Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Kennedy Files

Yes, Yes Fellow Skeptics, Carnivores, and Impassioned Fools,

The whole crowd, yes.  Let me be clear, as ever.  My motives are noble, far sighted, and adorably mercenary.  This is a pitch piece yet at the same time an effort to justify all your doubts.

First the pitch, On November 10, Tuesday at 9 pm, a channel most of you can probably get, the REELZ Channel, will air the first of ten one-hour segments about the Kennedy era, The Kennedy Files.   I will be a main commentator; from what I can tell, a lot of what I have to say is drawn from my own two books Bobby and J. Edgar and Edward Kennedy: An Intimate Biography.  In the Tampa Bay Area Bright House broadcasts this series on Channel 354.  Elsewhere, you will have to contact your TV provider to determine how -- and if -- you can access this channel.

I spent a couple of days in a studio in D.C. last March getting my contribution videotaped.  What follows, some of it drawn from these two books and a lot from my experience once the books came out, is intended to suggest how the Establishment, the Media, and the Participants Themselves endeavor to reshape and censor our memories and corrupt historical truth even when the historian and/or the  biographer is essentially sympathetic.

I find at this point I am best known from my treatment of the JFK Assassination in Bobby and J. Edgar (Chapter 19).  Roger Stone, long a corridor operator on the Republican Right and most recently a popular reviler of the Clintons and the manager who dumped Donald Trump, observed in his recent volume, The Man Who Killed Kennedy, which purports to prove that LBJ was behind the Kennedy assassination, that my work, Bobby and J. Edgar, now appears to be "the groundbreaking book" on the subject.  I appreciate the applause, however belated.  When my book appeared it was scholars and investigators on the Left -- to the left of The New York Times, that is -- who liked it best.  At last, some agreement.

Other aspects of my book seem to remain submerged, and I have attempted to surface them throughout The Kennedy Files.  For example, the career and effect of Joe Kennedy on the direction the nation took.  Recently, compromised biographers have attempted to erase from history the bootlegging and union-busting years, the real estate investments with mobsters, the early and open-handed backing of Senator Joe McCarthy, the pressure the old man  -- who owned the Coca Cola franchise there --put on his sons to retake Cuba militarily, however ill-advised.  It was this spirit as well as the Vatican connection of the family that pushed Jack Kennedy, along with the enthusiastic Bobby, into war in Vietnam.  Jack himself realized the foolhardiness of this venture, and he was apparently attempting to correct this blunder when he was shot.  Hating Lyndon Johnson, Bobby reversed himself.  None of this is unconnected to the assassination itself.  Cockamamie theories have appeared ever since, like the notion that the car behind JFK, which contained Kenny O'Donnell and Dave Powers, also contained a mythical Secret Service  operative who iced Jack.  Balderdash, but balderdash deliberately circulated to confound the issue.

Interestingly, exactly the opposite case is there to be made for Edward Kennedy, and in Edward Kennedy:  An Intimate Biography I have attempted to make it.  A lot of Ted's effort over the decades I knew and worked with him went into reversing the process to which his father and brothers had contributed so much.  By pushing  for reduced military exemptions Ted scared the country-club set as to the safety of their sons, married or in graduate school, and helped foreclose the war in Vietnam. Deputized by Lyndon Johnson, he did the leg work that got the Voting Rights Act through the Senate, staved of a potential exchange of missiles with the Soviet Union while Brezhnev was in charge, drove through the embargo that ended apartheid in South Africa, stymied the Reagan-era efforts to drag us into a war with Nicaragua, undermined efforts to prop up a number of quasi-fascists on the Supreme Court.  The truth about Chappaquiddick is in my book.  Unlike his brothers, he was an unembarrassed liberal.  All this, I hope, comes through in The Kennedy Files.

So try and have a look.  Reality is overdue.

Yours eternally,

Burton Hersh