quoted from Gary North's REALITY CHECK, Issue 294, November 21, 2003
ON A BRIGHT, SUNNY DAY IN DALLAS
This is the week of the 40th anniversary of Kennedy's
assassination. There have been several television programs
devoted to this event, especially on PBS.
In this report, I'm going to present a missing piece
of the puzzle, one that you have never heard about. It was
not mentioned in the Warren Commission report. Oliver
Stone did not include it in his movie, "JFK." It's not
that this missing piece has been actively suppressed. It's
that it was published in a little-known book that seemingly
had nothing to do with the assassination. No one paid any
attention. The book then sank without a trace. I bought a
copy in a book remainder bin years ago, where books that
don't sell well at retail are sold at dirt-cheap prices,
and then forgotten.
The Kennedy assassination has been studied in detail
and written about by thousands of people. The amount of
published information on the event is staggering. The
basic outline has been known for years. But the devil is
in the details.
A majority of Americans say that they don't trust the
Warren Commission's theory of the lone gunman. Yet nobody
has offered anything like a plausible alternative that has
gained the support of a significant minority of the general
public or historians. That Lee Harvey Oswald doesn't seem
capable of having fired all those shots is clear. The
problem is in finding evidence for the necessary split-
second coordination with a second assassin.
An author trying to defend any assassination thesis
must ignore or downplay implausible facts, either lone
gunman facts or coordinated conspiracy facts. The
resulting theories have all been implausible. That's the
way facts are when you take a close look, from subatomic
physics to the Big Bang.
In this report, I am going to make three simple
points: (1) history is very complex; (2) the writing of
history is an inexact and highly biased art; (3) our lives
and even our world turn on events that cannot be predicted
or defended against.
LEE HARVEY OSWALD
Consider Lee Harvey Oswald in November, 1963. He was
a former Marine. He was a former defector to the Soviet
Union -- the first discharged Marine ever to defect to the
USSR. He had renounced in writing his U.S. citizenship.
At the time of this renunciation, he had written to one
American official that he intended to turn over to the
Soviets the Navy's radar codes, which he did. The Navy had
to change its codes. He was not merely a defector; he was
a traitor. Yet in 1962, he returned to the U.S. with his
Russian wife, and nobody in Washington blinked an eye.
They knew he was back. He was de-briefed by the CIA, which
the CIA continues to deny, but for which there is written
evidence: a "smoking document." The FBI, the CIA, military
intelligence, and the Navy ignored him.
In 1962, he tried to assassinate an anti-Communist
retired general, Edwin Walker. He then moved to New
Orleans, where he got involved with pro-Cuba activism as a
one-man member of a local Fair Play for Cuba Committee. He
was visible enough to have been filmed on the streets,
handing out leaflets, and be recorded in a radio debate.
The films and audio tapes still exist.
Oswald had been a Marxist since his teenage years. He
had been openly a Marxist in the Marines, yet he was given
access to radar codes. In a letter to his brother, sent
from Moscow, he had said, "I want you to understand what I
say now, I do not say lightly, or unknowingly, since I've
been in the military. . . . In the event of war I would
kill any American who put a uniform on in defense of the
American Government -- Any American." Edward Jay Epstein,
a specialist in the JFK assassination, noted two decades
ago this week, "Although his letter was routinely
intercepted by the CIA and microfilmed, no discernable
attention was paid to the threat contained in it."
Oswald returned to the United States in 1962. Epstein
After the failed assassination, Oswald went to
New Orleans, where he became the organizer for
the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Aside from
printing leaflets, staging demonstrations,
getting arrested and appearing on local radio
talk shows in support of Castro that summer,
Oswald attempted to personally infiltrate an
anti-Castro group that was organizing sabotage
raids against Cuba. He explained to friends that
he could figure out his "anti-imperialist" policy
by "reading between the lines" of the Militant
and other such publications. In August, he wrote
the central committee of the Communist Party USA
asking "Whether in your opinion, I can compete
with anti-progressive forces above ground, or
whether I should always remain in the
background, i.e. underground". During this hot
summer, while Oswald spent evenings practicing
sighting his rifle in his backyard, the Militant
raged on about the Kennedy Administration's
"terrorist bandit" attacks on Cuba. And as the
semi-secret war against Castro escalated, Oswald
expressed increasing interest in reaching Cuba.
It gets even more interesting.
Telling his wife that they might never meet
again, he left New Orleans two weeks later headed
for the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City. To convince
the Cubans of his bona fides -- and seriousness
-- he had prepared a dossier on himself, which
included a 10 page resume, outlining his
revolutionary activities, newspaper clippings
about his defection to the Soviet Union,
propaganda material he had printed, documents he
had stolen from a printing company engaged in
classified map reproduction for the U.S Army, his
correspondence with the Fair Play for Cuba
Committee executives and photographs linking him
to the Walker shooting.
Oswald applied for a visa at the Cuban Embassy on
the morning of September 27th, 1963. He said that
he wanted to stop in Havana en route to the
Soviet Union. On the application, the consular
office who interviewed him, noted: "The applicant
states that he is a member of the American
Communist Party and Secretary in New Orleans of
the Fair Play for Cuba Committee." Despite such
recommendations, Oswald was told that he needed a
Soviet visa before the Cuban visa could be
issued. He argued over this requisite with the
Cuban counsel, Eusebio Azque, in front of
witnesses, and reportedly made wild claims about
services he might perform for the Cuban cause.
During the next five days, he traveled back and
forth between the Soviet and Cuban embassies
attempting to straighten out the difficulty.
I generally trust Epstein as a researcher. His
biography on Armand Hammer is a masterpiece. His
investigation of Oswald was detailed, and his first book on
the assassination became a best-seller, "Inquest" (1966).
He later earned a Ph.D. from Harvard. He is no crackpot.
He is a conventional historian of the assassination. He
thinks the lone gunman thesis is correct. But what he
wrote a generation ago about that lone gunman's activities
before the assassination has yet to get into the textbooks.
Epstein's findings about Oswald point either to the utter
bureaucratic incompetence of military intelligence, the
CIA, the FBI, and the State Department, or else to a
conspiracy. Textbook writers do not want to consider
There is another factor: the media never did want to
play up the fact that Oswald was a long-time traitor and a
Marxist. From the day of the assassination, the media
tried to blame the equivalent of "a vast right wing
conspiracy" in Dallas. It was "the climate of right-wing
opinion in Dallas" that pundits said had killed Kennedy.
On the contrary, what killed Kennedy was a Marxist
revolutionary, committed to violence philosophically, who
had been allowed to return to the United States. But this
truth has never been palatable to the media or the textbook
You think this has changed? Not a chance. On
Thursday evening, November 20, PBS broadcast a recently
produced one-hour show, "JFK: Breaking the News." It dealt
with the power of television to cover live news, which was
first demonstrated on that weekend in 1963. The show
spends at least five minutes, and maybe more, on the right
wing climate of opinion in Dallas. It shows that there
were conservative Democrats who -- gasp! -- opposed
Kennedy's liberal politics. The shame of it! The
audacity! To oppose this great man! The fact that the
liberal media actively covered up his daily adulteries,
which were security risks, given the Mob connection of some
of them -- a fact presented earlier in the week on the PBS
documentary, "The Kennedys" -- is rarely mentioned, and was
never mentioned until several best-selling books revealed
all this in the late 1980's.
The only reference to the truth in that documentary
was a brief sentence in retrospect by CBS's Bob Shieffer
("Face the Nation"), who was a reporter in Fort Worth at
the time, who admits that Oswald was a leftist, but of
course a lone nut -- no climate of opinion, you see. This
segment was shown long after Jane Pauly's voice-over and
film clips had pilloried the anti-Kennedy Democrats as pig-
headed, insensitive brutes. The media have never forgiven
conservatives in 1963 for not buying into Camelot, despite
the fact that the myth of Camelot was entirely Jackie
Kennedy's, who convinced Theodore White to invent it after
her husband died (another fact discussed on "The
The irony of this neglect of Oswald's Marxist roots
was made greater by what followed the airing of "JFK:
Breaking the News." PBS ran an updated version of
Frontline's 1993 3-hour documentary, "Who Was Lee Harvey
Oswald?" This superb documentary shows exactly who he was
and what he was: a dedicated lifelong Marxist who wanted to
do something big for the cause and big for his reputation.
But it received little attention in 1993, and I doubt that
it will receive much this week.
The show also reveals that Lyndon Johnson was briefed
on Oswald within hours, and he deliberately told the press,
meaning the publishers and wire service owners, not to
mention Oswald's time in Russia and his subsequent Marxist
agitation in New Orleans. The implication -- never
mentioned -- is that Johnson controlled the press.
The narrator says that Johnson feared a world war, the
assassination having come only a year after the Cuban
missile crisis. I suggest an additional reason: Johnson
did not want to let the American public know that this was
a gigantic failure of the American intelligence community,
meaning the same kind of Keystone Cops failure that has
marked everything associated with 9-11, from before 9-11
Both shows are scheduled to be broadcast again by PBS
on the afternoon of November 22.
Neither documentary mentioned the following story.
This is the one that has grabbed my attention ever since I
bought and read that remaindered book.
THE BUBBLE TOP
For those who explain history in terms of impersonal
forces, the unique event is irrelevant. For those who
favor a conspiracy view of history, the unique event has
meaning only in terms of the conspiracy. As for me, I am a
believer in the overwhelming significance of the unique
event. Remove it, and everything would have turned out
differently. Here is my favorite example of the unique
event, itself the product of a series of unique events,
that changed everything.
Unique event: Late November can be cold in Dallas.
But on that crucial day, it was warm. Forecasters had
predicted cool weather. That was why Jackie Kennedy was
wearing a wool suit.
Unique event: Kennedy had spoken that morning in Fort
Worth, 30 miles west of Dallas. Instead of driving to
Dallas, the President and his entourage flew from Ft. Worth
to Dallas, landing at Love Field. (There was no DFW
airport in 1963. DFW was Lyndon Johnson's gift to air
Unique event: At Love Field were stationed the cars
that would carry the President and the others through the
11-mile motorcade trip to downtown Dallas. Both cars were
convertibles. The President's car had a removable plastic
bubble, just in case bad weather made it too cold or too
wet for comfort.
Unique event: Love Field that day had an outdoor phone
line connected to the desk of "The Dallas Times Herald." A
local reporter used it to phone in stories about the
Then came a truly unique series of events. Here is
the published account by the on-site reporter.
Just before the plane was scheduled to leave
Fort Worth for the short flight to Dallas, the
rewrite man, Stan Weinberg, asked me if the
bubble top was going to be on the presidential
limousine. It would help to know now, he said,
before he wrote the story later under pressure.
It had been raining early that morning, and there
was some uncertainty about it.
I told Stan that I would find it. I put the
phone down and walked over to a small ramp where
the motorcade limousines were being held in
waiting. I spotted Forrest Sorels, the agent in
charge of the Dallas Secret Service office. I
knew Mr. Sorrels fairly well, because I was then
the regular federal beat reporter. . . .
I looked down the ramp. The bubble top was
on the president's car.
Rewrite wants to know if the bubble top's
going to stay on, I said to Mr. Sorrels, a man of
fifty or so who wore dignified glasses and
resembled a preacher or bank president.
He looked at the sky and then hollered over
at one of his agents holding a two-way radio in
his hand. What about the weather downtown? he
asked the agent.
The agent talked into his radio for a few
seconds, then listened. Clear, he hollered back.
Mr. Sorrels yelled back at the agents
standing by the car: "Take off the bubble top!"
Just over twelve hours later, I was part of
the bedlam at the Dallas police station along
with hundreds of other reporters. I went into
the police chief's outer office to await the
breakup of a meeting in Chief Jesse Curry's main
office. I had no idea who was in there.
The door opened and out walked several men.
One of them was Forrest Sorrels. He looked tired
and sad. And bewildered. He saw me and I moved
toward him. His eyes were wet. He paused
briefly, shook his head slightly and whispered,
"Take off the bubble top."
The history of mankind is filled with "what if" and
"if only" events that surround every major event. In
American history, this is one of the big what-ifs, yet it
is still unknown to the public.
A plastic bubble might not have stopped the bullets
that hit the passengers in that limousine, but it would
have given any sharpshooter concern. A bullet can be
deflected. There is no guarantee that an undeflected
bullet will hit its target, and a plastic bubble would have
added greatly to the uncertainty. Would the assassin or
assassins have pulled the trigger(s)?
There is also no way to know if someone other than
Forrest Sorrels might have decided after the plane landed
to take off the bubble top. What we do know, and what Mr.
Sorrels knew that day, is this: a seemingly peripheral
question by a rewrite man, relayed through a reporter, led
to a call downtown by a two-way radio. Assessment:
"Clear." Events in Dallas on that fateful day were never
This story would be known by almost no one, had it not
been for the reporter's subsequent career, which justified
a book publishing company's taking a risk by publishing his
autobiography. The Dallas reporter subsequently became
America's most prominent playwright-novelist-newscaster,
Jim Lehrer, of the "Lehrer News Hour." His book is titled,
"A Bus of My Own." It was published in 1992. It did not
I suspect that more people have learned about this
unique "what-if" event today than have learned about it
over the last eleven years.
JOHNSON REPLACES KENNEDY
Our lives are influenced by events far beyond our
capacity to perceive at the time or understand after the
fact, let alone predict in advance. On that bright, sunny
day in Dallas, Lyndon Johnson became President. He
subsequently escalated a war in Vietnam that Kennedy had
begun. America changed dramatically because the sun was
shining in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
The can-do optimism of New Deal political liberalism
did not survive the Kennedy assassination and the war in
Vietnam. Two months after the assassination, the Beatles
arrived in America, setting off what was to become the
counter-culture of the 1960's. But what we think of as
"the sixties" actually began in February, 1964. November
22, 1963, remains the great divide.
Johnson's "guns and butter" spending policies expanded
the Federal deficit. The war in Vietnam and the war on
poverty had to be paid for. Johnson preferred to borrow
and inflate rather than raise taxes, except for a minor and
temporary 10% income tax surcharge in 1968. To hide the
reality of the deficit, Johnson persuaded Congress in 1968
to allow him to put the Social Security Administration
surplus into the general fund's accounting system. Prior
to 1968, the trust funds were outside of the general fund's
accounting system. Ever since 1968, the government has
counted undispersed trust fund income as present income
receipts rather than as long-term obligations, i.e., debts.
That decision made it easier for subsequent administrations
to hide what is happening to the retirement schemes of
Americans. It will have enormous effects for decades,
beginning no later than 2011, when the baby boomers begin
If the bubble top had been installed, it is doubtful
that any of this would have happened. None of this was
inevitable, humanly speaking. If there was a pattern here
-- and I believe there was -- no conspiracy established it.
(Read Psalm 2.)
CONTROL OF AND BY THE PRESS
We forget what America has become since that day in
1963. Presidential motorcades are no longer organized for
public viewing. A convertible for a President is as old
hat as a top hat at the President's inauguration -- last
seen at Kennedy's inauguration. Presidents no longer make
themselves visible to the public on the streets at
scheduled events. Jimmy Carter walked up Pennsylvania
Avenue on Inauguration Day in 1977. After "cousin John"
Hinckley shot Reagan in 1981, things changed.
. . . .
It is a grand illusion to believe that what we do
today can immunize ourselves from the fallout from the
seemingly random events of life. We can buy gold, we can
live in gated communities, but the hard realities of life
penetrate the high walls of our long-term plans.
Uncertainty is a fact of life. This is why we should
rejoice that there are entrepreneurs out there who put
their capital on the line to assist future consumers in
their quest to reduce uncertainty. Someone must deal with
uncertainty. Capitalism's great gift to mankind is that it
allows specialists to do this merely for the opportunity to
reap a profit by opening their wallets to the possibility
of losses. This is a cheap price for services rendered.