521 of 619 people found the following review helpful
Depending on your vantage point - maybe great read, maybe not !!!!,
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This review is from: The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence (Hardcover)
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
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Showing 1-10 of 104 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 6, 2010 1:19:24 PM PDT
Edward Lopez says:
I appreciate Richard's review. I don't know if it's in the book, which I'm not going to read based on Richard's review, but when one sees the various footage from the available films one can see the Secret Service agents when they are told, or seem to be told, to get off the president's cars running boards (sides and back), are not happy with that decision and you can see them throwing up their arms in "disgust". I don't think this was a presidential decision which makes the decision questionable since an agent on the rear running board or platform would have blocked a rear-fired bullet(s). Thanks Richard.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 8, 2010 7:02:08 AM PST
Richard, did you read the entire book? The Marilyn Monroe rumors are refuted on page 401
Posted on Nov 12, 2010 2:41:24 PM PST
Amazon Customer says:
Have you read RECLAIMING HISTORY by Vincent Bugliosi or CASE CLOSED by Posner?
Both of these make a conclusive case of a single assassin Lee Harvey Oswald firing the shots that killed JFK.
Posted on Nov 14, 2010 8:12:33 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 14, 2010 8:31:23 PM PST
I understand your distress concerning President Kennedy being vulnerable in an open motorcade but, it was a different time as difficult as that is to believe. Kennedy refused to use the Bubble Top on his car. He was a people person much to his detriment. In l964, I watched President Johnson ride through a shopping mall after having made a campaign speech. He was riding in a convertible, top down, and he was sitting on top of the back seat, leaning over the side, touching the hands of the crowd. He was chastising the Secret Service agents for getting between him and his people. I felt badly for them. It was a tough job. In 1968, in the same open air shopping center, I listened to candidate Bobby Kennedy. The crowd was huge! Where was he gunned down? He was shot in a hotel kitchen after winning the California Primary. You just never know. Even today I wonder if our President, any President separates himself from the throngs, will we call him aloof or applaud the common sense in protecting him from the unknown.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2010 6:22:31 AM PST
Aj S. Langford says:
Richard's revue cannot put anyone who is truly interested off reading this book. Why o why do these people demand warts and all books. JFK was great and the Secret Service is a great organisation. End of.
Posted on Nov 21, 2010 6:06:53 AM PST
Andrew W. Hagen says:
It's important to recall that police procedures in 1963 were very different than those of today. The notion of "preserving the evidence" back then was primitive compared to now.
Posted on Nov 22, 2010 4:06:36 AM PST
Rocco B. Rubino says:
Richard, you are a great American. I loved your review and would be inclined to give this book a chance based upon your commentary. Great work.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 22, 2010 11:54:44 AM PST
Diane C. Kulik says:
I agree that the Secret Service is a great organization. But JFK was a flawed man; he was not the idol he became upon his death. I don't believe his administration would have been looked on so kindly had he served out his term. JFK fought Congress every step of the way and his programs were mostly passed at the insistence of LBJ as as a tribute to a fallen President. Not warts and all - just the truth.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 23, 2010 5:05:40 PM PST
Neither of those prove anything. I like Bugliosi, but his conclusions are not valid. He basically says things like "Well, this is ridiculous, so obviously not true". Not convincing.
Posted on Dec 2, 2010 5:06:29 PM PST
Gordon Conaway says:
Thank you for the extensive and helpful review, but I must critique one point. You claim under Problem #2 that "Robert Kennedy himself did not believe the lone assassin theory" of the Warren Commission. In fact, both Robert and Edward Kennedy did endorse the view of the Commission. Edward personally met with Chief Justice Warren around the time of the commission's findings in order to discuss the findings to Kennedy's satisfaction. Edward writes in his autobiography True Compass, which I have just finished, that he was satisfied with the findings and related this to Bobby, who did not wish to read the report himself; and that the findings were good enough for himself, Edward, as well as his brother Bobby.