JFK assassination: Who gained?

Andy Ford reviews The Dark Side of Lyndon Baines Johnson by Joachim Joesten

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Kennedy we will again see endless discussion of the grassy knoll, Lee Harvey Oswald’s multiple identities and the cine-film of the event made by Abraham Zapruder. In the words of one author it is an endless regression of claim and counter-claim.

But there is a much simpler way to look at the assassination, ask Cui Bono? (Who benefited?). Joachim Joesten was one of the first to examine the assassination’s mystery from this perspective.

In referenced detail Joesten firstly describes how Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) seemingly got into the senate through fraud in the 1948 Texas election.

LBJ used the help of a local political boss and convicted criminal, George Parr, who controlled impoverished Mexicans’ votes in some of the state’s border counties. The votes recorded there were an improbable 10,547 for LBJ to a mere 368 for his opponent. This was sufficient to clinch Johnson’s election by 87 votes out of a million cast, although after confrontations, destroyed evidence and suspect court cases.

Immense wealth

Joesten shows the roots of Johnson’s immense wealth, his close links with right-wing Texan oil interests and the mysterious machinations leading to him being offered, and accepting, the vice-presidential slot on the President Kennedy (JFK) ticket at the Los Angeles Democratic Party convention, despite the Johnson camp’s vitriolic attacks on Kennedy’s politics and character.

Johnson’s wealth (he was the richest president ever at that time) was based on a monopoly of TV coverage and advertising in Austin, Texas, a monopoly protected by the regulator, the Federal Communications Commission.

A political opponent sardonically said that Johnson must be the “greatest businessman ever” to amass a personal fortune of $14 million while on the public payroll. Much of Johnson’s election funding came from Texan aviation interests – and Johnson switched the space programme, which at one time consumed up to 5% of US GDP – from California to Houston, Texas.

The biggest scandal was the Bobby Baker case, still on-going at the time of JFK’s assassination. Baker, an early LBJ protégé, was official Secretary to the Majority leader, while his wife worked in the office of the Senate’s internal security.

This might be why LBJ was told that Baker ‘knew where the bodies are buried’, although one of LBJ’s aides called him an “unabashed lackey, a bootlicker.” He was so influential, he was called the ‘101st Senator’.

Baker seems to have been running interlinking scams – lobbying, alterations to legislation, appointments to Senate committees, stock tips, junkets and prostitution – with consequent blackmail.

He made a fortune from controlling a vending machine firm that got preferential access to defence bases and other government facilities. Baker’s ‘business dealings’ seemed to have more than its share of mysterious deaths and suicides, and the firm had at least some association with the Mafia.

The most explosive part of Baker’s web was his provision of call girls to senators and lobbyists in reward for their services rendered; but then in a special twist, to blackmail them for further corrupt favours and influence. Baker even seems to have helped set up ‘party houses’ in Washington suburbs to pursue this strategy.

The investigation into all this was in full swing when Kennedy was gunned down. Subsequently, as Vice-President LBJ emerged as President, the investigation flagged, back pedalled and whitewashed, and the full facts, especially those connecting Bobby Baker to LBJ, never came out.

The Dark Side of Lyndon Baines Johnson lifts the lid on the ‘Great Society’ and US democracy at the height of the post-war boom. American capitalism was intertwined with the state at all levels, and the corrupt network of lobbyists this spawned was the link between big business and politicians, with a dose of organised crime along the way.

Lyndon Johnson was perhaps the leader of this ‘Lobbyland’ and when we ask – “Who benefited?” – it was most probably LBJ, Bobby Baker and the interests they championed in Washington – the mafia, aviation corporations, and the oil industry and its right-wing owners.

A good read, it costs £2.71 on Kindle and £10 as a book.