Whodunnit xix: Truth vs. Agenda (c)

Before I let Salandria go, another episode comes to mind. In January 2012, Arlen Specter took him to lunch. Specter, who would serve 30 years in the U.S. Senate, but he is best known to conspiracists, like Salandria, for creating the “magic bullet” theory while assistant counsel to the Warren Commission, which they consider the lynch pin of the cover-up. Both Specter and Salandria were in their 80s when they dined – and Specter would die of cancer within the year. To me it seemed like Moby Dick asking Ahab out for a farewell bowl of plankton.
Some, who have read Salandria’s account of this lunch, have interpreted Specter’s invitation as his seeking forgiveness, but I don’t see it. It isn’t apparent from what Salandria reports. It doesn’t fit what I know of Specter’s character. And if he needed forgiveness from anyone, it was Anita Hill for what he did to her during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings. The meeting Salandria describes seems friendly, and at the end, Specter left smiling. But mainly it consisted of Specter’s single-sentence questions (What was the reason for the assassination? Do you talk to Mark Lane often?) and Salandria’s multi-paragraph answers.
During their conversation, Salandria volunteers he told Specter that, had he been given his “assignment” “to frame Lee Harvey Oswald as Kennedy’s killer,” he would have acted similarly. “As a lawyer I would have been obliged to serve the best interest of my client, the United States government.” This is an astonishing admission. Salandria in not only wrong in his understanding of a lawyer’s role, he hovers somewhere between the comically and the criminally wrong.
The ABA’s Code of Ethics forbids a lawyer representing someone before a tribunal to offer evidence he knows to be false.” A lawyer may also refuse to offer evidence he “reasonably believes is false.” And if he later learns evidence he offered was false, he must take “remedial measures.” His obligation to “the integrity of the adjudicative process” outweighs even his duty to his client. (True, the Warren Commission may not have constituted a “tribunal,” but I doubt Salandria was making this distinction.) That someone, who was himself a member of the Bar, believed it proper for an attorney to manufacture evidence to “frame” someone of a crime is as hard to believe as… Well, as hard to believe as someone’s finding Rose Cheramie a repository for the truth. Salandria ends his article by quoting Sophocles: “Truly, to tell lies is not honorable; but where truth entails tremendous ruin, to speak dishonorably is pardonable.” This opens the door quite a bit to “the end justifies the means” thinking; and I cannot help believing, given what I have seen of Salandria’s arguments, that while he thinks he is accounting for Specter’s behavior, he is, in fact, accounting for his own.
When Arlen Specter left smiling, it may not have been because he felt redeemed. It may have been because he had confirmed he had lunched with someone with views unworthy of serious consideration.

Whodunnit: xviii: Truth vs. Agenda (b)

Another thing in Salandria’s speech that struck me was his assertion that, while Air Force One was in flight back to Washington from Dallas, the presidential party received word “‘there was no conspiracy…(and) of the identity of Oswald and his arrest…’” Salandria gives as his source Theodore H. White’s “The Making of the President, 1964.” From my reading of “Making,” White was not on Air Force One, and since his book is not foot-noted, how and when he learned of ths announcement is unknown. (It occurs in his text immediately following Johnson being sworn-in as president, which took place before the plane’s departure at 2:47 CST. It landed at 4:58.) Salandria, for no reasons I saw, concluded that the announcement came from presidential assistant McGeorge Bundy in the White House Situation Room, and that it was “conclusive evidence of high-level U.S. governmental guilt” since there was no proof yet pointing towards Oswald’s guilt and “overwhelming, convincing evidence of conspiracy…” In Salandria’s end notes this “overwhelming, convincing evidence,” existing between 2:47 and 4:58 p.m., turns out to be a news story the following day in a Dallas newspaper quoting the District Attorney as saying “‘preliminary reports indicated more than one person was involved…’” (“(P)reliminary” indications hardly indicate “overwhelming, convincing evidence” IMHO. Plus the conspiracy the D. A. had in mind – see below – isn’t the one Salandria thought was being covered up.) Still it is refreshing to see him, at least for the time being, not implicating a governmental agency in the cover-up.
Aside from raising again the question of why the conspirators would want to conceal Oswald’s leftist links, since they were hoping to start a war or two with the Reds, the Air Force One announcement is puzzling in many ways. There must have been dozens of people aboard, but with one exception (see even further below) none of them seem to have heard what White reported. Second, the responsibility of charging anyone with anything lay, not with the federal government, but with Dallas authorities so unless McGeorge Bundy controlled the local D.A., whom Salandria has just praised, what happened was out of his hands. Third, before the plane was in the air, both the Dallas police and the FBI suspected Oswald had killed Kennedy. They had eye witnesses to his killing Tippit; they knew of his links to Cuba and Russia; they knew he worked in the Book Depository where shell casings had been found; and his wife had told them he owned a rifle. Finally as late as 10:20 p.m., radio stations in Dallas were reporting he would be charged with killing the president “as part of an international Communist conspiracy,” following a leak from the assistant D.A. who expected to be assigned the case. So the blanket Bundy had supposedly thrown over the news didn’t seem to have been working.
In support of the announcement White said was made, Salandria offered that Pierre Salinger, Kennedy’s press secretary, who was on a different plane with several cabinet members headed toward Tokyo, reported in his book “With Kennedy” that he heard a similar one. Salandria doesn’t quote what Salinger said he heard or at what time he heard it. The Berkeley Public Library didn’t have that book, so I couldn’t check. It did have Salinger’s “P.S.: A Memoir,” which mentions several cables (or calls) received during that flight, none of which resemble the one White reported. Salandria also said that Robert Manning, an assistant secretary of state, who said he was on Air Force One, “reported having heard the same account of Oswald being designated as the presumed assassin.” But note that (a) the White statement didn’t say Oswald had been named as an “assassin” and (b) the Manning statement, as reported by Salandria, didn’t say there was no conspiracy. Finally Salandria end-notes Manning’s account to an oral history published in 1993, 30 years after Kennedy was killed. Perhaps Manning was White’s one and only source. Or perhaps he was interviewed by the oral historians close to their publication date. I’ll pause for a moment while I ask you to remember where and when it was that you heard that Al Queda had been accused of carrying out 9/11 and exactly how that news was worded.
And that was less than 15 years ago.

Whodunnit xvii: truth vs. agenda

That selective quoting (See blog of 8/1) stuck in my craw. Maybe it was because, as an attorney, I was taught that shit is unethical. (I don’t think it’s regarded highly by journalists or historians either.) Anyway, it turned my attention toward truth.
Here’s a minor example. In Salandria’s speech he attacked the media for publishing books which portrayed Kennedy as “a flawed and perverse person…” Salandria did not specify what perversities triggered his inner Falwell, but presumably he meant Kennedy’s sex life and drug use. Personally I think de-mythologizing public leaders is a public service. With JFK, my favorite discovery while doing my research was that, as early as the spring of 1962, he and a mistress were dropping acid. That set me wondering how much it contributed to his turning from Cold War warrior to the we-are-all-one anti-nuker which Salandria and Douglass emphasize in praising his policies.
But I digress. Salandria doesn’t care if the revelations about Kennedy are true. He decries them for being part of the cover-up, a character assassination intended to keep people from caring what happened to him by inferring “he deserved his fate.” (If so, it didn’t work. In a 2011 poll, Americans ranked Kennedy as their fourth greatest president.) Factual truth seems less important to Salandria than how these facts play within his preferred historical narrative. If they don’t advance it, he would, at a minimum, hide them.
He may also distort them. (To be cont.)

Whodunnit ix: Line-up changes

But before I get to the evidence…
I’d mentioned dropping “Case Closed’ from my line-up because of its incompatibility with – and disparagement by – its more completely researched partner, “Reclaiming History.” I’ve now subbed in John McAdams’s “JFK Assassination Logic” (306 pp. 2011). McAdams, a poly sci professor and self-described “debunker” at Marquette, currently under suspension because of… Well, that’s another story. His book focuses on the fallacies in the reasoning of conspiracy theorists. (It mentions Douglass and Posner four times. It mentions neither Talbot nor, more interestingly, Bugliosi, whose ground it seems to track.)
I had hoped to balance McAdams with “False Mystery,” a collection of essays by Vincent Salandria, an ex-attorney and history teacher, who is the doyen of the Philadelphia School of Conspiracy Theorists, but A Libris had no copies. I settled for a speech he gave in 1998 to the Coalition on Political Assassinations, which, augmented by hyperlinks and endnotes, some as recent as 2013, prints out at 48 pp. Salandria says that, within two days of the assassination, he had determined Oswald was “a possible intelligence agent and patsy.” (If this judgment seems rushed, it was arrived at a day longer than it took Salandria to inform his 8th grade math class, in 1941, that Roosevelt had lied about Pearl Harbor being a “sneak attack” in order to thrust the country into war.) Salandria was among the Warren Report’s earliest critics, and this speech sets out what I take to be his main objections to its reasoning. (The endnotes to the “argument” portion cite 25 references, none of which are Bugliosi, McAdams, Posner, or Talbot. Six are his own works; four are Douglass’s; and eight are friends or followers of Salandria’s who share his belief.)
Which is that our national security state killed Kennedy. (Salandria considers Douglass’s the best book written about the assassination, and Douglass had dedicated his book to Salandria.) Salandria accuses, among others, McGeorge Bundy, Allen Dulles, Nicholas Katzenbach, Henry Luce, Arlen Specter, and Earl Warren of criminally conspiring to cover up the killing and blame it on Oswald. (Some may wonder at the success of this cover up, since, when the Warren report was issued, 68.4% of the public thought Oswald acted alone. Over the last several decades, somewhere between 60 and 85% report believing the opposite.) The conspirators’ aim was to undermine the American’s public’s faith in government, so it would not take politics seriously. He calls for an understanding of what happened in order to “organize the struggle through which we can make this country a civilian republic in more than name only.”