BRIAN LAMB: Ted Widmer, how did you get involved in doing a book on the John F. Kennedy tapes?
TED WIDMER: Well, the Library actually approached me. There was a lot of excitement leading up to the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Administration, which is three years of a 50th Anniversary, and especially around the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962.
All of us wanted to have a good book ready for the fall of 2012 and many of us in the historical community, as well as certainly at the Library, knew that these were three tremendously rich tapes, only a small percentage of which had actually been heard, and that it would be a service to the historical community and to all Americans to get the tapes out to the listening public.
So the library made the tapes available, but they needed a historian to write an introduction and annotate. And so that’s where I came in.
LAMB: I’m going to run one, quick one, here. This is from the 1952 Senate race. It’s not a tape of John F. Kennedy, but it’s a jingle. Let’s listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SINGERS: When we vote this November let’s all remember, let’s vote for Kennedy.
Make him your selection in the Senate election, he’ll do more for you and me.
Look at Kennedy’s history, you’ll see it’s no mystery why he suits us to a T.
He’s your kind of man, so do all that you can and vote for Kennedy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAMB: We added the pictures, the photographs, ourselves, but that’s a part of the C.D.s that you get with the book.
WIDMER: It is.
LAMB: How come that’s in that?
WIDMER: Well, it’s audio and it’s great. It’s evocative of a time really before TV. Kennedy came out of politics before television was as important as it became and then he rode the importance of TV very effectively, but that’s from an earlier time, 1952. TV existed, but not many Americans had it, and music was really important to politics both on radio and even at events where people would sing.
And so like any politician he needed a theme song and in 1952, he was running for Senate for the first time and had a very well-organized campaign and had to have a song. I guess the short answer to your question is I listened to a lot of audio, the tapes themselves coming out of the White House, but then there were a lot of audio tapes: Kennedy speaking into a Dictaphone dictating messages to his secretary, dictating chapters of ”Profiles” on – ”of Courage” and even a very early radio interview from 1940 when he was a very young man just out of Harvard, just published his first book.
So I loved the whole range of that audio and we include that early radio interview as well.
LAMB: So when did you start this project?
WIDMER: Only about a year and a half ago. It was a rapidly performed historical task and I listened to a lot of these tapes at night, I listened to them on weekends, I got very immersed in the world of listening.
And there were good days and bad days when I started. It was -- a lot of it was inaudible to me. I mean, the quality of the meeting tapes is not always that good especially in the cabinet room, a pretty big room where these primitive mics didn’t pick up the sounds all that well and someone off in the distance of the room might not sound very loud at all, someone close would sound very loud.
So there were days I just thought, ”I can’t get this done. It’s too hard.” But then over time, I began to hear it better and then the telephone tapes were a big step forward when I found those. I was very excited because they’re high quality in every way.
LAMB: Here’s a -- you talked about a Dictabelt conversation he had with himself or with his secretary.
WIDMER: Right. Right.
LAMB: This is from 1960, I assume -- or I shouldn’t assume anything. It was during the campaign?
WIDMER: There are two tapes from 1960, one’s a wonderful long dinner party conversation talking about why he’s running for president. And then he, I think, not long after that, probably a few days later, distilled his thoughts into a more organized dictated memorandum for his secretary and that must be the one you’re about to play.
LAMB: Yes, let’s see it. It’s only 38 seconds.
LAMB: We’ll listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY: The first speech I ever gave was on ”England, Ireland, and Germany: Victor, Neutral, and Vanquished,” period. It took me three weeks to write and it was given it at an American Legion Post, period. Now, the speech went reasonably – rather well, period. Somebody came up – a politician came up to me afterwards and said that I should go into politics, comma, that I might be governor of Massachusetts in 10 years.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAMB: He’s giving us the punctuation. Why is that?
WIDMER: Well, it’s -- he’s speaking it, but he wants his secretary to type it. So he’s telling her how to arrange the sentences and it did appear in a work of political journalism in 1960 called, ”Politics USA,” the Journalist James Cannon wrote that -- edited that book and it’s a fascinating moment because he’s thinking autobiographically.
He’s still a young man, he’s running for president, but he’s had a pretty rich life already and his life included, certainly his World War II service and he’s talking there about coming out of the war. Interestingly, he talks about being out of sorts. He said, ”I didn’t really know what to do as a veteran coming back,” and then beginning to get interested in politics. But he’d seen a lot of the world.
He lived in England at the time. England was veering very rapidly towards war with Germany. And he’d been at the U.N. conference in San Francisco that created the U.N. He’d seen a lot of the world and he’s beginning to put down his thoughts and I think the whole reason he installed the taping system was as a -- as a historian’s helper, that he was beginning to think about the memoirs he would someday write. It was only his second year of the presidency and he probably thought he had until 1969 before he really had to sit down and write his memoirs.
But I’m sure as a journalist himself and as a historian himself, he was trying to gather the tools necessary for that book.
LAMB: In the book, two C.D.s are attached for about two and a half hours of conversations. What’s the total number of hours that there are for all the conversations you had to listen to?
WIDMER: The available tapes constitute 248 hours of tapes of meetings meaning in the Oval Office or the Cabinet Room and about 17 hours of telephone conversation. And the two have often been separated from each other, but we unite them together in this collection.
LAMB: Who collected them?
WIDMER: Well, the whole story of the system and where it -- how it was operated and then what happened to the tapes afterwards is a little bit murky. We know something about it. It began in the summer of 1962, not at the beginning of his presidency, but well into it.
He asked a Secret Service Agent, Robert Bouck, whose job, ironically, was to protect him from electronic surveillance, to install listening devices for his private use. And we know that because Bouck later gave an oral history to the Kennedy Library and that’s on-record and anyone can consult it.
And he described the installation of the mics, where they were in the two rooms, how the machine operated, went down to tapes rolling in a basement room underneath the Oval Office and then the filled up tapes were gathered by Evelyn Lincoln, his secretary, and kept in a closet.
And they ran from that moment in July 1962 until the end and then immediately after the assassination they were disassembled. And tapes were given to Evelyn Lincoln, his secretary, and she held onto them for a while and then probably Robert Kennedy had them because when he wrote his history of the Cuban Missile Crisis, ”Thirteen Days,” he almost certainly used them.
There are moments where he gives dialogues from meetings and he must’ve had access to the tapes to render the dialogue as faithfully as he did.
And then after his assassination, it’s likely that Senator Ted Kennedy had them and eventually they got into a federal warehouse outside Boston and finally were reunited with all of the paper records of the Kennedy Library and given by the family to the Library in the ’70s.
And it’s taken a long time for their contents to be revealed and that’s mainly because the work is extremely pain-staking. It’s hard to hear. It’s hard to write out transcripts and I make a point of saying I’m guessing at some of these words, that the official document is the tape-recording, not the written version. We’re just guessing. All of us -- sometimes two people are speaking at the same time and you just do your best, but it -- also, it was necessary that National Archives professionals listened to make sure classified information was not being unnecessarily released.
And so there’s a classification process and then a declassification process and it just takes a long time, but now, all known tapes are in the JFK Library and all of them have been released into the public record.
So it’s a -- it’s a good story.
LAMB: How much of it will we never hear?
WIDMER: We don’t know and we don’t know what didn’t make it to the Kennedy Library, but everything that is in the Kennedy Library has been released with the very small exception of the excised sections of the tapes, which are excised for national security reasons.
Maybe someday we’ll hear what’s in those moments of silence within the tapes, but all known tapes have now been released.
LAMB: We’ve got a conversation between JFK and former President Eisenhower, a little bit, about a minute of it, and it’s about the Cuban Missile Crisis and you -- how many different topic areas do you have in the book besides the Cuban Missile Crisis?
WIDMER: Oh, about eight. I don’t -- there’s ”History,” ”Politics,” ”Civil Rights,” ”Cuba,” ”Vietnam,” ”The World as It Is,” which is a summary of all of the world’s problems, and ”The Burden and the Glory.” It sounds like a little bit less than eight, but ”The Burden and the Glory” is about the difficulty of being president and what it’s like on a daily basis to occupy this terribly difficult...
LAMB: On October the 22nd, 1962, where are we in the Cuban Missile Crisis when we hear this conversation?
WIDMER: We’re in the -- right smack in the middle of it. That’s the day he gave his speech to the nation informing Americans about the crisis. He’d had the luxury of almost a week of near total blackout of the news to deliberate with his top advisors, but on Monday, October 22nd, he gave a speech to the nation, 100 million Americans listened to that speech and it was one of the most listened to speeches in the history of the presidency.
And that’s the day of this call to Eisenhower.
LAMB: Here’s JFK talking to Mr. Eisenhower.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY: General, what about if the Soviet Union, Khrushchev, announces tomorrow, which I think he will, that if we attack Cuba, that it’s going to be nuclear war? And what’s your judgment as to the chances they’ll fire these things off if we invade Cuba?
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: Oh, I don’t believe that they will.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: You don’t think they will?
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: No.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: In other words, you would take that risk if the situation seemed desirable?
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: Well, as a matter of fact, what can you do? You – if this thing is such a serious thing here on our flank that we’re going to be uneasy, and we know what thing is happening now, all right, you’ve got to use something. Something may make these people shoot ’em off. I just don’t believe this will.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Yeah, right.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: In any event, of course, I’ll say this. I’d want to keep my own people very alert.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Yeah. Well, hang on tight.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: Yes, sir.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Thanks a lot, General.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAMB: Anything about the relationship of the two of them that surprised you?
WIDMER: Well, it’s a fascinating moment. It’s amazing that Eisenhower tells him to have his people alert because everyone is just completely on-edge. And so, of course, they’re alert and Kennedy laughs and then he kind of jocularly says, ”Hang on tight,” which is a nice moment that even on this terribly tense day, they’re able to joke a little bit with each other.
I think their relationship had come a long way. They were not close. Eisenhower was from a different generation and they were both conscious, I’m sure, of their military rank. Eisenhower had been Supreme Commander of the European Forces and Kennedy was a lieutenant in the Pacific and they just -- you know, they always would hold onto their sense of their rank in World War II.
But in their early meetings after the election of 1960, I think they’d each come away quite impressed by the other that Kennedy had been describing Eisenhower as, you know, kind of slow and doddering and not alert to the new realities of the ’60s and he met an extremely forceful and intelligent President of the United States in Dwight Eisenhower.
And I think likewise Eisenhower was dismissive of a wealthy, politician, a much younger man, a Senator who had -- whom he had not condescended to meet as president and he also came away impressed by a forceful intellect, someone who was extremely well informed on the state of the world.
So they began to like each other more and especially during this crisis I think they had a sense of how lonely it is to occupy that office and how you’re getting all kinds of advice. You’re getting good advice. You’re getting a lot of faulty advice, which Kennedy was, including from his joint chiefs.
And Eisenhower knew all about faulty military advice and he was able to speak with his supreme authority about the dangers as well as the advantages of military advice. So he was a very useful ally to President Kennedy.
LAMB: Were you alive during the Cuban Missile Crisis?
WIDMER: I was in utero to be precise. So I wasn’t yet born, but I was nearly born.
LAMB: When did you first begin to get interested in history and that -- this kind of a story?
WIDMER: In the last ’60s, I grew up in New England, and every public library in its children’s section had a book called, ”Meet John F. Kennedy” and the cult of John F. Kennedy was alive and well throughout my childhood and I became interested as a -- as a student of my region, which I always cared about my -- where I grew up, but also the story was just so compelling.
And I was fascinated as a kid and stayed interested throughout. I now remember the 40th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis quite well. I know we’re 10 years past that and I think it’s a great story for Americans to relearn including, I hope, younger Americans because, I mean, one thing this book tries to do is to get past what has been for a long time our sense of the great tragedy of John F. Kennedy, which is, of course, the fact that he was cut down before the end of his presidency was supposed to happen and I think this book restores a sense of how much was accomplished and how rich his presidency was and how he like any other president had good days and bad days and had a lot to feel proud of in the fall of 1963.
LAMB: So when your mother was carrying you, what did she do for a living?
WIDMER: She was a housewife, I believe. She eventually became a scholar of China, but...
LAMB: And where did she teach?
WIDMER: She still teaches at Wellesley College outside Boston.
LAMB: And how about dad?
WIDMER: Dad was a grad student in Chinese history at Harvard and became a professor of Chinese history and then an administrator at Brown University, where I work now.
LAMB: Is it possible for anybody to be more Harvard than you are?
WIDMER: Well, I don’t actually work at Harvard.
LAMB: I know.
WIDMER: I spent a long time there.
LAMB: Where did you go to undergrad?
LAMB: Where did you go to get your master’s degree?
WIDMER: Yes, Harvard.
LAMB: Where did you get your Ph.D.?
WIDMER: Harvard. It’s true. Well, it was a great place to learn about history and I studied a lot of it. I studied early American history and 19th Century and 20th and I did not study President Kennedy at Harvard, but he was in the air there, too. He was everywhere.
And I did go to the Kennedy Library as a tourist and just enjoyed it. But Harvard was also a very tolerant place. It did not rush people along. It allowed people to learn history slowly, which is a good way to learn history and you can move a bit from century to century and I did that.
And so I like studying the entire history of the presidency as you do yourself, Brian, and you’re a great friend to all of us out there because you are interested in the obscure presidents as well as the famous ones.
Writing about John F. Kennedy, I’m in very unfamiliar territory with a best-selling book. I’ve worked on Martin Van Buren, as you know, and we never got near the best-seller list. So this is quite new to me.
LAMB: So we listened to General Eisenhower talking to the president on the 22nd of October and then we’re going to listen to about a minute and a half of a conversation the next day with Roswell Gilpatric. How does he fit in?
WIDMER: He was the Assistant Secretary of Defense and very friendly with President Kennedy and I included that phone call. It’s just a short phone call, but it’s fascinating because they are contemplating and really envisioning the first boarding of a Soviet vessel that will put this quarantine to the test and they don’t know what the result will be. Will the Soviets fire back?
And Kennedy as he did throughout the crisis is saying, ”Whenever possible, use the minimum amount of force” and he just wants to understand it. And they were smart to because their military brass were spoiling for a fight throughout the crisis.
And Secretary McNamara also had a lot of problems on his hands talking with the admirals and the generals who just -- they were trained to fight. That was their job, and they wanted to. And the Secretary McNamara and the president were also doing their job saying, ”Hold on. What are the steps?” and they’re trying to understand the 20 steps that are involved in the boarding of a Soviet vessel.
And they were correct to because any errant shot might have led to the firing of a nuclear weapon back from the Soviet vessel towards the United States and we now know much more than we did at the time and many of the -- well, the submarines work carrying nuclear weapons, torpedoes and there were a large number of tactical nuclear weapons already available to units of Soviet army personnel in Cuba already.
So they just -- they were heavily armed already and the political leadership was correct to exercise great caution.
LAMB: Here is the Assistant Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric talking to President Kennedy.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY: As I understood, there’s some report that the Russian ships were not going to stop. That we were going to have to sink them in order to stop them. I thought that – or we are going to have to fire on them. I was wondering whether the instructions on how that’s to be done, or where they’re to be shot at, and so on, to cause the minimum of damage. And in addition, if they’re boarded, it’s very possible the Russians will fire at them as they board, and we’re going to have to fire back and have quite a slaughter.
I would think we’d want two or three things. First, I think we’d want to have some control over cameras aboard these boats so that we don’t have a lot of people shooting a lot of pictures, which in the press might be embarassing…
ROSWELL GILPATRIC: Yeah we’re going to control all the picture taking.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Are we? On the boats?
ROSWELL GILPATRIC: Yeah.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: They’ll all turn in their cameras.
Secondly, I don’t know enough about the ships, but where they ought to fire and whether they ought to go through three or four steps, such as ask them to stop; if they don’t stop, ask them to have their crew come above decks so that they won’t be damaged, and three, so that we have this record made. Maybe you could talk to somebody about that
ROSWELL GILPATRIC: Yes, yes, we’ve got an instruction at CINCLANT which start with those steps. A shot across the bow, a shot through the rudder.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Shot through the rudder.
ROSWELL GILPATRIC: Then a boarding party, and then order the crews to come on deck, and the minimum amount of force at each stage. Now, we haven’t thought of everything…
JOHN F. KENNEDY: I see.
ROSWELL GILPATRIC: … but we’ll take another look at it.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Okay, fine. How did those photographic expeditions go this morning, do you know?
ROSWELL GILPATRIC: No incident. They were back a couple hours ago. We’ll see the pictures later.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: I see. You’re getting that one for me, aren’t you, of those Florida bases?
ROSWELL GILPATRIC: That’s right.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Okay. Have you taken a look at West Palm Beach?
ROSWELL GILPATRIC: Yeah. The Air Force is doing that. We’re going to look at all…
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Right.
ROSWELL GILPATRIC: … dispersal possibilities down there.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Okay, good.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAMB: Why did he want to know about West Palm Beach?
WIDMER: A couple of possible -- I mean, the Kennedy family, of course, had a home in Palm Beach, but I think the reason is that they wanted to see if our planes were lined up wing-to-wing in a formation that would allow for easy destruction and the reason for that is they had noticed in our nearly constant aerial surveillance that the Soviet airplanes were lined up wing-to-wing, which was actually an encouraging sign. It meant they weren’t quite ready for attack or they weren’t properly defending themselves.
And everyone noticed that in the inner circle of advisors and then President Kennedy said -- he said, ”I wonder how ours are lined up.” And so he asked for some surveillance of our -- and it turned out ours were the same way.
So even at a time of maximum readiness, there were mistakes throughout both sides of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
LAMB: Who knew that there was a recording of all these conversations?
WIDMER: Almost nobody. The president and his secretary, Evelyn Lincoln. We know that they knew. Her assistance was required to operate the machines and to store the tapes and his Secret Service Agent, of course, had installed them.
I assume his brother, Robert Kennedy knew, and he’s in all of the meetings. I think he just knew everything. But then to a surprising degree, the top advisors did not know. So when the tapes were revealed to exist in 1973 right after the Nixon tapes were revealed to exist, top advisors like Ted Sorenson and Arthur Schlesinger were shocked and said, ”We had no idea.”
Ted Kennedy said he did not know and Ethel Kennedy said she did not know, but I assume Robert Kennedy did know. So if I -- you know, if I had to guess, Robert Kennedy, probably Kenny O’Donnell, top political advisor, and Evelyn Lincoln and President Kennedy and the Secret Service team, a couple of agents who were required to operate, and that’s it.
LAMB: Mrs. Kennedy?
WIDMER: Good question. I don’t know.
LAMB: Mrs. Johnson did not know...
WIDMER: Is that right?
LAMB: ... that her husband was taping her.
WIDMER: I wouldn’t -- you know, I could see that going either way. I don’t know. There was the agent who installed the tapes said he remembered or he thought that he had installed them also in the mansion.
So in the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room and the mansion, but there is no recording from the mansion. We’ve never heard one. So who knows. And the agent had a few things wrong when he was remembering.
It’s amazing how fast -- how fast history has forgotten. And one of the paradoxes of the taping system is after Nixon had became undesirable, it became politically a bit scandalous to even contemplate private taping systems, but they are also a source of precise information for the historians. They’re a very valuable tool for us.
So we have better information about the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon presidencies than we will ever have about any other president.
LAMB: A few days later on October the 28th, 1962, the president calls President Truman to report on the end of the crisis. How did it end?
WIDMER: The crisis or the phone call?
LAMB: Yes, what was in -- and as far as from what you’ve listened to, what was precisely the end of all this?
WIDMER: Well, Khrushchev announced that he agreed with the terms of the American demands that the Soviets dismantle the missiles -- the missile sites and pull their troops out of Cuba eventually. The terms were left quite loose about how they would do that.
LAMB: You put a letter -- it’s in Russian -- in your book and also it’s translated into English from Mr. Khrushchev to the president. What was that?
WIDMER: Well, there are many fascinating letters between the two of them and that leads to the story of how the crisis ended because near the end of the crisis, Khrushchev in one day wrote two letters or two letters arrived from him. The first, an extraordinary personal letter expressing anguish over how far this crisis has gone and how nearly out of control it has become and imploring the president in a highly emotional language to stop the crisis, to pull back.
And then about half a day later, a very official bureaucratic letter came that was much stiffer that didn’t have that kind of conciliatory man-to-man language and the fascinating final conclusion of the crisis was that the American team decided to respond only to the first letter and not to the second.
And so that personal relationship really ended up working. They had not had the best relationship, Kennedy and Khrushchev, before this crisis, but through the crisis they developed a much closer crisis -- a much closer relationship including, I think, because they were terrified that even though they were the two most powerful men on Earth, they were not entirely in control of their own sides that this crisis could have spun out of control even with their best intentions.
LAMB: Here’s -- this is only about a minute with President Truman. And why did he call him at this point?
WIDMER: He called all living former presidents including President Herbert Hoover who -- that surprised me. Why would Herbert Hoover get a phone call, but he did and it was a gesture of respect to the former presidents.
I mean, they are in a club and that’s a club that I don’t think anyone who isn’t a president can understand fully, but he just wanted to let them know we’d come through this terribly grave crisis and they were all highly gratified to know and I thought those conversations were good for Americans to hear that there is continuity, we’re not too …
LAMB: Well, I figured that Harry Truman was about 78 at the -- on this tape.
WIDMER: Yes, I can’t quite remember, but that’s right. And he, I think, was thrilled to be consulted. He’d been a little bit neglected during the long eight-year Eisenhower presidency. And so he -- even though at certain moments earlier he had his own tensions with John F. Kennedy, he did not support him as a presidential candidate early on, they had patched up their relationship and Kennedy had invited him to the White House and things were good between those two.
LAMB: You have to listen carefully because President Truman doesn’t say much, but it’s interesting...
LAMB: ... what he does say.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Hello.
HARRY TRUMAN: Hello. This is Harry Truman.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Hello. How are you, Mr. President?
HARRY TRUMAN: Well, I’m all right. I’m just pleased to death the way these things came out.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Well, we’ll just stay at it. And I just wanted to bring you up to date on it.
We got a letter from him on Friday night which was rather conciliatory on these withdrawals. Then on Sunday – Saturday morning, 12 hours after the other letter was received, we got this entirely different letter about the missile bases in Turkey.
HARRY TRUMAN: That’s the way they do things.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Then – well, then we rejected that. Then they came back with – and accepted the earlier proposal. So I think we’re going to have a lot of difficulties, but at least we on – we’re making some progress about getting these missiles out of there. And, in addition, I think that Khrushchev’s had some difficulties in maintaining his position.
I – my judgment is that it’s going to make things tougher in Berlin because the fact he’s had some – something of a setback in Cuba is going to make him…
HARRY TRUMAN: That’s right.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: … rougher in Berlin. But at least it’s a little better than it was a couple days ago.
HARRY TRUMAN: Well, you’re on the right track. You just keep after them. That’s the language they understand, just what you gave them.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: All right. Good.
HARRY TRUMAN: They’ve been asking me for comments, and I’ve said the President of the United States is the only one who can comment on it.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Okay. Good. Take care. I’ll be in touch with you.
HARRY TRUMAN: All right.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. President.
HARRY TRUMAN: I certainly appreciate the call.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Well, thank you, Mr. President.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAMB: Why the reference to Berlin?
WIDMER: Berlin is always in the background of this crisis and really in the forefront of President Kennedy’s thinking because Berlin was roughly analogous to Cuba. Cuba is a Soviet-leaning satellite very near to the United States and Berlin was a West-oriented city encircled by Soviet leaning East Germany.
And so President Kennedy was afraid throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis that if they just invaded, it was, you know -- that would be over in a certain amount of time, but then the Soviets could very easily do the same to Berlin. They could just take over Berlin without much difficulty and that would lead, if the West chose, which it probably would have, to a nuclear exchange.
So the sequence of likely events in President Kennedy’s thinking was, if Cuba fell easily, which we now know it would not have, then the Soviets would’ve taken Berlin, which would’ve led to a conflagration in Europe and really the end of the world.
LAMB: I want to go back, right at around this time there was the civil rights issue at the University of Mississippi and we’ve got a couple of tapes, one from September 30th of ’62 and one from September the 22nd, the first one, obviously the 22nd with Ross Barnett. Who is he?
WIDMER: He’s governor of Mississippi. He’s in a tight spot because he’s fanned the flames of segregation thinking. He’s an ardent segregationist. His political base is based on that. But a crisis has forced everyone’s hand including President Kennedy’s.
James Meredith, a young African-American has decided -- and a veteran -- has decided to enroll at Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi, and fascinatingly, he was inspired to do this by listening to the Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy, which was an irony in the situation because the Civil Rights Movement was not at the top of the list of the agenda of the new frontier as John F. Kennedy came into office.
He and his team were really focused on foreign policy. They cared a lot about freedom abroad, but they didn’t focus as intently on the different definitions of freedom for different kinds of Americans at home.
And it took -- it took some time for that issue to rise up to presidential attention, but it was in the fall of 1963. And one of the great stories of this book is the story caught on tape of President Kennedy realizing completely, and without going back, that this was a major moral crisis and that it deserved the full amount of attention from him and it got it, and by the end of this book, he’s really, you know, talk -- he’s strategizing with the leaders of the movement and planning a very difficult campaign to get the Civil Rights Bill through Congress and then to get reelected, which the very act of being a leader on civil rights was imperiling his reelection prospects.
So it’s a fascinating story.
LAMB: And he’s being led into the university by John Doar, who I think was a Republican.
WIDMER: That may be -- I can’t remember.
LAMB: And then he ended up being the Watergate prosecutor.
WIDMER: That’s right.
LAMB: But he worked at the Justice Department at the time.
WIDMER: That’s right.
LAMB: But the other thing, didn’t James Meredith go on to work for either Strom Thurman or Jesse Helms?
WIDMER: I believe so. I mean, the South is so wonderfully complicated and surprising that -- and George Wallace became comfortable with African-Americans. And so the story got a lot better, but it needed backbone at this moment.
LAMB: And Ross Barnett was a Democrat -- a Southern Democrat?
WIDMER: That’s right.
LAMB: OK. Let’s listen to this from September the 22nd, 1962.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Now, the difficulty is we’ve got two or three problems. In the first place, what can we do to – if – first place is the court’s order to you, which I guess is you’re given until Tuesday. What is your feeling on that?
ROSS BARNETT: Well… I want…
JOHN F. KENNEDY: What’s your position?
ROSS BARNETT: … to think it over Mr. President. It’s a serious matter. I want to think it over for a few days. Until Tuesday, anyway.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Right. Well, now, let me – let me say this…
ROSS BARNETT: You know what I’m up against, Mr. President. I took an oath, you know, to abide by the laws of this state and our constitution here and the Constitution of the United States. I’m – I’m on the spot here, you know.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Well, now, you’ve got…
ROSS BARNETT: I’ve taken an oath to do that, and you know what our laws are with reference to…
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Yes, I understand that. And now we got…
ROSS BARNETT: And we have a statute that was enacted a couple of weeks ago stating positively that no one who had been convicted of a crime, or where there’s a criminal action pending against them, would not be eligible for any of the institutions of higher learning. And that’s our law, and it seems like the Court of Appeal didn’t pay any attention to that.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Right. Well, of course the problem is, Governor, that I’ve got my responsibility just like you have yours, and my responsibility, of course, is to the…
ROSS BARNETT: I realize that, and I appreciate that so much.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Well, now, here’s the thing, Governor. I will – the attorney general can talk to Mr. Watkins tomorrow. What I would like to do is to try to work this out in an amicable way. We don’t want a lot of people down there getting hurt and we don’t want to have…
ROSS BARNETT: Oh, that’s right.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: You know, it’s very easy to…
ROSS BARNETT: Mr. President, let me say this: They’re calling – calling me and others all over the state wanting to bring a thousand, wanting to bring 500, and 200, and all such as that, you know.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: I know…
ROSS BARNETT: We don’t want such as that.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: I know. Well, we don’t want to have a – we don’t want to have a lot of people getting hurt or killed down there.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAMB: What do you hear about -- between the two of them? What’s going on there?
WIDMER: Well, in this early conversation, they are still relatively friendly, and that would change, but they’re talking to each other as fellow politicians and I think that’s important to remember that they’re both in a high office, they’ve got to deal with their constituencies and they understood that about each other.
And I think that’s also a factor in the Cuban Missile Crisis that President Kennedy was always trying to think about the options available to Nikita Khrushchev as a fellow politician, trying to help him out a little bit, to not put so much pressure on him that he had to choose what would’ve been a disastrous course, but with Barnett, they’re talking a little bit about the law, about who they control, who’s -- whom is difficult to control and it’s a moment of relative friendliness, but in subsequent phone calls when Barnett is trying to go out and give incendiary speeches to crowds to whip them up into a frenzy, which would’ve led to chaos and perhaps to the killing of James Meredith who’s held under not very much police protection there in Mississippi, Kennedy begins to lose his temper and to order him to do it.
LAMB: Yes. And about a week later, here’s the -- another conversation.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ROSS BARNETT: I’ll tell you what I’ll do, Mr. President. I’ll go up there myself.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Well now how long will it take you to get there?
ROSS BARNETT: And I’ll get a microphone and tell them that you have agreed to, for him to be removed.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: No, no, now wait a minute – wait a minute, Governor. Now, how long is it going to take you to get up there?
ROSS BARNETT: About an hour.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Now, I’ll tell you what, if you want to go up there, then you call me from up there, then we’ll decide what we’re going to do, before you make any speeches about it.
ROSS BARNETT: Well, all right.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: No sense in…
ROSS BARNETT: I mean, whatever you, if you’d authorize…
JOHN F. KENNEDY: See, if we don’t – we’ve got an hour to go and that’s not – we may not have an hour. Won’t it take you an hour to get up there?
ROSS BARNETT: This man – this man has just died.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Did he die?
ROSS BARNETT: Yes.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Which one? State police?
ROSS BARNETT: That’s a state policeman.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Yeah. Well, you see, we got to get order up there, and that’s what we thought we were going to have.
ROSS BARNETT: Mr. President, please, why don’t you – can’t you to give an order to try to remove Meredith?
JOHN F. KENNEDY: How can I remove him, Governor, when there’s a riot in the street and he may step out of that building and something happen to him? I can’t remove him under those conditions.
Let’s get order up there, then we can do something about Meredith.
ROSS BARNETT: We can surrounded him with plenty of officials.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Well, we’ve got to get somebody up there now to get order and stop the firing and the shooting. Then you and I will talk on the phone about Meredith. But first we got to get order.
ROSS BARNETT: All right. I’ll call and tell him to get every official he can.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: That’s right. Then you and I will talk when they’ve got the building – when they’ve got order there, then you and I will talk about what’s the best thing to do with Meredith.
ROSS BARNETT: All right then.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Thank you.
ROSS BARNETT: All right.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAMB: What happened to James Meredith?
WIDMER: Well, he was protected by the federal government and he was allowed to enter the university and he successfully attended the university and Ole Miss is now a completely integrated, great Southern institution, but it was a rocky few days and this is the key moment where the president as the officer of the federal government is exerting his command over the governor of a state and it’s, you know -- one of the key tensions in our history is where does the presidency begin and end and where can governors -- usually in Southern states, but not always -- where is their authority.
It’s like the Civil War and they were in the ongoing centennial of the Civil War. So it was on everyone’s minds, but fortunately Governor Meredith -- sorry -- Governor Barnett stood down, he accepted this, not very happily, and the crisis eased and we had to do it all over again in Alabama a year ago, but state by state we got through it.
LAMB: You wrote speeches for President Kennedy for four years...
LAMB: I’m sorry -- President Clinton. And you’re now doing some work for Hillary Clinton.
WIDMER: I am an advisor about history to Secretary of State Clinton and I’m helping to arrange some history processees within the State Department as she’s preparing for her departure.
LAMB: Why are you doing it?
WIDMER: Well, I think it’s part of the public record. It’s in a way why this book is so valuable to all of us that it’s good for Americans to know about governance. We care a lot about who gets elected and I think we should care a lot about what happens on their watch.
And any high federal office, I think, we should care because our tax dollars pay their salaries, but also it’s, you know, these people work hard. They work hard to improve the way our government works.
And so if good governance happens, I think it’s a legitimate exercise, Republicans and Democrats, to say this is what got done on our watch and we want people to know about it.
LAMB: When is your term up with the Secretary of State?
WIDMER: The same day she resigns, January 20th.
LAMB: And is -- what will come out of that, your work?
WIDMER: Well, internal history documents. Each bureau of the State Department is writing a list of what it achieved and doing some oral history to ask high-ranking members of the department what they worked on and what they care about and the story of the United States in the world in these four years.
LAMB: How much of the -- Bill Clinton’s memoirs were you involved in?
WIDMER: I was involved in the earliest stages, which were fascinating as he talked out his memories of his life and that was my job was to be an interviewer, much like you, and I had many meetings with him between about 2001 and 2003 just peppering him with hundreds of questions.
He gave me full freedom to ask anything I wanted to and we would go through different periods of his life and ask questions in great detail and he would answer them in great detail and I had a tape recorder and arranged to have the conversations transcribed.
And that was the first draft of history in a way, but then he wrote the book, the book ”My Life,” was entirely his creation, but I felt very privileged to sit with a former president and hear him go through his memories of an extremely interesting life.
LAMB: From March 13, 1963, the year that President Kennedy was killed, here’s -- this is not overly important, but it’s the hockey team.
WIDMER: Oh, yes.
LAMB: It’s only about 42 seconds and he’s talking to David Hackett who’s president of the Committee on Crime and Delinquency. And why would he be talking to David Hackett?
WIDMER: David Hackett, I believe, was a fellow sports fan and knew -- was connected to the U.S. Olympic team. And so Kennedy just needed to yell at someone he knew who knew about the hockey team and what it was up to and he was extremely distressed in those Cold War days that emissaries of the United States had performed badly and they were just young kids playing hockey and they’d lost to Sweden 17 to 2.
And, you know, that is a little embarrassing, but I’m not sure warrants presidential anger and yet, every example of the U.S. on the world stage was of interest to President Kennedy. So he vented a little of that famous temper.
LAMB: Here he is.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Dave?
DAVID HACKETT: Yes.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: How are you? Dave, I noticed in the paper this morning where the Swedish team beat the American hockey team 17-2.
DAVID HACKETT: Yeah, I saw that.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Christ, who are we sending over there, girls?
DAVID HACKETT: I know. They haven’t won a game.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: I know it. I mean, who got ’em up?
DAVID HACKETT: I don’t know. I can check into it.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: God, we’ve got some pretty good hockey players, haven’t we?
DAVID HACKETT: Yeah. Well, I think -- yeah.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: All right. I suppose they’re all playing in their college teams, are they, or something? I’d like to find out whether it done – under what – who sort of sponsors it and the kind of players they’ve got and – ’cause I think it’s a disgrace to have a team that’s 17-2. That’s about as bad as I’ve ever heard, isn’t it?
DAVID HACKETT: And they’ve been beaten by everybody…
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Yeah.
DAVID HACKETT: … by scores almost equal to that.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Yeah. So obviously we shouldn’t send a team unless we can send a good one. Will you find out about it, let me know?
DAVID HACKETT: I’ll find out about it, let you know.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Okay.
DAVID HACKETT: I’ll find out about it, let you know.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAMB: If that tape were released today and he made that comment about girls, what would happen?
WIDMER: Well, we have some pretty good girls’ hockey teams now, but no, it would not be politically acceptable to say that. It was 50 years ago barely, but it was, and it isn’t anymore, but that -- this was a male preserve, the world of top level presidential power.
I wish there were more high-powered women represented on these tapes, but these are government meetings and women did not -- they barely served in Congress. There were a few lonely women here and there. Margaret Chase-Smith springs to mind, but not many and none in the cabinet and very few heads of state anywhere on Earth were women. So it was just a different era.
LAMB: When you were asked to do this book, were you asked by the Foundation or by the government-run library?
WIDMER: The Foundation. They worked together closely often and both are involved and both were very involved in the book. It’s the Library that owns the tapes and I worked with the archivists and librarians in the library who were wonderful. They were just a joy to work with.
And the director of the library, Tom Putnam, was always very helpful, but it was the foundation and its director, Tom McNaught, and the president of the foundation, Caroline Kennedy, who worked with me on the foundation side.
And I think it was their desire that a book -- a new book be issued, but once they had decided to create the book, they gave me full freedom as a historian to choose the excerpts I did and to say whatever I wanted to.
LAMB: So you didn’t have any restrictions?
LAMB: And why did Hyperion, which is, I think, a Disney corporation, agree to publish the book?
WIDMER: That I can’t answer, Brian. I mean, books by President Kennedy still sell extremely well and this one went right into best-sellerdom in its first week, which my Martin Van Buren book, it did not.
LAMB: Tape here from July 25, 1963. JFK is talking to Brigadier General Godfrey McHugh. Before we give it away, what’s in this? Why did you pick this one?
WIDMER: Well, I wanted to show the human side of John F. Kennedy. I think, you know, he has become so famous that we forget he was a real person and all presidents are real people and they all have good days and bad days and they all lose their tempers and here he loses his temper over an expenditure -- a military expenditure for the most justifiable reason on Earth.
His wife was pregnant and some military underlings built an emergency room -- a hospital room at Otis Air Force Base in Cape Cod in case she went into labor on vacation at Hyannis Port. And a newspaper published a picture of the room and noted that it had been -- it cost $5,000, which is a drop in the bucket, and President Kennedy went ballistic and was furious that the money had been spent, that he hadn’t been consulted, and worst of all, that it had gotten into the press.
So he had to let a few people have it and he did.
LAMB: And the man he’s talking to, General McHugh, is in the White House as his Air Force aide?
WIDMER: That’s right.
LAMB: Let’s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY: General?
GODFREY MCHUGH: Yes, sir?
JOHN F. KENNEDY: That Air Force has caused itself more grief with that silly bastard. Did you see The Post this monring?
GODFREY MCHUGH: Yes, sir…
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Did you see that fella’s picture by the bed?
GODFREY MCHUGH: Yes, sir.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: And you see that furniture they bought from Jordan Marsh? What the hell did they let the reporters in there for? Are they crazy up there? Now you know what it’s going to do. Any congressman’s going to get up and say, ”Christ, if they can throw $5,000 away on this, let’s cut ’em another billion dollars.
You just sank the Air Force budget! You’re crazy up there! Are they crazy? That silly bastard with his picture next to the bed?
GODFREY MCHUGH: Sir, I’m appalled with…
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Well, I’m appalled, too.
Now, the thing is – the thing of the matter is, I’m going to get that furniture. I just told Sylvester, you can talk to him, I want to find out if we paid for that furniture, ’cause I want it to go back to Jordan Marsh.
GODFREY MCHUGH: All right, sir.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Then I want – that fella is incompetent who had his picture taken next to Mrs. Kennedy’s bed, if that’s what it is. I mean, he’s a silly bastard. I wouldn’t have him running a cathouse. And that Colonel Carlson, who let in Larry Newman and those reporters, is he crazy, too? Christ, they’re not all incompetent. Is that the way they’re throwing money around over there? You better look into it and especially when you told me that they hadn’t spent a cent.
GODFREY MCHUGH: Well, sir, this is obviously…
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Well, this is obviously a fuck-up.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAMB: A lot of language.
WIDMER: He was a World War II Veteran and they talked that way and he was angry and he got his point across pretty effectively and in some of the other tapes where he’s angry, I believe you can hear a little chuckle behind it. It’s a staged presidential tantrum to scare the military brass into doing their job and, you know, probably to make himself feel better to vent a little bit.
This one you don’t hear the chuckle, but I think it was always in the background.
LAMB: But in reality, he’s talking to his Air Force aide?
LAMB: Does that Air Force aide just absorbs this?
WIDMER: Yes, he would absorb it and then convey to the Pentagon what he just heard and they would run around and fix it.
LAMB: And as a Brigadier General, he’s a long way from the four-star, runs the Air Force?
WIDMER: Right. Right. Right.
LAMB: And then he referred to Sylvester, Arthur Sylvester, the former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs who said, ”The government has a right to lie.” Do you remember that?
WIDMER: I don’t. I don’t remember that. I mean, I remember his name on a lot of the tapes, but I don’t remember that particular quotation.
LAMB: He was a newspaper man from, I believe, Newark and -- what is your sense after listening to the tapes of how well President Kennedy knew the people that he had around and…
LAMB: ... what was his relationship with them?
WIDMER: ... really very well. And throughout the major crises of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the civil rights crises, you get the sense that he’s very comfortable with his aides. And one feeling I now have from this book project is that Democrats like a different kind of a meeting than Republicans.
Republicans like a tightly organized hierarchical meeting and Democrats like a looser meeting with -- often with younger staffers and around the room all speaking up voicing their opinion. There are advantages to both systems, but Kennedy liked smart, brash, ambitious young men who would speak their mind to him and he got that. He got them disagreeing with him throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis.
There’s a fascinating exchange with his NASA advisor in which they’re really arguing, ”Is this going to work or not?” and it’s an argument. It’s not a polite conversation and I think that’s good for a president to want people to speak back to him and it’s good if you can find aides brave enough to talk that way to a president. It’s good for our country to have that kind of a conflict, a managed conflict in the Oval Office.
LAMB: Near his death came the Diem coup and assassination and I’ve got a tape here that you’ve got in the -- in the book, a minute and 38 seconds, and JFK is dictating his cabinet positions on the Saigon coup. Can you give us some background?
WIDMER: Yes. Well, throughout the summer and fall of 1963, the situation in Vietnam was deteriorating quite rapidly. Vietnam had not at all been one of the top foreign policy crises when he came into office. And, in fact, Laos, which is a sleepy, mountainous country next to Vietnam was a higher priority in 1961 when he came in, but Vietnam was falling apart. It was falling apart for a few different reasons including mismanagement by President Diem of South Vietnam who was losing control of his own country.
And the Buddhist Monks were rising up against him and they were very important people and the students were rising up against him. He was losing control of the country. So he was losing control of everything and he was also becoming quite difficult from the U.S. point of view because he was threatening new alliances with the French and maybe even with the North Vietnamese, which was a nightmare for the American perspective, but the American response was also quite imperfect.
There were many different branches of government interested. The Pentagon was sending generals over every few months for reports and those reports were really not very good. They weren’t accurate. They were advising stepped-up military presence, which turned out not to be the right answer.
His political reports weren’t great either and then his new ambassador, who was his friend and also his former political rival, Henry Cabot Lodge...
LAMB: A Republican?
WIDMER: ... a Republican whom he defeated in 1952 for Senate, was very involved in activity that was latent before he got there to work toward a new regime.
LAMB: Let’s listen to this. One of the interesting things for me was hearing the fact that George Ball was for the coup who...
LAMB: ... turned out to be the Undersecretary of State of Lyndon Johnson, was against the war.
WIDMER: Exactly. Fascinating.
LAMB: So it’s a minute and 38.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Monday, November 4th, 1963. The – over the weekend the coup in Saigon took place. Culminated three months of conversation about a coup, comma, conversation which divided the government here and in Saigon. Opposed to a coup was General Taylor, the attorney general, Secretary McNamara, to a somewhat less degree, John McCone, partly because of an old hostility with Lodge, which causes him to lack confidence in Lodge’s judgment, comma, partly as a result of a new hostility because Lodge shifted his station chief, semicolon; in favor of the coup was State, led by Averell Harriman, George Ball, Roger Hilsman, supported by Mike Forrestal of the White House.
I feel that we must bear a good deal of responsibility for it, beginning with our cable of early August, which we suggested the coup, period. In my judgment, that wire was badly drafted, comma, it should never have been sent on a Saturday. I should not have given my consent to it without a roundtable conference in which McNamara and Taylor could have presented their views.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAMB: Why did he approve it?
WIDMER: Why did he approve the cable?
WIDMER: Well, it’s not entirely clear that he did and there’s a lot of -- there are many fascinating arguments among his top staffers in the weeks leading up to the coup in which his brother, to name one example, argued quite vociferously against the coup and he himself on a few occasions stated his unwillingness to get more involved, but at the same time as you hear in this tape-recording, a lot of his top advisors were for it.
I think they’re, like, you know, the situation in the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. He was not getting complete information and that particular cable of August 1963 went out on a sleepy August weekend when people weren’t paying enough attention.
So I think he’s mad as the chief executive of a bureaucracy, that the bureaucracy has not report -- has not performed well, that actions at middle levels were not being fully reported up to the top level.
So he is mad at himself. He’s mad that his government permitted a cable that was badly drafted to go forward and that cable led to terrible after-effects.
LAMB: Again -- and we’re running out of time -- call -- the book called, ”Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy.” A $40 book, two C.D.s worth 2 and a half hours of listening.
But everything is on the website of the JFK Library, all these recordings?
WIDMER: That’s right. All of the tapes -- I mean, there are still the excisions within the tapes, but all of the tapes have been released and are available online. So I encourage all Americans to go and listen and make their own decisions.
LAMB: Now, do you have another book you’re writing?
WIDMER: You know, I’m interested in Lincoln. Like you, I -- and like everyone, I love Abraham Lincoln and I’m thinking about a Lincoln book, but I haven’t started it.
LAMB: We’re going to end this with the campaign song from 1960. I guess one quick question and answer is would you ever have this again in politics, this kind of a jingle, you think?
WIDMER: I think they’re great. I’m waiting for the better of the two presidential jingles before casting my vote, but I love a good jingle. I think it expresses a thought, maybe not too many thoughts, but it gets Americans in the mood to vote and we need that.
LAMB: Campaign song from 1960. Our guest, Ted Widmer, thank you for joining us.
WIDMER: Thank you, Brian.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SINGERS: Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Ken – ne-dy for me! Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy!
Do you want a man for president who’s seasoned through and through? But not so doggone seasoned that he won’t try something new. A man who’s old enough to know and young enough to do. Well, it’s up to you, it’s up to you, it’s strictly up to you.
Do you like a man who answers straight, a man who’s always fair? We’ll measure him against the others and when you compare, you cast your vote for Kennedy, and the change that’s overdue. So, it’s up to you, it’s up to you, it’s strictly up to you.
And it’s Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Ken – ne-dy for me!
Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy! Kennedy!