American Pravda: JFK, Richard Nixon, the CIA, and Watergate – Ron Unz

by Ron Unz

Two weeks ago I published a long article on the JFK Assassination, pointing to the overwhelming evidence that Kennedy’s own successor Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson had very likely been a central figure in the plot.

I closed the essay by quoting several early paragraphs from a different article that I had published more than six years earlier:

…I never had any interest in 20th century American history. For one thing, it seemed so apparent to me that all the basic political facts were already well known and conveniently provided in the pages of my introductory history textbooks, thereby leaving little room for any original research, except in the most obscure corners of the field.

Also, the politics of ancient times was often colorful and exciting, with Hellenistic and Roman rulers so frequently deposed by palace coups, or falling victim to assassinations, poisonings, or other untimely deaths of a highly suspicious nature. By contrast, American political history was remarkably bland and boring, lacking any such extra constitutional events to give it spice. The most dramatic political upheaval of my own lifetime had been the forced resignation of President Richard Nixon under threat of impeachment, and the causes of his departure from office—some petty abuses of power and a subsequent cover-up—were so clearly inconsequential that they fully affirmed the strength of our American democracy and the scrupulous care with which our watchdog media policed the misdeeds of even the most powerful.

In hindsight perhaps I should have asked myself whether the coups and poisonings of Roman Imperial times were accurately reported in their own day, or if most of the toga-wearing citizens of that era might have remained blissfully unaware of the nefarious events secretly determining the governance of their own society.

 

Over the last dozen years my understanding of the past century of American history has been upended by several huge revelations, explosive discoveries that had long been concealed from me by the propaganda-bubble of mainstream media coverage in which I’d lived my entire life.

Of these, one of the most important was the true story of the Kennedy assassinations of the 1960s. I had always gullibly accepted the official narrative that a pair of deranged lone gunmen had killed our president and his younger brother. Meanwhile I had totally ignored the vague claims of conspiracy that were very occasionally mentioned with ridicule in the books and articles upon which I relied. Therefore, I was stunned to eventually discover that those vitally important historical events had become the subject of a vast subterranean world of solid scholarship, whose analysis and reconstruction seemed far more substantial and persuasive than what my trusted media sources had ever provided.

After carefully digesting and analyzing all this shocking new information, I eventually published my conclusions in a series of articles over the last six years, notably including these:

Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy

Discovering the truth of the JFK Assassination had completely overturned my accepted framework of modern history. But over the years I’ve encountered numerous lesser surprises as well, not nearly as world-shattering but still quite significant in their own right.

One of these, closely intertwined with Kennedy’s own story, has been my considerable reappraisal of Richard Nixon, the man whom Kennedy very narrowly defeated in 1960 and whose later political resurrection placed him in the White House eight years later. In some respects, their ultimate fates were paired, with Kennedy becoming the only modern American president to die by assassination, while Nixon became the first in more than a century to face impeachment, a legal blow that prompted his resignation, the first in our national history.

I’d known that Kennedy and Nixon had been political contemporaries and the media narrative that I’d casually absorbed had always portrayed them as polar-opposites in their political and ideological characteristics.

Together with his glamourous young wife Jackie, Kennedy had conjured the image of an American Camelot during the early 1960s. Presiding over our country as its royal couple, the youthful Kennedys had been adored by our national elites, ranging from Hollywood stars to leading academic intellectuals. Although the life of that handsome young prince was suddenly cut short by an assassin’s bullet, his heroic achievements remained in our national consciousness throughout the decades that followed. Probably no American political figure of the last century has received such glowing support from our national media and intellectual elites, and their hagiography has pulled along the rest of our citizens. For example, although he served less than three years in office, JFK was recently ranked as our third most popular president after Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

Meanwhile, that same survey placed Nixon close to the bottom, well below any other modern president. Indeed, prior to the appearance of Donald Trump, I doubt that any other American president of the last one hundred years was so generally hated and despised by our media, a harsh verdict that long preceded his shameful departure from office. Since I was only a child during the Nixon Administration, I had unthinkingly absorbed those sentiments, partly because they were so widely and casually echoed by most of my friends and family members. But although I had never closely studied modern American history, in later years I sometimes wondered why that hostility had been so widespread in our elite media and academic circles.

My impression was that the main charges against Nixon had been his dishonesty, his political ruthlessness, and his cynicism, as demonstrated in the Red-baiting tactics that had helped him climb the greasy political ladder. But as I sometimes turned those notions over in my mind, they left me a little puzzled. Similar criticism seemed almost endemic to our entire political class and I wondered whether Nixon was really so much worse than all of his peers. After all, it was grudgingly conceded that Kennedy’s paper-thin victory in the 1960 presidential race had involved massive voter fraud in Texas and Chicago, so the balance of dishonesty and political ruthlessness hardly seemed entirely one-sided.

Elected to Congress in 1946, Nixon’s meteoric early career had been ignited when he boldly championed the “Pumpkin Papers” charges of Whitaker Chambers against Alger Hiss, in which the rumpled former Communist accused the ultra-respectable New Dealer of having been a longtime Soviet agent. Hiss was a pillar of the East Coast Establishment and the founding Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference, so although he was convicted of perjury and sent to prison, claims that he’d been railroaded spent decades as a leading liberal cause celebre and that surely explained much of the lasting animus the media directed towards the congressman who had ruined him. But the eventual release of the Venona Decrypts in the 1990s conclusively proved that Hiss had been guilty as charged, completely vindicating Nixon.

When Nixon’s political success inspired Sen. Joseph McCarthy to launch an anti-Communist crusade along similar lines, the latter was often far more slipshod and careless in his accusations, and Nixon attracted considerable right-wing animosity when he obliquely criticized McCarthy on those grounds in 1954 at the height of the senator’s power and influence. Ironically enough, it was actually the Kennedys who were close political allies of McCarthy, with Robert Kennedy serving as assistant counsel on his Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1953 after losing out to Roy Cohn in the effort to become McCarthy’s top aide.

It can even be argued that Kennedy had unfairly Red-baited Nixon during their famous 1960 televised presidential debates. The Democratic candidate had been officially briefed on some of the secret plans of the Eisenhower Administration for overthrowing Castro’s Communist regime in Cuba, but then publicly accused Vice President Nixon of doing nothing in that regard, knowing that his opponent was sworn to secrecy on that project and therefore would be left looking weak on Communism.

Sometimes the friendship or hostility of our media determines whether controversial facts are widely broadcast to the world or are instead ignored. During the late 1930s patriarch Joseph Kennedy had made great efforts to discourage Britain from going to war against Nazi Germany and after that war broke out, he did his best to prevent America from joining the conflict. JFK’s famous Pulitzer Prize-winning 1956 bestseller Profiles in Courage included a chapter praising Republican Senate leader Robert Taft for loudly denouncing the blatant illegality of the postwar Nuremberg War Crime Trials, quoting Taft as declaring they “may discredit the whole idea of justice in Europe for years to come.” And in a 2019 article, I noted the shocking revelation of Kennedy’s own private postwar views of the dead German dictator.

A couple of years ago, the 1945 diary of a 28-year-old John F. Kennedy travelling in post-war Europe was sold at auction, and the contents revealed his rather favorable fascination with Hitler. The youthful JFK predicted that “Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived” and felt that “He had in him the stuff of which legends are made.” These sentiments are particularly notable for having been expressed just after the end of a brutal war against Germany and despite the tremendous volume of hostile propaganda that had accompanied it.

I strongly suspect that if any of these same items had instead appeared on Nixon’s record, they would have received far greater negative public attention over the decades.

The liberal media later castigated Nixon for not ending the Vietnam War after he reached the White House in 1969. But although that charge was reasonable, he was merely continuing a conflict begun and greatly escalated under his Democratic predecessors Kennedy and Johnson.

Meanwhile, Nixon’s remarkable diplomatic breakthrough to Maoist China completely reset the international stage and laid the foundation for his subsequent detente with the Soviet Union, which greatly reduced the risk of global nuclear war. The personal ideological roots of Prof. Jeffrey Sachs are probably not so very different from my own and in a recent interview, he mentioned that although he’d grown up deeply disliking Nixon and his policies, the latter had been one of our few postwar presidents who sharply pushed back the hands of the famous Doomsday Clock maintained by the liberals of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Greatly reducing the risk of thermonuclear destruction is hardly a trivial achievement, and one that should certainly appeal to the good-thinking progressives who dominate the media and academic worlds, yet Nixon has received relatively little credit.

Movement conservatives have gloried in America’s later victory in the long Cold War, whose honors they regularly give to President Ronald Reagan, while most of them deeply distrusted Nixon as much as did their liberal counterparts. Yet without Nixon’s success in enlisting Communist China as our Cold War quasi-ally, Reagan’s policies might have been impossible. Indeed, our thick-headed conservatives had always so detested China that they often regarded Nixon’s remarkable geostrategic gambit as one of the worst black marks against him. Nixon was a political pragmatist rather than any sort of conservative ideologue, so the latter naturally disliked him.

 

Over the years some of these scattered facts had steadily chipped away at my assumptions about Kennedy and Nixon, and I sometimes wondered if they had truly been the polar opposites suggested by our media. But I still retained that vague impression of those two American political figures of the postwar era, so I assumed that they had always been arch-rivals or even bitter political enemies, as was implicit in their starkly different media treatments. However, about a decade ago I read Kennedy & Nixon by Chris Matthews, a longtime San Francisco Chronicle journalist who eventually gained far greater national visibility as the pugnacious television host of Hardball, an interview show on MSNBC. His joint political biography completely overturned my assumptions and rereading it again now confirmed that verdict.

Matthews emphasized the intertwined political history of those two leaders, and from the first half-dozen pages of his introduction, he brought numerous surprising facts—and ironies—to my attention that I’d never suspected. Nixon and Kennedy had both been World War II veterans, who won their races for the first postwar Congress on trans-ideological grounds, with Kennedy having run as a “fighting conservative” while Nixon had committed himself to “practical liberalism.” While not exactly close friends, they were certainly on friendly terms, sometimes exchanging longhand notes or doing political favors for each other, and when Nixon ran for the Senate in 1950 by denouncing his opponent Democratic Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas as soft on Communism, Kennedy personally hand-delivered a large financial donation from his family. Years later, Nixon told that story in an interview:

Nixon won his Senate race in a huge landslide at the age of 37. That victory combined with his earlier success in the Hiss case persuaded Dwight Eisenhower to put him on the national ticket two years later, so Nixon’s meteoric political rise placed him a heartbeat away from the Presidency before he’d celebrated his 40th birthday, making him one of the youngest vice presidents in our national history.

Following a step behind, Kennedy also reached the Senate in that same 1952 election. As Presiding Officer of the Senate, Nixon spent the 1950s in an office across from that of Kennedy, with whom he remained quite friendly. When Kennedy required dangerous back surgery in 1954, Nixon regularly stopped by to see how he was doing and bent the parliamentary rules to assist him politically, leading Jackie Kennedy to write him a personal Thank You note: “There is no one my husband admires more.” After Nixon heard reports that Kennedy was near death, a Secret Service agent saw him cry: “Poor brave Jack is going to die. Oh, God, don’t let him die.” Even prior to the 1960 election, Kennedy told his friends that if he didn’t receive the presidential nomination himself, he’d vote for Nixon as the Republican candidate, and his father, Joseph Kennedy, told Nixon the same thing: “Dick, if my boy can’t make it, I’m for you.” Four years earlier in 1956 Robert Kennedy had voted to reelect the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket instead of supporting Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate.

Obviously, the world of politics involves conflict when two successful figures are in rival parties, and there are also various anecdotes in which Kennedy and Nixon criticized or opposed each other, especially since so much of the powerful liberal base of the Democratic Party loathed Nixon. But the overall picture of their long relationship was very different than I’d always been led to believe.

Ironically enough, while Kennedy and Nixon seem to have remained quite friendly prior to the 1960 election, their relationships with other political figures were sometimes far more strained. Nixon and Eisenhower were not at all on good terms, while Kennedy and Johnson were always bitterly hostile to each other.

The backgrounds of the two political figures were certainly a study in contrast, with Kennedy’s family being one of the wealthiest in America, while Nixon’s parents owned a small, struggling grocery during the depths of the Great Depression. Kennedy had attended the most expensive, elite prep schools before matriculating at Harvard, his father’s alma mater, but although Nixon’s academic ability had won him a full Harvard scholarship, his family lacked the money to pay for his travel or rooming costs, so he was forced to attend local Whittier College instead, then afterward worked his way through law school at Duke. But by the time they entered Congress in 1946, the two men were not so far apart ideologically, with both of them being critical of the New Deal establishment and also strongly anti-Communist.

The public perceptions of the Communist threat greatly expanded after Mao’s 1949 victory in China shifted the world’s most populous country into the Communist camp and such concerns further escalated once the Korean War broke out the following year, with American troops suffering some severe initial military defeats after a large Chinese army intervened in the conflict. There was a widespread belief that many of these setbacks had been due to Communist political subversion at the highest ranks of the American government so Communism became an important issue in many 1950 races.

Matthews provides some fascinating, unexpected examples of how Communism played out in some of the early campaigns of both Nixon and Kennedy. Although all my history textbooks had always vilified Nixon for winning his 1950 Senate race by Red-baiting his opponent the very liberal Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas, dubbing her “the Pink Lady,” she had actually first raised that issue, putting out campaign materials accusing Rep. Nixon of having voted the Communist line against aid for Korea.

Similarly, Kennedy’s successful 1952 Senate race against Republican incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge, a staunch anti-Communist, had partly relied upon dishonest insinuations that Lodge was soft on Communism, accusing him of being a “100 percent” supporter of Truman’s “appeasing administration policy in China and the Far East,” while “straddling” on Sen. McCarthy’s charges of Communist subversion in the State Department. Meanwhile, Kennedy later publicly defended McCarthy as “a great American patriot.”

Thus, both Kennedy and Nixon emphasized the Communist issue in their political campaigns in much the same way, while Nixon was hardly the unprincipled Red-baiter my textbooks had always suggested.

On those ideological issues in which Kennedy and Nixon took sharply different stands, their contrasting positions were not always what we might expect. For example, in 1957 Kennedy embraced the Dixiecrat position on the Civil Rights Act of that year, hoping thereby to consolidate his support from Southern Democrats for his planned 1960 presidential primary race, while Nixon fully backed that legislation, having always been a staunch supporter of black civil rights.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was imprisoned in Atlanta in 1960, Kennedy’s famous phone call of support to his wife Coretta Scott King shortly before the presidential vote was hotly debated within his campaign, with his brother Robert being strongly opposed for fear of losing white Southern votes. The campaign’s unlimited budget allowed it to resolve this dilemma by recruiting black leaders to praise Kennedy’s action and condemn Nixon for his silence, then printing two million copies of a pamphlet highlighting these statements and distributing these to black churches the Sunday before Election Day, thereby minimizing the risk of any white Southern backlash.

Matthews himself is Catholic, Irish on his mother’s side, and he was a teenager during the Kennedy Administration while still in his early 20s when RFK was assassinated. His political roots are strongly Democratic, and before entering journalism, he spent many years working as an aide to various Democratic Congressmen, including serving as chief of staff to Tip O’Neill, the Speaker of the House who had actually inherited Kennedy’s own seat. Given that personal background, I assume that Matthews had long admired or even idolized Kennedy while despising Nixon, and I got the sense that his discovery of the true political positions of those two men and their personal relationship surprised him just as much as it did me. But to his tremendous credit, his book seemed unflinchingly candid about those actual facts.

My introductory textbooks and the media coverage I absorbed always portrayed Nixon as “Tricky Dick,” a ruthless political operator whose long history of dishonesty finally culminated in Watergate, while Kennedy was often cast as an idealistic white knight. And sure enough, Matthews’ nearly 400 page text was filled with a long record of huge financial payoffs, political dirty tricks, and outright illegality; but nearly all of these sordid acts were committed by Kennedy in his various races and during his brief presidency, beginning with his very first 1946 campaign. Although Joseph Kennedy had freely spent some of his massive wealth to get his son into Congress, the careless young candidate had forgotten to file his nomination petitions by the legal deadline, so he and a confederate committed a serious felony by personally burglarizing the Boston Statehouse, using their break-in to deposit the petitions in the appropriate government office. Meanwhile, Nixon’s own illegal actions beginning around 1970 seem to have been largely reactive, driven by his tremendous fear that Sen. Ted Kennedy might defeat him for reelection in 1972 by waging the sort of ruthless campaign for which the Kennedys had become notorious.

Matthews seems a very shrewd political observer, providing insights I’d never seen elsewhere. After Nixon lost the presidency in 1960, he decided to challenge popular incumbent California Gov. Pat Brown in 1962, severely damaging his political career when he lost that race as well. Although the hostile media usually portrayed Nixon’s campaign as a cynical attempt to position himself for another run against Kennedy in 1964, Matthews convincingly argues that Nixon’s intent was the exact opposite. Since he assumed that Kennedy would be unbeatable for reelection, he decided to avoid the likely pressure to enter the 1964 presidential race by running for California governor and immediately pledging to serve a full term if elected while preparing himself for a second run for the White House in 1968.

Matthews’ otherwise excellent book devoted only a few paragraphs to the JFK Assassination and those stuck very closely to the official narrative long promoted by our mainstream media. The author blandly endorsed the long-discredited belief that Lee Harvey Oswald was a deranged lone gunman, a fanatic Marxist who hated and killed Kennedy because of the latter’s hostility to Cuban Communism. I found it rather difficult to believe that Matthews had never encountered any contrary evidence during his long career in politics and media, but I could easily understand his determination to maintain that position in his text. As a highly-successful television host, he understood the lethal consequences to his career if he included so much as a single sentence supporting any “conspiracy theory” involving the Kennedy assassination. Furthermore, any such passage, no matter how glancing or minimal, would inevitably become a lightning rod capturing the entire focus of everyone discussing his book, and diverting all attention away from the important historical material he had uncovered. Mainstream publishers might be reluctant to release such a book and he would lose any hopes of substantial sales and favorable media reviews. So the approach Matthews adopted seemed a very reasonable one.

Unfair Historical Accusations and Fair Ones

A couple of years ago I’d read Rick Perlstein’s massive four-volume history of America’s modern conservative movement, and although conservatives had never regarded Nixon as one of their own, he had been featured as a central political figure in that account, with the second volume even entitled Nixonland. But while Perlstein’s 3,500 page narrative provided an enormous wealth of detailed material regarding Nixon’s long political career, the author seemed an extremely establishmentarian historian, so I’d gotten far more interesting and surprising Nixon insights out of the Matthews book though it was barely one-tenth the length.

Nixon, Kennedy, and the many conservatives who crowded Perlstein’s volumes had launched their careers in the early postwar years by denouncing the threat of Communist subversion and espionage in America, but Perlstein treated those concerns as cynical or irrational political ploys, having little basis in reality. However, the Venona Decrypts had been declassified years before Perlstein published the first of his volumes, and the flood of resulting academic scholarship absolutely confirmed those political claims so blithely dismissed by Perlstein. Back in 2019 I’d described the strange circumstances of the 1940 election and sharply critiqued Perlstein’s total unwillingness to recognize such facts.

FDR selected Wallace as his third-term Vice President, perhaps as a means of gaining support from the powerful pro-Soviet faction among the Democrats. But as a consequence, even as FDR’s health steadily deteriorated during the four years that followed, an individual whose most trusted advisors were agents of Stalin remained just a heartbeat away from the American presidency.

Under the strong pressure of Democratic Party leaders, Wallace was replaced on the ticket at the July 1944 Democratic Convention, and Harry S. Truman succeeded to the presidency when FDR died in April of the following year. But if Wallace had not been replaced or if Roosevelt had died a year earlier, the consequences for the country would surely have been enormous. According to later statements, a Wallace Administration would have included Laurence Duggan as Secretary of State, Harry Dexter White at the helm of the Treasury, and presumably various other outright Soviet agents occupying all the key nodes at the top of the American federal government. One might jokingly speculate whether the Rosenbergs—later executed for treason—would have been placed in charge of our nuclear weapons development program…

Consider, for example, the prize-winning volumes of political history that Rick Perlstein has written since 2001, tracing the rise of American conservatism from the pre-Goldwater era up to the rise of Reagan in the 1970s. The series has justly earned widespread acclaim for its enormous attention to detail, but according to the indexes, the combined total of nearly 2,400 pages contains merely two glancing and totally dismissive mentions of Harry Dexter White at the very beginning of the first volume, and no entry whatsoever for Laurence Duggan, or even more shockingly, “Venona.” I’ve sometimes joked that writing a history of post-war American conservatism without focusing on such crucial elements is like writing a history of America’s involvement in World War II without mentioning Pearl Harbor.

So the undeniable reality is that just the decade before the beginning of Perlstein’s narrative, control of America’s federal government had very nearly been seized by a network of Stalinist agents. These facts went entirely unreported in the mainstream media of the time and are just as widely ignored today, so both Perlstein and most of his reviewers either seem blissfully unaware of them or at least try to pretend that they are. But they were widely believed or at least suspected by the conservative activists who are the early protagonists of Perlstein’s narrative, and that probably helped to explain their apparent “paranoia.”

Thus, Kennedy and Nixon entered Congress in 1946 just a couple of years after a Stalinist takeover of the U.S. federal government had been narrowly averted. This reality surely helps explain why both of them had such similar views on the serious threat of Communist subversion in American society.

Meanwhile, Perlstein along with virtually every other historian remained silent on another important matter. Once Nixon finally reached the White House in 1968 his presidency was overwhelmingly dominated by the Vietnam War and the domestic unrest it had unleashed in American society. Perlstein obviously despised Nixon, yet ironically his extreme unwillingness to challenge any official narratives led him to conceal from his readers the most shameful crime committed by our 37th president, a decision that became a monumental national scandal that has been ignored for the last half-century by our entire mainstream media.

The new President was facing a powerful anti-war movement that had already brought down his predecessor, and after years of fighting, few Americans had a clear idea of why we were there, with our original war aims having evaporated. So as Perlstein tells the story, Nixon’s audacious strategy was to refocus public attention upon the sad fate of the many hundreds of American POWs being held by the Vietnamese, suggesting that the true aim of our continuing war effort was to gain the return of the servicemen previously captured because we were fighting it. Although our Vietnamese opponents said they were certainly willing to return these men as part of a peace agreement once we left their country, Nixon regularly suggested otherwise, and in politics, emotion often trumps logic, especially when emotion is backed by control of the media megaphone.

This volume ended with Nixon’s 1972 reelection landslide, and The Invisible Bridge released in 2014 began with the signing of the peace agreement. A chapter described the triumphal return of the Vietnam POWs in “Operation Homecoming,” with most of an additional chapter also given over to that same subject. It is obvious that Perlstein utterly despised Nixon and the cynical and deceptive strategy the latter had used in exploiting the issue of the POWs to outmaneuver his political opponents, thereby continuing a war that could have been ended on similar terms years sooner, probably saving many tens of thousands of lives; and the author clearly relished the shift of his narrative to Watergate and the President’s subsequent downfall. But the true story of what happened was probably far darker and more cynical than what our “hypercaffineinated Herodotus” could willingly admit in the pages of his history.

As Perlstein emphasized, by the end of the war Nixon had successfully established the safe return of all our POWs as our overriding national objective, so the entire country basked in the triumph of their freedom once the planes began to touch down in 1973. But there is actually very strong evidence that only about half the POWs were ever returned, with the others living out the remainder of their lives in miserable Vietnamese captivity while Nixon and his accomplices suppressed this truth in order to desperately claim a victory as the growing Watergate Scandal threatened his political survival. Our media, both at the time and during the decades that followed, have been entirely complicit in concealing this outrage, one of the most shameful incidents in American history, and rather than setting the story straight, Perlstein clung to the standard narrative of this cover-up, never raising a word of doubt, even though it protected the reputation of a President whom he deeply loathed.

These passages were drawn from my lengthy discussion of Perlstein’s history of the conservative movement, which recognized the exhaustive detail he provided but also noted his striking omissions.

Although these facts regarding the abandoned Vietnam POWs had been quietly known or suspected at the time by many government officials, only years later were they extensively documented by Pulitzer Prize winner Sydney Schanberg, a former top-ranking editor at the New York Times, and one of our leading war reporters during that conflict. I’ve discussed the issue on numerous occasions and knowledgeable observers have usually found the evidence provided in Schanberg’s seminal research quite convincing, as I recounted in a 2016 article.

I do believe that the evidence is simply overwhelming to anyone with an open mind, and the universal silence of our media is the only slight contrary indicator. A few months ago I served on a government secrecy panel with Daniel Ellsberg, whose role in leaking the Pentagon Papers had established him one of America’s leading voices on cover-ups of embarrassing military secrets. A major portion of my talk focused on Syd’s POW findings, and the way in which the government and media had successfully colluded to keep the story hidden for over four decades. Ellsberg found the claims totally astonishing, and saying he’d never previously heard a word about them, eagerly took home copies of the article and some related material. At the dinner reception the next evening, he told me he’d carefully read them, and was fully convinced that everything was probably true.

Major Washington Scandals and Watergate Trivialities

John F. Kennedy died more than six decades ago after spending less than three years in the White House, and I think the vast majority of today’s Americans remember only three incidents from his truncated presidency: the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and most of all his shocking assassination in late 1963.

But the historical memory of Richard Nixon, who died thirty years ago in April 1994, is even more abbreviated. He ran on five presidential tickets, winning four times, with his 1972 reelection landslide being one of the largest in American history. He served eight years as vice president and nearly six more as president, spending a generation as one of America’s most powerful and influential Republicans, with Matthews noting that prominent liberal columnist Murray Kempton even characterized the 1950s as “the Nixon decade.” During his presidency, Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, began Affirmative Action, and ended the Draft and the Vietnam War. His diplomatic openings to China and the Soviet Union transformed the geopolitical landscape of the world and allowed him to negotiate the SALT and ABM arms control agreements and the Biological Weapons Convention. But these days I suspect that nine out of ten Americans remember him only for the Watergate Scandal, which ended his presidency. That name even provided a suffix that has become the regular mark of our subsequent political scandals such as Koreagate, Irangate, and most recently Russiagate.

In 1995 Oliver Stone followed up the huge success of JFK with his three hour biopic Nixon. Once again the film was brilliantly directed and acted, and it covered Nixon’s entire life and career, including his hard-scrabble childhood with his deeply religious Quaker mother and the death by illness of two of his brothers. Nixon’s political rise and his landmark negotiations with China and the Soviets were given considerable coverage, but Watergate and his fall from power heavily dominated the script. Unfortunately, these important events lacked the drama of a conspiratorial plot culminating in the assassination of a president, and perhaps for this reason the film was far less successful in the theaters and apparently lost money.

Three years after Nixon resigned in disgrace he was persuaded to do a lengthy series of television interviews with British host David Frost, and disputes about Watergate questioning overwhelmingly dominated the negotiations that preceded that agreement. Nixon’s controversial admissions on that topic were what drew the massive interest of the public, resulting in a syndicated television broadcast audience of 45 million, the greatest for any political interview in history. Decades later, the story of those exchanges became a successful 2006 play entitled Frost/Nixon, soon followed by a highly-regarded 2008 film of the same name directed by Ron Howard.

The Watergate Scandal and the televised Senate Hearings that broke it wide open were the first major domestic political events that I closely followed as a child. Even at my young age I noticed that none of the accusations seemed very serious compared to the shootings and deadly plots that were so common in the fictional spy films and television thrillers that I sometimes watched. But since all the TV commenters described the alleged crimes of the Nixon Administration as unprecedented, constituting such a dire threat to our Constitutional freedoms, I somewhat doubtfully nodded my head at the time and decided that must have been the case. Apparently, the American political system was so bland and spotlessly clean that even those very minor misdeeds of Nixon’s political henchmen and his furtive efforts to conceal them represented an indelible blot upon our national honor.

I never read any of the Watergate books but I did see the Oscar-winning 1974 film All the President’s Men starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, which established Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as the world’s most famous journalists. Although I remember finding the movie a little dull at the time, it was quite successful and such films reach an audience that is vastly larger than even the best-selling books, thereby creating our own shared historical reality. So a week or two ago I decided to watch it again for the first time in half a century, and the experience was certainly worth the $3.99 that I paid Amazon Prime for the privilege.

Woodward and Bernstein were the intrepid cub reporters at the Washington Post lucky enough to be given the story of a minor burglary at the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. That tiny thread eventually allowed them to unravel Nixon’s entire presidency with the help of Deep Throat, their secret insider source who regularly steered them in the right direction. Over the years, their success inspired an entire generation of young Americans to enter journalism in hopes of changing the world and gaining such public laurels.

The acting was outstanding and the plot was fine, but just as I’d remembered, the events that ultimately brought down the Nixon Administration and sent so many of its leading officials to prison seemed ridiculously trivial. In one scene, Bernstein confronted attorney Donald Segretti at home, with the political dirty trickster terrified that the media revelations of his activities on behalf of the president would get him disbarred and sent to prison, just as later happened. The Nixon conspirator defended himself by claiming that he’d actually done far worse things back in his USC student government days, years before a fraternity brother had brought him into the presidential reelection campaign to repeat his dirty tricks on a national scale.

Although the film was nominated for eight Oscars and won four, the only major prize it captured was Best Supporting Actor, won by Jason Robards, who played Post editor Ben Bradlee. As portrayed in the film, Bradlee was initially very skeptical of the story his young reporters were pursuing, doubting it was important enough to warrant any heavy coverage by his newspaper. However, Woodward and Bernstein persevered and gradually won him over, so that he later backed them to the hilt. Nixon’s eventual political fall thus established Bradlee as one of America’ most powerful editors, similarly burnishing his newspaper’s reputation, which joined the New York Times in our media firmament. Just the previous year, the Times and the Post had both stood up to the legal threats of the Nixon Administration by publishing the leaked Pentagon Papers, revealing many of our embarrassing national secrets about the Vietnam War.

Yet viewed in hindsight from 2024 I found that many of the film’s scenes between Bradlee and his two young reporters seemed almost like satirical political sketches, containing ironies that nearly reached absurdist levels. But almost none of the Americans watching it in 1974 would have been aware of those facts, and that probably still remains largely true today.

From the distance of half a century, Bradlee’s doubts about the importance of that minor political burglary were easy for me to understand. For many years, one of Bradlee’s closest friends had been John F. Kennedy, and less than a decade earlier, JFK had been assassinated in Dallas. We now know that most of the slain president’s friends and close family members soon became privately convinced that a conspiracy had been responsible, but they never said a word about this in public, while the Post and all our other media outlets instead proclaimed that a deranged lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald, himself killed immediately afterwards, had solely been responsible.

Bradlee had also known that his own sister-in-law, the lovely artist Mary Meyer, had been JFK’s very influential mistress, and less than a year after the assassination, she too was dead, shot down in broad daylight on the streets of her elite Georgetown neighborhood of DC, with no one ever convicted of that crime. Meyer had been the former wife of high-ranking CIA official Cord Meyer, and when Bradlee went to her home immediately after the killing, he discovered longtime CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton attempting to break in, with the latter explaining that he was in search of Meyer’s explosive diary. Bradlee later stated that he found that diary and gave it to Angleton to destroy.

During the 1968 presidential campaign, Robert Kennedy won the huge winner-take-all California primary and seemed on the verge of gaining the White House himself, having told his friends that one of his most important projects would be to track down and punish the conspirators who had killed his brother five years earlier. But then he, too, was suddenly struck down and killed, allegedly by another deranged lone gunman. By the time of Bradlee’s 1972 conversations with Woodward and Bernstein, the editor had probably become aware that RFK had also died in a conspiracy, with the official autopsy revealing that the fatal bullet had been fired at point-blank range from behind his head while the gunman arrested had been standing at least several feet in front of him.

These secret facts, all probably known to Bradlee, obviously constituted elements of a story far more dramatic and politically potent than any of the petty abuses and sophomoric political dirty tricks of the Nixon reelection campaign, but in 1972 none of these had ever been revealed to the world, whether in the pages the Post or anywhere else. So we can easily understand why the powerful editor initially showed such little interest in the paltry discoveries of Woodward and Bernstein. Indeed, he may have inwardly smiled to himself at his excited young reporters, while thinking “I could tell you about some real political crimes…”

 

As he supervised his young Watergate reporters, the Post editor remained silent about all these important facts that my JFK Assassination research had brought to my attention over the last dozen years. But just a few days ago, I finally read Mary’s Mosaic by Peter Janney, a 2012 account of the life and background of Kennedy’s slain mistress that suggested Bradlee’s hidden secrets may have included even darker elements.

Janney’s own family had been very close to the Meyers, and while growing up his best friend had been Mary’s son Michael. Like Cord Meyer, the author’s father was a high-ranking longtime CIA officer, one of the reasons for their connection, and the elder Janney had been the first person to learn of Mary’s death, then served as a pall-bearer at her funeral. When Janney decided to write his book decades later, more than half of its 500 pages focused upon Mary’s relationship with Kennedy, the apparent CIA role in the presidential assassination plot, and how those combined factors brought about Mary’s own killing the following year.

Mary had always assumed that a conspiracy had been responsible for the assassination of her presidential paramour, and her own death came just three weeks after the release of the Warren Commission Report, a copy of which she’d heavily marked up and told her friends was a ridiculous whitewash that she hoped to help unravel. While on her usual daily walk in a secluded area of her elite Georgetown neighborhood, she was shot execution-style, with one bullet fired point-blank into her head and another near her heart. Janney’s investigation found strong indications that her death had been a CIA contract-killing, with one of the nearby witnesses questioned by the police being a military officer operating under a false identity, with numerous clues that he was an intelligence operative who had probably been the actual triggerman.

Mary Pinchot Meyer at JFK’s 46th birthday Party on the presidential yacht Sequoia
Mary Pinchot Meyer at JFK’s 46th birthday Party on the presidential yacht Sequoia

Kennedy was a notorious womanizer and the list of his sexual conquests both prior to his presidency and during his years in the White House was a very long one, but Janney makes a strong case that his relationship with Mary Meyer fell into an entirely different category. Her elite East Coast background matched his own, with her father Amos Pinchot having been an important Progressive political figure close to Theodore Roosevelt, and Kennedy had known her since their prep school days a quarter-century earlier. Although he’d sometimes pursued her, she’d always rejected his advances until they’d finally become involved in 1960 after he’d launched his presidential campaign.

According to one of the author’s sources, Kennedy’s very public marriage to Jackie was going badly by that point, but he felt forced to keep up appearances for the sake of his political ambitions. Meanwhile, Mary was one of the very few women he’d ever actually respected, partly because she needed nothing from him, and after he reached the White House, she eventually became an influential figure in his presidency.

Such claims might easily be dismissed as wild exaggerations, but Janney backed them up with interviews of some of JFK’s closest political aides, who explained that they had regularly smuggled her into the White House, hiding her name from the official visitor logs. She often spent time with Kennedy in the Oval Office, sometimes even discussing policy and national security issues in the company of his top advisors. One senior aide claimed that Kennedy had spoken of divorcing Jackie after he left office and instead marrying the woman he’d known since he was a teenager.

From her youth, Mary had always been a committed peace activist, and during the early years of her marriage to Cord, he’d held very similar views, serving as president of the United World Federalists movement, while his later shift into strong anti-Communism and an important position at the CIA contributed to the eventual collapse of their marriage. Therefore, according to many of her friends and confidants, she sought to use her considerable influence with Kennedy to encourage him to seek world peace.

When the Janney book appeared, the various reviews I’d read had reported its remarkable assertions, many of which I’d treated with considerable skepticism. This coverage usually focused upon some of the most shocking elements, such as the claim that Mary had regularly taken LSD, and may have successfully persuaded Kennedy to participate in such hallucinogenic sessions, believing that those experiences might help win him over to the cause of international peace. But Janney’s book seemed to substantiate some of those stories, which would certainly help explain the frantic efforts by Angleton and others to locate her personal diary, containing the details of her experiences with Kennedy.

Janney made a strong case that Bradlee himself had a long history of closely cooperating with the CIA while he had worked as a journalist. He also noted that over the years the Post editor had repeatedly changed his account of when he had first learned of his sister-in-law’s death and also his role in the effort to search her home and locate her diary. This led Janney to suspect that Bradlee may have played some role in the murder or at least the subsequent cover-up. The author’s own father had been the first person to learn of Mary Meyer’s death, then notified both Bradlee and her ex-husband Cord, and decades later when Janney carefully analyzed the very suspicious timing of that information, he was shocked to conclude that the elder Janney had apparently been part of the CIA plot that took her life.

Although certainly not conclusively proven, most of the elements of this book seem reasonably supported by the evidence, and we should consider the remarkable story it told. During the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy was involved in a doomed love-affair with a woman he had known since they were teenagers, the beautiful peace-activist Mary Meyer, who possibly introduced him to the use of LSD. Their secret relationship ended in terrible tragedy when both suffered violent deaths at the hands of CIA conspirators, perhaps even involving her brother-in-law Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post. Surely this real-life plot is as shocking and dramatic as any purely fictional spy thriller produced by a Hollywood scriptwriter, but no studio has ever brought it to the screen.

The book also provided some important new information regarding the JFK Assassination itself. CIA director John McCone was a Kennedy loyalist and immediately after the assassination he had the original copy of the Zapruder film that captured the incident delivered by two Secret Service agents to the CIA’s top secret photographic analysis center for careful examination. The senior CIA expert who performed that analysis was interviewed by Janney and emphatically declared that what they saw at the time differed in crucial ways from the version of the film that was subsequently distributed, with various frames having apparently been removed or altered to produce the latter. The original film showed unmistakable evidence of about eight shots, convincing McCone that there had been multiple shooters.

The Washington Post and the Strange Death of Its Publisher

The story of Mary Meyer and the circumstances surrounding her death hardly exhausted the list of dramatic events known to Bradlee but few others at the time of Watergate. Another strange death in 1963 had also struck very close to the Post editor, but that one had preceded rather than followed the JFK Assassination.

Some years ago I’d spent a quarter on a copy of The Powers That Be, David Halberstam’s magisterial 1979 history of four of America’s leading media empires, which ran more than 750 pages. During the Covid lockdowns I decided to broaden my knowledge by finally reading that book and I was well-rewarded for that effort. One of Halberstam’s central figures was Philip Graham, a name previously unknown to me, but the man who created the modern Washington Post.

Born in South Dakota and raised in Miami, Graham was a top student who served as editor of the Harvard Law Review and Supreme Court clerk to Felix Frankfurter, then spent much of World War II as a member of the OSS, the wartime predecessor of the CIA, working directly under Gen. Bill Donovan, who headed the organization.

In 1940 he’d married into the family owning the Post, then a struggling, money-losing DC newspaper far behind the afternoon Washington Star, which dominated that marketplace. He became publisher in 1946 and a couple of years later received 70% of the controlling stock from his grateful father-in-law, while his wife was gifted the remaining 30%.

As Halberstam tells the story, in 1954 Graham successfully pulled off a difficult merger of the Post with the Washington Times-Herald, another also-ran DC newspaper, and during the 1950s he gradually built up his newly augmented Post into the regional leader, while also acquiring various radio and television stations. Bradlee, a former Post journalist, was working for Newsweek magazine and in 1961, he successfully brokered its sale to Graham, under whose ownership it became the leading national rival to Henry Luce’s Time magazine, with Bradlee as its Washington editor. Thus, by the early 1960s Graham owned and ran one of the half-dozen greatest media empires in the country and the one that dominated the DC marketplace, with Bradlee being one of his top subordinates.

As DC’s reigning media baron, Graham naturally played an important role in the political world, and he was a close ally of Lyndon Johnson, the most powerful Democrat of the late 1950s. Thus in 1960 he was one of the key figures who successfully pressured Kennedy into reversing himself and placing his detested rival Johnson on the presidential ticket, a decision that ultimately paved LBJ’s path to the White House.

But according to Halberstam, over the next couple of years Graham became a deeply troubled individual, increasingly estranged from his wife Katharine and her half-Jewish family, while expressing shocking bursts of extreme anti-Semitism, especially directed at his late father-in-law. Graham had a history of manic-depression and a drinking problem, but this situation was far worse and a power struggle soon developed at the top of his media empire, with leading employees forced to choose between becoming known as Phil People or Kay People. By 1963 he had also begun an affair with one of his Newsweek employees, declaring he intended to divorce his wife and marry her instead.

Although Halberstam provides no mention in his text, during exactly this same period a bitter political cold war had broken out between the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson. Graham was close to the Kennedys and even closer to LBJ, and as the owner of DC’s leading media properties, he must have been privy to this difficult situation, which surely added to his personal stress.

Then in June 1963, Graham suffered a very strange public episode while attending an important publishers convention in Arizona, taking the podium and loudly revealing to the audience Kennedy’s affair with Mary Meyer while also making many other outrageous claims, including denouncing the assembled publishers for refusing to print the truth about controversial matters. Graham was soon wrestled to the floor, injected with drugs, and flown back on a government plane to DC, where he was confined to a mental institution for several weeks and finally released after his condition seemed to greatly improve.

However, on August 3, 1963 he may have suffered a sudden relapse, and his body was found at his country home, dead from a shotgun blast, apparently self-inflicted though he left no note.

Not long before his supposed suicide, Graham had revised his will, leaving his controlling interest in the Post and the rest of his media empire to the mistress whom he planned to marry, thereby completely disinheriting his wife and children. But after a bitter legal battle, that will was invalidated as having been the product of his mental illness, so control of the Post reverted back to the family that had originally held it, with his widow and children serving as owners and publishers for the next half-century.

This is certainly a very strange and dramatic story, far more bizarre than anything in the later Watergate Scandal but despite its enormous impact upon our media landscape, I’d never heard of it. However, as one of Graham’s top subordinates, Bradlee must have personally experienced that harrowing corporate roller-coaster ride. Perhaps Graham’s sudden mental illness, suicide, and invalidated will had all occurred exactly as Halberstam’s narrative claimed, having no deeper meaning nor connection to any other events. But one may speculate at other possibilities.

In reexamining this account, some dates jumped out at me. By the summer of 1963, the Kennedys had probably already formulated their plan to use their media allies to destroy Johnson by investigating and publicizing his numerous Texas crimes, then purge him from the 1964 ticket and send him to prison. Meanwhile, the countervailing plot to assassinate JFK was also probably in the works, with Johnson likely being a leading conspirator, and in April he had announced Kennedy’s forthcoming visit to Dallas.

Graham controlled the most powerful media organs in DC and one or both of those competing factions might have disclosed elements of their plans to him, hoping to enlist him as an important supporter in their looming showdown. This obviously would have placed the publisher in an extremely stressful and perhaps even dangerous position, especially if fears arose that his mental instability might lead him to reveal those secrets to the opposing camp. One may even speculate that his revised will, leaving his Post media empire to his mistress and disinheriting his wife and family might have been intended to serve as an insurance policy to protect his life, but one that failed when his will was declared invalid.

At the very least, I certainly found it a rather odd coincidence that Kennedy’s assassination came just three months after Washington’s most powerful media proprietor had been killed by a shotgun blast.

 

The story of Graham’s strange demise intrigued me and I decided to see what additional information I could locate.

Once Graham was found dead and his widow Katharine had successfully invalidated his will, she gained full control over the extensive media empire he had created, reigning as its imperious publisher during the decades that followed. By the early 1970s, the twin triumphs of the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate Scandal had elevated the Post to one of the world’s most important newspapers, naturally drawing attention to the individual who controlled it, a leading figure in DC society who also ranked as one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in the world. I came across references to a controversial, suppressed account of Katharine Graham’s life published in the late 1970s and decided to read it.

Even as the Watergate coverage of the Post drove Nixon from the White House, a young investigative journalist named Deborah Davis had begun writing Katharine the Great, her unauthorized biography. By early 1978 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, a leading publisher, bought the hardcover rights and prepared a large marketing campaign for what it hoped would become a huge bestseller. But Katharine Graham became aware of the project and was extremely unhappy with the contents, threatening the publisher with a ferocious libel lawsuit while deploying all her friends and allies in the media to denounce the forthcoming book as fraudulent “garbage.” With the pressure mounting, Harcourt abandoned the book and pulped the tens of thousands of copies it had already printed, violating the terms of the contract signed with the author and provoking a bitter, drawn out legal battle.

Davis told the story of the suppression of her book in the introduction of a later edition, released by a different publisher and also now available in a PDF copy posted on the Internet. Reading her account of the fierce censorship she faced led me to assume that the text would be filled with explosive material, all thoroughly documented.

Unfortunately, once I began to read the book I was quite disappointed. A great deal of the text was devoted to a rather dull narrative of Katharine’s family background prior to her marriage to Philip. Despite their enormous political importance, the 1960s assassinations of the Kennedy brothers received virtually no attention, let alone any suggestion that the killers had been other than deranged lone gunmen, and similarly, no hint of any foul play was suggested in Philip Graham’s death. And despite this obvious effort to shy away from conspiratorial controversy, the text lacked almost any footnotes, making it very difficult to judge the credibility of the numerous claims made about business or other matters. The overall quality of the narrative and the writing seemed rather plodding and mediocre and the absence of any index also limited its usefulness.

By contrast, the coverage of these same events in the Janney book published more than three decades later seemed far superior. Apparently Mary Meyer had always been very skeptical that Graham actually committed suicide, and Janney himself had serious doubts, even mentioning that a source had contacted Davis, telling her that Graham had been murdered, but the author had never bothered following up at the time. Indeed, Janney mentioned that in a later 1992 interview, Davis described the widespread speculation that Katharine Graham had arranged for her husband to be killed or perhaps that “somebody had said to her, ‘don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.’” Davis had carefully omitted all such dangerous notions from her 1978 book or its later 1991 edition, so Janney provided more information on Davis’ true views than she did in her own book. Admittedly, Janney was writing many years later when such matters had probably become much less sensitive while Davis may have pulled her punches in hopes that her book would be released and promoted by a leading mainstream press.

It also later came out that for many years Graham had provided strong media support to the CIA in its various propaganda projects, but some time after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he’d publicly denounced that organization for its manipulation of journalists, so perhaps his erratic behavior in 1963 had raised red flags about the huge public damage that might result if he revealed such secrets, thereby leading to his death. Janney speculates that Katharine Graham made a “Faustian deal” with elements of the CIA, promising to continue the same policies and arrangements her husband had previously undertaken in exchange for gaining complete ownership and control over his media properties, and this seems reasonably plausible to me.

The government of the Roman Empire was notorious for its murders and secret plots and I opened this article by suggesting that the true political history of modern America may have sometimes been closer to that world than most of us would care to admit. Janney seems to have drawn similar conclusions, beginning all of the sections of his book with long passages from the famous BBC dramatization of I, Claudius, a series overflowing with the murders, coups, and deadly political intrigues that marked the reigns of the emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius.

 

Coming from a family of Communists, Carl Bernstein had always had a difficult time at the Post and he left that newspaper just a couple of years after his Watergate triumph. He soon published a massive 28,000 word 1977 cover-story in Rolling Stone magazine that revealed the enormous CIA role in influencing American media coverage, including its long involvement in the Post and Newsweek, though he also quoted the various denials.

When Newsweek was purchased by the Washington Post Company, publisher Philip L. Graham was informed by Agency officials that the CIA occasionally used the magazine for cover purposes, according to CIA sources. “It was widely known that Phil Graham was somebody you could get help from,” said a former deputy director of the Agency. “Frank Wisner dealt with him.” Wisner, deputy director of the CIA from 1950 until shortly before his suicide in 1965, was the Agency’s premier orchestrator of “black” operations, including many in which journalists were involved. Wisner liked to boast of his “mighty Wurlitzer,” a wondrous propaganda instrument he built, and played, with help from the press. Phil Graham was probably Wisner’s closest friend. But Graham, who committed suicide in 1963, apparently knew little of the specifics of any cover arrangements with Newsweek, CIA sources said.

  • The CIA and the Media
    How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up
    Carl Bernstein • Rolling Stone • October 20, 1977 • 28,000 Words

The CIA called its media project Operation Mockingbird and I found this major piece of investigative journalism by Bernstein far more interesting and important than any of his work on the political dirty tricks of individuals such as Donald Segretti. It’s also rather intriguing that Frank Wisner, the high-ranking CIA official responsible for influencing the American media, allegedly committed suicide with a shotgun in 1965 just two years after his closest friend, the owner and publisher of Washington Post media empire, had done exactly the same thing. And as I discussed in 2018, the year after Wisner’s death the CIA launched its largely successful media campaign to discredit the growing belief that the Kennedy assassination had been the work of a conspiracy:

According to Talbot, “By late 1966, it was becoming impossible for the establishment media to stick with the official story” and the November 25, 1966 edition of Life Magazine, then at the absolute height of its national influence, carried the remarkable cover story “Did Oswald Act Alone?” with the conclusion that he probably did not. The next month, The New York Times announced it was forming a special task force to investigate the assassination. These elements were to merge with the media furor soon surrounding the Garrison investigation that began the following year, an investigation that enlisted Lane as an active participant. However, behind the scenes a powerful media counterattack was also being launched at this same time.

In 2013 Prof. Lance deHaven-Smith, past president of the Florida Political Science Association, published Conspiracy Theory in America, a fascinating exploration of the history of the concept and the likely origins of the term itself. He noted that during 1966 the CIA had become alarmed at the growing national skepticism of the Warren Commission findings, especially once the public began turning its suspicious eyes toward the intelligence agency itself. Therefore, in January 1967 top CIA officials distributed a memo to all their local stations, directing them to employ their media assets and elite contacts to refute such criticism by various arguments, notably including an emphasis on Robert Kennedy’s supposed endorsement of the “lone gunman” conclusion.

Was the Watergate Scandal a “Silent Coup?”

Thus, even as the top Post editor met with his eager young Watergate reporters, he knew of political stories and scandals vastly more dramatic than anything they were seeking to uncover, and he himself may have been personally involved in some of these. But he also recognized that if his paper ever published any of that material, he would surely be immediately purged from his position and permanently blacklisted, perhaps with some serious risk of seeing his own life cut short as had happened to Mary Meyer and Philip Graham.

Although interpretations might differ, most of the facts I have so far discussed seem solidly documented. But since the story they tell has never become the subject of a major Hollywood film, only a sliver of Americans are today aware of them.

Indeed, one could easily imagine producing an absurdist, Monty Python-esque satire in which all these dramatic political killings and deadly power struggles are juxtaposed with the unraveling trivialities of the Watergate Scandal, as the earnest reporters covering the latter remain blissfully unaware of the enormities taking place all around them. I am reminded of the early scenes of the 2004 British black horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead in which the lazy, lackadaisical East End protagonist goes about his daily routine in London, totally oblivious to the raging zombie apocalypse engulfing his city, even as the ravenous monsters are attacking and devouring many of the pedestrians in his vicinity.

It’s undeniably true that as Woodward and Bernstein met with Bradlee at their periodic editorial conferences and passed along word of their successes and setbacks, the veteran editor was aware of enormous secrets that he could not disclose to them. Yet oddly enough, it’s also quite possible that Woodward himself knew some important secrets of his own that he kept hidden from Bradlee as well as Bernstein, his writing partner.

In 1991 I remember seeing some discussion in the newspapers of a new national bestseller by a couple of unknown authors that claimed to have overturned the settled history of the Watergate Scandal. Their book argued that Nixon’s political fall had been orchestrated by hardline elements of our national security establishment outraged over his opening to China and the Soviet Union, with many of them regarding his efforts to end the Cold War as a huge ideological betrayal. Not only had the involvement of Nixon and his top aides in the crimes been minimal, but John Dean, the whistleblower who became one of the few public heroes of the story, had actually been one of the leading villains, personally responsible for the break-in that launched the case and a central figure in the later cover-up.

The very few reviews and appraisals I’d seen of Silent Coup: The Removal of a President by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin had been strongly negative, denouncing the work as dishonest conspiracy-nonsense, so I vaguely leaned in that direction, and given my lack of interest in modern American history, I certainly never considered reading it. But the title stuck in my mind, so when I noticed it at a used book sale, I bought it for $0.25 and eventually read it a couple of years ago. I’ve gradually discovered that a long list of conspiratorial narratives that had been ridiculed and dismissed by the mainstream media were actually far more plausible that I’d ever expected, and this one fell into that category.

What we call the Watergate Scandal encompasses a large collection of different political crimes and abuses committed by the Nixon Administration and its campaign apparatus, with the details being quite complex and confusing, especially to someone such as myself who has never closely investigated the case. I lack the specialized expertise in Watergate history to say whether the narrative offered by this reconstruction of events is more plausible than the orthodox one that it challenged, but most of the evidence seemed quite well documented if circumstantial. The authors spent seven years on their project, carefully comparing and analyzing the enormous mass of Congressional testimony, Nixon tapes, and numerous personal memoirs, supplementing this with more than 150 taped interviews of almost all the major participants. My paperback edition runs over 600 pages including appendices, and I think that their analysis deserves far more attention than it seems to have received during the thirty-odd years since it first burst upon the scene.

 

The Colodny/Gettlin book is divided into three main sections that focus upon the different major discoveries that the authors claim to have made, which are somewhat disconnected from each other.

They began their narrative by heavily documenting the surprising fact that in 1971, the Nixon Administration discovered that it had been penetrated by a major spy ring organized by America’s own top military leadership, headed by Adm. Thomas Moorer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had formulated plans to use a political opening first to China and then to the Soviet Union to reshuffle the geopolitical map to America’s advantage, and also negotiate a more favorable end to the Vietnam War. They recognized that much of the top Pentagon brass consisted of hardline anti-Communist Cold Warriors who might strongly resist that effort and they were fearful that if they kept the Pentagon informed, someone might torpedo the negotiations at a delicate stage, perhaps by leaking those developments to the media, so they kept their project entirely secret.

However, once the Pentagon leadership realized that they were being kept in the dark, they ordered some of the military officers working in the White House to begin a massive spying operation, secretly stealing or copying thousands of documents for delivery to the Joint Chiefs. While it’s possible that this sort of thing may have sometimes happened in the past, the scale of the operation seemed entirely unprecedented.

This military spy ring was discovered purely by accident in December 1971 when one of its key agents was polygraphed under the mistaken suspicion that he might have been responsible for an unrelated leak to a political columnist, and Nixon’s response was shrewd and calculated. Realizing that disclosure of this scandal would reveal his bitter conflict with the military leadership and hurt his reelection chances, he decided to suppress the case and rather than disciplining or firing Moorer instead later appointed him to a second term as America’s top military officer, recognizing that he would now be under much greater political control.

Although the authors don’t mention it, several years earlier Moorer had been outraged by President Johnson’s treacherous cover-up of the 1967 Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, killing or wounding more than 200 American servicemen, and that previous incident may have been a factor behind his extreme suspicion of the Nixon/Kissinger policies. Furthermore, just a couple of years after his spying operation had been broken, he became similarly outraged by Nixon’s abandonment of hundreds of America’s Vietnam POWs, and the powerful hold that the president had gained over him may have been what forced him to keep silent on that latter matter.

The extremely bitter sentiments of the military officers involved in spying on the White House are suggested by an interview the authors conducted with one of the key participants many years later. When asked what the purpose of the project had been, he explained: “Well, bringing Nixon down. Really, getting rid of Kissinger—Kissinger was a real monkey wrench in things.” These military officers regarded the efforts by Nixon and Kissinger to end the Cold War as close to treasonous.

 

One important aspect of the case, emphasized by the authors but probably not brought to Nixon’s attention was the considerable circumstantial evidence that Gen. Alexander Haig, then a top Kissinger aide and later Nixon’s own chief of staff, may have been associated with that military spy operation or at least was quietly aware of it. If so, this suggests that Haig’s political loyalties may have been sharply divided at a very early stage.

This last point relates to one of the most dramatic and heavily disputed elements of the book. The authors argue at great length that Woodward’s personal background and his role in breaking the Watergate Scandal may have been very different than what has been presented in the standard media narrative.

Woodward originally came from a strongly right-wing Republican family background, with his high school commencement speech drawing heavily upon Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative, but he always claimed that his years at Yale had shifted him in a much more liberal direction on the Vietnam War and other matters. However, the extensive interviews conducted by the authors sharply dispute this ideological transformation and they also note that before serving his years in the navy, Woodward had been tapped as a member of one of Yale’s most elite secret societies, which often served as a conduit for intelligence agency recruitment. Contrary to Woodward’s claims that his military service had been humdrum and very boring, he was actually involved in intelligence work and volunteered to stay an extra year because he was so eager to continue his exciting assignment, part of which was spent working “in the basement of the White House.”

Woodward’s role was an elite intelligence briefer, providing crucial information to important officials, including both Adm. Moorer and Gen. Haig. As Robert Sherrill explained in his excellent 1991 review in The Nation:

For two years (1969 and 1970), “after briefing Moorer at nine in the morning . . . Woodward would often travel to the West Basement offices of the White House, carrying documents from Moorer, and would then deliver these and brief Alexander Haig about the same matters he had earlier conveyed to Moorer.”

None of this would be particularly explosive except that Woodward has repeatedly denied these same facts. Quoting Sherrill’s review at length:

When Colodny and Gettlin interviewed Woodward for this book, he claimed that he had never met or talked to Haig until “some time in the spring of 1973″—three years after leaving the Navy and a year after the Watergate scandal started breaking. Further, he vehemently denied that he had ever been a briefer: “I wasn’t,” he said. “It never happened. I’m looking you in the eye. You have got bad sources.” He went further: “I defy you to produce someone who says I did a briefing.” Colodny and Gettlin produced several somebodies. Admiral Moorer said Woodward was one of his briefers and “sure, of course,” he also briefed Haig. Former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird told Colodny and Gettlin, “Yes, I was aware that Haig was being briefed by Woodward,” and Jerry Friedheim, who used to be Laird’s aide, agreed. Roger Morris, who was a member of Kissinger’s N.S.C. staff until resigning to protest the Cambodia bombing (and who later became the pre-eminent biographer of pre-Watergate Nixon), contends that Woodward “knew Al Haig well, and had been back and forth in the West Basement in those early days.”

As Sherrill notes, one of the very puzzling aspects of Watergate was how a cub reporter like Woodward could have immediately had access to the extremely knowledgeable source known as Deep Throat, whose information played the central role in breaking the case and thereby bringing down the Nixon Administration. Once again, it’s worth quoting Sherrill’s shrewd observation:

One of the most puzzling questions of modern journalism is, How did Bob Woodward come up with that all-seeing, all-knowing, insider source of information that he introduced to the world as Deep Throat? How did Woodward manage to make that connection? Why would a source like Deep Throat want to unload his powerful ammunition through somebody like Woodward, who was at that time a mere rookie at The Washington Post! His only previous newspaper experience had been on a suburban Maryland weekly.

If Woodward had spent years personally briefing Haig on a daily basis at the White House, but then guiltily denied having ever known him at the time or even been a briefer, that certainly indicates that his personal relationship with Haig was a crucial fact he sought to keep concealed. If we are also puzzled how the cub reporter had managed to acquire his secret, high-level inside source known as Deep Throat after just a few months at the Post, it’s plausible that those two secrets might be closely connected.

Based upon these facts, it’s hardly surprising that the authors strongly suspect that even if Deep Throat were merely a composite source, one of its key individual components was Haig. And if the man who later became Nixon’s chief of staff had actually been a central source in the Watergate investigation that brought down the president and removed him from office, their title of “Silent Coup” seems not unwarranted.

 

Watergate began as a botched burglary of the DNC offices and without that initial spark none of the later cover-up or media investigation would have occurred, so the machinations of Deep Throat, whether Haig or someone else, would have never come into play. The authors claim that the origins of that small break-in and the ensuing cover-up were actually quite different than what has been widely believed.

In the conventional narrative, the burglars had been dispatched by Attorney-General John Mitchell to bug the office phones of DNC Chairman Larry O’Brien, hoping to gain political information to use against the Democrats. But the authors argue that this theory seems contradicted by the floor plan of the offices, the phones the burglars intended to tap, and the location of their lookout. Instead, they argue that the target had been something entirely different, namely the DNC phones that were regularly used to contact a local call-girl ring, with the wiretap aimed at obtaining sexual dirt on the Democrats. And they believe that Nixon’s own young counselor John Dean had actually been the key figure responsible for the bugging operation.

Dean, who subsequently became one of the great public beneficiaries of the Watergate Scandal, was then a hotshot young lawyer in his early thirties, eager to rise in the Nixon Administration and convinced that finding salacious dirt on important Democrats was an excellent means of achieving that.

According to the authors, Dean’s girlfriend at the time—who later became his wife—had worked part-time for that call-girl ring and her roommate served as its madam. So based upon the stories he’d personally heard, the ambitious young lawyer decided to organize a break-in and get the sort of the embarrassing information on Democrats that would make him a hero with his senior Republican colleagues.

Not having the personal authority to take such actions, he simply pretended that he was passing along the directives of his superiors, then panicked when the burglars were caught and organized the early stages of the cover-up using that same approach. Since all these actions were illegal, none of the orders were ever put in writing, easily allowing a trusted subordinate such as Dean to make the decisions himself while pretending that he was merely passing them along, without anyone questioning his claims. These sorts of dirty tricks were naturally kept on a need-to-know basis, so nobody in the Nixon Administration was overly shocked by these plans for a DNC burglary or the need for a cover-up when it went awry.

Dean was a young, totally obscure individual while the media and the Congressional Democrats detested Nixon and his top aides, so Dean later easily threw most of the blame upon his superiors, thereby saving his own skin and becoming a heroic whistleblower to Congress and the media, and through them to most of the American people and the history books.

As the authors worked out this alternate reconstruction of events, various knowledgeable Watergate figures such as Mitchell and Gordon Liddy declared that they found it quite plausible, buttressing the theory with additional information. Obviously the support of these individuals may have been self-serving and the case the authors make is heavily circumstantial, but many portions of it do seem to fit the facts better than the conventional narrative.

 

Thus, under the scenario proposed by Silent Coup, two entirely unrelated elements came together to bring down the Nixon Administration.

For personal and careerist reasons, a young but ambitious Nixon staffer named John Dean authorized the burglary and the subsequent cover-up when it went bad. He then drew his superiors into salvaging his plan and eventually threw them to the wolves when the investigations by Congress and the media got too close. Such rampant opportunism and disloyalty seem but all too common among many people who enter the political world.

Then, once that initial crime and cover-up began, some knowledgeable individual who wanted to take down the Nixon Administration probably for ideological reasons and who had a prior relationship with Woodward—Haig seems a very good candidate—began feeding the reporter the clues and information he needed to bring down the cover-up and Nixon’s entire presidency with it.

For those interested in a reasonable overview of the book by its authors, I’d recommend their hour long C-Span interview by Brian Lamb:

This interview and a great deal of other material related to the book and the evidence behind its reconstruction is available on a website established by the authors, including PDF copies of many of the chapters.

The Second Watergate Cover-up?

Many of the claims made in Silent Coup are certainly surprising, but the elements mostly appear well-documented and reasonably plausible. The book became a huge national bestseller in 1991 so I was a little puzzled that it seemed to have had such minimal impact upon the accepted Watergate account in the 33 years since it was published. This partly demonstrates the massive inertia possessed by entrenched narratives even if they are challenged by far superior alternatives.

I’ve emphasized my own lack of expertise on the complex topic of Watergate, but quite a number of knowledgeable individuals seem to have shared my very positive appraisal of the Colodny/Gettlin book at the time it was released.

Roger Morris served as a senior national security staffer during the Johnson and Nixon Administrations, then became a noted historian and author who won journalistic awards, and his many books include works on Kissinger, Haig, and Nixon. He was sufficiently impressed by the analysis in Silent Coup that he contributed a Foreword strongly endorsing its thesis and praising its success in resurrecting the “hidden history” of that era.

Investigative journalist Robert Sherill had extensively reported on Watergate and I’d highly recommend his lengthy review in The Nation, hardly a publication overly friendly towards Nixon, while Robert Scheer, another sharp critic of Nixon, took the same position in the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, Prof. Herbert Parmet, a noted historian and author of seven books, including one on Nixon, published his very favorable evaluation in National Review. The website associated with the book contains favorable blurbs from a number of additional journalists and academics.

The online links are collected for convenient access:

  • Foreword by Roger Morris
  • Review by Robert Sherill, The Nation, October 7, 1991
  • Review by Robert Scheer, The Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1991
  • Review by Prof. Herbert Parmet, National Review, August 12, 1991

For nearly two decades, Watergate had been regarded as one of the seminal political events in recent American history, and its story had been told in many thousands of books and articles, as well as a hit movie that Woodward and Bernstein the most famous journalists in the world, but now Silent Coup sought to turn it on its head. Under these circumstances, I found it quite remarkable that this new book had quickly attracted such strongly favorable reactions from leading experts, whose views appeared in outlets across the ideological spectrum, ranging from the Nation to National Review. That would certainly have impressed me at the time if I’d become aware of it.

But unfortunately when the book was published in 1991 I was not regularly reading any of those publications, so none of the favorable discussions came to my attention, and with one important exception, all of the many publications that I did read totally ignored the book, leading me to vaguely assume that it had just been the work of cranks.

A major factor behind this widespread media silence had probably been a column by the Washington Post‘s media critic that ran just a day after the book’s publication, denouncing it as fraudulent and quoting Moorer as denying that he had ever spoken to the authors. That harsh attack was distributed to the many hundreds of media outlets across America that subscribed to the Times-Post news service and surely had a devastating impact. However, as Sherrill noted in his review, the Moorer interview had been taped and the authors had already distributed portions of the transcript at their press conference, so Moorer quickly retracted his denials. But the Post never corrected the record.

Meanwhile, I did read the New York Times Book Review and it soon published a lengthy and extremely negative review by Prof. Stephen Ambrose, a historian who had already published two volumes of a Nixon biography. Ambrose’s harsh critique came soon after the book’s release and probably helped discredit it in many eyes, including my own. But as Sherill emphasized in his own discussion a few months later, Ambrose had contacted the authors a couple of years earlier, asking to trade information on the issue, and after being rejected, warned that as a respected historian, he could make or break their project.

By the time their book appeared, Ambrose was close to releasing the third and final volume of his Nixon trilogy, heavily focused on Watergate, and if the narrative of Silent Coup were accepted, his entire framework would be destroyed, so he immediately began attacking the book, with many of his charges being wildly incorrect. Once the Times was informed of these facts, the editors added a note to the bottom explaining that they regretted having assigned the review to Ambrose, but henceforth they simply ignored the book, and the editor of the Times Book Review even threatened the book’s publisher with retaliation when word of their serious blunder began circulating.

(Despite this embarrassment, Prof. Ambrose seems to have become the favored choice of the Times for attacking controversial books that challenged accepted narratives on historical events. Less than eight months later, in the wake of Oliver Stone’s JFK film, Ambrose published a massive 4,000 word review denouncing and ridiculing the wave of hugely successful books that disputed the findings of the Warren Commission, arguing that the Kennedy assassination had been the work of a conspiracy. Ambrose heaped criticism upon several other “conspiratorial” theories as well.)

The two most powerful newspapers in America were the Times and the Post, and their very early and extremely negative coverage of Silent Coup strongly influenced the reaction of the rest of the media, probably leading them to dismiss the book and explaining why I had almost never seen it mentioned in the publications that I read.

The Post had built its reputation on the Watergate coverage and its success in driving Nixon from office, and if the story of Silent Coup were substantially correct, the paper had merely been the tool of a political conspiracy. Watergate had made Bob Woodward the most famous journalist in America and Ben Bradlee the most famous editor, and the theory advanced by Colodny and Gittlin threatened to destroy their reputations, so it’s hardly surprising that they and their allies made desperate attempts to strangle that new narrative in its cradle. Meanwhile, the Times had published an ocean of major Watergate stories over the previous twenty years and having missed the big picture of what had happened would be a huge black mark on its reputation, made more embarrassing because the truth had been unearthed by a couple of unknowns.

My 1992 paperback edition of Silent Coup contains a 25 page postscript aptly entitled “Protecting the Myth—The Washington Post and the Second Watergate Cover-up” that discusses this effort to suppress the book and its impact in considerable detail.

For example, Mike Wallace and Sixty Minutes had been enthusiastic about doing a show on Silent Coup and after a producer spent days reviewing the material and the evidence, Wallace interviewed the two authors in a New York City hotel suite, getting hours of footage that would then be edited down to a fifteen minute segment for one of America’s highest-rated television programs. But pressure from the Post, possibly at the highest corporate level, eventually killed the project despite Wallace’s enthusiasm, and the authors reasonably speculated that Post CEO Katharine Graham may have lobbied her personal friend CBS CEO Larry Tisch on the issue.

Time magazine, America’s leading newsweekly, had bought the rights to run a 12,000 word excerpt that would have been a cover-story, but under pressure they also backed away, partly because Bernstein was on their staff and so intensely hostile to the project. Large numbers of other successful American journalists and editors had also invested their entire careers in the existing Watergate narrative.

A great deal of pressure was exerted on ABC’s Good Morning America show to cancel their interview segment on the book, but the producers held firm and the authors believe that those 25 minutes of airtime on a top-rated national show may have been a crucial factor in the book’s success, which was soon propelled by enormous interest on talk radio and local television interviews, which totaled more than one hundred. But although sales eventually reached hundreds of thousands of copies, making the book a huge national best-seller, the early attacks by the Post and the Times had forestalled the sort of elite media tidal wave that was necessary to successfully uproot and replace an entrenched historical narrative.

One reason that I find this account of the authors so credible is that a dozen years earlier Katharine Graham and the Post had taken very similar actions in successfully suppressing the book by Deborah Davis. The major difference this time was that the Colodny/Gettlin book was far superior to that of Davis in quality, its claims were thoroughly, exhaustively documented, and its central topic was much more substantive and important. Those factors, plus a certain amount of luck, allowed Silent Coup to survive the furious assault of the Post and immediately become a huge national bestseller, though it unfortunately failed to dislodge the standard Watergate narrative.

Watergate and the CIA

I found the Silent Coup analysis of Watergate quite convincing but although it made extensive references to the CIA, that organization seemed to have merely played a peripheral role in the story. However, I think it’s quite possible that its involvement may have been much greater than that.

As I’ve discussed, the crimes and abuses that constituted Watergate were really rather trivial ones compared to others of that era, and this remains the case whether they were orchestrated by John Mitchell or John Dean. Yet the media megaphone of the Washington Post inflated them into the sort of monumental transgressions that led to the resignation of a president and the incarceration of many of the top officials of his administration. I think we should ask ourselves why the Post and the rest of the national media turned on Nixon for doing things that were really quite mild relative to the actions of other presidents or J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

If all the public officials in Chicago take bribes but only one of them is ever arrested and prosecuted, he may be guilty as charged but we should question why he was singled out for punishment.

As we have seen earlier, the Post seems to have operated under the heavy influence of the CIA and routinely promoted or killed stories at that organization’s behest. If the Post had willingly suppressed coverage of so many dramatic events in past years, ignoring a third-rate burglary like Watergate would have been trivial. But although Bradlee initially took that position, he soon changed his mind. We might speculate that the CIA played a role in that decision.

Silent Coup demonstrated that the Pentagon leadership was extremely suspicious of Nixon’s planned outreach to China and the Soviets, and some of its figures may have even wanted to bring him down and force his removal over that issue. And if the leaders of the Pentagon held such views, perhaps some CIA hardliners did as well. There seems a great deal of evidence that Nixon’s relations with the CIA were not good, and its leaders often refused to follow his directives.

But Nixon had spent more than two decades as a leading figure in Washington politics and he knew important secrets that he may have believed gave him a powerful hold over that organization, something that its leadership deeply resented and viewed as a threat.

Soon after the Watergate burglars were arrested, Nixon told his chief of staff Bob Haldeman to meet with CIA director Richard Helms and emphasize that if the Watergate investigation continued, the involvement of former CIA agent Howard Hunt could cause it to open up “the whole Bay of Pigs thing.” Haldeman was very puzzled by that reference since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion was more than a decade in the past and hardly a burning issue, but he did as he had been told and was shocked when Helms reacted by shouting back at him “I have no concern about the Bay of Pigs.” Haldeman later concluded that “the whole Bay of Pigs thing” was a euphemistic code phrase for the JFK Assassination and Nixon’s awareness or strong suspicion that Hunt and other members of the CIA had been involved in Kennedy’s death.

Attempting to blackmail an organization as powerful as the CIA is a risky step to take even for an American president, and it’s possible that Helms decided to retaliate by having his Operation Mockingbird subordinates quietly encourage the Post to ramp up its Watergate coverage in order to weaken or wound the Nixon Administration. Like his Pentagon counterparts, Helms may also have been very unhappy with Nixon’s foreign policy initiatives towards China and the USSR, so this might have strengthened his resolve.

Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK made the case that Kennedy’s plans to end the Cold War led to his death at the hands of hardliners, including elements of the CIA. His 1995 film Nixon contained a powerful extended scene in which the president met with Helms and the two leaders fenced over the same Cold War issues, with Helms even obliquely hinting that Nixon should heed the lesson of his slain predecessor.

There are also some reasonable suspicions that the CIA involvement in Watergate may have been far more direct and substantial than what I have suggested. Many of the aspects of the failed burglary itself seem highly suspicious, and the key figures involved in the incident had a CIA background. If the leadership of the Pentagon had been running a spy ring inside the White House and sought to bring down Nixon, perhaps the professional spies of the CIA were taking parallel actions along different lines, infiltrating and sabotaging the illegal operations of the Nixon Administration, then planning to use the resulting criminal case to remove the president whose policies they disliked.

Although I haven’t investigated this possibility in any depth, a portion of a video that I recently came across does an excellent job of summarizing the considerable circumstantial evidence for this theory.

 

As I explained at the beginning of my discussion, although Kennedy and Nixon are widely regarded as polar-opposites, they had spent most of their political careers on quite friendly terms and their foreign and domestic policies were actually not so very far apart. As presidents, both those leaders attempted to reduce tensions with our Cold War adversaries and encountered strong opposition to these policies from hardline elements of our national security establishment, including both the Pentagon and the CIA.

There seems overwhelming evidence that such policy differences led some elements of the CIA to be involved in Kennedy’s assassination and that a decade later, similar factors led Pentagon and perhaps CIA hardliners to play an important role in Nixon’s removal by less lethal means. So although our media and our standard textbooks have glorified the presidency of one man and vilified that of the other, there are actually striking similarities for those who examine the facts much more closely. Kennedy and Nixon both entered Congress in 1946 and waged an exceptionally close battle for the White House in 1960. Although both had been known as staunchly anti-Communist Cold Warriors, once in office they shifted their foreign policy in a different direction, and partly for that reason paid the price of being removed from office, though the means employed were quite different.

Many of those who have investigated the JFK Assassination have concluded that what happened amounted to a political coup, whose reality was concealed by our American media, and I think the same may be said of the removal of Richard Nixon a decade later, though the coup was a silent one, utilizing judicial means.

 

I opened this piece by quoting several paragraphs I’d published almost exactly six years ago, emphasizing that until the last dozen years I’d regarded modern American history as too bland and boring to study, in sharp contrast to the endless political coups and assassinations of the Roman and Hellenistic empires. Although numerous highly-suspicious deaths of important American figures seemed to surround the 1963 JFK Assassination, an even more remarkable series of such mysterious deaths had occurred soon after the end of World War II, and these had been the subject of that previous article.

Among those who grow skeptical of establishment media verdicts, there is a natural tendency to become overly suspicious, and see conspiracies and cover-ups where none exist. The sudden death of a prominent political figure may be blamed on foul-play even when the causes were entirely natural or accidental. “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” But when a sufficient number of such persons die within a sufficiently short period of years, and overwhelming evidence suggests that at least some of those deaths were not for the reasons long believed, the burden of proof begins to shift….

I do not think that any similar list of comparable individuals during that same time period could be produced for Britain, France, the USSR, or China. In one of the James Bond films, Agent 007 states his opinion that “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.” And I think these six examples over just a few years should be enough to raise the eyebrows of even the most cautious and skeptical.

Foreign leaders outraged over America’s destructive international blundering have sometimes described our country as possessing physical might of enormous power, but having a ruling political elite so ignorant, gullible, and incompetent that it easily falls under the sway of unscrupulous foreign powers. We are a nation with the body of a dinosaur but controlled by the brain of a flea.

The post-war era of the 1940s surely marked an important peak of America’s military and economic power. Yet there seems considerable evidence that during those same years, a varied mix of Soviet, British, and Zionist assassins may have freely walked our soil, striking down those whom they regarded as obstacles to their national interests. Meanwhile, nearly all Americans remained blissfully unaware of these momentous developments, being lulled to sleep by “Our American Pravda.”

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