Almost exactly 50½ years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. As a result of the 50th anniversary of the assassination, a spate of new books about the horrific event came out. Although I well remember the assassination of Robert Kennedy (a topic for a separate column), I was barely 4 years old at the time of President Kennedy’s assassination and I simply don’t remember anything about it. About 20 years ago I read a book by Gerald Posner (a former attorney as well as being an author) about the assassination entitled “Case Closed.” I had selected it off of the shelf in the bookstore because I noticed that one of the people whose praise for the book was printed on the back cover was Walter Cronkite, for whom I have great respect.
In his book, Posner examined some of the conspiracy theories about JFK’s assassination. He makes a convincing case that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone by using relentless logic to demolish the conspiracy theorists’ conjectures of what happened, and he also interviewed some of the “sources” used by the authors of the conspiracy books who were still alive (Posner wrote his book in 1993). The “sources” whom Posner interviewed were either (a) ridiculous to the point of being borderline lunatics, (b) literally people who had spent time in a facility for the mentally ill or (c) people who were in complete possession of all their faculties who either categorically denied what the conspiracy authors claimed they had said or stated that the conspiracy authors had so distorted or taken out of context what they had been told that it was unrecognizable. Posner also researched Lee Harvey Oswald and paints a searing portrait of a man who had become a mental case capable of doing anything.
Having read Posner’s book, I happened to mention it a few weeks later when having dinner with several of my aunts and uncles on Derby Day. The reaction I got astounded me. Not one person at the dinner who was an adult at the time of President Kennedy’s assassination believed that Oswald alone had killed Kennedy. Without exception, they all believed the assassination was the result of a conspiracy (the consensus was that the CIA was behind it).
Since that dinner, I have been more inclined to keep an open mind on the subject of JFK’s assassination. After all, none of the people whom I dined with that night were stupid, and some of them were highly intelligent. When I went to the bookstore a couple of weeks ago, and I noticed that there were some new books about President Kennedy’s assassination, I resolved to read at least two of them in order to see if they contained any new insights about the assassination, Kennedy, and his times.
Paul Schwietering is a former Democratic state central committeeman for the 14th state senate district.