Conspiracy Theories

President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963
President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 (AP)

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Reviewed by Jefferson Morley
Sunday, November 27, 2005

ULTIMATE SACRIFICE

John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK

By Lamar Waldron with Thom Hartmann

Carroll & Graf. 912 pp. $33

A FAREWELL TO JUSTICE

Jim Garrison, JFK's Assassination, and the Case That Should Have Changed History

By Joan Mellen

Potomac. 547 pp. $29.95

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy remains the great unsolved mystery of American politics. With dozens of books in print on the subject, the case of the murdered commander in chief now seems to attract more interest from the publishing industry than from journalists or historians.

The fascination with a shocking crime is not hard to understand. On Nov. 22, 1963, the president was shot in the head during a motorcade through Dallas. Police arrested an ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald, who proclaimed himself a "patsy." Two days later, a Dallas strip-club owner, Jack Ruby, shot Oswald dead on national TV. Not until the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, would the American people experience such a bewildering, sudden and painful loss.

Why official Washington has seemingly lost interest in the story in recent years is harder, though not impossible, to figure out. The JFK story remains an enduring symbol of popular mistrust. Public confidence in the federal government was somewhere near its high-water mark in 1964, the year the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald, for no discernible motive, killed Kennedy alone and unaided. Confidence declined steadily over the next three decades. Rejection of the Warren report was not the only or even primary cause of that decline (think of Vietnam and Watergate), merely a vivid indicator.


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