Let me tell you ’bout a man named Jack Kennedy. He was a handsome feller, most smart and humorous and serious all at t’ same time. He had all those qualities that help you become pres’dint of the United States – beautiful wife, too. Sho’ ’nuff, he did become pres’dint, by a whisker in th’ election of 1960. He whipped that sonofabitch Nixon, he did – whipped him by a margin ’bout as wide as my pinkie finger here. Dick Nixon warn’t so happy ’bout that. He din’t know that three years later, sump’m would happen would make him pres’dint after all. What that sump’m was is the story I want to tell you ’bout.
Y’see, Jack Kennedy was ‘sassinated by his own people in ’63. That’s right, his own people turned on ‘im and said, “Man, we got to fire you.” Only way to fire a pres’dint is to kill ‘im. So that’s what they did – jus’ like Jules Caesar. They din’t trust ‘im.
You gonna say, “C’mon, that don’t happen nowadays. Least ways it don’t happen in the dem’cratic ‘public of these United States. It only happen in countries like Veetnam and South Asia and those African places. Can’t happen here.”
You don’t think so. Listen to my story, then you tell me ’bout po-litical ‘sassinations. They can happen ‘most anywhere. When they do happen, watch out.
“What do you mean, watch out?”
I’ll tell you ’bout that later. Listen to the story of the ‘sassination itself. It’s enough to curlup yo’ toes.
The story starts with the Bay of Pigs. Do you know ’bout that bay? No? It’s in Cuba – big island south of Florida run by a feller named Castro. Feedel Castro. We hated that guy. We were all set in Havana – gambling, women, wine and booze – we could go there an’ do all the things we go to Las Vegas for now – ‘cept it was cheaper an’ the Latin women were better. Then Feedel comes along like some sort of righteous Jesus character and whips all th’ ‘mericans out of his temple. Honest. He thought he was better’n us. Just come in out of the hills and took over the place. Said he wasn’t gonna tol’rate all that sin in his Cuba – gonna clean the place up. That’s what he did. Anybody didn’t like it – he threw ’em in jail. And we hated him for it.
That all happened in ’59. Rev’lution started on New Year’s, that’s a fact. Just drove those rats right outta the temple. Right away the CIA starts to figure how they can get ridda th’ guy. You know – subversive ops – the gamut. They want to kill ‘im or get somebody else to kill ‘im, or start a revolution or do anything to get ridda the guy. I mean, not only did he kick us out, he was a Commie. That’s right – a low-down Commie bastard. He would kow tow to those Commie bastards in Mos-coe, and the next thing you know, we got missiles pointing right at us. That’s right – nucular missiles poionted right at Miami and ever other city right up the east coast. Think ’bout that for a minnit. That’s why we had to get rid of him.
But it turned out tobe harder than we thought. We wanted to get rid of him, but make it look like someone else did it. We din’t want to get knicked for that one. No way. So we couldn’t send in the Special Ops guys and shoot the place up. I mean, what are we, cowboys or sumthin’? We gotta be a little discreet ’bout this, an’ you know ‘mericans ain’t so good ’bout bein’ discreet. They do better jus’ go in an’ shoot the place up.
So what happens? We plan this Bay of Pigs thing. We get these unhappy Cubans to plan their own invasion – train them up, give hem weapons all kinds of logistical support. We tell ’em, look, you go in there and people will back you. They don’t like Castro any more’n we do. They gonna back you up, and you cannot fail.
Yessirree, you gonna take that couintry back from Feedel, jus’ like he took it fum you, and we gonna help you. That’s right – it’ll be a real counter-rev’lutionary move.
Well no shit, that’s what we said to ’em. Got ‘m rilied up so’s they actually make a landing at the Bay of Pigs, right where the CIA planned to put ’em. Put ’em in harms way, they did. ‘Cus you know what happened? Feedel’s rev’lutionary army, they jus’ cut them to pieces. That’s right. Trapped ’em in the marshy parts, with all the skeeters ‘n gaters ‘n stuff, an’ jus’ cut them to pieces. Caught ’em all and kilt th’ rest. It was pitiful. Took ’em jus’ three days. Three days an’ the whole op’ration was over.
So what’s all this gotta do with Jack Kennedy? The planning for this whole Bay of Pigs thing goes on before Jack even takes the oath of office. Fact, the planning starts before he’s even elected. Those CIA guys, they don’t care who’d pres’dint. They got their own plans an’ they gofer it.
Problem is, if the plan succeeds, nobody cares we’re behind it. Ev’body happy, ‘cept Feedel, an’ he’s prob’ly dead. But if the plan fails, ev’body knows we’re behind it, an’ we look awful bad. Awful bad. But the CIA, it don’t think nothin’ ’bout failure. No it don’t. Cuba’s our backyard, after all. You don’t thing ’bout failure in y’own backyard. I mean, what can go wrong so close to home?
Here’s the key thing. Those CIA guys ‘spected the pres’dint to back up those Cubans with planes an’ shit. That’s right – you go in there with close air s’port – ‘copters an’ machine guns an’ shit – an’ you jus’ cut them to pieces. You jus’ turn them rev’lutionaries into little pieces of doo-doo right ‘fore yore gunsights, an’ you don’ worry ’bout a thing. ‘Cus you know why? Th’ain’t no rev’lutionaries left! They all gone, an’ our Cubans jus’ march right into Havana, the Feedel did sixteen months before!
So why did Jack ‘low such a hare brained plan to go ‘head? He’s a smart guy, right? So what’s he doin’ with a scheme that’s got more holes an’ weak spots than some kinda old cobweb or sumthin’? I mean, march into Havana? It’s not real.
Well that shows the power of no thinkin’. Jack’s a busy man. Pres’dint has a lot goin’ on in his new job – takes a while to get ‘quainted with ev’thing. The gen’rals and the CIA guys come to him with this plan, an’ they talk like it’s a done deal – all set to go.
You trust ’em an’ you say – alright, if you say so. Looks okay, s’long as it works. You guys sure it’s gonna work?
The gen’rals an’ CIA guys say we looked at this one backwards an’ forwards, up an’ down, leftways an’ rightways. It’s gonna work. by gum. We know it is.
Jack says, “One thing: we ain’t goin’ in there with our own troops. You understand that?”
“Yes chief, got it.”
“That means air support, too. No air support units go in.”
“And no ships. We have ships for logistical support, and that’s it.”
“Right up an’ down the line. No combat units, no way whatsoever. The Cubans gonna do it all.”
“I’m not gonna change my mind about that.”
“Yes, indeed. Rock solid, man.”
So that’s how they left it. No combat s’port fum th’ ‘mericans. But you know what? They gen’rals an’ the CIA guys figgered they had the pres’dint on this one. They knew that if it came to it, he’d let them send in some airborne units. We were talkin’ ’bout takin’ out Commies in Cuba, for God’s sake! No pres’dint would bgack off with that shit coming down.
So those Cubans get bogged down in the swamps, some fifteen hun’ret beggars with M-16s and CIA radios to keep them company. The gen’rals an’ CIA guys go to Jack an’ they say, “Mr. Pres’dint. Things not lookin’ so good out there. Those Cubans – they gettin’ cut to pieces in them swamps. We gotta send in some planes an’ ‘copters to help get them up to dry land. They gonna die in there.”
Jack says, “Did you hear me, or what? I said no way in fricking hell was I gonna do that. Now you’re asking me to do that?”
“Mr. Pres’dint. This is nuts. You can’t let this whole operation fail. You gotta help those guys.”
Jack gets so mad he loses it. “Get the fuck outta here,” he tells them. “Don’t ever think I’m gonna say something an’ not mean it.”
So the gen’rals an’ the CIA guys, they can’t believe what they jus’ heard. They knew Jack was young an’ green, they knew he might need some persuasion, but they din’t know he was a fuckin’ sissy. My God – he jus’ let those guys get shot, right in front of us! He has no balls, that’s what. YOu can’t be pres’dint if you haven’t gotta pair. Man – he is a fucking sissy – lace curtain Irish and a pampered mackerel snapper on top of it. Look at that haircut and the way he talks. He couldn’t stand up to a goddamn seal.
Jack, meantime, realizes he can’t trust the gen’rals and the CIA guys. He can’t trust them to come up with plans that work. He can’t trust them to take him at his word. Worst off, he can’t trust them, period. More he thinks about it, the more he sees the gen’rals an’ CIA guys set him up. THey kjnew all along they would need air support, knew all along they would have to ask him for it. They didn’t ask for it ahead of time ‘cus they knew he’d say no. So they asked him when they figured he’d be forced to say yes. And he fucking didn’t see what they were up to – didn’t figure out their game ahead of time. Too busy, too distracted, too ready to think his staff was loyal and honest. How could they? I’m about as shrewd as they come, he thought, and they fucked me over. God dammit! I can’t ever trust those guys again! What’s worse, I know they don’t trust me now. And we can’t start over.
So he calls in his brother Bobby and asks him to keep an eye on the CIA for him. And he tries to show his staff that he’s not a total pushover when it comes to Feedel. He even has Bobby oversee more plots to undermine Feedel. He goes back an’ forth with the Cuba shit. Get rid of the guy, no, make peace an’ try to draw him away from the Soviets. Support the Cuban exiles, but don’t let them get carried away with any more wild-ass plans. Jack tried to play both sides, and you know what happens when a politician does that? He gets fucked over. Nobody trusts you and you get fucked over.
So Jack got off to a bad start with the Bay of Pigs, and nothing he did could save him after that. Don’t mistake my meaning – the gen’rals and CIA guys weren’t thinking ’bout firing him – not yet. But the seed was there. They hated him jus’ as much as Jack distrusted them. They feared him. Jack had heart, courage, a brain and power – charisma too. He had his brother Bobby by his side. And he opposed them with all his formidable resources.
Honestly, this was a big breach, an’ ev’thing that came afterward jus’ made it worse. By mid ’63, jus’ two years later, they’re figuring out how they can get the guy. You know why? ‘Cus of the Cuban missile crisis in ’62. That’s right. Jus’ eighteen months after the Bay of Pigs, Feedel fucked us again, big time. He brought in the Soviets, an’ the pres’dint backed down again! The pres’dint jus’ was not gonna go to war with the Commies, no matter how many chances they gave him! Fuck that Kennedy! We could blast those Russians with our nukes before they knew what hit ’em. They couldn’t kill more’n twenty million ‘mericans, max. Small price to pay. Really. The gen’rals couldn’t believe Jack would pass on this chance. We would never have a better one, not ever!
Then after the crisis, Kennedy starts to talk about peace! That’s right. He tries to get the Soviets to see things our way, an’ we try to see things theirs. Did you ever? We outnumber their warheads ten to one, and he’s talking to them! Our submarines alone could take them out. We don’t even need our ICBMs. We jus’ lay them to waste. What does Kennedy do? He gives a speech at American University where he says we have to cozy up to the fucking Communists! That’s right. It’s like saying we have to see things from Osama bin Laden’s point of view. That’s the only way we can live in harmony! You can’t live in harmony with people who want to destroy you! You have to destroy them first! That’s the only way!
But Jack’s got a different idea. He thinks no way you can start shooting nuclear missiles at each other. You can’t kill millions of people in each other’s cities. No victory is worth that. So that’s what he says. He says we gotta live with the Soviets, one way or the other. No wars. An’ he drives the gen’rals nuts, ‘cus that’s what they live an’ die for – war against the Soviets. Victory.
The last straw is Veetnam. Jack wants to get out of Veetnam. We spend almost ten years getting into that place, an’ he wants to get us out. He didn’t say he wanted to pull us out, but they could tell he was gonna go soft. He wouldn’t commit. He always asked for more information. Given the right chance, they could tell he would reverse their plans. Let him get reelected, and he will really screw us. We have to take him out before the reelection campaign starts.
That’s what happens with politicians when your people don’t trust you. They take you out. They don’t trust you to do what’s best for the republic. They don’t trust you to do what’s best for them. So they remove you. Only one way to remove a sitting ruler. Actually, two ways – ‘sassination in private and ‘sassination in public. ‘Sassination in private does the job, but ‘sassination in public is better ‘cus it sends the right message. Everyone who counts knows what jus’ happened, even if no one wants to think about it.
You know who counts? Future pres’dints an’ their lackeys! You want those guys to know what happens when they go off the reservation. They don’t come back. They get what’s coming. That’s right. You can do a lot as pres’dint, but you don’t go ‘gainst the gen’rals an’ the CIA guys. You can fire one gen’ral, but you can’t betray the whole country. You do that, an’ you’re gonna take a bullit. They’re gonna put a bullit right in your head.
“Geez, how long have you been away, mate? Really – how long’s it been?”
“Why don’t you resume your story where you left off?”
“I don’t know where I left off! I was just gettin’ underway, wasn’t I?”
“Ten pages worth.”
Okay, so Jack is saying goodbye to his daughter Caroline at the White House. He knows he might not come back, you see, and he tells her:
“Dear, I”m not sure when I’ll see you again.”
Caroline says, “Daddy, aren’t you coming back on Sunday?”
“Well sure, honey, I expect I’ll be home then.”
“Then why did you say you weren’t sure when you would see me again?”
“I’ve just been feeling a little down, dear, that’s why I said it.”
“I’ll miss you, Daddy.”
“When you’re in Texas!”
“It’s only going to be a few days.”
“Why do you have to go?”
“Lyndon says the Democrats in Texas are beating each other up. He asked me to go out there to settle things down.”
“Why can’t he settle things down?”
“I asked him the same thing. Why can’t you take care of that? You know the state.”
“What did he say?”
“He said some jobs need the president. This is one of them.”
“Daddy, what do you think?”
“Lyndon’s the biggest damn – sorry, the biggest darn liar in the state of Texas – that’s saying something.”
“So why are you going, Dad?”
“I just feel like I have to. It’s my destiny.”
So Jack goes to Texas. He leaves Washington on Thursday and flies to San Antonio. He’s scheduled for five cities in two days: San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth, Dallas, and Austin. He flew from Fort Worth to Dallas on the morning of November 22. The conversation with Lyndon about the motorcade the next day took place in JFK’s Fort Worth hotel room.
So Jack gives a breakfast speech in Fort Worth on November 22. It’s not a barn-burner – not over scrambled eggs and coffee – but it’s powerful good – good the way Texans like it. That’s a problem, cuz a lot of Texans just hate Jack Kennedy. He can give a speech, and they gave him their state’s electoral votes in the 1960 election, but they hate him nevertheless. Not clear why. Jack didn’t go out of his way to pick a fight with them, the way Bobby did with the mob. Jack didn’t take away the oil depletion allowance or anything like that. Partly they hate him cuz he seems like a sissy – a powerful, prettified sissy. That Camelot stuff? Texans think that’s a lot of horseshit. They look at Jack and see a rich pretty boy who’s too big for his Harvard yacht club britches. They especially don’t like the way he talks. They just hate ‘im. They hate Bobby, too. The whole family. Horseshit.
The next scene is the one where Lyndon comes to Jack’s hotel room on Thursday night to persuade him to move John Connally to his car. [Who would have taken John Connally’s place?] You will want to insert some lead-in to this scene – some transition from whatever comes immediately before it.
What book laid out Kennedy’s itinerary in Texas, from the time he arrived until the time he was shot? Was that Douglass?
Jack receives a room-to-room call on the phone.
“Hi, Mr. President. It’s Lyndon.”
“Fuck it, I need to talk with you.”
“I’ll be right down.”
Jack answers Lyndon’s knock and let’s him into the suite.”
Lyndon and Jackie say hi, and Lyndon goes to work.
“I want John in my car tomorrow.”
“John Connally? Why?”
“He’s the governor of the state!”
“That’s right. That’s why he’s riding in my car.”
And that’s the end of that! You want to guide the conversation toward Jackie’s concluding comment after Lyndon has left the room: “I don’t trust that man.”
I’m afraid this piece will require some work. You need to read it over to decide the next steps.
How much time do you want to put into it? How much time is it worth?
Do you want to include the piece in Kennedy’s Assassins? If so, can you get it ready for that book in a reasonable amount of time?
Worry: you could decide to include it in the book. Then it turns out that you need or want to put a lot of time into making it good. That delays publication of the book.
When do you want to publish the book?
Do you want to make the book much more than what you have on the PC? That is, do you want to make it much more than an Amazonian annotated bibliography? You can answer that question as you work on the book!
Can you publish the book before you go to Vermont? That would be an interesting goal!