There are two important short sections in The Kennedy Half Century. One occurs at the beginning, the other near the end.
The author, Professor Larry Sabato, works out of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. In his acknowledgements section, Sabato traces his financial backing for this project over the five-year gestation time of the book. Some of his backers include: the Reynolds Foundation, McGuireWoods Consulting, the Hobby Family Foundation, the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth, and the president and provost of University of Virginia. It's with this kind of backing that Sabato was able to do the polling and focus group interviews he did for the volume. Which, to me, is far and away the most valuable part of the tome. His description of these polling results begins on page 406 of the book's 427 pages of text.
Like the polling cited by Robert Dallek in Camelot's Court, Sabato's polling – through the well-respected Hart Research Associates in Washington – discovered that, of the last nine presidents, Kennedy is the most admired. This is remarkable since that time period includes men like Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan, all of whom served two full terms. Therefore, they had a much longer time period to both pass legislation and plant their imprint on the national consciousness. And again, as with Dallek, the margin by which Kennedy outpaced the others was not really close. (Sabato, p. 406) Further, a remarkable 78% said that Kennedy's presidency had a profound impact on the United States. When asked to name four lasting achievements of the JFK presidency, two of the four most named issues dealt with civil rights for black Americans (ibid, p. 412). The other two were the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Apollo mission.
Sabato then details what are probably the two most politically charged findings in his polling. An amazing 91% of the respondents said that Kennedy's murder changed the United Sates a "great deal". (p. 416) Which is a number so astronomically high that it surprised even this writer. The general reaction described was that a "deep depression set in across the country , as the optimism that had mainly prevailed since the end of World War II seemed to evaporate" (ibid). The final result affirmed what had been, more or less, a constant in the polling since about 1967 and the publicity surrounding the Jim Garrison investigation. A full 75% of the public "reject the Warren Commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone" (ibid). As Sabato notes this is the same percentage that ABC News polled back in 2003 on the 40th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.
That is significant in and of itself. Why? Because of what has happened in the intervening decade. There has been a steady stream of cable produced television specials – using the same phony methodology of the 2003 Peter Jennings/Gus Russo/Dale Myers fiasco called Beyond Conspiracy – which have tried to use computer simulations to make the impossible Single Bullet Theory palatable. Many of these execrable programs have been aired on Discovery Channel. Several of them have used the auspices of the Sixth Floor Museum. And some of the very worst have used Sixth Floor employee Gary Mack as either a consultant or a host. Like Dale Myers did, many of these programs have actually altered evidence to make the Magic Bullet possible. (CTKA provided one of many exposes on the infamous Myers.) But miraculously, in the face of this incessant drumbeat of propaganda, the American public has said no, we don't buy the computer simulations. As they say in the tech business, its all GIGO, garbage in, garbage out.
Sabato ends this polling chapter with a summary of Kennedy's presidency in the following terms. Sabato writes that it was "eye-popping to see and hear the terms of endearment lavished on John Kennedy." He then writes that Kennedy's presidency is perceived as "the polar opposite of the very unhappy views they have of the country today. Whereas contemporary America is polarized and divided, Kennedy represents unity and common purpose ... as well as a sense of hope, possibility and optimism." (Sabato, p. 417)
These are quite significant findings. And Sabato is to be congratulated for making them public and employing such a venerated pollster as Peter Hart to attain them. To me, they just about certify all the things that the critical community has been saying about the significance of the Kennedy assassination in the collective unconscious of the American psyche. His murder really was an unprecedented shock to the system. And the fact that Kennedy was perceived as such a breath of fresh air, this made it all the worse as to its impact. This community can certainly cite these results as evidence that our perception of the JFK murder is the right one.
Unfortunately, that is about as far as the kudos go for this book. The rest of the volume is so inferior that it's almost like Sabato wrote the rest to counteract the results of the polling. Because much of the rest of the work is arranged around two themes. First, JFK really does not deserve all the admiration the public has for him. Second, although the Warren Commission might have made some errors, they got the bottom line correct: Oswald really did kill President Kennedy. Of course, these two concepts were the major ideas behind much of the programming and many of the books released around the 50th anniversary. Therefore, Sabato's tome is symptomatic of the much larger MSM and Establishment cultural barrage that took hold of the country in preparation for that event.
A good example would be the Tom Brokaw/Gus Russo NBC special which was supposed to be made up of personal reminisces of famous people about November 22, 1963. That turned out to be only a pretext to hook the viewer. The actual program, entitled Where Were You, had the same aims as Sabato's book. Its true agenda was to deceive the public about who actually killed President Kennedy, and to try and demean his presidency so people would not think any kind of legacy was worth honoring about the man. What else could the show have been about with Brokaw hosting it and Gus Russo as the consultant? Both men have been doing those same things for the last 20 years.
And so with Sabato. According to some CTKA sources at the University of Virginia, Sabato has always strived to get media attention for his Center for Politics. He likes being in front of cameras, no matter what the occasion. He has a rather liberal backing for money for his Center. But, as Mike Swanson notes in the accompanying article, he also knows how to get on television. He knows what feeds the beast of the MSM. Therefore, so as not to seem as big a denialist and cover-up artist as Philip Shenon, he spent some time with Virginia lawyer Dan Alcorn. Alcorn is well versed in the literature of the JFK case. Alcorn knows the many problems with the official story. And he was not shy about telling Sabato about them. Therefore, unlike Shenon, who only spoke to people like Commission lawyer Howard Willens, and took everything Willens said at face value, Sabato displays a bit of sophistication. Not a lot, but a bit. From his polling, he understands that the much larger part of the public does not buy the Warren Commission as any kind of serious fact finding entity. Today, that is simply a dog that will not hunt. Therefore, unlike the preposterous Shenon, he gives some space to some of the problems with the evidence in the JFK case.
There are really three parts to The Kennedy Half Century. There is a discussion of Kennedy's path to the presidency and what he did in office. Then, there is a discussion of what happened in Dallas and the evidence for and against the Warren Commission verdict. And third, there is a discussion about how the shadow of JFK and the Kennedy family has been cast over subsequent presidents.
As we deal with these three parts, it is important to keep in mind the following facts. Sabato is not a historian. He is a political scientist. And one who is very much in tune with the demands of the MSM. Further, he offered an online course about President Kennedy as a lead up to the release of his book. In the syllabus to that course, he listed a wide variety of sources for the student to read. That list revealed he was aware of the good work which has actually broadened our perspectives on who Kennedy was. One of the things that make his book odd is that, in light of that fact, it is striking that his book has no bibliography. One has to go through his long footnotes section – which often includes more text – to find out his basis for the information in the book. Which is what this reviewer, quite laboriously, did.
As we shall see, there seems to have been a reason for the author to make this odd choice. Because Sabato was selective about the actual texts he used in writing the book. If one compares the volumes he listed for his online course, versus what he used for his book, Sabato appears to have selectively pruned from the former in order to produce a much more MSM friendly product. This made for good public relations for Sabato. Unfortunately, it does not make for good history, or for good scholarship.
Sabato begins his narrative with Kennedy's trip to Texas in November of 1963. He traces that through to the arrival in Dallas, the shooting in Dealey Plaza, the trip to Parkland Hospital afterwards, and the actual autopsy at Bethesda Medical Center than night. From here he then launches into a retrospective of Kennedy's political career from about 1956 to 1963. All this takes up about the first 45 pages of the book. And just from reading that far one begins to see that Sabato has an agenda. For instance, there is no mention in the entire text of State Department official Edmund Gullion. Considering the fact that Sabato is a political scientist, that lack is a bit startling. Even Thurston Clarke understood the importance of Kennedy's meeting with Gullion in Saigon in 1951, and how that meeting changed Kennedy's consciousness about communism and the Third World. As many authors today have shown, it was this meeting that then caused Kennedy to make several speeches mapping out his differences with Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers. Especially on how hard the United States should press developing countries on being for us or against us on the issue of being non-aligned between east and west during the Cold War. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, pgs. 21-24)
In his further attempt to diminish Kennedy, Sabato gives short shrift to the striking speech Kennedy made in 1957 about the French/Algerian colonial conflict. In fact, he deals with it in about one page. (Sabato, pgs. 42-43) Incredibly, he gives over to John Foster Dulles more space for his critique of the speech than he does to Kennedy's actual speech! And he badly underplays the opposition to the speech itself. Not just from the Republicans, but also from Democrats like Dean Acheson and Adlai Stevenson. (DiEugenio, p. 26) The opposition of Stevenson is important politically since he was considered in the forefront of the liberal section of the Democratic Party. Further, Sabato never mentions that the vast majority of newspaper editorials lined up against Kennedy on the issue. But finally, by not reproducing the actual text of the speech, Sabato avoids mentioning the most powerful part of the address. One which Kennedy made quite explicit. He was comparing what the United States and France had done in Vietnam with what was now happening in Algeria. By allying itself with a European colonial power, America was playing on the wrong side of history.
Why does Sabato do this tailoring? Because he wants to divorce Kennedy from being a liberal icon. He adds that young people today associate the Kennedy name with liberalism. He writes that it was really the post 1963 Robert Kennedy, and younger brother Teddy "who transformed the family name's ideology ..." (Sabato, p. 41) Well, if you cut out Gullion, eliminate Kennedy's speeches opposing the Dulles brothers' foreign policy, excise his interest in the Third World, and significantly curtail his milestone Algeria speech, then yep, you can somehow proffer Kennedy as some kind of a moderate. But that is not writing history. It is practicing a political agenda. It is not scholarship. It is in Edward Luttwak's phrase, "renting a scholar".
The other main way that Sabato tries to denude Kennedy's liberalism here is through another method, one which has been utilized by a queer combination of the regressive right and loopy left. This hoary complaint says that, somehow, President Kennedy was not really concerned about civil rights for black Americans as a senator. He then moved at a glacial pace on the issue once in the White House. I was really sorry to see that Sabato had enlisted in this kind of Fox News distortion of history. But since he does, let us correct the record.
There are three good books on this subject. They are Mr. Kennedy and the Negroes by journalist and author Harry Golden, Of Kennedys and Kings by former senator and Kennedy advisor Harris Wofford, and the classic Promises Kept by the late UCLA professor Irving Bernstein. (It is important to this discussion that I could find no reference to either the first or last book in Sabato's footnotes.) As many on the right note, Senator Kennedy lined up against most liberals in his party on the processing of the 1957 Civil Rights Act. They did not want the House bill to go the Judiciary Committee. Because it was headed by staunch segregationist James Eastland of Mississippi.
Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson was so apathetic about it that he did not back this move. Kennedy was against it. Not because he was against the overall goal. But because he thought it would create a dangerous precedent in the Senate. One that could be used against liberal Democrats in the future struggle for progressive causes. (Golden, p. 94) Kennedy felt that, if needed, the Democrats could use a discharge petition to yank the bill out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.
Unlike Fox News, Sabato does not further the myth that Kennedy voted against the act. (That myth has been exposed.) On the procedural question, Kennedy wrote a strongly worded letter to a constituent on the point. He wrote that, "I would be the first to sign a discharge petition to bring the civil rights bill to the floor." (Letter from Kennedy to Alfred Jarrette, August 1, 1957) Kennedy then added that, "I have fought long and consistently for a good civil rights bill. I was one of only 38 senators who voted to retain Title III in the present bill, the section which would extend civil rights to areas other than voting privileges" (ibid).
To his credit, Sabato does note Kennedy's support for Title III. (Sabato, p. 42) But he does not explain why this was so important. That part of the act allowed the Attorney General to step in almost unilaterally in cases of, not just voting discrimination, but also school desegregation. And it allowed the use of civil actions, which could hurt municipalities in the treasury. This was clearly the most far-ranging clause in the bill. And Kennedy was one of its most ardent proponents. Because now, finally, the federal government could intercede inside the obstructionist state governments. And contrary to what Sabato writes, Kennedy trumpeted Title III at the expense of political capital. Many commentators have noted that Kennedy's outspoken stance about this aspect of the bill is what began to erode his support in the south. (Golden, p. 95)
In a practical way, what was so important about this as far as civil rights were concerned? Because once Robert Kennedy became Attorney General, the Kennedy brothers began to use that clause in a much more widespread way than Eisenhower ever imagined. But, in keeping with his agenda, Sabato does not tell you this part of the story. On the day Robert Kennedy was confirmed by the senate, Eastland reminded him, "Your predecessor never brought a civil rights case in Mississippi." (ibid, p. 100) This was true. Eisenhower only used the Title III clause ten times in three years. And two of those cases were filed on the last day of his administration. (ibid, p. 104) The day after Bobby Kennedy was approved, in response to Eastland's reminder, President Kennedy told his brother, "Get the road maps – and go!" (ibid, p. 100) In other words, start sending investigators into the backwoods of the south and start filing cases.
RFK did just that. In one year, he doubled the number of lawyers in the civil rights section of the department. At the same time he more than doubled the amount of cases Eisenhower had filed. By 1963, the number of lawyers had been nearly quintupled. (ibid, 105) The Attorney General also hired 18 legal interns to search microfilm records for discrepancies in voting statistics in suspect districts. This allowed him to open files on 61 new investigations. That remarkable number was achieved in just one year. (Ibid, p. 105) This had been a preplanned strategy by JFK. In October of 1960, at a meeting of his civil rights campaign advisory board, Kennedy told them this was the method he had decided upon to break the back of voting discrimination in the south. (ibid, p. 139)
These facts blow up the myth that Sabato is trying to propagate about Kennedy and civil rights. But let us go further in order to show just how agenda-driven the author really is.
When Kennedy became president, it was clear that neither the Brown vs. Board decision of 1954, nor the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 were having any strong effect in increasing the black vote in the south. The eight states with the lowest turnout figures in the 1960 election were all in the south. It was obvious that even with those three laws on the books, Eisenhower's enforcement of them was so lacking in rigor that the southern states felt no real compunction to obey them. And clearly, Eisenhower and Nixon had given those state governments a nod and a wink in this regard. For instance, in 1956 Eisenhower had told a reporter that the Brown vs. Board decision had set back progress in the south at least 15 years. (John Emmet Hughes, The Ordeal of Power, pgs. 200-01) Vice-President Nixon echoed this attitude. He said, "... if the law goes further than public opinion can be brought along to support at a particular time, it may prove to do more harm than good." (Golden, p. 61)
This was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The law was not going to go very far because, in fact, it was not being supported to any real degree. This created entrenched resistance to a piecemeal approach. In other words, it might take several years to challenge each district in court. What the Kennedys did next was to try and bypass going district by district in their legal actions. They now decided to collect data on whole states to present in court. This is how President Kennedy took on Eastland's home state in the case of United States vs. Mississippi. President Kennedy was pleased with the approach. Across the Justice Department's 1962 report, he scrawled "Keep pushing the cases." (Golden, p. 111)
President Kennedy was also sensitive about the lack of black Americans employed in branches of government, including the armed services. Therefore, he appointed the illustrious civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall to the federal bench in 1961. Through Abraham Bolden we know he didn't like the fact that there were no black Americans on the White House Secret Service detail. On his inauguration day, he commented to Lyndon Johnson that there were no black Americans in the Coast Guard marching detail. That evening he learned that there had never been a black student at the Coast Guard Academy. This was remedied in 1962. (Bernstein, p. 52) At one of the first Cabinet meetings he noted that there were only ten African American lawyers employed by the federal government. That figure went up by a factor of seven in six months. (Golden, pgs. 114-15)
In March of 1961, just two months after being inaugurated, Kennedy first proposed an executive order decreeing there would be no racial discrimination in hiring by contractors working for the federal government. This was signed into law nine months later. In two years, 1700 complaints were heard. Over 70% of the cases ended with the employer being disciplined. Under Eisenhower, only six such suits were ever brought. (Golden, p. 60)
But Kennedy went further. He got 100 large private corporations to sign onto this agreement voluntarily. He also got 117 labor unions to pledge they would fight for the cause and report hiring discrimination on the job. He then ordered the Labor Department to investigate discrimination in apprenticeship and training programs. (ibid) This attitude, as opposed to the implicit acceptance of the status quo by Eisenhower and Nixon, encouraged thousands of complaints to be filed.
As a result, by 1963 in South Carolina, black Americans were – for the first time – working alongside whites in advanced positions in textile mills. The superintendent explained it in practical economic terms: if the black Americans were not hired, the company would lose government contracts. If that happened, they would have to close their doors. (Helen Fuller, Year of Trial, p. 131) Again, these kinds of acts cost Kennedy plenty of votes in the south. It hurt him because, unlike with Eisenhower, he actually spoke about the problem and then acted independently of the Supreme Court. With Eisenhower and the Little Rock crisis, commentators could blame the federal intervention on Earl Warren. That was not the case with Kennedy and his new measures. Especially since, on May 6, 1961, Robert Kennedy spoke at the University of Georgia's Law Day. There he announced that, unlike Eisenhower, he would vigorously pursue the implementation of the Brown vs. Board decision.
Like others, Sabato criticizes Kennedy for not issuing an executive order on housing as he did on employment until two years after his election. (Sabato , p. 111) As Fuller made clear in her book, this was because Kennedy thoroughly understood that if he signed it earlier, he could never attain other pieces of legislation that were important to him. The entrenched southern power barons in congress would retaliate. (Fuller, pgs. 37-42) In fact, after he signed the housing bill, Senators John Stennis and Richard Russell voted against his test ban treaty. Another example of this occurred when Kennedy tried to create a new cabinet department, Housing and Urban Development. He announced that African American Robert Weaver would be the Secretary for the new department. The House Rules Committee then rejected the proposal. (Golden, p. 121) These were very real concerns that Kennedy rightfully anticipated.
Robert Kennedy sent a progress report each week to his brother about the court actions in his voting rights cases. At the end of 1962, he told the president it would be all over by 1968. (ibid, p. 131) But something else happened in the meantime. By getting out in front of the issue, and by signing two important executive orders (on employment and housing) President Kennedy was fulfilling the symbolic agreement he had made in the 1960 campaign. This was when he and his brother intervened in the Georgia jail case of Martin Luther King. An incident which Sabato spends about eight words on. (Sabato, p. 70) Through their intervention, King was released from some trumped up charges.
By openly allying himself with King, Kennedy was giving the civil rights movement ballast and hope. After he won the White House, this encouraged the movement leaders to become more active under his presidency than they had ever been before. So now a certain synergy entered into the equation. Something that would not have happened under Eisenhower and Nixon. In fact, Harris Wofford had written a memo to Kennedy in December of 1960 stating the major problem with civil rights had been the fact that there had been no real leadership in the executive branch or congress to supplement the work of the courts.
In that memo, Wofford essentially mapped out the path Kennedy should take. He said that in 1961 there did not seem to be any way to get a real omnibus civil rights law through the senate because of the almost guaranteed filibuster by the southerners. Wofford proposed changing the cloture rules on filibuster to circumvent that tactic. Which is something that Kennedy had mentioned in his above referenced 1957 letter to Alfred Jarrette. In the meantime, Wofford proposed that Kennedy use executive actions to advance the cause.
Kennedy immediately did so by shifting the balance of power on the Commission on Civil Rights. This was a body set up by the 1957 Civil Rights Act. It had the power to launch investigations, hold hearings and make recommendations as far as exposing discriminatory laws went. Eisenhower had made it a rather moderate agency. He manned it with two integrationists, two segregationists, and two middle of the roaders. In March of 1961, Kennedy had an opportunity to make two new appointments. In doing so he tilted the balance toward the integrationists. He furthered this aim by also naming a staff director who was also an integrationist. (Bernstein, pgs. 50-51)
Kennedy also urged a kind of affirmative action program for all the cabinet level departments. He wanted figures on how many black Americans were employed by each department secretary. When the numbers were returned, he made it clear they were not nearly satisfactory. This sent each secretary scrambling to find suitable black employees in order not to be dressed down by the president at the next meeting. (ibid, p. 53) Kennedy also made it clear that he would not attend functions at any institution that practiced segregation. This created a wave of resignations by White House employees from such places like athletic clubs and golf courses. (ibid)
It was against this drastically new backdrop that the civil rights movement now began to truly assert itself e.g. the Freedom Riders, King's SCLC, James Farmer's CORE. For instance, James Meredith sent away for his application to the University of Mississippi the day after Kennedy was inaugurated. (Bernstein, p. 76) For as Wofford and Bernstein have written, there was never any doubt that Kennedy would support these groups. (Ibid, p. 65) In fact, the White House arranged financing in some cases for them to launch voter registration drives. It was simply a matter of what tactics would be used. But there was a byproduct to these dramatic confrontations e.g. Nicolas Katzenbach removing George Wallace from the front gate at the University of Alabama, President Kennedy calling out the military to quell the violence over Meredith at Ole Miss, Robert Kennedy ordering 500 marshals into Montgomery to protect the Freedom Riders. That was this: the more these ugly confrontations were televised, the more people outside the south became repelled by the actions of the white southerners. In other words, through television, the incidents had a dual effect: the spectacles began to turn people who had previously been apathetic on the subject into civil rights advocates. In turn, this began to isolate the segregationists of the south. Through that double movement, the balance of power began to shift in congress away from Eastland and toward Kennedy and King.
As Wofford, Robert Kennedy and Bernstein have all noted, the culminating showdown was in Birmingham, Alabama. With a black population of forty per cent, it was probably the most segregated big city in the south. For example, although it was industrialized, less than five per cent of the Hayes Aircraft workforce was black. (ibid, p. 85) The symbol of Birmingham's unstinting fealty to segregation was Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene "Bull" Connor. Connor was so defiant in the face of Bobby Kennedy's attempts to integrate the south that he called him a "bobby-soxer" and challenged him to a fistfight. (ibid, p. 86) Because of these factors, the city was a prime target for demonstrations. King had an executive meeting of the SCLC in January of 1963 to plan the assault on Birmingham.
As everyone knows, Connor played into the hands of Kennedy and King. The images captured by TV cameras of Connor unleashing savage police attack dogs, and using powerful fire department hoses against young boys and girls, these were a media sensation. Birmingham became the magazine, newspaper and television capital of America. President Kennedy sent Burke Marshall, head of the civil rights division, to negotiate an agreement to end the violence. Both King and Robert Kennedy called the agreement a great victory. (Bernstein, p. 92)
Comedian/activist Dick Gregory had been in Birmingham from the beginning. On the night after Connor unleashed the German Shepherds and hoses, he returned home. His wife was waiting for him when he arrived after midnight. She told him that President Kennedy had called. He had left a message that he wanted Gregory to call him when he got in. Gregory noted the late hour. His wife replied with, "He said it didn't matter what time it was." So Gregory called the White House and Kennedy picked up the phone. He said, "Dick, I need to know everything that happened down there." Gregory went on for about 10 minutes detailing the whole sorry spectacle. When he was done, Kennedy exclaimed, "We've got those bastards now!" Gregory, overcome with emotion, began to weep. (2003 radio interview with Gregory)
After this, Kennedy now wrote his civil rights act, made his memorable national speech the night Medgar Evers was murdered, and supervised – and supplemented with white union members – King's March on Washington. For all intents and purposes the battle had been won. Because as Kennedy predicted in November of 1963, and as Thurston Clarke proved in his book, the civil rights act was going to pass the next year. As both Johnson and Kennedy understood, the key in the senate was Everett Dirksen, who JFK had good relations with.
Now, anyone looking at the above précis would have to conclude the obvious: Kennedy did more for the civil rights of black Americans in three years than the previous 18 presidents had done in a century. That includes Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt and the so-called progressive presidents: Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt and Taft. Sabato, of course, is aware of all this. But because of his agenda, he can't admit it. In fact, you will see little, if any, of the above in The Kennedy Half Century. Even though it is accepted history. To be frank, I am a little disturbed that I had to dust off my books and consult them to correct Sabato's Orwellian attempt to turn Kennedy into the equivalent of a Tennessee congressman on civil rights. It's a similar trick to what Tom Brokaw and Gus Russo did for their tacky TV special. But this is what happens when one deals with the politically charged Kennedy case. It's simply not enough to distort the facts of his assassination. The attempt at abridgement extends out from his murder, and into his presidency.
As noted, like Robert Dallek, Sabato is intent on denuding Kennedy's presidency of any real value. So in addition to his misrepresentations on civil rights, the author also goes after the idea that Kennedy was withdrawing from Vietnam at the time of his death. It's hard to believe that this could be seriously contemplated at this time. But as with Kennedy's civil rights record, Sabato is not above distorting and simply eliminating aspects of the adduced record in order to achieve his aim. The author is nothing if not Machiavellian.
Sabato begins his discussion of this issue with a usual ploy used by the likes of Chris Mathews. He tries to make the Vietnam issue something ideological. In two ways. He says that liberals have forgotten all the aid the USA gave to Ngo Dien Diem in the way of military hardware, like Green Berets, guns and money. (Sabato, p. 123) That whole concept is simply bogus. All of this material about Kennedy's approval of military aid to Diem in late 1961 is thoroughly detailed in John Newman's masterly book JFK and Vietnam. That book was published over 20 years ago. It is a book that many so-called "liberals" use. But Newman is a conservative. Which should demonstrate to everyone but Sabato that people on both sides of the ideological compass can try to seek the truth of a situation when there is no agenda driving them.
The other ideological strophe he uses is a real dandy. He writes that, "Eisenhower had been wary of American involvement in Vietnam, having watched the French get bogged down in Southeast Asia and then withdraw in humiliation in 1954" (ibid). For sheer and utter nonsense, for the utter perversity prize in a book that is full of it, this sentence might take the cake. Sabato can only get away with such baloney because, as noted at the top of Section 3 of this review, he leaves out all the important things in the story pertaining to Kennedy 's visit to Vietnam in 1951, his meeting with Edmund Gullion, his altered consciousness about the Third World, and most of all, Operation Vulture. This was the proposed atomic bombardment of Dien Bien Phu by the Dulles brothers and Eisenhower. I don't see how seriously considering the use of an American air armada to deliver nuclear weapons in order to preserve the last vestiges of European colonial empire qualifies Eisenhower as being "wary of American involvement in Vietnam." In fact, it's just the opposite of what Sabato implies. It was Kennedy who protested in public this frightening nightmare scenario of dropping three atomic bombs over a country the USA not even formally at war with.
And make no mistake about just how wrong Sabato is here. Because it was not just in aid of France that Eisenhower was willing to take the final step towards nuclear holocaust. For as Gordon Goldstein notes in his fine book, Lessons in Disaster, President Johnson derived much succor from the fact that Eisenhower supported his escalation in Vietnam each step of the way. Up to and including the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons. (Goldstein, p. 161) In other words, Sabato has the record exactly wrong here about Eisenhower vs. Kennedy and how far each man was willing to go in Vietnam.
Now, Sabato says it took him five years to put together this book. Goldstein's work was published in 2008. John Prados' book, Operation Vulture, was published in 2002. In addition to himself, Sabato had his colleague at Virginia, history professor Andrew Bell, help him compose the book. (Sabato, p. xi) And also Sean Lyons, who "supervised a crack team of graduate and undergraduate interns and researchers." Sabato then goes on to name 28 members of that intern team. So, in all, we are to believe that 31 people missed both the Goldstein book and the Prados book? I don't think so. Again, as with the civil rights issue, Sabato ignored the factual record because it did not fit into his preconceived agenda.
But that is just the beginning of Sabato mangling the record on Kennedy and Vietnam. Sabato writes that by the autumn of 1963, Kennedy realized his strategy for Vietnam was not working. He writes this in the context of Kennedy's flexible response concept to communism. (Sabato, p. 123) Now, let us assume Sabato is correct: Kennedy had somehow chosen Vietnam as an anti-communist battleground. That he was employing flexible response, and the first step, sending in more advisers was not working. Would not the next step up the response ladder be sending in combat troops? Why did Kennedy not order them in at this time? Why did he do the opposite, that is sign NSAM 263 which actually ordered all advisers out beginning in December of 1963 and the last ones out in 1965? Sabato cannot even bring himself to type the words "NSAM 263". So he says this was just a political ploy by Kennedy to get re-elected. He can get away with this because he does not tell the reader about the other part of the plan: the total withdrawal by 1965. (Sabato, p. 126)
But further, Sabato does not tell the reader that today we can pretty much put together the origins of the withdrawal plan. It began way back in early 1962. After Kennedy had agreed to send in more advisers, he sent John Kenneth Galbraith to Saigon to give him a report on conditions there and if further American involvement would help. Predictably, Galbraith came back with a view that increased American involvement would not help Diem. That report was passed on to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Kennedy now told McNamara to begin putting together a plan to wind down the war. The military dragged its feet on this. But at the Sec/Def meeting in May of 1963, the plans were all presented through the assembly of an in country team in Hawaii. McNamara replied that the pace was too slow and it should be speeded up. This was reported back to Kennedy. And this was what Kennedy activated when he signed NSAM 263 in October of 1963. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, pgs. 365-371) Needless to say, Sabato leaves all of this out of his book.
For this and other reasons, both noted and unnoted, as a discussion of Kennedy's presidency, Sabato's book is worthless.
As I noted above, Sabato begins his book with Kennedy's arrival at Love Field in Dallas. At this point of the book, the author simply describes the assassination pretty much as the Warren Commission does. With all the errors of that fraudulent document intact. For example, the author writes that Howard Brennan saw a man with a gun on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. (Sabato, p. 11) In fact, as many authors, including Ian Griggs have noted, it's highly unlikely that Brennan saw anyone. Sabato describes the entire Truly/Baker/Oswald incident on the second floor lunchroom just as it is in the Warren Report. Again, this is highly suspect today. It has been questioned by some because Baker never mentioned the incident, or Oswald, in his first day affidavit. Even though when he made out the affidavit, Oswald was sitting right across from him in the witness room at Dallas Police headquarters. (James DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, pgs. 192-96) But researcher Sean Murphy has gone beyond that. He argues, with compelling evidence and logic that, at the time of the assassination, Oswald was most likely outside the building. Standing back in the alcove of the Houston street doorway with his sandwich and soda pop. In the Darnell film, this image has been termed "Prayer Man", because of the position of the subject's hands in still shots. The man next to this figure, and a step above him, is Wesley Frazier. Needless to say, if this figure is actually Oswald, not only is the Warren Commission shown to be a complete fraud, but also the worst suspicions about Frazier being suborned are also true. (See this discussion of the issue.)
In his discussion of the medical evidence, Sabato has the same problem Philip Shenon did. He doesn't seem to be aware that what he says contradicts the extant exhibits. For instance, he says that Secret Service agent Emory Roberts saw massive head trauma to Kennedy while taking his body into Parkland Hospital. (Sabato, p. 13) Yet, no photos we have today show such massive head trauma. Two pages later, the author says that Kennedy had one third of his brain blasted away. Well then Larry, why do the photos and the Ida Dox drawings for the HSCA depict an almost totally intact brain? Again, like Shenon, the man doesn't understand that he is arguing for a case of conspiracy.
Sabato then goes further in this vein. In his brief discussion of CE 399 he allows that it may have been found on Kennedy's stretcher. And, in fact, it could have been planted. (ibid) But, a few pages later, he says its certain that Oswald killed Officer Tippit. When, in fact, as John Armstrong and Joe McBride have written, it is not even a sure case that Oswald was at the scene of the Tippit murder. And the latest evidence in that case, the so-called "third wallet", would appear to indicate that he was not there and someone planted that wallet.
As per Oswald's arrest at the Texas Theater, Sabato recites some of the worst Warren Commission balderdash. Namely that Oswald tried to shoot Officer McDonald. As many authors have proven, not only did this not happen, the FBI proved it could not have happened. (Joseph McBride, Into the Nightmare, pgs. 202-03)
Later on in the book, unlike Shenon, Sabato acknowledges that there are some problems in the evidentiary records. In my e-mail exchange about the book with attorney Dan Alcorn, he revealed that this section probably stems from Sabato's talks with him. In fact, outside of the chapter on the Hart Research polling, this is probably the best part of the book. Which, as the reader can see, is damning with faint praise.
Sabato includes in this part of the book, the following statement, "...any fair minded observer can conclude that both the Dallas police and, for more important, the federal government botched the most important murder investigation of the twentieth century." (Sabato, p. 139) Sabato mentions that the Dallas Police did not cordon off the Depository building anywhere near quickly enough. He then says that Oswald should never have been paraded in front of crowds in the DPD headquarters as he was. He notes that the Warren Commission inexplicable failed to interview some important Dealey Plaza witnesses, like Bill and Gayle Newman. (Ibid, p. 140) He admits that Vickie Adams, who went down the stairs of the Depository right after the shooting was treated like a threat to the Commission, not a valuable witness. (ibid, p. 146)
But after this fairly decent Chapter 7, something happens. Sabato seems to understand that he has stepped too close to the precipice. So he steps backward in his next chapter, which is mostly about Oswald. He badly underplays all we know about the man today. Sabato actually seems to buy into the hogwash that Oswald was looking to shoot Richard Nixon. Which is a story that not even the Warren Commission bought into. (Sabato, p. 171) He then adds that Oswald also shot at General Walker. In his footnotes, he bases this on the rifling characteristics of the so-called recovered bullet and how it allegedly matches the Mannlicher Carcano rifle in evidence. What he does not say is that, first, almost all rifle bullets have the same rifling pattern the FBI attributed to the bullet in evidence today. (DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, p. 80) But second, the bullet in evidence today is not the bullet originally recovered by the Dallas Police. (ibid, p. 76) Apparently, Sabato is desperate to make Oswald into some kind of sociopathic killer. He's so desperate, he uses phony evidence to do it.
Like Vincent Bugliosi, Sabato is intent on getting the CIA off the hook for any culpability in the JFK case. So, he writes that the Agency as an institution was not involved in the conspiracy. Which is neither here nor there, since no one claims that Director John McCone was involved in the plot. (Sabato, p. 188) But he then writes that, overall, the Agency sent good information to the Warren Commission. Again, this might be true as an overall statement. But it is not true in certain crucial areas of the case. And Sabato cooperates with the Agency in covering up those crucial areas. For instance, in his discussion of the Clinton/Jackson incident, he allows that it may have been David Ferrie with Oswald in the two hamlets. (ibid, p. 176) But he then writes that we don't know who the third man was. Yes we do. But Sabato does not want to admit to the identification of Clay Shaw since it would lend Jim Garrison too much credibility.
In his discussion of Mexico City, Sabato writes that, "Without question, someone showed up in the Cuban and Russian embassies claiming to be Lee Oswald, but was he actually an Oswald imposter?" (ibid, p. 178) But Sabato does not make clear that almost all the personnel at the Cuban embassy said that the man who visited was not Oswald. Sabato then caps this with a real puzzler. He says that the two differing cables sent from the CIA about Oswald in Mexico – one describing the real Oswald, one describing the famous Mystery Man photo – were likely the result of a mistake. (ibid) He then writes, under a picture of the Mystery Man photo, that some people claim "he was an agent of the eventual assassins, sent to impersonate Oswald." Where did Sabato get that piece of information? No one I know of has said such a thing. But right after this, Sabato writes that "others say" he was the Russian Yuri Moskalev. Its more than "others say" Larry. That particular piece of information is in the 400 page, thoroughly documented Lopez Report.
Which it does not appear that Sabato has read. For if he had read it, he would have known that the picture of Moskalev should have never been sent in the first place. When investigators Ed Lopez and Dan Hardway interviewed Mexico City CIA officer Anne Goodpasture, the woman who originally sent the picture, she said she sent it because it was the only photo the CIA station had of a non-Latin male entering the Soviet compound on October 1st, the day the CIA says Oswald made a call there. That turned out to be a lie. Because when Lopez and Hardway went through the raw data, they discovered the photo of Moskalev was not taken on October 1st, but on October 2nd. (Lopez Report, p. 139) This makes what Goodpasture did even more suspect. Because if the photo had been taken on October 1st, it could have been a mistake, since Oswald was still allegedly in Mexico City. But that standard did not apply for the next day. Because Oswald was supposed to have left that morning. In other words, why was Goodpasture even looking for photos of Oswald taken that day?
Goodpasture then tried her to conceal her faux pas. She attributed her error about the dates to a misreading of the log sheets. But Lopez and Hardway then found the log sheets. On those sheets, the individual days are marked off in columns separated by red percentage marks! (Lopez Report, p. 140) Because of this fact, Lopez and Hardway found Goodpasture's excuse about a mistake in days "implausible". And they found it highly unlikely that she would not know about this error for 13 years. That is until the House Select Committee on Assassinations was formed in 1976. In fact, Goodpasture was lying again. The two dogged investigators found a CIA cable to Mexico City dated 11/23/63. It said that the photo Goodpasture had sent to them was not of Oswald. The cable then requested a recheck of the photos. (Lopez Report, p. 141) When they did the recheck it was discovered that the Agency had other photos of Moskalev taken after October 2. And, in all likelihood, they knew who he was back in October. (Lopez Report, p. 179) In fact, Lopez and Hardway concluded that Goodpasture knew the picture was not Oswald by October 11th. (ibid, p. 159) In other words, when one familiarizes oneself with the primary documents, the possibility that the Mystery man photo was sent in error is all but eliminated.
But there is more in this regard that makes the whole Goodpasture/Mystery Man discussion even more malignant. From his footnotes, it does not appear that Sabato interviewed Lopez or Hardway. If he had interviewed them he would have learned something which he probably would not have put in his book. The two had prepared an indictment of Goodpasture for the Justice Department over her multiple perjuries. In other words, Goodpasture was going to be indicted for lying about Oswald and Mexico City in a murder case. (Author's interview with Dan Hardway, 10/17/2013) But beyond that, the HSCA had prepared two perjury indictments for Goodpasture's working colleague David Phillips also. And they were on separate counts. When people lie continually, and they risk being indicted by the Justice Department, it's usually not because they were in error. Its because they were trying to cover something up. The question then becomes: Why were they covering up?
If Sabato is not adequate with New Orleans or Mexico City, what can one say about his description of Kennedy's autopsy. He says, "...the autopsy performed at Bethesda Naval Medical Center ... was inadequate in some ways." (Sabato p. 212) Inadequate? Some, like the HSCA's Dr. Michael Baden, have called it the exemplar for how not to do an autopsy. For example, neither bullet path in Kennedy was dissected. Neither the bullet that entered his back nor the one that entered his skull. Sabato chalks this up to time limitations. (ibid) This is ridiculous since the body was in front of the pathologists for three hours that night. And the supplementary examination of Kennedy's brain was done on a different day. Further, Sabato tries to imply that the autopsy doctors – Jim Humes, Thornton Boswell, and Pierre Finck – later agreed with the HSCA about the placement of the head wound in the cowlick area. (Sabato, pgs. 214-15) This is simply false. Humes, and Humes alone, agreed with this at his testimony before the public hearings of the HSCA. But two years later, he went back to his original testimony, that the bullet entered at the base of the skull. The other two doctors have never wavered on this point. (DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, p. 132)
Towards the end of his discussion of the evidence, Sabato begins to side with the official story, all the way down the line. He even tries to explain away the fact that there was no copper found on the curb where a bullet ricocheted and hit bystander Jim Tague. (Sabato,pgs. 221, 508) Yet to anyone who has seen the copper coated, Western Cartridge Company bullets supplied for the Mannlicher Carcano rifle attributed to Oswald, this seems simply impossible.
Chapter 12 culminates Sabato's six-chapter discussion of the evidence in the JFK case. Predictably, he comes down on the side of the official story. He writes, "There is no reasonable doubt that at least one of John F. Kennedy's assassins was Lee Harvey Oswald. It may well be that Oswald was the only killer in Dealey Plaza..." (Sabato, p. 248) What he does now is list some of the most questionable and mildewed evidence possible to support that thesis. For instance, he writes that the Mannlicher Carcano was Oswald's rifle. As several authors have noted, that is no longer a categorical fact. The rifle the Warren Commission says Oswald ordered is not the same rifle the Commission placed into evidence. The Warren Commission had to have known this, but they papered it over. (James DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, pgs. 57-63) Sabato also says that "...the weight of the evidence is overwhelming that Oswald was there in the window and fired the bullets." Actually, the weight of the evidence says Oswald was not in that window. If he had been, then he would have had to have run down the stairs after the shooting. Depository workers Vickie Adams and Sandra Styles would have seen or heard him. They did not. Again, the Commission had to have known this. And again, they papered it over. (ibid, pgs. 91-95) The Commission's star witness to place Oswald on the sixth floor, Howard Brennan, is so bad that not only do people question his identification, today people even wonder if he ever actually identified Oswald at a lineup. (ibid, p. 207)
Finally, there is Sabato's bought and paid for attempt to denigrate the acoustics evidence produced by the HSCA, which indicated more than one assassin, and therefore a conspiracy. Sonalysts is a sound engineering company which does much work for both the media and the government. Suffice it to say, since the HSCA's verdict of conspiracy was issued in 1979 based on the acoustical record of the Dallas Police motorcycle dictabelt, many government-associated bodies have spent countless hours trying to discredit it. I have no strong feelings about this aspect of the case, since in my view, one can prove conspiracy in the JFK case many other ways. But for Sabato to say that not only were the two teams of professionals that the HSCA employed for this study wrong, but they were amateurish to the point that somehow they did not even know where the recording motorcycle was or was not, or if it was even in Dealey Plaza at the time, well that is a bit wild. But it fits with the book's agenda.
I don't consider myself an authority on this aspect of the case. Don Thomas is. I cannot do better in discounting this part of the book than he has already done. I therefore gladly recommend the reader to read his essay on Sabato's irresponsibility with this evidence.
The last part of the book, Chapters 13 through 20, deals with the shadow cast over later presidents by comparisons with the Kennedys. Although there are some interesting observations in this section, like how Ronald Reagan tried to give himself cover for his supply side tax cut by invoking Kennedy's name, its really rather unsatisfactory. And that is because, throughout, the very unsteady hand of Larry Sabato is drawing comparisons with his misguided historical compass.
One of the most bizarre statements in this part of the book is when the author says that, since LBJ followed Kennedy, we must give both men credit for not just the civil rights legislation passed in 1964 and 1965, but also for the expansion of the Vietnam War. (Sabato, p. 426) I had to read that statement twice to see if I had misinterpreted it. Unfortunately, I didn't. I actually think Sabato means it. Which is a bit scary. Because, with the civil rights issue, Johnson was continuing something Kennedy had advocated since, at least, 1957. And, in fact, JFK had largely paved the way for Johnson to come in and sign the 1964 act.
The case with Vietnam is not at all the same. Johnson actually broke with Kennedy's withdrawal policy, which had been in preparation since 1962. And which Kennedy had explicitly primed through McNamara at the Sec/Def meeting in Hawaii, and then signed into law with NSAM 263. And, in fact, if one consults the latest scholarly books on the subject, e.g. James Blight's Virtual JFK, one will see documentary evidence that says Johnson knowingly and deliberately reversed Kennedy's policy. Contrary to what Sabato writes, LBJ thoroughly understood that he was breaking with Kennedy's withdrawal policy. (Sabato, p. 281) But he did it anyway. Further, he bullied McNamara into now being his point man on an escalation policy. At the same time that he ridiculed Kennedy's withdrawal plan to the secretary! (Blight, pgs. 304-310) Why should Sabato ask us to give Kennedy equal credit for a policy of his that Johnson had now reversed?
But beyond that, there was a precedent for this in the record. In 1961, President Kennedy sent Vice-President Johnson to Saigon to meet with South Vietnam's leader, Ngo Dinh Diem. Even at this early date, Johnson was in consultations with the Pentagon and being advised the USA had to escalate the war. When he met with Diem, with one of the generals he had talked to previously in the room, he told him he probably needed American combat troops to win the war. (John Newman, JFK and Vietnam, p. 72) This was not in line with Kennedy's policy. In 1961, JFK turned down no less than nine requests to send combat troops to Vietnam. (Gordon Goldstein, Lessons in Disaster, pgs. 53-66) And we know what happened afterwards. In less than three months, Johnson signed NSAM 288. These were plans for a massive air war over Vietnam. In other words, something Kennedy never even contemplated in three years, Johnson had signed off on in three months. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, p. 369) No surprise, NSAM 288 is not even mentioned by Sabato.
Sabato goes even further in this regard. He makes the argument, similar to one in David Halberstam's obsolete book The Best and the Brightest, that somehow there was a consensus within America for Johnson to escalate the war. That somehow, this was pre-ordained and that the Vietnam War was part of some kind of inevitable, tragic arc. As Fredrik Logevall demonstrated in his book, Choosing War, this is simply not the case. Johnson could have gotten out in 1964. In fact, LBJ was encouraged by some powerful and important people, like Walter Lippman, to do just that. He ignored that advice. (Blight, p. 240) As Logevall demonstrates in detail, from almost the week he became president, to the spring of 1965, Johnson essentially planned for America's direct intervention in Vietnam. As Logevall further demonstrates, but which Sabato tries to imply, Robert Kennedy had nothing to do with any of it. (Sabato, p. 279)
Just how obsessed was Johnson with presenting a unified front in his escalation plan? When Vice-President Hubert Humphrey suggested a rather mild alternative – negotiating with North Vietnam – Johnson banned him from meetings and placed him under surveillance. (Blight, pgs. 188-89) I would like to hear Sabato say that Kennedy would have done the same.
Near the end, the Sabato can't control himself. And now his true agenda becomes manifest. He actually says that President Obama is well to the left of President Kennedy. (Sabato, p. 339) Which is such a ludicrous statement that it could only be designed to get him on television. Since only the likes of Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather could listen to such nonsense without laughing. In my book Destiny Betrayed, and further in my speech at Cyril Wecht's Passing the Torch conference in Pittsburgh, I demonstrated in depth and detail where Kennedy had consciously and deliberately altered the Eisenhower/Dulles foreign policy. That previous policy was based on a globalist view of American imperialism, especially in the Third World. Kennedy's overall view of this matter was different. Kennedy was much more of a nationalist who was willing to accept non-aligned countries e.g. Indonesia, Laos, Congo, Egypt, Brazil. Therefore, once he took office, there was a clear demarcation and overturning of previous policy. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, pgs. 28-33) This had been in the making for years, since Kennedy's foreign policy ideas can be traced back to his meeting with State Department official Edmund Gullion in Saigon in 1951. (ibid, p. 21)
The problem that many people have with Obama is that there has been no real reversal in foreign policy from his horrendous predecessor. Or if there has, it has been rather minimal. On the domestic side, because he took office in time of economic emergency, Obama had an opportunity to actually launch a Second New Deal. To put it mildly, he did not. That he was not going to do so was pretty much a given once one saw who he was placing into positions of power on his economics team e.g. Lawrence Summers. Kennedy's chief economic adviser, Walter Heller, was a Keynesian. I doubt very much that Heller would have been satisfied with what Summers and Tim Geithner proposed to get the USA out of the greatest economic debacle since 1929. In fact, their anemic proposals are a large reason we are still mired in what Paul Krugman has called The Great Recession. Recall, Kennedy thought the Eisenhower recession was unacceptable. In fact, one can argue that the Obama/Geithner/Summers plan essentially preserved the nutty supply-side theories Ronald Reagan, which were adapted from Milton Friedman. Friedman was a man who Heller used to make fun of. And it was Friedman's ideas, as implemented by Reagan, that caused the great and permanent transfer of wealth from the middle class to the upper classes in America.
So when Sabato ends his book by saying there really was no Kennedy legacy, this tells us more about him than it tells us about Kennedy. If there was no lasting legacy, it was because that legacy was crushed. This was begun by Johnson's reversal of Kennedy's foreign policy in several places, like Indonesia and Congo. Another place would be Kennedy's back channel with Fidel Castro. Sabato doesn't mention these, so he can act as if they did not exist. Secondly, Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam War began the economic stagflation which afflicted the economy for well over a decade. In fact, it was the wrenching of that stagflation out of the economy by Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker under President Carter that contributed to the coming of Ronald Reagan.
The other factor that brought on Reagan was Carter's coziness with the Shah of Iran. Once Carter appointed Zbigniew Brzezinski as his National Security Advisor, this automatically brought Carter closer to David Rockefeller. Rockefeller was a friend of the Shah's since his bank housed much of Iran's money. As Donald Gibson has pointed out, Kennedy was opposed to the globalist designs of David Rockefeller. (Battling Wall Street, pgs. 73-74) And as James Bill notes in his book The Eagle and the Lion, the Kennedy brothers were much opposed to the Shah's regime. Therefore, because of the Carter/Brzezinski/Rockefeller axis, once the Shah was overthrown, and the fundamentalist Islamic forces took power, America became their target. This was something which Kennedy warned about as far back as his great Algeria speech in 1957. All of this crucial data is quite naturally ignored by Sabato and his team of 31. But you can read about it here.
Except for where he notes some of the problems with the JFK assassination's evidentiary record, this book is pretty much not just without distinction, but so agenda driven as to be misleading. On the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's murder, we needed a lot better. As Mike Swanson notes, Sabato got his MSM appearances. But the rest of us needed a book that told us much more about John Kennedy, and much less about Larry Sabato.