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Blood, Money, and Power by Barr McClellan

reviewed by Deane Rink,

Deane Rink, writer, producer, and project director, is a voracious reader with very eclectic tastes. He sends us short, provocative reviews, introducing us to fascinating books that otherwise might pass unnoticed. He has worked for PBS, National Geographic, the American Museum of Natural History, Hearst Entertainment, and Carl Sagan. From his involvement in numerous projects about science, he has remarkable insight into present-day scientific endeavors and their implications, and in-depth knowledge of specialized fields (like Antarctica from his two "Live from Antarctica" PBS productions. But he also savors provides illuminating commentary on literature, fantasy, biography, and popular fiction. Links to Deane's other reviews. You can reach him at

I yield to no one in my belief that something's not right in the official histoy of the JFK assassination.  This subject has fascinated me for over forty years and I have paid close atention to the work of many assassination researchers, from the early groundbreaking studies of Mark Lane, Harold Weisberg, and Vincent Salandria to the outrageous speculations of "James Hepburn" and Mae Brussells to the more recent work of Anthony Summers, Peter Dale Scott, Oliver Stone, and Nigel Turner.  So I picked up Barr McClellan's book, the first of a promised trilogy, with expectant enthusiasm.

McClellan is a longtime Texas lawyer, former partner of LBJ's legal confidante Ed Clark, and the father of current White House press secretary and Bush43 mouthpiece Scott McClellan.  Barr McClellan asserts that LBJ was at least the grey eminence behind the killing of JFK, and that Kennedy's assassination was the culmination of a series of murders that helped secure LBJ's steady rise to power in Texas and national politics.  He suggests that he has inside knowledge from his years in Clark's Austin law firm, and that Big Oil's fear of the loss of the depletion allowance was a prime motivating factor in the Dallas tragedy.

McClellan begins with LBJ's razor-thin (and allegedly fraudulent) margin of victory in the 1948 senatorial election.  Clark and his operatives backed their man, LBJ, by stuffing the ballot boxes, and began a trail of political murders that zoomed into double figures by 1963.  Documentary proof of all this supposedly exists in a locked room in Clark's law offices.  It was the casual mention of all this to McClellan by another attorney, Don Thomas, under color of attorney/client privilege, that pushed McClellan to "correct the historical record" with this book.

The stunning conclusion may be true, but McClellan fails to make a persuasive case.  Although there are a wealth of footnotes, most are editorial commentaries, not established evidentiary facts.  While there are over forty pages of photos, copied documents, and fingerprints, most competent assassination researchers could easily diminish the relevance of these offered proofs.  McClellan selectively cites works of previous researchers while ignoring the often different conclusions that his predecessors reached.  On an even more trivial note, McClellan offers literary epigrams to begin and end each chapter, and sometimes gets them wrong.  Ambrose Bierce is Ambrose "Pierce" and the Greek philosopher Archilochus is referred to as "Archilopus."  To make matters even worse, the book is published by Hannover House, an out-of-the-mainstream shop.  With allegations as serious as these, I would feel more comfortable if a more prominent publisher were attached.

Of course, this brings us to a critical question: What were McClellan's real purposes in making these claims four decades after the fact?  He says he was a Kennedy liberal who subscribed to the ideals of the New Frontier, and now wants to set the record straight.  (Apparently not enough to risk his Texas lawyer's reputation until his retirement years!)  I have little doubt that the politics of Big Oil is rife with greed and corruption.  Perhaps many of the Ed Clark-Mac Wallace-LBJ stories have some basis in fact.  But, as Carl Sagan once said in another context, "extrtaordinary claims require extraordinary proof."  McClellan, a lawyer who presumably understands the rules and principles of evidence, fails miserably in this regard and ends up sullying his own reputation more than that of LBJ, whom he concedes was at worst a passive recipient of the machinations of others.  Perhaps McClellan's real goal was to muddy these roiled waters even more.  In that, he has succeeded.

Reviews by Dean Rink

Dialogue on favorite books with Deane Rink before and during his latest trek to Antarctica, with a note from Bill Ransom and a digression about Frank Herbert (a.k.a Bookbabble 101) -- a very long and rapidly growing document:

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