Three days earlier, President Johnson had resisted the idea of a Presidential Commission inquiry into President Kennedy’s assassination, telling Joe Alsop “we don’t send in a bunch of carpetbaggers” and “the President must not inject himself into, ah, local killings.” To which Alsop had replied “I agree with that, but in this case it does happen to be the killing of the President.”
After the death of Oswald, Johnson and aides were determined to convince the public that the suspected assassin had acted alone but could not decide how. By the 28th Johnson had swung behind the idea of a commission, although there is a little documentation as to why he changed his mind. In a call with Senator James Eastland of Mississippi, LBJ described who might serve on such a commission: “And if we could have two Congressmen and two Senators, and maybe a Justice of the Supreme Court…”
Eastland was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where one of two proposed congressional inquiries into the assassination was on the verge of forming. But Eastland told Johnson “now if you want it dropped, we’ll drop it.”
As in a few other calls this week, Johnson made oblique references to the specter of war that the allegations of a Communist conspiracy had raised. “This is a very explosive thing and it could be a very dangerous thing for our country,” he said. Avoiding war was his priority. The next day would see Johnson at his most explicit in this regard, as he leaned on a reluctant Chief Justice Earl Warren to head the inquiry.