tv After Words CSPAN November 24, 2013 6:30pm-7:31pm EST
up next on booktv, "after words" with guest host author craig shirley. this week larry sabato and his new book "the kennedy half-century." the university of virginia politics professor explores the legacy of the kennedy administration knowing how each successive president has used his image to further his own agenda. the program is about an hour. >> host: larry "the kennedy half-century" is a marvelous achievement. where were you on november 22, 1963? >> guest: i was 11 years old. i was in catholic elementary
school, sixth grade. i had a wonderful sister a nun sister roberta 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 and i heard her gasp. 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 and the catholic classroom so we all took out our rosaries and we were holding each bead for dear life. 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. let's go where was that school? >> norfolk virginia saint pius.
they would kill me if i didn't mention it. >> host: do you remember that weekend? >> guest: we all remember it. we were all of a sudden everyone was crying. a good friend of mine was cleaning out his locker for the weekend because the next weekend was thanksgiving. the odd thing is i guess you have to be in catholic school at the time to understand that i remember saying to my friend he's the only catholic elected president who 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 passed out literature in my neighborhood about it. i remember warming -- woman slamming the door and saying i don't support papists. i didn't know what tape is was and i had to ask my father. there was a lot of anti-catholic prejudice. >> i had a very vivid memory of
our principal walking into our second grade classroom and telling us and the only two things i remember after that was when i got home standing at the coffee table and my father holding me while i was crying. and the drums and sunday coming home from church and watching live oswalt being shot by ruby. what got you interested in politics? >> guest: on wesley john f. kennedy did. that's one reason why did the book. i voice had it in the back of my mind that i wanted to write it. we tried at the center for politics we are doing a big project on kennedy. the book is a five-year project and its 600 pages. if you give an academic another year he's going to add another 100 pages that but we are doing a massive on line course that is free for anyone who wants to sign up.
we are doing a special mobile app that's going to have all of the new information that we compiled about the assassination on there. >> host: is it just about the assassination? >> guest: it's the whole presidency. the assassination and then the legacy the nine presidents. that is what we try to do is trace john f. kennedy through his mind successors. legacy is kind of a life after death. >> host: . >> host: how long have you been teaching? >> i used to have lunch with thomas jefferson. that is what my students think. >> host: outside of present company who is your favorite historian? >> guest: oh my.there are so many of them. i like bob dallek and i think he's done a terrific job. >> host: i agree. the most balanced of all of them i agree.
>> guest: very fact-based but i don't think in the end people who write books that are a little too misty-eyed, i don't think they're contributing to what people really need to know about historical figures. speed reading he got it right down the middle. i think he got the tone just right. >> i agree. what makes a good historian? >> guest: i am actually political scientist. i am in politics and this is a very political but what i think whether you doing political history, regular history you have to be able to detach yourself to a certain degree. >> host: politics in your own personal feelings. >> everybody has opinions and we all come with batteries attached. opinions are a dime a dozen and everyone has one on everything. i think it's important to be fact-based. it's very important to uncover
new facts that have been it nord or have been obscured in the past. that is what we have tried to do a in "the kennedy half-century." >> host: why did you write this book lacks. >> guest: we were coming up to the 15th anniversary of the assassination. given the age of my generation and older generations it's not going to be 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 that we have seen develop around john f. kennedy, his assassination and what followed. >> host: what i enjoyed about the book, many things that i enjoyed but you sifted through so many of the different theories and examine them without prejudice or bias and came to your own conclusions, either they were credible or weren't credible but that is what i like about the book.
what did you discover in writing the kennedy half-century that hasn't been known in the last few years since the warren commission or the house investigation? >> i think we have discovered a number of things. i think on his presidency people miss remember kennedy. in a way to confuse him with bobby and his later years and of course ted kennedy the liberal lion of the senate. jack kennedy was by far the most conservative of the brothers and his administration was conservative. that is the presidency part. on the assassination part we wanted to make a contribution and we wanted to be based on the scientific method. again not only does everyone have an opinion in this field everybody has an opinion. there are a million theories about kennedy's assassination. there are surprisingly few hard facts and the question i always ask people is when you have read a theory, when you've read
someone's opinion about the kennedy assassination is there enough proof and evidence so it would hold up in a court of law and the answer in the vast majority of the cases is no. >> host: that's interesting you said holding up in a court of law and of course there is only the one trial which was the gym morrison publicity stunt. so historians deal with other ways to enforce at least intellectual law that no one is going to be tried or convict did do historians have an obligation to police other historians were to police that history? >> guest: to a certain degree but of course you police bad history with good history because in the end the marketplace response to fact-based analyses. people recognize prejudice or a lack of bias and they compare the two.
that's important and you have to leave it to the marketplace. with their first amendment everyone is entitled to say what they want but what we try to do is to focus on a key piece of evidence and of course first -- >> host: you are talking about the dicta belt. >> guest: i'm talking about the date the belt. >> host: it i believe it was a 1975 when the house investigation started. >> guest: it was organized and 76 and reported in 79 and the reason this happened was because the warren commission either by that time had become enormously unpopular for good reason. it was a political commission. it had a political timetable. president johnson wanted it out of the way before the key parts of general election of 64. johnson and j. edgar hoover the fbi director and others had already decided decided within 24 hours of the assassination that oswald was the lone guman
for various reasons domestic and international. that is what they wanted the warren commission to find and the warren commission didn't go down all the trails while the trails were hot. that was the greatest weakness. they didn't know that they were also being lied to. it's clear that the cia did not tell them the truth about the assassination plots against castro. the f. via and the cia never told the commission about their arrangements with the mafia. there were so many things they didn't know and they rushed to a conclusion. craig what shocked me was 50 years after the warren commission i could go to dallas and interview people who were right at dealey plaza who had strong opinions, who saw things, who were never interviewed by the warren commission. >> host: how could that
happen? >> guest: it could happen because it already knew what its conclusion was going to be. they simply disallowed information that contradict did it. i found pieces that didn't fit. as i say i am not particularly conspiracy oriented that i felt my obligation to point out to people the pieces that don't fit in 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. many people were pointing to it as the source of some of the gunfire. the first officer of their fellow named joe marshall smith had his gun drawn because expected to find an armed gunman. instead he encountered a man who was asked who he was in the rescinded secret service credentials. smith was familiar with the secret service credentials. they were often in dallas for
one reason or another. two other officers reported the same thing. apparently there was more than one with secret service credentials upon the grassy knoll. >> host: craig parrish is one problem the secret service in the warren commission and everyone who is has looked at it has identified the location of every single secret service officer at that time. no one was hit dealey plaza. all the secret service officers are taught to go at these. they went to berlin hospital with the president and 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've explained in the book i have stuck to the facts and people can make up their own minds. >> if it was explained would it change anything at all or would still just be oswald acted alone? >> that's a great question.
let's suppose they were people pretending to be secret service officers. why were they in dealey plaza at the top of the grassy knoll? this would add some hard evidence to the belief that perhaps other people were involved and perhaps there was a second shooter behind a picket fence. i am convinced though that if there were a second shooter behind a picket fence he didn't either fire or missed entirely. the bullet trajectories truly go to the window on the sixth floor where someone fired and i believe the overwhelming evidence suggests leslie harvey oswald. there was a shotgun and lots of different things. he clearly thought that mail order rifle. think about this, the president of the united states was killed with a 19-dollar rifle. >> host: i did a little research. it was considered to be a fairly good rifle.
the conspiracy theorist to try to suggest that it was just a very bad rifle but actually it was considered to be above average as far as accuracy. >> guest: the scope was off. if he had practiced with a gun he could've made that calculation is said. it was possible the scope was knocked out of kilter. the other thing, when people visit dealey plaza and i encourage them to go to the sixth floor museum. they have done a wonderful job in trying to observe what happened that day and dallas almost tried to tear down the schoolbook book depository. the people on the sixth floor museum have done a wonderful job when you go there the first thing everyone says is my god such a small compact scene. it's this enormous event that changed america happened there and people expected to be kind of like times square.
it's a tiny little area. i would have a hard time hitting a water bucket 20 feet away. i think almost anybody under certain conditions existing around the 22nd might have been able to hit back car. it was moving at 11 miles per hour. this was not all that difficult a shot. also oswald was a better shot than he got credit for. he was in a great marksman. 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've outlined 30 ways they failed in the kennedy half-century. it's embarrassing. what is the most irritating craig is the american public would have awaited 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 its job thoroughly and well in 1963 and 64 we wouldn't have had 50 years of pure cynicism, much of it generated by the results of the kennedy assassination. >> it has been 50 years and a lot of things up and undermined, confidence in the u.s. government and a lot of it goes to the warren commission. there was a belief in the government's ability to do things. the government of the interstate highway system and putting man in space. government didn't solve the great depression but at least it ameliorated it and gave people hope. there was good evidence from 1780 7-up until 1963, the government worked to the benefit of the american people. it was the first time really so the question is, if you could go back to dealey plaza and if you
could be there a half-hour ahead of time and get there at 12 noon dallas time november 22, 1963 and you had a 35-millimeter camera and you could position yourself in a place to come up with a photograph to prove there was a conspiracy or not a conspiracy where would you put yourself in why? >> guest: a great question and i would have would have loved to have been there. not that you can change history but i think first of all i would have position myself right across from oswald window. he was visible for some time before he moved back into position. i would have wanted to clearly identify that it was oswald in the sixth floor window. i would have had plenty of time then 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 --
>> host: the grassy knoll as i recall there were texas live oak trees there. there was a fence there. but cleared plaza area across the road, would you have a clear sighted vision of where the badge man or whatever they call the other shooter might have been? >> guest: certainly had he been focusing on that. the reason no one got a good look if someone was theirs because actually all eyes were focused on the president and first lady so it was impossible for people to see if they were looking directly. it wasn't a shooter on the overpass. >> guest: from the prison and also from the. the theories about the secret service shooting kennedy are
absurd. they are as absurd as george h.w. bush was outside the schoolbook depository. there are pages and web site. it's ridiculous. >> host: there was a conspiracy to decapitate the dash and they were quickly apprehended and were tried and convicted that justice was fairly served. with garfield and mckinley they would the lone gun assassins. why have so many conspiracy dairies flourished? it can't be just the warren report. is there something deeper about the moral imbalance of the ultimate winner, john kennedy war hero, rich, handsome young debonair president being killed by this lonely loser? is a moral balance that people can't deal with. >> guest: that may be part of
it. there are several reasons. you mentioned lincoln and don't forget harry truman. the puerto rican nationals try to kill him at warehouse. we have conspiracies. i guess you could say part of it is americans don't accept the official word without questioning it and that's in our nature. it's in our history. it's in the first amendment but the other part of this is simply that began the warren commission did a poor job and didn't answer a lot of questions. second, there was this imbalance between the most powerful person in the world at the peak of his power. probably 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 in usual life. the imbalance there is just enormous and you have to imagine
that life makes sense. can life makes sense when this powerful 35th president of the united states can be eliminated by someone like lee harvey oswald with maybe a lucky shot? so i think all of those are reasons why. various things have emerged. we were being lied to about what the cia was doing and what the fbi was doing and what the government was doing and what the kennedy of administration was doing. lyndon johnson himself, and it publicly after his white house years that president kennedy in 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 about it. he was trying to help the texas
democratic party reunite. they were in a terrible split between the liberals by ralph yarborough and the conservative side by john connolly and he was trying to put the party back together. >> host: connolly was his protége and best friend. >> guest: essentially kennedy's presidency is only really understood well in the electoral context that you and i understand well. kennedy had been elected by a smidgen. some say he was not elected all but 118,000 votes at least on the official record. texas, a tiny number of votes. tens of thousands in a large texas electric. electorate. kennedy during his whole term worried about that re-election. it didn't matter that things looked good. he remembered how close he had
been. he needed texas and that is why he was there. >> host: i want to go back because we didn't get enough time to talk about your discovery about the flawed recording so i want to get back to that. entire basis as i recall of the house investigation was that there was a microphone that was stuck open of a dallas police officer recording the events there and this recording was saved but lost in history for a time. they claim that it was four shots and because of the time oswald fired it was impossible that a .55 seconds was it? >> guest: 8.5 seconds. >> host: as i recall the house investigation said there was a probable conspiracy. what have you discovered to refute that?
>> guest: yes. essentially we have blown their report apart. let me explain why. remember it was because three-quarters of the mac and public didn't believe the warren commission and by the way the warren commission shows three-quarters of the american public doesn't believe the warren commission. nothing is changed but essentially congressman we are getting complaints from constituents demanding after the revelations that came with watergate. what really happened in dallas we don't believe the warren commission so the house of representatives formed a select committee. a special committee on assassinations and they worked from 76 until 79 on the subject and others. they looked into other assassinations as well. martin luther king. in the case of john kennedy they had been preparing to enforce the basic conclusions of the warren commission. after having interviewed people
at the warren commission didn't get to after investigating toward the very end, they heard about this dicta belt, so belt, so-called dicta belt. it's a recording that was done at police headquarters. the head of the dispatch office but very interested guy -- interesting guy named jim bowles who was a sheriff for many years thereafter. he gets a lot of credit for preserving these dicta belt. the dicta belt started at 9:45 in the morning before air force one landed. they stopped, at least the ones we have, after about 3:40 after air force one and air force two and the press plane had left 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 subjected them through a wonderful firm some of the best sound analyst in the world from
the pentagon and others. we subjected them to test that have never been done before they been able to extract more information, more lines of dialogue. we have a transcript of 30,000 words from the dicta belt out that day and have enhanced the sound quality all of which we are going to release on in app. the summaries in the book. let's get to 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 accepted methods for 1979 and 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 to a 95 or send probability gunfire.
well, for gunshots as you said correctly means a the conspiracy. literally everyone says nobody can fire -- it's not possible to do for shots so oswald could only squeeze off four shots. the fourth gunshot means there's a conspiracy and they did other tests at dealey plaza. they determined the noise most likely was from the grassy knoll picket fence area. it all seem to fit together. then the national academy of sciences did a study on it. they said there are some flaws here. why are these impulses any different than the ones we find on the dicta belt over here? they said this just needs more research. there was another study in 2002 that reinforced the house select committee on the assassinations conclusion and increase the probability to 96%. that is where we took it.
i think once people read what we have, once they do the entire rape toward fire team at sauna with which we will put on our web site and in this mobile app, everyone will see the truth and here's the truth. it turns out those four impulses are no different than the dozen impulses at the same time. what were the impulses? we think they were the rattling of the microphone on the motorcycle. >> host: the handlebars. >> guest: where was the policeman on the motorcycle? the select committee said that policemen was a guy named h.b. mclain and he was right there just a few yards, a handful of yards behind the presidential limousine. he was right there in the gunfire was loud in dealey plaza so could be recorded. h.b. mclain always denied that he had a stuck microphone. the police dispatcher jim bowles
always denied it was h.b. mclain. they were absolutely right. we have identified the policeman. his name is willie price. he is deceased now but we have traced his movements. we have traced the fact that he believed he had a stuck microphone and had a substitute motorcycle that day that had a with the stop microphone. two and a half miles the trademark was where president kennedy was going to deliver the luncheon address and tragically it was an address 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 great commotion as something roars by at high-speed. we have checked the records. jim bowles has been dallas. there were no other siren activated vehicles operating in dallas at that time.
they had it reported at the police department. that was the presidential limousine and they accompanied police cars going at 80 miles an hour trying to get president kennedy safely to parkland hospital. there was the cop right there at the trademark. you can't record 10 shots to win a half miles away on the 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 was not the rosetta stone that it's often claimed it was. it will not provide the answers to the assassination but craig what it does provide, it's a black box for the crash that occurred on november 22. it's living history. you can go through a whole day and you can hear it or force one landing and there's the first couple and the crowds are crushing in 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 rail yard. the president is going to parkland hospital.
was the secret service contingent left this day was the route more questionable than if he had gone through atlanta or cleveland or other places, was there anything out of the ordinary for this day in terms of the behavior, the police or the secret service or anybody else involved in the motorcade preparations and executions? >> guest: that is a critical question and the answer is no. that's the problem. back in those days the thin blue line protecting a president was thinner than anyone recognized. guess how many secret service agents were in with kennedy in the motorcade passing 200,000 unscreened people with hundreds of open windows and buildings
right above kennedy where anyone could have taken shots at him. how many secret service agents? twelve. >> host: there were 28 agents -- >> guest: at the trademark some were in the field office in dallas and others traveled on airports. >> host: that's right. but you're talking about 12 and i made a controversial argument in the book we backed it up with a special film that we created using all of the videotape of kennedy during his white house years. when people see this film, which is going to be on the website, they are going to be shocked because it is so unlike today. this president in particular likes to plunge into crowds, the crowds unscreened which basically enter with him. everyone could have gotten him. he was assassinated in 1960 as president elect down in palm beach. he had major plots broken up
that we knew about during the presidency in chicago and miami right before dallas. there were others that we don't know all the details about. my team found two in chicago right before the election where men with guns were following kennedy into trying to get closer to him and tackled by the police and arrested. people had forgotten all of this. but kennedy was to mix with the crowds and even worse than that, or not worse, he felt he was doing what the president should do but from a security standpoint, it was a disaster waiting to happen. we have film of president kennedy of broad well as at home where 4 miles at a time standing in the limousine, and even easier target than he was in dallas on november 22. >> host: he liked to stand up in the car. >> guest: it was publicly good for his back. but it was a miracle that he needed to november 22. my conclusion is given what happened in the 60s, all the
social turmoil, the fact kennedys attracted an unusual number of heaters that would have been a larger miracle. i think it was inevitable that he was going to be at least an attempt was going to be made directly if not a successful assassination. and we learn from it obviously that we didn't learn enough. we had two close calls with gerald ford as you had written in your book you wrote about the campaigns that followed very closely he was nearly killed in 1981. they got numerous assassinatio assassinations. how is that compared to other republics? it would be less than 10%, but we have more and most republic. >> guest: a lot of this is never revealed.
>> host: the ones killed in office, not the attempt. >> guest: but you have to look at the close calls. in the years prior to kennedy that coulyou had teddyrooseveltd term and indians didn't almost everybody had forgotten. herbert hoover came as president elect as president. franklin roosevelt within inch inches. he was saved within inches and harry truman. so you had four presidents just prior to kennedy. yet if he were to ask the secret service on november 21, 1963, they would have said we have a perfect record, which needed. they started guarding presidents after mckinley was assassinated on air force one right after the assassination a secret service agent who had been guarding the kennedy was pounding on the wall
saying we never lost a president before. how could this have been? we never lost a president before. and it was the belief that it couldn't happen but encouraged it to happen. >> host: have you ever taken the crystal ball that applied to the forecast with the outcome would have been? >> guest: we covered it at great length. >> host: the question in illinois, upstate and downstate with republicans and in downstate illinois as it was with mayor daley in chicago and then texas and other places. what woulbut would you still fot kennedy? >> guest: if you look at the regular factors, he should have won by a larger margin because of economic factors more than
anything else. it was catholicism. that was an election about religion. all those issues they discussed almost nothing to do with results. 80% catholic voted for kennedy and the rest for mixing. if you have some factors. i have to tell you something. the more i look at this, the more i think sean kennedy from politics was most recently made the argument as others had kennedy actually lost the popular vote. forget about the voter fraud. the power that be in 1960 to kennedy a great favor. they added the alabama electoral votes for the elect first. kennedy wasn't even on the ballot. that's how much opposition there was to kennedy back then. if you subtract those he lost. if nixon had done one thing, forget about the db. you could argue that either way. the first one helped kennedy but the effect had worn off by the
time of the election. the critical mistake of mixing mead was not getting the eisenhower al on the campaign trail earlier. why did that have been? because mimi eisenhower, unbeknownst to president eisenhower had made a call to vice president nixon in the summer saying you know all the problems. please do not put him to the test. he cannot stand all this strenuous activity. presidents nixon was doing her bidding and president eisenhower himself was hurt that he was not asked. he wondered why it might not being asked? >> guest: he didn't know what his wife had done. at least the best evidence that we have had eisenhower went out on the campaign trail in that last week or so with nixon. sure enough, eisenhower, who was at a 60% popularity then, pulled mixing up virtually into a tie.
imagine if he had been campaigning for two weeks i think that nixon would have won the 60 election. kennedy had lost 1960, what would he have done? i don't like what if, but -- [inaudible] >> host: here is the what if question. it would be fun to do it and to think about it. he was re- elected to the senate in 1958 so he would have been in in 64 and my guess is he would have run for reelection and try it again at the end of mixing's eight years. wouldn't it have been interesting if the positions were reversed? i don't want to see that he would have been assassinated, but the harvey oswald once told his wife that he was going to assassinate vice president nixon on a trip to dallas. isn't it interesting? so you wonder -- and when nixon was told about kennedy's murder,
he was shaken up. all of his aides say that maybe it was going through his mind my god that could have been me if i got more votes here and there. but it wasn't political. even though he was a devout communist. because hinckley had stopped president carter. there was a political dimension to all salt that hinckley totally lacked the cause also won't have also been looking for something. looking for something. and that is what got him into the soviet union and it's what got him into so many of these groups that he was in once he got back to the united states. that is a story in and of itself. was he pro- castro or was he working with the fbi and new orleans with the anti-castro disturbing and after working for the fbi? >> host: didn't he also associated with anti-communists
in dallas? >> guest: he had some of the anti-communist russians adopted always want because the wanted e russian particularly marina. >> host: he was what, 24? west coast was 24. >> host: so there is a lot of weird mess that went on. >> guest: but it gave fuel to the conspiracy fire and you can understand. you can ask a lot of legitimate questions about it. >> host: the one commission had lots of doubts about how the evidence was handled on november 22, 1963. a lot of doubts about, and many more doubts now as you have proven about the house investigation. but, so what is your conclusion? take us through that today and what is the harvey oswald thinking about doing and how did he act alone, and was there really a magic bullet? >> guest: i don't exclude the
possibility that someone excluded oswald or that there was someone on the grassy knoll because the secret service credentials story bothers me a great deal and some other things bother me. 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: i read the book as you did, gerald pozen are. was he saying case closed for the political motivation or that oswald acted alone in? >> guest: i think that he was saying oswald acted alone. and that may be the case but i don't see how anyone -- vince is another one. very impressive book and very impressive man. but they don't fully address these pieces that don't fit. i have a questioning mind about some of these things. if you forced me to one camp or another i would go with the oswald acted alone.
but i'm not confident about it. i'm confident that if the warren commission did a terrible job in on the assassination did a terrible job so we have had two botched investigations and it's 50 years on and there's only one prediction that i could make. one hundred years from now, our children, grandchildren, students, their children, they are all going to be watching documentaries about the conspiracy theories involving the kennedy assassination. >> host: even with the release of the remaining material in the national archives? >> guest: we hope that comes out in october. it's going to be up to the president to decide whether the cia gets to keep secret or redacted its 1,171 remaining documents that haven't been released and that is many thousands of thousands of pages relating to the kennedy assassination. i want to see what's in there into the remaining pages are from the fbi and others but before we reach a final conclusion that is another
reason i don't believe in case closed. you have to seal the evidence before you can reach a final conclusion. is it all sealed and are they allowed to talk about them? >> guest: they don't know what is in those documents. let me give credit -- one wonders whether all of the documents were actually turned over. this was as a result of the records act that president george h. w. bush signed on in 1992 right for the election that was a direct result of oliver stone's jfk. jeff operates an excellent website, jfk facts.org and he's
focused on cia documents and he came up with one that was really interesting. bubefore the assassination, the cia reacted to oswald's visit to mexico city. so oswald is maturing. he matured right into a presidential assassin, and he had a practice trying to assassinate general walker in april of 1963. if only the police forces and the fbi at the time had spent more resources to try to trace that assassination attempt. walker wasn't killed he was only slightly injured with a bullet was fired through his house at almost certainly was oswald. oswald pulled his wife woul whae had done in greater detail. how many assassins have the
final day and how many do they have under investigation? they are going to be amazed to learn that the only people in the finals of the secret service were the people that wrote and threatened the president directly as any policemen or investigator will tell you that people who write you don't need to worry about it for people that don't write that you need to worry about. >> host: did oswald ever write threatening letters? >> guest: they didn't have a single questionable individual on final in dallas. he was the hotbed of any sentiment and there have been incidents involving -- most of the south with dallas in particular. the incident with at least events in just a couple of months before he was assaulted. lyndon johnson and lady bird had been there before the election of 1960 at the local newspapers
were strong publishers for his ancestor. by the way, i came across a wonderful tour guide in dallas who took me to a lot of the behind the scenes places, and the former first lady was very helpful in doing this, but if she took me to all of the hidden places people don't normally see including the jail cell. but at the end of today, and i quote this in the book, he has done this for years and he's been related to the dealings. he's kind of assessed with it. he said you focused on this for years and years. what do you really think and he said you know, i know everything there is about november 22.
there is already more what if. is it simply that he was assassinated under mysterious circumstances, or was there something more to his presidency than that? >> guest: the part of the book but i'm the proudest of is the last third. we traced john f. k.'s legacy life through death through all nine of his successors. we spent more time on that than anything including the assassination. and we asked this question for each successor. how did this president used john f. kennedy to accomplish his own agenda? every one of the president said it used kennedy in one way or another. you know better than i do the best use other than lbj was by ronald reagan who cited kennedy so often you would have thought
he was the running mate. >> host: in the primaries there were democratic crossover voters to campaign ran commercial and future presidentd presidenfuture presidentskennedd to cut the taxes to get the country moving again. and those were made into commercials by the ronald reagan campaign. >> guest: which was very smar smart. the tax cuts but he got was almost adopted. he died right before it was scheduled to be voted on. but he was the look is worth explaining why there was economic productivity in an across-the-board tax cuts. and then the anti-communist rhetoric. you go back to kennedy's inaugural address to the speeches that he made and he was criticized for using the term evil empire. that was nothing compared to what kennedy said of the communist. >> host: kennedy was called an enlightened cold warrior. either i do, i do also believe
in his last jew because of the frightening prospect of the nuclear war that he nearly experienced in the cuban missile crisis that he was looking for ways to make a common cause with the soviets and with khrushchev. he was reaching out. we got the nuclear test ban treaty. that was the accomplishment he was proud of in the administration. there were other things he was planning on doing. so we think that he was moving away from some of that rhetoric at the time of his death and of course some conspiracy theorists say that's exactly why he was killed. the generals and the defense industry were unhappy. it's a great theory. i'm waiting to see where the facts are. i want to take them into a courtroom and have him hold up under a cross-examination. >> host: but then that begs the question. is he like other democrats was contacted by the who lost china argument, and who lost lau.
so him being in anti-communist and a cold warrior and a strong national defense, he ran on the missile gap in 1960. eisenhower wasn't very happy about it. he committed the first ground troops into east asia. about what this art that kennedy wouldn't have gone into vietnam in the way that heated and extended -- he did and mixing did. whether kennedy, knowing what you know about the anti-communist and not wanting to lose other countries to communism would he have also gone and jumped into the southeast asia sees? >> guest: i examine that question at length and here's my conclusion. kennedy deserves part of it for vietnam. he put a lot of advisers and
some troops under cover. so he started the trend. but here's why i believe he never would have done what johnson did. he put 535,000 troops in vietn vietnam. one thing is cautious to second to always look to the politicians base. what was kennedy space lacks intellectuals, the very first place against the strong opposition to dramatically increase. >> host: but they were all very skeptical of him in 59 and 61. he said they were not comfortable with the liberals in the democratic party. >> guest: but he had really established that language in office. lyndon johnson by contrast was
anti-intellectual. he liked the fact that many of the kennedy intellectuals opposed the vietnam policy. and of course his grandiose -- his grandiose deal on the presidency led him to try to win this war that was unwinnable but he wanted to do it in a big way. he had agreed to be few little pilot program on the war on poverty today after the assassination lyndon johnson hears about what kennedy had done and countermanded and says that's my kind of program. i want it big and national. go full tilt. that's the difference between johnson and kennedy. i don't believe that kennedy would have done what johnson did in vietnam. though he would have continued some level of default. i do not believe for a minute he was going to withdraw the troops after. >> host: but he would have pursued the policies that he would have done it differently?
>> guest: to a lesser extent using the caution that he had gained during the day i it takea disaster and the triumph in the cuban missile crisis. he learned the hard way on the job and he was an internationally minded person. that is the contrast. johnson was a domestic politician. kennedy had always been because of his family in britain in world war ii he was more internationally focused and i think that he understood better. >> host: because of his military background as undoubted military heroism in world war ii had a greater respect for the joint chiefs then maybe lbj because he was trying to direct the war. was it macarthur who bagged johnson in 1964 don't get involved in the land war in southeast asia and he didn't listen to him. i wonder if kennedy would have listened to macarthur, great
now a historian who studies the actual record would say, on. it could have been accomplished. 1,038 days. but what was interesting to me is that is the judgment of the american people. we entitled the chapter of the people's president. i think the readers will be interested to see how can this be viewed and why if the assassination is a big piece of it but so was kennedy public image was the rhetoric which was still stirring the self-deprecating humor and a glamorous nature. >> host: i have the record album of the inaugural address and i can recite it right now
for you. i put it on a couple of times and it gives me goosebumps when i hear it. you mentioned the president following. although having written about ronald reagan i came across a phrase that said reagan was the first president not to be haunted by the ghost of john kennedy. do you agree with that? >> guest: ronald reagan knew himself. he had a center to himself. he wasn't in the democratic party or the republican party. he didn't have to pretend to be the next jfk. each democratic president have to pretend to be the next jfk running for office and then serving in office. so there was a great difference there. as you know, ronald reagan was so true it about his cultivation of the entire family they probably spent more time in his oval office and they had then
anybody else since kennedy's's assassination. >> host: and he was presented to the congressional gold matter posthumously to bobby kennedy, robert kennedy that carter himself refused to present. that was brought i was told working on the 1980 book by several sources that the entire kennedy family in 1980 voted for ronald reagan. >> guest: that was the rumor. [laughter] >> host: with the exception of andersen. anderson. that's interesting. president carter told me a story about his speech at the dedication of the jfk library and jackie kennedy was very cold to him according to president carter at that event and that is when he first realized he didn't just have a problem with ted kennedy but a problem with the entire family and they were a big clan. in just a few seconds what should the readers come away from the book and what is the legacy of john kennedy?
>> guest: i think it's important to realize that a tragedy like the assassination has created more out of the presidency of john f. kennedy than we actually read in the historical record and that is the power of people in a democracy. that is one of the ultimate legacies of john f. kennedy's short time in the white house. >> host: thank you very much for the interview. >> guest: you're welcome. >> that was "after words," booktv signature program in which offers of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policy makers, legislators and others familiar with their material. speaking of an heiress on the tv to 10 p.m. saturday, 12 and 9 p.m. sunday and 12 a.m. on monday. you can also watch online. go to booktv.org