With the end of the old Communist system, it seemed that free speech and a diversity of voices would flourish behind the former Iron Curtain. That certainly hasn’t happened in Russia.
Even more troubling, though, is how the corporate media in the United States repeatedly fails to uncover and report the truth about recent American history.
Consider the latest development: the embarrassingly transparent cover-up of George H.W. Bush’s life in his new “authorized biography,” which we wrote about previously. We noted how that book was a witting fantasy because of what it left out. Imagine a book about Richard Nixon’s life that leaves out Watergate.
Displaying a culpable lack of professionalism, the US media establishment has closed ranks around this fantasy of a benign, sometimes bumbling fellow, who somehow rose to the challenge of stopping Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait without getting bogged down in a Middle East quagmire.
Even before the book was released, The New York Times published several articles based on advance excerpts, touting its supposed “revelations.”
And on the same day we published our critique of this fawning charade, the “paper of record” published yet another endorsement, this time an approving book review.
Want to know what corporate-media incest looks like? This approving book review — of a Bush-approving-book authored by a former chief of Newsweek — was written by a former chief of Time, Newsweek’s main “competitor.” In other words, Times gets Time guy to endorse Newsweek guy’s whitewash of Bush.
Because we know our readers prefer the truth, here are excerpts from WhoWhatWhy editor Russ Baker’s Family of Secrets, which paint a very different portrait of George H.W. Bush — whose “other” career with America’s spy agencies the establishment doesn’t want you to know about.
Russ Baker’s bestseller, Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years, is a real-life thriller.
Note: Although these excerpts do not contain footnotes, the book itself is heavily footnoted and exhaustively sourced. (The excerpts in Part 4 come from Chapter 4 of the book, and the titles and subtitles have been changed for this publication.)
For Part 1, please go here; Part 2 go here; Part 3 go here; Part 5 go here.
Block, Bridge, and Beautify
In the art of propaganda, and in the daily business of public relations, a cardinal rule is that if a problem emerges, it must be managed immediately. The trick is to quickly acknowledge and gain control of the new material, mitigating the damage by redirecting it in a beneficial way. This is known in tradecraft as “block and bridge.”
Thus it was that the first and only Bush family acknowledgment of where Poppy Bush was on that red-letter day came in classic form — from the wife, in the most innocuous swathing. The venue was in her 1994 book, Barbara Bush: A Memoir, which was published ten months after the document’s declassification. Deep in that book, mostly a compendium of narrow-gauge, self-serving recollections, there it was: not just a recollection of the assassination, but the reproduction of an actual letter written by Barbara on the very day, at the very moment, that Kennedy was shot. The letter has plenty of details, but it omits one important personal item from that day: Poppy’s call to the FBI; perhaps Poppy did not mention it to her?
Barbara begins to describe that fateful day on page 59 of her memoirs:
On November 22, 1963, George and I were in the middle of a several-city swing. I was getting my hair done in Tyler, Texas, working on a letter home.
Here are some excerpts:
(The following is how the excerpts appear in the book, ellipses and all.)
Dearest Family,Wednesday I took Doris Ulmer out for lunch. They [Al and Doris Ulmer] were here from England and they had been so nice to George in Greece. That night we went to … I am writing this at the Beauty Parlor and the radio says that the President has been shot. Oh Texas — my Texas — my God — let’s hope it’s not true. I am sick at heart as we all are. Yes, the story is true and the Governor also. How hateful some people are…. Since the Beauty Parlor the President has died. We are once again on a plane. This time a commercial plane. Poppy picked me up at the beauty parlor — we went right to the airport, flew to Ft. Worth and dropped Mr. Zeppo off (we were on his plane) and flew back to Dallas. We had to circle the field while the second presidential plane took off. Immediately Pop got tickets back to Houston and here we are flying home. We are sick at heart. The tales the radio reporters tell of Jackie Kennedy are the bravest I’ve ever heard. The rumors are flying about that horrid assassin. We are hoping that it is not some far right nut, but a “commie” nut. You understand that we know they are both nuts, but just hope that it is not a Texan and not an American at all.
I am amazed at the rapid-fire thinking and planning that has already been done. L.B.J. has been the president for some time now — 2 hours at least and it is only 4.30.
My dearest love to you all,
A Tap on the Shoulder
The Tyler story is borne out by the personal recollections of Aubrey Irby, then vice president of the local Kiwanis Club (and later president of Kiwanis International during Bush’s vice presidency). As Irby explained to the author Kitty Kelley, Bush had been waiting to deliver a luncheon speech to his organization — to one hundred men gathered at Tyler’s Blackstone Hotel.
“I remember it was a beautiful fall day,” recalled Aubrey Irby, the former Kiwanis vice president. “George had just started to give his speech when Smitty, head bellhop, tapped me on the shoulder to say that President Kennedy had been shot. I gave the news to the president of the club, Wendell Cherry, and he leaned over to tell George that wires from Dallas confirmed President Kennedy had been assassinated.“George stopped his speech and told the audience what had happened. ‘In view of the President’s death,’ he said, ‘I consider it inappropriate to continue with a political speech at this time. Thank you very much for your attention.’ Then he sat down. I thought that was rather magnanimous of him to say and then to sit down, but I’m a Republican of course, and I was all for George Bush. Kennedy, who was bigger than life then, represented extremely opposite views from Bush on everything.”
In a 2007 interview with me, Irby described George H.W. Bush at the time of the news as matter-of-fact and supremely well composed. It was not unlike his own son’s composure in another moment of crisis, when, after being told about the 9/11 attacks, he calmly returned to reading “The Pet Goat” to a class of Florida second graders. As for Barbara, she miraculously found herself in the unique position of actually writing a very long letter that began while Kennedy was alive, captured the first news of the assassination, and then concluded with confirmation of his death. She, like Poppy, showed impressive composure and focus.
A Lunch with Doris — But where were Al Ulmer and Poppy?
Barbara’s curious role as recording secretary to history-in-the-making was interesting enough that one would expect the letter to have surfaced well before 1994. Yet, until it appeared in Barbara’s memoirs, it was not even known to exist. Meanwhile, the original letter itself has not turned up. Thus, many questions remain — questions that I hoped to pose to Poppy and Barbara, who declined to be interviewed for this book.
The excerpted letter warrants careful scrutiny, especially because of all the perplexing particulars. The note begins with a dull thud — a bland mention of a lunch with a “Doris Ulmer.” No Ulmer appears in any of the Bushes’ other books, which list hundreds of family friends, well-known and completely obscure. Therefore, presumably only very close Bush relatives, such as her children, would know who Doris Ulmer was or would even conceivably wish to learn of Barbara lunching with her. No one else would understand that George had even been in Greece on the occasion Barbara mentions when the Ulmers were said to be so nice to him — nor would anyone else know in what way they were so nice to him.
And yet, the style and comments in the assassination portion of the letter — “we are hoping that it is not some far right nut but a ‘commie’ nut” — are odd things to write to children.
It’s not clear from Barbara’s memoirs who the recipients of the letter were. She says “Dearest Family” and that it was “a letter home.” But those of her children who were at home were all ten years old or younger. The eldest, George W., was away at prep school in New England. Also, it would seem odd to write “a letter home” if you were only gone from home for several days of an in-state campaign swing — you would likely be back home before the letter arrived. And she signed it “Bar,” not the typical identifier in a letter to young children.
So the “letter home” more logically would have been to her other home, that is, to her parents living in the house she had left nearly two decades before. But that scenario really doesn’t make much sense either. Her mother had died in a 1949 auto accident, and her father had remarried. Barbara was known not to be especially close to her family during a period of many years and had not attended her mother’s funeral. Was “love to you all” intended for her father and stepmother? Her siblings had also long since left the nest, but perhaps she circulated correspondence among them. Besides, how did Barbara happen upon such a letter that she had purportedly written thirty years earlier? Had she kept a copy and recently discovered it? Had relatives unearthed it?Whether or not the letter was an authentic contemporaneous document, one can assume that many of the particulars of that day were in the letter because they were true and verifiable. Hence, they are of interest here.
Poppy’s call to the FBI about Parrott being the potential assassin obviously did nothing to assist the FBI in any meaningful way. But it clearly did something else: It established in government investigative files that, at the time of the assassination in Dallas, Poppy and Barbara were in Tyler, Texas. (These were things that Poppy had good reason to want established, as we’ll see later.)
The notion that there was more to the phone call than simple altruism and patriotism can be found in an examination of the most seemingly insipid of matters — such as Barbara Bush’s lunch with Doris Ulmer.
Although there were numerous Doris Ulmers in the United States at the time, only one matches the description of an old friend who had helped Poppy when Poppy visited Greece, and who was in 1963 a resident of London: Mrs. Alfred C. Ulmer Jr.
“God, we had fun.”
Al Ulmer is sometimes described as having filled the positions of “attaché” and “first secretary” at the US embassy in Athens from the late forties through the mid-fifties. Yet a memorial tribute to him in the alumni publication of his alma mater, Princeton, scores higher on the candor meter, describing his life in the wartime OSS and the CIA. Ulmer was a good friend and confidant of CIA director Allen Dulles. He embodied the attitude that nobody could tell the CIA what to do — nobody. “We went all over the world and we did what we wanted,” Ulmer later recalled. “God, we had fun.” He also managed coups.
When JFK forced Dulles out of the CIA following the Bay of Pigs debacle, Ulmer left as well. He went to work for the Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos. That Ulmer had not fully left the espionage racket is suggested in part by Niarchos’s own long history with the CIA, which he assisted with many covert operations. In fact, the company Ulmer ran, Niarchos London Ltd., was itself a CIA proprietary according to author Peter Evans, who knew Niarchos personally. Niarchos would in turn be introduced into Poppy Bush’s immediate circle, buying Oak Tree Farm, a prime Kentucky horse-breeding property, and leasing it to the manager of Poppy Bush’s financial affairs, William Stamps Farish III.
By 1963, Poppy Bush seems to have known Ulmer for at least a decade. The reference in Barbara’s letter to the Ulmers being “so nice” to Poppy when Poppy visited Greece likely referred to the early 1950s, when Al Ulmer was station chief in Athens and Poppy Bush was beginning his frenetic world travels, ostensibly on behalf of his modestly sized Midland oil company.
Apparently, the relationship had continued, because records at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, show Bush stopping off to see Ulmer in London in the summer of 1963 — as part of Bush’s self-described “world tour.” (Poppy would make another in 1965, and again visit with Ulmer.)
Ulmer also had another connection to Bush — via Robert Maheu. The Zapata Offshore drilling rig that Poppy Bush had positioned near Cuba in 1958 was located off Cay Sal island, which was leased by Howard Hughes. At the time, Hughes employed Maheu as his private spook. A former FBI man whose private security firm sometimes fronted for the CIA on unauthorized operations, Maheu was, in turn, an old friend of Ulmer’s. The two had worked together on cooking up the military revolt against Indonesian president Sukarno in 1958 … Maheu was later involved in a series of failed plots, commencing in 1960, that involved recruiting the Mafia for a hit on Fidel Castro. In all such things, one finds a certain circularity.
The Mysterious Flights of Mr. Zeppa’s Plane
Besides Doris Ulmer, the other person Barbara mentioned in her letter is “Mr. Zeppo” — the man who had lent them his plane on November 22. As with so many other clues in documents concerning Poppy Bush, this one appears a dead end until one realizes that the name has been slightly misspelled. There was in fact no Mr. Zeppo, but there was a man, since deceased, by the name of Zeppa. Joe Zeppa founded the Tyler-based Delta Drilling Company, which became one of the world’s largest contract oil drillers, with operations around the globe
By the time Poppy came to Tyler to speak to the Kiwanis, Joe Zeppa was a good man to know. One of his sons, Chris, had previously served as the county Republican chairman, and Joe Zeppa himself owned and lived in the Blackstone Hotel, the site of Bush’s Kiwanis speech.
Barbara, in her letter, notes the use of Zeppa’s plane to leave Tyler early in the afternoon on November 22. What she does not mention is that, in all probability, she and Poppy had also arrived on Zeppa’s plane. The very fact that Zeppa lent his plane to Poppy is surprising, according to Zeppa’s son Keating, who was on company business in Argentina at the time. “Joe Zeppa was not a great one for having an actual active hand in a political campaign,” he told me, adding: “He was not one to say, ‘Here, I’ll send the plane after you.’ If Joe Zeppa were going in a given direction and a politician wanted to go along, that was fine with him.” When told that the plane bypassed Dallas’s downtown Love Field, dropped Zeppa off at Fort Worth’s municipal airport, and then backtracked to Dallas, Keating Zeppa said that was not something that his father ordinarily would have done.
Though the movements of Zeppa’s plane on the afternoon of November 22 once it left Tyler are intriguing, much more important is where it came from on the morning of November 22: Dallas.
The following facts have never been recounted by Poppy Bush nor have they appeared in any articles or books — and Barbara herself says nothing about this. On the evening of November 21, 1963, Poppy Bush spoke to a gathering of the American Association of Oil Drilling Contractors (AAODC) at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas. Since Zeppa himself was a former president of AAODC, it is likely that he attended that gathering. It is also likely that both Zeppa and the Bushes actually spent the night in Dallas — and that they were in Dallas the next morning: the day that Kennedy was assassinated.
This brings us to the vexing question of Poppy’s motive in calling the FBI at 1.45 PM on November 22, to identify James Parrott as a possible suspect in the president’s murder, and to mention that he, George H.W. Bush, happened to be in Tyler, Texas. He told the FBI that he expected to spend the night of November 22 at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas — but instead, after flying to Dallas on Zeppa’s plane, he left again almost immediately on a commercial flight to Houston. Why state that he expected to spend the night at the Dallas Sheraton if he was not planning to stay? Perhaps this was to create a little confusion, to blur the fact that he had already stayed at the hotel — the night before. Anyone inquiring would learn that Bush was in Tyler at the time of the assassination and planned to stay in Dallas afterward, but canceled his plan following JFK’s death.
A Tip from Poppy
As curious as all that is, nothing is quite so odd as the object of Bush’s patriotic duty. Nobody seems to have believed that James Parrott had the capability — or even the inclination — to assassinate Kennedy. Bush acknowledged in the tip-off call that he had no personal knowledge of anything. He passed the buck to others who supposedly knew more about the threat and about Parrott — though what those others knew, if anything, has never emerged, until now.
During the period Bush ran the Harris County Republican organization, it had no more than a handful of employees. Among those were the two women he had mentioned to the FBI as potential sources on Parrott’s alleged threat (“Mrs. Fawley” and “Arline Smith”), and a sole male — by the name of Kearney Reynolds. Though Bush made no mention of Reynolds, he was in fact the one who was most closely connected to Parrott.
Shortly after receiving Bush’s call, the FBI dispatched agents to the Parrott house. At the time, Parrott was away, but according to a bureau report, his mother provided an alibi — likely in a motherly attempt to protect her son — which Parrott himself would later refute in his own explanation of the day’s events:
She advised [James Parrott] had been home all day helping her care for her son Gary Wayne Parrott whom they brought home from the hospital yesterday. [Mrs. Parrott’s other son could not help, because he was in jail.]
She also mentioned another person who could provide an alibi.
Mrs. Parrott advised that shortly after 1:00 PM a Mr. Reynolds came by their home to advise them of the death of President Kennedy, and talked to her son James Parrott about painting some signs at Republican Headquarters on Waugh Drive.
In reality, both Reynolds and James Parrott put the visit between 1:30 and 1:45 PM The president’s death became public at 1:38 PM central time, when CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite read an Associated Press news flash. Poppy Bush’s call to the FBI followed seven minutes later.
Sometime later that day, agents interviewed Parrott himself. Parrott stated that he had never made any threats against Kennedy and that he had no knowledge of the assassination beyond what he had learned in news accounts. He indicated the extent of his dissent: picketing members of the Kennedy administration when they came to town. In a 1993 interview, Parrott stated that Reynolds had come to his home to ask him to paint some signs for the Republican headquarters — and informed him of the president’s death. Parrott also provided the FBI with Reynold’s first name and said that both were members of the Young Republicans.
The following day, agents interviewed Kearney Reynolds.
On November 23, 1963, Mr. Kearney Reynolds, 233 Red Ripple Road, advised he is a salaried employee of the Harris County Republican Party. He advised at approximately 1:30 PM, November 22, 1963, he went to the home of James Parrott, 711 Park, and talked to Parrott for a few minutes. He advised he could vouch for Parrott’s presence at 1711 Park between 1:30 PM and 1:45 PM on November 22, 1963.
What is so remarkable about all this is that at the precise moment when Poppy was calling the FBI with his “tip” about a possible suspect about whom he could offer few details, Poppy’s own assistant was at the suspect’s home, transacting business with him on behalf of Poppy. Clearly Parrott was far better known to Poppy than he let on. Why was Reynolds supposed to go to Parrott’s house at this time? The net effect was that Reynolds bailed Parrott out, by providing him with an alibi. Thus Parrott became Poppy’s alibi, and Poppy’s assistant became Parrott’s. Everyone was taken care of. While the point was to generate two separate alibis, drawing attention to their interconnectedness was problematic. Because when the full picture emerges, the entire affair appears as a ruse to create a paper trail clearing Poppy, should that become necessary. Parrott was merely a distraction and a minor casualty, albeit a person who ought not face lasting consequences or attract undue attention.
(Recent efforts to speak with Parrott were unsuccessful. All telephone numbers associated with the Parrott family, including James Parrott, his mother, brother, nieces, and nephews are disconnected, and no current information on any of them is readily obtainable.)
In 2007, I interviewed Kearney Reynolds. In the interview — which did not initially touch on the FBI report — Reynolds exhibited an excellent memory for detail and extensive knowledge from that period, as the Republicans challenged the Democratic monopoly in Texas politics. He described the politics of the period, Bush’s chairmanship, and the operation of the Republican headquarters — which he said Bush had relocated into an old house in the Montrose section of Houston, a property that Reynolds said the staff dubbed “the Haunted House.”
With prompting, Reynolds confirmed that, due to the temporary absence of an executive director, he was the only full-time male employee, along with a secretary and perhaps a receptionist. He coordinated precinct chairpersons and other volunteers, and thus was the main person to have contact with people like Parrott.
I asked him if he had heard or read of Bush’s call from Tyler to the FBI regarding a threat to Kennedy. Reynolds said he was unaware of it. However, he did then offer, almost as an afterthought, his recollection, not of visiting Parrott that day, but of being asked to accompany Parrott down to the office of the Secret Service:
There was a young man who came around headquarters … and somebody said that he had made a threat against Kennedy and this was, I believe, this came up after the assassination … The end result was, it was suggested that I contact the Secret Service, the local Secret Service, and I accompanied this young man … And we went down, and this was kind of a strange kid, mild-mannered, quiet, kind of seemed to be living in another world, and I took him down one day, escorted him down there.
At that point in our conversation, I shared with Reynolds the details of the FBI report (including Parrott’s name), which stated explicitly that Reynolds had actually visited Parrott at home at around 1:30 PM on November 22, or precisely the time that Poppy Bush was calling the FBI.
Well I never went to the guy’s house because, as I remember, the little episode that I mentioned — as I recall, I met him at the headquarters, and we went on downtown to the Secret Service office.
Asked why he would even be accompanying a man whom he said he did not know well — and whom his own boss believed to have threatened the life of the president — to the Secret Service office, Reynolds replied that he did not know, but only perhaps because Bush himself was out of town: “I worked a great deal with the volunteers and the precinct chairman, and probably on a face-to-face, name-to-name basis, probably knew more of them than almost anybody else.”
At that point, Reynolds said his memory had been refreshed. “I knew him by name and sight … It was just sort of a casual [acquaintance] within the context of working at the headquarters.” Reynolds mentioned that many of the volunteers were women, so presumably Parrott stood out.
After I read him a portion of the FBI memo, more recollections came back.
I seem to remember that some of this did brew up before the Kennedy assassination.… Kennedy came to Houston, I think on a Thursday night, and he was assassinated on Friday morning.
Reynolds says he was asked to attend an event Thursday night at the home of a party activist named Marjorie Arsht.
There was some kind of little social-political thing at her house, and I was asked to be there and watch Parrott, which I think I did. And again this is conditional because my memory is just not that good. Now, but I do remember the following day or the day after or whatever after the assassination, that somebody called me and asked if I was with Parrott that night or whatever, and I answered yes. I think I remember that.
I asked him why they wanted him to watch Parrott. “I don’t know,” said Reynolds hesitantly.
He was just — he wasn’t your everyday campus guy. He just seemed kind of distant and remote — quiet, polite, soft spoken, but didn’t talk much and just seemed distant. Now who or to what extent other people talked to him or perceived him to be a little on the edge, I don’t know.
He went on to describe people who would come into the headquarters and rant for two hours on some pet topic, like a return to the gold standard, and why you might want to keep an eye on such a person. But then he agreed that Parrott was not such a person.
In fact, as the FBI report reveals, he was quite harmless — barely able to fend for himself. He had only a seventh grade education, had been discharged from the Air force by a psychiatrist, gone into sign-painting, lived with his mother, and apparently volunteered regularly with the Harris County GOP quietly and without incident.
Until the Bush phone call.
No Harm Done
The cumulative result was that Poppy was listed in government files as having been in Tyler on November 22, 1963 — while Parrott faced no long-term consequences for having been secretly accused.
In the aforementioned 1993 interview, Parrott would insist that for many years he had been unaware that it was Bush who had made the accusation against him. He also noted that he had actually gone on to work for Bush’s unsuccessful presidential reelection campaign in 1992. In an article covering the frenzied GOP-convention podium attacks on the Clinton-Gore team over family values, Parrott is described as passing out flyers saying, “No queers or baby killing,” while wearing a plastic shield over his face, explaining that it was protection against the AIDS virus.
As time passed, Parrott increasingly told a story that meshed with Bush’s, inflating his own significance along the lines of what the Bush forces were putting out. “It was mainly a rumor put out by those trying to neutralize us,” he said in the 1993 interview, claiming that he and other conservatives were in the middle of a bitter struggle with Bush and other “moderates” over the need to go after those suspected of Communist activities.
That said, the notion that Parrott was active in any sort of aggressive rightist circles seems either untrue or irrelevant to what actually happened on November 22. More likely, Parrott was simply set up, his right-wing ideology used as a red herring by Poppy to legitimate his phone call. After all, if Parrott did not have an ideological motivation to kill Kennedy, why would he be considered a threat?
Another curiosity: either the FBI agent who took Bush’s phone call, or Bush himself, misspelled the surnames of the two supposed witnesses whom Bush said would know more about Parrott. To be sure, if the phone numbers provided for them were correct, the FBI would be able to find them. But years later, researchers who tried had difficulty figuring out who those people were — or how to track them down. In fact, only extensive cross-referencing reveals that “Mrs. Fawley” is actually a Mrs. Thawley. And “Arline Smith” turns out to be Aleene Smith.
These were either mistakes or deliberate errors; in any case, it is reminiscent of the way Barbara Bush mangled their friend Mr. Zeppa’s name in her letter. George Bush knew both of these women well. Nancy Brelsford Thawley was vice chair of the Harris County Republican Party, and Aleene Smith was a well-known Texas Republican activist who worked for Bush at Zapata Offshore; both women remained with Bush for many years thereafter, accompanying him to Washington. Bush should have at least known how to spell their name.
The background of the FBI agent is also of note. Graham Kitchel was unusually close to J. Edgar Hoover, and his record is full not only of commendations from the head of the vast organization but also of personal notes, including a get-well card in 1963 from Hoover after Kitchel underwent surgery. In addition, in a 1990s interview, Kitchel’s brother George, an offshore oil engineer, explained that he, George Kitchel, was an old friend of George H.W. Bush.
In summary, then, Bush called in a pointless tip about an innocent fellow to an FBI agent whom he knew, and whom he knew could be counted on to file a report on this tip — out of what may have been hundreds of calls, some of them not even worthy of documenting. And, after a cursory investigation, the tip was confirmed as useless. But the call itself was hardly without value. It established for the record, if anyone asked, that Poppy Bush was not in Dallas when Kennedy was shot. By pointing to a seemingly harmless man who lived with his mother, Bush appeared to establish his own Pollyannaish ignorance of the larger plot.
While Parrott had eyewitnesses to his being in Houston before, after, and at the time of a shooting that took place 240 miles away, Bush had Kiwanis eyewitnesses to where he was at around 12:30, the time of the shooting and the scheduled time of his luncheon speech.
The big mystery, of course, is the call to the FBI. Bush clearly made the call; Parrott clearly was never any threat. Therefore, Poppy Bush was willing to divert the investigative resources of the FBI on one of the busiest days in its history. Beyond that are the baffling particulars: Why did Bush have one of his people visit Parrott’s house almost exactly as Poppy was fingering Parrott as a possible suspect? And why was Bush so determined to establish his presence in Tyler that day — and to document, as it were, his concern for Kennedy’s well-being? Why was Parrott so unperturbed to have been falsely accused by Poppy Bush?
The answer may lie in Poppy’s mention to the FBI that he would be traveling next from Tyler to Dallas, and that he would be staying at the Sheraton. This was, in fact, akin to a magician’s trick — drawing the audience’s attention slightly from the real action. In truth, Poppy had already been at the Sheraton in Dallas — the night before, speaking to the AAODC convention. By telling the FBI that he was planning to go there, he created a misleading paper trail suggesting that his stay in Dallas was many hours after Kennedy’s shooting, rather than a few hours before.
In fact although he did travel from Tyler to Dallas, he stayed only briefly, did not stay at the Sheraton this time, and went right back to Houston. The Parrott call served no purpose besides manufacturing a reason to create a government record of his presence in Tyler and his plan to go to Dallas later on the 22nd. Once Parrott had served, however unwittingly, his purpose, there was no reason for him to suffer — hence, Reynolds’s visit to Parrott’s house around the time of the assassination, which effectively created an alibi clearing Parrott. In other words, no harm done.
As for the reference to the Ulmers in Barbara’s letter, why risk introducing so controversial a person? Like Bush’s use of Joe Zeppa’s plane, it helped establish that Bush had in fact spent time with Al Ulmer. Better to include Ulmer’s wife’s name (but not his) and Zeppa’s name (misspelled) so that should a rare hardy investigator bother to figure out the sequence of events, Bush could claim that he obviously had nothing to hide — after all, there it was (in a way) in Barbara’s letter.
In fact, Poppy Bush had good reason to obfuscate the details of his relationships and his conduct because they would, at minimum, lead to further inquiry at a time when an investigation into the death of a president was or should have been — open-ended. The secrets themselves, and the urgency of keeping them hidden, would become a principal rationale in the family’s political efforts. And as we shall see, they go a long way toward explaining the unprecedented information lockdown and seeming paranoia of the George W. Bush administration — whose earliest acts included an effort to put his father’s records under lock and key forever.
NEXT: Part 5.
For Part 1, please go here; Part 2 go here; Part 3 go here.
Related frontpage panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Barbara Bush (US Embassy New Delhi / Flickr – CC BY-ND 2.0), Hair dryer (Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 3.0), Texas flag (Boston Public Library / Flickr – CC BY 2.0)