BOOK REVIEW

By Roger Stone

Last November I wrote “The Man Who Killed Kennedy- the Case Against LBJ “in which I used deep politics, eye-witness evidence and fingerprint evidence to tie a long time hit man for Lyndon Johnson to the murder of John F. Kennedy. I lay out in detail LBJ’s motive, means and opportunity to kill the President. I was certainly not the first to lay out these facts. Phillip F. Nelson's LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination is the compelling and standard text in the matter and Barr McClelland gave his inside Texas view. In his Blood, Money and Power. The Texas Establishment has attempted to discredit this truth-teller but his book is deadly accurate.

Phillip F. Nelson's new rendering, LBJ – the Colossus is a sequel to his first, LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination, and is just as provocative as the first volume. The "Colossus" book begins where the "Mastermind" tome ended, as Johnson achieved his lifetime goal -- an "obsession" according to Nelson -- the presidency of the United States. Having shot his way into the Oval Office according to this thesis, Lyndon Johnson then proceeded to have two Senate investigations targeted to him suspended as he simultaneously redirected the country's attention to the plethora of legislation that he, practically singlehandedly, according to most biographers, began pushing and shoving through Congress. But that "Great Society" legislation, according to Nelson, had previously been set aside and stalled by Johnson himself throughout his tenure as the "Master of the Senate" (a moniker that was not reflective of his legislative successes, of which there were few). Now that he was president, the "time was right" finally and his patented "Johnson treatment" was at last put to use to aggressively push the same legislation that he had previously impeded. This is definitely not the way most of Johnson's other biographers have framed his legislative successes, but Nelson's case is at least persuasive of that argument.

Compared to the first book, which was derived almost entirely from other books, the Colossus book contains much newly developed evidentiary information related to settling the first of Johnson's treasons (the murder of JFK) within the book's first chapter. The most important of this newly revealed information came from Texas Ranger (later, U.S. Marshal) Clint Peoples' oral history which he had gifted to the Dallas Public Library in 1984. Within that set, he had stipulated that a number of pages would remain closed until he, his wife and his daughter had all passed away; that did not occur until April, 2012 when his daughter died. According to Nelson's research, the reason for that was because of a feud between Peoples and federal judge Barefoot Sanders, a Johnson acolyte who had repeatedly stymied Marshal Peoples in his attempts to investigate the death of U.S. Department of Agriculture agent Henry Marshall, who died in 1961.

His death was declared a "suicide" by Sheriff Howard Stegall, a "Johnson man" who had apparently been warned in advance by an aide to LBJ to make that determination; this despite the fact that he had been severely beaten, with flesh showing from several open wounds, one of his eyes hanging from the eye socket, a high level of carbon monoxide was found in his body and he had been shot five times by a long-barrel rifle within a four inch circle on his chest. One year later, because of the Marshall family's insistence that it was a homicide, Ranger Peoples convened a grand jury to correct this grievous error. But Johnson's political machine took over that grand jury and it became tainted through and through. Leading that effort was Johnson's own political appointee, U.S. Attorney Barefoot Sanders, who took charge of that grand jury and censored nearly the entire file on Henry Marshall's investigation of Johnson's corruption. The result, according to author Nelson was unsurprising: The grand jury found no reason to correct the official record and left the "suicide" verdict stand. For twenty-two more years, Peoples tried to fight the Johnson juggernaut, to no avail.

Then Marshall Peoples finally got the verdict changed to "homicide" in 1984 -- eleven years after Johnson died -- but not without a "showdown" in a Texas federal courtroom as now-Judge Sanders, having persuaded two other federal judges to join him as a "three judge panel" in an attempt to harass Marshal Peoples and force him into stopping his continuing attempt at getting a new grand jury to overturn that verdict. He had come to distrust Sanders so much that he decided to ensure those "closed" pages would remain out of reach until Sanders's death. What those papers revealed was the depth of Judge Sander's complicity with Johnson in what Nelson calls a case of "obstruction of justice." This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

But it is about much more than re-proving the primary thesis of both books, which is the focus of Chapter 1 of the new book. The succeeding several chapters are dedicated to strengthening the case against Johnson by examining his multiple psychological and psychiatric conditions, using specific descriptions of his behavior as reported by his own aides and other high level government officials, such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Richard Goodwin and, vicariously through their reportage, Bill Moyers. Other books written by medical experts have also been referenced as a part of this intense examination. His most elemental character traits are put under the microscope in a fashion that leads to the conclusion, as quoted from two psychologists who wrote Lyndon Johnson, The Tragic Self, that "Johnson’s decisions as the identified leader, and hence his leadership, were not merely flawed, they were not decisions befitting a leader of a democratic nation.”

Nelson's focus on the more esoteric of Johnson's character traits -- his cunning and guile, his secretive, behind-the-scenes maneuvering mixed with a domineering personality characterized by sociopathic narcissism and megalomania, combined with a manic-depressive (bi-polar) disorder and general paranoia -- provided a good frame of reference for the last few chapters. Because only after understanding the extremity of Johnson's still untreated mental problems can one understand the Shakespearian dimensions of his tenure as the thirty-sixth president of the United States.

The period of LBJ's reign as a "Colossus" (when he had anointed himself "King of the World" during his presidential years) began, according to Nelson's narrative, after he had committed his first of three major treasons: The assassination of JFK. Vietnam was the second, which he argues was fought primarily as a means to secure Johnson's place in history as a great wartime president, just like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Another reason for that war, according to this thesis, was Johnson's attempt to distract the attention of the American public from JFK's murder. The third treason was as equally appalling as the first two: His attempt to have Israel attack and sink his own ship, the USS Liberty, as a means for him -- in his deluded and psychotic mind -- to join Israel in defeating Egypt in the Six Day War. He was upset that so many Jewish people did not support "his war" in Vietnam and this was a way for him to regain their support. It sounds outlandish, but the story Nelson has written answers a lot of questions about that incident: Why, for instance, has this been the only peacetime attack on a U.S. Navy warship that has never been openly investigated; in the military investigations to date, it has clearly been done for the purpose of a "cover-up." The "elephant in the room" question which remains unresolved is this: "Isn't the present state of affairs in the Middle East a direct result of the fruits of that Six Day War, foisted upon the world by LBJ?: The expropriation of major parts of what was once "Palestine" to strengthen the state of Israel, for a war that they started, clearly now in retrospect, for that very purpose?"

Nelson has presented a case against Lyndon B. Johnson that has all the elements of the Shakespearian characters Macbeth and Richard III; in fact, he has drawn that analogy within the book. It is a "stunning indictment" according to Gerald McKnight, author of Breach of Trust and The Last Crusade, in his dust-cover review of Colossus. The unstated question is, "Will Robert Caro and Robert Dallek attempt to rebut this argument" since it is in direct contrast to the portrait of the thirty-sixth president that they have painted, which portrays Johnson as merely a "flawed," somewhat eccentric cowboy?"

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/LBJ-Mastermind-Colossus%C2%94-Phillip-Nelson/dp/1628736925/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419875801&sr=1-1&keywords=phillip+nelson