The Kennedy Detail
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Kennedy Detail Reader's Review

Different "Kennedy" Book

R. R. Costas Jr. (San Francisco, CA United States)
I really enjoyed this book. I am by no means a conspiracy junkie, but I am aware of the conspiracies out there, read at least one conspiracy book and I am aware of some of the flaws of the Warren Commission Report. However, I almost specifically bought this book because it wasn't meant to explain the assassination away or to pass judgement on the Warren Commission or the conspiracy theories. Only at the end does the author (Blaine) give his opinion on some of the conspiracy theories and what he perceived to be some attacks on the integrity of the Secret Service men that he knew better than anyone who's written a book on the assassination. It didn't seem excessive to me and it was well within his rights.
Neither did I care to find out about JFK's secret dalliances with any number of women. I'm of the school that that is nobody's business but his and his wife and if the book deviated into that topic as well as all the conspiracy theories, it'd be much longer than the 400 pages it turned out to be. You can find tons of other books and blogs about either of those topics elsewhere.

I bought the book because I thought it'd be really interesting to know more about the Secret Service detail in those days and, in particular, to read accounts of the assassination from people who were there in the moment and whose job was to prevent such a thing from happening. I had not been privy to a lot of this information from one source. I thought the book gave a fascinating look at the job of a White House Secret Service Detail, not only safeguarding the President, but also his wife and his children. Compared to what we see today, and I'm sure due in large part due to the Kennedy assassination, it seemed an incredibly simplistic and arcane way to protect the most powerful man in the world. But it was what it was and the Secret Service was not properly funded by Congress at that time.

I think the book also shows to many of us why the Kennedy assassination was such a transforming event for the nation. It does show to those of us who have no recollection of that administration, why the Kennedys gave the country such a good feeling of optimism. They simply seemed to be very decent people all around, imperfections and all, and it showed in the way they treated their Secret Service detail, generating an intense loyalty on the part of the agents. As the agents testify during the book, Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson were not quite as "personal" in their dealings with the detail. Not that they tried any less hard to protect those and every other president, but the genuine affection they had for the Kennedys was palpable.

It was interesting to learn about the agents, but also about the advance work that had to be done in preparation for any presidential trip and how the president also determines how much risk he's willing to take. Kennedy, more than Eisenhower or Johnson, seemed to have an inability to help himself when it came to greeting crowds. This, of course, generated more alarm and concern for the agents but it was the president's prerogative. JFK also preferred to remove the limos' tops pretty much as long as it wasn't raining. To him, it was important for the people to see as much of him as possible in order to generate more voter support. This was also the first time I learned that it was the president who specifically asked (in Tampa) the Secret Service to not have agents riding directly on the back of the limo, for the same purpose of visibility and connection to the crowds. It wasn't some conspirator within the service who made that decision.

The events leading up to and through the assassination were interesting to the extreme. If you know enough about the conspiracy theory there is information here on some of the better known aspects of these theories, but they are mentioned as facts and not with a view to debunk any theories. Examples are the finding of the "magic bullet", the number of shots the agents claim they heard, the car slowing down during the shooting, the positioning of the head wound as reported by agents and doctors versus what others state and the decision to switch caskets and performing the autopsy in Bethesda Naval Hospital instead of in Dallas, as the law dictated.

Particularly heartbreaking is the story of Agent Clint Hill, whose true responsibility was Mrs. Kennedy, but who is the agent we all see in the film of the shooting jumping onto the limo and shoving Mrs. Kennedy back into the car. The poor man, along with the rest of the detail, was traumatize for years and you should watch the 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace that he did in 1975 and which is described in the book. It is impossible not to feel for this man.

Some passages or chapters seemed a little lengthy or unnecessary and that's the reason I didn't give 5 stars. For new information, interesting stories, non-judgmental story-telling and a different perspective on the tragedy, I'd give it the highest ranking.

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