The Kennedy Detail by Gerald Blaine with Lisa McCubbin (A book review)
Subtitled JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence, the book, available tomorrow, is the first to be written by a member of JFK’s security detail—and to have the involvement /endorsement of other agents, including Clint Hill (who contributes an introduction).
Blaine, along with award-winning journalist McCubbin, takes readers inside the Kennedy White House, and offers a new perspective on the days leading up to, and following, the tragic events of November 22, 1963. While many might be tempted to read the book out of prurient interest, they will not find a sensationalized account of Kennedy, in life or death. Rather, they will come to know the personalities that made up these larger-than-life public figures. They will also come away with a portrait of an agency that suffered an all too common plight: workers that were overworked, underpaid, and poorly equipped.
While the after-effects of the assassination have been chronicled endlessly, seldom have the accounts come from individuals who were so close to the people involved, and to the events themselves. At its core, The Kennedy Detail is a portrayal of profound grief recalled by those who were in the line of fire—and who have had to live with the knowledge that they failed in their mission to protect the President. Particularly powerful is the story of Clint Hill, Special Agent in Charge of Mrs. Kennedy’s security detail, who was officially recognized for his act of heroism but spent the next few decades drowning his “What if?” questions in alcohol.
Blaine & Co. also address an oft debated topic of contention: Kennedy’s role in his own protection. While many have taken the Secret Service to task for providing inadequate, sluggish, or even neglectful care of Kennedy on the day in question, the author maintains that JFK, though aware of the risks, was insistent upon remaining accessible to voters—and that he often ordered his agents to stand down. Further obscuring the record was an order from Secret Service Chief James Rowley barring agents from discussing Kennedy’s preferences for fear that the public might place some accountability for the assassination on the President himself.
Though students of the assassination tend to be either pro or anti-conspiracy, this book should be of interest to both camps. While Blaine strongly supports the Oswald-as-lone-assassin conclusion (a contention that HBE strongly disagrees with), that is not the central focus of the book. Rather, its aim is to lift the shroud of secrecy that has plagued the agency for nearly five decades. While some readers will take issue with certain of the author’s opinions, they should also appreciate the unique point of view that separates this account from the thousands of others that have come before it.