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Inflamatory title that fails to make the case but a reasonable overview of the Kennedy assassination
on 7 November 2014
Author Roger Stone is a consultant and lobbyist, primarily for the Republican Party in the United States of America. However, he writes early on in his book, The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ, that this is not a partisan rant, given that Lyndon Baines Johnson was a Democrat President. Stone's claim appears to be borne out - Republicans also come in to the line of fire, men like Federal Bureau of Investigations director J. Edgar Hoover and one term President George H. W. Bush. So it is safe to say that Roger Stone is not grinding a political axe.
The trouble with his book (co-authored by investigative journalist Mike Colapietro), is that Roger Stone completely fails to make any substantial case against LBJ at all. While it has been argued by others that LBJ was an accessory after the fact, Stone does not provide any conclusive or even substantial evidence to justify such an accusatory title.
The first few chapters give us a brief biography of LBJ and the version presented by Stone gives us a pretty unsavoury picture of a hypocritical political bully and serial adulterer and a politician who is not averse to corruption, both financial and vote-rigging. Yet no matter how hard Stone tries to convince us that LBJ was a distasteful character, the fact that we do not like him as a person - and that he was not above suspicion when it comes to ballot-box stuffing - does not make him a murderer.
Then, the bulk of the book is taken up with repeating characters and stories that will be very familiar to anyone who has read a few books on the JFK assassination already: the mafia (Marcello, Trafficante, Giancana et al), the FBI, CIA (particularly ZR/RIFLE and Operation 40), Texas money men and big oil, Cuba, the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, military contractors, the assassination science, the autopsy, Oswald, Ruby and so forth. Essentially, the case against LBJ is guilt by association. None of this contains any new or revelatory information and frankly, it's all been written before more comprehensively elsewhere.
Interspersed with this are a handful of first hand anecdotes that are used to justify the writing in the blurb that author Roger Stone is a, "...legendary political operative... [who] knows that Lyndon Johnson was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy... [and that the book combines] decades of insider political knowledge with cutting-edge research" but these amount to no more than things like the author having drinks with Warren Commission investigator and Magic Bullet proponent Arlen Specter, telling him that he thinks the Magic Bullet Theory is a load of rubbish. Other parts of the book go in to much irrelevant detail about political manoeuvring by LBJ or later of George H. W. Bush but this seems like unnecessary padding of the story and serve only as an attempt to bolster the claim of author Stone's "insider" status while adding nothing to the actual thrust of the book.
Ultimately, as this book was published just in time for the fiftieth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's murder, this feels more like book publisher Skyhorse Publishing not wanting to be left without a JFK assassination book on the shelves in time to capitalise on a renewed upsurge in the public's interest in the subject.
That said, The Man Who Killed Kennedy is not actually a bad book; it tells its story well enough and lays out some of the basic facts of the case reasonably coherently, though far from comprehensively. Just don't expect it to make a case against LBJ.