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The Assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy: Questions, Hints and Allegations June 10, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in assassination, History, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: just like paranoids can have real enemies, conspiracy theorists can have real conspiracies.

“Robert Kennedy’s death, like the President’s … was perceived as random…. What is odd is not that some people thought it was all random, but that so many intelligent people refused to believe that it might be anything else.”

Most Americans are unable to believe that their country is not different than any other Banana Republic, this after so much evidence that supports that notion.  The murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King by “lone assassins.”  The murders of Malcolm X and Fred Hampton, the two greatest threats to White America.  The stealing of presidency for George Bush by the State where his brother was governor.  Donald Trump!!!!!!!

I think it begins with the schools.  From day one it is drummed into us that America is the world’s greatest, if not history’s greatest nation, the epitome of democracy, the leader of the so-called free world, and the defender of all that is good and moral.  The American child is subject to this indoctrination for at least thirteen thirteen years, the most formative, from Kindergarten through high school.

This initial brainwashing is at the same time reinforced by the mass media and virtually all other forms of cultural expression.  This lifetime of  brainwashing  applied to generation after generation of American children; the Manchurian Candidate applied to an entire population.

There is no doubt in my mind that the JFK and MLK assassinations were government hit jobs.  Below we read about Bobby.  Don’t forget that since World War II the CIA has been involved in several overseas assassinations, the most notorious being that of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo and Che Guevara in Bolivia. It is no wonder that, as Malcolm put it, the chickens have come home to roost.  It is a tragedy of monumental proportions and no coincidence that some of the greatest popular leaders of the twentieth century met their fate long before their time, at the end of a bullet.

Conspiracies.  

9/11?  I keep an open mind.

Global Research, June 06, 2017

f you were going to arrange a political assassination in an indoor crowded setting, would you plan to have one of your operatives (not the assassin) at the murder site be a strikingly curvaceous young woman in a conspicuous white dress with black polka-dots, and then have her flee the scene, yelling, “We’ve shot him, we’ve shot him,” so that multiple witnesses would see and hear her as she made her escape?

Would you have the same woman earlier in the day pick up a salesman in the hotel where the assassination was planned, spend the day with him driving around and having dinner together, while repeatedly inviting (i.e. luring) him to join her later that night at a big public event where they will shoot their famous victim, whom she names?

Would you have your operative tell this man that, although she wasn’t staying at the hotel, and although she had been in town only three days, having flown from NYC where she had arrived from overseas, that she knew the hotel stair routes very well, including an unobtrusive one that she shows the man?

Would you have this woman tell this man that a few days earlier she had met with a very famous political operative (whom she names), diametrically opposed to your victim’s political philosophy and that she would need to flee the country after the assassination and would like the man’s help?

Would you have your operative in the tight dress so conspicuously lay down a trail of breadcrumbs from morning until night, until she made her escape, never to be found despite having been seen by more than a dozen credible witnesses at the shooting site?

I think you would agree that you would have to be extremely stupid to plan an assassination in this manner, except if you were extremely devious, and the voluptuous stand-out girl was part of your intricate plot to create a false lead to someone other than the assassins.

This is exactly what happened when Senator Robert Kennedy, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, was shot shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, after celebrating his victory in the California Democratic Primary. The woman in question came to be known as “the girl in the polka-dot dress,” but unlike the ways we associate girls with innocence, this woman was a key player in hideous evil.

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Former President John F. Kennedy with his wife in a limousine prior to his assassination (Source: Wikipedia)

While many people are aware that President John Kennedy was killed five years earlier in a conspiracy organized by U.S. intelligence operatives and that Lee Harvey Oswald was the “patsy” that he said he was, far fewer realize that Robert Kennedy was also killed as a result of a conspiracy and that the convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan did not kill RFK. In fact, not one bullet from his gun struck the senator. Sirhan was standing in front of Kennedy when, as the autopsy definitively showed, RFK was shot from the rear at point blank range, three bullets entering his body, with the fatal head-shot coming upward at a 45 degree angle from 1-3 inches behind his right ear.In addition, an audio recording shows that many more bullets than the eight in Sirhan’s gun were fired in the hotel pantry that night. It was impossible for Sirhan to have killed RFK.

While Sirhan still sits in prison to this day, the real killers of Senator Kennedy went free that night. For anyone who studies the case with an impartial eye (see this, this,this, this, and this), the evidence is overwhelming that there was a very sophisticated conspiracy at work, one that continued long after as police, FBI, intelligence agencies, and the legal system covered up the true nature of the crime.  That Sirhan was hypnotized to play his part as seeming assassin is also abundantly clear.

But it is not my intention here to detail all the facts of the case that still scream out for justice, as do the linked assassinations of JFK and MLK.  In fact, referring to the Kennedy assassination is a misnomer; we should speak of the Kennedy assassinations, since JFK wasn’t the only one.

I would like to focus on the so-called “girl in the polka-dot dress,” and ask you to think along with me as we explore why she was so conspicuous that day and night, and what function she may have served.  I know you will agree that it is counterintuitive for her to have behaved the way she did. Counterintuitive for the general public, that is.

Image result for The Polka-Dot File: on the Robert F. Kennedy Killing

Source: Amazon

The best detailed day-to-day account of this mysterious girl is in the book linked to above by Fernando Faura, The Polka-Dot File: on the Robert F. Kennedy Killing (see my review here). Faura writes,

“Seconds after the shooting stopped, a young woman in a polka-dot dress ran out of the kitchen, past Sandra Serrano [see video], a Kennedy campaign worker. The woman shouted, ‘We shot him, we shot him.’ Asked who they shot, the woman replied, ‘Kennedy,’ and ran into the morning darkness, never to be found.”

Although Serrano was interviewed by Sandy Vanocur of NBC News on live TV at 1:30 AM shortly after the shooting, she – as well as other eyewitnesses to this girl – was browbeaten by the police to retract her story, yet she never did. The police shut down its pursuit of this girl, despite all the witnesses. The LAPD officer in charge of the investigation, Lt. Manny Pena, was CIA connected, having worked for U.S. AID and been recently brought back to control the investigation. So too was the brutal interrogator, Sgt. Hank Hernandez, CIA affiliated.

It is obvious that this girl was part of a conspiracy to kill Robert Kennedy and that it is equally obvious that she was meant to stand out, be seen, and to be heard shouting what she did.  Why?

Logically  it follows that she was meant to create false leads, and generate mystery when there was none. Writing of the JFK assassination, Vince Salandria, the eminent and early critic of the government’s false conspiracy story, has recently said something quite appropriate to the RFK case and this girl:

“The Kennedy assassination is a false mystery. It was conceived by the conspirators to be a false mystery which was designed to cause interminable debate. The purpose of the protracted debate was to obscure what was quite clearly and plainly a coup d’état….President Kennedy was assassinated by our national-security state…”

While far fewer people have yet to question the false narrative in the RFK case, when or if they do they will find that the polka-dot girl’s actions and her disappearance could keep them guessing for a long time, and that that guessing will lead away from the obvious and essential truth.

The investigative journalist Robert Parry has written about how Richard Nixon sabotaged a possible peace accord in Vietnam in the summer/fall of 1968. This he did through an intermediary, right-wing Republican Chinese émigré Anna Chennault, wife of General Claire Chennault, legendary founder of the Flying Tigers. Parry explains,

“Nixon’s gambit was to have Chennault pass on word to South Vietnamese President Thieu that if he boycotted Johnson’s Paris peace talks – thus derailing the negotiations – Nixon would assure Thieu continued U.S. military support for the war.”

This treachery has been confirmed. Having stumbled on Parry’s work in 2014, the reporter Fernando Faura was startled to find himself connecting the girl in the polka-dot dress to Anna Chennault and to Nixon. This was because he remembered that the man, John Fahey, who had spent all day with the girl on June 4, 1968 and dropped her off in the evening at the Ambassador Hotel, had told him that the political operative she had met with three days before the assassination was Anna Chennault. Faura speculates that perhaps Nixon was therefore connected to RFK’s assassination because he feared that, if Robert Kennedy were to become the Democratic presidential nominee, he would push to end the Vietnam War and would be more likely that anyone else to defeat him in the general election. He speculates that the “peace talks” conspiracy might have been the origin of the Kennedy killing; that the two conspiracies were connected.

But at the same time Faura writes,

“Why is the CIA’s shadow all over this?”

And since the CIA’s shadow is all over the RFK assassination, we are left to ask if Nixon and the CIA were operating on the same page. Or was it the reverse, that Nixon and the CIA were at odds? Did the CIA remove Nixon from office with Watergate? Could the girl have been used to create a false lead to Nixon? Or was it something else again?  Was it simply fortuitous that Sirhan’s Palestinian Arabic origins were emphasized and that his lawyers, who in no way defended him, suggested that he was mad at RFK for supporting the sending of planes to Israel and the oppression of the Palestinians by Israel? What were Kennedy’s positions vis-à- vis Israel? Who was the girl? What country had she come from when she arrived in NYC three days before?

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Sirhan Bishara Sirhan is the convicted assassin of United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. (Source: Murderpedia)

Many questions leading hither and yon originate with this girl. And it is obvious that she was meant to do that: to muddy the waters and keep people guessing once they came to realize that Sirhan obviously did not kill RFK.  And she “disappeared” as quickly as she “appeared.”  And the authorities shut down their investigation and pursuit of her.  They denied her existence against all the evidence.  Meant to stand out, she was also meant to go out, leaving a trail of questions.

Former Congressman Allard Lowenstein, who was investigating Robert Kennedy’s killing and was also strangely murdered, put it well:

Robert Kennedy’s death, like the President’s, was mourned as an extension of senseless violence; events moved on, and the profound alterations that these deaths…brought in the equation of power in America was perceived as random…. What is odd is not that some people thought it was all random, but that so many intelligent people refused to believe that it might be anything else. Nothing can measure more graphically how limited was the general under- standing of what is possible in America.

While such pseudo-innocence prevailed then and is still very widespread, perhaps no one epitomized the twisted mind games played by intelligence agencies more than James Jesus Angleton, the notorious CIA Counterintelligence Chief for so many years, in whose safe were found gruesome photos of Robert Kennedy’s autopsy. Why, one may ask, were those photos there, since Angleton allegedly had no connection to the RFK killing and since Sirhan was said to be the assassin? Was Angleton’s work as CIA liaison with Israeli any way connected?

As I wrote earlier, if one objectively studies the assassination of Senator Kennedy, one cannot but conclude there was a government conspiracy and that Sirhan is not guilty. That much is not particularly complicated, although many people not familiar with the facts of the case may think otherwise.

The mystery girl is another matter. Everything about her has served to hypnotize, first Sirhan, and then those seeking to get to the deeper forces behind this American tragedy.

Robert Kennedy, like his brother John, was a great danger to those virulent forces of war and oppression within his own government, and he died opposing them as a true patriot.

We should honor him on this day – June 6th – that he died; honor him by pursuing the truth of why he died and why it still matters. Because it does.

Featured image: history.com


 

New Book Reveals How Faith is Like a Covert Operation for the Bush Family January 8, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush, Religion.
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bush-family

The Bush family (photo: www.stillman.org)

Frederick Clarkson
January 4, 2009

www.religiondispatches.org

A brand new investigation of the Bush family reveals a religious narrative that strays from the official story circulated to supporters and the press. How many conversions did George W. actually have and why? How did a blue-blooded Episcopalian family come to represent the evangelicals of America?

Below is an addendum to today’s feature “New Book Reveals How Faith is Like a Covert Operation for the Bush Family”. The book discussed is Russ Baker’s: Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces that Put it in the White House, and what Their Influence Means for America (Bloomsbury Press, 2008)

Baker has unearthed many startling facts about the careers of Bush 41 and Bush 43. He also draws some head turning conclusions about some of the key figures in both the Watergate scandal and the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the relationship of Poppy Bush to both events. But before we summarize some of the book’s major disclosures, it is worth discussing the elephant in the room (For a full analysis of the revelations regarding the religious life of the Bushes, see today’s feature: ).

Investigative works are often labeled “conspiracy theories.” This term is generally used to suggest that whatever an author has learned, he or she may be a bit unhinged, and we may therefore not take the material seriously. And we are safe to go about our business as usual. While there are people and work, no matter how well intentioned to which the label might fairly apply, the label is also used by many of us to dismiss information and analyses that make us uncomfortable even when they legitimately push the boundaries of our understanding of modern politics, business and government. But as we address our own discomfort in the face of such material, we need to remind ourselves that investigative journalism discomfits the author as well. Journalists like Baker are constantly checking and cross checking, making sure that disturbing information is in fact so. Even more awkward are the disturbing questions that the journalist cannot answer, but are themselves so well founded that they must be raised. Conspiracy theorists tend to take the opposite tack. Information is shaped or interpreted to conform to predetermined and often fevered conclusions, while countervailing information is downplayed or ignored.

Baker is a well-respected journalist who has written for major newspapers and magazines and has served as a contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. His effort to understand the lives of the presidents Bush unexpectedly led him to reexamine Watergate and the Kennedy assassination and other murky episodes of recent American history, “documenting the secrets that the House of Bush has long sought to obscure.”

“I’ll admit it,” Baker writes in his conclusion. “Fear of being so labeled has haunted me throughout this work. It’s been an internal censor that I’ve had to resist again and again. And also an external one, as friends within the journalistic establishment reviewed my findings, found them both credible and highly disturbing, and yet urged me to stay away from them for my own good. I began to realize that I was experiencing the very thing the process is designed to induce. The boundaries of permissible thought are staked out and enforced. We accept the conventional narratives because they are repeated and approved, while conflicting ones are scorned. Isn’t this how authoritarian regimes work? They get inside your mind so that overt repression becomes less necessary.”

“Whose interests does this serve?” he continues. “As this book demonstrates, the deck has long been and continues to be, stacked on behalf of big money players, especially those in commodities and natural resources *from gold to oil *and those who finance the extraction of these materials. The defense industry, and the aligned growth of business of “intelligence,” provide muscle. On a lower level is an army of enablers*the campaign functionaries, the PR people, the lawyers. This was the Bush enterprise. The Bushes embodied it as a dynasty, but it is larger than them, and will prove more enduring.”

Here are some of the major revelations of the book:

*George H. W. (“Poppy”) Bush, and many of his closest associates throughout his adult life were deeply and secretly enmeshed in covert intelligence activities. He has gone to great lengths to conceal many of his activities, no matter how mundane, and engaged in overt acts of misdirection. Bush’s extensive intelligence ties prior to his becoming CIA Director in the Ford administration, and going back to World War II, have not been previously reported. Baker calls this Bush’s “double life.”

*Poppy Bush was deeply involved with an array of CIA covert operators, Bay of Pigs veterans and rightwing Texas oil industry characters linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Baker shows that Bush was actually in Dallas on November 21, 1963 and was probably there on the day of the assassination as well. Baker draws no particular conclusions from the fact, except to document, describe and underscore the great lengths he went to conceal the fact.

*Baker asserts that, much to his own surprise, Richard Nixon while no innocent, was not the instigator of the Watergate crimes and the cover-up, but appears to have been set-up. What’s more, some of the seeming good guys, were not, and much of what seemed to be, was not as it seemed. Among those he implicates in the set-up are Poppy Bush and perhaps most remarkably, John Dean, the former White House counsel who became best known as the key whistleblower.

*In a related point, Baker notes that Nixon suspected the CIA of infiltrating his White House staff. Nixon recognized the Watergate burglars from his own days supervising covert operations as Vice President in the Eisenhower administration, and knew that their bosses were seasoned CIA hardliners with ties to the Bay of Pigs invasion and events linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Nixon battled the CIA for files on what he called the “Bay of Pigs thing,” but never could get access to them. (To borrow from Woody Allen, just because Nixon was paranoid, doesn’t mean they were not out to get him.)

*Baker questions the integrity and independence of famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward of the Washington Post who he reports had been recommended for his job by senior Nixon White House officials who had known him when he worked in Naval intelligence prior to his becoming a reporter. In that capacity, which Woodward denies he held, he was a frequent visitor to the White House.

*Baker details the Bush family’s personal, political and business connections to the Saudi royal family; and to apparent international slush funds and money laundering schemes. Much of this is told in such a matter of fact fashion that it is easy to lose sight of the significance of many of the individual facts.

Regarding George W. Bush, in addition to the manufacture of the legend his conversion story (see main story) the book covers familiar turf regarding how strings were pulled to get George W. Bush into the “Champagne Unit” of the Texas Air National Guard in order to avoid military service that might send him to Vietnam; how he failed to fulfill that service; and how his failure was systematically covered-up and politically defused. Also covered are the allegations of how W. was an abuser of illegal drugs in addition to his apparently drinking problems as a young man.

One important story from W.’s past that has long been rumored is confirmed in this book. It is a story that perhaps as much as his going AWOL from the National Guard and orchestrating a cover-up could have derailed his political career.

And that story is the illegal abortion he obtained for a girlfriend in Texas before Roe v. Wade. This is substantiated in part by four reporters whose stories were not published, but who shared their “experiences and detailed source notes” and even tapes with him. Two Bush pals took charge of arranging the abortion go to the hospital and who went to the hospital to inform her that he would not see her again. All of the names are named. Certainly as an candidate who was seeking to appeal to conservative evangelical, anti-abortion constituencies, this would have been a high hurdle to overcome.

“As president,” Baker concludes, “Bush promulgated tough new policies that withheld U.S. funds not only to programs and countries that permitted abortions, but even to those that advocated contraception as opposed to abstinence. Moreover, his appointments to the Supreme Court put the panel on the verge of reversing Roe v. Wade. Like his insistence on long prison sentences for first time drug offenders and his support for military action, his own behavior in regard to sexual responsibility and abortion could be considered relevant *and revealing.” Such journalistic understatement is typical of Baker’s narrative, even while reporting potentially politically explosive material.

Perhaps the revelation that would be most difficult for readers will not be anything about the Bush family, or Watergate or the Kennedy assassination, or any of the figures in this nearly 500 page book and 1000-plus footnotes. “These revelations about the Bushes,” Baker writes, “lead in turn to an even more disturbing truth about the country itself. It’s not just that such a clan could occupy the presidency or vice presidency for twenty of the past twenty-eight years and remain essentially unknown. It’s that the methods of stealth and manipulation that powered their rise reflect a deeper ill: the American public’s increasingly tenuous hold upon the levers of its own democracy.”

Frederick Clarkson’s writing about about politics and religion has appeared in magazines and newspapers from Mother Jones, Conscience and Church & State, to The Village Voice and The Christian Science Monitor for 25 years. He is the editor of Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America, (Ig Publishing 2008), and co-founder of the group blog, Talk to Action.

Faith has always been a special commodity for politicians. It is not only essential to have or appear to have it, but that it be of the right variety—especially if you’re thinking of running for president. For nearly two centuries, you could be pretty much any religion you wanted, as long as it was mainline Protestant. John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, who identified respectively as Roman Catholic and Quaker, stretched the definition of acceptable presidential faith, followed soon after by Jimmy Carter, the first evangelical Christian president, whose political rise prefigured and catalyzed the wider engagement of conservative evangelicals in politics and, as it happened, the rise of the religious right.

These social and political changes have posed distinct challenges for pols seeking to navigate the changes in American religious life and the successes of a culture of religious pluralism. This was particularly so for the patrician Bush family, whose challenges in this arena are a familiar part of their political tale. In addition, however, there remain astounding hidden dimensions involving the skills of “spy craft” acquired in a lifetime of covert intelligence activities by George H.W. (“Poppy”) Bush and many of his closest associates.

This, according to a just-published investigative history of the Bush political dynasty, Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces that Put it in the White House, and what Their Influence Means for America (Bloomsbury Press, 2008). Author Russ Baker shows, among other things, that Poppy Bush’s well-known service as a Navy pilot in World War II was also part of his work for Naval Intelligence. This set the stage for an astonishing double life participating in covert operations of the Central Intelligence Agency throughout his career.

The story of the reinvention of the religious identities of two presidents and their faith-based political strategy could be easily obscured amidst Family of Secrets’ revelations of the Bush family ties to such murky matters as Watergate and the Kennedy assassination (see sidebar). But Baker’s discussion of how a prominent political family applied the tools of the spy trade to their religious transformation and political strategy is a story that merits attention as religious faith becomes an increasingly popular political commodity.

This dimension of the story of the Bush family dynasty emerges in the wake of the growth of the religious right political movement within the GOP in the early ’80s. In this context, what was a starchy, Episcopalian heir to a blue-blooded Yankee political pedigree to do? And what of his reckless, apparently non-religious, playboy son? These were the intertwined questions faced by Vice President Bush and George W. in the 1980s as they planned Poppy Bush’s run for president in 1988—and W.’s political future.

Baker’s chapter titled “The Conversion” features startling revelations that challenge the well-known narratives of the Bush family’s religious history— including the way they crafted a strategy for winning over the religious right, and the creation of a conversion legend for George W. Bush. The purpose of the latter was not only to position him as a religious and political man of his time, but to neutralize the many issues from his past that threatened to undermine his future in politics (and possibly that of his father as well). The plan probably worked far better than anyone could have hoped. “I’m still amazed,” Doug Wead, a key architect of the Bush family’s evangelical outreach strategy told Baker, “how naïve so many journalists are who have covered politics all of their life.”

Poppy and W. Learn Evangelical Lessons

In the early 1980s, Vice President George H.W. Bush faced a political problem of historic proportions. The religious right, driven by politically energized evangelical Christians had altered the political landscape, helping deliver both the 1980 GOP nomination and the presidency to Ronald Reagan. How could the tragically preppy Poppy—a product of Andover and Yale, and secretive former director of the CIA—adjust to the new political reality in order to run for president in 1988? The answer to this question is part of the Bush family’s slow motion transition from old line Yankee blue bloods to good ol’ Red State politicians.

The story begins with Doug Wead, a former Assemblies of God minister turned what Baker terms a “hybrid marketer-author-speaker-historian-religious-political consultant,” who by 1985 had apparently been vetted and groomed to shape the Bush approach to the religious right. “Instinctively,” Baker writes, “he [Poppy Bush] was uncomfortable with pandering to the masses, and uncomfortable too with ascribing deep personal values to himself. For that matter, he didn’t like to reveal much of anything about himself, which was partly patrician reserve and partly perhaps an instinct reinforced by his covert endeavors over the years.”

If Poppy was going to be president, Wead advised, he needed to learn about “these people.” Eventually, Wead drafted a lengthy memo outlining a way for Bush to surf the rising wave of the religious right to the presidency. “This was the beginning,” according to Wead. But not only for their political strategy. Wead felt that Poppy himself had embarked on a spiritual journey, reworking his own spiritual identity even as he studied the evangelical world and developed a political approach for his 1988 presidential campaign.

All of this would be crucial since Representative Jack Kemp (R-NY), a well-known conservative evangelical, and televangelist Pat Robertson also planned to run for the GOP nomination, forcing Bush to compete for the evangelical vote. The three first clashed in the Michigan GOP caucuses, which preceded the usually first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. (Bush ultimately won after a critical court ruling.) But Wead revealed to Baker how the ‘covert operator’ orientation of the Bush camp played out on the ground. “I ran spies in our opponents political camps,” Wead said, including elected Robertson precinct delegates in Michigan. These Bush agents made headlines when they abandoned Robertson and publicly threw their support to Bush. “We helped them win… and totally infiltrate the Robertson campaign,” Wead declared. “I ran them essentially for [Lee] Atwater, but W. knew about them.”

“The spy argot here is suggestive,” Baker writes. “In the Bush milieu, an intelligence mentality spills over not just into politics but even into dealings with the church-based right. Domestic political constituencies,” he warns, “have replaced the citizens of Communist countries as a key target of American elites. They seek to win hearts and minds of devout Christians through quasi-intelligence techniques.”

The layers of secrecy were peeled back on a need-to-know basis over time. Unbeknownst to Wead, for example, the younger Bush had been a voracious consumer of Wead’s memos to Poppy and his top aides years before they met in 1987. W. had also quietly served as Poppy’s key adviser as they absorbed the lessons and formulated their strategic approach to religious identity and outreach.

Under Wead’s tutelage, Poppy would learn the ins and outs of the evangelical world. But Poppy and W. had a problem in common. Baker writes that they knew that W.’s “behavior before becoming governor [of Texas in 1994] his partying, his womanizing, and in particular his military service problems—posed a serious threat to his presidential ambitions. Their solution was to wipe the slate clean—through religious transformation.”

A Tale of Two Conversions

For this to work they needed “a credible conversion experience and a presentable spiritual guide.” And so the legend goes that none other than Billy Graham paid a visit to his longtime friends at the Bush family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine. This led to the famous walk on the beach that George W. Bush says “planted a mustard seed in my soul,” and to his supposed rebirth as an evangelical Christian. That was the accepted narrative in the media and throughout the evangelical world for years. But Graham later told a journalist that he does not remember the encounter; and to another said he does remember a walk on the beach—but not, apparently, any kind of spiritually meaningful conversation. Whatever the facts of the Graham episode, there are actually two conversion stories. The second was deep-sixed in favor of the Graham story, and only emerged after George W. was elected president.

The itinerant evangelist Arthur Blessitt, famous for dragging (mostly on wheels) a 12-foot cross around the world, posted the story on his Web site in October 2001, noting that he met with George W. Bush a full year earlier than Graham. “Mr. George W. Bush,” wrote Blessitt, “a Midland oilman, listened to the radio broadcast and asked one of his friends ‘Can you arrange for me to meet Arthur Blessitt and talk to him about Jesus?’ And so it came to pass.”

Wead, Baker reports, “had warned the Bushes that they had to be careful how they couched their conversion story. It couldn’t be seen as something too radical or too tacky. Preachers who performed stunts with giant crosses would not do. Billy Graham, ‘spiritual counselor to presidents,’ would do perfectly.” And that was the story that speechwriter Karen Hughes wove into Bush’s 1999 campaign book, A Charge to Keep. There was no mention of Blessitt.

Baker writes from the standpoint of a journalist, looking into the murky career and political and financial empire of one of America’s leading political dynasties. George H.W. Bush’s career in the CIA, capped by his brief tenure as director under Ford, reveals a politician comfortable with the workings of covert operations and their political applications sufficient to attain the highest office for himself. That the spiritual rebirth and transformation of his son was so well scripted and staged (even if the facts are in doubt) is unsurprising for a family and network of associates steeped in the geo-political theater of CIA covert operations. Furthermore, as damaging as the tales of W.’s reckless youth were to his campaigns and presidency, the personal redemption story worked at least as powerfully as Bush’s handlers had hoped—for the father as well as the son.