Monday, April 5, 2010

Gerry Ford Beats a Dead Horse

I recently found a used copy of Gerald Ford’s A Presidential Legacy And the Warren Commission. Published back in 2003 for the 40th anniversary of Kennedy’s death, this 2007 edition of the Warren Report has a new forward by Ford, touted on the front cover as his “final thoughts” on the issue. Actually, they could have been his first thoughts! Nothing has changed in his world despite the numerous investigations that followed and thousands of documents released under the JFK Act. It’s all more of a rebuttal to the critics whom he calls, “armchair investigators” of which I suppose I am one. Which of course, this made me wonder what he thought he did in this whole mess except to say yea and amen.

With his poker face and humble demeanor Ford always came off as a regular Joe, a real nice guy from the upper midwest. Known for his go-along-to-get-along approach to just about everything in life and politics, this is the man that can blithely write, “Our conclusions have yet to be proven wrong,” and who knows, maybe he actually believed that. Ford was capable of saying things that beggar common sense and do so with a straight, or shall we say, poker face. Just as he did when caught years later moving bullet holes around (his own handwriting, first draft) and when asked responded that he was just trying to be more specific. Uh-huh. Well yes, if you are writing a novel, but this is supposed to be a search for the truth, not history as you go. The changing of body wounds on the victim is a misrepresentation of evidence in a murder investigation and presented to the public as a fact. And he seems not to get what he has done. I’m flabbergasted, really. I guess these political types swim in different waters than the rest of us.

Gerald Ford was not immune from getting into trouble with his relationship with the Commission. Shortly after the Warren Report was issued Ford decided to write his own book on the issue as the critics were getting too close for comfort. His publisher saw an initial draft of Portrait of the Assassin and advised Ford to spruce it up and spruce it up and he did--with information from Warren Commission executive sessions which were still classified at the time. He first denied it committing perjury under oath, then admitted it and said he was sorry. Six months after becoming President he signed an order declassifying the aforementioned documents. There were several other embarrassing slip ups such as this over the years that all point to Ford being out of his element in the big leagues.

Gerald Ford was capable of saying some amazingly odd things about the Kennedy assassination. I’ve dubbed these comments Fordisms. I’ve already mentioned one with the bullet wounds. Sometimes Ford acted like his grasp on the truth was tenuous at best, favoring ideas that were devoid of common sense. There are quite a number that caught my eye in his forward and I’ll start on the minor ones first.

The first was when Ford wrote, “There were no preconceived opinions or sacred cows.” Well, yes there were. There were plenty. Here is an example. One sacred cow was conceived at their very first meeting, behind closed doors on January 22, 1964, when they discussed the possibility of Lee Oswald being a government agent. It was decided if they looked any further and found out that he was, then the public may not believe the lone gunman theory. So they decided not to look any further into the matter. So far reaching was this decision that they decided to destroy all records of the meeting. But somehow, the stenographer’s tape wasn’t and made its way into the National Archives where researcher Harold Weisberg got it released under a FOIA lawsuit. This is all documented in great detail in Gerald McKnight’s Breach of Trust. This proves the fix was in early on to disavow any hint of John Kennedy’s death being the result of a plot and designating Lee Oswald as the lone assassin. This follows in line with J. Edgar Hoover’s thinking that Oswald was the lone shooter, something he hatched within 24 hours of the slaying. This was bolstered by the now famous Asst. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach memo to Bill Moyers shortly after the assassination (and before the 1/22/64 meeting) on how they would like to precede with the situation that stated:

“The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial.”

Talk To Everybody?
Another point that grabbed me was when Ford stated the following: “...we cross-examined everyone.” Not so fast! There is a huge number of witnesses that were not interviewed by the Commission and in many cases not by the FBI either. Of particular note are those people that gave testimony of more than one shooter. Such as the two FBI agents Jim Sibert and Frank O'Neill who were witnesses at the autopsy and saw that Kennedy’s back wound was not transiting, and hence, implicating another shot from the front and spoiling the lone gunman scenario. Arlen Specter made sure their report was buried in the National Archives and they were never called to testify. Two of the most glaring examples were the President’s personal physician, Admiral George Buckley and Newman family. Dr. Burkley is an important witness as he was in the motorcade when the shots were fired, was present at the Parkland Hospital trauma ward as the doctors there tried to resuscitate the dying President, signed the death certificate (described the throat injury as an entry wound), accompanied the body back on Air Force One to Bethesda Naval for the autopsy, witnessed it and signed the autopsy face sheet. His testimony was never taken by the Commission and it was a major oversight but his documenting the throat wound as an “entry wound” made him persona non grata.

Bill and Gayle Newman can be seen in many films and photographs made seconds after the shots rang out lying on the grass covering up their children. As Bill Newman has said in many interviews through the years, he told the FBI that he heard the third shot coming from behind them, from the grassy knoll. Their natural reaction was to hit the ground and cover their children. The Warren Commission did not take their testimony; as Bill said they didn’t want anything to do with us. Incredible, considering they were the closest witnesses to the exact moment the kill shot happened (besides the occupants of the limo). So no, Mr. Ford, you didn’t cross-examine everybody.

(Ironically in the forward, Ford mentions the Newmans as witnesses to hearing shots from the knoll; however, he says their testimony was misrepresented by conspiracy theorists. Unbelievable! That anyone touting expert knowledge of the case would ignore the numerous filmed interviews the Newmans gave over the years, including the first one given on live TV a few hours after the assassination, in their own words and unencumbered by anyone. A true Fordism! This is one of those Ford moments when he’s in an alternate universe where he has the right to wave a magic wand and make everything right again. Very well then, why didn’t you depose them to find out what they really heard and experienced first-hand? But that was not done.)

Alex Hidell’s Guns
For some reason or other in his forward, Gerald Ford has to delve into the Tippet murder and issue of Oswald’s rifle and pistol. Here he makes a series of goofs on the ownership of the guns. In Ford’s words: “The JFK assassination weapon was mailed to a P.O. Box and alias used by Oswald--the very same alias and P.O. Box used for the revolver...” This goof-up is huge because Ford is contradicting the Warren Report itself! (Appendix X, pages 411&414.) The only time Oswald used the Alex Hidell alias for a P.O. Box address was in New Orleans in the summer of 1963, long after the guns were ordered as stated in the report. The rifle order was placed under his alias for his P.O. Box address in Dallas in March of 1963, as clearly shown on the order form. And, as I pointed in detail in my article, Who Bought The Guns?, this box was authorized for Lee Oswald only; his application in the evidence volumes verifies this. So the rifle would not have even gotten to him and the package would be stamped “return to sender.” There are a host of other problems with the ordering of the guns on both sides of this from buyer (Oswald) to seller (Klein’s Sporting Goods). Please refer to my article linked above for more details on this problematic area.

In regards to the pistol--it wasn’t even sent to Oswald’s P.O. Box address as Ford states because it was sent COD to the Railway Express Agency in Dallas, where the gun was allegedly picked up and paid for. This is Ford’s second major goof. I release he was old at the time and his mind probably not as sharp, but don’t these big publishing houses hire fact checkers? Also, no receipts or shipping notices exist for this, nor the required “certificate of good character” that was required under Texas State law for a handgun purchased by mail order. The truth fogs on the gun purchases and has the appearance of someone else buying and handling the guns. It would have been interesting to see all of this sorted out in court at Lee Oswald’s trial but that of course, will never be.

The Last Commissioner
As the last serving member of the Warren Commission Gerald Ford must have felt a need (or was it the need of the status-quo?) to write some final words on the work of the Warren Commission. It appears another attempt at reviving some credibility for its legacy since its critics have given such an effective thrashing in the woodshed over the years. Mr. Ford does his best but he writes like man lost in a fog hoping it will all go away. He’s trying to set the record straight for the up-tenth time and in the pursuit of this goal, contradicts the very report he help to create. The truth is out there but he meanders around it like a man flash-blinded. Sometimes men bury the truth to protect a greater need. The former model and college sports star was in the end a Company Man. He was rewarded in a way, by a fellow Company Man, George Bush Sr., who leveled a spirited broadside against us armchair investigators at Ford’s memorial service. The former President’s words were harsh and angry as a King would be at a bunch of impudent peasants. Well, I’m sorry if we don’t believe you, but we don’t. You only told us part of the story and then locked the rest away for safe keeping as you always do.

I really do want to like Gerald Ford. I think ultimately he was an average man, of average intelligence, caught up in things far bigger than him. He seemed vastly unprepared to participate in all the intrigue he found himself in. There is always a need in politics for the weak sister and Ford was a man the Establishment knew would tow the line. And he did so unto death.

Ford, Gerald R., A Presidential Legacy And the Warren Commission; McKnight, Gerald, Breach of Trust; Armstrong, John, Harvey and Lee;

Bill and Gayle Newman interview.