The assassination of JFK is a meme that has eclipsed the historical event. Donald Trump’s contention that Ted Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the death of the liberal president not only endures but flourishes online and redounds to the benefit of its authors. Why?
The facts are largely passé. The story originated with an unreliable blogger, Wayne Madsen. It was picked up by the National Enquirer, embellished by fabulist Judyth Baker, repeated by Trump strategist Roger Stone, and amplified by conspiracy entrepreneur Alex Jones. The facts of Oswald’s actions are of little interest to reporters covering the story of the presidential horse race.
For journalists habituated to rejecting JFK conspiracy theories, Trump’s unfounded smear is laughable, another indicator of popular irrationality which responsible elites must dutifully decry. But this authoritative-sounding stance depends on the factually shaky premise that there is a credible consensual explanation of November 22, 1963.
There is no such thing. Trump has taken this fact to Bank of Populist Mistrust and cashed in. And he will continue to cash in because he intuits–correctly–that the U.S. government he seeks to take over, continues to obfuscate about JFK’ s assassination to this day.
Trump’s dubious claim about Cruz’s father cannot be definitively refuted because the FBI never identified Oswald’s associates in the famous photo cited by Trump. The FBI, under White House orders to cut off speculation about Oswald’s associates, did not conduct a serious investigation of Oswald in 1964.
Specifically the FBI did not investigate Oswald’s actions on behalf of the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC).
This was not a failure of well-intentioned public servants as custodians of liberal opinion want to believe. It was a ‘national security’ decision. The FBI did not and could investigate the CIA operation, code named AMSPELL, that first publicized Oswald’s FPCC activities in August 1963. The FBI and CIA also concealed a COINTELPRO operation that targeted the FPCC in the fall of 1963.
These decisions remains in force today in 2016, another fact from which senior editors and distinguished pundits prefer to avert their eyes. For example, the CIA continues to argue in federal court that it cannot and will not disclose the records of George Joannides, the deceased psychological warfare officer who lived in New Orleans and ran the AMPELL operation. Whether the CIA will release all of these records by October 2017 remains very much in doubt.
With this veil of secrecy in place, Trump and his surrogates can, and no doubt will, continue to use the famous photo of Oswald handing out FPCC pamphlets with an unidentified man to impugn Cruz specifically and the federal government generally. The CIA’s ongoing coverup of its operations in New Orleans in 1963 is is not only a disservice to historical truth. It is Langley’s contribution to Trump campaign.
To be sure, the CIA does not support Trump institutionally. I’m sure many CIA officials are disturbed by his irrationality and lack of intelligence.. But the Agency’s persistent, malicious, and sinister secrecy around the events of 1963 continues to corrode confidence in the government, as it has for the last 53 years. Trump, who has contempt for democratic norms, is the beneficiary.