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tv   After Words  CSPAN  November 23, 2013 10:00pm-11:01pm EST

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ante in a way. glmpleght you can watch this and other programs online at up next on booktv "after words." ..
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i had a wonderful sister, a nun sister robert miriam and sometime in the early afternoon, a knock at the door came and that was rare. back in those days you were not interrupted in class. she went to the door. i heard her gasp and she placed her hand up against her chest. she came back to the class and she said students i have terrible news. president kennedy has been shot but he is still alive. take out your rosaries and let's pray for the president. back in those days rosaries were standard operating equipment in the catholic classroom so we all took out our rosaries. we were saying and holding each beat for dear life in maybe 20 minutes later or so she had to go out in the hall and she came back and she was crying. we knew. it was over. >> host: where was the school? >> guest: norfolk virginia saint pius the x.
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they will kill me if i don't mention it. i remember everything about it. i remember, and everybody was crying. i went to my locker's a good friend of mine was cleaning out his locker for the weekend because the next week is thanksgiving. the odd thing is that i guess he would have to be in catholic school at the time to understand that i remember saying to my friend, he is the only catholic president he didn't live to finish out his term. that's the way we looked at it back then. i was seven when kennedy ran for president and i was so excited. it was the eighth sacrament to be for john f. kennedy and i'd passed out literature in my neighborhood about it. i remember a woman slamming the door and saying i don't support hate this. i didn't know what a papist was and i had asked my father but it was a big deal to us and there was a lot of catholic bridget is. >> host: i was seven at the time but i have a vivid memory of our principal walking into
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our seven -- second grade classroom. the only two things i remember after that was when i got home standing on the coffee table in my father crying and the drums. coming home from church and watching live oswald being shot by ruby. what got you interested in politics? >> guest: honestly john f. kennedy did. that is one reason why did the book. i've always had it in the back of my mind that i wanted to write about this and i didn't have the time or resources to do it. we are doing a big project on kennedy. the book is a five-year project. that is why it's 600 pages. if you give an academic another year he will add another 100 pages that we are doing a massive on line course that is free to anyone who wants to sign up to the platform. we are doing a special mobile
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app that's going to have all of the new information and data we have compiled about the assassination on there and that's going to be --. >> host: just about the assassination or a slight? >> guest: the whole presidency, the assassination and the legacy through nine presidents. that is what we try to do is traced john f. kennedy through his nine successors and legacy is kind of a life after death. >> host: how long have you been teaching? >> guest: i've been at uva as a teacher since 1978 and i went there as an undergraduate. i used to have lunch with thomas jefferson. that is what my students think. >> host: outside of present company accepted who is your favorite historian? >> guest: oh my god there are so many of them. i would say on the kennedy side of dallek. he has done a great job. >> host: the most balanced of all of them.
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i agree with that. guess who it's fact-basefact-based. i don't think in the end people who write books that are a little too misty-eyed, i don't think there can chew bidding to what people really need to know about historical facts. >> host: i think he got it right down the middle. he got it right on that. >> guest: i agree with that. >> host: what got you interested in the story? >> guest: this is a very political but that whether you are doing political history, regular history or political science you have to be able to detach yourself to a certain degree. >> host: your own politics in your own personal feelings? >> guest: everyone has opinions and they all come with batteries of attendance -- opinions attached but opinions are a dime a dozen and everyone has got one on anything. it's important to be fact-based and important to wonder --
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uncover new facts that up and ignored or have been obscured in the past. that is what we have tried to do and "the kennedy half-century" it. >> host: why did you read write this book collects. >> guest: we were coming up to the 50th anniversary of the assassination. given the age of my generation and older generations it's not going to be too long before there are many people around who remember personally the kennedy administration while kennedy was alive or even the assassination. this 50th anniversary is a great opportunity to clear away some of the myths we have seen develop around john f. kennedy, his assassination what followed. >> host: you went through what? what i enjoyed about the book and there were many things i enjoyed is he sifted through so many of the different eras and examine them without prejudice or bias and came to your own conclusions that either they were credible or not credible. that is what i liked about the book but what did you discover in writing "the kennedy
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half-century" that hasn't been known of the last 50 years or the warren commission or since the house investigation in the early mid-1970s? >> guest: we discovered a number of things. i think on his presidency people misremembered kennedy. in a way that confused him with bobby in his later years and of course ted kennedy the lib or line of the. jack kennedy was by far the most conservative of the brothers and his administration was fairly conservative. that is the presidency part. on the assassination part we wanted to make a contribution and we wanted it to be based on the scientific effort. not only does everyone have an opinion, in this field everybody is a theory. there are a million theories about kennedy's assassination. there are surprisingly few hard facts. the question i always ask people is when you have read a theory, when you read someone's opinion
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about the kennedy assassination, is there enough proof and evidence so that it will hold up in a court of law? the answer in the vast majority of cases is no. >> host: that's interesting you say hold up in a court of law. of course we remember there was one trial which was the gym moore some publicity's guns basically is what it was. so historians have to deal with other ways to enforce at least intellectual love that wall -- that no one will be tried or convicted but do historians have an obligation to police other historians or police bad history? >> guest: to a certain degree and of course you police bad history with good history because in the end i think the marketplace responds to fact-based analyses and people recognize prejudice or a lack of bias and compare the two. so that is important and you have to leave it to the
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marketplace. but their first amendment everyone is entitled to say whatever they want and certainly about the murder of a president do what we try to do is focus on the key piece of evidence and of course first --. >> host: you were talking about the dicta belt. that was 1975 i believe the house investigation. >> guest: the house investigation started, it first started in 76 reported in 79 and the recent mishap and was the warren commission even by that time had come enormously unpopular for good reason. it was a political commission. it had a political timetable. president johnson wanted out of the way before the key parts of the general election of 64. johnson and j. edgar hoover the fbi director and others had already decided within 24 hours of the assassination that oswald was the lone guman for various
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reasons domestic and international. that is what they wanted the warren commission to find in the warren commission simply didn't go down all the trails while the trails were hot. that is i think their greatest weakness. they didn't know they were also being lied to. it's clear that the cia did not tell them the church about its following oswald are about the assassination plots against castro. the f. the eye in the cia never told the commission about their arrangements with the mafia. there were so many things they didn't know and they rush to conclusions. craig what shocked me was 50 years after the warren commission, i could go to dallas which i did and interview people who were writing dealey plaza who have strong opinions, who sought things, hooper never ever interviewed by the warren commission. >> host: how can that happen? >> guest: it can happen because the commission was
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rushed and already knew with its conclusion was going to be. they simply disallowed information and i found pieces that don't fit. as i say i'm not particularly conspiracy oriented that i felt that my application to point out to people the pieces that don't fit into the warren commission report. i will give you good example. when president kennedy was shot at 12:30 p.m. dallas time november 22, 1963 within one minute several dallas police officers ran up to the grassy knoll. why? many people were pointing to it as the source of at least some of the gunfire. the first officer up there a fellow named joe marshall smith at his gun drawn because he expected to find a lone gunman. instead he encountered a man who was asked who he was and he presented his credentials. smith was familiar with the secret service credentials. they were offered in dallas for one reason or another.
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two other officers reported essentially the same thing and apparently there was more with one -- then one with secret service credentials. there was one problem. the secret service in the warren commission and everyone else who is looked at as identify the location of every single secret service officer at that time. no one was at dealey plaza. all of the officers are taught to go with their protectee said said they went to parkland hospital with the president and the vice president soon to be president johnson. who were these people, craig, with secret service credentials that no one can identify? i don't have an answer but i have explained it in the book and i have stuck to the facts. people can make up their own minds. that is the warren commission. >> host: if it was explained would it change anything at all or would it still just be that oswald acted alone? >> guest: that's a great question. let's suppose they were people pretending to be secret service
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officers. why were they in dealey plaza? why worry they at the top of the grassy knoll? this would add some evidence, some hard evidence to the belief that perhaps other people were involved and perhaps there was second shooter kind of picket fence. if there were a second shooter behind a picket fence, he either didn't fire or he missed entirely because the bullet trajectories clearly go to the window on the sixth floor or someone fired and i think the overwhelming amount of evidence suggests it's lee harvey oswald. they found shotguns and boxes and lots of greater things. he clearly bought the mail-order rifle. the present of the united states was killed with a 19-dollar rifle. >> host: i did a little research and actually considered to be a fairly good rifle.
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the conspiracy theorists have tried to suggest that it was just you know a very bad rifle but actually it was considered to be above average as far as accuracy. >> host: >> guest: the scope was off. people questioned whether oswald could've done it could've done it but if you practice with a gun he could've made that calculation has had. >> host: could it be possible the scope was knocked out of kilter? >> guest: it's as possible and everything went people visit dealey plaza and i encourage them to go to the sixth floor museum. they have done wonderful job of trying to preserve what happened that day and dallas almost tried to tear down the texas schoolbook depository. the people in the six floor museum have done a wonderful job but when you go there the first thing everyone says is my god it's such a small compact scene. this enormous event that changed america happened there and people expected to be kind of like times square.
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no, it's a tiny little area. look, i would have a hard time hitting a water bucket 20 feet away. i think almost anybody under certain conditions existing on november 22nd minute and able to hit that car. it was moving at about 11 miles per hour. this was not all that difficult a shot. also oswald was a better shop than he was given credit for. he wasn't a great marksman by any means. he also wasn't bad either so you have to take all that into account. again, i have to be very critical of the warren commission. i have outlined 30 ways they failed in the kennedy half-century. it's embarrassing. what really is the most irritating craig is the american public would have waited any amount of time for a good investigation and would have spent any amount of money for the warren commission to do its job. if it had done the job
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thoroughly and well in 1963 and 64 we wouldn't have had 50 years of pure cynicism, much of the generated by the results of kennedy assassination. >> host: the next question is it has been 50 years of cynicism and doubt in a lot of things have been undermined in the u.s. government and you write a lot of it goes to the warren commission. there was a belief in the governments ability to do things the government defeated the empire of japan in nazi germany and government put a man into space. the government generally didn't solve the great depression but at least ameliorated it and gave people hope. there was good evidence from the time of that fascination until 1973. the government generally work towards benefit of the american people. the question is that, if you go back to dealey plaza and you could need their half-hour ahead
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of time at 12 noon dallas time on november 22, 1963 and you had a 35-millimeter camera and you can position yourself in a place and come up with a photograph of the evidence to prove that there was a conspiracy or not a conspiracy, where would you put yourself in why? >> guest: a great question and of course i would have loved to have been there. not that you can change history but just to see what happened. first of all i would have position myself right across from oswald's window. he was visible for some time before he moved back into position so i would have wanted to have clearly identified that it was oswald in the sixth floor window at the end of the building. but i would have had plenty of time then than to go to the grassy knoll area behind a picket fence or even in the rail yard to see whether anyone was shooting from there. i'm convinced there wasn't -- >> host: the grassy knoll as i
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recall there were texas live oak trees there. there was a fence there. if you are in that cleared area, that plaza area across the road would you have a clear sight of vision of where the badge man or whatever they call the other shooter might have been? >> guest: yes, certainly had he been focusing on that. the reason no one got a good look at someone who was there, if someone was there because naturally all eyes were focused on the president and first lady. so was impossible for people to see directly if they weren't looking directly. it wasn't a shooter on the overpass. it wasn't a shooter from the dallas tax building. >> host: also the prison. >> it also the. the theories about the secret service shooting kennedy arras
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absurd as george h.w. bush was outside the schoolbook depository. there are actual is web sites and pages on web sites. it's ridiculous. >> host: why do all these -- there was a conspiracy to decapitate the government no question about it and they were quickly apprehended and were tried and convicted. with garfield and mckinley they were not assassins but conspiracy and the country moved on. why have so many conspiracy theories, just the warren report? is there something deeper about the moral imbalance of the ultimate winner kennedy war hero rich handsome and debonair president being killed by this lonely loser? there is a moral imbalance that people can't deal with. >> guest: that may be part of it.
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there are many reasons. first you mentioned lincoln. don't forget harry truman. that was a conspiracy. the porter recent -- puerto rican nationalists tried to give him when he was at warehouse. i guess you could say part of it is a good thing. americans don't accept the official word without questioning it and that is in our nature. it's in our history. it's in the first amendment but the other part of this is simply that again the warren commission did poor job and didn't answer a lot of questions. second, there was this advance between the most powerful person in the world at the peak of his power probably at the peak of america's power being eliminated by a loner. he was actually very bright but he was a loner and he was clearly disturbed in various ways. he had a very mutual life. the imbalance there is just enormous and you have to imagine that life makes sense.
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and can life makes since when this powerful 35th president of the united states can be eliminated by someone like lee harvey oswald with a lucky shot? i think those are all reasons why an various things have emerged. we were being lied to about what the cia was doing and what the f. e. i was doing and what the government and the candidate administration was doing. lyndon johnson himself, and it publicly after his white house years that president kennedy and the kennedy administration were running a murder incorporated in the caribbean with castro and other leaders around the world. >> host: why was kennedy in texas in november of 1963? >> guest: it's very clear. there's no question he was trying to help the texas democratic party reunite.
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there had been a terrible split between the liberals and senator ralph yarbro in the conservative side by governor john connolly. lyndon johnson was kind of in the middle and he was trying to put the party back together. >> host: connolly was his protége and self -- friend. >> guest: kennedy's presidency is only understood well in the electoral context that you would understand well and that i understand well. kennedy had an elected by a smidgen and some say he wasn't elected at all but 118,000 votes on the official record. texas, tiny number of votes. tens of thousands in the large texas electorate. look, kennedy during his whole term worried about the re-election. it didn't matter that things looked good. he remembered how close it had been. he needed texas and that is why
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he was there. >> host: i didn't give you enough time to talk about your discovery about the fraud recording. i wanted to get back to that because the entire races as i recall of the house investigation in 1979 was that it was a microphone that was stuck open of a dallas police officer recording the events there and that this recording was saved but lost in history for a time and they claim that it was four shots and because of the time that oswald fired it was impossible and that 8.5 seconds -- impossible for four shots to be fired. therefore the conclusion was there was a second shooter and a house investigation said there was a probable conspiracy. what if you discover discovered to refute that? >> guest: essentially we have
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blown the committee report apart i'm going to explain why. remember why the committee was formed. three-quarters of the american public were in the warren commission and the commission for this book shows three-quarters of the american people believe the warren commission and nothing is changed. congressman were getting complaints from their constituents demanding after the revelations with the frank church committee about the cia. what really happened in dallas we don't believe the warren commission. house representatives formed a select committee and the special committee on assassinations and they worked from 76 until 79 on this subject and others. they looked into other assassinations as well, martin luther king. in the case of john kennedy they had been preparing to endorse the basic conclusions of the warren commission after having interviewed people the warren commission didn't get to, after
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having investigated trails the warren commission didn't go down. then toward the very end they heard about this so-called dicta belt. it's a recording that was done at police headquarters ahead of the dispatch office that is still living a guy named jim bowles who was a sheriff in dallas for many years thereafter. he deserves a lot of credit for helping to preserve these did the belts. the dicta belt creates -- and nine:45 in the morning before air force one landed they stopped, at least the ones we have after about 3:40 once air force one and air force two had left the field at the end of that terrible day. there are a whole bunch of them and we have managed to get all of them out of the national archives. we have suggested them for a wonderful firm called silas some of the best sound analyst in the world that you work for the
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pentagon and others. we suggested them to task that had never been done before and have been able to extract more information. more lines of dialogue and that we have a transcript of 30,000 words from the date the belt of that day and had enhanced the sound quality all of which we are going to release on an app, the summary of which is in the book. let's get the key dicta belt. the key dicta belt was recording at police headquarters at 12:30 on november 22. the committee had sound analyst at the time using methods or 1979, not to criticize them. they came back and said we find four impulses in the 12:30 timezone of gunfire, four impulses that are clearly they said a 95% probability gunfire. well, four gunshots as he said
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correctly is a conspiracy because literally everyone -- >> host: the bullet four times. >> guest: exactly. oswald could only squeeze off four shots. the fourth gunshot means there's a conspiracy and they did other tests that dealey plaza shooting at sandbags and determined that noise most likely was from the grassy knoll picket fence area so it all seemed to fit -- that together. the national academy of sciences did the national academy of sciences to the study and said there are some flaws here. why are these impulses different than the ones we find on the dicta belt over here? they couldn't prove anything and they said this just needs more more -- there was a new study that reinforce the select committee on assassinations study and increase the probability 96% and that's where we took it. once people read what they have
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in the kennedy -- "the kennedy half-century" once they do the entire report by our team at silas which we are good to put on the web site the kennedy have and is mobile app everyone will see the truth and here's the truth. there is no gunfire at all on the dicta belt. it turns out that those four impulses are no different than a dozen other impulses at virtually the same time. what were the impulses? they where we think the rattling of the microphone on the motorcycle and where was the policeman on the motorcycle? the select committee said that policeman was a guy named h.b. mclain and he was right there just a few yards behind the presidential limousine. he was right there in the gunfire was from dealey plaza. dealey plaza. h.b. mclain always denied he had a microphone. the police dispatcher jim bowles
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denied it. they were absolutely right. we identified the policeman. his name is willie price. he is deceased now but we traced his movements. we have traced the fact that he believed he had a stuffed microphone and gotten a substitute motorcycle that day that problems with the stuck microphone and he was set the trademark. two and a half miles from dealey plaza. the trademark was where president kennedy was going to deliver the luncheon address and tragically it was her dress that was never delivered. he is sitting at the trademark on the dicta belt recording. you can hear suddenly the sounds of sirens and clearly a great commotion as something worse by at high-speed. we checked the records. jim bowles has been in dallas. there were no other siren activated vehicles operating in dallas at that time. they have to report it to the
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police department. that was the presidential limousine and the accompanying police cars going 80 miles an hour to get president kennedy safely to parkland hospital. there was the culprit that the trademark. you can't record gunshots to and a half miles away on a little receiver that is the same as the telephone receiver. that is so weak it is. there are no gunshots on the dicta belt. it's not the rosetta stone that it was so often claim that it was. it will not provide the answers to the assassination but craig what it does provide, it is said lack box for the crash that occurred on november 22. it's living history. you can go through the whole day and you can hear air force one landing and there's the first couple and the crowds are crushing at this corner and we have got to move them back here. something is happened in the motorcade. get the sheriff and the deputies into the railyard. the president is going to parkland hospital.
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our officer willie price rushes to parkland looks in the limousine and says over the mic, the president got his head loan off. that is where we first realized or the police first realized that it was over and then the police chief at the trade bar tells the officer of the trade bar when they ask i don't believe the president will be coming for that address at lunch. this goes all the way through until air force one left and covers the return of the president's body. it's a black box for this horrible day in history. they are actually very useful even though they don't solve the assassination puzzle. >> host: obviously president kennedy had gone through other motorcades after he was elected in various cities. was there anything distinct in europe written about this as you talk about the top was not bullet proof and it may have deflect the bullet and we will
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never know but the bubble top was just a shield from the weather. >> that's exactly right. >> host: was the secret service contingent less this day? was derailed more questionable than if he had gone through atlanta or cleveland? was there anything out of the ordinary in terms of the behavior of the police or the secret service or anybody who was involved in motorcade preparations and executions then say other places? >> guest: craig that is a critical question and the answer is no and that's just the problem. back in those days, the thin blue line protected the president was much thinner than anyone recognize. guess how many secret service agents were with president kennedy in that motorcade passing 200,000 unscreened people with hundreds of open
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windows in buildings right above kennedy where anyone could have taken a shot? how many secret service agents? 12, 12. >> host: as you wrote there were 28 agents. >> guest: 26. somewhere the trademark. >> host: somewhere at the field office in dallas and some traveled with him on air force one. >> guest: that's right but you're talking about 12 and i made it controversial argument in the book and we backed it up with a special family created using all the videotape and film of kennedy during his white house come -- presidency. when people see this film they will be shot. this president in particular love to plunge into crowds. the crowd's unscreened would frequently envelop him and anyone could have gotten there. he was nearly assassinated in december 1960 yes president-elect. he had major plots that were
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broken up that we know about during his presidency and chicago and miami right before dallas. there were others that we don't know all the details about that my team found two in chicago right before the election. men with guns who are following kennedy and trying to get closer to him and were tackled by the police and arrested. people have forgotten all of this but kennedy loved to mix with the crowds. even worse than that, or not worse, he was doing what he thought the president should do it from a security standpoint it was a disaster waiting to happen. craig we have film of president kennedy abroad as well as at home for miles at a time standing in the limousine and even easier target than he was in dallas on november 22. it was a miracle he made until
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november 22 and given the 60s of the social turmoil. the fact that the kennedys have attracted an unusually large number of haters it would have been a larger miracle. >> host: you said it was almost inevitable. >> guest: it was inevitable that at least in intent was going to be made directly if not successfully an assassination. we have learned from an obviously but we have learned enough that we had two close calls with gerald ford as you have written in your link and books we have read about the campaigns where you followed reagan closely and he was nearly killed and 81. numerous assassination threats. >> host: they all do. how do we compare? we have had 44 presidents and four have been assassinated in office. how does that compare to other republics? >> guest: we have more than most republics at least to the extent we know.
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>> host: these are the ones that are actually killed in office, not attempts. >> guest: you have to look at the close calls. in the prior year's to kennedy that teddy roosevelt shot reading in a second term. herbert hoover came to near death's president-elect traveling in south america. a revolutionary group tried to blow up his -- the mayor of chicago. he was saved wages and harry truman as a mention. four presidents just prior to kennedy yet if you were to ask the secret service on november 21, 1963 they would have said we have a turkic record which they did. they started guarding presidents after mckinley was assassinated on air force one right after the assassination. it's served -- secret service agent was pounding on the wall inside the
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plane saying we never lost a president before. how could this have been? we have never lost a president present before and it was really the belief that it couldn't happen that encouraged it to happen. >> host: have you ever taken the crystal ball agnostic haitians and applied them to the forecast and what the outcome would have been? >> guest: we covered the 60 campaign at great length because i am a crystal ball studies politics. >> host: being so close in illinois upstate and downstate with the republicans. then in texas and other places but would you still forecast kennedy is a narrow winner? >> guest: if you look at the forecast of election he should've won bye bye a more
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narrow margin. it was catholicism. that was an election about religion. all those issues they discussed had almost nothing to do with the results. 80% of catholics voted for kennedy in 69% of protestants voted for nixon. i've got to tell you something, the more i look at this the more i think sean trinity from realclearpolitics has most recently in a the argument that kennedy lost the popular vote. forget about voter fraud. the powers that be in 1960 did kennedy a great favor. they added in the alabama democratic electoral votes for the electors to kennedy went kennedy's name wasn't even on the ballot. that is how much opposition it was to kennedy. if you subtract those votes kennedy lost the popular vote to nixon. if nixon had done one thing, forget about the debates. you can argue that either way. the first one helped kennedy that the affected worn off by
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the time of the election. the critical mistake nixon made was in not getting eisenhower out on the campaign trail earlier. why did that happen? maybe eisenhower unbeknownst to president eisenhower had made a call to vice president nixon in the summer saying you know all the problems, health problems that ike has had. please do not put into the test. he can't stand all the strenuous activity. president nixon was doing mimi's getting building and president eisenhower himself was hurt that he was not asked and he was wondered why my not a nast? he didn't know what his wife did none. the best evidence we have. had eisenhower gone out on the campaign trail sure enough eisenhower who was 60% popularity then pulled nixon up
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virtually into a tie. imagine if he had been campaigning for nixon for two weeks. i think nixon would have won the 60 election. >> host: is kennedy would have lost 1960 what would he have done? jeff greenfield -- >> guest: he has written a book. exactly. it would be fun to do it and to think about it. he lost 1960. he was reelected to the senate and 58 so he would have been in intel's 64 and my guess is he would have run for re-election in the senate and maybe he would have tried in nixon's late years. but independent testing of positions would have been her first? the lee harvey oswald once told his wife that he was going to assassinate vice president nixon on a trip to dallas. isn't that interesting? when nixon was told about kennedy's murder he was really
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shaken up. all of his key aides said maybe it was going through his mind, my god that could've been me if i would have gotten a few more votes here and there and had been elected president. >> host: for oswald it was not political. the same way with hinckley because hinckley had stalked president carter as well. it wasn't political. there was a political dimension to oswald that hinckley -- oswald had been always looking for something, looking for something and that is what got them into the union and into so many of these groups once he got back to the united states. that's a story in and of itself. was he really pro-castro or was he really working with via the i with the anti-castro banister.
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>> host: didn't he also associate with anti-communists in russia? >> guest: he did. the anti-communists adopted the oswalt because they spoke russian particularly maria. it's very complicated. >> host: he was what, 24? there was a lot of weirdness that went on in a short time. >> guest: which gives fuel to the conspiracy fire and you can understand why. you can ask a lot of legitimate questions about it. >> host: the warren commission, lots of doubts about how the evidence was handled on november 22, 1963. a lot of doubts and many more doubts as you have proven about the house investigation so what is your conclusion? take us through that day and what is lee harvey oswald thinking and did he act alone and was there really a magic bullet?
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>> guest: i don't exclude the possibility that someone encouraged oswald or that there was even someone on the grassy knoll but the secret service credentials story bothers me a great deal and some other things bother me. i'll -- i outlined a number of them in the book so i'm not going to say as others have done case closed. it takes too much hubris to do that, at least for me. >> host: we will go back there because i read posner's book as you did, joe posner. was he saying case closed that oswald acted alone? >> guest: i think he's saying that oswald acted alone in that may be the case but i don't see how anyone -- events bolio's is another one. very impressive book and very impressive man but they don't fully address these pieces that don't fit. i just have a more questions about some of these things. if you force me into one camp or another i would go with the oswald acted alone but i'm not confident about it.
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but i am confident about is the warren commissiocommissio n did a terrible job and the house select committee on assassinations at a terrible job so we have had to watched investigations and that's the ears on and only one prediction i can make, 100 years from now our children and grandchildren students and their children are all going to be watching documentaries about's conspiracy theories involving the kennedy conspiracy. we hope it comes out october 2017. it's going to be up to the president to decide whether the cia's gets to keep secret or redact its 1171 remaining documents that haven't been released and that as many thousands and thousands of pages relating to the kennedy assassination. i want to see what's in there. i want to see what remaining pages are from the fbi and others but let's see the full story before we have reached a
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final conclusion. that's another reason why don't believe in case closed. you have to see all the evidence before you can reach a final conclusion. >> host: i presume some of the art photos and things like that, do you have an idea what's in there or is it all sealed or our archivists allowed to talk about what's in there? >> guest: no, they aren't and of course they don't know what's in all of those documents. let me give credit to --. >> host: are there saves with magnetic locks? >> guest: one wonders whether the documents were turned over. ..
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>> guest: if only the police forces and the fbi at the time had spent more resources to try to trace that assassination attempt, walker was just slightly injured with a bullet fired through the house, it almost certainly was oswald. he told his wife what he did in great detail. >> host: how big, in 1963 #, how big was the secret service in terms of personnel? >> guest: oh, tiny. >> host: how many on file and under investigation or surveillance?
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>> guest: you know, craig, i got this that people are going to be amazed to learn that the only people in the files of the secret service were people who wrote and threatened the president directly as any policemen or investigator tell you, people who write you don't need to worry about. you know they didn't -- >> host: did he write threatening letters? >> guest: never. they didn't have a single questionable individual on file in dallas. now, dallas was the hot bed of anti-kennedy sentiments. most of the south, but dlas in particular, the incident with stevenson a couple months before where he was spat upon, assaulted, and lyndon johnson was attack there before the election in 1960, and the local newspapers were strongly
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anti-kennedy. >> host: by the way, i came across a wonderful tour guide in dallas who took me to behind the scenes places, and the former first lady of dallas was helpful to me in doing this, but took me to the hidden places people don't see like oswald's jail cell, that jail is closed and abandoned, but at the end of the day, i quote this in the book, he has done this for years, and he's related -- obsessed with it, and i said, jerry, you focus on this for years and years, and, now, what do you really think? he says, you know, i know everything there is to know about november 22, 1963 except for what really happened. that was one of those moments when my eyes open. >> host: interesting. we just have a few minutes left
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here. i'll throw you more what-ifs, but i'll start with what is the 50-year legacy of jfk? is it that he was assassinated under mysterious circumstances or something more to the presence and legacy than that? >> guest: the part of the book i'm proud of is the last third. we trace john f. kennedy's legacy, leaf after death, through all nine successors. we spent more time on that than anything including the assassination. we asked this question for each successor. how did this president use john f. kennedy to accomplish his own agenda? >> host: right. >> guest: every single president used kennedy in one way or another, as you know better than i do because of your books on reagan, his best use was by reagan. >> host: right. >> guest: who cited kennedy siewfn you thought he was his running mate. >> host: in the 80s campaigns
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in primaries with crossover voters in wisconsin, the campaign ran commercials that featured president kennedy extolling the need to cut taxes to get the country moving again, and those were made into commercials by the reagan campaign. >> guest: which was very smartment once he got in, he used all of kennedy's words about why the across the board tax cut that kennedy almost got adopted -- died before it was scheduled to be voted on, but he used kennedy's words saying why there was productivity in and across across the board tax cuts, and the anticommunist rhetoric, go back to the speeches he gave, reagan was criticized for using the term "evil empire," nothing compared to what kennedy said about the communists. >> host: testifies called an enlightened cold warrior. do you agree with that? >> guest: i do. i do also believe in his last year because of the frightening
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prospect of nuclear war that he nearly experienced in the cuban missile crisis, that he was looking for ways to make common cause with the soviets and he was reaching out. we got the nuclear test ban treating. >> host: right. >> guest: that was the accomplishment he was proudest of in his administration. there was other things he was planning on doing. >> host: right. >> guest: i think he was moving away from the rhetoric at the time of his death, and, of course, some conspiracy theorists say that's why he was killed, the generals and defense industry were unhappy. it's a theory. i'm waiting to see the facts. where are the facts? i want to take him into a courtroom and have him held up under cross examination. i have yet to see them. >> host: all right. that begs to question, is he, like other democrats, was haunted by the who lost china? >> guest: yes. >> host: under his presidency, who lost laos? >> guest: yes.
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>> host: him being a cold warrior, strong missile defense, ran on the missile gap in 1960 even though there was no gap and eisenhower was not happy about it, committed the first ground troops into southeast asia, is that, you know, the what-ifs are that kennedy would not have gone into vietnam in the way that lbj did and nixon did, but although nixon then, you know, went through vietnam, withdrew forces, but would kennedy -- would you know about him as anti-communist and not one to lose in other countries to communism, would he have also gone and jumped in with both feet? >> guest: i examine the question at length. i have great interest in it. here's the conclusion. kennedy zephyrs some of the length for vietnam. you can't exonerate him. he put a lot of advisers and troops there under cover.
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>> host: what? 16,000? 17,000? >> guest: right. he started the trend. here's why i believe he never did what johnson did. johnson put 535 thousands troops in vietnam. first of all, if there's one word that describes president kennedy in office, it is "cautious," and, second, look to the politician's base, and you know it well. what was the base? intellectuals, universities, colleges, the very first place you get strong opposition to dramatically increase troops. >> host: the that crowd and them were skeptical of him in 59 and 6 # 1. >> guest: yeah. >> host: he said he was not comfortable with the liberals and the democratic party. >> guest: yes, see, they adopted him once in office. he really established that link with them this office. lyndon johnson, by contrast, was anti-intellectual. >> host: right. >> guest: he liked the fact that many of these kennedy
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intellectuals opposed his vietnam policies, and, of course, his grandiose use of the presidency led him to try to win this war that was unwinnable, and he wanted to do it in a big way. john f. kennedy agreed it a few little pilot programs on the war on poverty. the day after the assassination, lyndon johnson hears what kennedy had done and says, that's my program, i want it big. i want it national. go full tilt. see, that's the difference between lyndon johnson johnson n f. kennedy, so, no, i don't believe he would have dope what johnson did in vietnam, though he would have continued some level of involvement in vietnam. i don't believe for a minute he was going to withdraw all the troops after reelection. >> host: you're saying he woif pursued anti-communist policies, but done it differently? >> guest: to a lesser extent using the caution gained through the bay of pigs disaster and the
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victory in the cuban missile crisis. he learned the hard way on the job, and he was an internationally minded person. that's the contrast with johnson. johnson was a domestic politician. kennedy had been because of the family and time in britain and world war ii. he was more internationally focused. i think he understood the world better. john kennedy, because of the military background and undoubted military heroism in world war ii, had greater respect for the joint chiefs than maybe lbj did because johnson was trying to direct the war picking targets and things like that. i think -- mcarthur begged johnson in 1964 don't get involved in the land war in southeast asia, and i wonder if kennedy would have listened to mccarthy, great respect for mccarthy there. >> host: i went to his funeral in norfolk, virginia.
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i remember it. bobby kennedy showed up. >> guest: is that right? >> host: in the spring of 64 he died, and i saw bobby and ethel kennedy on the main street, and the memorial is right there. craig, i know we're running out of time, but we have a chapter on each of kennedy's nine successors and new information and news nuggets that people never came across. president carter, for example, gave me a long interview, and i think i've been able to identify where the feud between jimmy carter and ted kennedy began and that was in the campaign of 76. >> guest: right. >> host: there's a lot in there, and i'm proudest of that section on legacy because we took a large -- the largest study ever done on former presidents and focused it on john f. kennedy. i hired peter hart and jeff daren, a terrific job, over 2 # ,000 adult americans to do a lot of analysis in the sub
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categories, plus six focus groups in richmond, virginia, chicago, and los angeles, and we found that john f. kennedy with the short presidency is the most admired, liked, respected, and popular president of the modern era. historians say, come on. not so much -- 1038 days, but what was interesting to me is that's the judgment of the american people. we entitled that chapter "the people's president," and so i think -- i think readers will be interested to see how kennedy is viewed and why in the assassination is a big piece of it, but so is kennedy's public image, the rhetoric stirring, the self-deprecating humor, and the io tent dis. >> guest: i have the record album of the address, and i can recite is verbatim right now. >> host: right.
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>> guest: when i listen to it, put it on a couple times a year, i get goose bumps when i hear it. >> host: you mentioned the nine presidents following, although, writing about reagan, there's a phrase that reaganfuls the first president not to be haunted by the guests john kennedy. do you think you agree with that? >> guest: yes. reagan knew himself. you know this better than i do. he had a center to himself. he was not in the democrat party, the republican party. he didn't have to be the next jfk. each new democratic president had to be the next jfk in running for office and then in serving in office, so i think there was a great difference there. as you know well, reagan was so shrewd about his cultivation of the kennedy family, they spent more time than anyone else's. >> host: of course reagan
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presented the congressional gold metal to bobby kennedy, robert kennedy, that carter himself refused to present, and that was brought -- i was told when i was working on the 1980 book by several sources that the entire kennedy family in 1980 voted for ronald reagan. >> guest: yes, that was the rumor expenditure exception of jackie voting for john anderson. >> host: did she really? that's interesting. >> guest: president carter had a story of the speech of the dedication of the john f. ken library, and jackie was coupled to him, according to president carter, at that event, and he realized he didn't have a problem with ted kennedy, but a problem with the entire kennedy problem, and they were a big clan. >> host: in a few seconds, what could readers come away from the book with, and what's the legacy of john kennedy in a few seconds? >> guest: essentially, it's important to realize that a tragedy like the assassination
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has created more out of the presidency of john f. kennedy than we read in the historical record, and that's the power of people in a democracy. maybe that's one of the ultimate legacies of john f. kennedy's short time in the white house. >> host: very nice, larry. >> guest: thank you, craig, thank you for a great interview. >> host: yeah, you bet, terrific.


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