January 22, 2007

An Interview With Chief Justice Roberts

A Conversation with Chief Justice John Roberts About the U.S. Constitution
Host: Brian Lamb
August 5, 2006

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Chief Justice Roberts, can you remember the first time you got interested in the Constitution?

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Well, I’m not really sure when the first time was. I know we talked about it in grade school. You learn a little bit about the government - I don’t know exactly what the class was. And I remember having a little talk and discussion about it at that time.

LAMB: Do you remember when you got interested in it?

ROBERTS: Well, I was interested in it in college. I studied history in college and, of course, a big part of American history is the role of the Constitution and the framing of the Constitution and its preservation during the Civil War. So I came into it I think mostly from the angle of history and from there into law school where, of course, it was the main subject of study.

LAMB: If you had to define it in 200 words or less - a simple explanation of what our Constitution says, what would you say?

ROBERTS: Well, these are the rules by which we govern ourselves. You know like if you’re going to play any game you’ve got to know what the rules are. And governing, of course, is not a game, it’s more important but it’s the same principle, you have to know what the rules are.

And governments in world history have so often abused the power they have and people have suffered because of it. And the framers decided they were going to lay down some rules to try to keep that from happening, that’s what the Constitution is.

LAMB: Is there a particularly interesting part of it that you have always liked?

ROBERTS: Well, you know, I think people tend to focus because the cases tend to be more high profile on the Bill of Rights, you know, is this under the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, those sorts of things; the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment.

But the really interesting part of it and I think what the framers were most interested in is the structure of the whole thing, the decision to take the powers of the government and divide them up into three separate branches and to try to make sure that each branch stayed within its own sphere; the structure saying these are the - this is the presidency, this is the president’s power, this is the legislature, this is what they can do, here’s the judiciary. And that was where - that’s really where the main protection of our liberty resides. That is their way of preventing the government from becoming too powerful and I think that’s the part that is, at least for me anyway, very interesting.

LAMB: Do you have a favorite amendment?

ROBERTS: No, I don’t think I have a - any particular amendment that sort of is more favorite than any other. I mean, obviously, you get a lot of interesting issues under the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment.

And the reason we get a lot of interesting issues under those they are the ones that tend to be written for the ages, as it were, in broader terms. Because I think the framers really recognized and hoped they were forming a charter to govern for the centuries. And so they were using phrases like reasonable search and seizure and phases like that that they realized would have to be given meaning by their successors.

LAMB: If you were just starting out to study the Constitution how would you go about it based on what you know now?

ROBERTS: You know the one thing people don’t do, and by that I mean law professors, judges, law students, not just normal everyday citizens who are engaged in other occupations, nobody reads it. We talk about it a lot. We have cases about it. But to actually sit down and read it doesn’t happen that often and that is a very rewarding exercise.

You know of all the major written Constitutions in history it’s the shortest. It’s not an elaborate code. They were laying down basic principles that they wanted to endure and it’s timeless. There are parts of it that don’t seem to make much sense to day and we wonder why they are worried about quartering soldiers and things like that but they were important then. But most of it still resonates and you can see what they were trying to do just by sitting down and reading it.

LAMB: If you had to be one of the founding fathers that were at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 which one would you have been?

ROBERTS: Oh, that’s a - that’s a difficult thing to be - I’d like to think I would have been one of them - and there were a few that helped broker the great compromises that allowed the Constitution to become a reality. You know when they start - we look at a lot of problems today and we think well this is hopeless, how are you going to solve this. That was kind of what they started with.

I mean you had small states that thought they were going to be left out, you had big states that weren’t willing to give up any power, people had very different views on a lot of things. And yet they were able by sitting down in this room and kind of thrashing it out, closing it off no press in the room while they tried to work this out, to come up with, you know, a great compromise that allowed the small states, the big states, the merchant states, the agricultural states, everybody to kind of come together with, of course, one exception. They never worked out what to do about slavery and just kind of shuttled that aside and decided we’re not going to talk about that. And that taint in the Constitution, took a Civil War to remove. But with that exception I think they did a remarkable job of bringing all these diverse interests together and agreeing on a way of going forward that I’d have to say even the most optimistic of them really probably didn’t envision what the United States would become.

LAMB: When was the last time you read the Constitution?

ROBERTS: It was a few weeks ago. Just in kind of commemoration of the end of the term, you know, we spent the last term issuing a lot of decisions on what the Constitution means and I thought I ought to at least pause for an hour or so and read the original document again to see how closely I think we got to what the - what the framers wrote.

LAMB: Is there a weakness, from your perspective, in the Constitution?

ROBERTS: You know I wouldn’t identify anything as a particular weakness and to the extent weaknesses did emerge the framers anticipated that, too. I mean the amendment process, it’s extraordinarily difficult and we tend not to focus on it, but it did allow some fundamental flaws to be addressed like slavery - abolished in the Thirteenth Amendment. The Bill of Rights themselves, of course, although I tend to think of them as part of the original package because the understanding on the part of many of the framers was that as soon as we got the Constitution in place we would enact the Bill of Rights.

But no, I wouldn’t identify any particular flaw.

LAMB: At what point in our history did the court solidify as a, you know, powerful part of the three branches of government? Was it right away?

ROBERTS: It wasn’t right away and you can tell that if you tour around Washington, D.C. You know when they moved the government here the first thing they did was set up the White House for the president, next the Capitol for the legislative branch. People forgot about the Supreme Court. We didn’t get our own building until 1935 and I think that was a good indication of how significant people regarded the judiciary.

Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Paper said it’s the weakest branch. And certainly for the early part of its history it lived up to that. Then John Marshall came along and John Marshall established the court as the interpreter of the Constitution. In his famous decision he wrote, in Marbury vs. Madison, he basically said look, we’re a court. We have to decide cases. If in deciding a case we have to determine what the Constitution means well that’s our job under the Constitution.

He regarded the Constitution as law. That’s one way that our Constitution is different from a lot of others. Many countries that have Constitutions they’re really just political documents. And if you have a dispute under the Constitution it’s going to be resolved however disputes are going to be resolved, maybe in an election if you’re lucky, maybe by force of arms if you’re not, maybe by the mob. However political disputes are resolves that’s how they would resolve Constitutional questions.

John Marshall in Marbury vs. Madison said this is different. The Constitution is a political document. It sets up the political structures. But it’s also a law and if it’s the law we have the courts to tell what it means and that’s binding on the other branches.

And that important insight into how the Constitution works has been, I think, the secret to its success because you do have a final interpretation of its meaning that is binding on the political branches by a branch that’s separate from the political branches.

LAMB: You said first and foremost read the Constitution. What would you use secondly?

ROBERTS: Well, I’d read the Federalist Papers. These are the bits of advocacy, the briefs, the arguments in favor of ratifying the Constitution that several of the founding fathers wrote explaining what it means. They were involved in writing it, they wanted to see it ratified, and they did their best to explain it so that the various state conventions would ratify it.

And again, people can get scared away by something like that. It’s very easy reading. It’s very straight forward. It tells you exactly what they meant when they put the executive power in the presidency and why they separated the powers in order to protect individual liberty. It’s easy to read and it helps explain what the text means.

LAMB: Do you have a favorite one of the what, 84-85 ...

ROBERTS: Well, there are the - a couple of them that deal in particular with the judiciary and explain why, for example, federal judges are given life tenure, why their salary can’t be diminished. And what they say is the reason we do this is because they’re not supposed to be responsive to the people. Unlike the legislators, unlike the president, we don’t want judges to do what the people want in a particular instance. They’re supposed to be following the law and so you give them life tenure.

And there was a big debate at that time. People were concerned. The judges they had experience with were the English judges and they didn’t like that experience. And they’re saying why in this new Constitution are you setting up judges for life? That sounds like an aristocracy. We’re getting away from that.

And so they explained don’t worry about it because these judges are not going to be deciding important political questions, they’re deciding the law and they need to do that without regard to what popular pressures might have them do.

LAMB: Does the Constitution look any different to you since you’ve become chief justice?

ROBERTS: No. I wouldn’t say it looks any different. I do think since I became a judge anyway I have a particular sensitivity to the role of the court in interpreting the Constitution and the laws, and a particular concern to preserve the independence of the judiciary apart from the political branches because that’s what the framers recognized as key to the judiciary performing its function.

And I, perhaps as part of the judicial team now, have a bit more team pride in the importance and role of the court in making the Constitution a meaningful document.

LAMB: Do you ever as you watch the debate in this country about the Constitution hear different people take sides do you ever say we really don’t understand what this thing is?

ROBERTS: I do think that we need - judges need to do a better job educating people about their role. Too many people think whenever there’s any kind of dispute in our society well let’s take it to the Supreme Court and they’ll decide.

In a democratic republic that shouldn’t be someone’s first reaction. Their first reaction should be to resolve political disputes in the political process.

Now obviously one of the great insights and geniuses of the framers was to ensure that liberty was protected and that a court would be there to protect liberty. And when liberties guaranteed in the Constitution are infringed that’s what the courts are there for to ensure that that doesn’t happen. But they are not there to resolve everyday political disputes. And people’s first reaction in a lot of these cases ought to be I’m going to talk to my congressman, I’m going to talk to my senator, I’m going to call the White House, I’m going to call my governor and I’m going to talk to the people in my local government because that’s what the framers understood - that’s how they understood the system would work.

LAMB: Looking back, read the Constitution, read the Federalist Papers, in your own life did you have a teacher that was particularly important to you when it comes to the Constitution - or a book?

ROBERTS: No, I don’t think there’s anyone. I certainly had teachers in - as far back as grade school, but there again, they were tended to be history teachers and that was what I was interested in. They inspired that kind of interest in me. And I got to the law and the Constitution through a study of American history.

Books, yes, I mean there are - have been great books written about the Constitution. These are things that I looked at mostly in law school, books by people like Alexander Bikel, a famous law professor who tried to explain this - what he viewed as the fundamental conundrum in our system, how can you have in a democracy people like me who weren’t elected by anybody, who aren’t accountable to people, making such important decisions. How do you reconcile that fundamental inconsistency and he kind of struggled with that in a very, very thoughtful way that really made an impression on me.

LAMB: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.

ROBERTS: Thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed it.

Supreme Court + Current Events

OK, class, now we're off. You should take a look at this link regarding the Supreme Court. It's very cool, and will supplement your reading in the M v. M book (remember, you want to read p. 52-74 or so in that book).
 For the night class, we'll be getting ready for the State of the Union, which we'll talk about on Thurs. for the AM class.

 Stay tuned - interesting stuff. Tues. AM we may take a bit of a detour b/c of current events- be ready!! Group C is 'up'.


January 17, 2007

1st Political Ad of the Season Has Hit the Airwaves

The question for you - using Google, who was this TV against, and who paid for it!?
(I saw it today, 17 Jan - surprised - caucuses are a YEAR away. Feel free to comment on this via the discussion board or right here).

January 10, 2007

The President's Speech

Current Events – President Bush speaks. If you have not done so by Thursday AM, please read the text of the President’s speech regarding Iraq, and be prepared to speak about it. I’ll send links as they come! Thanks - Pete

January 03, 2007

Final Exam


Our study of the operations of the Government of the United States is inspired by two themes – the desire to explain, and the desire to predict. Developing and applying a reasoned, yet general, philosophical understanding of how people seeking power, and how people in power behave, is the route we have taken together.

We develop our understanding through observation. It is not good enough to raise ‘easy’ questions, attempt to answer them, and move on. Rather, we aim to learn the basics of the system, and then to use that understanding to develop our questions. It is my hope that in this very brief time together, doors have indeed been opened to you, and that through that process, your own questions will develop and grow, as you do.

“….Events, dear boy, events”.

As our aim is to explain and predict personal and structural behavior, we decided to do so by examining the individual, the systemic structure of the government, the electoral structure, and, events.[1]That fourth classifier – events – is the reference point for all we have dealt with in our course.


The States
· States as central political unit
· Confederation
· Equality among states
· Federalism
· The Electoral College
· The US Senate
· In-State Political Affairs (Legislative Elections)

The Supreme Court
· The Least Understood Branch
· Marbury v. Madison
· The Civil War and the Constitution
· Civil Rights – Religion and Race
· The Appointment Process
· Constitutional Interpretation

The Congress
· Committees
· House and Senate
· Direct Election of Senators
· Congressional Decision Making
· Congressional/Presidential Relations

The Presidency
· Election
· Governing
· The Evolving Presidency
· Succession and Constitutional Change
· Presidents in History – Truman and Ford
· Primary/Caucus

Comparative Politcs
· Parliament
· Monarchy

Current Events
· World Affairs
· President as Commander-in-Chief

Theory Into Practice
· Tyranny of the Majority
· Life, Liberty, and…..
· The Declaration, The Constitution, The Law – From Poetry to the Mechanics of Governing
· 3/5TH Clause

We started our course with the understanding from the past, that the states’ governments were and remain the reference point for the power of the federal government. We spoke of the Articles of Confederation, and the desire of the Framers to ensure a weaker national government than its roots – namely, the centralized British regime, given best example by the King, and the unrecognized Parliament.
It was in response to that centralized Government that our Declaration of Independence was written – and written, to make a point. In the wake of a hard won victory, and the words of Jefferson, the Confederation was born.
But it was, as your textbook suggests, a government that failed. It is in the shadow of the Confederation that we see concepts such as “Tyranny of the Majority”, and we recognize, that such a weak government, could protect no one. We are not alone in recognizing this. A government must exist to secure rights, as Jefferson borrowed from Locke, and if a government doesn’t work- then throw it off. We saw that in the span of several years, a second revolution occurred, to create a new government.
As the new government would grow, the Framers determined that the Legislature – Congress – would be the most prominent branch. The leader of the country, Washington, would be a unanimous choice for President, and in Washington’s footprint would that office grow.
But as the Presidency and the Congress grew, so too did the least understood branch- the Supreme Court. As was Washington to the Presidency, so was John Marshall, to the court.
Fast forward two hundred years to Lemon v. Kurtzman or Gideon v. Wainwright. Do we see a Court Marshall would recognize, or should we take notice of an unspoken development, more like the unwritten traditions of the British? Would Marshall be open to a Court of changing rights? Paraphrasing Supreme Court Justice Byron White – Marshall didn’t create Judicial Review[2]. The Constitution did. He enforced it.
The recurring theme from our course, is explaining the link between the poetry between the Declaration of Independence and the mechanics of today’s government.

For our purposes today, I want you to address the issues raised by the bullet points, similar to our exercise on Tuesday. Using the following questions as a guideline, please summarize and analyze our work. You may use your notes and textbook as well as the internet, provided you use citations.

1. States’ powers have changed. Structurally, how is states’ prominence still seen in the political system, both compared to the Federal government, but also in relation to each other?
2. How has the concept of equality changed since the founding, and what concepts are now justified/enforced in ways unheard of by the framers?
3. Consider for a moment that you are a newspaper publisher in the year 1950. You have just gotten word that your City Council has banned newspapers. Please discuss your options and explain why they may exist. What if it’s the year 1850? What if Congress, not the City Council has done the offending act?
4. Your daughter was recently sent home for wearing a piece of apparel that is required by your religious views. Your lawyer says, ‘this will be a breeze. We can get an exemption from this law because your beliefs are genuinely held’. What is your response?
5. Please explain to me the political process that Bruce Braley and Mike Whalen went through in June of 2006; then explain to me how the winner of that race will fulfill his campaign promises, upon taking office in Congress next week.
6. Assume for a moment you work in the White House, and are seeking a way to pay for a road you would like built in your home district. As of this coming Thursday, who needs to help you by appropriating the money?
7. Explain the significance of the Iowa caucuses, and explain the ‘bob to the left, weave to the right’ process candidates must routinely do to get out of Iowa and into New Hampshire.

For your final question, I want to focus on events. We spent hours discussing the nature of events as relating to Presidential politics and decision making. In 750-1000 words (3-3.5 pages), please explain how a Missouri County Judge and a Michigan Attorney came to occupy the Oval Office, and what they did once they arrived. Please feel free to recognize similarities/differences between the two, and be certain to explain their respective reactions to events beyond their control, in their personal, political, and electoral lives.

[1] Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister of Britain. When asked by a reporter what concerned him the most about governing, he replied, “Events, dear boy, events”.
[2] Bob Woodward, “The Brethren”.

January 02, 2007

2 Jan Written Assignment

For your afternoon assignment, I would like to please collaborate, and develop a study guide, using your notes, our lecture, and our readings as a guide.

Specific to this assignment, please revisit in writing where we’ve been – where did we start? Think of the list of factors we chose to use to explain and predict the behavior of those in political life. We have spent a great deal of time on ‘events’ – which events have shaped the development of the US Government in ways no one could have expected?

Having done that, please take 30-45 minutes revisiting our first two days in class; specifically the Courts and the States. Using the bullet points below, please sum up the basic points we addressed; effectively, I want you to raise questions, and then answer them.

This assignment is due at the end of class today.

January 01, 2007

President Ford/Warren Commission

Let me first address a few housekeeping items. We will spend a heavy amount of time on Wed. working on a final paper for you to turn in, and then we are done for this full semester

This pasted material below is really something else. As you may know, President Ford - as a Congressman- Gerald Ford was named to the Warren Commission - the board that investigated the murder of President Kennedy. As you no doubt know, there is naturally no real public consensus as to the events of that day. President Ford's 2005 comments - both as to the Warren Commission, but also about his own life. We will likely not be addressing any new items on Wed., but this is something to read.

Additionally, we will want to spend time looking at the Republicans and Democrats who are visiting Iowa anticipating a Presidential run. At present, there are four candidates running for President - Gov. Tom Vilsack, Sen. John Edwards, Rep. Duncan Hunter, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Rest assured, there will be many more - several of your colleagues attended a Presidential event this week, and I encourage all of you to do the same, after the course is done.

Thank you,





FORTY YEARS AGO, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy touched our whole nation. It also touched off one of the biggest controversies of the twentieth century – a debate that persists even into the next century.

Why has the assassination of John F. Kennedy sparked such dogmatic fascination? Foremost, people love a mystery, and this is a real-life murder mystery. Notwithstanding that, there is traditionally public cynicism about such affairs, along with a need to understand why, even if understanding it may be impossible. People want answers as to how such a reprehensible act could have occurred. They want to know the circumstances and failings of the system, the motive for the atrocity, if espionage was involved, if we captured the right and only man, and they want to be assured that it could- n’t happen again. Unfortunately, we are not able to categorically resolve all of these points, as some will always be indeterminate. The assailant never got to tell us his rationale, but even if he had, would the answer have given us much more insight or satisfaction than the testimony of other cold- blooded killers such as Charles Manson, the Unabomber, or John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman?

Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby were both very disturbed individuals, and their motives will always mystify a rational person. There are also several coincidences that would raise anyone’s suspicion. Therefore, it is human nature to look for an external impetus to these heinous acts. Did a renegade official, a criminal organization, or some other government influence their actions? That’s what the Warren Report is all about. A Presidential Commission of some of the most renowned public servants of the time, assisted by a staff of attorneys, investigators, and experts, set out to uncover who killed JFK and whether there was a conspiracy, or if Oswald and Ruby acted of their own accord. This document is the result of that comprehensive investigation.


When fate taps you on the shoulder, it helps if you are wearing your shoulder pads and have your helmet ready.

My association with this report is that I was one of those personally appointed by President Johnson as a member of the Warren Commission.

It’s a strange feeling to know that I had several choices early in life which would have altered recorded history. Not many people are given the sobering opportunity to observe how their choices made a difference in the history of the world.

One of my biggest and hardest choices was turning down offers from the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers to play professional football. In addition to being voted MVP in 1934, my performance with the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Wolverines put me in the 1935 College All-Star game at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears. Nonetheless, when Yale University offered me coaching positions in football and boxing, I couldn’t pass up a chance to work my way into Yale Law School at the same time. Yale Admissions at first felt that I wouldn’t be able to manage jobs and classes simultaneously, but they eventually saw the error of their ways when they realized matriculation was far easier than processing my rejection each semester. I did graduate in the top 15% of my class. Coincidences were already finding me – as William Proxmire and Robert Taft, Jr. were students on the Yale JV team I coached. We were destined to meet again in Washington.

I received my LLB from Yale in 1941, a precarious time. In retrospect, it may seem obvious that the world is a global environment: physically, economically, and socially. However, since the U.S. was finally experiencing a period of peace after 200 years of internal strife over hotly-disputed civil and international conflicts, there was a general desire for isolationism. This sentiment, which as a Republican I shared, was strongest among the older, incumbent party members. That soon changed. Upon seeing modern aircraft, tanks and bombs in the hands of a well-trained Nazi war machine, we understood what the families of invaded countries were telling us. We couldn’t ignore a world at war.

One thing I can assure all readers – war is hell. As a Naval Lieutenant Commander in World War II, 21/2 years on a combat carrier in the Pacific with 10 battle stars, I not only survived the enemy, but also Mother Nature’s attacks on our ship. At that time I vowed to strive for peace at any cost. After Pearl Harbor, isolationism was a dead issue, and the Republican party was still stagnating. That wasn’t just my perspective. Many of my Michigan colleagues, including Donald Rumsfeld, who headed a group called “The Young Turks,” concurred that the Republicans needed to reform or lose public support. We obviously had the right idea, because in 1948, the party put my name on the ballot rather than Bartel Jonkman, the incumbent. The voters also agreed, as they were kind enough to elect me to the House of Representatives in the 81st Congress.

Our 1948 campaign was grassroots all the way. Television sets were rare, yet political campaigns cluttered the radio airwaves. We just went directly to the people. During that campaign, I got together with one of the bravest and most open people I’ve ever met – my wife, Betty. We obviously didn’t have much of a honeymoon; however, the victory party made up for it. Betty and I are still a great team. We have three sons and a daughter: Michael, John, Steve, and Susan.

When I first got to D.C., Richard Nixon showed me around and helped me to become acclimated. That is how I got to know him. Senator John F. Kennedy was also a friend – his office was across the hall from my own in the Old House Office Building. He often accompanied me on the way to sessions, at which time we would discuss our common views of bipartisan internationalism. Throughout my time as a Representative, I interacted with many people who are now household names from that period in our political history: Tip O’Neil, George H.W. Bush, George McGovern, Dick Cheney, Bobby Kennedy, Colin Powell, Arthur Vandenberg, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and Bob Dole, among so many others. One of my favorite advisors was “Liberty,” our Golden Retriever, who would eventually make it to the floor…next to me in the Oval Office.

There was a plethora of notable events that occurred during my time as Congressman. One of the saddest was the assassination of JFK.

My personal interests in politics have always been in the legislative process. Ironically, I never sought Executive service, and even turned down the chance to run for Michigan Governor. I had set my goal to become Speaker of the House. That may have been somewhat of a lofty goal; in reality it was an impossible goal. You see, in order for a Republican to become Speaker of the House, the Republicans have to hold a majority in the House. Well, that never happened during my tenure. In fact, we had the least seats since the Great Depression when I was chosen Minority Leader in 1965. We greatly improved in later elections, yet after 25 years in Congress, I never got a crack at Speaker. Patience may be a virtue, but there are limits to the human life span. I had begun contemplating retirement and other options.

Before I had a chance to canvass new career directions, the most amazing sequence of events transpired, which changed not only my life, but also the direction of the entire nation. Due to the Watergate coverage and other negative press during the Nixon Presidency, there had been intense friction between Spiro Agnew and the news media, culminating in publicized accusations of illegalities by the Vice President. Considering how much mud was being flung in all directions at the time, it was difficult to discern what was being blown out of proportion, so I hadn’t realized how serious it was. Vice President Agnew resigned.

Prior to the Kennedy tragedy, there was no law or procedure to replace a vice president in the event that the position became vacant, which it did for the sixteenth time when Johnson took over for Kennedy in 1963. Back then, Richard Nixon, who had lost the election to Kennedy, appeared before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments. He suggested going to the Electoral College as the solution in an Amendment requiring the appointment of a new vice president, and defining the method for choosing that replacement in the middle of a term. The Democratic Subcommittee ultimately decided that the candidate would be selected by the President, then confirmed by both Houses. They felt the Electoral College was archaic, and did not necessarily reflect popular opinion/given the 2000 election, one really can’t argue. The Twenty-fifth Amendment became part of the United States Constitution in 1967. Coincidentally, President Nixon was the first president to test this new Amendment just six years later upon the resignation of his own VP.

In the White House, a short list of replacements for Spiro Agnew was circulating, which consisted of Ronald Reagan, John Connally, or Nelson Rockefeller. When I received the phone call offering me the Vice Presidency, I was, therefore, as surprised as anyone (except for my daughter, who was on the phone with friends when President Nixon called, and completely unfazed, asked him to please hang up and call me on the other line). I found out later that President Nixon had been pushing for Connally’s nomination. The conservative Republicans weren’t happy about Rockefeller, the liberal Republicans weren’t happy about Reagan, but no one was happy about John Connally, who had recently switched parties. I was chosen with the dubious distinction of being the least likely to offend. It was Democrat Speaker of the House Carl Albert’s bright idea – so you can blame him, but you can also ponder that if it were not for the Twenty-fifth Amendment, he would have become President (the word “coincidence” does come to mind).

For nine months, in my position as Vice President, I tiptoed among the political land mines of Vietnam and Watergate. All the while, I was reassured by the President and Attorney General John Mitchell that the White House was not involved.

I was consequently unprepared for the news when a “smoking gun” audio tape was released. My astonishment was that there were those who felt their position put them above the law. President Nixon resigned August 9, 1974, and through the strangest coincidences imaginable, I found myself the 38th President of the United States.

When I took office, not only did I reinforce that the American dream was possible for anyone who went after it, but I also demonstrated that even if you tried to run the other way, it could tackle you from behind. I don’t think even Rube Goldberg could have contrived a scenario that would have taken me from Minority Leader of the House of Representatives into the Oval Office. I not only made the history books, but the record books, as the first person to serve as President without ever being elected to the Executive branch of government. There have been other Vice Presidents who had to assume the Presidency, but they had been elected Vice President before it happened. Considering that I was not voted into either the office of Vice President or President, I am, thus far, the only “appointed” President of the United States.

When former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller became my Vice President, both positions in the White House were held by appointees. It was somewhat surreal. Outgoing President Nixon recommended that I retain the services of Dr. Henry Kissinger in the role of Secretary of State to ensure that our vital foreign relations remained strong and unswerving. Otherwise, just as an elected President would do, I completely replaced cabinet and staff. You may recognize some of my appointees:

George H.W. Bush – Director, CIA
Richard Cheney – Chief of Staff
Donald Rumsfeld – Secretary of Defense
Allan Greenspan – Chairman, Council of Economic Advisors

I inherited some of the most volatile issues that can confront a leader. The economy was not healthy; we were being paralyzed by an oil crisis; the Cold War was still escalating such that several countries were calling for our assistance; the Middle East was precarious; Vietnam was a drain on us financially, psychologically and tragically; and through it all, the media and Washington continued to be preoccupied with Watergate.

When I took on the responsibility of President of the United States, I said “Our long national nightmare is over,” and I meant it. But as I started in my new role, I discovered a significant proportion of my own time was still being spent on Watergate. That couldn’t continue. I had to play the role of Solomon. I consulted with Counsel to learn if there were options for extricating myself and the nation from the scandal. The only definitive resolution was a full pardon. Now, I was as outraged with Watergate as anyone else, but I also happened to have seen the humiliation and devastation Richard Nixon went through, so I knew he paid for his actions. I was also convinced that a lengthy trial in which both parties would be at each others’ throats wouldn’t bring justice, but would only further damage and distract the political system. I struggled with it, and I prayed about it, but I had to pardon Richard Nixon. It was highly controversial and apparently a big factor in my losing the reelection, but history has now vindicated me.

I am proud that I received the “John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award” for doing what was right in spite of the ramifications. For those who may not be familiar with that award, it was inspired by JFK's book, Profiles in Courage, and chartered by his daughter, Caroline Kennedy, President of the JFK Library Foundation. A bipartisan committee votes for the recipients proof indeed of my longstanding belief that politicians can agree on something important.

We withdrew our troops from Vietnam; we reached a tentative agreement with Leonid Brezhnev on Strategic Arms Limitations (SALT II); I signed the Helsinki Final Act; we reinstated the Middle East peace talks between Egypt and Israel; I sought information about our Vietnam War MIAs while in China and the Soviet Union; and I worked with President Giscard of France, Chancellor Schmidt of Germany, and Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and James Callaghan of Great Britain to bring together the world’s largest industrial nations for our first meeting of the International Economic Summit. At that time, it was called the Council of Economic Advisors. Later generations may know it as G7.

Domestically, I moved along the Equal Rights Amendment. Amazingly, as I write this, it still hasn’t been adopted. If people truly believe in equal rights, why are so many states still holding out from ratifying the ERA? My wife, Betty, has worked very hard on the ERA, drug rehabilitation through her Betty Ford Center, and other ongoing women’s issues. She has, happily, made progress through the decades.

The economy during my tenure was difficult to fully grasp, because we had, simultaneously, inflation, a recession, and high unemployment. Alan Greenspan proposed a novel plan of economic control using both tax cuts and increases to spark the economy.

I suspect that the economic issues of the current millennium are rooted in the same problems as the ones I faced back in the 1970’s. In the interim, we have had a great technology boom that artificially elevated our economy due to overzealous investments, followed by a recession resulting from the fallout of the dot.coms, further aggravated by the 9-11 tragedy in 2001. Yet the problems I faced never really went away.

There are various factors contributing to our present sluggish economy, but the biggest concern I have is our loss of U.S. factories and jobs. We have become a nation of service industries and retail. Our technological expertise is being handed over to other nations. We are even losing farmlands to real estate development, which is not only an environmental issue, but reduces the amount of agricultural goods we export. There has to be a balance, and we need to step back and look at our position in the world. The strength of nations isn’t always from guns. There is no question that we need a strong, well-trained military, but it wasn’t bombs that brought down the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall – it was economics. As the world transitions toward a peaceful environment, the strength of nations will come from their economy, and the strength of their economy will come from their industries. If we keep relinquishing industry to other countries, we will not only create an irreversible trade deficit, but we will be relinquishing the core of our country’s strength. The technology that keeps America on the leading edge is being manufactured overseas. What would happen if we suddenly lost access to that high-tech manufacturing? What would happen if it fell into the hands of those who would use it against us? There is, indeed, a lot more to be done to improve our economy. Our work was unfinished, and we cannot permanently recover without a plan that encompasses these issues.

It is true that the voters put me in Washington in the first place, it is also true that those who appointed me to the Presidency were elected officials. Yet, until the 1976 reelection, the citizens didn’t have a chance to express their opinion of me as their leader. We campaigned hard – first against Ronald Reagan in the primaries, and then against Jimmy Carter. We lost by a nose. I am still very grateful to all the people who worked so hard for my reelection. I thank those who shared my goals of peace, truth, and honesty, and ask that you pass those ideals down to your children and grandchildren so we never lose them.

Even in losing, I continued my strong philosophy of openness and respect by instructing my staff to conduct a smooth, cooperative transition to President Carter’s Democratic team. There are opponents in a competition, and then there are enemies. Competition is healthy – enmity is corrosive. I practice what I preach, as demonstrated by my current association with the Democrat who beat me. I may have lost the election, but I have gained a valued friendship. Jimmy Carter and I had a common political adversary in Ronald Reagan, but we soon discovered we had very strong moral and ideological bonds as well. Jimmy and I have worked together on numerous projects including election reform, human rights, healthcare reform, and recommendations on sensitive subjects. Historians have told us that, in the entire history of our country, no two former presidents have ever been as close – certainly not a Democrat and Republican.

Of all the difficult tasks I confronted during my Presidency, I am most proud of my accomplishment in healing a nation that was ravaged by political scandals, economic instability and a violently protested war. Through openness and honesty with the people, the press, and legislators, I reestablished a working relationship between the White House and Congress, and brought trust and credibility back into the government.

Simultaneously, I worked hard toward global peace. You can’t point to any radical initiatives when looking to define my Presidency; it is, in fact, the lack of any extreme events, I am told, that makes my term noteworthy. The people of that era didn’t need more excitement; they needed reconciliation and stability. My contribution is not something that can be measured with a scorecard, but will be measured in retrospect when evaluating how I guided our country through the turmoil to emerge, once again, as a unified people. They are not particularly glamorous, but those are the accomplishments with which I am credited.

The Warren Report

The mysterious and unknown is much more glamorous than the facts.

I AM SAD TO SAY THAT, as of this writing, I am the last remaining member of the Warren Commission. My voice, therefore, must speak for seven on this fortieth anniversary of our findings. In spite of our work being corroborated by several subsequent official investigations, the Warren Commission Report is a favorite dartboard for armchair investigators and critics hawking their own agendas. Consequently, it is quite imperative that I offer my thoughts.

The Office of the Presidency has provided me with a highly unique perspective on this Report. It was one thing to look at the evidence during our investigation back in 1964 as a U.S. House Representative. It is yet more significant for me to be commenting on it from not only having occupied the Presidential seat, but also from having survived two assassination attempts myself (yes, more coincidences).

One of my potential assassins was a Charles Manson follower whose pistol was diverted; the other was a political activist whose gun hand was deflected by a Vietnam veteran, Bill Sipple, a gay rights advocate, and a truly honorable citizen. Political assassins are typically individuals who have been touched by a publicized message, or perceived message, from a social or political group. These assassins may not even be active members of the group, but feel that the message is personally directed to them and that they are “called upon” to act on it. The assassination of JFK appears to fall into the same psychological category.

Modern technology has given the slaying of John F. Kennedy a unique accessibility. This emotional event has become etched into our collective consciousness. The older generations watched it all unfold on TV; the younger generations now watch the videos and reenactments of it. The assassination of JFK horrifies and attracts simultaneously. It is not the same as passively reading a historian’s account of President Lincoln’s fatal night at the theater. It becomes much more real and shocking to actually witness one of our popular leaders being gunned down by a cold-blooded killer. What makes this specter particularly compelling are the anomalies and coincidental circumstances surrounding the assassination and those associated with it.

It was a sunny midday in Dallas, November 22, 1963, when a Presidential motorcade with retracted convertible tops slowly paraded down Elm Street as the city and national news reporters looked on. People lined the motorcade route through Dealey Plaza. Shots were fired from a sixth-floor window in the Texas School Book Depository building. Two shots? Three shots? More? President Kennedy was shot at least twice, while John B. Connally, Governor of Texas, was hit in three places. Jackie Kennedy was spared, as were Secret Service Agents Roy H. Kellerman and William R. Greer, who was driving. Dallas Police, who were later tipped off by an alert citizen, cornered Lee Harvey Oswald at a movie theater. Unfortunately, that was only after the suspect had murdered Police Officer J. D. Tippit.

The assassination was a national tragedy, but what made it a frustrating nightmare was that only two days later, as the presumed assassin was being transported to the Dallas County jail, he was murdered by Jack Ruby. Coincidence or conspiracy?

The public wanted answers; newly sworn-in President Lyndon B. Johnson wanted the facts. Accordingly, he formed the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, better known as the Warren Commission, and recruited me as a member. We were enlisted with the directive to find out who actually killed President Kennedy and Oswald, who was involved, how it was accomplished, and why. We were to specifically look for conspiracies and accomplices. We did that.

The Warren Commission was named for the person who chaired our group – Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Earl Warren. The other members of the Warren Commission were:

Richard B. Russell – Senator (D) from Georgia, Chairman Armed Services Committee
John Sherman Cooper – Senator (R) from Kentucky
Hale Boggs – Representative (D) from Louisiana
Allen W. Dulles – former Director of the CIA
John J. McCloy – former Asst. Sec of War (WWII)
Gerald R. Ford – Representative (R) from Michigan

The members’ credentials were exemplary. Of those on the Commission, the most notable legal expertise was provided by Chief Justice Warren, a former California Attorney General; Judge Cooper, a circuit and county judge; Senator Russell, a former county attorney; John McCloy, an international terrorism investigator; and Hale Boggs, who did investigative work for the House.

We were assisted by fifteen litigation lawyers, twelve staff members, and the help of so many others both inside and outside of the Federal establishment. None of us solicited for the appointment, and our contributions to the Commission were over and above all of our other responsibilities. In addition to having to probe into the death of a friend, it was an inordinate amount of extra work. As you can imagine, it was a painful and stressful task. Yet, I pledged my services because I was committed to uncovering the truth, as were all the members of our bipartisan team. Please be assured that the investigation and report were not hampered in any way by non-attendance at meetings. Those who were not in attendance were either not involved in the agenda for that meeting, or had supplied materials and were fully briefed later. In fact, most of the work on the Commission was not done in the meetings. The most demanding part consisted of reading through all the reports and deliberating on the possibility of plots.

The nation was extremely upset over the assassination; this was augmented by all the rumors being circulated. Thus, pressure for learning what really happened was felt by all. In spite of that, President Johnson did not push us, and most importantly, we were encouraged to thoroughly pursue all possibilities – even those that sounded like something out of a James Bond or an X-Files script. We were not given any parameters or restricted by any assumptions or agencies. Everyone and everything were open for scrutiny. We didn’t accept anyone’s word at face value. There were no preconceived opinions or sacred cows. As you read the Warren Commission Report, you will see that we had no trouble finding fault with the infrastructure of the CIA and FBI.

I can’t begin to tell you all the accounts I have heard and all the work I have put into investigating rumors, eyewitness statements and circumstantial evidence – not just with the Warren Commission but in other committees as well. For instance, people get even more tenacious over the paranormal. When it looked as if the government was withholding information about UFOs, I was one of those who championed open public sessions to establish whether there was any evidence of extraterrestrials. After a while, it became discouraging trying to find hard evidence.

The Warren Commission didn’t consider itself to be infallible, but knowing what was at stake, we took inordinate measures to compensate via thoroughness and acute fastidiousness. We double-checked all information and we cross-examined everyone. We gathered experts in six fields: Firearms, Fingerprinting, Wound Ballistics, Documents, Hairs & Fibers, and Photographs. Unlike the “theorists” of today who espouse one answer and look for some shred of reality to support it, we didn’t assume any answer, but investigated all possibilities and let the facts reveal the truth.

It is true that you can’t ignore coincidences, but there are many reasons those coincidences occur. Conspiracies may or may not have existed or occurred somewhere, such as the government-sanctioned plot to kill Castro, but considering the meticulousness of our investigation, we were confident that we would have uncovered links from those to Oswald and to Kennedy’s assassination had there been any. I have become increasingly adamant that we were correct as more and more experts have questioned and then verified our conclusions.

The Controversy

You can tell how important your actions are by how intently others watch for your mistakes.

THE ECHOES OF THE assassin’s shots had hardly died out before everyone began speculating “whodunit.” The trouble was, given the kind of turbulence going on in the world at the time (not to mention covertly in the U.S.), there were plenty of groups with plausible motives to assassinate President Kennedy, which helped to encourage speculation. Notwithstanding that, our Commission’s findings were that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin and that he worked alone there was no evidence of a conspiracy. The same went for Jack Ruby.

The Warren Commission Report is an exhaustive twenty-six-volume document covering the bases for those conclusions. Our conclusions have yet to be proved wrong. That doesn’t mean they won’t be, but this report is founded on solid premises and has withstood forty years of constant inquisition.

Movies and TV documentaries about the assassination conspiracies would have you believe that barely anything has been done to follow up on or to substantiate the Warren Commission findings. Not only is that untrue, but subsequent to the Warren Commission Report, JFK’s assassination has, in fact, been reinvestigated several times – as the primary, conjoined or tertiary component of other investigations. Those have included:

Clark Panel – 1968
Rockefeller Commission – 1975
Pike Committee – 1975
Edwards and Abzug House Subcommittees – 1975
Church Committee – 1977
House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) – 1978
Ramsey Panel – 1982
Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) – 1998

There have also been several unofficial studies sponsored by media and other organizations, including:

The Men Who Killed Kennedy” documentaries – ongoing
NBC – 1967
Science and Justice analysis – 2001
CBS, PBS, ABC, BBC studies – 2003
Court TV – 2003
Frontline – 2003

Even using new technologies, nothing has been uncovered that experts consider strong enough to overturn any of our findings. The HSCA came the closest, but in doing so, focused solely on a tape recording which was itself debatable as evidence. Although the HSCA felt there was probably a conspiracy, it was a supposition based on unknown sounds on the tape that have since been shown to probably not be related to the assassination. Additionally, out of the twelve members on that committee, four (one-third) thought the conclusions were incorrect – of which three of the four disagreed completely with the final report and attached their dissenting statements to it. Compare that to this unanimous report from the Warren Commission.

We are still the benchmark. There were a few problems, but it was mostly because known evidence was not supplied by all agencies. Congress has since assessed the new information, including problems with the Federal agencies, in their more recent studies. However, nothing that has been revealed to date, previously withheld or not, would have changed our conclusions.

But conspiracy theories rage on. For example, the Zapruder film was touted at first by theorists as proof of a conspiracy. However, when the film was used to disprove conspiracies, theorists then alleged it was faked, as part of the conspiracy. An audio recording, which had been the hall- mark of conspiracy authors, was used to influence the HSCA into considering a possible conspiracy, but the data from it was later demonstrated by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS/Ramsey Panel) to have been based on unreliable assumptions. Therefore, conspiracy magicians have now decided that the tapes must have been altered. It gets worse. Because they didn’t like the results of the autopsy, they now claim the X-rays have been faked and JFK’s body has been replaced or modified (before your mind wanders too far, I will mention that the X-rays have been compared to the dental records – it is JFK). Even the Texas forensic pathologist, Dr. Earl Rose, whose legal authority to do the 1963 autopsy was overridden in favor of moving the body to Bethesda, MD, has since looked at the evidence and confirmed the Warren Commission’s findings. The HSCA had a sub-panel inspect the forensic documentation for any differences or alterations anywhere. There were none.

I’m sure there are legitimate conspiracy investigations, but they are completely eclipsed and denigrated by the deluge of bunk promoted by sensationalists seeking notoriety or looking to cash in on urban legends. If you compare the theories, you will find that not only do they contradict the facts, they contradict each other. What you have to look at is the evidence and how the eyewitness accounts fit with the hard evidence.

It is not possible or logical for me to defend every line of the Warren Commission Report in this Foreword, especially since so many of the critics have based their claims on inaccurate assumptions or partial facts that are already fully explained in this Report. In light of all the publicity and challenges over the past four decades, including some new evidence, I will address some of the most common questions people have about our conclusions.


You have to start from known facts and work backwards – otherwise it is easy to overlook hard evidence. This is what we know:

At least five civilian witnesses watched Lee Harvey Oswald murder Police Officer Tippit with a revolver and/or empty the gun and throw the casings into the bushes. In trying to evade police after that murder, Oswald ducked into the entryway of a shoe store where the manager, who had heard about Tippit’s murder on the radio, became suspicious. He tailed Oswald to a theater where the suspect sneaked inside. It was the store manager who had the police called, and who identified Oswald when they entered the theater. It became a bit more definitive that they had the right man when, upon being confronted by police in the theater, Oswald pulled out a revolver and attempted to shoot Officer M. N. McDonald in front of 12 witnesses.

Lee Harvey Oswald was guilty of at least one crime that directly related to the assassination because:

The revolver that was in Oswald’s possession, which he aimed at McDonald, was the weapon used to kill Tippit, in front of eyewitnesses.

The casings that eyewitnesses watched Oswald toss into the bushes came from the revolver that he aimed at McDonald, which was the weapon used to kill Tippit, in front of eyewitnesses.

The JFK assassination weapon was mailed to a P.O. box and alias used by Oswald – the very same alias and P.O. box used for the revolver, which matched the casings from the revolver that he aimed at McDonald, which was the weapon used to kill Tippit, in front of eyewitnesses.

Up to here, in the opinion of all professional investigators, Lee Harvey Oswald’s involvement in the crime is accepted as fact. Many conspiracy propagandists have distorted this segment of the assassination chronology, which is a disservice to those who seek the truth. If you keep these indisputable elements in mind, it becomes much easier to understand what is fact and what is fantastical conjecture.

After this point, it may be less obvious as to whether or not the assassin worked alone, but the evidence still leads to Lee Harvey Oswald. There is additional information that links Oswald to the murder weapon, that puts him in the Texas School Book Depository building at the time of the assassination, and that shows the bullets were fired from Oswald’s weapon, which was also found in that warehouse:

Oswald was seen carrying a large paper bag on his carpool ride to the School Book Depository building, where he worked.

Oswald was seen at the School Book Depository building just after the shooting by a Dallas policeman and the Building Superintendent, who recognized and vouched for Oswald.

A paper bag with Oswald’s fingerprints was found near the rifle, which had presumably been dismantled to carry it in the bag.

Ballistics has confirmed that the bullets and casings that were found were assuredly fired from Oswald’s rifle.

All other issues are circumstantial, so they can easily muddy the facts if one is not mindful. There is even evidence that Oswald was on a suicide mission that day. You can read about all of it, including how quickly and easily that rifle could be broken down and reassembled, inside this Report.


The total number of shots fired is an enigma that bothers everyone. It is the question at the heart of the conspiracy theories, and one which we, the Commission, wrestled with during the investigation. The puzzle is: whether there was enough time for a single person to have gotten off three shots, how it was that there were so many injuries from only three bullets (two that hit the motorcade) and if there may have even been more than three shots. Three shots is probably the maximum number possible in the time the Presidential limousine would have been accessible from the sixth-floor window of the School Book Depository room. Thus, the bulk of the theories focus on the bullets, the trajectories and the number of shots heard.

We can account for and assume there had to be at least three bullets: one that hit the road, one that entered President Kennedy’s neck and Governor Connally, and one that hit President Kennedy in the head.

Other evidence supports three bullets. Numerous witnesses heard three shots, three casings were discovered near the sixth-floor window of the School Book Depository building, there were fragments of approximately two bullets found plus a crater in the street from a missed shot. If it could be somehow proved that more than three shots were fired, it would be fairly solid evidence for suspecting more than one gunman.

While there are as many scenarios as there are theorists, every professional investigation has concluded there is no tangible evidence of any other person than Lee Harvey Oswald or any rifle, shells, bullets or injuries except what can be directly and confidently traced to him. Trying to create other gunmen is like chasing shadows, and so far shadows are all anyone has produced.

The only scientific speculation for other shots was investigated by the HSCA in 1978. The researchers used a computer-enhanced acoustical analysis of an audio recording made on a dictabelt machine that logged all radio transmissions of the Dallas Police Department. One of the motorcycle patrolmen had a microphone stuck in the “talk” position as the assassination transpired. Therefore, all sounds in the proximity of that mic at the time of the assassination were recorded. The acoustics researchers used spectrum enhancement to display audio “bursts,” which are not audible to the human ear. The problem is, the tapes are old and subject to extraneous noises and dropouts; also, it was never established who had the open microphone, where that motorcycle was situated or if it was even located in the plaza at all. There is some circumstantial evidence for it having been in the plaza. However, the officers there would have accelerated to 70 mph shortly after the assassination as they accompanied the Presidential limousine to Parkland Hospital, and that engine revving was not heard on the tape. The researchers also testified that the only way the alignment would generate those results would be if the bike had been in a very specific location within Dealey Plaza, and that has yet to be verified. The open mic was set to Channel 1, while the motorcade security officers were set to Channel 2. That necessitates an officer being tuned to the wrong channel in Dealey Plaza – also not verified. By synchronizing the tapes from Channel 1 and Channel 2, it was possible to obtain a close sync for timing of the recorded sounds. When the NAS scientists reviewed the tapes, they observed that those audio bursts, which were speculated to be gunshots, actually occurred after the assassination. Two additional studies contradicted each other (again) regarding the timing; either way, the fact remains there is evidence the mic wasn’t in the Plaza.


The penchant for armchair investigations started as soon as people began asking “why” and “how.” In 1964, the book Who Killed Kennedy theorized that damage to the windshield of the Presidential limousine came from a bullet that was fired from the Triple Underpass. When published, the Warren Commission Report negated that hypothesis, but as extensive as our Report is, it wasn’t about to stop the flood of theories.

One of the most prevalent, the “single bullet” theory, is a reference to the now-accepted presumption that a single bullet was able to pass through President Kennedy’s neck and Governor Connally’s body, his hand and even into his leg. The seemingly impossible path is made more plausible the higher up it was when it struck President Kennedy. I have been accused of changing some wording on the Warren Commission Report to favor the lone-assassin conclusion. That is absurd. Here is what the draft said: A bullet had entered his back at a point slightly above the shoulder and to the right of the spine.” To any reasonable person, “above the shoulder and to the right” sounds very high and way off the side – and that’s what it sounded like to me. That would have given the totally wrong impression. Technically, from a medical perspective, the bullet entered just to the right at the base of the neck, so my recommendation to the other members was to change it to say, “A bullet had entered the back of his neck, slightly to the right of the spine.” After further investigation, we then unanimously agreed that it should read, “A bullet had entered the base of his neck slightly to the right of the spine.” As with any report, there were many clarifications and language changes suggested by several of us.

Later on, the House Select Committee on Assassinations did a very thorough analysis of the bullet trajectory with the assistance of the NASA Ames Research Center. Their conclusion: one bullet could do it. The Oliver Stone movie, JFK, produced in 2001, totally ignored not only our explana- tions but also the conclusions of NASA and the HSCA Report from 1978 when displaying the illogical path of the so-called “magic bullet.”


Shortly before the shooting, a person had an epileptic seizure, which attracted some attention. As part of a conspiracy, that could be considered suspicious. Oliver Stone claimed that person just mysteriously evaporated. However, that man was Jerry Belknap and his story has been right here in the Warren Commission Report since 1964.


It is impossible to prove there weren’t any other shots or gunmen to those who insist otherwise (inherent when trying to prove any negative). It becomes far more complex to prove there were no plans of conspiracy. If conspiracy fanatics will claim every piece of hard evidence – including the President’s body, the home movies, the audio, the bullets, the X-rays, even bystanders – has been altered or forged, then it is hardly worth my time to debate it here. The reason some things appeared to be suspicious was possibly because there were people who apparently did have things to hide. It came out later there was a government-sanctioned plot to kill Fidel Castro. There seemed to also have been a scramble to cover that up which did interfere marginally with our investigation, as I testified to the HSCA. It was really more of a problem for the CIA. JFK’s assassination and our investigation into it put certain classified and potentially embarrassing operations in danger of being exposed. Their reaction was to hide or destroy some information, which can easily be misinterpreted as collusion in JFK’s assassination.

There is a distinct difference between a cover-up and involvement in a plot. Yet at the time, we expected the Federal organizations to provide all information. We understood that there may have been power plays, egos, and sensitivities, or even just laziness, which is why we double-checked information obtained from them – but we were not suspicious of entire organizations. It is true that there are some odd coincidences. There were likely those who were not sorry to see that President die, and there was evidence withheld from us. However, none of that negates the facts as we know them.

Given the new facts, could there still have been a conspiracy? Conceivably. But no verified evidence to date shows a link to, or any direct involvement by, any government agency, federal employees, or subversive group.


Orville Nix was one of the bystanders filming during the assassination. Back in 1967, there was a short-lived “discovery” on his film of something with the shape of a “classic gunman” stance. The same shape, however, was also present in a frame long after the assassination, so it was only the shadows. Josiah Thompson was responsible for finding the discrepancy so quickly, but couldn’t squash the runaway rumor.

Mary Moorman had been taking snapshots of the motorcade. Over a decade later, an enlargement of her photo was included in JFK: The Case for Conspiracy, revealing another shadow shape. This “Badge Man” shape was the one discussed by Gary Mack and Jack White in The Men Who Killed Kennedy. However, when MIT analyzed it, the scientists were reluctant to call it a human figure.

Another image from Moorman’s camera showed a distinct figure that looked dog-like by the wall near the grassy knoll. This shadowy shape received notoriety under the name “Black Dog Man,” and was featured in the book The Killing of a President. The shape was later explained away by eyewitness accounts of a couple who had been seated at a nearby bench and moved over to the wall. The eyewitness descriptions of their having “lunch” were verified by Richard Trask in his book Pictures of the Pain. Trask published a photo by Johnny Flyman, Dallas Morning News, of the leftovers from their meal still sitting on the bench when the picture was taken later that afternoon. So there is hard evidence that the couple existed and were the shapes seen in that space.

Lee Harvey Oswald claimed the photo of him holding the murder weapon in his backyard was trick photography. Not only have the photos been authenticated, but you can read what his wife said about it at the time in this Report. You can also read in this Report all the other things Oswald lied about, such as his claims that he didn’t kill Tippit, he didn’t own a rifle, and he didn’t carry a bag to work, all of which contradict accounts confirmed by witnesses.


A favorite attraction that has caught the attention of people looking for assassination conspiracies is an area in Dealey Plaza now referred to as the “grassy knoll,” located generally to the front of the motorcade. One of the reasons that area is so popular is because the Zapruder film gives the impression that the fatal shot originated from the front. Since that shot has now been reexamined and is confirmed to have come from the rear, conspiracy peddlers either ignore the expert findings in favor of their own scenarios or develop hypotheses that require other gunmen to be stationed in the vicinity.

One odd thing is that some witnesses have mentioned smoke and a flash coming from the grassy knoll. Flintlock muskets and mass-assault weapons will give off a flash and smoke, but modern sharpshooter guns don’t. In fact, for his movie, Oliver Stone didn’t even use a rifle for the smoke; he ended up generating it as a special effect.

Some witnesses were under the impression that they heard the shots from this grassy knoll. Any good detective will tell you that there are typically contradictory eyewitness accounts in any investigation. But was there really something there? Some eyewitness reports, such as those of Emmett J. Hudson and the Newmans, were initially misinterpreted by theorists as indicating the gunshot was from the grassy knoll; however, those observers later clarified their own statements as meaning the Texas School Book Depository. Interestingly, the closer people were to the knoll, the less likely they were to describe it as a “gunshot.” Sam Holland, one of the eyewitnesses close to the knoll, related the sound to a “firecracker,” saying it was definitely different from the other shots. It was also perceived as a more “flat” or “booming” sound than the other shots. Therefore, a sound other than a gunshot does seem to have logically emanated from that direction.

Thanks to some insightful deduction, I can now inform you that we have eyewitness verification of something going on by the retaining wall. There appears to be human movement on most photographic exposures of the vicinity. So, what was going on in the grassy knoll area? In 1991, Trask discovered that an eyewitness report could be correlated to his “lunch couple” on the bench. Not only that, but also a loud crack came from there. The couple was also spotted by Marilyn Sitzman, Abraham Zapruder’s secretary, who helped him film. She recounted how one of the young couple smashed a glass pop bottle, and the sound of that bursting glass startled her into reality. This “crack” of an empty soda pop bottle would have been sharp, hollow, and, according to Sitzman, occurred at the time the shots were being fired.


The movie JFK tried to make a case that there was intentionally less security provided for JFK in Dallas than he normally had or would have been expected. It seems strange that anyone would even try to argue that point considering that the Secret Service was known to be upset with JFK about his trip to New York City just the week before. Citizens in New York had complained about the inconvenience of traffic jams due to the Presidential motorcades. Because of that, Kennedy insisted on riding through New York City without motorcycle escort and even stopping for traffic lights. The Secret Service was not happy. In fact, it was common for Kennedy to allow people to watch from balconies and line streets within reaching distance, not to mention shooting distance, of his motorcades. Dallas was anticipated to be a less friendly atmosphere. Not only was there motorcycle security, but unlike what was stated in Oliver Stone’s movie, Army Intelligence did send agents – in fact, a larger number than what JFK had been allotted on other locations.

In addition to the rumors already covered, Oliver Stone perpetuated some of his own. Some facts here:

Although the District Attorney of New Orleans, Earling “Jim” Garrison, investigated whether Clay Shaw had used an alias, his own staff determined there was no such identity.

One of the witnesses, the lady in red in the Zapruder film, later claimed she was held against her will and intimidated by “authorities.” She was, in reality, being interviewed by a newspaper reporter for the Times Herald in the pressroom of the Sheriff’s Office. That same witness has been known to change/embellish her accounts. Oswald’s interrogations were indeed documented and are included in this Report.

If the evidence for the “conspiracy” was that strong, why would Oliver Stone resort to ignoring, distorting and even inventing facts?


It is bad enough that conspiracy schemers keep looking for scapegoats in the form of dissident groups or rogue agents, but they have gone too far. They have stepped over the line from playing conspiracy games into slanderous and mean-spirited attacks on an innocent man. In 2003, The History Channel ran a documentary based on a recent book that accused then Vice President Lyndon Johnson of conspiring to assassinate Kennedy! That is despicable. It is unfortunate when independent writers publish that kind of trash, but a reputable media organization, which the public trusts to give accurate and unbiased information, has now been swept into this frenzy. Who or what is next? Will I be inducted into the JFK assassination ring when I am no longer around to defend myself? America needs to get a grip on this hysteria.

My Perspective

Searching for the truth is honorable; obsessing over it for forty years is freedom of the press.

ALTHOUGH HE WAS President for such a short time, John F. Kennedy will be remembered for many accomplishments. It is discouraging that he is mostly remembered as a corpse. Searching for the truth is honorable; obsessing over it for forty years is freedom of the press. The arguments and rumors persist, partly because we don’t want to believe that one deranged individual could rob a nation of its leader so quickly and easily, and partly because there are no direct eyewitnesses to the actions of the murderer. We all feel cheated by not having definitive answers. Yet, it is one thing to search for truth – it is completely another to concoct conspiracies worthy of a Stephen King novel by using isolated pieces of questionable evidence.

Some of the critics who have obtained the widest publicity have either deliberately or negligently misled the American people by misstating the facts and by omitting crucial facts in their discussions. In light of how much merchandising and promotion has gone into the industry that has emerged, plus the intensity of the “fan” interest, I am convinced that the search for conspiracies has an entertainment value that cannot and will not be dampened by such mundane matters as the truth (which threatens its very existence).

Consider the scope of a conspiracy that would be needed to coordinate all the elements of the JFK assassination. If information about proprietary research results, or the Castro plot or even the Watergate cover-ups, could- n’t be stopped from being leaked to the press, how is it NO concrete news tips ever surfaced about the alleged conspiracy? Instead of using the loose ends of the Warren Report as a cash cow for controversy, we should be ensuring that its strengths and conclusions are studied and acted on. There are still valuable lessons to be gleaned from this document. Difficulties with FBI-CIA interagency communications were among our key findings, and that was reinforced by later investigations. Why were those communications still so inadequate in September of 2001?

I may be asked, “What if it were you instead of Kennedy – would you be happy with the Report and feel safe?” Well, for almost four years I did trust these same agencies to guard my life, and even knowing how close I came to a similar fate, I remain confident in our conclusions. There were several auxiliary findings that were disconcerting in themselves, but I am not sure people have truly read this Report.

Based on the evidence we had at the time, I stand by our findings. If we were to uncover new evidence, I would certainly be open to other conclusions. One can look at it this way: if the Warren Report is as easy to dismiss as some would want you to believe, then why are there so many people trying so hard to discredit it? You would have to conclude that if this Report hasn’t been definitively repudiated after all this time, it obviously is valid and reliable.

Due to rampant conspiracy legends, including those promulgated by the Oliver Stone movie, Congress has spent millions of taxpayer dollars investigating and re-investigating this tragic assassination. Your biggest contribution as an American citizen would be to read the Warren Commission’s Report, plus those of the HSCA and the Ramsey Panel. I know that reading a technical report can be very daunting and boring, but I can assure you that this one is quite captivating/although some of the more squeamish readers may want to skip over the graphic medical procedures.

I do not expect you to accept our conclusions on faith; it is important to see the background information we used in order to understand the process by which we formulated our opinions. This should also include access to the related documentation. I, myself, have always supported openness, so I commissioned what is now known as the Rockefeller Commission, which triggered the Church Committee. I also lobbied for and assisted in the declassification of assassination materials.

Given the effect of all the hype, the books and a blockbuster movie, it would be difficult to dispel all preconceived notions with just my word. However, if you consider my word to carry any weight, I hope you take the time, on this fortieth anniversary of the Warren Commission Report, to reflect on what we have been through together in order to grow smarter, better and stronger both as individuals and as a nation.


President Gerald R. Ford