The conventional political wisdom about Hale Boggs is that he was an alcoholic who was prone to speak out of turn or with compromised mental faculties - especially when it came to defaming J Edgar Hoover and the US Justice Department. Our view is that there is no evidence that Boggs was an alcoholic.
We cannot say for certain that Boggs was not an alcoholic since proving a negative is a fool's errand. But we can say that the evidence for its claim is weak as it seems to rest upon an elaborate game of telephone and rumor mongering.
The most substantive case for Boggs' alcoholism comes from a 1988 article by Steven Waldman in The Washington Monthly reviewing numerous congressional leaders from the 1960s and 1970s who were alcoholics. Some of the subjects such as Wilbur Mills admitted his problem, as did others, but Boggs was thrown into the mix and labeled guilty by association long after his murder.
Waldman cites Jack Anderson and Drew Pearson, the latter of whom could be considered the Paula Jones of gossip columnists. Anderson is more credible and should give pause when considering his revelations. But Anderson was not perfect, and relied upon numerous unnamed and unqueryable sources for information.
The other main source for the allegation of Boggs' alcoholism was Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, two men who were criminals and murderers. If fraud vitiates all, then we can dismiss both men as liars and unreliable sources who should be discarded like so much Soviet propaganda.
After Boggs' incendiary speech in April 1971 in the House of Representatives, where he was Majority Leader, lambasting the criminal Department of Justice and FBI under the criminal and murderer J Edgar Hoover, Nixon became infuriated as only Nixon could become.
A taped conversation between him and Minority Leader Ford the following morning reveals the inception of the rumor, and the means by which they would cordon Boggs from any White House Congressional meetings.
Before getting to their strategy, Nixon lamented the shameful conduct of Boggs in lashing out against the FBI and its infringement on civil liberties by tapping the phones of Congressmen. Nixon said to Ford, "Do you realize that the FBI has not tapped the phone of one congressman or senator since 1924? And Hoover has the records to prove it." Our comment: ROTFLSHIPMP.
The statement is pure chutzpah and infantile playground bluster. Here is one professional feces substantiating the virtue of another with yet a third swallowing the feces. Nixon was covering up the murder of John Kennedy while Ford did exactly the same thing when he acted covertly as the Warren Commission liaison with the FBI in contravention to all ethical conduct for such an investigation. Ford's role was to make sure that the FBI presented only evidence which bolstered the Dulles-McCloy Commission's a priori claims of Oswald's guilt. Ford also doubled as a bullet hole mover "to clarify the evidence."
Hoover for his part had been caught in numerous income tax frauds, covering up the Kennedy murders, and claiming that organized crime didn't exist, or that if it did, that it was not a problem.
We see what kind of character we are dealing with on this phone conversation. Following Nixon's lead that he thought Boggs might be on "the sauce", Ford picked up from there by saying that Boggs might be under medication, was incoherent, that he embarrassed Albert (Speaker of the House Carl Albert), and that he wasn't safe to take in public.
Here we have it folks - Carl Albert, a lush, drunk, alcoholic according to Waldman's article, showing discomfort at Boggs' alleged slurring. Only in a CIA Kafkaesque world could anyone take any of this seriously.
So Nixon told Ford that in order to keep Boggs out of White House meetings, he would invite only the Speaker and Minority Leader from the House, and the Majority Leader and Minority Leader from the Senate, thus neatly cutting Boggs out of the circle.
Nixon's concern was that his criminal and unethical machinations would become public knowledge with Boggs present, and thus fodder for more speeches in the House. In other words, Boggs decided to support the law and the Constitution, whereas Nixon and Ford wanted none of that.
Thus our belief is that Ford or one of his direct associates fed the information to Anderson in order to discredit and ruin Boggs. We admit that this is just a theory, but given that Anderson peddled much material based upon secret and anonymous sources, it is no stretch of the imagination to suppose that he was fed bad information quite frequently as a means of discrediting him.
Thus when Waldman passed along his allegations that Boggs was an alcoholic, he was passing along junk which originated in the Nixon Oval Office, and laundered unwittingly through Jack Anderson.
None of this is to say that we would ignore credible evidence documenting the fact that Boggs had a drinking problem. Nothing would surprise us. However, we would not even accept the testimony of his daughter Cokie Roberts whom we liken to Paula Jones - "she is not to be believed."
Our view is that more research is required to establish the point that Hale Boggs was an alcoholic. Until it is forthcoming, we aren't buying it.
Nixon Tapes, Conversation 42-9, April 6, 1971, nixontapes.org
-, The Matarese Circle -- "USA elite and USA secret police" Boggs - Speech before Congress (April 22, 1971), Tangible Information (tangibleinfo.blogspot.com), February 17, 2010
Steven Waldman, Governing Under the Influence, The Washington Monthly, January 1988, accessed from UNZ.org
Copyright 2015 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.