Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Warren Report: Yes, No or Who Cares?

Type “Kennedy assassination” into the search box at and you get 7,308 books. Recently, the genre's total has risen by two, with the publication of a pair of new investigative books by well-credentialed writers. They arrive at completely opposite conclusions.

Voting to reject the conclusions of the Warren Commission is David Talbot, founder of His “Brothers,” focuses on Bobby Kennedy's sub rosa efforts to solve the assassination and theorizes that Bobby may have been the victim of the same conspirators he suspected of murdering his brother.

The case for acquittal is made by Vincent Bugliosi, author of Helter Skelter, a book on the Charles Manson case, which he prosecuted. In “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” he defends the conclusions of the Warren report. There was, in other words, no conspiracy.

Bugliosi was motivated to write the book, he told a New York Times reporter, because polls show that 75 percent of Americans now believe there was some kind of conspiracy behind the assassination - even though they probably have not even read the Warren Report!

Count me among them. I've never read the Warren Report, nor am I planning to read Bugliosi's 1,612 page, six-pound opus. In fact, I try to avoid the black hole of JFK conspiracy theory, a twilight zone in which many have lost reputations and what might otherwise have been productive lives. Gary Trudeau hit the Zeitgeist on the head as usual when Doonesbury spoofed the “30th Annual JFK Assassination Conspiracy Fest.”

So I don't want to hear about arcane matters such as acoustic signatures or suspicious figures on the grassy knoll. I have just two words to say to Warren Commission defenders: Jack Ruby. A Mob-connected nightclub owner murders Lee Harvey Oswald on national television solely out of misguided patriotic zeal? How likely is that?

According to David Talbot, “Commission investigators credulously accepted the word of a Chicago hood named Lenny Patrick that Ruby had no underworld ties, when in fact it was Patrick himself who had run Ruby out of town for stepping on his gambling turf.”

You don't have to be a Sopranos fan to see that as a rock worth looking under.

Of course, there's another question: does it still matter? To me it does, and I suspect that a lot of my non-tinfoil-beanie-wearing peers feel the same way. For many of us the assassination of John F. Kennedy was the defining political event of our early years, as perhaps Pearl Harbor was for our parents. Like the eternal flame that burns at JFK's grave, our youthful outrage over the murder of the country's youngest-ever president has yet to be extinguished.

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