Monday, May 30, 2007

From the Hardball Show : MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. This would have been John F. Kennedy‘s 90th birthday. His assassination in Dallas in 1963 is seared into our national consciousness. And, despite the passing of time, conspiracy theories continue to swirl about his murder.

Journalist David Talbot writes about Bobby Kennedy‘s suspicions of a plot behind his brother‘s murder and his own quest for the truth is a new book called “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years.” And Vincent Bugliosi uses his prosecutor‘s eye to debunk every conspiracy theory connected to the assassination in a book that has been 20 years in the making called “The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.” Actually, it‘s called “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.”

Let me start with David Talbot.

Do you believe that Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy?

DAVID TALBOT, AUTHOR, “BROTHERS: THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF THE KENNEDY YEARS”: You know, Chris, my book is not a conspiracy book.

What I wanted to look into is what Bobby Kennedy, the attorney general of the United States and his brother‘s devoted protector, what Bobby Kennedy was saying and—and doing to solve this crime.

And he started to, that very afternoon, look into various angles into the crime. And I believe what he was looking at from that day on was at the CIA Mafia‘s secret war on Castro as the source of this plot.

MATTHEWS: Did he believe that that was the case?

TALBOT: I believe he did. And he was looking into it until the day he died.

Not only that, but he probably was on the right track. We now know, based on evidence that the Church Committee and House Assassinations Committee came up with in the 1970s, that a number of these figures who Bobby was looking at might very well have been figures of suspicion.

MATTHEWS: So, you believe what?

TALBOT: I believe that Bobby...

MATTHEWS: Based upon all your time on it, what do you believe?

TALBOT: I believe that Bobby Kennedy and much of the Washington political elite, Lyndon Johnson, even members of the Warren Commission themselves, like Richard Russell, the senator from Georgia, Richard Nixon, a number of high-level officials, including Bobby Kennedy, believed that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the complete story.

And Bobby Kennedy was determined, once he got back to the White House, if he had won in 1968, he was determined to reopen the case.

MATTHEWS: And what happened to Bobby?

TALBOT: We know what happened to Bobby. Bobby didn‘t make it.

MATTHEWS: Well, he was killed by Sirhan Sirhan. Do you believe there was something...

TALBOT: Bobby...

MATTHEWS: ... more to that?

TALBOT: I don‘t go into that in the book, although Vincent Bugliosi, I know, himself was among those, back in the 1970s, if I recall—And, Vince, correct me if I am wrong—who did have his suspicions about Bobby Kennedy‘s assassination. I think there‘s a number of unanswered questions about Bobby‘s death as well.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Vincent Bugliosi.

You have got a huge book here, sir. And I wanted to ask you. I—I am one of those who believes that Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy. I believe he—the best argument against all the conspiracy theories, which debunks all of them, I believe, is that Lee Harvey Oswald had a job at the Texas Book Depository long before there was a motorcade route that day.

It was a crime of opportunity. It was not a conspiracy.

What is your view, sir?


JOHN F. KENNEDY”: Well, I believe that Oswald acted alone, and that I present 53 separate pieces of evidence showing that Oswald killed Kennedy.

And, under those circumstances, it would be humanly impossible, Chris, for him to be innocent, at least in the world in which we live. I am talking to you. You can hear me. There will be a dawn tomorrow. Only in a fantasy world can you have 53 pieces of evidence pointing towards your guilt, and still be innocent.

With respect to conspiracy, Mr. Talbot suspects the CIA, mob, et cetera. Let me just make this observation. First place, there is no credible evidence that the CIA or mob or any other group was involved in the assassination.

I told the jury in London, when I prosecuted Oswald—Gerry Spence defended him—I said, three people can keep a secret, but only if two are dead. And, after close to 44 years, not one credible word, not one syllable has leaked out.

Number two, there is no evidence that Oswald had any association or connection with any of these groups. The FBI conducted 25,000 interviews, found nothing.

Taking it one more step, if you will give me the time—actually, two more steps—assuming, for the sake of argument, that one of these groups wanted to kill President Kennedy, Oswald would have been one of the last people on the faces of this earth whom they would have gone to.

Why? Well, number one, he was not an expert shot—he was a good shot, not an expert shot -- $12 mail-order rifle, notoriously unreliable, extremely unstable. Here‘s a guy that defected to the Soviet Union, pre-Gorbachev. I mean, even today, who in the heck defects to the Soviet Union?


BUGLIOSI: He gets over there—let me finish—he gets over there, wants to become a Soviet citizen. He is turned down.

What does he do? He slashes his wrist, tries to commit suicide, just the type of person that the CIA or mob would want to rely on to commit the biggest murder in American history.

Final thought: Assuming that the CIA or mob or whatever group there was wanted to kill Kennedy, and, for whatever crazy, bizarre reason, they said, we want to use Oswald, let‘s see if where that takes us makes any sense.

Once Oswald shot at Kennedy and left the book depository building, one of two things would have happened. Let me tell you the least likely thing first. The least likely thing is that there would have been a car waiting for him to help him escape down to Mexico, or wherever.

Certainly, the...


BUGLIOSI: ... conspirators would not want—wait a while—would not want their hit man to be interrogated by the authorities. But that is the least likely scenario.

Let me tell you, Chris—and you are a bright guy—let me tell you the most likely thing, by far, that would have happened. If the CIA or mob or any of these other groups were involved, once Oswald left the book depository building, there would have been a car waiting for him, driving him to his death. You know that would have happened.

Instead, Oswald is out on the street with $13 in his pocket, trying to flag down...


BUGLIOSI: ... buses and cabs.

Chris, if I could just...

MATTHEWS: Vincent, we have to come back.

We are going to start with—we are going to start with David when we get back.

You will have more time, David, when we come right back after this.

Please stay with us. We have got a dispute here.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We are continuing to talk about the Kennedy assassination with David Talbot, author of the book “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years,” and Vincent Bugliosi. His book is called “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.”

Let me go right now to David.

You wanted to respond to what we just heard from Vincent.


I mean, Vince says that it‘s I that is blaming this on the CIA and the mafia. That‘s not the point of my book. I‘m looking at what the Washington elite and Robert Kennedy himself were doing and saying about this crime.

You know, the forensics game is a game that anyone can play. Lawyers can cherry-pick and—and omit and distort information as they see fit. But the fact is, we now have more and more evidence that points in the direction of a conspiracy.

Just last week, an FBI metallurgist released the results of his analysis, which said, we can no longer definitively say that the bullets came from one gun in Dealey Plaza.

We have acoustics evidence. And Mr. Bugliosi chooses to analyze this in the fashion he wants to. He has used a rock musician named Steve Barber (ph) as his main source on the acoustics evidence from Dealey Plaza. But he, as far as I know, has not interviewed the scientists who have actually carried out these tests.

But the point is, I wanted to look at what Robert Kennedy was—was saying and doing on this, and—and—and the people in the motorcade, who were reporting back to Bobby Kennedy.

You know, Kenny O‘Donnell, the White House aide, and Dave Powers, both very loyal to the Kennedy team, reported back to Bobby that they heard shots from the front, from the grassy knoll area, as well as from behind.

These are two World War II veterans. They know the sounds of gunfire. That was the impression of many of the people in the motorcade. Jackie Kennedy says, I don‘t want to take my suit off, which is soaked with the gore of her husband, her pink Chanel suit, because I want them they to see what they have done to my husband.

It was “they” that was very much in the minds of these people that day in Dallas.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Vincent Bugliosi.

Sir, what is your response to these—these assumptions? I mean, the fact that all these people thought there was something beyond Lee Harvey Oswald, what does that add up to you?

Mr. Bugliosi, we don‘t have him here.

Let me ask you how you deal, David, with this argument I make, which is, if you had Lee Harvey Oswald working at the book depository well before

weeks, several weeks, before there was any motorcade route that day, how did any conspiracy plot develop around using Harvey Oswald as one of the shooters?

TALBOT: Well, there are still interesting questions about how Oswald...


MATTHEWS: No, answer that question. Answer my question. How did he get that job before there was a parade route?

TALBOT: He was—as far as I know, he was given—he was—he was told about the job by the people he was living with at the time in the boarding house.


TALBOT: And the—the Paines. And we don‘t know how he—he exactly got to be there, ahead of the motorcade route. But I think Oswald‘s connection to this is...

MATTHEWS: But, if you believe that he was there before the motor—no, you have got to go to this question.

TALBOT: Pardon me?

MATTHEWS: If you accept the sequence that this guy had this job, and, then, all of a sudden, there‘s—several weeks later, there is a parade route rolling by him, then somebody had to coordinate the whole thing from the White House.

Somebody in the White House had to put the president within shooting range of Lee Harvey Oswald. That‘s the problem with all these conspiracy theories.


TALBOT: Well, it‘s—it‘s not the White House, no.

What we now know, Chris...

MATTHEWS: Well, who put him there? Who put the president...

TALBOT: Well, let me just finish.

MATTHEWS: ... right there?

TALBOT: Let me finish.

Lee Harvey Oswald had the fingerprints of U.S. intelligence all over him. I didn‘t say that. Senator Richard Schweiker from Pennsylvania said that, one of the first senators to look into Dallas as a member of the Church Committee back in the 1970s. How did Lee Harvey Oswald get to the Soviet Union and back with such ease?

MATTHEWS: No, I will not let you do this. David, you have to answer the question. How did Lee Harvey Oswald get his job right above that parade route before the parade route was set, unless there was a massive conspiracy involving everybody, the Irish Mafia and everybody else you mentioned there?

TALBOT: No, you are throwing the net out way too wide on this.

MATTHEWS: Tell me who would have put the president within shooting range of Lee Harvey Oswald.

TALBOT: I suppose that elements of U.S. intelligence, people working for the government—

MATTHEWS: Told the president to drive under the book depository so that Oswald could shoot him?

TALBOT: People weren‘t telling J.F.K. to drive. First of all, he wasn‘t driving the car.

MATTHEWS: Who put his car there within range of Lee Harvey Oswald?

Who did that?

TALBOT: The point is, we don‘t know for certain. You don‘t know for certain. And you don‘t know for certain.

MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking you the question. I don‘t know the answer, because it involves the belief—I want you to answer the question.

BUGLIOSI: Chris, can I leave now? Are you through with me?

MATTHEWS: No, Vincent. We had a technical problem. You‘re back Vincent. Don‘t get mad at me. I would ask you now, isn‘t that a central problem with all the conspiracy theories, that Lee Harvey Oswald was there first and Kennedy was taken there.

BUGLIOSI: Well, I want to address myself to a couple things that Mr.

Talbot said.

MATTHEWS: OK, go ahead.

BUGLIOSI: He said it‘s not the CIA or mob. David, who ever was behind him, whether it‘s the military industrial complex or the FBI or whatever it is, once they had him kill Kennedy and left the building, they would have driven him to his death. So don‘t narrow it down to the CIA or mob.

The other thing you said, just last week, somebody came out with some new evidence on the metallic composition of these bullets. I will tell you how new it was David. You want to know how new it was? It‘s already in my book. OK? It‘s an old argument. Everything you‘re saying is old. It‘s not new.

The other things he says, I relied on a rock scientist. Do you really mean that? The national academy of sciences, 12 distinguished scientists confirmed—


BUGLIOSI: -- that impulse sounds took place one minute after the assassination, when the limousine was long gone down the Stemmin (ph) Freeway, on its way to Parkland Hospital. I want to read a couple things, Chris.


BUGLIOSI: This is a letter that RFK wrote to the Warren Commission on August 4th, 1964, that David knows about. He says I want to state definitely that I know of no credible evidence to support the allegation that the assassination of President Kennedy was caused by a domestic or foreign conspiracy. Adding I have no suggestion to make at this time regarding an additional investigation which should be undertaken by the commission prior to the publication of its report.

The report comes out and he says on September 27th, 1964, this is R.F.K., I am convinced Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for what happened, and that he did not have any outside help or assistance. I am completely satisfied that the commission investigated every lead and examined every piece of evidence. The Warren Commission inquiry was thorough and—

TALBOT: Chris, can I respond to that?

MATTHEWS: Yes, you can.

BUGLIOSI: Now David believes that he was lying here, is that correct?



TALBOT: Vince, you are a great courtroom lawyer. You can I know shut people up. But let me respond. Here is my point. Robert Kennedy‘s power to investigate this crime was evaporating the minute his brother died. F. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, who was in charge of the investigation, hates Bobby Scotts and vice versa. The new president, Lyndon Johnson, also has a poisonous relationship with Bobby.

Bobby is determined to control the investigation himself as best he can. That‘s why he holds on to the president‘s brain literally and tissue samples after the autopsy in Bethesda . He wants as much evidence as he can to control the investigation when he gets back to the White House. He has to, in the meantime, say things publicly about the Warren Commission.

But privately, and you know this, if you read Arthur Schlesinger‘s biography or Evan Thomas‘, biography of Bobby Kennedy—those are the two standard biographies. Certainly you read those.

BUGLIOSI: There is a division on that point.


TALBOT: Both of them say that Bobby Kennedy felt it was a public relations exercise. The Warren Report was a public relations exercise. That‘s what he was telling the people closest to him.

BUGLIOSI: Wait a minute. I want to make my point. You are saying that he may have been lying when he said what he did?

TALBOT: He was being strategic. Bobby Kennedy was a shrewd political player.

MATTHEWS: Vince and David, we want to come back and have this on the air. Please hold up. We‘ll be right back with David Talbot and Vincent Bugliosi. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We are back with the authors of two new books about the Kennedy assassinations, David Talbot, the author of “Brothers, the Hidden History of the Kennedy Years,” and Vincent Bugliosi, who has written “Reclaiming History, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.” Let me ask you, Vincent, we are going to get David back on the satellite in a second here. But is your conclusion, after all this amazing work for 20 years, that it‘s as clear as we thought it was at the time, that Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy?

BUGLIOSI: Absolutely. It‘s all pure moonshine. Within hours of the shooting, local law enforcement down there knew that Oswald had killed Kennedy and acted alone. That‘s one reality.

But the second reality is because of the unceasing and fanatical obsession of literally—and I am not exaggerating, thousands upon thousands of Warren Commission critics and conspiracy theorists, who have examined every single aspect of this case for close to 44 years, and made hundreds upon hundreds of allegations, this simple case, which remains very simple at its core, has been transformed into the most complex murder case by far in world history.

Just to give an example, one of my end notes, not the main text, one of my end notes on acoustics in the manuscript ran to 120 pages with 60 footnotes. I want to make one point about what David is saying. If he is saying that what I just read to you, that RFK said basically is a lie, that he did not believe it, then he is saying something, by definition, much, much, much worse, because he is, by definition, saying that here is RFK believing that the CIA or mob or whatever other group David wants to believe in, was behind he assassination, and you are the chief law enforcement officer in this country, with the vast resources of the Department of Justice, including the FBI, and you do not—

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this.—

BUGLIOSI: Wait a while. Wait a while.

BUGLIOSI: You do not use them to find out who murdered your brother, and then—

MATTHEWS: David, finish up.

BUGLIOSI: Then by definition you are participating in the cover-up of your brother‘s murder.

MATTHEWS: David, respond to that. Please, David you are back on satellite.

TALBOT: Bobby Kennedy thought that elements of his own government were involved in the assassination of his own brother. He knew he had no power to move against these forces as attorney general. His power was evaporating by the day. Hoover wouldn‘t even send agents to pick Bobby Kennedy up at the airport after the assassination in Dallas. He was contemptuous of Bobby Kennedy. And that‘s a well known fact.

Lyndon Johnson, we know what the mutual contempt between Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy. So it‘s absurd and naive of Mr. Bugliosi to think that Bobby Kennedy has the power to go after these people at that point. That‘s why Bobby Kennedy was determined to run for the presidency, so he could not open up the investigation with the power of the White House

MATTHEWS: I would love to do an hour. Gentleman, I am out of time.

BUGLIOSI: Are you saying that for nine months RFK had the power—

TALBOT: Can I add one thing? I am sorry.


TALBOT: The first critics of the Warren Commission were the members of the Warren Commission. Richard Russell, the senator from Georgia said this, he said, I think somebody else worked with Oswald on the planning of the assassination. He said that shortly before he died. And also said the majority of the commission felt the same way I did.

BUGLIOSI: No, he did not say that. He did not say that.

TALBOT: Yes, he did.

BUGLIOSI: This guy attended six of the meetings out of about the 80.

TALBOT: He said it on Cox Broadcasting in Atlanta, shortly before his death of lung cancer. You don‘t have your history correct. You don‘t have your history correct, Mr. Bugliosi. You‘re not a historian and you‘re not BUGLIOSI: Well, I am relying on Barber. Are you saying that the FBI and LBJ were also involved in the assassination?

TALBOT: No, that‘s what you are saying. Because you are trying to tar everyone with that brush. No.

BUGLIOSI: He would have used the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorneys to go after somebody who he believed had murdered his brother and you‘re saying he did not do that.


TALBOT: Bobby Kennedy was looking into every lead, but privately.

MATTHEWS: OK, gentlemen, thank you very much.


MATTHEWS: “Brothers,” David Talbot, and “Reclaiming History, the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy” by Vincent Bugliosi. Thank you gentlemen. Up next, MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan and Bob Herbert of the “New York Times.” This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Let‘s bring in the HARDBALLers, although I think we have already seen them tonight, Bob Herbert of the “New York Times,” and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. Pat, this is never going to go away, this fight, is it? With all the evidence this guy—incredible work, Bugliosi‘s put together. PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree and I agree with you. I think there is probably a significant—a fourth or a third of the country is never going to believe that John F. Kennedy was not killed by a conspiracy. MATTHEWS: It had to be a right-winger? BUCHANAN: They say the CIA and Mafia, Mafia, CIA. It goes to the government. That movie did a lot to do that, the Garrison movie.

MATTHEWS: Well that was totally irresponsible. What do you think, Bob Herbert, are we ever going to get a consensus that this guy, this loser did it?

BOB HERBERT, “The NEW YORK TIMES”: No. I agree with you as well, Chris. I think it was a loan gunman. I think people think that this was such an immense tragedy, which it was, that they just don‘t want to believe that one nut like this guy Oswald could have caused this. So they conjure up conspiracies, and it‘s always going to be that way. MATTHEWS: Unfortunately, most of our history, Malcolm X, what‘s his name, the guy who was head of the Nazi party—


MATTHEWS: All these guys get gunned down by one --

BUCHANAN: Lincoln was killed by a conspiracy.

MATTHEWS: That was a conspiracy, but Garfield and McKinley and—these Puerto Rican nationalists tried to shoot Truman. Somebody almost killed Teddy Roosevelt. Somebody almost killed Franklin Roosevelt.


The members :
Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States;
U.S. Senators Richard B. Russell Democrat from Georgia
John Sherman Cooper Republican from Kentucky
U.S. Representatives Hale Boggs Democrat from Louisiana
Gerald R. Ford Republican from Michigan
Allen W. Dulles, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and
John J. McCloy, former president of the World Bank.

Former U.S. Solicitor General James Lee Rankin general counsel
and 14 assistant counsels, also an additional staff of 12.
The proceedings began Dec. 3, 1963 , the final report was delivered
to the President Johnson on Sept. 24, 1964.

Despite this public assertion, JFK assassination expert Anthony Summers emphasizes most of the commission's seven members had private doubts about the theory: "John McCloy had difficulty accepting it. Congressman Hale Boggs had ‘strong doubts.' Senator John Sherman Cooper was, he told me (Summers) in 1978, ‘unconvinced.' . . . On a recently released tape, held at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, (Sen. Richard) Russell is heard telling President Johnson, ‘I don't believe it.' And Johnson responds, ‘I don't either.'"

17 Doubts about the Warren Commission's findings were not restricted to ordinary Americans. Well before 1978, President Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and four of the seven members of the Warren Commission all articulated, if sometimes off the record, some level of skepticism about the Commission's basic findings.

Documents recently uncovered in the University of Georgia Library show that Richard Russell, the only Georgian on the Warren Commission, had grave doubts about key aspects of the Warren Report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy but kept silent about his reservations for two years. These documents, located by a university student doing research on the JFK assassination, also reveal that Russell, apparently disgusted with Warren Commission procedures, prepared but never sent a letter resigning from the Commission three months after JFK's death.