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tv   Piers Morgan Live  CNN  November 14, 2013 12:00am-1:01am PST

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all of them easily have that money. the question is which one would you actually want to sit next to for five years? let me know on twitter. i'm erin burnett "outfront" cnn. this is jfk 50 years later, a "piers morgan live" special. november the 22nd, 1963, 12:30 p.m. central time, a moment that shocks the world and changes america forever. >> the assassination is deadly. the area is filled with police, rangers and secret service. >> the 35th president of the united states and the leader of the free world assassinated at the age of 46. what if he had lived, 50 years later would jfk recognize what america has become? tonight i talk to members of the kennedy family, the doctor that treated jfk and lee harvey oswald and the only survivor there when he was arrested and shot by jack ruby. the truth about jfk, life and
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death, his presidency and what might have been. this is jfk 50 years later, a "piers morgan live" special. good evening. no american who was alive on that dark day will ever forget, they can still tell you precisely where they were when they heard the almost incomprehensible news the president of the united states john f. kennedy had been assassinated. for many, that news came from walter cronkite on cbs news. >> from dallas, texas, the flash apparently official, president kennedy died at 1:00 p.m. central standard time. 2:00 eastern standard time. some 38 minutes ago. >> tonight in the extraordinary hour of eyewitness accounts, conspiracy theories and the stories you've never heard before. we go to john king who takes a look back at the awful day. >> november 22nd, 1963 was day two of a five-city texas
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campaign swing. it was 11:37 a.m. local time, air force one, wheels down at love field. >> several thousand enthusiastic texans on hand to give the president and mrs. kennedy the warm welcome. >> the president's motorcade rolled from the airport at 11:52, dallas police reported 150,000 people, maybe more along the ten-mile route. at 12:30 p.m. local time, the fateful turn on to dilly plaza past the texas school depository, suddenly, the sound of gunfire, screams, and urgent live reports. >> it is believed that president kennedy has been shot. president kennedy was in a motorcade enroute to the trademark where he was to address a luncheon gathering shortly after noon today. as i say, it has not been fully confirmed but police radios are carrying that the president has
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been hit. >> six minutes later, 12:36 p.m. the kennedy motorcade arrives at parkland hospital. >> just now we received reports at parkland that governor connally was shot in the upper left chest and the first unconfirmed report today the president was hit in the head. the president's wife was not hurt. she walked into the hospital. >> 1:00 p.m. local time, you see the crowd waiting for word. inside at that hour the president of the united states is administered last rites and pronounced dead, the official word would not come for another 30 minutes. >> it's official now, the president is dead. women here in shock, some fainted, men, secret servicemen standing by the emergency room tears streaming down their face. there is only one word to describe the picture here and that's grief and much of it.
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it's official, as of a few minutes ago, the president of the united states is dead. >> at 1:50 p.m. less than an hour and a half after the shooting, lee harvey oswalt is arrested and brought into custody from a movie theater where the film "war is hell" a movie about the korean war is playing. the casket carrying the body carried on air force one and at 2:38 p.m., three hours and one minute after air force brought the 35th president of the united states, lyndon b. johnson takes the oath of office that officially makes him the 36th. >> i do solemnly swear. >> i do solemnly swear. >> that i will faithfully execute. >> that i will faithfully execute. >> this office of president of the united states. >> this office of president of the united states.
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>> thank you very much, john king. joining me now is an eyewitness, a journalist that was there when shots rang out and when oswald was arrested and was shot dead. he joins me now exclusively. welcome. >> great to be with you. >> what an extraordinary place in modern american history you hold. does it weigh heavily on your shoulders, that you were a personal witness to these extraordinary things? >> i don't consider that because i've been doing this for 60 some years and covered a lot of big stories and this is just what i do. >> you were a science and aerospace reporter on the dallas morning news, you were 32 years old and you weren't covering the president's visit. you decided to go anyway to see a president in your city. when you heard the shots go out,
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what was your first reaction? >> you know, i don't know how fast i reacted because it was such an instantaneous bedlam there. people were crying, screaming, they were bumping into each other. i don't know how i reacted or how fast but i knew somewhere in that first minute, my journal background kicked in. it was just wild. we didn't know who was shooting, we didn't know how many were shooting and we didn't know where they were shooting from. >> now, there were three shots that you heard. you began to speak to witnesses. you grabbed a makeshift pencil and paper from a little boy and began making notes. then you heard on a police radio that a police officer had been shot, you know, not clear if that was j.d. tippid and the suspect was on the run. you didn't know who he was at the time, but the suspect was on the run. you made your way to where this was all happening. >> i just thought if somebody shoots at the president's motorcade and three or four
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miles away somebody shoots a cop, there's a very good chance it might be connected and i made that lucky determination. i interviewed six or eight people who had seen oswald shoot him, seen oswald run from the scene and seen him eject shells into the bushes. of course, we didn't know it was oswald then. >> you saw him actually apprehended? >> yes, i did. we looked around for him in a couple of places, and i heard another radio and an fbi man's car said there is a suspect in the texas theater. so i was seven or eight blocks away but i knew i had to get there. i ran like mad, so i ran in but i was -- i wasn't there two minutes. they came up, they stopped a couple other people and then they grabbed him.
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and i didn't hear him say this but he -- officer mcdonald who found him, who grabbed him first said he said well, it's all over now. of course, it wasn't all over now because he pulled a pistol and tried to kill officer mcdonald. but fortunately, one of the cops got his hand in the firing mechanism -- >> jammed it and saved his life. >> saved his life, yes. >> you witnessed the arrest of lee harvey oswald and then you saw jack ruby shoot him dead. >> that was a couple days later, and i had known there had been all kinds of threats to the police department, that they were going to take this communist s.o.b. they said, and i just thought they would move him during the night. but when i got up the next morning and found out they hadn't, i said to my wife come on, we're going. i didn't shave. i didn't eat. i threw on clothes and ran down to the city hall basement and got in there ten minutes beforehand and saw what happened there. i could not see ruby because i was in a crowd and some of the
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cameramen, you know, they wore these big 80-pound cameras at that time. it was tough to get in there but pretty soon we knew it was jack ruby and they pounced on him, several of him. it was fast. >> quite astonishing trilogy of events you were personal aly witness to, unique, we believe. there is nobody else alive that witnessed all three of these. the other perfect person to ask, really, i interviewed endless people who subscribe to conspiracy theories about that, that do not believe it was lee harvey oswald acting alone. what is your view? >> i understand them. i don't agree with them at all. i don't think there is one scintilla of evidence that says that. i don't care how much you believe it or want it or need it. at some point you have to be honest and say there is no evidence. but i do understand, because it's hard for anybody to understand and accept that two loners, two losers like this
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could change the course of world history, but they did. >> your wife said a very interesting thing, which is that had you subscribed personally to a conspiracy theory involving this, you would have been a rich man as a result because that's where the money is in the kennedy story but you've been true to yourself. >> well, i think respect is more important than money in our world, and i'm glad i've taken the tact i have. >> hue aims worth, what an extraordinary thing for any journalist to go through and it's been a pleasure talking to you. >> thank you so much. when we come back, the doctor that desperately tried to save the president's life and the aide to governor conley that witnessed the attack as he rode in the motorcade. and a look inside the plane that carried the president's murdered body back to washington. [ gunshot ] president kennedy has been given a blood transfusion at parkland hospital in an effort to save his life after he and
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president kennedy has been given a blood transfusion at parkland hospital in an effort to save his life after he and the governor were shot in an assassination attempt in downtown dallas. a priest has been ordered and emergency supplies being rushed to the hospital. >> a radio report from the john f. kennedy library. doctors were racing to trama room one. he was the first to see the wounded president. john conley was riding in the motorcade when the shots rang out and both join me now. you were actually in the white house bus behind the limousine itself. i suppose a question for both of
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you right off the top, how does it feel to have been involved so directly in an event of such magnitude? let me ask you first. >> of course, it's an event none of us planned to be involved in, so the shock was enormous. you didn't have time really to have emotions at that time. i think those of us who were involved in it, i think you went on sort of automatic pilot, you know to do what you just instinctually know to do. >> dr. jones, you were 31 years old. you'd been operating that day, part of a surgical team, in the cafeteria and relaxing, somebody runs in and tells you, they say the president has been shot. >> well, the operator paged overhead, we didn't have beepers then, so there was a loud speaker and she began to page people stat, respond immediately, repeatedly with the department chairman and i went
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to the phone on the wall of the cafeteria and i called her and said why are you paging everyone stat? she said dr. jones, the president has been shot and they are bringing him to the emergency room and they need physicians right away. with that, you have a tremendous flush, an adrenaline rush come over you. >> there can't be a more important moment in a surgeon's life in america that a president has been shot and coming to your theater. >> that's correct. i turned around and see the chief and anaesthesia and o.r. supervisors and he said he'll get the anesthesia and we thought he had been shot in the chest and abdomen and revive him and take care of him surgically. but when we reached the emergency room, that was a different story. >> were you very quickly aware that he was unlikely to survive? >> as soon as i walked into trama room one and saw him, mrs. kennedy was on the left inside the room. he was on a stretcher, arms out on arm boards and i saw small wound in his neck, but i knew he
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had a large wound in the back of his head and i saw no evidence of life, but dr. caraco thought he saw some respiration, just as he came in the room and we were probably a minute later and that's what triggered the resuscitation. >> i believe that you arrived at the hospital and you saw both mrs. kennedy and mrs. conley sitting in the hall of the trama room, again, what a remarkable moment to have witnessed personally. what was it like in realtime -- >> well, i ran into the end -- i found the open door at the end of the hospital, remarkable, you know, no one there, no security, and i found a nurse very quickly and asked her if she would take me to ms. conley. and she did and i found ms. conley in a dark hallway right outside of trauma room two, the president was in trauma room one. she was sitting outside there and right across with jackie kennedy, two women, not a sound spoken, thinking about their husbands and whether they could survive.
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>> did you say anything to them? >> well, i talked to her. i talked to her. i certainly didn't say anything to ms. kennedy. i talked to her because i knew the press would be there in a minute. i wanted to know what happened. i wanted to report what occurred. she was calm, even under the stress. and knew he was inside in hands to save him, hopefully. >> and he did, thankfully. >> he did. >> he did survive. >> the president obviously did not survive. he was read the last rites i think by two catholic priests that came into the room. the moment when he was pronounced dead, i mean, that's a chilling moment, isn't it for you? >> yes, i -- we knew he was dead after we had performed the chest tubes and had an ekg heart machine brought in -- >> what are you thinking? there you are. you got your president there fighting for his life. what is going through your mind at age 31? >> you're thinking how did i get here?
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odds of me taking care of a president must be one in -- >> did you manage to stay calm? were you -- how would you describe your state? >> i think we kicked into a routine management of a trama patient and knowing that it was the president but still you get an airway, an iv going and assess the injuries and that's what we did initially, and then we knew that -- i thought probably that he was not going to make it anyway, but we decided we would try to do something rather than nothing. >> then unbelievably you happen to be in the hospital again. you get another call. lee harvey oswald, the assassin, has himself been shot and again, you're operating on him. >> i was in the operating room lounge when the call came and i went up the hall to get dr. perry and dr. jenkins. we went down to trama room two, which is the same room governor conley had been in and when they brought oswald in, he was unconscious, didn't have blood pressure but had a heart beat. i listened.
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he lived for an hour and 20 minutes in the operating room. i did the same thing with him as president kennedy. i put an iv in the left arm with a cut down and a chest tube in because he had been shot in the left chest and we had him to the operating room within about ten minutes from the time he came to the emergency room. dr. tom sars was the chief surgeon and i was one of four. >> is there a single day that goes by in your life that you don't think of this? >> there aren't many that go by because something reminds you of it one way or the other. >> particularly now in the buildup -- >> oh, now, it's an hour to hour basis you're involved because so many people are interested in it and so many people want to ask you about it. >> final question, i asked a few guests this but do you subscribe to any conspiracy theory? or do you think oswald acted alone? >> i don't believe there is anything we haven't heard.
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there is another crop of conspiracies that comes around every time and there will be more i think between now and the 22nd -- >> november -- >> but i don't think it will ever stop. >> julian reed and dr. jones, thank you both very much indeed. president john f. kennedy was pronounced dead at parkland hospital at 1:00 p.m., at 2:38 the moment walter cronkite was telling the nation the president was dead lyndon johnson was taking the oath of office aboard air force one. the same plane that was carrying kennedy's body back to washington. that plane is now at the national museum of the u.s. air force in dayton, ohio. jeff underwood takes us on board. we are standing here on board president john kennedy's air force one at the national museum, united states air force. this is the very room where vice president johnson took the oath of office and this is the very place where he stood. as we move back toward the rear
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of the aircraft, you can see the seats are kind of tight but that's because this was a working aircraft, it flew for the air force in carrying presidents and vips for 36 years a long career and now it has a new career here at the national museum. as we go a little further back, we come to an area which is the galley, the presidential meals were prepared but then we also see the series of seats at the very back, these very four seats are the ones that the air crew pulled out to move out of the way and they took a saw and cut the bulkhead just along here to make sure there is room and they brought the president's casket in and brought it in and laid it along here and this is where mrs. kennedy sat on that fateful day on that terrible flight back from dallas to washington d.c. >> jeff underwood, thank you very much. it was of course more than a national tragedy, it was a personal tragedy for his family. when we come back i'll talk to his nephew and niece kerry kennedy. now that he is relieved of the almost superhuman burden, we imposed on him, may he rest in peace.
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>> chief justice warrens moving
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now that h e is relieved of the almost superhuman burden, we imposed on him, may he rest in peace. >> chief justice warrens moving eulogy for president john f. kennedy. who better to talk about his ledger, joining me now -- robert f. kennedy jr. and kerry kennedy. welcome to both of you. let me start with you, you were four years old and don't have
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memory of that day but in terms of the legacy of jfk, what do you think it should be? >> he was a man who really loved our country and tried to make our policy both domestically and internationally reflective of the greatest values, democracy, caring about people who live in poverty, of making sure that everyone in our country actually had a vote and was able to go to the polls and vote. i think that's why we remember him as a great leader, and as somebody who is fun and full of youth and vigor. >> robert, you wrote a fascinating piece for the issue of "rolling stone" magazine. paints him as a man of peace, despite the conflict raging domestically and on the foreign stage, was seeking all the time to avoid conflict. >> yeah, he -- he told his friends that he was basically a
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peace at any price president, despite the cold war plather he used during his campaign. privately, he was a war hero. he was a war veteran. he seen the capriciousness, the savagery of war. there was a consensus among the chief of staff who were world war ii vet raps and heroes, and icons, that the soviets, we were ahead, but they could catch up to us in 1965. that we needed that nuclear war was not only inevitable but desirable and one of the things i talk about in that article is his vietnam record and it's become fashionable today to look at vietnam as kind of a continuum that started with
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eisenhower and continued with kennedy, johnson, nixon, et cetera. in fact, jack went beyond anything that i think any president has done to keep us out of vietnam and he intended, in fact, a month before he died, he issued a national security order making it the official policy of the united states to get us out of vietnam, the first 1,000 troops home by the end of november. and all u.s. personnel out of vietnam by the end of 1965. that was his intention.
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he repeatedly stated it to advisors, he went against all advisors doing it but refused to put ground troops in. >> amazing. kerry, we have a fabulous picture, an image of you playing hide and seek inside the oval office with president kennedy there with caroline, i think it was, wasn't it? >> yeah, that's the two of us. >> when you see that picture, what do you think? >> it brings back so much joy of my youngest years, you know, when jack was president, daddy was the attorney general at the height of the civil rights movement. you know, mostly i remember also being at the cape and waiting for those helicopters to come down every friday and they would bring my uncle jack and my father and my uncle sarg and others so close to our family and we would sort of go rushing down the hill and see them and then jack would always pick us up and put us into a golf cart that my grandfather had and go whipping around the compound. so it's a lot of fun. but, you know, i think that the reason people really think about
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jack and remember him is i think it's true of jack and also of my father is they really brought out the best in all of us and didn't appeal to our anger or rage or fear about the world, but they appealed to the best of us, the side of us that says we can be a country at peace. we can have compassion towards those who have nothing. >> how will the kennedy family as a unit remember jfk on the anniversary itself? is there a plan for the family to get together? >> our family tries to celebrate his birthday and not his day of death. so my father was actually born november 20th and every year on his birthday, we present the robert f. kennedy human rights award. and before we present it we go to arlington cemetery. we'll do that next thursday on the 21st.
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but i -- you me, i think again, what we should be looking at is not how these men died but how they lived and really questioning what can we learn from that and how can we take that value and vision and apply it to the challenges we face as a nation or as a family today. >> let's take a short break. when i come back let's ask if there is another chance of another kennedy ever coming to the white house. you're all such talented people. where are the next prospects? let's talk about that. [ male announcer ] this is jim, a man who doesn't stand still. but jim has afib, atrial fibrillation -- an irregular heartbeat, not caused by a heart valve problem. that puts jim at a greater risk of stroke. for years, jim's medicine tied him to a monthly trip to the clinic to get his blood tested. but now, with once-a-day xarelto®, jim's on the move. jim's doctor recommended xarelto®. like warfarin, xarelto® is proven effective to reduce afib-related stroke risk. but xarelto® is the first and only once-a-day prescription blood thinner for patients with afib
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back now with john f. kennedy's nephew and niece. robert, incredibly large family, iconic family in america. just yesterday we saw your cousin caroline sworn as ambassador to japan, the grandson jack was there looking very handsome like all the kennedy boys, exciting all the media. is there anybody in the family as you look at it that you think could genuinely have the political drive and aspiration to perhaps one day run for
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president? >> well, i don't know what the future is. i can tell you this. my nephew joe kennedy is in congress today, and he has i think 85 cousins that get together on the cape during july and august. they talk almost continuously about politics. i think virtually all of them will end up in some way doing public service because that's just a part of the institutional culture and dna of our family. so i think -- i think you're going to see a lot of kennedys, people will be tired of kennedys. [ laughter ] >> i think one of the greatest legacies of president kennedy was that sort of altered view of the united states at, you know, that we were a force for good that we understood that
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corporate domination at home was the partner of imperialism and the national security state was incompatible with our constitutional freedoms and we had to win over the world by our example, by living up to our ideas, by perfecting the union and not by force of arms and that we were going to be remembered, which was what president kennedy used to say, not by the wealth of our citizens and the size of our army or the power of our weapons or industry but rather how we care for the least fortunate members of our society, how strongly we resisted the seduction of the notion that we can add vance ourselves by leaving our poor brothers and sisters behind. and how we made ourself as an example of a template for democracy for the rest of the world, not by beating people up, not by fighting the wars for them but by practicing social justice at home and by making ourselves a model for justice
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and for democracy and i think that that -- people around the world saw that and kerry and i almost every week, we meet kids, people from africa, adults whose name is kennedy. we still go into huts in latin america and africa, which have pictures of my uncle or my father and people still, you know, remember and that made an impression. what his pursuit for peace, his pursuit of civil rights justice at home is something, you know, that even in -- if the press tries to deny it or, you know, or historians or whatever is something that at that time and for a generation afterwards,
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virtually everybody in the world recognizes that this was america at it's best. >> yeah, i completely agree. kerry, finally for you, obviously both jfk and then your father were shot dead with guns, and i read the other day more americans have been killed by guns since then and died in all wars america has been involved with for centuries and like 1.5 million americans have died from guns since your father and your uncle. how will it ever change? i mean, if even their deaths coming so soon after each other didn't really enforce much change? how do you see a breakthrough? >> i think first of all, let me say that you have been so fantastic on this issue and really, no one has been a greater advocate for it than you have. so i want to thank you -- >> well, i mean, i appreciate it. i don't feel i'm getting anywhere because i don't feel the debate goes anywhere here. >> it's hard.
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it's hard. i think the only way we're going to make this happen is that americans who don't agree with a wayne la pierre, who, you know, who has been called an assassin will have to stand up and band together and start saying, we demand change. we demand change of our politicians and we demand change of our leadership and we're not going to accept that guns run rampant anymore. there are more gun dealers in the united states than mcdonalds hamburger places. there is -- we have got to put an end to the craziness. our children are dying in the streets. our children are dying in our homes. we got to stop it. >> kerry and robert, it's been great talking to you. i appreciate it. >> thank you, piers. coming up, how does history view jfk today, cold warrior or map of peace? the top historians reevaluate his presidency.
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shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile, launched from cuba against any nation in the western hemisphere as an attack by the soviet union on the united states requiring a full retaliatory response upon the
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soviet union. >> president kennedy taking a stand during the cuban missile crisis but how has our view of his presidency changed over the past 50 years. joining me now the author of "end of days, the assassination of john f. kennedy. and robert dally, the author of "camelot's court inside the white house." welcome to all three of you, historians in this era. let's start with you doug brinkley. in terms of what robert kennedy said there, the real legacy may be he's a man of peace during a time of great conflict. is that a fair analysis? >> he was a man of peace, but he was a cold war hawk. i think his legacy is something like the space program here at my university, rice university,
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kennedy came in '62 and said we'll put a man on the moon at the end of the decade and did it and he framed it in a sense of exploration and science of moving people to do things. he is a server of the peace corps and the things he did with the government is positive and in the '60s and vietnam comes people start disliking their government. but kennedy was an inspirational president of the 20th century. >> robert dally, do you go along with that, particularly in relation to vietnam, where kennedy started the american troop involvement there. again, robert kennedy suggesting he wanted to pull the troops out, but obviously that didn't happen. it got dramatically worse. was he a villain or potentially trying to be the hero of this war by stopping it before it happened? >> piers, we'll never know exactly what he would have done. he didn't know himself, but it's clear to me from having read a mass of documents that he had no
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desire to put ground troops in vietnam. he never would have done i think what lyndon johnson did. he had a conversation with the secretary of state who said when you put 200,000, 300,000 men on the ground in the jungles of vietnam, you'll never see or hear from them again. he said george, you're crazy as hell meaning he wasn't going to do that. your point about a man of peace, his greatest accomplishment, which i played out in this current book was resisting the temptation, the pressure to think about using nuclear weapons. he said at one point to someone privately, i'd rather my kids be red than dead. never could say that publicly, but he was determined not to get into a nuclear conflict and i think that was in many ways his greatest achievement. >> james swanson, let's talk about conspiracy because everybody else will be in the next ten days or so and have been for 50 years. do you subscribe to any of the conspiracy theories? >> no, i don't, piers.
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my book on the assassination mentions them, because of course, you can't not consider them. i read them all. i own the books. to this day, 50 years later, the evidence points to lee harvey oswald. no one has disproved the central conclusion of the warren commission. it was oswald. he fired the three shots in the plaza and killed john kennedy. that's what we know. we know more than the warren commission. they made many mistakes but they were right about that central conclusion. it really was lee harvey oswald. he did it because he wanted us to remember him. we do, we're fascinated to him through this day. oswalt would be thrilled to know we're obsessed with him and the conspiracy theories. >> doug brinkley, do you concur? >> yeah, i largely concur. i think the warren commission got an awful lot right. we point out shortcomings but came out in 1964.
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you go through all of that, you realize they ready much got right, about 90% of their story. there is no-the grassy knolls myth, what's making it complex is oswald's biography, the fact that he had spent time in the soviet union, the fact that he was grappling with cuba. many people don't want to face the fact that maybe a misfit, a really bad, evil guy committed a crime. you've been covering all these shootings, piers, you know all these crazy people with guns. lee harvey oswald was one of them. >> yeah. let's take a short break. when we come back, gentlemen, i want to talk about kennedy's legacy as a president, whether he was a great president or somebody cut off in his prime on the potential of becoming a great president.
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looking back at president kennedy's legacy. back with me now, james swanson, douglas brinkley and robert dahling. where does he rank in the pantheon of american presidents. some people think he was an untouchable genius, brilliant president. others think there was a
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sinister dark side that was all going to unravel and he wouldn't have been remembered as a great president. where do you lie? >> i think he was not a great president. he was there for only 1,000 days, sixth briefest presidency in the country's history. but i think he certainly was a significant president. he broke the hold of white protestant males on the office, first catholic to win the office. one could see a direct line from him to barack obama. when we get a woman as president i think you can see a direct line to that, as well. he put across that nuclear test ban treaty which was a major advance. he also put that civil rights bill before the congress, and he was taking a big political chance. he and bobby kennedy were convinced that it risked his re-election in 1964. and the peace speech at american university in june of '63, it was a great state paper. i think if he had lived and had
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a second term we would have seen detente with the soviet union sooner than it occurred under richard nixon. >> james swanson, i think the impact of him globally and his death. my mother was 18 when he died. she remembers spontaneously bursting into tears because he radiated such excitement and hope and inspiration with these great speeches and great rhetoric and he was handsome and young and vibrant. do we miss that part of his legacy when we discuss kennedy? is that not in itself a mark of a great president that he can affect people so much around the world? >> exactly, piers. kennedy's greatness, which exists, almost doesn't depend on this deed or that act or that particular speech. here is why he was great.
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john kennedy was an american patriot who believed in american exceptionalism and greatness. he believed that america had a special role in the world. he loved american history. he studied it since he was a little boy. that's the core of his greatness, that he could inspire people to do great things. the space program was a classic example. when he said, we'll send a man to the moon before the decade is out, we'll do it -- rockets made of materials not yet even invented. he'll come back with temperatures hotter than the sun and we'll do it first and we'll do it right. that's the core of his greatness, his ability to inspire people. when he died, jackie kennedy was asked what did his life mean. on the one-year anniversary of jfk's death she said think of him as this little boy sick most of the time in bed reading stories of american heroes and american history. and maybe that will inspire other children to be like him. then she said, this is what my husband really stood for. john kennedy believed that the purpose of life was not to enjoy luxury and have an easy life. he believed the purpose of life was to serve others and serve your country. she said, at the core, this is what my husband stood for. that one man can make a difference, and that every man should try. that's the true source of jfk's greatness, his ability to inspire the nation to do great things and undertake great projects.
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>> doug brinkley, he would have been 96 years old, doug brinkley, if he'd lived to today. would he have survived being the kind of president a man that he was in the modern media environment? >> it would have been quite difficult. bus kennedy has the advantage in history. we're all getting older. all your viewers. but john f. kennedy is always the handsome, statesman president, gunned down in his prime. so the cult of kennedy's going to be with us forever. the whole world is watching this 50th anniversary right now because he's somebody they cared about. there are only a few presidents that people get that emotive about in 20th century theodore roosevelt, fdr, ronald reagan and john f. kennedy. maybe harry truman was a better president but he didn't have
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that public appeal the way that kennedy did. the fact that the berlin wall goes up and a lot of people told kennedy to go to war and bulldoze it down. instead he went at the wall and gave that extraordinary speech there. and to point out that totalitarianism is what's wrong, america is about opportunity. his speeches live in the annals of public oratory. >> in summary what do we say about john f. kennedy? ten days or so until the anniversary itself. how should he be remembered? >> he should be remembered as a significant, important president. but you see what gives him so much of a powerful hold on the current generation is the fact that people don't like his successors. lyndon johnson, the failure in vietnam. nixon watergate, ford, carter. the two bushes. kennedy alongside of them has a halo over his head. >> he certainly does. i've got to leave it there. sorry to interrupt. it's been a fascinating debate, fascinating show in many ways to meet these people. been quite surreal, the surgeons and those who witnessed it all and to talk to you guys about the historical perspective has been fascinating. thank you all very much indeed. tomorrow a cnn special" the
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assassination of jfk" how those tragic events changed america. that's all for us tonight. anderson cooper reports now live from the philippines. good evening, everyone. i'm anderson cooper reporting tonight from tacloban in the philippines. it is thursday morning here, 9:00 a.m. and a new day has begun. in the last several hours there have been some significant developments to tell you about. yesterday i talked to the marine brigadier general paul kennedy who promised he would be able to get this airport, the runway, up and running on a 24-hour basis.

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