Tag Archives: John F. Kennedy

Memories of JFK’s death came pouring forth

DALLAS — Exhibits such as the one my brother-in-law saw today have this way of triggering so many memories.

We ventured to the Sixth Floor Museum, the one overlooking Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, where the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was murdered in front of the world.

The exhibit has been improved greatly since first time my wife and I visited it in the mid-1980s. It contains many more pictorial displays, more text, a wonderful audio tour, film and, of course, the window where the gunman fired on the president and Texas Gov. John Connally.

I was struck by the amount of attention paid at this museum to the slew of conspiracy theories that have kicked around since the Warren Commission filed its report in 1964. The new president, Lyndon Johnson, appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren to lead the panel to examine every detail it could about the assassination.

It returned with what I believe is the soundest plausible explanation: Lee Harvey Oswald, the disgruntled Marxist, sat in the window on the sixth floor of the Book Depository Building and fired three rounds from a bolt-action rifle, killing the president and wounding the Texas governor.

I was not quite 14 years of age when the world got the news.

My own theory in the moment was cut and dried: The Russians killed the president and were going to attack and invade the United States at any moment. That was how a 13-year-old mind worked in real time way back then. I guess I forgot that we would have a new president within minutes of the 35th president’s declaration of death. That’s what happened aboard Air Force One, when U.S. District Judge Sarah Hughes swore in President Johnson, who then asked for strength and prayers from the nation he was about to lead through this horrific tragedy.

I never have paid attentin to the idiotic conspiracy theories. I don’t believe any of them. I have retained faith in the commission headed by the nation’s chief justice.

Still, I was impressed to realize that the museum organizers saw fit at least to give many of those conspiracies a sufficient airing to at least present the many “other sides” of this most intriguing tragedy.

I remain convinced today, though, that Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger … and that he did it all by himself.

First thought on JFK murder? The Soviets did it!

I was a mere pup of nearly 14 years of age on Nov. 22, 1963.

I was home that day, nursing a bad cold. Mom and Dad had gone to work. My sisters were at school. I was watching TV when the news bulletin flashed on the screen: “Shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas, Texas; no word on whether the president was injured.”

The “word” came quickly. The president was rushed to a hospital. Doctors worked to save his life. They failed. Then came the announcement: “President Kennedy is dead.”

My first thought in the moment was clear and simple: The Soviet Union did it. Not only that, they were going to invade us immediately. The United States was without a president. We had no leadership.

Remember that I wasn’t yet 14. My mind ran wild.

I remember those initial thoughts today as Donald Trump has released many thousands of previously classified documents related to the Kennedy assassination. I’m hearing lots of talk that conspiracy theorists are going to run wild with this stuff. It’s going to substantiate their already-loony belief that someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald was involved. It was the Mob, the Cubans, the CIA, the FBI, LBJ, men from Mars, the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

I settled down over the years about what I truly believe happened that terrible day.

My 13-year-old concern about the Soviets was ill-founded, to state the obvious. I didn’t realize in the moment that Vice President Lyndon Johnson took the presidential oath of office in Dallas. He took command immediately. And the Big Bad Bear didn’t attack us.

I have grown up since then and have come to believe that Oswald did it. He acted alone. He snuck into the Book Depository Building. He waited for the president’s motorcade to pass under the sixth-floor window where he was perched. He squeezed off three rounds and fled. He got caught in the theater, shot the Dallas police officer and was arrested.

He wanted notoriety and, oh brother, he got it.

I also believe Jack Ruby wanted to be remembered, too, which fueled his desire to kill Oswald in the Dallas PD basement.

I’m glad the documents are out. I hope to read many of them over time.¬†The myriad conspiracy theories they are likely to rekindle are the work of people with too damn much time on their hands.

They need to find work. They need to get and stay busy.

JFK conspiracy talk might fire up again

You may now consider me an official JFK anti-conspiracy believer.

Donald J. Trump has decided to allow the release of thousands of pages of FBI and CIA documents relating to the Nov. 22, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas.

I’m glad the president has made this call. It should help dispel the loony conspiracy theories that have been kicked around since Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president to death and severely injured Texas Gov. John Connally.

The release should do this. It won’t. It is likely to fire up the goofballs.

For the record, here is what I believe.

I believe Oswald was able to sneak into the Book Depository Building. I also believe he was able to fire off three rounds at the president’s limo in the time investigators believe it took for the three rounds to inflict their deadly damage. I further believe Oswald acted alone.

I never have bought into the conspiracy lunacy. I never will.

Instead, I look at this event thusly: There is no way in the world to keep such a conspiracy a secret for 54 days, let alone 54 years. Does any serious person really believe an enterprising reporter couldn’t ferret out the truth to such a conspiracy if one really existed?

I am going endorse the theory posited years ago by the late Los Angeles County District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who wrote what I consider to be the definitive book on the Kennedy murder.

Bugliosi believes the reason the conspiracy theories likely will live forever is that Americans cannot believe a loser such as Oswald could pull off what some have called the Crime of the 20th Century.

I happen to believe that Oswald’s status as a chump loser makes him the perfect candidate to exact the demented form of vengeance he sought against the president or perhaps even Gov. Connally.

So, on Thursday the records will be released for public review. I welcome them. I want them to put to rest these idiotic notions about conspiracy, second gunmen, the Mob, the Soviet Union or the Cubans having some hand in this murder.

That’s my hope. My fear is that the conspiracy nut cases will fire up their nonsense yet again.


Maybe we can get to the bottom of Cruz-JFK ‘conspiracy’

One of the potential benefits of declassifying thousands of documents relating to President Kennedy’s assassination involves one of the many lies spouted by Donald John Trump during the 2016 Republican Party presidential primary.

You see, the man who would become president spewed out this hideous assertion that the father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — one of Trump’s primary opponents — might have had some kind of nefarious relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald, the guy who shot JFK to death in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Trump said he read somewhere that Rafael Cruz met with Oswald prior to the murder, implying that the elder Cruz had might have been somehow, in some fashion complicit in the assassination.

The nonsensical implication has been widely debunked, but it gained a bit of traction among the more avid corps of Trumpkins who stand by their man — no matter what.

I’m not clear as to whether the president will release all the documents. My preference would be for him to do so. The public is ready to know the whole truth behind the hideous crime.

I also want to expose the president as the habitual liar and character assassin many of us already believe him to be.

The doc softens his view of a Muslim president


It turns out that Dr. Ben Carson doesn’t really and truly think no Muslim could serve as president of the United States.

The good doctor is right to change his mind … more or less.

Sharia law at issue

Carson¬† — one of 15 candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination — said on “Meet the Press” that Islam is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution. Thus, he said, he couldn’t ever condone the idea of a Muslim running for president.

Now he says something different — and much more reasonable.

He believes now that if a Muslim were to disavow Sharia law then, by golly, he’d be all right with a Muslim running for — and possibly becoming — president of the United States.

You see — and I am sure Dr. Carson knows this — the Constitution is a secular document to which all presidents swear to defend and protect.

His purported fear of Sharia law was nonsense on its face when he said it over the weekend.

Anyone who takes the oath swears to set his or her religious faith aside when performing the duties of the public office. Sen. John F. Kennedy faced accusations during the 1960 presidential campaign that he would take orders — as a Roman Catholic — from the Vatican. He torched that concern with one speech in September 1960 in which he would promise fealty only to the Constitution were he to win the election.

According to The Hill newspaper: “If someone has a Muslim background, and they‚Äôre willing to reject those tenets [of Sharia law] and to accept the way of life we have, and clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion,” the 2016 hopeful said in a¬†Monday¬†night interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel, “then I would then be quite willing to support them.‚ÄĚ

There you have it. Reason and sanity have taken their rightful place in this discussion.

JFK speech worth revisiting


Man, I do love the Internet.

Most of the time, anyway.

I love it particularly when I’m able to find resources that remind me of where we’ve traveled and give me a clue of where we might be headed.

While working on an earlier blog post about the rogue Kentucky county clerk who’s in jail for refusing to do her job, I found a speech delivered in Houston on Sept. 12, 1960 by then-U.S. Sen. John Kennedy.

He was running for president and he wanted to clear the air over questions about his loyalties should he win the election later that year. He did so with typical JFK eloquence.

I encourage you to read it. Here it is:

JFK speech

But he spoke as well to a grander vision. He spoke to the need to get past notions that our government must adhere to certain religious doctrine.

He said: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

He said that the “separation of church and state is absolute.” Imagine that. Some so-called “strict constructionists” — even some in the media — keep yammering that the Constitution doesn’t declare there to be a separation and that, therefore, the separation doesn’t exist.

Well, it does exist. It exists in the very First Amendment which declares two things about religion: that no citizen shall be deprived of his or her religious freedom and that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

The implication is as clear as it can be: We must keep religion out of government and, thus, we must keep them separate.

Sen. Kennedy sought to quell the concerns of those who worried about what might happen were we to elect a Roman Catholic as president. He went much further in seeking a time when a candidate’s religion is of zero consequence.

The individual who wins an election takes an oath and pledges loyalty to the U.S. Constitution and to the laws of the land.

That’s how it’s been in this country since its founding.


‘The Eagle has landed’


I might be the only person in America who did not watch Apollo 11 land on the moon via CBS News’s legendary coverage of the event.

I was tuned in that day to NBC News. I heard the late Frank McGee intone, simply: “Man … is on the moon.”

But the link here is of the CBS coverage of the event, which occurred 46 years ago today.

It brings to mind this simple truth: We grew complacent about space travel over the years.

We launched a space race to the moon with the then-Soviet Union. President Kennedy had declared in 1961 that the goal would to be to “put a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s. We got there in the seventh month of the final year of that decade.

It was an exciting time. It was fraught with peril. But we knew that and at some level accepted the risk as part of the grand strategy, the goal. We had to beat those dreaded Soviets and by golly, we did!

The lunar program would end in 1972. NASA couldn’t justify spending so much money on missions that had grown — this is he word they used — “routine.”

There could be nothing routine about putting human beings atop a flaming rocket carrying thousands of pounds of fuel and sending them into outer space.

Tragedy would strike later. We’d go through the Skylab program. Then came the shuttle missions. Challenger blew apart on Jan. 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members. On Feb. 1, 2003, Columbia disintegrated on its return from space, killing seven more crew members.

Routine? Hardly.

But on that glorious summer day in 1969, two men — the late Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin — had us holding our breath as they walked into history.

Of course the question was intended to offend

Major Garrett, CBS News’s chief White House correspondent, and I have something in common.

We both worked for the same person, although at different times.

How’s that for name-dropping?

Garrett went to work for the Amarillo Globe-News back in the old days. The then-editor of the paper, Garet von Netzer, hired him; von Netzer later would become publisher of the paper and then he hired yours truly, although long after Garrett had moved on.

Having laid down that useless predicate, let me now say that Major Garrett asked a patently offensive question of President Obama, to which the president responded appropriately.

The question involved four Americans held captive in Iran and Garrett wondered how the president could be “content” that they’re still being held on trumped-up charges while he is “celebrating” the nuclear deal worked out with the Islamic Republic.


Obama took offense at the tone of the question. He scolded Garrett, saying he “should know better” than to ask a question that contained “nonsense.”

The president said he isn’t “content” over the Americans’ continued captivity and said he and his team are “working diligently” to secure freedom for the individuals.

What irks me about the question and its aftermath is how Major Garrett insisted it wasn’t intended to ruffle the president. He didn’t apologize and he said it was not asked to call attention to himself.

May I be blunt? That’s pure baloney.

That’s how it goes among the White House press corps. It’s always about getting in a question intended to call attention to the inquiry and to the person making it. Such gamesmanship has been going on for, oh, since the beginning of these televised events dating back to the days when President Kennedy introduced them to the public and turned them into some form of entertainment.

CBS’s Dan Rather famously sought to get under President Nixon’s skin during the Watergate scandal; ABC’s Sam Donaldson did the same thing to President Reagan over the course of many years; Fox’s Ed Henry does the same thing today with President Obama.

Well, now Henry and others have company in the “gotcha” hall of fame.

Major Garrett asked an appropriate question. He just inserted¬†a certain word — “content” — that framed it in a way that got Barack Obama’s dander up.

I would bet that was his intent all along.


MLK Jr. dies; RFK gives speech for the ages

Forty-seven years ago a single rifle shot killed one of the 20th century’s greatest Americans, Martin Luther King Jr.

James Earl Ray would be captured, tried and convicted of murdering Dr. King. He would die in prison.

Not long after the rifle shot ended the life of the Nobel laureate and champion of non-violent civil disobedience, a politician stepped to the microphone in Indianapolis. Robert F. Kennedy was campaigning for the presidency on April 4, 1968 and he decided to tell the mostly African-American crowd some tragic news.

He told them that Dr. King had been murdered and then he delivered one of the greatest extemporaneous speeches in modern political history.

RFK sought to quell the rage that rose from the shock of the news. He succeeded that night. While other cities across the country erupted in violence, Indianapolis remained calm.

I remember the events of that day very well. I was a teenager struggling to find my own way. I’d¬†discovered a path later that summer when I was inducted into the U.S. Army.

Dr. King could stir enormous passion in people. He sought justice for African-Americans but insisted on taking a peaceful path. That he would die a violent death remains to this day one of the great tragic ironies of the 20th century.

Robert Kennedy’s courage that night in Indianapolis would be almost unheard of today. He urged the crowd to reach out and to seek¬†the goodness¬†among each other.

That was a¬†turbulent time. RFK’s brother — the president of the United States — was struck down by an assassin less than five years earlier.

Indeed, Robert Kennedy’s own life would end violently two months and one day after Dr. King’s assassination.

In that brief moment, standing in the night, Robert Kennedy sought to honor Martin Luther King Jr. by seeking to tap the better angels of a society torn by violence.


What if MLK Jr. had lived?

Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has written a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. in which he declares that the message of peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience is as relevant today as it was when he preached it way back then.


On this day when we mark what would have been Dr. King’s 86th birthday, I cannot help but get past this historical tidbit that few — if any — historians ever seem to examine.

How in the name of all that is holy did Martin Luther King Jr. summon the poise to stand before the world as he did at such a young age?

MLK was 39 years of age when James Earl Ray gunned him down in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

Thirty-nine! That’s all.

Yet, it seemed at the time as if he’d been on the national stage forever. At least that’s my memory.

He was 34 when he stood before those hundreds of thousands of spectators on the Washington Mall to deliver the famed “I Have a Dream” speech that energized a generation of young black and white Americans. He would be 36 when he led the march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge at Selma, Ala.


How was this young man able to stand¬†often in church pulpits, make appearances on national TV news-talk shows, speak to mass gatherings of supporters, accepted a Nobel Peace Prize and became one of the leading voices of protests against the Vietnam War — all before he turned 40. Where did he acquire that wisdom? Or was he born with it?

He wouldn’t reach that milestone age. There would be no black balloons, gag gifts for his becoming an “old man,” or silly jokes and pranks from his friends and family members.

It’s been said of President Kennedy that his life was one of untapped potential, given that he, too, died at a young age.

I cannot stop thinking on this day what impact Martin Luther King Jr. might have had on his beloved nation had he been given the chance to reach middle age, let alone grow old.

As Dees points out: “In his speech of March 25, 1965, King spoke of the nation we could become ‚Äď a ‘society of justice where none would prey upon the weakness of others; a society of plenty where greed and poverty would be done away; a society of brotherhood where every man would respect the dignity and worth of human personality.’‚ÄĚ

He was just 36 years of age.