record of the JFK administration. JFK did go along with the Bay of Pigs invasion. Nor did he make principled decisions about civil rights. As RFK explained, JFK sacked Harris Wofford, chairman of the Subcabinet Group on Civil Rights (1960-1962), because he was too passionate about the subject of civil rights legislation.

Most importantly, JFK and RFK put Martin Luther King under a lot of pressure to call of his civil rights demonstrations. The same tactic was used against the leaders of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) who were causing bad publicity for the Democratic Party in the Deep South with their Freedom Rides. Thank goodness they took no notice of JFK. The truth is that the main reason black civil rights were achieved was because of the actions of people like Martin Luther King, James Farmer and Bayard Rustin and not because of the views of so-called liberal white politicians.

As the people of Iraq are currently finding out, you have to fight to get freedom and democracy. It is not something that you can have imposed on you.

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Guest Stephen Turner
Of course, it is necessary to do deals in order to get elected. The point is, how far do you go? You also have to consider the consequences if you have no intention of keeping these promises. For example, JFK had meetings with Richard Bissell and Allen Dulles before he was elected. JFK promised to take a hard-line on Cuba. In fact, during the presidential election, he attacked the Eisenhower and Nixon for being soft on communism in regards to Cuba. In return, JFK was told about the plans to arrange for anti-Castro exiles to invade Cuba. I suspect he was also told about the plans to assassinate Castro just before the invasion. Even though the CIA have always denied this was part of the plan, it does not make much sense without combining the two actions.

Dulles also briefed Kennedy, and Johnson about the "Missile gap" in the summer of 1960. This was a lie no such gap existed(well, only in Curtis LeMays mind) Kennedy assured Dulles that parity, at the very least, would be restored under a Kennedy administration.

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One doesn't govern with the elected representatives that you wish you had in Congress; but must govern with those who have been elected. [With apologies to Donald Rumsfeld for the paraphrasing.] Were the Kennedys to refrain from dealing with racist politicians, they'd have garnered support from a handful of elected representatives in each party, and no legislation would have been passed.

Let us remember accurately the political topography of 1963 and just who populated the corridors of power at the time. "Ultimate Sacrifice" doesn't seem to do so; let us not make the same mistake.

Of course, it is necessary to do deals in order to get elected. The point is, how far do you go? You also have to consider the consequences if you have no intention of keeping these promises. For example, JFK had meetings with Richard Bissell and Allen Dulles before he was elected. JFK promised to take a hard-line on Cuba. In fact, during the presidential election, he attacked the Eisenhower and Nixon for being soft on communism in regards to Cuba. In return, JFK was told about the plans to arrange for anti-Castro exiles to invade Cuba. I suspect he was also told about the plans to assassinate Castro just before the invasion. Even though the CIA have always denied this was part of the plan, it does not make much sense without combining the two actions.

Yes, but wasn't JFK trying to establish back channel negotiations with Castro after the CMC with a view to normalising relations between the two countries? I think you argued this yourself on another thread, John.

JFK also did deals with the Texas oil industry, promising to leave their “oil depletion allowance” alone.

I was unaware of this. Did this promise have a use by date? I suspect the Texas oilmen harboured doubts about JFK's intentions had he been re-elected in '64.

JFK also sent RFK down to the Deep South to promise no legislation on civil rights. Maybe, his father even made promises on his behalf to the Mafia.

The problem about making promises is that if you break them you will be punished, either by the electorate or by the pressure groups you have let down.

One also has to look at the record of the JFK administration. JFK did go along with the Bay of Pigs invasion. Nor did he make principled decisions about civil rights. As RFK explained, JFK sacked Harris Wofford, chairman of the Subcabinet Group on Civil Rights (1960-1962), because he was too passionate about the subject of civil rights legislation.

Most importantly, JFK and RFK put Martin Luther King under a lot of pressure to call of his civil rights demonstrations. The same tactic was used against the leaders of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) who were causing bad publicity for the Democratic Party in the Deep South with their Freedom Rides. Thank goodness they took no notice of JFK. The truth is that the main reason black civil rights were achieved was because of the actions of people like Martin Luther King, James Farmer and Bayard Rustin and not because of the views of so-called liberal white politicians.

I believe Kennedy decided that civil rights legislation in 1963 came at too high a political price. As you said, it is necessary to do deals in order to be elected--or re-elected. Had he been re-elected, and with the passing of two or three years to talk Congressmen around, he may well have enacted civil rights legislation. When discussing JFK's legacy, it must be remembered that his tenure was cut short. A re-elected President is emboldened to fulfil his legislative program with fewer political encumbrances. In November 1963, I think he was quite convinced he was going to be re-elected, and his timetable for legislative reform was prepared with this in mind.

As the people of Iraq are currently finding out, you have to fight to get freedom and democracy. It is not something that you can have imposed on you.

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One doesn't govern with the elected representatives that you wish you had in Congress; but must govern with those who have been elected. [With apologies to Donald Rumsfeld for the paraphrasing.] Were the Kennedys to refrain from dealing with racist politicians, they'd have garnered support from a handful of elected representatives in each party, and no legislation would have been passed.

Let us remember accurately the political topography of 1963 and just who populated the corridors of power at the time. "Ultimate Sacrifice" doesn't seem to do so; let us not make the same mistake.

Of course, it is necessary to do deals in order to get elected. The point is, how far do you go? You also have to consider the consequences if you have no intention of keeping these promises. For example, JFK had meetings with Richard Bissell and Allen Dulles before he was elected. JFK promised to take a hard-line on Cuba. In fact, during the presidential election, he attacked the Eisenhower and Nixon for being soft on communism in regards to Cuba. In return, JFK was told about the plans to arrange for anti-Castro exiles to invade Cuba. I suspect he was also told about the plans to assassinate Castro just before the invasion. Even though the CIA have always denied this was part of the plan, it does not make much sense without combining the two actions.

JFK also did deals with the Texas oil industry, promising to leave their “oil depletion allowance” alone.

JFK also sent RFK down to the Deep South to promise no legislation on civil rights. Maybe, his father even made promises on his behalf to the Mafia.

The problem about making promises is that if you break them you will be punished, either by the electorate or by the pressure groups you have let down.

One also has to look at the record of the JFK administration. JFK did go along with the Bay of Pigs invasion. Nor did he make principled decisions about civil rights. As RFK explained, JFK sacked Harris Wofford, chairman of the Subcabinet Group on Civil Rights (1960-1962), because he was too passionate about the subject of civil rights legislation.

Most importantly, JFK and RFK put Martin Luther King under a lot of pressure to call of his civil rights demonstrations. The same tactic was used against the leaders of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) who were causing bad publicity for the Democratic Party in the Deep South with their Freedom Rides. Thank goodness they took no notice of JFK. The truth is that the main reason black civil rights were achieved was because of the actions of people like Martin Luther King, James Farmer and Bayard Rustin and not because of the views of so-called liberal white politicians.

As the people of Iraq are currently finding out, you have to fight to get freedom and democracy. It is not something that you can have imposed on you.

John, it sure would help if you could provide some sources. I'm not trying to sound snarky here. I'd like to look into some of this, but I don't know where your information comes from. I looked at the Spartacus site for President Kennedy and don't see what you're talking about with the oil industry for exampe. Do you have that info in a link under someone's name?

It would be a better and more informed discussion if you would cite sources for your statements.

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John, it sure would help if you could provide some sources. I'm not trying to sound snarky here. I'd like to look into some of this, but I don't know where your information comes from. I looked at the Spartacus site for President Kennedy and don't see what you're talking about with the oil industry for exampe. Do you have that info in a link under someone's name?

It would be a better and more informed discussion if you would cite sources for your statements.

I provided the sources when I made my original posting on this subject:

Assassination, Terrorism and the Arms Trade: The Contracting Out of U.S. Foreign Policy: 1940-2006

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=5799

However, here is the relevant section on JFK and the oil depletion allowance.

The oil depletion allowance was first introduced in 1913 and allowed oil producers to use the depletion allowed to deduct just 5 per cent of their income and the deduction was limited to the original cost of their property. However, in 1926 the depletion allowance was increased to 27.5 per cent.

As Robert Bryce pointed out in his book, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America's Superstate: "Numerous studies showed that the oilmen were getting a tax break that was unprecedented in American business. While other businessmen had to pay taxes on their income regardless of what they sold, the oilmen got special treatment." Bryce gives an example in his book how the oil depreciation allowance works. "An oilman drills a well that costs $100,000. He finds a reservoir containing $10,000,000 worth of oil.

The well produces $1 million worth of oil per year for ten years. In the very first year, thanks to the depletion allowance, the oilman could deduct 27.5 per cent, or $275,000, of that $1 million in income from his taxable income. Thus, in just one year, he's deducted nearly three times his initial investment. But the depletion allowance continues to pay off. For each of the next nine years, he gets to continue taking the $275,000 depletion deduction. By the end of the tenth year, the oilman has deducted $2.75 million from his taxable income, even though his initial investment was only $100,000." (46)

Such a system was clearly unfair and only benefited a small group of businessmen in Texas. It seemed only a matter of time before Congress removed this tax loophole. However, these oilmen used some of their great wealth to manipulate the politicians in Washington.

The House Ways and Means Committee (which writes tax policy) were under the control of Sam Rayburn between the years 1937-1961. According to fellow congressman, Joe Kilgore, Rayburn personally interviewed members of Congress who applied to join this committee so “he could stress the importance of maintaining the allowance and assure himself that prospective members supported it.” (47) As the historian, Robert Bryce pointed out: “If the congressmen didn’t agree with Rayburn on the oil depletion allowance, they didn’t get on Ways and Means”. (48)

Texas was at the heart of American oil development in the 1930s and 1940s. All the great names of the oil industry, J. Paul Getty, H. L. Hunt, Sid Richardson, D. H. Byrd, R. E. Smith, John Mecom and Glenn McCarthy, “belong to Texas” (49)

In the 1930s and 1940s Texas was virtually a one-party state. Therefore it was necessary for the oil industry to control the local Democratic Party. Sam Rayburn was the most important supporter of the oil industry in Congress in the 1930s and 1940s. Rayburn was Lyndon Johnson’s mentor. For example, during his 1948 election campaign, Johnson called for the oil depletion allowance to be raised to 30%. (50)

However, the situation began to change in the 1950s. The Democratic Party had moved to the left under Roosevelt. This trend was maintained under Truman. Therefore, in 1952, the oil industry backed Dwight Eisenhower. This was reflected in his appointment of Robert B. Anderson as Secretary of the Treasury. Before his appointment, Anderson was president of the Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. In this post he introduced legislation beneficial to the oil industry. (51)

One of Eisenhower’s first actions as president was to stop a grand jury investigation into the “International Petroleum Cartel”. Eisenhower justified his action as the need to maintain “national security”. Eisenhower’s behaviour had an impact on the oil lobby. “In 1956, officials at the nations biggest oil companies gave nearly $350,000 to Republicans while giving less than $15,000 to Democrats.” (52)

Eisenhower was personally rewarded by the oil industry. Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson reported that Eisenhower’s farm was paid for by three wealthy oilmen, W. Alton Jones, Billy Byers and George E. Allen. The Internal Revenue Service discovered that these three oilmen gave Eisenhower more than $500,000 at the same time he was making decisions favourable to the oil industry.

In their book, The Case Against Congress, Pearson and Anderson point out that on 19th January, 1961, the day before he left the White House, “Eisenhower signed a procedural instruction on the importation of residual oil that required all importers to move over and sacrifice 15 per cent of their quotas to newcomers who wanted a share of the action.” One of the major beneficiaries of this last-minute executive order was a company called Cities Service. The chief executive of Cities Service was W. Alton Jones, one of the men who helped pay for Eisenhower’s farm.

Three months later, Jones flew in a small plane to visit the retired president. The plane crashed and Jones was killed. In his briefcase was found $61,000 in cash. No one was ever able to explain why Jones was taking such a large sum of money to Eisenhower. (53)

As a U.S. senator, John F. Kennedy voted to reduce the depletion allowance. (54) Texas oilmen were obviously concerned when Kennedy became the front-runner in the 1960 presidential election. It is true that Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn were in a position to try and block the move in Congress. However, Kennedy had the potential to draw attention to this unfair tax loophole. As Sam Rayburn pointed out, if the oil depletion allowance was debated in Congress: “They’d cut it to fifteen, ten, five percent – maybe even take it away altogether. Do you think you could convince a Detroit factory worker that the depletion allowance is a good thing? Once it got on the floor, it would be cut to ribbons.” (55)

During his election campaign, Kennedy changed his position on the oil depletion allowance. In October, 1960, Kennedy wrote a letter to his Texas campaign manager outlying his policies on the oil industry. He said he wanted to make “clear my recognition of the value and importance of the oil depletion allowance. I realize its purpose and value… The oil-depletion allowance has served us well”. (56)

In the first two years of his presidency, Kennedy made no mention of the oil depletion allowance. Nor did he seem to mind that Connolly used his position as Secretary of the Navy to help the oil industry in Texas. In fact, Kennedy showed little interest in bringing the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence Complex under control. This is reflected in what became known as the TFX scandal.

46. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (pages 46-49)

47. Anthony Champagne, Congressman Sam Rayburn, 1984 (page 151)

48. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 50)

49. Kirkpatrick Sale, Power Shift, 1975 (pages 33-39)

50. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 50)

51. Robert Sherrill, The Accidental President, 1967 (pages 142-147)

52. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 91)

53. Drew Pearson & Jack Anderson, The Case Against Congress, 1968 (pages 438-440)

54. Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, 1989 (page 277)

55. Anthony Champagne, Congressman Sam Rayburn, 1984 (page 151)

56. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 92)

This is the relevant section on civil rights:

In 1960 Kennedy presented himself as someone who held conservative views on both domestic and foreign issues. As Richard D. Mahoney points out in his book, Sons and Brothers: “As senator, Kennedy had zigzagged through the long obstacle course of civil rights legislation, siding in most cases, as a Ted Sorensen memo to Bobby proudly explained in December 1959, ‘with our friends in the South.’ He meant white friends.” (79)

As Mahoney goes on to argue: “The most entrenched and skilled leaders of that majority in the Senate – McClellan of Arkansas, Eastland of Mississippi, Ervin of North Carolina, and Fulbright of Arkansas – were all vehement opponents of civil rights as well as close friends of Bobby Kennedy.” Kennedy admits in several interviews that were recorded as part of the Oral History Project, that he had several conversations with people like McClellan and Eastland during the campaign to assure them that the Kennedy administration would not promote the “civil rights issue”. Kennedy later described Harris Wofford, his brother special assistant for civil rights, was eventually removed from his post because he was too committed to the cause: “Wofford was very emotionally involved in all of these matters and was rather in some areas a slight madman.” (80)

In his memoirs, Of Kennedys and Kings, Wofford argues that Kennedy was forced into taking a stand on civil rights because of the activities of Martin Luther King and pressure groups like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). For example, Kennedy did all he could to get the Freedom Riders to call off their activities in 1961. (81)

79. Richard D. Mahoney, Sons and Brothers, 1999 (page 117)

80. Edwin Guthman and Jeffrey Shulman (ed.), Robert Kennedy in his Own Words, 1988 (pages 77-79)

81. Harris Wofford, Of Kennedy and Kings, 1980 (pages 103-200)

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John, it sure would help if you could provide some sources. I'm not trying to sound snarky here. I'd like to look into some of this, but I don't know where your information comes from. I looked at the Spartacus site for President Kennedy and don't see what you're talking about with the oil industry for exampe. Do you have that info in a link under someone's name?

It would be a better and more informed discussion if you would cite sources for your statements.

I provided the sources when I made my original posting on this subject:

Assassination, Terrorism and the Arms Trade: The Contracting Out of U.S. Foreign Policy: 1940-2006

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=5799

However, here is the relevant section on JFK and the oil depletion allowance.

The oil depletion allowance was first introduced in 1913 and allowed oil producers to use the depletion allowed to deduct just 5 per cent of their income and the deduction was limited to the original cost of their property. However, in 1926 the depletion allowance was increased to 27.5 per cent.

As Robert Bryce pointed out in his book, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America's Superstate: "Numerous studies showed that the oilmen were getting a tax break that was unprecedented in American business. While other businessmen had to pay taxes on their income regardless of what they sold, the oilmen got special treatment." Bryce gives an example in his book how the oil depreciation allowance works. "An oilman drills a well that costs $100,000. He finds a reservoir containing $10,000,000 worth of oil.

The well produces $1 million worth of oil per year for ten years. In the very first year, thanks to the depletion allowance, the oilman could deduct 27.5 per cent, or $275,000, of that $1 million in income from his taxable income. Thus, in just one year, he's deducted nearly three times his initial investment. But the depletion allowance continues to pay off. For each of the next nine years, he gets to continue taking the $275,000 depletion deduction. By the end of the tenth year, the oilman has deducted $2.75 million from his taxable income, even though his initial investment was only $100,000." (46)

Such a system was clearly unfair and only benefited a small group of businessmen in Texas. It seemed only a matter of time before Congress removed this tax loophole. However, these oilmen used some of their great wealth to manipulate the politicians in Washington.

The House Ways and Means Committee (which writes tax policy) were under the control of Sam Rayburn between the years 1937-1961. According to fellow congressman, Joe Kilgore, Rayburn personally interviewed members of Congress who applied to join this committee so “he could stress the importance of maintaining the allowance and assure himself that prospective members supported it.” (47) As the historian, Robert Bryce pointed out: “If the congressmen didn’t agree with Rayburn on the oil depletion allowance, they didn’t get on Ways and Means”. (48)

Texas was at the heart of American oil development in the 1930s and 1940s. All the great names of the oil industry, J. Paul Getty, H. L. Hunt, Sid Richardson, D. H. Byrd, R. E. Smith, John Mecom and Glenn McCarthy, “belong to Texas” (49)

In the 1930s and 1940s Texas was virtually a one-party state. Therefore it was necessary for the oil industry to control the local Democratic Party. Sam Rayburn was the most important supporter of the oil industry in Congress in the 1930s and 1940s. Rayburn was Lyndon Johnson’s mentor. For example, during his 1948 election campaign, Johnson called for the oil depletion allowance to be raised to 30%. (50)

However, the situation began to change in the 1950s. The Democratic Party had moved to the left under Roosevelt. This trend was maintained under Truman. Therefore, in 1952, the oil industry backed Dwight Eisenhower. This was reflected in his appointment of Robert B. Anderson as Secretary of the Treasury. Before his appointment, Anderson was president of the Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. In this post he introduced legislation beneficial to the oil industry. (51)

One of Eisenhower’s first actions as president was to stop a grand jury investigation into the “International Petroleum Cartel”. Eisenhower justified his action as the need to maintain “national security”. Eisenhower’s behaviour had an impact on the oil lobby. “In 1956, officials at the nations biggest oil companies gave nearly $350,000 to Republicans while giving less than $15,000 to Democrats.” (52)

Eisenhower was personally rewarded by the oil industry. Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson reported that Eisenhower’s farm was paid for by three wealthy oilmen, W. Alton Jones, Billy Byers and George E. Allen. The Internal Revenue Service discovered that these three oilmen gave Eisenhower more than $500,000 at the same time he was making decisions favourable to the oil industry.

In their book, The Case Against Congress, Pearson and Anderson point out that on 19th January, 1961, the day before he left the White House, “Eisenhower signed a procedural instruction on the importation of residual oil that required all importers to move over and sacrifice 15 per cent of their quotas to newcomers who wanted a share of the action.” One of the major beneficiaries of this last-minute executive order was a company called Cities Service. The chief executive of Cities Service was W. Alton Jones, one of the men who helped pay for Eisenhower’s farm.

Three months later, Jones flew in a small plane to visit the retired president. The plane crashed and Jones was killed. In his briefcase was found $61,000 in cash. No one was ever able to explain why Jones was taking such a large sum of money to Eisenhower. (53)

As a U.S. senator, John F. Kennedy voted to reduce the depletion allowance. (54) Texas oilmen were obviously concerned when Kennedy became the front-runner in the 1960 presidential election. It is true that Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn were in a position to try and block the move in Congress. However, Kennedy had the potential to draw attention to this unfair tax loophole. As Sam Rayburn pointed out, if the oil depletion allowance was debated in Congress: “They’d cut it to fifteen, ten, five percent – maybe even take it away altogether. Do you think you could convince a Detroit factory worker that the depletion allowance is a good thing? Once it got on the floor, it would be cut to ribbons.” (55)

During his election campaign, Kennedy changed his position on the oil depletion allowance. In October, 1960, Kennedy wrote a letter to his Texas campaign manager outlying his policies on the oil industry. He said he wanted to make “clear my recognition of the value and importance of the oil depletion allowance. I realize its purpose and value… The oil-depletion allowance has served us well”. (56)

In the first two years of his presidency, Kennedy made no mention of the oil depletion allowance. Nor did he seem to mind that Connolly used his position as Secretary of the Navy to help the oil industry in Texas. In fact, Kennedy showed little interest in bringing the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence Complex under control. This is reflected in what became known as the TFX scandal.

46. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (pages 46-49)

47. Anthony Champagne, Congressman Sam Rayburn, 1984 (page 151)

48. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 50)

49. Kirkpatrick Sale, Power Shift, 1975 (pages 33-39)

50. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 50)

51. Robert Sherrill, The Accidental President, 1967 (pages 142-147)

52. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 91)

53. Drew Pearson & Jack Anderson, The Case Against Congress, 1968 (pages 438-440)

54. Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, 1989 (page 277)

55. Anthony Champagne, Congressman Sam Rayburn, 1984 (page 151)

56. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 92)

This is the relevant section on civil rights:

In 1960 Kennedy presented himself as someone who held conservative views on both domestic and foreign issues. As Richard D. Mahoney points out in his book, Sons and Brothers: “As senator, Kennedy had zigzagged through the long obstacle course of civil rights legislation, siding in most cases, as a Ted Sorensen memo to Bobby proudly explained in December 1959, ‘with our friends in the South.’ He meant white friends.” (79)

As Mahoney goes on to argue: “The most entrenched and skilled leaders of that majority in the Senate – McClellan of Arkansas, Eastland of Mississippi, Ervin of North Carolina, and Fulbright of Arkansas – were all vehement opponents of civil rights as well as close friends of Bobby Kennedy.” Kennedy admits in several interviews that were recorded as part of the Oral History Project, that he had several conversations with people like McClellan and Eastland during the campaign to assure them that the Kennedy administration would not promote the “civil rights issue”. Kennedy later described Harris Wofford, his brother special assistant for civil rights, was eventually removed from his post because he was too committed to the cause: “Wofford was very emotionally involved in all of these matters and was rather in some areas a slight madman.” (80)

In his memoirs, Of Kennedys and Kings, Wofford argues that Kennedy was forced into taking a stand on civil rights because of the activities of Martin Luther King and pressure groups like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). For example, Kennedy did all he could to get the Freedom Riders to call off their activities in 1961. (81)

79. Richard D. Mahoney, Sons and Brothers, 1999 (page 117)

80. Edwin Guthman and Jeffrey Shulman (ed.), Robert Kennedy in his Own Words, 1988 (pages 77-79)

81. Harris Wofford, Of Kennedy and Kings, 1980 (pages 103-200)

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One doesn't govern with the elected representatives that you wish you had in Congress; but must govern with those who have been elected. [With apologies to Donald Rumsfeld for the paraphrasing.] Were the Kennedys to refrain from dealing with racist politicians, they'd have garnered support from a handful of elected representatives in each party, and no legislation would have been passed.

Let us remember accurately the political topography of 1963 and just who populated the corridors of power at the time. "Ultimate Sacrifice" doesn't seem to do so; let us not make the same mistake.

Of course, it is necessary to do deals in order to get elected. The point is, how far do you go?

Those of us living in a parliamentary democracy, accustomed to "minority" governments, are perhaps more familiar than our US cousins with how legislation is fashioned by consensus and compromise when a government lacks a clear majority to pursue its agenda. The point is not just what deals are done to get elected, but how one gets deals done after being elected without a clear mandate.

You also have to consider the consequences if you have no intention of keeping these promises. For example, JFK had meetings with Richard Bissell and Allen Dulles before he was elected.

And when asked whether he'd shown either candidate favouritism in his briefings regarding the forthcoming Bay of Pigs plans, Dulles replied that each candidate had been given the same information. However, this was wholly disingenuous since Nixon didn't need any information, as he'd been a prime architect of the plans. How likely is it that Kennedy would have taken so hawkish a position against Nixon in the debates were he in possession of all the facts, only to then be faced with carrying out a program about which he had so many misgivings? It is clear that somebody's recollection is faulty. When faced with two divergent recitations of events, we are forced to choose between CIA's version and that offered by the Kennedy White House insiders. Given that the former is a suspect in murdering the latter, I am uncomfortable accepting uncritically what CIA personnel have to say. Those who disagree are free to do so.

JFK promised to take a hard-line on Cuba. In fact, during the presidential election, he attacked the Eisenhower and Nixon for being soft on communism in regards to Cuba. In return, JFK was told about the plans to arrange for anti-Castro exiles to invade Cuba. I suspect he was also told about the plans to assassinate Castro just before the invasion. Even though the CIA have always denied this was part of the plan, it does not make much sense without combining the two actions.

If JFK was unprepared to authorize US military participation in the invasion, do you really think he'd risk the potentially embarrassing blowback of it becoming publicly revealed his government had tried to kill Castro as part of the invasion? I have little doubt CIA planned to kill Castro, and that this was the "something" which Dulles publicly admitted they had counted on to happen which didn't transpire. Whether Kennedy knew about it is another matter entirely.

JFK also did deals with the Texas oil industry, promising to leave their “oil depletion allowance” alone.

And it was left alone, despite discussions to the contrary having been conducted during his tenure.

JFK also sent RFK down to the Deep South to promise no legislation on civil rights.

And, to his eternal discredit, he would have been as good as his word had various previously unforseen events not forced his hand.

Maybe, his father even made promises on his behalf to the Mafia.

The problem about making promises is that if you break them you will be punished, either by the electorate or by the pressure groups you have let down.

One also has to look at the record of the JFK administration. JFK did go along with the Bay of Pigs invasion.

And thereafter complained bitterly that he'd been sold a pig in a poke, as subsequent forensic investigations demonstrably proved was true.

Nor did he make principled decisions about civil rights. As RFK explained, JFK sacked Harris Wofford, chairman of the Subcabinet Group on Civil Rights (1960-1962), because he was too passionate about the subject of civil rights legislation.

Thank you, for this illustrates precisely what I stated above.

Most importantly, JFK and RFK put Martin Luther King under a lot of pressure to call of his civil rights demonstrations. The same tactic was used against the leaders of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) who were causing bad publicity for the Democratic Party in the Deep South with their Freedom Rides. Thank goodness they took no notice of JFK. The truth is that the main reason black civil rights were achieved was because of the actions of people like Martin Luther King, James Farmer and Bayard Rustin and not because of the views of so-called liberal white politicians.

Whatever private sympathies the Kennedys may have had for the civil rights movement, they only became public when King, et al, forced the Kennedys' hand. For me, this is the most damning condemnation of the Kennedy administration, a fact I trust will be borne in mind the next time somebody wishes to accuse me of trying to whitewash JFK's legacy.

As the people of Iraq are currently finding out, you have to fight to get freedom and democracy. It is not something that you can have imposed on you.

Which is precisely what the Kennedys discovered the hard way when troops were called out - as they had been in the Eisenhower administration - to preserve public order in the face of race-based insurrection.

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Kennedy was a leader of all US citizens not just those whose views he shared.

LBJ in 1960 told black leaders that the time for waiting is over.

JFK : September 30 1962: "I deeply regret the fact that any action by the executive branch was necessary in this case, but all other avenues and alternatives, including persuasion and conciliation, had been tried and exhausted. Had the police powers of Mississippi been used to support the orders of the court, instead of deliberately and unlawfully blocking them, had the University of Mississippi fulfilled its standard of excellence by quietly admitting this applicant in conformity with what so many other southern State universities have done for so many years, a peaceable and sensible solution would have been possible without any Federal intervention.

This Nation is proud of the many instances in which Governors, educators, and everyday citizens from the South have shown to the world the gains that can be made by persuasion and good will in a society ruled by law. Specifically, I would like to take this occasion to express the thanks of this Nation to those southerners who have contributed to the progress of our democratic development in the entrance of students regardless of race to such great institutions as the State-supported universities of Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky.

I recognize that the present period of transition and adjustment in our Nation's Southland is a hard one for many people. Neither Mississippi nor any other southern State deserves to be charged with all the accumulated wrongs of the last 100 years of race relations. To the extent that there has been failure, the responsibility for that failure must be shared by us all, by every State, by every citizen."

The law was enforced by Kennedy in no uncertain terms after negotiations that lasted up to the last minute. He did not waver in his stance on desegregation. General Walker was arrested and charged with insurrection.

June 11 1963:

Good evening my fellow citizens:

This afternoon, following a series of threats and defiant statements, the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro.

That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good measure to the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama, who met their responsibilities in a constructive way.

I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Viet-Nam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.

It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.

It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.

The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the Nation in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one-third as much chance of completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is 7 years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much.

This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety. Nor is this a partisan issue. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right.

We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?

One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.

The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives.

It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.

Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.

Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law. The Federal judiciary has upheld that proposition in the conduct of its affairs, including the employment of Federal personnel, the use of Federal facilities, and the sale of federally financed housing.

But there are other necessary measures which only the Congress can provide, and they must be provided at this session. The old code of equity law under which we live commands for every wrong a remedy, but in too many communities, in too many parts of the country, wrongs are inflicted on Negro citizens and there are no remedies at law. Unless the Congress acts, their only remedy is in the street.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public--hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.

This seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do.

I have recently met with scores of business leaders urging them to take voluntary action to end this discrimination and I have been encouraged by their response, and in the last 2 weeks over 75 cities have seen progress made in desegregating these kinds of facilities. But many are unwilling to act alone, and for this reason, nationwide legislation is needed if we are to move this problem from the streets to the courts.

I am also asking the Congress to authorize the Federal Government to participate more fully in lawsuits designed to end segregation in public education. We have succeeded in persuading many districts to desegregate voluntarily. Dozens have admitted Negroes without violence. Today a Negro is attending a State-supported institution in every one of our 50 States, but the pace is very slow.

Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court's decision 9 years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job.

The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.

Other features will also be requested, including greater protection for the right to vote. But legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.

In this respect I want to pay tribute to those citizens North and South who have been working in their communities to make life better for all. They are acting not out of a sense of legal duty but out of a sense of human decency.

Like our soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world they are meeting freedom's challenge on the firing line, and I salute them for their honor and their courage.

My fellow Americans, this is a problem which faces us all--in every city of the North as well as the South. Today there are Negroes unemployed, two or three times as many compared to whites, inadequate in education, moving into the large cities, unable to find work, young people particularly out of work without hope, denied equal rights, denied the opportunity to eat at a restaurant or lunch counter or go to a movie theater, denied the right to a decent education, denied almost today the right to attend a State university even though qualified. It seems to me that these are matters which concern us all, not merely Presidents or Congressmen or Governors, but every citizen of the United States.

This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents.

We cannot say to 10 percent of the population that you can't have that right; that your children cannot have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go into the streets and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that.

Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents.

As I have said before, not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or an equal motivation, but they should have an equal right to develop their talent and their ability and their motivation, to make something of themselves.

We have a right to expect that the Negro community will be responsible, will uphold the law, but they have a right to expect that the law will be fair, that the Constitution will be color blind, as Justice Harlan said at the turn of the century.

This is what we are talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.

Thank you very much.

" Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.

The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives."

To paraphrase : it is time to join as a government the people who are demanding action.

3 hours later Medgar Evers was assassinated. Robert flew to his brothers aid. Charles and Robert became firm friends and Charles was with Robert to the end.

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Going back a few years earlier to Kennedy's speech on algeria one can get a picture of the caliber of the man.

Extrapolating to the civil rights struggles and his probable position on vietnam:

http://www.jfkmontreal.com/lbj's_passi..._attachment.htm

"On July 2, 1957, Kennedy accused the Eisenhower administration of courting disaster in Algeria. He charged that Eisenhower's policy of non-involvement in Africa and Asia was really made up of "tepid encouragement and moralizations to both sides, cautious neutrality on all the real issues, and a restatement of our obvious dependence upon our European friends, and our obvious dedication nevertheless to the principles of self-determination, and our obvious desire not to become involved." The result, Kennedy said, was that, "We have deceived ourselves into believing that we have thus pleased both sides and displeased no one when, in truth, we have earned the suspicion of all.

The previous decade had proven that the tide of nationalism in the Third World from Indochina to India to Indonesia was "irresistible," Kennedy declared. It was time for France to face the fact that Algeria had to be freed. When would the West learn, he asked, that colonies "are like fruit that cling to the tree only till they ripen?" Didn't the French debacle in Indochina, which ended at Dien Bien Phu, serve as a warning of what lay ahead for France in Algeria if something were not done?"

--------

"Le Monde ... identified the senator as one of the few serious students of history in American politics"

{fascinating: two posts in a row that didn't register or bump the topic, I thought that only happened when I got stuck into Harry.. ho hum}

Edited by John Dolva
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John, it sure would help if you could provide some sources. I'm not trying to sound snarky here. I'd like to look into some of this, but I don't know where your information comes from. I looked at the Spartacus site for President Kennedy and don't see what you're talking about with the oil industry for exampe. Do you have that info in a link under someone's name?

It would be a better and more informed discussion if you would cite sources for your statements.

I provided the sources when I made my original posting on this subject:

...

Yet you didn't link to the original posting, or give the name of the thread until someone asked for it.

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John, it sure would help if you could provide some sources. I'm not trying to sound snarky here. I'd like to look into some of this, but I don't know where your information comes from. I looked at the Spartacus site for President Kennedy and don't see what you're talking about with the oil industry for exampe. Do you have that info in a link under someone's name?

It would be a better and more informed discussion if you would cite sources for your statements.

I provided the sources when I made my original posting on this subject:

Assassination, Terrorism and the Arms Trade: The Contracting Out of U.S. Foreign Policy: 1940-2006

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=5799

However, here is the relevant section on JFK and the oil depletion allowance.

The oil depletion allowance was first introduced in 1913 and allowed oil producers to use the depletion allowed to deduct just 5 per cent of their income and the deduction was limited to the original cost of their property. However, in 1926 the depletion allowance was increased to 27.5 per cent.

As Robert Bryce pointed out in his book, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America's Superstate: "Numerous studies showed that the oilmen were getting a tax break that was unprecedented in American business. While other businessmen had to pay taxes on their income regardless of what they sold, the oilmen got special treatment." Bryce gives an example in his book how the oil depreciation allowance works. "An oilman drills a well that costs $100,000. He finds a reservoir containing $10,000,000 worth of oil.

The well produces $1 million worth of oil per year for ten years. In the very first year, thanks to the depletion allowance, the oilman could deduct 27.5 per cent, or $275,000, of that $1 million in income from his taxable income. Thus, in just one year, he's deducted nearly three times his initial investment. But the depletion allowance continues to pay off. For each of the next nine years, he gets to continue taking the $275,000 depletion deduction. By the end of the tenth year, the oilman has deducted $2.75 million from his taxable income, even though his initial investment was only $100,000." (46)

Such a system was clearly unfair and only benefited a small group of businessmen in Texas. It seemed only a matter of time before Congress removed this tax loophole. However, these oilmen used some of their great wealth to manipulate the politicians in Washington.

The House Ways and Means Committee (which writes tax policy) were under the control of Sam Rayburn between the years 1937-1961. According to fellow congressman, Joe Kilgore, Rayburn personally interviewed members of Congress who applied to join this committee so “he could stress the importance of maintaining the allowance and assure himself that prospective members supported it.” (47) As the historian, Robert Bryce pointed out: “If the congressmen didn’t agree with Rayburn on the oil depletion allowance, they didn’t get on Ways and Means”. (48)

Texas was at the heart of American oil development in the 1930s and 1940s. All the great names of the oil industry, J. Paul Getty, H. L. Hunt, Sid Richardson, D. H. Byrd, R. E. Smith, John Mecom and Glenn McCarthy, “belong to Texas” (49)

In the 1930s and 1940s Texas was virtually a one-party state. Therefore it was necessary for the oil industry to control the local Democratic Party. Sam Rayburn was the most important supporter of the oil industry in Congress in the 1930s and 1940s. Rayburn was Lyndon Johnson’s mentor. For example, during his 1948 election campaign, Johnson called for the oil depletion allowance to be raised to 30%. (50)

However, the situation began to change in the 1950s. The Democratic Party had moved to the left under Roosevelt. This trend was maintained under Truman. Therefore, in 1952, the oil industry backed Dwight Eisenhower. This was reflected in his appointment of Robert B. Anderson as Secretary of the Treasury. Before his appointment, Anderson was president of the Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. In this post he introduced legislation beneficial to the oil industry. (51)

One of Eisenhower’s first actions as president was to stop a grand jury investigation into the “International Petroleum Cartel”. Eisenhower justified his action as the need to maintain “national security”. Eisenhower’s behaviour had an impact on the oil lobby. “In 1956, officials at the nations biggest oil companies gave nearly $350,000 to Republicans while giving less than $15,000 to Democrats.” (52)

Eisenhower was personally rewarded by the oil industry. Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson reported that Eisenhower’s farm was paid for by three wealthy oilmen, W. Alton Jones, Billy Byers and George E. Allen. The Internal Revenue Service discovered that these three oilmen gave Eisenhower more than $500,000 at the same time he was making decisions favourable to the oil industry.

In their book, The Case Against Congress, Pearson and Anderson point out that on 19th January, 1961, the day before he left the White House, “Eisenhower signed a procedural instruction on the importation of residual oil that required all importers to move over and sacrifice 15 per cent of their quotas to newcomers who wanted a share of the action.” One of the major beneficiaries of this last-minute executive order was a company called Cities Service. The chief executive of Cities Service was W. Alton Jones, one of the men who helped pay for Eisenhower’s farm.

Three months later, Jones flew in a small plane to visit the retired president. The plane crashed and Jones was killed. In his briefcase was found $61,000 in cash. No one was ever able to explain why Jones was taking such a large sum of money to Eisenhower. (53)

As a U.S. senator, John F. Kennedy voted to reduce the depletion allowance. (54) Texas oilmen were obviously concerned when Kennedy became the front-runner in the 1960 presidential election. It is true that Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn were in a position to try and block the move in Congress. However, Kennedy had the potential to draw attention to this unfair tax loophole. As Sam Rayburn pointed out, if the oil depletion allowance was debated in Congress: “They’d cut it to fifteen, ten, five percent – maybe even take it away altogether. Do you think you could convince a Detroit factory worker that the depletion allowance is a good thing? Once it got on the floor, it would be cut to ribbons.” (55)

[qoute]During his election campaign, Kennedy changed his position on the oil depletion allowance. In October, 1960, Kennedy wrote a letter to his Texas campaign manager outlying his policies on the oil industry. He said he wanted to make “clear my recognition of the value and importance of the oil depletion allowance. I realize its purpose and value… The oil-depletion allowance has served us well”. (56)

In the first two years of his presidency, Kennedy made no mention of the oil depletion allowance. Nor did he seem to mind that Connolly used his position as Secretary of the Navy to help the oil industry in Texas. In fact, Kennedy showed little interest in bringing the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence Complex under control. This is reflected in what became known as the TFX scandal. [/qoute]

46. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (pages 46-49)

47. Anthony Champagne, Congressman Sam Rayburn, 1984 (page 151)

48. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 50)

49. Kirkpatrick Sale, Power Shift, 1975 (pages 33-39)

50. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 50)

51. Robert Sherrill, The Accidental President, 1967 (pages 142-147)

52. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 91)

53. Drew Pearson & Jack Anderson, The Case Against Congress, 1968 (pages 438-440)

54. Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, 1989 (page 277)

55. Anthony Champagne, Congressman Sam Rayburn, 1984 (page 151)

56. Robert Bryce, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, 2004 (page 92)

This is the relevant section on civil rights:

In 1960 Kennedy presented himself as someone who held conservative views on both domestic and foreign issues. As Richard D. Mahoney points out in his book, Sons and Brothers: “As senator, Kennedy had zigzagged through the long obstacle course of civil rights legislation, siding in most cases, as a Ted Sorensen memo to Bobby proudly explained in December 1959, ‘with our friends in the South.’ He meant white friends.” (79)

As Mahoney goes on to argue: “The most entrenched and skilled leaders of that majority in the Senate – McClellan of Arkansas, Eastland of Mississippi, Ervin of North Carolina, and Fulbright of Arkansas – were all vehement opponents of civil rights as well as close friends of Bobby Kennedy.” Kennedy admits in several interviews that were recorded as part of the Oral History Project, that he had several conversations with people like McClellan and Eastland during the campaign to assure them that the Kennedy administration would not promote the “civil rights issue”. Kennedy later described Harris Wofford, his brother special assistant for civil rights, was eventually removed from his post because he was too committed to the cause: “Wofford was very emotionally involved in all of these matters and was rather in some areas a slight madman.” (80)

In his memoirs, Of Kennedys and Kings, Wofford argues that Kennedy was forced into taking a stand on civil rights because of the activities of Martin Luther King and pressure groups like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). For example, Kennedy did all he could to get the Freedom Riders to call off their activities in 1961. (81)

79. Richard D. Mahoney, Sons and Brothers, 1999 (page 117)

80. Edwin Guthman and Jeffrey Shulman (ed.), Robert Kennedy in his Own Words, 1988 (pages 77-79)

81. Harris Wofford, Of Kennedy and Kings, 1980 (pages 103-200)

Great work , John. Can we subtract one more "reason" for the assassination. Or Three?

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In my view, Kennedy changed from being a conservative to a liberal in 1962. This was as a result of what he discovered during the first two years in office. This is what I wrote on the other thread:

Once in power, Kennedy appeared to support the foreign policy established by Dwight Eisenhower. The historian, David Kaiser, argues that Eisenhower’s policies “called for a military response to Communist aggression almost anywhere that it might occur”. Kaiser provides evidence that this strategy was “adopted by the State and Defence Departments in 1954-1956 and approved secretly by President Eisenhower.” (82)

This policy began with the overthrow by the CIA of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala in the summer of 1954. According to one historian: “The Agency had learned a lesson from the Guatemalan revolution in the early 1950s, when a nationalist government expropriated the land and the public service enterprises of U.S. monopolies to the benefit of the peasants and the population in general. This experience gave rise to a program of infiltrating agents into countries convulsed by communist ideas.” (83)

In the final months of his administration, Eisenhower was mainly concerned with trying to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro in Cuba. He was also worried about events in Laos and Vietnam. However, Kaiser convincingly argues that Kennedy subtly changed foreign policy after he gained office. “Ironically, while Eisenhower’s supposedly cautious approach in foreign policy had frequently been contrasted with his successors’ apparent aggressiveness, Kennedy actually spent much of his term resisting policies developed and approved under Eisenhower, both in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. He also had to deal with the legacy of the Eisenhower administration’s disastrous attempts to create a pro-Western rather than a neutral government in Laos – a policy he quickly reversed, thereby avoiding the need for American military intervention there.” (84)

Kaiser admits that he the Kennedy administration did increase the number of American military personnel in South Vietnam from 600 in 1960 to 17,500 in 1963. However, although he sincerely wanted to help the South Vietnamese government cope with the Viet Cong he rejected war as a way to do so. Kennedy’s view of America’s involvement in Southeast Asia was expressed clearly at his first ever press conference. When asked about Laos he expressed his intentions to help create “a peaceful country – an independent country not dominated by either side but concerned with the life of the people within the country.” (85) This was a marked departure from Eisenhower’s policy of supporting anti-communist military dictatorships in Southeast Asia and the Americas.

This analysis of Kennedy’s foreign policy is supported by two of his most important aides, Kenneth P. O’Donnell and David F. Powers. In their book, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, they describe how on 19th January, 1960, Eisenhower briefed Kennedy on “various important items of unfinished business”. This included news about “the rebel force that was being trained by the CIA in Guatemala to invade Cuba.” O’Donnell and Powers claimed that: “Eisenhower urged him to keep on supporting this plan to overthrow Castro. But Eisenhower talked mostly about Laos, which he then regarded as the most dangerous trouble spot in Southeast Asia. He mentioned South Vietnam only as one of the nations that would fall into the hands of the Communists if the United States failed to maintain the anti-Communist regime in Laos.” Kennedy was shocked by what Eisenhower told him. He later told his two aides: “There he sat, telling me to get ready to put ground forces into Asia, the thing he himself had been carefully avoiding for the last eight years.” (86)

According to David Kaiser, it was not only the CIA and the Pentagon who wanted him to send troops to Laos and Vietnam. Members of his own administration, including Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, Alexis Johnson, McGeorge Bundy, Walt Rostow and Roswell Gilpatric, were also strongly in favour of Eisenhower’s policy of “intervention in remote areas backed by nuclear weapons”. (87)

Kaiser suggests the reason for this was that “these civilians were all from the GI generation, and to varying degrees they saw themselves as continuing the struggle against aggression and tyranny that had dominated their youth.” However, it has to be remembered that Johnson, McNamara and Gilpatric had all played an important role in the ensuring that General Dynamics got the TFX contract. (88) Is it possible that they had other motives for involving the United States in a long-drawn out war?

Kennedy continued with his policy of trying to develop “independent” Third World countries. In September, 1962, Souvanna Phouma became head of a new coalition government in Laos. This included the appointment of the left-leaning Quinim Pholsema as Foreign Minister. However, Kennedy found it impossible to persuade Ngo Dinh Diem to broaden his government in South Vietnam.

Kennedy continued to resist all attempts to persuade him to send troops to Vietnam. His policy was reinforced by the Bay of Pigs operation. Kennedy told his assistant secretary of state, Roger Hilsman: “The Bay of Pigs has taught me a number of things. One is not to trust generals or the CIA, and the second is that if the American people do not want to use American troops to remove a Communist regime 90 miles away from our coast, how can I ask them to use troops to remove a Communist regime 9,000 miles away? (89)

In April, 1962, Kennedy told McGeorge Bundy to “seize upon any favourable moment to reduce our involvement” in Vietnam. (90) In September, 1963, Robert Kennedy expressed similar views at a meeting of the National Security Council: “The first question was whether a Communist takeover could be successfully resisted with any government. If it could not, now was the time to get out of Vietnam entirely, rather than waiting.” (91)

The decision by Kennedy to withdraw from Vietnam was confirmed by John McCone, the director of the CIA: “When Kennedy took office you will recall that he won the election because he claimed that the Eisenhower administration had been weak on communism and weak in the treatment of Castro and so forth. So the first thing Kennedy did was to send a couple of men to Vietnam to survey the situation. They came back with the recommendation that the military assistance group be increased from 800 to 25,000. That was the start of our involvement. Kennedy, I believe, realized he'd made a mistake because 25,000 US military in a country such as South Vietnam means that the responsibility for the war flows to (the US military) and out of the hands of the South Vietnamese. So Kennedy, in the weeks prior to his death, realized that we had gone overboard and actually was in the process of withdrawing when he was killed and Johnson took over.” (92)

On 1st April, 1963, the attempt by Kennedy to create an all-party coalition government in Laos suffered a terrible blow when Quinim Pholsema, the left-wing Foreign Minister, was assassinated. As David Kaiser has pointed out: “In light of subsequent revelations about CIA assassination plots, this episode inevitably arouses some suspicion.” (93)

It would seem that Laos was not the only country where Kennedy was trying to develop a coalition government. According to Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartman, in the early months of 1963, a plan was put into action that would result in a palace coup led by “one of Castro’s inner circle, himself a well-known revolutionary hero.” Waldron and Hartman argue that the “coup leader would be part of the new Provisional Government in Cuba, along with a select group of Cuban exiles – approved by the Kennedys – who ranged from conservative to progressive.” (94)

Kennedy told Mike Mansfield in the spring of 1963 that he now agreed with his thinking “on the need for a complete military withdrawal from Vietnam”. After the meeting with Mansfield, Kennedy told Kenneth O’Donnell that when he pulled out of Vietnam in 1965: “I’ll become one of the most unpopular Presidents in history. I’ll be damned everywhere as a communist appeaser. But I don’t care. If I tried to pull out completely now from Vietnam, we would have Joe McCarthy red scare on our hands, but I can do it after I’m re-elected. So we had better make damned sure that I am re-elected.” (95)

In his book, Sons & Brothers, Richard D. Mahoney remarked: “Truman had lost his presidency over the “loss of China,” which in turn had touched off the anticommunist witch hunts by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Troubled as Kennedy was about slipping into the Asian land war, he temporized on the method of disengagement.” (96)

On 10th June, 1963, Kennedy made a commencement address at the American University. “In a speech written in the White House without Pentagon or State Department clearance, Kennedy called specifically, and for the first time, for a whole new attitude towards the Soviet Union and a greater effort for true peace.” (97)

Nine days later Kennedy discussed a new proposal by the State Department to take overt military action against North Vietnam. Kennedy was told that the Pentagon wanted to start bombing North Vietnam and the mining of North Vietnamese ports. (98)

As David Kaiser points out in American Tragedy, Kennedy refused to approve this plan: “Ever since assuming the Presidency, Kennedy had received a long series of proposals for war in Southeast Asia from the State and Defence Departments. Rejecting them all, he had established the goals of a neutral regime in Laos and an effort to assist the South Vietnamese against the Viet Cong.” (99)

Kennedy continued to have problems from the leaders of the military. On 9th July, 1963, General Maxwell Taylor explained to the National Security Council that individual Joint Chiefs did not believe that an atmospheric test ban would serve the nation well. Sixteen days later, Averell Harriman, Andrei Gromyko and Lord Hailsham signed the atmospheric test ban in Moscow.

On 14th August, Diem was informed that the U.S. government would be unable to continue their present relationship if Diem did not issue a statement reaffirming a conciliatory policy towards the Buddhists and other critics of his regime. Ten days later, Ted Szulc of the New York Times reported that “policy planners in Washington” had reached the stage where they would prefer a military junta in South Vietnam to a government ruled by Diem. (100)

Kennedy also gave the order for the withdrawal of 1,000 American personnel by the end of 1963. In order to achieve maximum press coverage, the plan involved taking the men out in four increments. General Maxwell Taylor spoke out against this policy and argued that the Joint Chiefs of Staff believed no withdrawal of troops should take place “until the political and religious tensions now confronting the government of South Vietnam have eased.” (101)

In an interview with Walter Cronkite on 2nd September, Kennedy clearly stated his policy on Vietnam: “I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it.” Kennedy then went on to criticize Diem’s “repressions against the Buddhists”. (102)

On 9th September, Henry Cabot Lodge met with Diem and threatened him that aid would be cut-off unless Ngo Dinh Nhu left his government. Yet according to a New York Times story, the CIA continued to back Nhu. This included John Richardson, the Saigon CIA station chief disbursing a regular monthly payment of $250,000 to Nhu and his men. (103) Four days later, Lodge suggested that Richardson should be ordered back to Washington as “he symbolized long-standing American support for Nhu.” John McCone defended Richardson and objected to the idea that he should be replaced by someone like Edward Lansdale.

Kennedy met with Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor on 2nd October, 1963. Kennedy told McNamara to announce to the press the immediate withdrawal of one thousand soldiers from Vietnam. Kennedy added that he would “probably withdraw all American forces from Vietnam by the end of 1965”. When McNamara was leaving the meeting to talk to the White House reporters, Kennedy called to him: “And tell them that means all of the helicopter pilots too.” In his statement to the press McNamara softened the President’s views by stating that in his judgment “the major part of the U.S. military task” in Vietnam could be “completed by the end of 1965.” (104)

Diem and Nhu were murdered on 1st November, 1963. The news reached Kennedy the following day. According to David Kaiser, Kennedy “left the room in shock”. (105) Despite this news, Kennedy made no move to change or cancel his troop reduction. As his aides, Kenneth P. O’Donnell and David F. Powers pointed out: “The collapse of the Diem government and the deaths of its dictatorial leaders made the President only more sceptical of our military advice from Saigon and more determined to pull out of the Vietnam War.” (106)

It has been suggested by William Colby, Frederick Nolting, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon that Kennedy had ordered Diem’s assassination. There is no evidence for this view. In fact, the behaviour of Diem was giving Kennedy a good excuse to withdraw support for his government. Kennedy knew that Diem was incapable of providing a coalition government that would gain the support of the South Vietnamese people. Robert Kennedy argued against the assassination of Diem as it would leave the government in the “hands of one man that we don’t know very well.” (107) The Kennedy brothers were aware that the man who took control in South Vietnam would probably be no better than Diem at establishing a coalition government. The assassination of Diem was therefore not part of Kennedy’s policy to withdraw from Vietnam.

John Kennedy never disguised the fact that he held some responsibility for the death of Diem. On 4th November he dictated his thoughts on the assassination. He made it clear that he was against the assassination. He pointed out that others, including his brother, were against the idea. He blames Henry Cabot Lodge, Averell Harriman, George Ball, Roger Hilsman and Mike Forrestal for promoting the idea. However, he acknowledges that he should have made it clearer that the assassination of Diem was unacceptable.

Robert Kennedy gave an account of his brother’s views about Diem in an interview recorded in 1964: “He (John Kennedy) would have liked to have gotten rid of Diem if he could get rid of him and get somebody proper to replace him. He was against getting rid of him until you knew what was going to come along, whether the government that was going to replace it had any stability, whether it would, in fact, be a successful coup... We had the difficult problem that, in fact, people had been encouraged to have a coup and now to pull the rug out from under them meant their death. That complicated the problem. And then what really brought the coup on - I guess, from what I've read since then - is the fact that Diem planned a coup himself, a fake coup: He was going to pick up all these people and arrest them and say they were participating in a coup and then execute them. (108)

There is considerable evidence that in 1963, John F. Kennedy began making moves to drop Lyndon Johnson as his running-mate. According to Kennedy’s private secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, on 19th November: “As Mr. Kennedy sat in the rocker in my office, his head resting on its back he placed his left leg across his right knee. He rocked slightly as he talked. In a slow pensive voice he said to me, 'You know if I am re-elected in sixty-four, I am going to spend more and more time toward making government service an honourable career. I would like to tailor the executive and legislative branches of government so that they can keep up with the tremendous strides and progress being made in other fields.' 'I am going to advocate changing some of the outmoded rules and regulations in the Congress, such as the seniority rule. To do this I will need as a running mate in sixty-four a man who believes as I do.' Mrs. Lincoln went on to write "I was fascinated by this conversation and wrote it down verbatim in my diary. Now I asked, 'Who is your choice as a running-mate?' 'He looked straight ahead, and without hesitating he replied, 'at this time I am thinking about Governor Terry Sanford of North Carolina. But it will not be Lyndon.'" (109)

To make politics and honourable career, Kennedy says he has to drop Johnson as his running-mate. Several events were taking place that convinced Kennedy that Johnson was not an honourable man. One reason for this was the activities of Johnson over the TFX scandal. The Senate Permanent Investigating Subcommittee had revealed links between Lyndon Johnson and Fred Korth and the granting of the TFX contract to General Dynamics. (110)

Another close friend of Johnson, Bobby Baker, had been forced to resign on 7th October, 1963. Baker, like Korth, was accused of corruptly obtaining federal contracts. The previous year he had had established the Serve-U-Corporation with his friend, Fred Black, and mobsters Ed Levenson and Benny Sigelbaum. The company was to provide vending machines for companies working on federally granted programs. In September, 1963, Ralph Hill, the owner of Capitol Vending Company, filed suit against Baker and the Serv-U Corporation. Hill’s business partner was Congressman John McMillan of South Carolina. Hill claimed that he had paid Baker $5,000 in payoff money in order to get a vending machine concession at Melpar, a Virginia-based company which manufactured missile components. (111)

In his autobiography, Wheeling and Dealing, Baker claims that Lyndon Johnson became very concerned with these events. He sent Walter Jenkins to ask him to quietly settle the lawsuit as he believed that Robert Kennedy was attempting to get him removed from office. Jenkins told Baker: “The boss (Johnson) would hate to see these things blown up. Reporters have been around asking questions and he’s afraid Bobby Kennedy’s putting them up to hanging something on you so as to embarrass him.” (112)

Johnson was right that Robert Kennedy was out to get him. Burkett Van Kirk, chief counsel for the Republican minority on the Senate Rules Committee later told Seymour Hersh that Senator John Williams of Delaware was being fed information by Robert Kennedy about the involvement of Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Baker in a series of scandals. Williams, the Senate’s leading investigator of corruption, passed this information to the three Republicans (John Sherman Cooper, Hugh Scott and Carl Curtis) on the ten-member Rules Committee. However, outnumbered, they were unable to carry out a full investigation into Johnson and Baker. Van Kirk claimed that Robert Kennedy supplied this information because he wanted “to get rid of Johnson.” (113)

In his autobiography, Forty Years Against the Tide, Carl Curtis gives an insider view of the attempted investigation into the activities of Lyndon Johnson, Bobby Baker, Walter Jenkins and Fred Black. According to Curtis, Johnson managed to persuade the seven Democrats to vote against hearing the testimony of important witnesses. This included Margaret Broome, who served as Bobby Baker’s secretary before the position was taken by Carole Tyler, who later became his mistress. Tyler did testify but refused to answer questions on the ground that she might incriminate herself. Tyler was later to die in an airplane crash on the beach near the Carousel Motel, owned by Bobby Baker. (114)

In his autobiography, Curtis described Baker, Jenkins and Black as “contact men”. He added: “Contact-men existed primarily to obtain for their clients and themselves some share of the vast pool of riches in the possession of swollen centralized political bureaucracies. The more impressive a contact-man’s political connections, the better he and his clients would fare.” (115)

According to W. Penn Jones, “Bobby Baker was about the first person in Washington to know that Lyndon Johnson was to be dumped as the Vice-Presidential candidate. Baker knew that President Kennedy had offered the spot on the ticket to Senator George Smathers of Florida... Baker knew because his secretary. Miss Nancy Carole Tyler, roomed with one of George Smathers' secretaries. Miss Mary Jo Kopechne had been another of Smathers' secretaries.” (116)

It is clear that Johnson knew he was going to be dumped as Vice President although it was not clear who his replacement was going to be. Johnson was also aware that Attorney General Robert Kennedy was leaking information to the Senate Rules Committee about his corrupt activities.

Robert A. Caro points out in Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, that this corruption was organized by close political associates such as John Connally, Ed Clark, Cliff Carter, Walter Jenkins, Tommy Corcoran and Jesse Kellam. Caro argues that this money often came from the armaments or oil industries. George and Herman Brown, the co-owners of Brown & Root (Halliburton) were probably his main suppliers of money. Caro also quotes Claude Wild, chief lobbyist of the Gulf Oil Corporation, of having the task of paying Johnson, via Walter Jenkins, $50,000 in 1960. (117)

It was however, the TFX contract that was Johnson’s main source of stress at this time. Johnson knew that John Williams had arranged for Don. B. Reynolds to appear before a closed session of the Senate Rules Committee on 22nd November, 1963. Reynolds told of seeing a suitcase full of money which Bobby Baker described as a "$100,000 payoff to Johnson for his role in securing the Fort Worth TFX contract". His testimony came to an end when news arrived that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. (118)

According to Edward Jay Epstein, Reynolds also provided information to the Warren Commission. Reynolds said that Bobby Baker had told him that Kennedy "would never live out his term and that he would die a violent death." Baker had also said that "the FBI knew that Johnson was behind the assassination". (119)

In the weeks following the death of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson seemed fairly preoccupied with the testimony of Don B. Reynolds before the Senate Rules Committee. His concerns grew when B. Everett Jordan, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, phoned Johnson on 6th December, 1963, to tell him that someone had leaked details of Reynolds’ testimony to the investigative journalist, Clark Mollenhoff. Jordan insisted he was doing his best to keep the information from becoming public: “I’m trying to keep the Bobby (Baker) thing from spreading… Because hell, I don’t want to see it spread either. It might spread a place we don’t want it to spread… Mighty hard to put a fire out when it gets out of control.” (120)

This telephone call reveals that Jordan and Johnson were not only concerned with covering-up the Bobby Baker scandal. The corrupt awarding of the TFX contract was only part of a much larger scandal that has never been fully exposed. I mean by this the way that the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence Complex had been fully integrated into the American political system. As Ernest Fitzgerald pointed out in his book, The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagement, and Fraud in Defense Spending: "In other banana republics the military comes to power with a sudden coup and the installation of a junta. Here it is different.... America runs on money. And the military has quietly come to vast economic power by taking vast amounts of the federal income for itself." (121)

Johnson also made an interesting telephone concerning the Bobby Baker scandal to George Smathers on 10th January, 1964. Clark Mollenhoff had reported in the Des Moines Register, that Ellen Rometsch had been “associating with Congressional leaders and some prominent New Frontiersmen”. (122) At the time, Rometsch was being investigated by the FBI as a possible Soviet spy. Robert Kennedy asked J. Edgar Hoover to help persuade Everett Dirksen and Mike Mansfield to stop a Senate investigation into Mollenhoff’s claim. (123)

However, soon after the assassination of John Kennedy, B. Everett Jordan, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, announced that he intended to look into reports of “party girls in Bobby Baker’s circle”. This was probably an attempt to put pressure on Robert Kennedy to keep quiet about events relating to his brother's assassination. This was only a short-term measure as when a committee member attempted to ask one witness about Bobby Baker’s girls, Jordan ruled him out of order. (124)

In the telephone call to George Smathers, Johnson points out that Bobby Baker has a tape-recording of politicians and U.S. officials at his town house and the Quorum Club. Johnson tells Smathers that the tape “involves you and John Williams and a number of other people.” Smathers replies that he knows about the tape and that it also includes the voices of Baker’s girls as well as Hugh Scott, one of the Republican members of the Senate Rules Committee, who along with Carl Curtis and John Sherman Cooper, had been asking awkward questions about Johnson on the Senate Rules Committee. Scott, Curtis and Cooper were the only Republican members on the committee. John Williams, also apparently on the tape, was the man who had been supplying the Republicans with information about the Bobby Baker case that he had received from Robert Kennedy. (125)

Johnson also adds that Robert Kennedy and Hugh Scott are also on the tape. Smathers’ replies: “Thank God, they’ve got Hugh Scott in there. He’s the guy that was asking for it. But she also mentioned him, which is sort of a lifesaver. So I don’t think that’ll get too far now. Jordan’s orders.” Johnson is still concerned about the damage that Scott can do and orders Smathers to do what he can to “make them (the Republicans) behave”. He also adds that Richard Russell was also working behind the scenes to stop the story reaching the public. (126)

Johnson then goes on to discuss the Don B. Reynolds case with Smathers. He confesses that he has a copy of Reynolds’ FBI file. The only problem is “there ain’t a goddamn thing in it that they can even indict him on.” Smathers’ replies that the best way to stop the story emerging is to get Everett Dirksen (Republican leader in the Senate) and Thomas Kuchel (Republican Senate Whip) on their side. According to Smathers they should be willing to keep quiet about it as there is evidence that Dirksen and Kuchel have also been involved “with this German girl” (Ellen Rometsch).

Johnson was clearly concerned about the damage that Reynolds and Baker could do to his political career. The lobbyist, Robert N. Winter-Berger, claims he was with John McCormack on 4th February, 1964, when Johnson entered the Speaker’s office. Apparently oblivious to Winter-Berger’s presence, Johnson said to McCormack: “John, that son of a bitch is going to ruin me. If that cocksucker talks, I’m gonna land in jail…. We’re all gonna rot in jail.” Johnson claimed that Robert Kennedy and John Williams were the ones involved in exposing the scandal. “You’ve got to get to Bobby (Baker), John. Tell him I expect him to take the rap for this on his own. Tell him I’ll make it worth his while. Remind him that I always have.” (127)

Johnson now launched a smear campaign against John Williams, the man they called the "conscience of the Senate". He arranged for the IRS to carry out an investigation into his tax returns. According to Victor Lasky: “This meant the senator had to leave Washington and submit to a line-by-line audit by an IRS agent. It also meant that Williams had to curtail his personal investigation into Baker’s tangled affairs.” (128)

An official working for Johnson told Williams that his mail was being intercepted and read before it was delivered. Williams went to the press with this story but despite an editorial in the Washington Star that stated: “The Senate should be totally outraged. Obviously someone high in the Executive Branch issued the instructions for this monitoring.” (129) However, the rest of the press ignored this story.

Johnson also ordered his aides, Walter Jenkins (130) and Bill Moyers (131) to obtain information that they could use to blackmail Reynolds into silence. When this failed, this information was then leaked to Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson. As a result, The Washington Post reported that Reynolds had in the past “brought reckless charges in the past against people who crossed him, accusing them of being communists and sex deviates”. (132)

The treatment of Reynolds in the press had an impact on other potential witnesses. One important businessman, who previously had promised Williams he would provide evidence, told him: “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Senator. I never talked to you before in my life. I’m sorry, but I’m sure you understand.” (133)

The investigation into the role Johnson and Baker played in obtaining the TFX contract therefore came to an end. The original contract was for 1,700 planes at a total cost of $5.8 billion, or about $3 million per plane. By the time they were delivered they cost over $9.5 million per plane. General Dynamics had been saved from bankruptcy by the TFX contract.

As Kirkpatrick Sale pointed out: “It turned out by 1966 to have a totally unworkable design – the wings kept falling off – so Johnson gave it top priority; and when it was finally sent into combat and proved to be totally unworkable, grounded within the first few months, no one seemed to care much, since the whole thing had effectively spread more than $6 billion of federal money around the land, much of it ending up in Texas pockets.” (134)

In the weeks following the assassination, Johnson was also concerned with Kennedy’s tax reform bill that had been submitted to Congress in January 1963. This included the removal of the oil depletion allowance. As Donald Gibson has pointed out: “He (Kennedy) also proposed changes in foreign tax credits which allowed U.S. based oil, gas, and mineral companies to avoid paying U.S. taxes.” (135)

In September, Congress passed the bill after it had deleted many of Kennedy’s proposals to close tax loopholes, including the abolition of the oil depletion allowance. When Kennedy was assassinated, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Harry Byrd of Virginia, was still discussing the proposed legislation.

Johnson feared that in a wave of sympathy, the Senate might now agree to Kennedy’s original proposals. A few days after the assassination, James Reston wrote in the New York Times: “President Kennedy had to die to create a sympathetic atmosphere for his program.” (136)

The day after Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson phoned up George Smathers, his man on the Finance Committee: “Tell me, what is the situation on the tax bill?” Smathers replies: “I made a deal, just confidentially, that Ribicoff and Long and myself and Fulbright would vote against any motion to take the bill away from the Chairman. He (Harry Byrd) would agree to close the hearings.” He adds “the smart thing to do, in light of developments, would be for you to get the appropriation bill through real quick.” (137) Johnson follows Smathers’ advice and the issue of the oil depletion allowance is removed from the agenda.

The main change that Johnson makes to Kennedy’s policies concerns his foreign policy. As David Kaiser points out in American Tragedy, Johnson returned to Eisenhower policy “which decided upon a militant response to any new Communist advances virtually anywhere on the globe.” (138)

One of Johnson’s first decisions was to move Kennedy’s Ambassador to Mexico, Thomas C. Mann, to the post of Under Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs. Mann, a fellow Texan, had held liberal views during the early 1950s, he had for example, argued against the CIA overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. However, by 1963, he shared the Eisenhower/Johnson view of international communism.

Johnson also called off the secret meetings that were taking place between Fidel Castro and people like Lisa Howard on behalf of the Kennedy administration. On 12th February, 1964, Howard took a message from Castro to Johnson asking for negotiations to be restarted. It included the following comment about the forthcoming presidential election campaign: “If the President feels it necessary during the campaign to make bellicose statements about Cuba or even to take some hostile action - if he will inform me, unofficially, that a specific action is required because of domestic political considerations, I shall understand and not take any serious retaliatory action.” (139)

When Johnson did not respond to this message she contacted Adlai Stevenson at the United Nations. On 26th June 1964, Stevenson sent a memo to Johnson saying that he felt that "all of our crises could be avoided if there was some way to communicate; that for want of anything better, he assumed that he could call (Lisa Howard) and she call me and I would advise you." (140) In a memorandum marked top secret, Gordon Chase wrote on 7th July that it was important "to remove Lisa from direct participation in the business of passing messages" from Cuba. (141)

It was at this point that negotiations between Johnson and Castro came to an end. Peter Kornbluh, a researcher at Washington's National Security Archives who has reviewed all the new evidence, recently told the Guardian newspaper: "It shows that the whole history of US-Cuban relations might have been quite different if Kennedy had not been assassinated." (142)

Lyndon Johnson showed little interest in either negotiating with, or removing, Fidel Castro. As he told Dean Rusk, Maxwell Taylor and John McCone on 2nd December, 1963, South Vietnam is “our most critical military area right now.” David Kaiser points out that Johnson “never seriously considered the alternatives of neutralization and withdrawal.” Kaiser adds: “Johnson, in short, accepted the premises of the policies that had been developed under Eisenhower – premises whose consequences Kennedy had consistently refused to accept for three years.” (143)

Johnson also opposed Prince Sihanouk’s new proposal for a conference on Cambodian neutrality. Johnson feared this would encourage Thailand and South Vietnam to follow the neutral policy that had been with Kennedy’s encouragement, achieved by the government in Laos. He also rejected suggestions by Mike Mansfield for a truce in Vietnam as he did not want “another China”. Mansfield replied, that the “United States did not want another Korea either”. (144)

Johnson told General Paul Harkins, commander of the U.S. military assistance in South Vietnam, that it was necessary to “make clear that the US will not accept a Communist victory in South Vietnam and that we will escalate the conflict to whatever level is required to insure their defeat.” (145) According to Stanley Karnow, Johnson told the joint chiefs at a White House reception on Christmas Eve 1963, "Just let me get elected, and then you can have your war." (146)

In February, 1964, Johnson removed Roger Hilsman as Assistant Secretary for the Far East. Hilsman, who had been in charge of Kennedy’s Vietnam policy, had been a loyal supporter of neutralization. Hilsman was replaced by William Bundy, who shared Johnson’s views on military involvement in Vietnam.

In an interview for the 1999 CNN Cold War documentary on the Vietnam War, Hilsman explained Kennedy’s policy during 1963: “First of all, from the beginning, he was determined that it not be an American war, that he would not bomb the North, he would not send troops. But then after …you remember the Buddhist crisis in the spring of '63, this convinced Kennedy that Ngu Dinh Diem had no chance of winning and that we best we get out. So, he used that as an excuse, beat on McNamara to beat on the JCS to develop a withdrawal plan. The plan was made, he approved the plan and the first one thousand of the sixteen thousand five hundred were withdrawn before Kennedy was killed. If he had lived, the other sixteen thousand would have been out of there within three or four months.”

Hilsman went onto explain how Johnson changed policy towards Vietnam: “Well, what Johnson did was, he did one thing before he expanded the war and that is he got rid of one way or another all the people who had opposed making it an American war. Averill Harriman, he was Under Secretary of State, he made him roving ambassador for Africa so he'd have nothing to do with Vietnam. Bobby Kennedy, he you know, he told Bobby Kennedy that he ought to run for governor of Massachusetts, you see. Bobby confounded him by running for the Senate… He wanted to get rid of me, Lyndon Johnson did. Well, Johnson's a very clever man. When he wanted to get rid of Grenowski, who was the Postmaster General, he offered him the chance of being the first American ambassador to Poland. he offered me... he found out that I'd spent part of my childhood in the Philippines, and he tried to persuade me to become ambassador to the Philippines, but that was just to keep me quiet, you see and so instead I went to Columbia University, where I could criticize the war from outside. Johnson was a very clever man, so the first thing he did was he nullified or got rid of all the people - and he knew as well, he knew who were the hawks and who were the doves… Johnson literally transferred, fired, drove out of government all the people that were really knew something about Vietnam and were opposed to the war. (147)

Robert Komer sent a memo to McGeorge Bundy showing concern about Johnson’s decision to reverse Kennedy’s foreign policy. He complained that this new “hard line” would “increase the chances that in addition to the Vietnam, Cuba, Cyprus, Panama and other current trials – will be added come summer Indonesia/Malaysia, Arab/Israeli, India/Pakistan crises which may be even more unmanageable.” (148)

On 2nd March, 1964, Johnson telephoned Robert McNamara, to prepare a statement on Vietnam. Two days later, McNamara issued a statement rejecting withdrawal, neutralization, or American ground troops. This was discussed with the five Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Maxwell Taylor argued for “the progressive and selective attack against targets in North Vietnam”. General Curtis LeMay advocated an immediate “hard blow”. Johnson replied he did “not want to start a war before November”. (149)

Johnson also became very interested in another area of foreign policy. This was brought to Johnson’s attention by John J. McCloy, who was at that time a member of the Warren Commission. He was also working for one of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy law firm’s most important clients, M. A. Hanna Mining Company. McCloy had several meetings with Hanna’s chief executive officer, George M. Humphrey. The two men had been close friends since Humphrey was Eisenhower’s Treasury Secretary. Humphrey was very concerned about the company’s investment in Brazil. Hanna Mining was the largest producer of iron ore in the country. However, after João Goulart had become president in 1961, he began to talk about nationalizing the iron ore industry.

Goulart was a wealthy landowner who was opposed to communism. However, he was in favour of the redistribution of wealth in Brazil. As minister of labour he had increased the minimum wage by 100%. Colonel Vernon Walters, the US military attaché in Brazil, described Goulart as “basically a good man with a guilty conscience for being rich.”

The CIA began to make plans for overthrowing Goulart. A psychological warfare program approved by Henry Kissinger, at the request of telecom giant ITT during his chair of the 40 Committee, sent U.S. PSYOPS disinformation teams to spread fabricated rumors concerning Goulart.

McCloy was asked to set up a channel of communication between the CIA and Jack W. Burford, one of the senior executives of the Hanna Mining Company. In February, 1964, McCloy went to Brazil to hold secret negotiations with Goulart. However, Goulart rejected the deal offered by Hanna Mining. (150)

The following month Lyndon B. Johnson gave the go-ahead for the overthrow of João Goulart (Operation Brother Sam). Colonel Vernon Walters arranged for General Castello Branco to lead the coup. A US naval-carrier task force was ordered to station itself off the Brazilian coast. As it happens, the Brazilian generals did not need the help of the task force. Goulart’s forces were unwilling to defend the democratically elected government and he was forced to go into exile. Later that month, a group of generals, with the approval of Johnson, overthrew Joao Goulart, the left-wing president of Brazil. This action ended democracy in Brazil for more than twenty years. Once again, Johnson showed that his policy was to support non-democratic but anti-communist, military dictatorships, and that he had fully abandoned Kennedy’s neutralization policy.

In June, 1964, Henry Cabot Lodge, resigned as ambassador of Saigon. McGeorge Bundy gave Johnson six recommendations for his successor: Robert Kennedy, Sargent Shriver, Robert McNamara, Roswell Gilpatric, William Gaud and himself. Johnson rejected all the names on the list and instead selected General Maxwell Taylor. Bundy complained bitterly that Johnson had appointed a military man. However, Johnson, who was determined to have a war in Vietnam, replied that the ambassador of Saigon would soon be a “military job” and that Taylor was “our top military man”. (150)

Johnson always intended to wait until after the election in November, 1964, before beginning the war against North Vietnam. Public opinion polls showed that the American people were overwhelmingly against sending combat troops to South Vietnam. Most leading figures in the Democratic Party shared this view and had told Johnson this was a war he could not win as China was likely to send troops into Vietnam if the country was bombed or invaded.

Johnson’s strategy changed when Barry Goldwater won the Republican Party nomination in July. Goldwater had been arguing that Johnson had not been aggressive enough over Vietnam. When interviewed by Howard K. Smith on television, Goldwater argued that the United States should start bombing North Vietnam. Smith suggested that this “risked a fight with China”. “You might have to do that” Goldwater responded.” On other occasions, Goldwater had insisted that atomic weapons should be used in Vietnam. (151)

Johnson was now free to trigger a war with North Vietnam. He therefore gave permission for OPLAN 34A to be executed. This was a new operations plan for sabotage operations against North Vietnam. This included hit-and-run attacks along the North Vietnamese coast. On 30th July, the American destroyer, the Maddox, left Taiwan for the North Vietnamese coast. On 2nd August, the Maddox opened fire on three North Vietnamese boats, seriously damaging one boat but not sinking it. (152)

Later that day the incident was discussed by Lyndon Johnson, Dean Rusk, George Ball, General Earle Wheeler and Robert McNamara’s new deputy, Cyrus Vance. As a result of the meeting, Vance approved new attacks on North Vietnam beginning on the night of 3rd August.

Soon after entering North Vietnamese waters on 4th August, Captain Herrick of the Maddox reported that he was under attack. However, later he sent a message that raised doubts about this: "Review of action makes reported contacts and torpedoes fired appear doubtful. Freak weather reports and over-eager sonar men may have accounted for many reports. No actual sightings by "Maddox". Suggest complete evaluation before further action." David Kaiser argues that “exhaustive analysis of the evidence makes it impossible to believe that any attack occurred that night.” (153)

Despite this, President Johnson immediately ordered “a firm, swift retaliatory strike” against North Vietnamese naval bases. (154) He ordered the bombing of four North Vietnamese torpedo-boat bases and an oil-storage depot that had been planned three months previously.

President Johnson then went on television and told the American people that a total of nine torpedoes had been fired at American ships and as a result he had ordered a retaliatory strike. Warned by Johnson’s announcement, the North Vietnamese managed to bring down two American planes, killing one pilot and capturing the other. (155)

Congress approved Johnson's decision to bomb North Vietnam and passed what has become known as the Gulf of Tonkin resolution by the Senate by 88 votes to 2 and in the House of Representatives by 416 to 0. This resolution authorized the President to take all necessary measures against Vietnam and the National Liberation Front (NLF).

As James Reston pointed out in the New York Times: “The Congress was free in theory only. In practice, despite the private reservations of many members, it had to go along… it had the choice of helping him or helping the enemy, which is no choice at all.” He then added, as a result of this resolution, who could be trusted with this enormous new power – Johnson or Goldwater?” (156)

As David Kaiser has argued convincingly in his book, ‘American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War’: “By initiating 34A attacks and simultaneously authorizing DeSoto patrols, the administration had brought about one brief military confrontation between North Vietnamese and American forces. The second spurious attack had then become the pretext for retaliation, a congressional resolution authorizing war, and the movement of additional U.S. air assets into South Vietnam.” (157)

Notes

82. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 2)

83. Fabian Escalante, CIA Covert Operations 1959-62: The Cuba Project, 2004 (page 12)

84. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 2)

85. Howard W. Chase and Allen H. Lerman, Kennedy and the Press: The News Conferences, 1965 (page 25)

86. Kenneth P. O’Donnell & David F. Powers, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1972 (page 281-282)

87. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 50)

88. I. F. Stone, The New York Review of Books, 1st January, 1969

89. Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, 1989 (pages 306-307)

90. Memorandum written by McGeorge Bundy’s aide, Michael Y. Forrestal, dated 26th April, 1962. It was first published in The New York Times, 5th December, 1998.

91. Roger Hilsman, To Move a Nation, 1967 (page 501)

92. John McCone was interviewed by Harry Kreisler on 21st April, 1988.

93. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 198)

94. Lamar Waldron & Thom Hartmann, Ultimate Sacrifice, 2005 (page 4)

95. Kenneth P. O’Donnell & David F. Powers, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1972 (page 16)

96. Richard D. Mahoney, Sons & Brothers: The Days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy, 1999 (page 279)

97. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 198)

98. William J. Rust, Kennedy and Vietnam, 1985 (page 119)

99. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 212)

100. Ted Szulc, The New York Times (24th August, 1963)

101. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 226)

102. Walter Cronkite, CBS News, 2nd September, 1963

103. The New York Times, 9th September, 1963

104. Kenneth P. O’Donnell & David F. Powers, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1972 (page 17)

105. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 275)

106. Kenneth P. O’Donnell & David F. Powers, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1972 (page 17)

107. John Kennedy, transcript, 4th November, 1963

108. Edwin O. Guthman and Jeffrey Shulman, (eds.) Robert Kennedy: In His Own Words, 1988 (page 40)

109. Evelyn Lincoln, Kennedy and Johnson, 1968 (page 204)

110. Robert J. Art, The TFX Decision, 1968 (page 6)

111. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Despoilers of Democracy, 1965 (pages 270-273)

112. Bobby Baker, Wheeling and Dealing, 1978 (pages 172-176)

113. Seymour Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot, 1997 (page 407)

114. Bobby Baker, Wheeling and Dealing, 1978 (pages 200-202)

115. Carl T. Curtis, Forty Years Against the Tide, 1986 (page 248)

116. W. Penn Jones Jr., Texas Midlothian Mirror (31st July, 1969)

117. Robert A. Caro, Master of the Senate, 2002 (page 406)

118. Bobby Baker, Wheeling and Dealing, 1978 (page 194)

119. Edward Jay Epstein, Esquire Magazine, December, 1966

120. B. Everett Jordan, telephone conversation with Lyndon B. Johnson (5.34 p.m., 6th December, 1963)

121. Ernest Fitzgerald, The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagement, and Fraud in Defense Spending, 1989 (page 70)

122. Clark Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register (26th October, 1963)

123. Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters, 1988 (pages 906-914)

124. Michael R. Beschloss, Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1997 (page 158)

125. Carl T. Curtis, Forty Years Against the Tide, 1986 (page 243-281)

126. George Smathers, telephone conversation with Lyndon B. Johnson (9.01 p.m., 10th January, 1964)

127. Robert N. Winter-Berger, The Washington Pay-Off: An Insider’s View of Corruption in Government, 1972 (pages 65-67)

128. Victor Lasky, It Didn’t Start With Watergate, 1977 (page 146)

129. John Barron, The Case of Bobby Baker and the Courageous Senator, Reader’s Digest (September, 1965)

130. Walter Jenkins, telephone call to Lyndon B. Johnson (7.30 p.m. 27th January, 1964)

131. Bill Moyers, telephone call to Lyndon B. Johnson (6.28 p.m. 3rd February, 1964)

132. The Washington Post (5th February, 1964)

133. Victor Lasky, It Didn’t Start With Watergate, 1977 (page 149)

134. Kirkpatrick Sale, Power Shift, 1975 (page 137)

135. Donald Gibson, Battling Wall Street: The Kennedy Presidency, 1994 (page 23)

136. James Reston, New York Times (28th November, 1963)

137.Lyndon B. Johnson, telephone conversation with George Smathers (9.01 p.m., 23rd November, 1963)

138. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 2)

139. Message sent by Fidel Castro via Lisa Howard on 12th February, 1964.

140. Adlai Stevenson, memorandum sent to Lyndon Johnson on 26th June, 1964.

141. Gordon Chase, White House memorandum, 7th July, 1964

142. Julian Borger, The Guardian (23rd November, 2003)

143. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (pages 288-290)

144. Mike Mansfield, memorandum sent to Lyndon Johnson (6th January, 1964)

145. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 292)

146. Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History, 1991 (page 342)

147. Roger Hilsman, The Vietnam War, CNN (broadcast on 6th December, 1998)

148. Robert Komer, memo to McGeorge Bundy (25th February, 1964)

149. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 304)

150. Kai Bird, The Chairman, Simon & Schuster, 1992 (550-553)

151. Michael R. Beschloss, Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1997 (pages 407-411)

152. Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm, 2001 (pages 346-347)

153. Edwin E. Moise, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War, 1996 (pages 73-74)

154. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 334)

155. Michael R. Beschloss, Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1997 (pages 503-504)

156. Edwin E. Moise, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War, 1996 (pages 214-231)

157. James Reston, New York Times (9th August, 1964)

158. David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000 (page 338)

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When Kennedy came up against an issue he needed to resolve he set about gathering data. This approach was in fact one of his major strengths. He turned up at the table armed with accurate figures and usually won the day on that strength. The liberalism that you see in Kennedy in 1962 is a result of research that started prior to this. Therefore the Kennedy that took the road he did was because of the Kennedy that he was, not because of a change. In a sense it was destined and the trail is coherent. Until he came to a view that diverged from previous views, of course, as a responsible leader, he did not speculate or rock the boat. When he did come to a ruling he followed through. This firmness of resolve made his adversaries realise he was not going to be swayed and the status quo was in fear of dissolution. This change hurt them fundamentally. Kennedys naivety if he had any was believing that others had at least some understanding of the source of the dis ease they felt in the face of massive change and would ultimately take responsibility or 'own' their reactions. Not so. It's the one human failing that underpins conservatism. Because Kennedy was essentially honest and had 'died' a number of times already and faced 'resurrection' and the attendant heightened awareness he operated on a higher plane. In a way this made his assassination inevitable, yet he didn't shirk from his responsibility in wresting the US into the 20th century. I'd go so far as to say he was one of the last truly wise leaders this earth has seen.

Edited by John Dolva
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When Kennedy came up against an issue he needed to resolve he set about gathering data. This approach was in fact one of his major strengths. He turned up at the table armed with accurate figures and usually won the day on that strength. The liberalism that you see in Kennedy in 1962 is a result of research that started prior to this.

Good post John. JFK was an intellectual (so was FDR). It is rare in politics. He was genuinely interested in hearing a wide range of different views. He gave those right-wing zealots the benefit of the doubt in 1961. However, by the Cuban Missile Crisis, he realized the intellectual bankruptcy of this group. After all, they really wanted to use nuclear weapons to make the Soviets back down over this issue. He developed the view that if the Cold War was not brought to an end, it was just a matter of time before we had a nuclear war.

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