Joseph Cotto, 11/25/2014 [Archive]

Death of a President

By Joseph Cotto

Last week marked the fifty-first anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. People are still discussing the how and why of his death.

The Warren Commission seems to have answered fewer and fewer questions as time rolled on. Today, the Commission is held in low regard by many respected academics and conspiracy theorists alike.

Some say that Kennedy was murdered by a Fidel Castro-backed hit team. Others claim Kennedy aggravated American intelligentsia so much that its leading members conspired to destroy him. Yet more believe his successor, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, had something to do with the execution.

It has even been claimed that Kennedy was killed by accident. That would really cast a damper on Commission devotees and conspiracy theorists alike.

Not long after Johnson completed his final term in 1969, he was interviewed by CBS News legend Walter Cronkite. Kennedy's death ultimately entered the conversation. Johnson asked that certain words of his not be aired, and they weren't until several years later.

Considering these words, one can see why.

Johnson: "I can't honestly say that I've ever been completely relieved of the fact that there might have been international connections."

Cronkite: "You mean you still feel that there might, might have been?"

Johnson: "Well, I have not completely discounted."

Cronkite: "Well, that would seem to indicate that you don't have full confidence in the Warren Commission report."

Johnson: "No, no. I think the Warren Commission study and — I think, first of all, it was composed of the ablest, most judicious, bipartisan men in this country. Second, I think they only had one objective and that was the truth. Third, I think they were competent and did the best they could, but I don't think that they or me or anyone else is always, absolutely sure of every thing that might have motivated Oswald or others that could have been involved."

Whatever the case might be, this much is for certain: Lots of witnesses to the Kennedy slaying died under mysterious circumstances in a short period of time. Officially, these deaths are unrelated; a giant web of coincidences.

In 1973, a very controversial film was released concerning the Kennedy assassination. Despite featuring Burt Lancaster and other notables, the Hollywood establishment avoided it like the plague. Titled Executive Action, the movie theorized that Kennedy was targeted by a consortium of wealthy businessmen and high-ranking bureaucrats.

Lee Harvey Oswald is not portrayed as the lone gunman, but a troubled young man framed by far more skilled operatives. At the end, something very interesting, and indisputably factual, is mentioned.

Writing for libertarian powerhouse, veteran political number cruncher Richard Charnin explained that The Sunday Times of London enlisted an actuary who "calculated the odds of 18 material witnesses dying within three years of the JFK assassination. as 1 in 100,000 TRILLION. Assuming the data and calculation methodology were essentially correct, then it was clear proof of a conspiracy and refuted the Warren Commission conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin."

Charnin proceeded to elaborate on his own wide-ranging study which "indicates that the calculation was essentially correct".

Above all else, it stands that there is no clear explanation or motivation for why Kennedy was murdered. The number of plausible theories floating around prove this beyond the shadow of a doubt.

What seems certain is that the world will never know the absolute truth. In an odd sort of way, this might be for the best. Who knows about the names behind Kennedy's demise? If the public learned, then images of beloved, and surely long gone, national heroes may be sullied forever.

The aesthetically pleasing distortions of our time would morph into an ugly, accurate portrait of power gone mad.

Accepting a story that rests on one-in-100,000 trillion odds is the price for peace of mind.


Copyright 2014 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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