For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not, none will suffice.
Saint Bernadette, the Little Flower, 1856
“For too long many researchers have known [Lyndon] Johnson was behind the conspiracy [to assassinate John F. Kennedy]. No one has been able to say it. Stated simple, LBJ killed JFK.” So concludes Barr McClellan in his provocative new book Blood, Money & Power: How LBJ Killed JFK. McClellan, a former Johnson lawyer, sidesteps the sacred attorney-client confidentiality agreement to tell a story that, in his eyes, has to be told in order to renew democracy.
In the 1960s and ’70s, McClellan worked for Ed Clark, a powerful political figure in Texas and Lyndon Johnson’s personal attorney. McClellan directly links Clark, a life-long friend of Johnson’s, to the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Armed with circumstantial evidence and cunning psychoanalysis, the author delineates his thesis that then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson conspired to assassinate JFK in a heartless quest to become the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.
Painting a stark portrait of Johnson as a “psychopath,” McClellan unravels a lurid tale of power, fear, and paranoia. Running parallel to Johnson’s disquieting ambition is Ed Clark, McClellan’s former boss, with whom the author had a bitter falling out in 1978. He describes his one-time mentor as a cutthroat power monger willing to sidestep any and all rules to get what he wants, which, in this case, was getting his friend into the oval office by any means necessary.
These two men, according to McClellan, are at the heart of the Kennedy assassination.
Although provocative, the book fails to convincingly link either Johnson or Clark to the assassination. Instead, it comes off as a revisionist smear campaign against Johnson and Clark.
McClellan alleges that LBJ was willing to go to extremes to fulfill his political ambition, including, but not limited to, winning his slot in the Texas Senate by illegally “stuffing boxes” in the 1948 election. He describes the former president as a megalomaniac who “in his often-repeated visions of grandeur, he considered himself God.”
Clark is given equal status as a man who had a “wide-open notion of no law at all, of being the law unto himself.” Clark was a simple man who, through vigorous, nefarious planning, married “above himself” in order to gain an air of affluence. It should be noted that Clark, according to McClellan, was the puppet master who set in motion the chain of events that would culminate with his client, and good friend, usurping the moniker “commander in chief.”
The book details fascinating conspiratorial meetings, “overlooked” details of Johnson’s life, and a smoking gun in the form of a partial fingerprint — which has been dismissed by many experts as inconclusively belonging to a cohort with ties to Clark — found in assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s crows nest, the infamous book depository.
Upon a closer inspection of the book’s introduction, we discover that those fascinating conspiratorial meetings aren’t documented fact but “faction,” a “journalistic novel . . . this documentary approach to show the facts will help set out the steps that had to be taken and how and why they were taken.” In essence, this means that a certain “creative license” was employed in order to flesh out his theory. (It is a technique not dissimilar from the acted dramatizations used in television programs like America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries. Though rooted in fact, they are often a sensational account of what really happened.)
The overlooked details of Johnson’s life, those that, according to McClellan, have been all but ignored by Johnson biographers, include disturbing stories of Johnson’s youth in which the author claims that Johnson tortured and killed a mule as well as having killed a dog with explosives.
Shockingly, the author cites these unsubstantiated acts as proof that Johnson had it in him to order the execution of his boss, President Kennedy. Employing elementary psychoanalysis, McClellan surmises that “this wanton destruction of domesticated animals starkly reveals the pathological character of Johnson’s personality . simply stated, Johnson’s tough-guy childhood made him a juvenile delinquent by today’s standards and showed character traits that would be signals of trouble yet to come.”
In addition to these “mind-blowing’ revelations,” McClellan claims to have been privy to inside information regarding the alleged conspiracy. While this information may seem compelling to some readers, others will disregard it for what it truly is: simple uncorroborated hearsay.
McClellan alleges that his co-workers, who were sworn to secrecy regarding the conspiracy, had no problem divulging details to those who were in the loop (i.e. lawyers who were protected by the attorney-client confidentiality laws). Everything that McClellan states as insider information comes not from his intimate dealings with the conspiracy but from those loud-mouthed co-workers who were in on it. This hard-hitting evidence, as McClellan — an attorney — should know, would be inadmissible were it ever submitted to a court of law.
The author tries valiantly to close the books on the JFK assassination once and for all, but his paper-thin theory, bizarre rationale, and mean-spirited attacks on President Johnson and Clark (it is obvious time and time again that McClellan has some unspoken beef with them) just do not make the grade.
Conspiracy theorists and those who’ve vaguely believed in a Johnson connection will undoubtedly devour this book. Fervent believers will champion McClellan as a brave friend of democracy who, after 40 years, came forth to tell a disturbing tale of absolute power. To those who believe in the “Oswald acted alone” theory put forth by the infamous Warren Commission so many decades ago, this book is yet another sleazy attempt to cash in on the death of a greatly admired President. The simple truth is that there is no simple truth. We’ll never know why Kennedy was killed and who, if popular theory is true, was in on the conspiracy.
Books outlining vast conspiracies will continue to be written and Americans will continue to devour them. McClellan’s book, according to his publisher, Hannover House, had an initial print run of 100,000 copies. The book will undoubtedly sell well, go back to the presses for multiple printings, and carve a nice little niche for itself in the pantheon of long-reaching JFK conspiracy theories. But it will not close the book on the Kennedy assassination. Both camps, those who believe and those who do not, will always argue and uncover stunning revelatory details in this fascinating case, but neither camp will ultimately prove or disprove the events that led to the senseless killing of our 35th president.