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Depending on your vantage point - maybe great read, maybe not !!!!
on November 4, 2010
I am ambivalent about the Kennedy Detail. This review was ready to go a week ago, and frankly I did not want to send it in. I have written 100 plus reviews and this is the first time I experienced this feeling.
If you are new to an understanding of the Kennedy Assassination, or the Kennedy Administration then I would tell you that you should absolutely read this book, and you will LOVE it. You will have an understanding of the adoration felt by the Secret Service agents who guarded him, as well as the American people who voted for this extraordinary man. I say extraordinary because there is no question he had a charisma which very few people possess. The manner of his death left an indelible impression on anyone who was intellectually alive at the time, and elevated him to an exalted status that he would never have obtained, had he lived. This is no different than the effect of FDR's death on America in April of 1945, or Lincoln's in April of 1865.
Now this book, "The Kennedy Detail" comes along and promises to tell us about JFK's Secret Service Agents breaking their silence. The book has a strange narrative to it. It is written by Gerald Blaine with Lisa McCubbin. Gerald Blaine was a Special Agent in the Secret Service assigned to the White House detail that guarded John Kennedy. Lisa McCubbin is a journalist that has been associated with three major television news networks. She is obviously writing the book for Blaine, but oddly enough the book is completely written in the third person. It is not Gerald Blaine's voice we are hearing. For me, this was a problem.
My real problems with the book were two fold.
PROBLEM NUMBER 1
We all understand that President Kennedy was a flawed man. Whether it was the issue of his flagrant womanizing, or any other inappropriate behavior, the Secret Service would have had to be completely aware of it, and or complicit to it. There is not a single word about individuals such as Marilyn Monroe, Judith Exner, Mary Meyer or any other liaison that all of us are aware of, and history recognizes to be true. Now this is perfectly respectable, because the Secret Service relationship to its President should be as a lawyer is to a client, one of confidentiality.
Now having said that, I believe at the very least that the authors should have issued a disclaimer stating that many allegations were made about President Kennedy and his personal behavior. The authors will not confirm or deny the validity of these stories. Instead the authors choose to portray a fairy tale type existence inside the White House. I simply find it less than honest, and in fact hurtful to historical accuracy. It is a disservice to the record, and not forgivable. It is fraudulent, and phony.
It would have still been all right except there are a series of photographs following page 140. On the top of the 9th page of the photographs there's a great one of JFK looking down at Marilyn Monroe's breasts on the night of his birthday party at Madison Square Garden, May 19th, 1962. If you are going to include the photograph, now you have an obligation to tell the story.
PROBLEM NUMBER 2
The authors are completely sympathetic towards the Warren Commission interpretation of the assassination. I have a problem with this attitude. I feel much stronger about this than I will express here. We must remember that President Johnson within hours of the Assassination felt the Secret Service was incompetent according to tapes of LBJ's conversation, and talked to J. Edgar Hoover about having the FBI take over Presidential protection. There is no disagreement on this point.
Second, Lyndon Johnson and other members of the Warren Commission including Robert Kennedy himself did not believe the lone assassin theory. Please check Arthur Schlesinger and Walter Sheridan who worked for Bobby Kennedy at the Justice department on the historical record. Why does Blaine find it necessary to frankly shove it down the reader's throat about the lone assassain theory? I would remind Mr. Blaine that the President's Lincoln Continental that he died in was a crime scene. Secret Service agents are not crime scene experts, but any crime scene detective would tell you that the first rule or procedure in a crime scene is to PRESERVE THE CRIME SCENE.
The Presidential vehicle was basically ripped apart and destroyed and reconstructed. A partial cleaning occurred at the hospital in Dallas The evidence was gone forever. Who in their right mind would have ordered such a thing? In the next five years, some 4 million assassination related documents will be released relevant to the death of JFK and we may finally get to the bottom of this terrible crime against our country.
One final point is that I resent that at different times in the book, the Secret Service wants to make us aware that President Kennedy did not want the Secret Service physically blocking him from the voters during a motorcade. When I have stood in Dealey Plaza, I realized that anybody could have pulled a handgun and shot 5 feet into the car and killed this man. He was WIDE OPEN, and this is unforgivable.
What I LIKED about this book:
This is the finest book ever written about the Secret Service or the President's protection. Nothing comes close and I have seen everything. If you want to understand how the President is protected, this is the book for you. If you want to know how Secret Service protection differs today from what it was like back then in the 1960's, there is no better way to find out than through this book. The difference is like night and day. You need to understand practices and procedures back then, to understand what they are like today.
What you will realize is that these agents are highly professional, dedicated men, who swear an oath to place their bodies in the line of fire between those they protect, and those who seek to do harm. One has to have tremendous respect for these agents. Now having said that, there is a difference between those who protected FDR, Truman, Kennedy, and all those who came later. The organization has moved from a 3 or 4 car motorcade to a 50 to 54 car motorcade. Overworked agents who did consecutive multiple shifts with a commensurate decrease in their capacity to function were a norm back then. Now there is an abundance of agents protecting POTUS.
Overall protection for the President including costs of Air Force One, and Marine One approaches several hundred million dollars per year. This estimate is in the public area, and will not be verified by the Secret Service. The dollars spent is even shielded from Congress through budgetary hocus pocus. JFK had 30 to 40 Secret Service agents assigned to his detail - that's it. Heads of many American corporations routinely have a 24 man protection detail which includes 8 men per 8 hour shift. The rap star P. Diddy spends $30,000 per day on protection. Today Secret Service protection is exponentially bigger than back then. It's a different world.
Read this book to understand the workings of Presidential protection in the old days, and a less than honest understanding of who is responsible for the death of a President that only the voters of the United States had a right to remove from office. There are distortions, deletions, and misstatement of facts in this book, but I would read it anyway. You simply have to decide for yourself what is true and what is not true. Thank you for reading this review.
Richard C. Stoyeck