Was Lee Harvey Oswald Just a Bad Shot?

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Three years ago James Reston Jr. published The Accidental Victim, arguing that Lee Harvey Oswald was actually trying to kill Texas Gov. John Connally, and hit JFK only by accident. Some of the evidence comes from items collected after Oswald was arrested:

A Secret Service officer named Mike Howard was dispatched to Oswald’s apartment. Howard found a little green address book, and on its 17th page under the heading “I WILL KILL” Oswald listed four men: an FBI agent named James Hosty; a right-wing general, Edwin Walker; and Vice President Richard Nixon. At the top of the list was the governor of Texas, John Connally. Through Connally’s name, Oswald had drawn a dagger, with blood drops dripping downward.

Oddly, this page was subsequently ripped out of the little green book. No one knows how it happened. Reston also argues that Oswald had plenty of reason to hate Connally (as head of the Navy Department he had refused Oswald’s request to restore his honorable discharge from the Marines) and no reason to hate JFK. What’s more, Oswald’s wife repeatedly testified that that Connally was Oswald’s target.

I’ve never heard this theory before, and Reston’s book doesn’t seem to have gotten much attention. But his conclusion is clear:

For 53 years, a cottage industry has developed over the motive for the Kennedy assassination. It had to be connected to the Mafia or the Russians or the Cubans or Oswald’s Marxist beliefs or Jack Ruby’s petty crimes in the Dallas underworld….[But] Oswald was no coldhearted professional assassin under orders. The real answer to the reasons he took aim are to be found in his frustrations and obsessions. And the real tragedy of Dallas lies in the accidental death of a president who just happened to be in the line of fire.

So what’s the deal here? Is this a real thing? Or just more JFK assassination crankery? If nobody believes Reston’s theory, I’d at least be curious to hear the debunking.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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