26 August 2009

The Lion Passes: A Different Look at Chappaquiddick

Teddy Kennedy and Chappaquiddick:
The official story doesn't wash

After the airplane crash and the shooting of JFK and RFK, killing Ted Kennedy would not do. Gullible as the public is, too many would think a plot was afoot. Kennedy had to be neutralized by some sort of scandal that would damage any run for the White House.
By Sherman DeBrosse / The Rag Blog / August 26, 2009

Brain cancer has claimed the life of Edward M. Kennedy, most likely the greatest U.S. Senator of recent times. Over the decades, “the Lion of the Senate” courageously stuck by his guns, bucking a national conservative tide, seeking justice and to improve the lives of his fellow citizens.

Some historians will see a parallel between Ted and his two slain brothers and the Gracci brothers of ancient Rome who fought for ordinary citizens in the second century BC. Senator Kennedy was known for a great sense of humor and compassion for the sufferings of others. For example, he often sat by the bedside of Senator Phil Hart and performed many kindnesses for columnist Mary McGrory, when a stroke felled her and made it difficult to speak.

Sen. Edward Kennedy with President Barack Obama.

Yet, it is likely that he will be remembered for the 1969 incident at Chappaquiddick, in which Mary Jo Kopechne, 28, drowned in an accident most blame on Kennedy. Witnesses said she did not drink that night or at other times, yet she had a high blood alcohol level. There was a puncture mark on the back of her neck, and it is possible to inject ethanol that way.

Ms. Kopechne was a self described “novena Catholic,” who did not like bad language or sexual impropriety. She was described as an idealist and serious. She was close to being engaged to a foreign service officer. She was one of the “boiler room girls” who had worked in the Robert F. Kennedy presidential campaign. They were all well-educated and professional people of good character, not mere secretaries looking for a good time. Mary Jo was simply attending a reunion of campaign friends.

The public perception of that incident is based largely on the assumption that Kennedy was a very different man. It could be that we do not have the full story of the event that was to be forever linked with his name.

Conservatives assume heavy drinking and sexual involvement without a shred of evidence about either. Kennedy admits to letting nine hours elapse before reporting the accident, which would place the blame for a death on him. However, very little of that story makes a lot of sense.

A writer named Bob Cutler put together a scenario of what could have happened. Here it is in the words of Richard Sprague.
The Group hired several men and at least one woman to be at Chappaquiddick during the weekend of the yacht race and the planned party on the island. They ambushed Ted and Mary Jo after they left the cottage and knocked Ted out with blows to his head and body. They took the unconscious or semi-conscious Kennedy to Martha's Vineyard and deposited him in his hotel room.

Another group took Mary Jo to the bridge in Ted's car, force fed her with a knock out potion of alcoholic beverage, placed her in the back seat, and caused the car to accelerate off the side of the bridge into the water. They broke the windows on one side of the car to insure the entry of water; then they watched the car until they were sure Mary Jo would not escape.

Mary Jo actually regained consciousness and pushed her way to the top of the car (which was actually the bottom of the car -- it had landed on its roof) and died from asphyxiation. The group with Teddy revived him early in the morning and let him know he had a problem. Possibly they told him that Mary Jo had been kidnapped. They told him his children would be killed if he told anyone what had happened and that he would hear from them.

On Chappaquiddick, the other group made contact with Markham and Gargan, Ted's cousin and lawyer. They told both men that Mary Jo was at the bottom of the river and that Ted would have to make up a story about it, not revealing the existence of the group. One of the men resembled Ted and his voice sounded something like Ted's. Markham and Gargan were instructed to go the the Vineyard on the morning ferry, tell Ted where Mary Jo was, and come back to the island to wait for a phone call at a pay station near the ferry on the Chappaquiddick side.

The two men did as they were told and Ted found out what had happened to Mary Jo that morning. The three men returned to the pay phone and received their instructions to concoct a story about the "accident" and to report it to the police. The threat against Ted's children was repeated at that time.

Ted, Markham and Gargan went right away to police chief Arena's office on the Vineyard where Ted reported the so-called "accident." Almost at the same time scuba diver John Farror was pulling Mary Jo out of the water, since two boys who had gone fishing earlier that morning had spotted the car and reported it.

Ted called together a small coterie of friends and advisors including family lawyer Burke Marshall, Robert MacNamara, Ted Sorenson, and others. They met on Squaw Island near the Kennedy compound at Hyannisport for three days. At the end of that time they had manufactured the story which Ted told on TV, and later at the inquest. Bob Cutler calls the story, "the shroud." Even the most cursory examination of the story shows it was full of holes and an impossible explanation of what happened.

Ted's claim that he made the wrong turn down the dirt road toward the bridge by mistake is an obvious lie. His claim that he swam the channel back to Martha's Vineyard is not believable. His description of how he got out of the car under water and then dove down to try to rescue Mary Jo is impossible. Markham and Gargan's claims that they kept diving after Mary Jo are also unbelievable.
Leaving aside talk of an unidentified “group,” Cutler’s theory still makes a lot more sense than Ted Kennedy’s first statement, which follows:
On July 18, 1969, at approximately 11.15 on Chappaquiddick Island, Martha’s Vineyard, I was driving my car on Main Street on my way to get the ferry back to Edgartown.

I was unfamiliar with the road and turned onto Dyke Road instead of bearing left on Main Street. After proceeding for approximately a half mile on Dyke Road I descended a hill and came upon a narrow bridge. The car went off the side of the bridge.

There was one passenger with me, Miss Kopechne, a former secretary of my brother Robert Kennedy. The car turned over and sank into the water and landed with the roof resting on the bottom. I attempted to open the door and window of the car but have no recollection of how I got out of the car. I came to the surface and then repeatedly dove down to the car in an attempt to see if the passenger was still in the car. I was unsuccessful in the attempt.

I was exhausted and in a state of shock. I recall walking back to where my friends were eating. There was a car parked in front of the cottage and I climbed into the back seat. I then asked for someone to bring me back to Edgartown. I remember walking around for a period of time and then going back to my hotel room. When I fully realized what had happened this morning, I immediately contacted the police.
It took Kennedy and his circle three days to concoct a more complete explanation of what happened. They had to deal with the fact that the young woman died in the back of his car after running out of air. Ted’s pregnant wife Joan was at Martha’s Vineyard, and the girl had been at a party that Kennedy attended.

The brothers: from left, Jack, Bobby and Teddy.

It was better to let people make assumptions about alcohol than illicit sex. Oddly, the Kennedys paid to have tests conducted to see if the car would have come off the dock and into the water in the manner Ted said it did. They should have looked into the likelihood of his getting out of a submerged car. They must not have really known what happened. It is doubtful if anything the Kennedy circle said after the official story came out can be believed. Their comments all supported a very implausible story.

He said he got out of the car, which was underwater and then started diving into Poucha Pond to save Mary Jo. Did he open the car door, exit, and then close it? This might happen in the movies, but not in real life. In The Bridge at Chappaquiddick, Jack Olsen argues that the water pressure would have been too great for Kennedy to open the car door. A window was broken, admitting water, but only Harry Hudini could have gotten out through it.

After eight attempts to rescue her, Kennedy went back to the cottage, got help, and returned to the diving.

The wounds above his ear and the large bump on the top of his head indicate he was probably knocked unconscious. But how and where? Police saw the broken windshield and wondered why Kennedy’s head and face did not reflect the level of damage associated with a wreck of that scale. . His face bore no marks.

Markings on the bridge suggest the car was at rest and then somehow greatly accelerated. It had to have been in the air for a distance before landing in the water. There was a rope attached to a stick that could have been attached to the rear-view mirror, which was askew and hanging only by one screw.

The Kennedy story does not match the testimony of Deputy Sheriff Christopher Look and three others, that two women were with Kennedy that night at 12:45 . Of course, the senator was completely familiar with those roads, but there had to be an explanation for where the car was found.

There are some other odd things about the official story. All the witnesses who knew Mary Jo said she did not drink at all and that she did not drink that night. Yet there was alcohol in her blood stream.

It is just assumed Kennedy was smashed, but no witness said this was the case. His chauffeur John Crimmins was present and could have driven Kennedy. If he wanted sex with Mary Jo, he would have stayed at the Lawrence cottage. Why did he not have Crimmins drive and Mary J to the hotel?
Senator Kennedy said he swam a complicated route from Chappaquiddick back to the inn on Martha’s Vineyard. Professional swimmers have not been able to duplicate swimming that route at the same time and against the same tides. People assume he swam it dressed, but if it happened at all, he had to be in his shorts. But Kennedy, exhausted from the night’s exertions, claimed he was able to do this. No one saw an all wet Kennedy when he reached the Edgartown inn.

Even at the time, in 1969, many noted that he did not behave at the hotel the next morning as though he knew that Mary Jo was dead or that anything was wrong. It is pretty clear that he did not know until former U.S. Attorney Paul Markham and Joe Gargan arrived and told him about the tragedy. An elderly couple saw Kennedy coming into the dining room. He was relaxed and completely at ease. When the two men spoke to him he seemed to be completely shocked and upset.

The three men then made the trip over to Chappaquiddick to use the pay phone. This makes no sense unless they went there to receive a call, not make one. There were pay phones at the hotel.

Some wonder about the June, 1964 airplane crash in western Massachusetts in which only Edward Kennedy emerged a survivor. He was laid up for some time with serious injuries. Teddy came out of that alive. If anyone wanted to harm Ted Kennedy it was either to prevent him from running for president or, more likely, to prevent him from using the power of that office to examine the deaths of his brothers.

After the airplane crash and the shooting of JFK and RFK, killing Ted Kennedy would not do. Gullible as the public is, too many would think a plot was afoot. Kennedy had to be neutralized by some sort of scandal that would damage any run for the White House.

E. Howard Hunt, later a Watergate burglar, was at Martha's Vineyard.

One witness has said that James McCord, a CIA agent, and one Albert Peterson followed Kennedy throughout 1969. The witness added that Peterson was an alias for E. Howard Hunt. Frank Sturgis and E. Howard Hunt were on Martha’s Vineyard at the time for a Regatta. Both had CIA connections and would be among the Watergate burglars later. Hunt explained to Watergate investigators that he was there to gather dirt on Kennedy but only admitted to getting there after the accident.

He came to see some unknown person and admitted to having a disguise and a voice alteration device. Charles Colson later obtained the disguise from the CIA and Hunt used them at the burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist and at the break-in at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters at the Watergate. Hunt’s son St. John said his father spoke with approval of the murders of JFK and RFK and wanted to finish the job on Ted Kennedy. David Morales, a CIA hit man, was photographed at the Ambassador Hotel.

Richard Milhouse Nixon also had an operative there that day, but the president may not have known about it at the time. Nixon had established Operation Sandwedge to keep track of Kennedy and other enemies. Tony Ulasewicz, a skilled investigator in Nixon’s employ, admits being there the morning after the accident. He said he was sent there to dig up dirt on Kennedy. However, he was seen there that morning before news of the accident was public.

In a conversation between John Dean and President Nixon, Dean refers to him without mentioning him by name, saying that he was there again in 1971, both times posing as a reporter and steering other reporters to look into matters that would damage Kennedy. However, it appears he was poking around there for about two years and may have come up with something that showed Kennedy had been set up. Dean said to Nixon, “If Kennedy knew the bear trap he was walking into…”

It sounds as though they could prove the White House had nothing to do with the accident, but perhaps they knew who did. If Nixon had an even more damaging story about Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, he would have used it. Ulasewicz’s salary was financed with money left over from the 1968 convention. He was controlled by John Caulfield, who first answered to John Ehrlichman and then to John Dean.

The Boston office of the FBI investigated the incident on orders from the White House. The agency had earlier put out stories that Ted Kennedy had cheated on an exam and was a poor student.

Finally, there is the remote possibility that Mary Jo’s death had something to do with dealing with two birds with one stone, or event. Mary Jo shared an apartment with Nancy Carole Tyler, a real looker who worked for Bobby Baker, who owned the building and had parties there while the girls occupied it. . She later expressed frustration that Baker did not leave his wife to marry her. Tyler died in a 1965 plane crash.

At one point she refused to talk to investigators about Bobby Baker but then had changed her mind. She knew a great deal about Baker and corrupt deals in the Senate and could have shared information with Mary J. Kopechne worked for Senator George Smathers, who was close to LBJ and Baker. Smathers claimed to be a Kennedy friend, but he put out the story about the Kennedy brothers’ involvement with Marilyn Monroe. She became RFK’s secretary after the assassination of JFK. These two girls knew about JFK’s efforts to dump LBJ and leaked the story. After RFK’s death. Mary Jo allegedly had the job of packing Bobby’s files and then worked for a Kennedy-connected consulting firm.

It is said that Edward Kennedy does not express an interest in getting behind the official accounts of his brothers’ deaths and that he urges friends not to probe these questions. What happened at Chappaquiddick will never be known. He may have learned something then that convinced him it was best to leave these matters alone. Christian Cafarakis, Jackie’s butler in Athens, wrote in 1972 that Aristotle Onassis hired a New York firm to look into the JFK assassination. It gave Jackie the names of the four assassins and told who was behind it. Jackie was dissuaded from turning over the report to LBJ by threats to the lives of members of her family.

There is no way to know what happened that night at Chappaquiddick. We do know that John Dean said to Nixon in 1973, "If Teddy knew the bear trap he was walking into at Chappaquiddick. . . ." Those who have long disliked Senator Edward Kennedy will assume the worst and think that he somehow got out of that car and went back to the inn without another thought about that young woman.

Others may see the courageous, compassionate man he has proven himself to be and give him the benefit of the doubt or even analyze the evidence more closely and conclude that Bob Cutler was not that far wrong.

[Sherman DeBrosse spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to here.]

The Rag Blog

Only a few posts now show on a page, due to Blogger pagination changes beyond our control.

Please click on 'Older Posts' to continue reading The Rag Blog.