The New York Times versus the New York Times

I have known Hoover colleague, economist Paul Gregory, for about 5 years, and gotten to know him better in the last 3. An expert on Russia’s economy and increasingly on China’s economy, he has written two articles on those topics for Econlib. I had no idea, until reading this New York Times article, “Lee Harvey Oswald Was My Friend,” earlier this month, that he had known Lee Harvey Oswald, the Communist ex-Marine who murdered John F. Kennedy. The whole piece is fascinating. Here are three paragraphs that make the case for Oswald’s motivation and why Gregory finds it implausible that someone would conspire with Oswald:

On the Saturday morning after Kennedy was killed, I was sitting in my small apartment in Norman when a Secret Service agent and the local chief of police arrived and took me some 20 miles down I-35 to Oklahoma City for questioning. As we drove, I began telling them about how I met Oswald, the evenings driving around Fort Worth, the Dallas Russians and how a college kid got caught up with an accused assassin. After they escorted me into a nondescript conference room in a downtown building, the agents homed in on the question of the day, which, of course, has lingered over the past 50 years: Did I think Oswald worked alone or was part of a larger conspiracy? I told them simply that, if I were organizing a conspiracy, he would have been the last person I would recruit. He was too difficult and unreliable.

Over the years, despite public-opinion polls, many others have agreed. The opening of formerly secret archives in Russia indicate that the K.G.B. didn’t want to recruit Oswald. Cuban intelligence officers, a K.G.B. agent or two, Mafia bosses and even C.I.A. officers (including, supposedly, members of Nixon’s “plumbers” team) have somehow been tied to Oswald’s actions that day, but it’s difficult to understand how these conspiracy theories would have worked. Oswald, after all, fled the Texas School Book Depository by Dallas’s notably unreliable public-transportation system.

It’s discomfiting to think that history could have been altered by such a small player, but over the years, I’ve realized that was part of Oswald’s goal. I entered his life at just the moment that he was trying to prove, particularly to his skeptical wife, that he was truly exceptional. But during those months, his assertion was rapidly losing credibility. Marina would later tell the Warren Commission, through a translator, about “his imagination, his fantasy, which was quite unfounded, as to the fact that he was an outstanding man.” Perhaps he chose what seemed like the only remaining shortcut to going down in history. On April 10, 1963, Oswald used a rifle with a telescopic sight to fire a bullet into the Dallas home of Maj. Gen. Edwin Walker, the conservative war hero, narrowly missing his head. Oswald told his wife about the assassination attempt, but she never told authorities before Kennedy’s death.

By the way, the editors of the New York Times, who gave a recent op/ed about Dallas’s guilt, this title and tag line:

The City With a Death Wish in Its Eye
Dallas’s Role in Kennedy’s Murder

might want to actually read their own newspaper, especially Paul Gregory’s piece. At times, the New York Times is not that bad. Its editors might want to try it out. They might even understand it, except for, maybe the big words.