Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dealey Plaza Revisited


Yes, yes, I know.  It has been too long a wait between blogs, my flock is parched for spiritual relief, the worry is universal that the well might have gone dry.  Be not afraid.  More opinions, more shafts of insight are on the way.  In the end even the most ardent are likely to feel thoroughly shafted.

Partly the problem has been the maddening internet, where the infatuated elves can't leave well enough alone. Partly it has been the fiftieth anniversary of the JFK assassination.  I have been doing a fair amount of speaking, for the media and a number of groups, so you have been a little neglected, oh my faithful brethren.

But here we are.  I realize that I have growled and thrown my weight around on this subject before, but what with all the adulation the Kennedy era seems to have pulled in around us this week we are probably overdue for another look, a consideration of what really happened, and when, and why.

In a piece that appeared a week ago, November 17, in The Tampa Bay Times, I attempted to deal with several books that have appeared lately on the subject.  I brushed off Bill O'Reilly's featherweight bestseller Killing Kennedy as an atrociously researched puff piece.  Of more concern is the recently published biography by David Nasaw, The Patriarch.  Apparently sponsored by Jean Smith, Joe's surviving child, the author alleges that Joe had nothing to do with organized crime, that whatever people thought was based on gossip among mobsters.  Apart from my exhaustively footnoted biography, Bobby and J. Edgar, virtually every recent work of substance on the Kennedys has detailed -- and substantiated -- Joe's business, political and recreational involvement with organized crime throughout his fascinating career.  Others have now come forward -- Christopher Buckley, among many -- so this naive whitewash of reality probably won't stand up.

More than this sort of truckling misrepresentation of the family's history, another kind of opportunism threatens to corrupt our reading of our own past.  There is a rash of Kennedy conspiracy books out right now that amount to sand in the eyes of those who have long doubted the conclusions of the Warren Commission and have done courageous and important work to get at the facts.  One author maintains Kennedy's Secret Service driver turned and shot him dead.  Another book pins it all on Lyndon Johnson, with little solid evidence.  What all these works accomplish is to discredit the efforts of several generations of genuine investigative reporters who have tracked down the details over the decades and come up with proof of a comprehensive conspiracy, involving many individuals, in and out of government.  The public understands this. In the e-book edition of Bobby and J. Edgar that just came out with Basic Books I have laid out the many important facts that have surfaced recently.

Our history is what we were.  Our respect for its authenticity will determine what we are becoming.  The truth, as they say, is what sets us free.

A happy Thanksgiving to all of you,

Burton Hersh