The politics of White House firings

“President Kennedy chose CIA director Allen Dulles as the main fall guy for the calamitous 1961 invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, …”

“… forcing him into retirement. (Ironically, President Johnson later appointed Dulles to the Warren Commission, which investigated JFK’s assassination; Dulles failed to tell the commission about the CIA’s many attempts on the life of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro—a potential motive for the retaliatory killing of an American president.)”

Larry J. Sabato, “The Politics of White House Firings,” Politico Magazine

33 thoughts on “The politics of White House firings”

  1. This is a link to my chapter on the Bay of Pigs in Destiny Betrayed. It incorporates the newest declassified record. And I think its the best summary in chapter form anywhere.

    Dulles did not resign. He was given a choice of being fired or resigning. It is clear that JFK concluded that he had been lied to repeatedly and even though he had pledged no direct American intervention, that is what they wanted him to do. Both Bissell and Dulles later admitted this.

    The reason they were all fired–Dulles, Bissell, Cabell–is because Kennedy appointed his brother to the investigating commission. And Bobby could not believe the way Dulles lied through his teeth about every aspect of the operation. He then went to Joe Kennedy through Joe’s service with Lovett got hold of the Lovett /Bruce report. Lovett.and David Bruce had wanted Dulles fired years earlier. So now Bobby read that report and took Lovett to see Jack. Lovett said now was the time. So all three were canned.

    But that was not enough for Bobby. He now asked Dean Rusk, is there was any other member of the Dulles family still around? Rusk said yes, his sister. Bobby said he wanted her out too. Because he wanted no one from that family around anymore.

    Now, in the face of that, how credible is Johnson’s tape? Or his memo. And the other thing Clarke brings up does not say it was Bobby’s choice. It may have been Katzenbach. The idea that Bobby would know Dulles lied his head off to sucker his brother, then Bobby gets him fired, and then He wants him back to find out who killed his beloved brother?

    GIve me a break.

    Everyone knows LBJ despised RFK. Everyone knows LBJ was part of the cover up. What better revenge than to shift part of the blame for the cover up to the guy he loathed. Especially now that his brother’s death made him powerless.

  2. Charles P. Cabell was fired by JFK. He was the brother of Earl Cabell, Mayor of Dallas on the day of the assassination and rider in the 6th car in the motorcade. He was elected to the US House of Representatives the year following JFK’s assassination.

    Charles P. Cabell became Deputy Director of CIA under Allen Dulles. He was forced by President Kennedy to resign, on January 31, 1962, following the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion.[2] Cabell’s brother, Earle Cabell, was Mayor of Dallas when Kennedy visited that city and was assassinated, on November 22, 1963.[3]

  3. Except Dulles resigned. And he got a medal from JFK. And he was an old fart who arguably should have resigned long before. The real question is why an easily recognizable political and economic enemy of JFK was chosen as a member of the Warren Commission. Especially when it should be abundantly clear that RFK had the political capital (after the assassination) to mandate the commission’s roster. Along with Dulles, McCloy is equally suspect. Why in the world would he have been invited to preside over the investigation of his most enemy? Dulles and McCloy had to have been the major suspects in, if not causing, then capitalizing on JFK’s death. RFK and Mrs. Kennedy could not have been unaware of this.

    So were Dulles and McCloy installed as part of a successful coup or were they installed as a message that the coup was unsuccessful?

    1. Well, the coup was successful. Johnson did dutifully install them. Who or what did Dulles and McCoy represent?

    2. I believe that RFK was essentialy a lame duck AG after his brother’s death. And there is absolutely zero chance that LBJ would have let him on that commission. And I don’t think RFK could have handled it at that point. My feeling is that he pretty much felt that he’d gotten his brother killed.

    3. I think Dulles and McCloy were on the commission because Bobby named them and requested they be on the commission when LBJ asked him. I believe there is ample evidence of this.

      The main reason I can think of for Bobby wanting them on the commission is that he sure as hell didn’t want the Cuba operation his brother had ran be exposed. Dulles would equally not want the CIA dirty laundry aired. So who better to insure this didn’t happen on the commission?

      1. H.P. Albarelli Jr.

        I agree with you completely, Bill Clark. Additionally, RFK could have alerted Warren and others to his Murder, Inc. activities but there is no evidence that he did. So,sad to say, when folks point the finger at a Commission ‘cover-up”, by logic they must also point to RFK, and others in the JFK administration, who also covered up critical details that would have advanced any real investigation.

        1. I don’t know whether or not there is “ample evidence” that RFK asked LBJ to put Dulles on the WC. The only person who ever said so was LBJ and he lied about RFK asking him to stay at Love Field and be sworn in.It is also well known that RFK let it be known that Dulles’s sister, who had worked in the State Dept for 3 decades, was no longer welcome in the administration after her brother was let go.
          I agree with mball (above) that Robert was useless as AG after the killing and did not chose to fight the group LBJ set up.
          That said, I think we have yet to uncover the depths of grief and blame that RFK might have felt for his own active engagement in assassinations. I just find it hard to believe he suggested Dulles or McCoy.

          1. LBJ might have been rude, crude and a liar but he was a very smart man. What better way to convince the American public to accept the Warren Commission results than have men on it recommended by Bobby Kennedy? I think he asked Bobby because it was good for Lyndon Johnson.

            Below is an article on this subject.
            By Kyle Whelton

            In his autobiography The Vantage Point, Johnson states, “As for the makeup of the rest of the commission, I appointed the two men Bobby Kennedy asked me to put on it-Allen Dulles and John McCloy-immediately.”[3]But how do we know that this wasn’t just Johnson lying through his teeth? After, Presidents have been known to lie to protect their legacy.

            However, there are two piece of evidence that corroborate LBJ’s claim. On November 29, Walter Jenkins sent Johnson a memo outlining Bobby’s recommendations, which included John McCloy and Allen Dulles, as well as the other potential members of the Commission for Johnson’s approval. The memo states, “Abe [Fortas] has talked with Katzenbach and Katzenbach has talked with the Attorney General. They recommend a seven man commission – two Senators, two Congressmen, the Chief Justice, Allen Dulles, and a retired Military Man (General or Admiral).”[4]

            Then on December 17, 1966, in a phone conversation with aide Abe Fortas Johnson states, “We even asked the Attorney General to name people he wanted [on the Commission]. He named Allen Dulles and John McCloy.”[5] While it is altogether possible LBJ would have lied in his memoirs to present an image of cooperation with Bobby, it is highly unlikely he was lying to close personal aides about getting Bobby’s input.

          2. Nathaniel Heidenheimer

            I agree that it is a VERY WORTHY question: are there ANY OTHER sources besides LBJ writing in 1969, for the allegation that Dulles was requested for The Commission by RFK?

            I find it interesting that some are so convinced of this verity, while so skeptical re other slimly sourced allegations.

          3. Nathaniel Heidenheimer

            I find H.P.s comments somewhat misleading, given the context that 1) CIA ops against Castro were going on before the JFK admin. 2) JFK knew–based on his observations of CIA ops everywhere else and including Cuba– that they would continue. and 3) the CIA continued operations against Castro even after JFK had tried to stop them. What would you do in that context H.P. try to joint committee it as in Mongoose or just shut your eyes and let the CIA keep on making policy? The degree of control that presidents might exercise over the CIA is at the heart of the question, and your Bobby Bashing, though an extremely popular sport across the spectrum, completely ignores the complexity of presidential-CIA relations in 1963. Earlier Joan Mellen tried to prove direct orders of RFK to assassinate Castro. Those efforts really bogged down when push came to shove. See the thread on CIA operative Ford at the old education forum sight. I believe the thread was started by Bill Kelley.

          4. @ Bill Clarke re: LBJ

            Yes, LBJ was certainly a shrewd politician.

            It perhaps was a polite & politically-correct gesture to ask Bobby or get some input from him.

        2. Further to Nathaniel’s posts, didn’t even the FBI raid anti-Castro training camps in the U.S.?

          Apparently, the Kennedy’s didn’t promote this operation at some point, and tried to curtail if not stop it.

          I doubt that Bobby would need Dulles of all people to be on the WC to avoid divulgence of black ops when he could simply call Helms not to disclose such information, especially in light of DiEugenio’s post here.

          And why wouldn’t LBJ lie to his aide? Heck, he probably lied to the Chief Justice and other reluctant members of the commission in order to appoint them.

      2. What Cuba operation? If any, wren’t those smokescreens covering a back channel for the possibility of detente with Cuba as has been written elsewhere on this website?

        If Bobby recommended Allen Dulles, maybe it was a desperate attempt by him to install someone with connections to the intelligence apparatus that might confirm or deny other suspicions, even in a round-a-bout way.

        1. Gerry Simone May 29, 2014 at 8:43 am

          Operation Mongoose and the effort to assassinate Castro. These efforts took a bit of shine off Camelot and certainly the Kennedy family wouldn’t want them to come out to the public.

          The attempt to reconcile with Castro didn’t come until after Mongoose and the assassination attempts had failed. We couldn’t kill Castro so we decided to work him. I think by then too much water had gone under the bridge.

          1. Not sure still.

            Why would RFK need Dulles to put a lid on Operation Mongoose when the CIA wasn’t so cooperative?

            How would the WC find out about it and why would they expose it, especially when LBJ raised the specter of nuclear war with the Soviets if the assassination was a Communist conspiracy that included Cuba?

            Why would its revelation tarnish JFK’s image when he and Jackie praised the Cuban brigade at the Orange Bowl in 1962?

            Operation Mongoose probably substantially wound down after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

            No – I think if Bobby really wanted Dulles there, it was perhaps to see if Dulles could find out if it in fact was a foreign conspiracy.

          2. H.P. Albarelli Jr.

            Yes, if you can’t kill them join them. Rarely does this form of foreign policy work out well.

          3. @ H.P. Albarelli Jr.,

            Nobody is asking anyone to ‘join them’.

            After the CMC, why wouldn’t an ‘olive-branch’ policy work? Castro said later that one could talk to JFK, as in reasonably communicate.

            Also with JFK’s Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and his speech about joint space exploration with the Soviets, you’d think that they could bury the hatchet.

            Even if the WC knew about OM, I doubt they would expose or mention it in their report. Apparently, they didn’t.

          4. H.P. Albarelli Jr.

            Gerry, who said anything about asking? Your comment on the WC makes my point.

      3. There is no direct proof RFK suggested Dulles for Warren Commission.
        Abe Fortas spoke to Johnson in that phone call, he had spoken with Katzenbach, and Katzenbach claimed RFK suggested Dulles. This is hearsay three times removed from RFK.

  4. JFK approved the BOP invasion. Just not air cover for the invasion, until a beachhead was secured. JFK failed as a leader in letting a doomed military expedition go forward.

    Sure, the CIA lied to him. And Bissell didn’t deliver the message about air cover to the commandos. So the CIA is far from blameless.

    But JFK was in charge. His job was to win not lose military battles.

    Yes, this was a CIA not a U.S. military operation. But so what? The CIA was then and is today just another way to conduct warfare.

    1. Jonathan, you know I agree with most of your posts. I do this one some what. JFK failed as a leader in the BOP. He took credit for that failure publicly, as you know. Even though he was misled and deceived by the Military and the CIA (Dulles performance in this as Director IMHO was Treason).
      He then stated he would then “smash the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the winds”.
      He wanted to change the procedure or deception of the President afterwards.
      How can any leader be truly held accountable for his actions when they are based on the lies of spies?

      1. Ronnie,

        I recall reading somewhere that Lemnitzer advised JFK the BOP invasion would fail. Do you have any information on this or any contrary information?

        1. Not off the top of my head. But I do recall reading one of the military top brass (marines?) seeing no way it could succeed and refusing a CIA request to participate. I’ve not read on the BOP much lately and need to dig before I put my foot in my mouth (again).
          I do agree with Mr. Harper that JFK showed great courage, and leadership in sticking to his commitment of no air (or for that matter Naval) support in the face of the pressure he was under.
          His failure of leadership was in regards to signing off on the BOP under pressure to do so from the CIA and part of the Military without more/better information. Then again he was being manipulated by men experienced in such matters on a operation he inherited while just getting his feet wet as POTUS.

          1. Re read the chapter in Destiny Betrayed this evening. Nothing on Lemnitzer warning JFK.
            It does quote JFK saying “how could I have been so stupid as to proceed?”
            And notes “Bissell deliberately kept the White House in the dark about a memo saying that the military chiefs believe the plan would not succeed without direct American intervention.”
            Further, “Bissell admitted that he and Dulles “had allowed Kennedy to persist in misunderstanding about the nature of the Cuban operation.”
            Last, I’d forgot about Joe Kennedy’s participation in the “forerunner of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board” in the mid 50’s. Their conclusions of CIA activities and Dulles leadership of them was enough to raise his ire long before saying “That little Kennedy, he thought he was a God”
            Notwithstanding that he and others of the old East Coast establishment considered them “new money” and unworthy of their association with “old money”.

          2. Also of note. JFK was first advised to proceed with the operation by Eisenhower when leaving office. I guess, just before the Military Industrial Complex speech.

    2. I beg to differ. It has been shown that even had the bombing happened, the “force” of 1500 didn’t stand a chance against 20,000 waiting for them and there was no rebellion by the people of Cuba to join the “force.”
      Dulles’ papers show that he had assumed/hoped for JFK to be brought into bombing and then invading the country. The brothers Dulles had been running foreign policy for the previous 8 years, so Allen figured he still could call the shots. JFK was elected to do that job; not Dulles.JFK showed great leadership in thwarting those who had no right to bringthe USA into a land war.

      1. Robert,

        I believe the second sentence of your first paragraph makes my point.

        I agree with your second paragraph.

      2. Robert Harper May 28, 2014 at 7:30 am

        True, much is made of this lack of air support but in truth the operation was doomed from the start. For starters there was no reason to expect the Cuban people to revolt, a key requirement for success.

        I believe the CIA was over impressed with their ability here. They had changed governments in Iran and Guatemala on the cheap and thought they could do it in Cuba. They were of course wrong.

        It was a damn fool plan to begin with.

        1. It sems to me that, inasmuch as they knew that there was virtually no chance of a popular uprising, the CIA was counting on the decapitation of Castro’s regime concurrent with the invasion. I believe that they also thought that if JFK was faced with potential disaster on the beach, that he would order up U.S. military support. In the event, it appears that the CIA probably shot itself in the foot when they incarcerated the Brigade’s poltical leaders prior to the invasion, and that there was a basic failure of communication between JFK and the CIA. He said at the beginning that he wanted as little noise as possible, and he meant it. That was foolish, given that he’d ok’d an over the beach operation that fooled no one.

          1. There is a story of Admiral Burke begging JFK to send in some air support. Each time JFK says no. Finally Burke ask him why and JFK replies that he doesn’t want the U.S. involved.

            In shock Burke replies, “Hell Mr. President, we are involved”.

      3. Precisely.

        JFK felt betrayed or played by the CIA (and possibly the JCOS) for a doomed mission which might only have succeeded if the order was made not just for air support but an all out invasion a la Grenada many years later under Reagan.

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