Category Archives: LBJ

Assistant President RFK

The assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963 set forth in motion a chain of events in the history of the United States that would reshape it in the years that followed. For those who lived during this time, the events in Dallas changed the lives of many Americans, some too young to understand, and some old enough to realize the damage it had done to our country. The motives behind the assassination have been speculated by many, and the outcome of the research takes the culprits in the assassination to the forefront. One of the theories that has been mentioned was the involvement of Vice-President Lyndon Johnson. Having once been the powerful majority leader of the Senate, the now Vice-President would find his role diminished by the Kennedy administration. In this book review you are going to learn about a book that I had found at a local flea market a few years back. The book, “Robert F. Kennedy: Assistant President”, shows you the possible motivation that Johnson could have had in wanting to ascend to the presidency.

The book written by Gary Gordon in 1962, highlights the many life accomplishments of RFK as he made his way to the position of Attorney General. Within the first few pages the author describes the book as, “The dramatic life story of the second most powerful man in Washington”. Interesting to note about this book since it was written in 1962, was the fact that many polls taken by Newsweek, and U.S News, and other news outlets, put RFK ahead of Lyndon Johnson in terms of their power and influence over the country. The main theme of the book is to bring RFK into the national spotlight and in hopes of showing the American people that he was more than just the President of the United States brother. In many parts of the book, the author paints RFK as the man who not only got JFK elected through his hard work as campaign manager, but that he was not willing to take on a cabinet spot within the administration.

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The many chapters in the book show the reader that RFK may not have been qualified to become Attorney General, but he was able to use his position within the White House to change the role that Attorney Generals had. If those outside of the White House were seeing the way RFK was having influence over the decisions that his brother was making, then you know LBJ saw it as well. As the book starts off showing the Presidential campaign of 1960, it backtracks to highlight the life of RFK. Having no lawyer experience, he did not want the position of Attorney General at first. Trying to not show favoritism to his own family, JFK knew he wanted RFK by his side in those critical decision making times, and that he needed to be a cabinet member to achieve that. According to the author, JFK was quoted as saying, “I’ll take Bobby’s word over almost anybody’s”. The idea of having a family member within the cabinet had not been done before, and RFK was afraid of the political backlash that it would have in a future re-election campaign.

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Something of interest in the book was the trip around the world that RFK took in the early stages of 1962. The trip would be unprecedented by a United States Attorney General, and it had the feel of something more. The trip usually meant for Vice-Presidents, and one that LBJ took himself, was meant for RFK to get a feel of foreign affairs. The trip enabled RFK to see the issues at hand, and he would be able to have a better decision making process on these situations once back in Washington with his brother. It is hard to imagine the LBJ did not take great offense to this, and felt the lack of support from both Kennedy brothers. At the end of the book, the author makes a statement that is eerie to read as it has a statement that looks into the future. The author states, “In 1968, with JFK prevented by the Constitution from running again, the speculation is that Bobby could go before the voters with eight years of experience as an Assistant President”. Was this the motivation that was needed for LBJ, to end the Kennedy presidency? Did he himself want the presidency after JFK, and having read the many magazines and books proclaiming RFK as the second man in Washington, finally get to him? It is just one of the many theories that have been claimed over the years, and books such as these spark the mind into thinking. This book was an interesting find, and I recommend to always be on the lookout for books such as these, as they could hold the motives that others had in assassinating the President of the United States.

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Time to Unite as a Nation

As we are about to enter into an important day in American history, read this quote on how JFK viewed days in which the country was divided and how we needed to come together for our nation. We don’t let elections divide us as a nation, instead we should come together as the new leader of the free world takes their place inside of the White House.

“For I can assure you that we love our country, not for what it was, though it has always been great — not for what it is, though of this we are deeply proud — but for what it someday can, and, through the efforts of us all, someday will be.” —

“Address at a Luncheon Meeting of the National Industrial Conference Board (33),” February 13, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.

Lyndon Johnson’s role in William Manchester’s “The Death of a President”

The story has been told many times over the past 52 years and yet we are still able to find bits and pieces that we may have missed. When I was 8 years old, my grandmother had a collection of JFK material stored in a metal container. One day when the interest of JFK was beginning to spark, I found myself going through this container. Inside of this container was a vast amount of newspaper clippings, notes that she had written down about this time in history and one book. That book was “The Death of a President” written by William Manchester. It was my grandmother that told me that this should be the first book I read about this time in history and should be my last. I guess to her, this was the true story about what happened during those dark days in November. Although to some, the story of those days may be different then what Mr. Manchester wrote about, he does the job of a historian in bringing the reader to that exact time and giving you a sense that you were there. I have read this book several times over the years and recently as I have been trying myself trying to be a better researcher, have looked a little deeper into the writing of William Manchester’s signature work. In this post I will not go into the entire story that Manchester was trying to give the reader, instead I will showcase some points that stick out the most to me.
One of the main parts of the book that sticks out to me is the lack of cooperation that Lyndon Johnson had in the interview process. As William Manchester was gaining information from many of the key figures that were there that day, including that of First Lady Jackie Kennedy, it was Lyndon Johnson that showed the most resistance. During the course of the interview process, on two occasions President Johnson accepted the invite, then it would be canceled at the last minute. Eventually the two men would come to an agreement that President Johnson would only answer written questions and his responses would be done the same way. As Manchester states, “Some of the replies were detailed; to other inquiries he had no comment.” During the course of this reading, it appears that Manchester had become annoyed by the fact that Johnson was unwilling to recollect his memories of that day, and Manchester states that “It should be added that he has not seen the book in any form”. The frustration with Johnson was evident, but as the reader continues on in the book, it seems rather odd that the first 6 pages of Manchester’s recollection of the days leading up to the assassination and the days following it, involved talking about the Vice-President’s role in the administration and frustrations during his time as Vice-President.
Within the first paragraph in the definitive recollection of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the topic was not about the days leading up to the assassination, instead it was the role of the Vice-President and his frustration with the administration. It would almost seem to the reader that the agreement that Manchester and Johnson formed in order for him to be interviewed must have contained some form of understanding of how this book was going to begin. The political situation in Texas during the fall of 1963 was in ruins as the Democrats were coming apart at the seams. But as Manchester states in that first page, “Johnson would guardedly recall that there had been some discussion of the Texas political situation”. How is it that the main reason for the Kennedy trip to Texas was to restore faith in the party, and Johnson only recalls some discussion? The picture of resentment that Manchester was portraying of Johnson was coming clearer as the writing continued on. As Manchester states, “Johnson had found that he was a stand-by without a script”. Although he may not had the script he wanted, he did find himself thrust into a role that he want. On November 19th, 1963, Lyndon Johnson would take a trip to Dallas to speak with the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages. Only 3 days before the President was to arrive in Dallas, and at the same convention that former Vice-President Richard Nixon was at during his stay in Dallas during this time . An interesting side note to a story that has not been fully told.

The Vice-President did not have many of the luxuries that were enjoyed by the President, and simple things like having a number not in the public directory was one of them. If Johnson was to go on a flight using a military plane it would have to be assigned to him and he would have to ask permission for that plane. An indication that Johnson was feeling left out of the circle was evident, and as Manchester states “Lyndon Johnson was, in short, a prisoner of his office.” The book that would be able to tell the story of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was beginning with the frustration of his Vice-President. However we want to take this we can look at a quote that William Manchester says in the introduction of this book, “In time I myself shall merely become a source for future historians as yet unborn”. This book was the beginning of my understanding of those days in Dallas, and 48 years after its publication, this book is a reminder that we need to continue to research and look for those clues that might help us better understand what happened that Friday in November.

http://www.lbjlibrary.net/collections/daily-diary.html

References

Manchester, William. The Death of a President, November 20-November 25, 1963, New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
Peppard, Alan. “Kennedy Rival Nixon Left Dallas as JFK Arrived in November 1963.” Dallas Morning News. November 2, 2013. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/jfk50/explore/20131102-kennedy-rival-richard-nixon-left-dallas-as-jfk-arrived-in-november-1963.ece.

Who do we blame for JFK’s Assassination?

For many people, the answer to who was involved in the killing of President John F. Kennedy stems from either years of research or is formed from an opinion based on everything they have heard from the media.  The answer is not simple and it is something that still has not been answered completely.  There are those that want to believe that Oswald acted alone in this and they have every right to that opinion.  Then, there are those that believe that one man could not have planned and executed this crime in front of hundreds of people.  I, for one, believe that Oswald could not have done this by himself and that others were behind this assassination.  I have been reading books about the assassination since I was a kid and it seems that I still find new and interesting things in each of these readings. For example, I recently came across a book that shows some motive as to why someone would want JFK killed.

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The book, which I found at a local flea market, is titled “Robert F. Kennedy: Assistant President”.  The title of the book says it all for me.  The authorclearly believes that RFK had more influence inside the government than the Vice President of the United States.  My own daughter (who is 12) noticed the title and asked me if Robert Kennedy was the Vice President and why they would title the book that way.  The book, which was published in 1962, shows how RFK fell into the position of Attorney General.  At the time, it received reviews from Look magazine and U.S News and World Report which described RFK as “the man  who is second only to the President in power and influence”.  Now, put yourself in the shoes of Lyndon Baines Johnson. This is a man that, at one time, was the most powerful man in the Senate, only to find himself a few years later, playing second fiddle to a young, inexperienced lawyer who happened to be the President’s brother.  How can he compete with that?  The answer to that question is simple.  He could not.  So, it would seem to me that publications like this would serve as a means of motive.

 

In most crimes, there has to be a motive involved for someone to commit a crime.  Whether it is to get back at someone or maybe even to get ahead in some faction.  I am not saying that Johnson was the man behind the Kennedy assassination nor am I denying his possible involvement in it.  I am simply showing those that are interested a possible means of motive.  Here we have a book, published in 1962, that refers to Robert Kennedy as the Assistant President.  The author goes into detail about decisions that he helps make on a daily basis and the trips around the world he takes during his first couple of years as Attorney General.  These feelings that Johnson harbored towards RFK would carry on even after the assassination and would last until RFK himself was assassinated in 1968.  Lyndon Johnson would go on to become President after the assassination of JFK, finally attaining the power that he so desperately wanted.  It could be possible that Lyndon Johnson saw books like this and became so angered by them that he felt he had to do something.  All I know is that questions still remain about the assassination.  Maybe finding little clues like this book could help those that feel they have the answer.

Sources:

Gordon, G. (1962). Robert F.Kennedy Assistant President. Derby, Connecticut: Monarch Books, Inc.

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