Et Tu, Lyndon?

Conspiracy theories: The LBJ Theory.

By 1963 Lyndon Johnson had grown weary of the obscurity of his office and was concerned that the scandals surrounding his cronies Bobby Baker and Billie Sol Estes would ruin his hopes for the presidency. When rumors circulated that JFK was going to drop him from the 1964 ticket, LBJ worked to stage an elaborate coup on home turf, enlisting loyal Texas oilmen who feared losing the oil depletion allowance and warmongers who wanted to step up involvement in Vietnam. One of their foot soldiers was an angry young man named Lee Harvey Oswald.

Believers

Authors David Lifton ( The Texas Connection ) and Harrison Edward Livingstone ( Killing Kennedy ).

Strange Details

• John Connally, LBJ’s longtime friend and colleague, roomed in college with Dallas County district attorney Henry Wade, whose November 24, 1963, press conference made the definitive case against Oswald.

• Eugene Locke, the deputy ambassador to Vietnam under LBJ, once served as the attorney for Marie Tippit, the wife of Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit, whom Oswald shot soon after the assassination.

Reasons to Believe

• Two days after the assassination, deputy attorney general Nicholas Katzenbach pushed for the creation of a federal investigatory commission, partly out of concern that the public might suspect Johnson’s involvement: Historically, assassinations of heads of state have been carried out by their successors.

• Soon after becoming president, Johnson, a hawk, pressed the House and Senate for passage of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, initiating a period of increased involvement in Vietnam.

• Johnson sealed certain assassination records until 2039, ordered that Kennedy’s limousine be refurbished rather than entered into evidence, and handpicked each member of the Warren Commission, which answered ultimately to him.

Reasons Not to Believe

• LBJ was fiercely ambitious but not depraved; to believe that he would order Kennedy’s murder requires an extraordinary leap of logic.

• Despite years of speculation—beginning, most memorably, with Barbara Garson’s popular 1967 play , MacBird!, and amplified in Oliver Stone’s JFK —there is not one shred of evidence to support the idea that LBJ had a hand in the assassination.

Recent Developments

The newly released LBJ tapes show that Johnson was by no means the puppet of warmongers; he clearly agonized over Vietnam and sought resolution to the conflict. They also reveal a man of more depth, and of greater conscience, than his detractors have ever given him credit for—hardly the portrait of a Judas waiting in the wings.

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