And How Robert Caro Missed LBJ’s End Run Around JFK’s Rejection
After attempting to get President Kennedy to officially assign him oversight responsibility of “all national security issues” — and failing in that audacious act — Johnson set out to achieve the same result using his innately brazen guile. Documents within his own “LBJ Library” provide a window into how he went about doing this, behind JFK’s back.
Robert Caro, in his book The Passage of Power, described Johnson’s attempt to achieve his goal of being the first vice president to ever wield real power; it was as if LBJ had planned all along to prove his favorite dictum: “Power is where power goes.” Though Mr. Caro used that phrase as the title of the chapter where he recounted a number of illustrations of how LBJ demonstrated his ability to leverage his nominal power in his various political positions to aggregate even more of it, Mr. Caro nevertheless missed some of the most brazen examples.
In one such instance, he did cite the failed attempt by Johnson, in the first week after the inauguration, to get President Kennedy to cede unprecedented power to him, and how that was summarily rejected by JFK. Ironically, it appears as though Mr. Caro, despite the magnitude of Johnson’s insubordinate act — which left his aides George Reedy and Jim Rowe “flabbergasted … the most presumptuous document any Vice President had ever sent to his President”  — was not aware of the fact that the rebuffed Johnson then went around his back in a secret power grab that successfully gave him essentially the same level of power on an ad-hoc basis.
In describing the first, failed attempt, Caro explained that upon taking office as the vice president Johnson wrote a draft copy of an executive order granting himself power over the Pentagon, the CIA and the NSA, in fact all agencies related to national security matters. The proposed executive order was prepared such that it was all ready for the President’s signature when Johnson sent it to him.
But President Kennedy ignored it, responding to Johnson on January 28th without reference to his defiance, undoubtedly surprised by his V.P.’s audacity and a bit miffed by his brazenness. Instead, he merely authorized Johnson to “review policies relating to the national security,” as Caro put it, “a meaningless phrase that conferred no power at all.” [Ibid].
Despite Caro’s attempt to find the original document, for obvious reasons, someone (mysteriously unknown, but obviously a very powerful and devious person in a position to do so subsequent to JFK’s passing) decided long ago that it would not be made available for future researchers. Nevertheless, Caro did describe it according to people who had seen the original — and multiple revised drafts of it before it was finally sent to President Kennedy — along with Caro’s conclusion that “no executive order bearing on the Vice President and national security was ever issued.”
The Maintenance of Robert Caro’s Incredible Credentials
Mr. Caro has gone to considerable lengths to establish his credentials as the preeminent biographer of Lyndon Johnson and curator of some of the most obscure facts of LBJ’s long political history — from his earliest years through high school, college and working as a congressional aide, then congressman, senator, vice president and president.
To illustrate the emphasis he puts on this:
- In a recent article he wrote for The New Yorker magazine, Caro recalled that in his first job as a newspaper reporter for Newsday in 1959, he had been admonished by the senior editor to always “Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddam page.”
- In a April 21, 2019 article “The more facts you collect, the closer you come to the truth” in the UK newspaper The Guardian by Rachel Cooke, Mr. Caro was interviewed by her. She chose as the title a quotation from him which suggests that his obsession is ferreting out every truthful detail of LBJ’s career, which he has now personally discovered, analyzed, documented and published. 
Yet despite his stellar reputation, there are some facts, and closely-associated persons, which (who) do not appear in his narrative. The Johnson-initiated “executive order” summarized above will be further examined below as an exemplar of that point: Because nowhere in Caro’s writings has he revealed how Johnson actually went behind JFK’s back to secretly countermand his decision.
In what can only be described as the most arrogantly insubordinate acts of any vice president in history (comparable only to an act by Secretary of State William Seward to attempt to become as powerful as a Prime Minister that would have reduced President Lincoln’s role to that of a figurehead akin to the Queen of England) Lyndon Johnson — having failed in his attempt to dupe Kennedy into delegating to himself control over military and intelligence matters — secretly arrogated to himself the same power, despite the absence of an executive order to officially convey it.
Thanks to the research of the intrepid journalist/publisher Thomas H. Lipscomb, who provided me with documents from the LBJ Library related to Johnson’s appointment of Air Force Colonel Howard L. Burris to be his military attache’, we gain insight into how LBJ created his “backchannels” to the Pentagon and CIA that other researchers have long noted. Many of them agree that Burris was involved in Johnson’s most malevolent machinations, including the assassination of JFK. In fact one of the most knowledgeable, experienced and widely known JFK researchers, Edgar F. Tatro, confirmed that point to me in an email, stating that “Burris is a major player in the JFK conspiracy.” Yet, having been protected throughout his career by secrecy protocols and secure military files, Col. Howard Burris remains as one of the most enigmatic of the figures known to have been involved.
Mr. Caro noted Burris’ general role as Johnson’s military aide, but the incidents he cites generally relate to Burris’ observations about Johnson and their interactions in mundane peripheral matters. In my own books, I have explored certain instances of his appearances in critical places at strategically interesting times. Johnson had, for example, requested Col. Burris to meet the presidential party at the LBJ Ranch on the evening of November 22, 1963, with select copies of ‘Eyes Only’ documents for a meeting at which Johnson supposedly planned a confrontation with JFK on foreign policy issues, Yet, the plausibility of such a meeting, with dozens of people there in a party mood (presumably to celebrate a successful trip
— absent JFK’s murder) would have precluded that. Johnson must have had other contingencies in mind regarding the need for Burris, and secret military documents, to be available to him that evening, possibly relating to a back-up plan had something gone wrong with the plot and its cover-up. Suffice it to say that Burris is an intriguing fellow whose actions and manipulations remain an enigma.
Mr. Lipscomb, the journalist noted above, is intensively engaged into further research on Howard L. Burris that may break new ground on understanding his role in the “Crime of the Century.”
How LBJ’s secret backchannels were developed
The second phase of LBJ’s power ploy began in the month of February shortly after JFK rejected Johnson’s first effort to accomplish his objective with presidential authority. By the end of that month, LBJ’s office issued a press release announcing the Burris appointment late in the day on the last Friday of February, apparently to make it official while minimizing its impact and the number of potential readers. The clipping below thus appeared in morning newspapers on Saturday, February 25, 1961:
Like many of his closest, most-trusted aides (ergo, the most willing sycophants among the many Lyndon Johnson employed) Howard L. Burris Jr. was from Texas. He had known Johnson for decades according to author John M Newman,  although it is unclear when and how they first met, or the circumstances of his appointment to West Point in 1938 (officially, the appointment was made by Congressman Kleberg in his own district, where LBJ worked as the office manager, often impersonating the “playboy congressman”), the year following Johnson’s election to Congress (presumably, the appointment would have been initiated the year before that).
On March 1st., four days after the announcement, Col. Burris sent the following report to his new boss, outlining as a status report, how he had progressed with the action items assigned to him, “[I]n accordance with your instructions.”
As an illustration of what Col. Burris described in the second paragraph of his memo — and the importance which the Pentagon gave to its liaison to the Vice President — the diagram below shows the location of his office, next door to Secretary McNamara’s office. There can be no doubt how high the colonel was placed — arguably, even figuratively higher than the SECDEF himself — given the value having true raw intelligence delivered to LBJ, not the sugar-coated variety being fed to the Secretary and the President, as will be demonstrated below.
While some may argue that this document could be taken to show that Col. Burris was conveying a description of arrangements that emanated from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), thus power directed from them, that can’t easily be reconciled with the first sentences of paragraphs #1 and #3, which clearly state that Burris is reporting back to the Vice President that his instructions have been fulfilled.
That all the arrangements listed by Col. Burris were described as being in accordance with specific instructions as dictated by Vice President Johnson is clear and unmistakable. Burris is merely confirming that he followed those instructions and that now, in the memo, he is reporting back to him in military style that his “instructions” have been fulfilled. This is being conveyed just six weeks after the inauguration, at a time when LBJ had just been “stiffed” by JFK regarding his request to be put in charge of the Pentagon and Intelligence agencies — in fact, ALL departments and agencies “concerned with national defense”. It should also be obvious that there was no one on the JCS who came close to Lyndon Johnson (inventor of the “Johnson Treatment” described in many books, including my own) in the skills of a master manipulator, of people and events.
Thus, the memo proves conclusively how Lyndon Johnson quickly maneuvered Col. Burris into being his primary contact into both the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, certainly with the acceptance of the JCS. It’s all in the third paragraph: He wants to keep Burris’s role “under the radar” so that he will remain his own personal secret agent. It also explains why JFK had no idea that LBJ had this secret “back channel” into all those military and intelligence agencies.
The Burris appointment soon provided Johnson direct input/output lines into the Pentagon, the DIA, the CIA and the NSA, that provided him access to the rawest forms of intelligence — thus enabling his personal influence as well — the entire military and intelligence facilities of the federal government. Throughout the JFK administration, Vice President Johnson had greater access to military and intelligence information than that provided to President Kennedy. This point is not merely based upon this author’s intangible analysis of this single document (of which Robert Caro is, evidently, unaware) that shows the methods by which LBJ had achieved his objective, through subterfuge, when his efforts to have President Kennedy make them official failed. Such esteemed researcher-authors as John M. Newman and Peter Dale Scott have described the eventual, very tangible, results: 
“By March 1962 the Vice-President was being regularly informed of what was being withheld from the President. A back channel had been established whereby ‘the boys in the woodwork’ were feeding [Col. Howard] Burris and Johnson a steady stream of accurate Vietnam intelligence reports which were denied to the President. With what [John M.] Newman calls deception and subterfuge, the U.S. military MACV Intelligence Chief in Saigon [like Burris an Air Force colonel] prepared one series of false and optimistic intelligence reports, which were delivered to McNamara and the President and helped ensure their ongoing support for the war. Meanwhile, U.S. Army Intelligence in Honolulu kept producing a second series of reports, more accurate and gloomy. These were denied to the President and McNamara, but supplied by a secret intelligence back channel to Vice-President Johnson. Newman calls this duplicitous intelligence relationship with the Vice-President ‘one of the great mysteries of the Vietnam War during the Kennedy years’.”
The “great mystery” referenced by John Newman and noted by Peter Dale Scott twenty-six years ago — when considered in the context of how Johnson had manipulated himself into a position of much greater power vis-à-vis the military and intelligence agencies than President Kennedy’s — is not so mysterious now.
Other instances of Robert Caro’s neglect of key facts and LBJ associates ignored
Despite Mr. Caro’s stated tenets, of “turning every page,” and collecting as many facts as possible, in order to get “closer to the truth,” there are troubling indications that he has been somewhat inconsistent in meeting his own standards, such that one must ponder this much-too-obvious question: Has he possibly chosen to ignore certain facts when they do not conform to a given narrative?
The Burris memorandum refers to the fact that “Cliff” [Carter] and his assistant “Juanita” had been officially added to the Army payroll, though detailed to Johnson’s office. While this sounds like just another attempt by Johnson to minimize his own expense budget by having another bureaucracy show it on theirs, the much more important objective for Johnson was that he would have wanted all of his “black bag / wet job” operators off his list of employees and on someone else’s to provide him “deniability” that he had any connection with them. (In Malcolm Wallace’s case, he had been put onto the payroll of LTV — a defense contractor ordinarily under strict security guidelines).
It is possible that Caro was distracted by something else on the day that he perused the box into which the above memorandum had been placed. But another, alternate, possibility is that the questions raised by the general subject of Johnson’s maneuver, the fact that it came from Col. Burris, and all of it being juxtaposed to one of Lyndon Johnson’s highest level, most secretive aides, Cliff Carter, creates more questions than answers. It is well established that Carter, another loyal Texan, managed the activities of still another, most-loyal Texan named Malcolm (Mac) Wallace (both of whom are described in considerable detail in my “Mastermind” and “Colossus” books). Did that combination ring too many alarm bells?
Suffice it to state that, for our purposes here, Mac Wallace was convicted of “Murder with Malice Aforethought” (i.e. 1st. Degree) of Doug Kinser in 1951, and, thanks to Johnson’s political muscle, only sentenced to five years in prison, which was immediately suspended and his record cleansed at the end of his 5-year parole. He then became a “made-man” for Johnson, with an implicit license to kill, and did just that, on many occasions as described in my “Mastermind” and “Colossus” books. Thanks again to his boss, Wallace was able to access military jets [to keep his name off commercial flights] to conduct his hitman duties.
In addition to Cliff Carter and Malcolm Wallace, there were a number of other instances where Mr. Caro’s works have omitted facts which (or persons who) did not conform to his narrative of a guiltless cowboy politician who diligently worked his way up the government ladder to the office of the president. Missing from any of Mr. Caro’s four books in this series is the name Billie Sol Estes, which was ubiquitous throughout the spring, summer and fall of 1962, in practically every newspaper, news magazine and television / radio news programs, all driven by his close association / partnership in crime with Lyndon Johnson.
Is it possible that any book of historic facts regarding Lyndon Johnson could be considered complete without any trace of that name? Curiously, and for inexplicable reasons, the Estes name is missing from numerous other books about Johnson by lesser-known authors as well as such other luminaries as Eric Goldman and Doris Kearns. Although Robert Dallek noted it, after a few paragraphs he flushed it away with the sweeping observation that Estes was, after all, found guilty of fraud and sent to prison and therefore wasn’t “credible,” (just as LBJ had planned), ignoring the elephant in the room: If Estes was unworthy of comment, how did he reconcile writing an entire book (Flawed Giant) about Estes’ partner-in-crime?
Is it possible that Caro’s books, and the numerous others, ignore the Estes name because of the many names also associated with him and the Texas axis of the assassination conspiracy? By excluding Estes, authors automatically have the pretext to overlook the people associated with him who wound up dead, their cases never solved. That list included men who were named in my own books, such as Henry Marshall, Harold Orr, Howard Pratt, Coleman Wade and Ike Rogers, all associated with Billie Sol Estes and all of whom were mysteriously murdered in 1961-62. (These murders were among several others which were never solved, as I examined in detail in my first book, “LBJ The Mastermind . . .”)
Other names of people not referenced by Caro, but who had been widely acknowledged as being associated with Lyndon Johnson, include his long-term mistress, Madeleine Brown, with whom he fathered a son, and the aforementioned Malcolm Wallace, a close aide and his personal hitman, according to Estes. Even his trusted mole in the federal judiciary, Barefoot Sanders, variously serving as U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Texas in the early 1960s, then at the Department of Justice in Washington in the late 1960s and finally (after Johnson retired, then died) as a federal judge in Dallas into the 1990s. Sanders was still protecting Johnson’s “legacy” in the 1980s until his death in 2007, through his attempts to impede U.S. Marshall Clint Peoples (another victim of a “one car accident” under mysterious circumstances) from his lengthy continuing investigation of Johnson’s numerous crimes, including the JFK assassination. Yet Sanders’ name appears nowhere in Caro’s books. Neither does Clint Peoples’ name.
Col. Burris, as noted above, was cited by Caro in his fourth book, but only for his most benign interfaces with Johnson, none of the more revealing instances of his enigmatic role as one of LBJ’s most effective, albeit secret, assistants. Shortly after JFK’s assassination, he suddenly became a very wealthy man, just as he retired from his military career. He soon became a lobbyist and highly successful oil man with operations in Saudi Arabia, Iran (as facilitated by his friend the Shah), and other countries throughout the world. Even before his retirement, within a month of the assassination, he took a long-term leave and travelled to Germany and Austria, as if to seek relief, rest and recreation in the Alps. There were no indications of great wealth (indeed, far from it) in Burris’s past, yet somehow, working apparently part-time as a lobbyist, he managed to acquire such affluence that he was able to build a palatial estate on 149 acres overlooking the Potomac River. His country estate, in the highly affluent “horse country” of Virginia was called Heritage Gardens, estimated to have cost $15 million in 1968 (Equivalent to $125 million today).
Finally, why did Mr. Caro give a number of other very close associates unusually perfunctory treatment, similar to that given to Howard Burris? These included, for example, his personal lawyer and Texas judicial fixer Ed Clark, his high-level aide/criminal facilitator Cliff Carter, and long-time influence peddler and swindler Bobby Baker. While their most benign actions were duly noted by Caro, their real service to him — that of exploiting governmental resources intended for the public good, but redirected to achieve the most venal personal goals, political gains or financial profits — remains untold, and thus unknown, to his readers.
Robert Caro’s Ultimate Mission: Establishing the Myth of a Guilt-less LBJ?
Robert Caro’s first volume in his LBJ series was a great example of rigorously detailed, honestly reported original research developed into a well-wrought narrative that held readers’ attention — as had no other biographer before or since. Unfortunately, each succeeding book seemed to increasingly lose those iconoclastic qualities of the original, The Path to Power. Though correctly describing many of LBJ’s inherent personality defects and psychic disorders, they missed some of his most heinous criminal, even treasonous, acts. Unfortunately for his “legacy” the fourth book (and last of the series as of this date) has numerous other questionable assertions.
Through omitting any issue — and the related facts, of which Mr. Caro’s statements indicate he embraces — which gets too close to Johnson’s intrinsic criminality, the full and truthful historical record has been abridged. Did Robert Caro’s intentional avoidance of all these names — other than the most benign comments about Burris, Baker, Clark and Carter and others — effectively allow him to stay away from Johnson’s “darker side”?
The most troubling assertion in his last book (The Passage . . .) was his pronouncement that LBJ was an innocent bystander in the Crime of the Century: “. . . unless one believes that he planned or in some way was aware in advance of the assassination (and nowhere in the letters, memoranda and other written documents in the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, the John F. Kennedy Library and the other public and private collections the author has reviewed — and nowhere in the interviews that the author has conducted — has he found facts to support such a theory), he couldn’t have foreseen the unprecedented circumstances under which it actually happened.” 
Mr. Caro’s statement denying that he has ever been given evidence of Johnson’s involvement in the JFK assassination is at odds with known facts: Within my own books is abundant evidence of Lyndon Johnson’s criminal conduct to gain the presidency and after he became president, all obtained from public records or personal testimony or documented within other books, including Caro’s. Furthermore, based upon Douglas Caddy’s (an attorney for Billie Sol Estes who was also indirectly involved with Texas Ranger Clint Peoples during the 1984 grand jury proceedings conducted in Robertson County, Texas) statements, below, he personally communicated such a question to Mr. Caro. Caddy’s reputation for being a soft-spoken, non-flamboyant attorney known for choosing his words carefully, and avoiding hyperbole, imbues great credibility to his testimony. On March 3, 2012, he wrote on the Education Forum the following account of how he personally confronted Mr. Caro on this point:
“When Barr McClellan’s book,[the theme of which was] LBJ Killed JFK, was about to be released in 2003, both Barr and I independently received about a half dozen phone calls from someone who was vitally intent in stopping its publication or limiting its impact. The person who called always remained unidentified and the phone number from which the call was made was later found to be non-existent. In one of the phone conversations with me, the person, in response to my bringing up Robert Caro hopefully covering LBJ’s involvement in [the] JFK assassination, told me that “We are not worried about Caro. He is on board.” I was disappointed to hear this because I took it to mean that Caro may downplay LBJ’s involvement in his forthcoming final volumes on the biography of LBJ.
“In 1985 or 1986, Robert Caro gave an address at the University of Houston on the subject of urban planning. I attended his speech accompanied by my father. After the speech I approached Caro, who was answering questions posed by about half a dozen attendees gathered around him. I decided to pose my own question to him, asking, “Do you plan to cover the role of Mac Wallace in your biography of LBJ?” Caro looked startled and shaken and grabbed me by the lapels of my business suit, saying “Who are you? How can I get in touch with you?” I gave him my business card, which he examined on the spot and pocketed it. However, I never heard anything more from him.”
The juxtaposition of these separate incidents, approximately eighteen (18) years apart, suggests that the outline of the series of Johnson biographies had already begun. The response to Caddy’s question revealed that Caro knew all about Mac Wallace, yet chose to ignore that particular factoid. And that goes to what the anonymous man later told Caddy, “We are not worried about Caro. He is on board.” All of which vindicate the existence of continuing, permanent programs of the “Deep State” to intimidate those who merely wish to find real truths.
The Pattern of “Not Turning Every Page” Continues
Another related instance of accepting Johnson’s statements at face value (over the more credible research by many other authors as detailed below), posited by Mr. Caro in his last book, was the claim that LBJ was first on JFK’s list for the vice presidential nomination. Johnson had told it to a friend who he knew was writing his very first biography, Harry Provence, a newspaper publisher in Waco. Merle Miller spread it further in his 1980 biography, Lyndon, An Oral Biography. Evidently, Caro decided to repeat Johnson’s version (despite his having personally documented LBJ’s high propensity for lying) instead of accepting the facts discovered by first-hand witnesses with no axe to grind.
Several people who were there — Evelyn Lincoln, Clark Clifford, Hyman Raskin, Pierre Salinger and reporter / author Nancy Dickerson — all of whom knew that this claim was untrue, were not referenced by Mr. Caro (Except for Salinger, whose angry reaction to the notion of offering the V.P. slot to Johnson was met with a quick response from RFK that it had to be done, but since he was yelling it through the bathroom door while he was in the bathtub, he therefore didn’t get into the details of why: It was because they had decided to do it anyway because they believed Johnson would never accept it; Caro was, apparently, “fooled” by that incident into believing that Robert was initially in favor of offering it to Johnson even with an expectation that he would willingly accept it).
All five of them agreed essentially with the stories told by Robert Kennedy and Arthur Schlesinger Jr., contradicting the Johnson version that Mr. Caro has embraced. According to them, the truth is that not only was Johnson’s name absent from Kennedy’s short list, it wasn’t even on the “long list” of potential candidates. Thus, Mr. Caro in his latest book, The Passage of Power, devoted forty-four pages (the entire Chapter 4: “The Back Stairs”) to a lengthy argument that John F. Kennedy had long before decided that Lyndon Johnson should be his vice presidential nominee.  Unfortunately, Mr. Caro’s interpretation of this most fundamentally important vignette is built upon a complete set of lies originally verbalized by Johnson himself and written into a mythological record by multiple writers willing to subvert true history.
The key to the real story of how Lyndon Johnson maneuvered himself into the vice presidential nomination was told by the inimitable Clark Clifford in 1991, and his story was completely consistent with the chronicle previously described in 1976 by Nancy Dickerson, a former CBS Television reporter who had been on the scene, reporting it daily, throughout the spring and summer of 1960; it comports as well with the accounts written by Arthur Schlesinger in his books and oral history interviews.
Within the pages of Ms. Dickerson’s 1976 book, Among Those Present: A Reporter’s View of 25 Years in Washington, that piece of information which she recalled from sixteen years earlier is practically screaming off the page: John F. Kennedy not only wanted Stuart Symington to be his vice president on the evening before his nomination was submitted, he was practically begging him to consent to it even weeks before the convention. This account reinforces again what Clark Clifford, who had been in the middle of the negotiations, wrote in his own memoirs: Symington had always been number one on JFK’s list of possible nominees.
According to Dickerson’s account, JFK had met three times with Clark Clifford, who was managing the campaign of Senator Stuart Symington in the weeks before the convention. All three times, Kennedy had made an offer of the vice presidency to Symington; the first two were conditioned upon all Missouri delegates voting for Kennedy on the first ballot and these offers were turned down, presumably because it was felt that that result couldn’t be guaranteed. These documented, contrasting statements were unreferenced, and not rebutted, in Mr. Caro’s account.
Ms. Dickerson said that the third time was at the convention, and there were “no strings attached” to that one, which was accepted by Symington. Dickerson wrote of her interview with Clifford, “he told me, ‘We had a deal signed, sealed and delivered.’” She also stated that she “never dreamed that he was planning to offer the vice presidency to LBJ” because she knew that he had already offered it to Symington and because Johnson “had sworn to me a dozen times . . . that he would never take the vice presidency.” 
Another interesting, but inconsistent, detail between these accounts is that, in stark contrast to what Caro wrote — that JFK managed to avoid all reporters as he left his room, slipped across the hall and descended two floors to reach Johnson’s suite directly below his own — nearly forty years earlier, reporter Dickerson had described how JFK walked through “a throng of reporters, about fifty (50) of them,” as he headed down the stairway to visit Johnson and, as he did, he appeared supremely confident and those reporters gave him a new level of deference as he passed them.  While not germane to the primary point at issue, it does go to the context of how numerous other reporters had been aware of Johnson’s consistent statements that he was not about to accept an offer, though he expected to receive it, since he had been considered as head of the party up to that point.
Nancy Dickerson’s description of that point also touches on the trickery devised by Lyndon Johnson in plotting for his aides to let it be widely known, as a means to increase pressure on Kennedy that, out of due deference, he expected to at least be offered the nomination; though he also let it be known that he would, of course, decline it. In fact, according to Dickerson’s account, she, like the “fifty other reporters outside the [JFK hotel room] door,” said that Johnson had “sworn” that he didn’t want the position and would never accede to it. Meanwhile, in the Kennedy suite, a discussion continued between the family members, their aides and others on the “team” as they debated the question of offering it to Johnson; finally it was decided to do so on the assumption that he would decline it. But when the coerced “offer” came, Johnson “grabbed it and would not let go.”
The larger point that is built incrementally from tracing these separate incidents and connecting them together is that, once combined, they reveal the framework by which Lyndon Johnson led multiple others into conspiring to murder President Kennedy and effect a coup d’état to forever change the direction of the nation. It was no coincidence that his first significant act as vice president was to put into place an elaborate back channel into the military (Pentagon) and intelligence agencies (CIA and NSA primarily) that he would use to facilitate his long-planned takeover of the Oval Office. He knew that having the backing and support of those entities — by virtue of having a greater measure of power and control over them than even the president’s — would be essential to the success of his mission.
The Score: Truth 0 / Myth 1
The patterns revealed by these anomalies between notable eyewitnesses having no dog in the hunt vs. the statements in Mr. Caro’s latest book (which may still be resolved in his final work) suggest that there are other factors in play: Has he effectively capitulated to the Johnson legacy “gatekeepers” to ensure that the myths will endure for all eternity?
 Caro, Passage . . . pp. 169-171)
 Newman, JFK an Vietnam, p. 67
 Scott, Deep Politics, p. 30-31
 Caro, Passage, p. 353
 Ibid. pp. 109-143
 Dickerson, pp. 43-44
 Op. Cit. [Caro]. p. 122
 Op. Cit. [Dickerson]
19 thoughts on “How Lyndon Johnson Expropriated Control Over the Pentagon and CIA Soon After the Inauguration of the Kennedy-Johnson Administration”
Wow thank you! I am new to this area and have been listening to Passage of Power on tape as well as interviews with Robert Caro who I took to be an ultimate if not the ultimate authority on the subject. But after hearing him, name various of LBJ’s love interests I was wondering why he excluded Madeleine Brown. Again, thank you.
As I noted in that essay, Mr. Caro chose not to name numerous people closely associated with LBJ, including Ms. Brown. Each of the unnamed persons represented people who would have forced him into straying from his narrative which was intended to portray Johnson in a favorable light. For example, had he named Billie Sol Estes, he would have then had to explain the details of the massive fraud the two of them used to make tens of millions of dollars off the government, through theft of its funds for several agriculture programs, and redirecting them into their personal bank accounts. Similarly, had he named Madeleine Brown, he would have then had to acknowledge (at least deal with) all of her many accusations that she made regarding LBJ’s involvement in JFK’s assassination, among many other things. By not referencing them (and the many others noted) he was able to keep his narrative focused on his primary mission, viz: The Rehabilitation of LBJ’s Legacy. Instead of having to portray him as the unrestrained criminal that he was, he was free to drop any such references and focus on only those that supported his faux narrative.
It’s important to understand why I always choose Billie Sol Estes as the primary example of this: Mr. Caro (and all the other “historian/biographers” who have done the same thing, as I’ve noted within my books) can easily dismiss Ms. Brown, Cliff Carter, Mac Wallace, Judge Barefoot Sanders, et. al. as being “inconsequential” but it is not possible to legitimately ignore Billie Sol. As he, they, and I know from having lived through the nightmare of Johnson’s ascendancy and presidency, the name Billie Sol Estes was in every newspaper, radio, and TV broadcast at one time or another throughout most of 1962, and the reason for that was because he (and their massive frauds) was inextricably tied to Lyndon B. Johnson. It is absolutely ridiculous that anyone calling themselves a “historian” or a “biographer” could write a book that fails to acknowledge that. But Caro did, and so did most of the others I’ve named within my books.
Thanks for posting!
Thank you for this! I also wonder whether Robert Caro’s frequent claim that he is not so much writing a biography as exploring the nature of political power, allows him to more credibly exclude certain biographical detail…
Well, I’m sure that’s exactly what he would want us to believe but it’s difficult to square that with the four (+ one more to come) lengthy volumes that do not deal with the abstract nature of “political power” so much as the personal attributes of his subject. If he really wanted to explore the sources of LBJ’s “political power” then he missed one of the most important exemplars of that: It was about how Johnson selected Estes to be his primary benefactor during the specific period (1957-1962) in which he gathered what could be considered the “critical mass” of power that vaulted him into the vice presidency and the subsequent exercise of “power” that followed. It was not an inadvertent omission, given the level of detail in which he treated hundreds of other associates and / or “victims” of Johnson, most if not all of whom were of much less importance to him in his climb up the ladder of political power.
Thank you for this.
Regarding your follow-up question: “Just occurred to me to ask: have you considered why the group of assassins including LBJ chose essentially a public arena for the killing when it may have been safer for them to get someone close to JFK to do the deed even by for instance tampering with his medication? Thank you in advance for your time…”
I believe that the need for such a “public” assassination was driven by the plotters’ desire to frame Lee Oswald for the murder, otherwise they would have to come up with some other explanation for JFK’s death that would have been more problematic in terms of convincing the public that the killer had been found and that might have been more difficult to pull off. The plan had been to kill him immediately after they had “established” him as the culprit, but when he quickly escaped before they did that, the back-up plan, (Plan B) involving Officer Tippit, was to kill him in Oak Cliff, which didn’t work out either, forcing them to go to “Plan C” where Jack Ruby’s role was then invoked. This is “speculative” of course but I believe that it is a plausible explanation for what happened, versus what they had originally planned.
Thank you for your explanation from which I can see that without a “patsy” as LHO described himself, the guilty parties would have been way more vulnerable …
I have another question and thank you in advance. In your estimation, on what level if any was Gov. Connally involved with LBJ and the Texan power-brokers in the assassination? The reason I am wondering is obviously because he himself was seriously injured and had been sitting in an extremely compromised position within the vehicle, it couldn’t be that he had exact foreknowledge of the event but yet he was close with LBJ and instrumental in the invite of JFK to Texas. In this connection I have recently read some have cast doubts on Madeleine Brown’s account of the Murchisson meeting the night before the assassination claiming alibis for the participants she names and so I wondered about your perspective on this. With thanks for your time and consideration…
According to researcher Ed Tatro, Connally’s much quoted remark “They’re going to kill us all” was not accurate, he actually said “They’re going to kill us both” That would reflect that he did in fact know that there would be shots taken in advance but had, apparently, been assured that they would be careful to avoid hitting him. He was also very coy about explaining what he really knew about the assassination, as I explained on pp. 219-220 of my “LBJ: From Mastermind to The Colossus” book, from which this sentence is excerpted: “Regardless of whether or not he knew of the plot in advance, Connally clearly became aware of the truth subsequently, as revealed in another comment he made that Mr. Thompson repeated: “I love this country and we needed closure at the time. I will never speak out publicly about what I believe.”
There are a lot of deniers who claim that the Murchison party never happened and that Madeleine alone told that story. Some have gone to a lot of trouble to trap Madeleine (in her old age she had lost some of her ability to see their deceitful intentions) into assenting to wild statements about the various attendees. What they conveniently leave out is the testimony of Mae Newman, the maid who also described that party in some detail on “The Guilty Men” video which can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/-F-LY1HblmE (or go to my website to the “Correcting History” tab and scroll down to click on it there) I have several friends who knew Madeleine personally and they attest to her credibility and truthfulness about that party — I have complete confidence of her, and their, veracity.
BTW, I’ll be away for several days coming up through the Thanksgiving Day holiday so if I appear to be “MIA” for awhile, I shall return around Dec. 1st.
Thank you for this valuable and inside information. I had thought that John Connally’s use of the word “they” is anyway quite revealing. The world is truly a darker place than most dare to admit. Regardless, all good wishes for a happy Thanksgiving and again thank you for your time and attention.