I never claim to be the smartest person in the room…with one exception. It is a right reserved for every Ph.D. candidate on the day of the oral defense of his or her dissertation. Having spent years (in my case, five), focused on a narrow topic which theoretically no one else has ever explored as deeply or from such a unique perspective, you are the master of your tiny piece of the intellectual universe.
My time came on a November 1979 morning, before two professors of political science and one each of psychology and history. The topic? “Crisis and Change: Voting Blocs in the U.S. Senate 1963-1972.” Using methodology designed to isolate different types of abnormal behavior, developed by Dr. Warren Torgerson, then chair of Johns Hopkins’ Psychology Department, I was able to statistically identify trends in the formation of coalitions across hundreds of votes cast on the Senate floor over a decade beginning with the Kennedy assassination and ending with Watergate. The major finding? The make-up of a voting bloc was highly predictable based on the macro-topic of each bill. For example, procedural votes, not unexpectedly, were always cast along party lines. Civil rights bills were decided based on a senator’s region of residence. Social welfare bills on ideology. When professors Peabody, Cummings, Torgerson and Palumbo gave four thumbs up, it was more about relief than celebration. (NOTE: Dr. Palumbo did not put his hand to his forehead and say, “Uh, just one more question,” though he did somewhat physically resemble Peter Falk.)
I often thought about how I might duplicate the feeling of that moment. To some extent this blog has served that purpose. My goal has always been to approach a subject from a perspective that others have missed. To see different aspects of society through a counter-intuitive lens. In 2003, having just finished reading Best Evidence, David Lifton’s highly criticized account of JFK’s assassination and aftermath, I wondered if there was any scenario under which Lifton’s theory the dead president’s autopsy had been falsified might be true. The most questionable aspect being the necessary participation or cooperation of individuals within Kennedy’s inner circle.
But a counter-intuitive approach does not stop with a single question. It requires a flood of questions. Lifton’s narrative requires that all the planning and execution take place between the 12:30 pm CST when Oswald fired his rifle and the arrival of Air Force One at Andrews AFB at 6:00 pm EST (approximately four and a half hours). Was that possible? If not, were there insiders involved prior to November 22? If so, who and for what purpose? Addressing those questions and others was the genesis of 18 years of on and off research in search of a “Rosetta Stone” which might make a seemingly implausible story credible. Last year, I found it buried in the digital archives of the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.
I now find myself in the same position as I was in the spring of 1979. I had completed the research on my dissertation. All that remained was writing it. After several fits and starts, I decided to alleviate as many distractions as possible, including selling my first sailboat. In a little over six months, I completed and twice edited a 300+ page document.
Therefore, it is time to put aside other things and focus on the singular task of turning the pages of notes, timelines, decision trees and documents into a fact-based political novel (ala Gore Vidal’s Burr). That includes this blog. So TTFN (Ta Ta for Now). If all goes according to plan, I hope to finish drafting the novel sometime next spring. At which time, with the mid-term election in sight, I intend to be back on this blog with regular posts. And I have no doubt, in the interim, there will be some event or issue which requires an occasional exploration here. But those will be few and far between.
In closing, I want to thank all the readers who have given me the energy and desire to keep this up on a regular basis for six years. It has served a secondary purpose which was critical to my tackling this next project. Writing any major work, fiction or non-fiction, is a marathon which demands stamina and discipline. This blog has been the equivalent of base-mileage, those three to five day a week workouts needed to prepare for a marathon. I could not have reached this point without your support and encouragement.
For what it’s worth.