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tv   History Bookshelf Dean Owen November 22 1963 Scott Farris Kennedy...  CSPAN  December 1, 2019 8:00am-9:06am EST

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and scott faris. author of "kennedy and reagan." why their legacies endure. we recorded their remarks 50 years after the j.f.k. assassination. [applause] >> thank you, renee. and thank you to powell's books in beaverton, oregon for hosting scott and myself. it's an honor to be here this evening. how many of you here this evening, who are 60 years or older, do not remember where you were when you heard the news that john f. kennedy had ied?
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how many of you are between the ages of 20 and 60, who do not remember where you were when you heard about the tragedy of 9/11? udden, traumatic, unexpected events leave indelible images in our mind and in our psychies. on november s old 22, 1963. i was in the second grade, in a city called hayward, california. and the older sister of a girl in my class came to the door -- because it was raining outside and we couldn't go out for recess -- and said the president had been killed. of course, i didn't believe her. later that day, i went home, across the street to where my grandmother lived. i saw my mother and grandmother watching television and i knew it was real. that weekend, i read everything i could and watched everything i could on television about this extraordinary event. and that was the weekend that
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was the catalyst for my fascination, my wife would say obsession, with how the news media shape public opinion. in december of 2010, i turned 55 and started wondering, what do i want people to remember me for? what's my legacy? i realized everyone has two legacies, a personal and a professional one. i've been married to the same woman for 31 years. it's because of her, i'm a christian. we have two incredible daughters and a wonderful son-in-law. so that box, the personal legacy, is checked. i started thinking about, well, what about my professional one? i decided to go back to that weekend in 1963. i like to talk to people, so i made a list of 100 people i wanted to ask about john kennedy and picked up the phone. and started calling. over the next two and a half years, i talked to 100 people, not the original 100 from the list but many of them. the first two i tried and tried and tried to get but couldn't.
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those were fidel castro and ill clinton. vera's talked to che gu widow to try to get to fidel but was turned down. the third was the woman who wound up writing the forward. he passed away in julie. n fact, -- passed away in july. in fact, she's one of 10 people in my book who have passed away since i interviewed them. i want to show you a brief slide show about 90 people in the book and some of their reflections on john kennedy. afterwards, i'll come back for a few minutes and then scott will come up and speak. >> and i suppose i am a tourist in that 24 hours. >> i think that i, you know, became more realistic as a ournalist and saw the larger screen probably and the consequences of daring action
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and the evil that can come even to america. so i do think it was a seminole time for me. the television set was, if you will, the centrifuge for the country. everybody drew from it in some fashion. i think his legacy was, in the boldness of his rhetoric and declaration. >> i met him as a young high school student. i was visiting my father at the united states capitol. and he and my father were talking. a photographer took a picture of me taking a picture of the two of then. he would spend time at the white house, sitting in his president's rocking chair, talking politics and sipping whiskey. they talked about running
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gainst each other. and decided that instead of wasting a lot of money, they would travel around together and stop at different towns and cities and debate each other. and it would have been very entertaining and would have set a high standard for future campaigns. they ought to be doing that today. >> as time went on, in the months, not the years, the months before he was killed, he had begun to shift direction a bit. and you could see him becoming a different person. he watched the pictures of oung people being hosed, fire-hosed in the streets of birmingham and he told onlookers, he said, this makes me sick. it must have had that effect on everybody or most people who saw it. but, you know, for him to feel that way and say that means he was moved by it and it shifted him.
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>> as a huge enthusiast -- in fact i recently found, and then, of course, you find something, when you're going through your stuff, my notebook from the period, which contained all my material, had a very carefully hand lettered "kennedy for president" message on it. in the conservative world, there are a lot of people -- it's become almost commonplace to suggest that john kennedy would be a republican today, because he was pro tax cuts. he clearly was pro business. and because of the support for a strong defense, a strong foreign policy. >> when j.f.k. jr. was born, the chief of the anesthesia department held him up by the ankles and slapped his buttocks. after doing this for several
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minutes, the infant became blue in color. i told him the baby needed to be intubated. he handed the baby to me and i passed a tube into the trachea of the baby. i then handed the infant back to him to breathe into the baby, since he was the chief of anesthesia. however, he was a bit nervous and knocked the tube out. i then grabbed the baby back, reinserted the tube. and for about six minutes breathed air into the lungs of the baby. after i left the delivery room, one of the reporters asked me the sex of the baby and i replied, i could not give out any information. and that he'd have to talk to pierre salinger, president kennedy's press secretary. it was later written in the paper that a young doctor came out of the delivery room and did not know the sex of the baby. >> it was really good weather.
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and he came in and sat in my station. there were three of them with him. and he looked up at me. and he says, do you mind having your picture made with me? and i told him i was -- i was pouring that coffee and i said, it's my pleasure. when i said, it's my pleasure, he just busted out laughing. i guess because of the -- we talked kind of south-like. and he did. he just started laughing. ha ha! and that's when they snapped the picture. someone came in the restaurant and told us that he had been shot. and i just bawled. i cried and i cried. and i still cry. that was the only president that i really loved.
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>> it was a very -- it was a eminole film for me, because of the attention it got and because of the respect that kennedy had garnered from the american public. and after we'd finished, i got a call from the white house, asking me if -- would i like to come back and meet the president. so i went down to washington. arrived two hours early. i wasn't about to be late. so i was honored. he had an innate ability to make you feel very comfortable. it was surprising, because all of a sudden, a door opened behind me. and the voice, hi, cliff. just as casual as that. he knew people that i knew. >> right. >> so wasn't like we were complete strangers.
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but anyway, he said, well -- he said very nice things. he couldn't have been more generous and more helpful. >> jack kennedy figured out how to use television. >> yes, he did. >> i've always had this theory that the most successful politicians are the ones who mastered the dominant media, a medium of their time. i mean, kennedy came along. and he had this great wit and verve. and he was so good that he -- it changed the presidency forever. i still think nobody has quite mastered it the way he did. it's hard to say anybody was better on television than ronald reagan. he was very, very good. but i still think that kennedy was the one -- i mean, he could do the interview. he could do the press
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conference. he could make the speech. and he was just all-around better at it. i think he set a style and he set a tone for the presidency. he brought glamour to the presidency. e made a lot of young people want to take part in public service and serve their country. > doing the interviews for this book, "november 22, 1963: reflections on the life, assassination, and legacy of john f. kennedy," for me, it was a labor of love. in addition to contacting people whose names you know, walter mondale, billy graham, tom brokaw, i also wanted to find people who had interesting, funny or poignant encounters with john kennedy but who aren't very well-known, people like priscilla johnson mcmillan,
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not a household name, but probably the only person who ever lived, who knew both john kennedy and lee harvey oswald. there's only one. people like dr. ira cyler, whom you saw there, a second-year pediatric resident who happened to be in the delivery room when john f. kennedy jr. was born, not breathing. and who saved his life. and another gentleman, whom i admire very, very much, as many of you may know, the kennedys had a second son, born in august of 1963, patrick kennedy. he lived only 40 hours. the surgeon who tried to save his life for 30 of those hours had never spoken publicly about this incident ever before. he gave me his first-ever interview. i told people i would not ask them any questions about john kennedy's sex life or assassination conspiracy theories. more than enough has been written about both and people
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were very appreciative of that aspect. there are two or three family members who are in the book, ncluding a nephew, christopher kennedy lawford. he is an actor, a filmmaker and an author on various books on addictions. he lives in southern california. i'd contacted him and said what i wanted to do and like the other people i sought after, i mailed him a letter. i made sure that the first thing he opened when he saw that letter was a photo of him that i'd found at the kennedy library in boston, a photo taken just after his uncle was awarded the nomination in 1960. so i called him a week later and i said, did you get the letter? yes. where did you get that photograph? i've never seen it before. will you send media copy? i said, will you do an interview? he said, yes. and i said yes. that's how i got one of the
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two nephews of john kennedy. the other is robert kennedy jr. so, again, this was a labor of love. and frankly, i'm still pinching myself that it all really happened, because it was so much fun, so interesting. i met only just a few of the people whom i interviewed in person. but i've developed some friendships that i know will last many, many years. so i'm going to turn it over now to scott farris to talk about his second book, and then we'll take questions from all of you. thank you very much. [applause] > thank you, dean. i would also join dean in thanking powell's in beaverton for hosting us tonight. i thank all of you for coming out. i thank c-span as well, who are here tonight to record this. so it's a great evening. the shooting of a president, a sitting president, is rare and traumatic.
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five sitting presidents have been shot. ford, lincoln, garfield, and kennedy. and kennedy died. and one, reagan, survived his wounds. despite these different outcomes, the shootings of kennedy and reagan have multiple similarities and viewed on a timeline, they serve as a sort of book end to a very tumultuous and sometimes disturbing period in american history. kennedy's murder was the first in a series of tragic events that dismayed the nation in the 1960's and 70's. shocking incidents that included the assassinations of martin luther king jr. and robert kennedy, both in 1968. in the public consciousness, even though the killers each had different motives, the murders are seldom considered nrelated acts. as a instead viewed
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conspiracy. conversely, less than two months after reagan's shooting and survival, pope john paul ii also survived an assassination attempt likely approved if not orchestrated by the kgb. it seemed as if the world's luck had suddenly changed, for the better. unlike lincoln, who was killed at the pinnacle of his presidency, the very week of the union victory in the civil war, neither kennedy's nor reagan's shooting occurred at a key moment in american history but both became a key event in our national life. the assassination of kennedy and the near assassination of reagan profoundly shaped how we view each man. without these shootings, neither may have been considered a successful president let alone great ones. the idea for my book, "kennedy and reagan: why their legacies endure," sprang from a news story that i read in february 2011 in which gallup announced that americans consider kennedy and reagan our two greatest presidents. they sometimes shared this with lincoln but they were
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onsistently ranked above washington, jefferson, lincoln and everybody else. this is not, by the way, the judgment of most historians. there are a few historians that rank one or the other man as great or near great and some consider one or the other below average or even worse. but collectively surveys show that most believe kennedy and reagan were average presidents who had some significant achievements but also a number of failures. but i was interested in the public perception and what especially fascinated me is that their popularity is growing and now seems bipartisan. 85% of americans surveyed today believe kennedy did a good job as president, while reagan's approval rating is 74%. to get these high numbers, kennedy, the liberal icons, must have many republican admirers, and reagan, the conservative icon, must have many democratic ones. they clearly each possess some qualities that continue to resonate with americans and this has caught the attention
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to those most attuned to public opinion. every presidential election cycle, we hear republicans search for the next reagan, while democrats look for someone who can rekindle kennedy's camelot. prospective candidates go to considerable lengths to show they are worthy of inheriting one or the other man's mantle, in ways substantive and trivial, from policies to haircuts, from their eloquence to their optimism. my book, the first dual biography of both men, uncovers some surprising parallels in both men's lives and their policies, which may dismay some people, as well as key differences that continue to define what separates our two major parties today. i hope you'll read the book to discover more about those surprising similarities. tonight i want to briefly discuss how they became larger than life in a way that no politician would want to emulate. they both were shot. we need to recall that kennedy's murder in dallas on
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november 22, 1963 and reagan's wounding in washington, d.c. on march 30, 1981, both occurred at moments when each man's presidencies seemed adrift, even flailing. the passage of each man's legislative agenda in congress was far from guaranteed. in fact, in each case, their agendas were languishing in congress. each shooting then provided the impetus for creating their legacies. kennedy's camelot and reagan's revolution. in the fall of 1963, kennedy's job approval rating had dropped to 56%. the lowest point of his presidency. and it seemed destined to fall even more. much of this was from his loss of white support in the south over the issue of civil rights. but generally the nation seemed stalled. kennedy had not won even 50% of the popular vote in 1960 and was sure he'd lose the entire south in 1964, a region had carried in 1960. and he worried many other states were at risk as well. look magazine was just one of
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many publications that ran articles in the fall of 1963 that explained kennedy could lose his re-election bid. kennedy's entire legislative package in congress, not just civil rights but also proposals for tax cuts, health insurance for the elderly, federal funding for education, foreign aid and just routine appropriations were stalled and going nowhere. in words that will seem too familiar today, the columnist worried that congressional dysfunction in 1963 seemed a grave danger to the republic. and kennedy had no immediate plans for breaking through that impasse. so much of what we recall as the kennedy legacy, especially the civil rights act of 1964, the tax cuts some credit with the economic boom of the 1960's and the commitment to ending poverty in america all occurred when lyndon b. johnson was president but all were justified in large measure as memorials to kennedy, the martyred president. ad kennedy lived, it is
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conceivable much of his legacy would never have occurred. perhaps it might have come later but it is an open question which direction the civil rights movement might have gone had that legislation been further delayed. activists were already moving away from nonviolence. even martin luther king in his speech at the lincoln memorial, in an of this overlooked passage, warned that america would be in for a rude awakening if there were no strong actions taken soon to readdress the grievances of african-americans. it was the tragedy of kennedy's assassination that was the rude awakening that finally prompted congress to act. kennedy had been president for two years and 10 months when he was assassinated. reagan had been president barely 10 weeks when he was shot, but he was in a situation similar to where kennedy many nearly 20 years before. like kennedy, reagan had not won a great mandate in his first election to the oval
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office. reagan had won just 50.75% of the popular vote and only 11% of voters said they voted for reagan because they agreed with his conservative principles. 38% said they voted for him just because he was not jimmy carter. vote ts held a 53 leadership in the house. the speaker, tipp o'neal, and jim wright were confident they could thwart the president's plans for massive reductions in income tax rates which they believe unfairly benefited the rich. reagan's job approval rating was 59%, the lowest of any president at such an early point in his presidency, and on the very day he was shot, evans and novak had a syndicated column publish that was headlined, the reagan honeymoon is truly over. but the month after reagan was ot by a deranged young man outside a washington, d.c. o'neal and wright
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conceded the democratic-controlled house would have no choice but to pass reagan's tax agenda. the shooting had made him too great a hero with the public to refuse his requests. reagan had displayed what kennedy himself, quoting hemingway, had defined as courage. grace under pressure. most americans did not realize and still do not realize how close reagan came to dying. he lost more than half of his blood and the bullet that entered his chest came within an inch of his 70-year-old heart. he had george washington university hospital waiting for the surgery that would save his life. reagan joked to his wife, honey, i forgot to duck. he kidded with his surgeons that he hoped they were all republicans. asked how he felt, he quoted w.c. fields and said on the whole, i'd rather be in philadelphia. even when he lost his wife, when a tracheotomy tube was inserted into his throat, he scribbled notes to the doctors and nurses, writing if i had this much attention if hollywood, i'd have stayed there. and when he was assured he should relax, the government was running fine without him, he said, what makes you think i'd be happy to hear that? now, democrats would continue to contest other reagan
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proposals, in part by asserting he was insensitive to the less fortunate but they had a difficult time making uch charges stick. as a "washington post" columnist wrote, as long as people remember the hospitalized president joshing his doctors and jors nurses, no critic will be able to portray him as a heartless man. reagan had personified what we think of as the finest qualities of the american character. with kennedy's assassination at, fell to his widow, jaclyn. there are many reasons why kennedy's assassination was such a traumatic event. while much of the kennedys' legend is about what might have been, he did in fact inspire many americans with such accomplishments as founding of the peace corps initiating the moon landing and avoiding the nuclear war during the cuban missile crisis. it was also because satellite technology had become newly available only months before the assassination. his assassination also became the first globally shared news
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event in american history. -- human history. i have come to the conclusion that a key reason the assassination hit americans at such a deeply personal level was the presence and conduct of jackie kennedy. that she was even in dallas that day was an anomaly. the trip to texas was the first time since the 1960 election that mrs. kennedy had joined her husband on a olitical trip. in fact, since 1960 she had not been west of middleburg, virginia, where the kennedys had a horse country estate. so when it was announced that mrs. kennedy, who was still recovering from the loss of an infant son, that she would accompany j.f.k. to texas, it was big news. present at the tragic event, he became even more so the focal point of all coverage. neilson estimated that the average american family watched 32 hours of coverage of the assassination and funeral. and this in the days when
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television channels went off the air at midnight. their eyes were focused on the grieving first widow. a survey of college students found that attention to mrs. kennedy's actions and deportment bordered on the obsessive and her deportment was extraordinary. the most powerful images were of mrs. kennedy's expression of ineffable tragedy, first in her blood-spattered pink dress and matching pillbox hat, and later, dressed all in black, her beautiful sad face framed by a mourning vail, her two children in each hand. mrs. kennedy worried that her husband's murder lacked meaning. told that her husband had been killed by a deranged young man who jackie referred to as some silly communist, she wished she had been martyred for the cause of civil rights or something noble. despite a marriage that was often unhappy, jackie became
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determined to invest her husband's death with meaning. she directed the arrangements so that they mimicked lincoln's funeral of a century before, consciously linking her husband to the great emancipator. it was she who came one the idea of the eternal flame to mark her husband's grave, then the conceit of her husband's presidency as a modern day camelot. the image stuck and changed the popular view of her husband from that of a young, vital, flawed contemporary human politician burdened by missteps into an ageless sage whose survival we believe would have ensured an american golden age. jackie took what had been a day of national shame and instead restored the country's pride by showing that grief could be borne with extraordinary grace and resolve. the poet wrote that mrs. kennedy had made the darkest days the american people have known in 100 years the deepest revelation of their inward strength. lady jane campbell said mrs. kennedy's poise and dignity had given the american people,
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from this day on, the one thing they always lacked. majesty. frank sinatra said jackie had ecome america's queen. there was the muffled drums but the 34-year-old jackie also made the funeral seem personal. a reminder that not just a president had been killed but also a young family had been felled by a tragedy and two hildren left fatherless. a typical sentiment, tacked to a new york city newsstand, closed because of a death in the american family. by the time almost 6-year-old caroline was heard consoling her mother, you'll be all right, mommy, don't cry, i'll take care of you, and we watched 2-year-old john jr. saluting his father's coffin. 80% of americans said they felt they personally lost someone close and dear. grief over the assassination caused some physical discomfort. the sense of personal grief is captured in the famous exchange when mary mcgroi told
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dinner guests the day after the assassination, we'll never laugh again, to which one of her guests, kennedy aide patrick moynihan replied, oh, we'll laugh again, mary, but we'll never be young again. mrs. kennedy's dignity generated many classical illusions. her possibility in represented ll of the hero's widows. cbs news man dan rather predicted kennedy's assassination will still be discussed a thousand years from now in somewhat the same way people discuss the iliad. none of us will live long enough to know whether that prediction will come true. but here we are, 50 years later, still discussing that dark friday afternoon but perhaps we still have not fully grasped its ramifications. thank you. [applause] >> so we would love to take some questions and answers. before we do, let me remind you, we are being filmed for c-span.
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they have a nice boom mic here. so we're going to call on you as you raise your hands. you can direct it to both of us or one of us, but be cognizant of the microphone being near you. yes, sir. yes, sir? >> both dean and scott -- if president kennedy had not been assassinated, do you think his legacy would have been lesser or greater? >> i don't think it could have been greater. think it say lesser. would have been a failure. i don't think it would have been. but the fact that he died and was assassinated, it allowed people to project whatever they wanted on him. when you're in office, you have to make choices every day that some people are not going to like no matter what you do. all of these things that happen later -- that would not have happened. he was a human being. he might have had a very successful term. he might have grown into a president that would have been great or near great.
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but you cannot expand on his legacy. because he was martyred. >> very well stated, scott. i would argue his assassination is part of his legacy and a s scott said, his widow had very intentional effort to make sure people remembered her husband the way that she wanted, the whole camelot mystique. >> another question? don't be shy. the lovely lady back there. >> president kennedy did not have a particularly happy marriage though. it seemed like they did at the time. what led you to that conclusion? >> thank you for that question. let me borrow a line from a biographer. he said, the romance about jack
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and jackie was about them, not between them. unfortunately, i think that was sadly true. there was an attraction. she was lovely, he was handsome, they were both educated. but their marriage was a marriage of convenience. jack kennedy was a renowned, happy bachelor. but he realized he could not run for president if he did not have a wife. we had a number of widowers who ran for president. only one bachelor, james , and he faced constant innuendo about his sexuality. he was looking for beautiful, intelligent, cultured wife. ills thought that he picked someone who would
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tolerate his many affairs. she needed the money. she had a father who had been a philanderer and she believed that men were kind of this way and she would deal with that. but her father -- who she adored , absolutely adored -- and they called him blackjack, had lost his fortune in the 1930's. so she had grown up used to a very nice lifestyle and that was gone and her stepfather made it very clear he was not going to support his children. he had his own children. they had to make their way in the world. so when jackie met jack kennedy she was working as a reporter for "the washington times herald." she was making $4.52 a week and that was literally her whole income. for a woman who like to french fashion, french cuisine, and the finer things in life she envisioned for herself. they married each other for convenience. jack continued his philandering ways. he often left her home alone. she seldom traveled with him, before or after he became president. i think there were two things that started to make them a little closer.
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first, the trip to paris in 1961. jackie took paris by storm. she spoke french. she loved french designers. the welcome she received really impressed her husband. made him realize, i really hit a home run when i picked this woman. he started to appreciate her many virtues. and second, the death of their infant son patrick, who was born and prematurely died in august 1963. there was a tenderness there that had been missing in their marriage. jackie lost the first child, but -- a little girl she called arabella, but president kennedy, then senator kennedy, was off on a cruise. he was having a very good time with several women and friends. he did not even go home when he heard about her miscarriage. he started out callous, and by 1963 developed tenderness. i would like to think the last
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part of the marriage was much happier than it had been before. >> i would just add that in particular, on that point about the death of their infant son, i would refer you to thurston clark's book "jfk's last 100 days," where he talks about that extensively and it changed his view of his marriage, his view of his lifestyle, and brought the family closer together. more questions please? >> what was joe kennedy so -- what was he so interested in having john kennedy or the older brother run for president? >> i can start and you can finish. >> sure. >> joe kennedy, i think, himself wanted to be president and became, as you probably know, the ambassador to england
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during frequent roosevelt's administration and later fell out of favor with roosevelt because of his tacit support, if not flat-out opposition, two at hitler and his rise in germany. he was grooming his oldest son, joseph kennedy junior, to be running for president, and of course, he died in an airplane during world war ii over what was deemed a suicide bombing mission. so, the mantle of the expectation to become president fell to jack kennedy. the father, really, from what i have read, he was an extraordinarily controlling individual.
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and to give you an example -- in the book, a first amendment specialist, worked as a journalist, also worked in the kennedy administration on for robert kennedy -- talks about how he was present when president-elect kennedy had breakfast with his brother to try to convince the brother to become attorney general. the brother robert had the day before gone to visit several political people in washington -- couple members of the u.s. supreme court, j edgar hoover and others. hoover was the only one who encouraged robert kennedy to assume the role as attorney general, and the next day, he asked his friend to accompany him to the president-elect's home to have breakfast. on the drive there from mclean,
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virginia to the kennedys' home in washington, he knew he did not want to take the job. he knew, he said, his father was going to be really, really angry. because his father wanted robert to become attorney general. in that morning over breakfast, jack kennedy would have nothing of his brother's opposition. he wanted him to be attorney general. i think largely because of his own interest to have an insider he could trust completely for advice and counsel, but also, i think, to some extent due to pressure from his father. >> joe kennedy senior was quite a character. he was 25, he was a bank president. he had a lot on the ball. he was very bitter he was never fully accepted in boston society because he was irish catholic. there was a great divide in boston.
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it was his goal in life to get revenge by, if not becoming president himself, getting one of his kids to be the first catholic president of the united states. joe kennedy junior, doris kearns goodwin describes him as the golden child. he was talking a handsome, good student, good athlete. kathleen kennedy said it was heresy in the kennedy family to suggest there was anything jack could do better than his brother joe. it was a tremendous tragedy when joe died because of all of the fans -- all of the hopes invested in joe kennedy. they were not sure that they would transfer those over to jack kennedy. he was shy and reserved. or they thought he was. sometimes parents do not know the kids as well as they think they do. reagan's older brother neil,
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taller, more handsome, more leadership -- when john kennedy and ronald reagan were young, no one thought they would be president, not like bill clinton in kindergarten with a said, this guy is going to the white house. -- where they said, this guy is going to the white house. there was that interesting parallel. the one of the irish catholic president, the ultimate coming of the nose at the snobs back in boston. g of the nose at the snobs back in boston. here we go. >> how did the president avoid the full consequences of iran contra and how does it not contaminate his legacy? >> very interesting question. one of the things you learn when writing the book, and i don't need to be condescending, is how intelligent ronald reagan was.
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he was obviously very bright. he taught himself to read by the age of five. he was one of the most popular sportscasters in america, broadcast hundreds of baseball games he never saw in person. he would be in the radio studio in the telegraph would send him a sentence, two or three letters and he would make up the rest of the game and broadcast it for two or three hours and that requires a special kind of intelligence i can't grasp. but he liked to play -- like he was not quite up on things. if he was in trouble, he would pretend, i don't remember that. i just don't know. when iran contra came up -- and a lot of liberals underestimated ronald reagan. they always thought he was an
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amiable dunce. he may have been amiable, but he was no dunce. he used that image. when he got to iran contra, he played, i don't recall. and everybody because of this image believed him. oliver north later said, when he was no longer under oath, president reagan knew everything. because when president reagan cared about something he was intimately involved in the details. he cared a lot about iran. he cared about getting the hostages out. he cared about arming the contras. it was partly because it was near the end of his presidency but partly people did not believe he knew anything. so, the question -- i'm sorry? >> [indiscernible] >> right. and i think at that point, the question is why does it not still turn issues legacy even though the truth has come out?
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its after-the-fact. it's extremely hard in public opinion to change an image. maybe he knew, maybe you didn't, but it's over. also there is the summit of gorbachev that completely overshadow everything else. the thawing of the relationship between the u.s. and the soviet union is really what he is remembered for. iran contra is an embarrassment, but really not more than that. yes? >> robert kennedy, the reason for him being assassinated along with his brother, was it because he clamped down on the mob, and his father paid the mob and this was the payoff for his brother and him? was that the motive behind all this? his father did pay a lot of money to have the union and the mob vote him in. john kennedy. >> there is so much speculation about why each man was assassinated.
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there have been extraordinary rumors beyond belief about the motives of the alleged assassins and we just don't know. we never fully will know, especially, i think about president kennedy's assassination. even if it was announced next week that this is the definitive word on who was behind president kennedy's assassination, there would be immediate speculation -- it really was the grassy knoll, it really was the person from the tall old red building. i was in dallas in august to do research on an article for "the los angeles time." you meet people on the street who claim to have been there. they probably weren't.
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who claimed that were seven or eight different shooters that day. robert kennedy, i think it's a little more cut and dried that the individual accused of his assassination, who was tried and sentenced to prison, sirhan sirhan, did it. we just don't know. and i don't care to speculate on things i don't know about. >> i recommend a book by vincent bugliosi. it's called "reclaiming history." he used to be the l.a. county district attorney. he takes every conspiracy theory on john's assassination and comes to the conclusion that frankly i come to an i am not going to expressing any expertise, that it was probably a lone gunman, lee harvey oswald. they were both shot by a deranged men. one was 23 years old, one was 24. both loners. both tried to assassinate other
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famous people. also world had tried to -- oswald had tried to shoot a famous general. hinckley had actually stalked jimmy carter for a while. kennedy is the liberal icon. the guy who likes civil rights. the guy on the left. he was shot by a self-avowed marxist. reagan, the conservative, the guy who -- a guy who thinks that civil rights have gone too far -- he is shot by a self-avowed white supremacist. it does not make sense. but if you look at the bottom line, but they were both very troubled young men. it's just hard to accept -- there's a book on lincoln that says it's hard to believe that a peasant can kill a king. we look for a bigger reason than that. >> what is the best prevention all -- professional opinion about how had kennedy's life --
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bad kennedy' is life was at his death and now it may have affected his presidency. -- affected the rest of his presidency? >> i will start. his health condition was serious. probably the worst thing he had was addison's disease. it is still not cured entirely. it was first diagnosed in 1947. they told him he would probably live another 10 years. he began to believe anything beyond 1957, he was living on borrowed time. that was part of the reason he always seemed to be in a hurry. he did not know if he was going to live. had many, many health problems. add back, asthma. he took medications that complicated his health. potentially he would've died of natural causes had he not been
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assassinated. it was pretty serious and it was a constant concern. his brother robert had there was not a day on earth when his brother was not in severe physical pain and that seems to be true. >> let me read you something -- the doctor saying that kennedy said -- kennedy probably only had 10 years to live. this is commentary from eb -- from lee white, one of kennedy's closest advisers in the white house, the also worked for john kennedy in the u.s. senate. "john kennedy did not go peacefully over that little hope ump of turning 40. i remember the event even today. sometimes we joke or make gags about turning 40, but he was not joking. i don't know quite why, but i know damn well he was not happy. i was not aware, as others were, about his medical and physical
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problems. he might have thought, wow, i have been going uphill and no i am going to be going downhill, but it was a rude awakening, especially for a hot dog like he was." >> scott, you mentioned at the time of kennedy's assassination, his support in the south is eroding. i have always wondered if the reason he was not more aggressive from civil rights was the fear of losing support among southern democrats. how much credit should he be given for keying up civil rights initiatives that followed his presidency? >> i think he gets a fair amount of credit. for one thing, he was really in love with foreign affairs and he worried that civil rights ministrations would --
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demonstrations would embarrass the u.s. instead of being mad at the white supremacists, he was mad at the demonstrators, the freedom riders. congress was controlled by a coalition of conservative democrats from the south, conservative republicans from the midwest. you're right. he did not want to lose support from the white south. and of course, he was hoping the civil rights movement was dissipating. thinking, they are happy, we will have quiet time and i can focus on the cold war and what to do with vietnam, etc. and then in the spring of 1963, several things happened, the
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most egregious being demonstrations in vietnam. -- in birmingham. they were trying to get them to integrate at lunch counters, transportation. no progress was been made. marlin decaying and other leaders played the last card they had, which was asked 1000 black schoolchildren, some as young as six, is to start -- to start eating the marches. they brought out the police dogs and the fire hoses. lyndon johnson went to them and said, mr. johnson, it's time for you to do something on civil rights. we think of lyndon johnson as a southerner -- he was far more progressive on race. that was partly because lyndon johnson's wife was teaching in segregated schools. he said you need to put the moral authority of the presidency behind this. and unlike the situations in mississippi, there were not riots that kill people. george wallace made a big show, but stepped aside. kennedy said, i want to go on tv and propose the civil rights legislation. the speech was being written as he was on live tv and they were handing them sheets of paper. at that point he said, this is a
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moral issue as clear as the constitution, as old as the scriptures. that was important turning point, but it did take him a while. >> question? >> yes, ma'am. wait until the microphone gets there. thank you for your patience. >> dean, i was struck by your memories of kennedy's assassination. did you interview other people who were children when it happened? dean: oh, gosh, yes. i interviewed several people and their comments about how it affected their families were also very poignant. as scott mentioned, it really --
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people today, young people today can't fathom what it was like that weekend. there was nothing else on television. stores closed. people did not go out of their homes are they went to other people's homes to watch the coverage, and then on sunday morning, i am sitting in front of my parents television and i see a man get shot live on television. but it never happened before in the history of this country. brokaw mentioned during the slideshow, television was the centrifuge for the country, what we all drew from it in some way. it was an extraordinary event, far beyond -- as bugliosi says in his book "reclaiming history" --far beyond what happened with the september 11 attacks. tragically, more than 2000
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people died that day, but very few people knew who they were. as scott mentioned, kennedy's assassination was a death in the family. it was that moving. it was that tragic. it impacted everyone. for me at age seven, it was the catalyst for my career in journalism and communications. >> i was six years old. i was in first grade. i was in wyoming. i remember the principal coming on the loudspeaker. they said, children, i am going to send you back home. the president has been shot. i realized it was a really big deal on saturday when there were no cartoons. you can see the caisson, the project coffin.
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i was fascinated by the riderless horse with the boots backward and no. when you're six years old, boy, that is something. caroline was roughly our age. so, if you were a kid, you could identify with -- kids were on tv. i think it did have a strong impact on children of a certain age who can remember. it was unique. >> there are 37 images in my book, five of which have never before been seen publicly. but my favorite images not a photograph. it's a drawing. it's a drawing by the son of robert mcnamara, who was a playmate of john junior and caroline. and john drew pictures for his friend, young miss -- young mr. mcnamara and dictated a letter to him that his mother wrote in
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the picture is particularly poignant, the illustration because john junior drew his favorite thing. airplanes. and of course, years later, he died in an airplane crash. that was very moving to me. do you have a question? >> so, with all of the interviews you have done and the research, both of you, what was the most shocking or surprising with reagan's intelligence, but could maybe both of you share something that you were shocked or surprised learning? >> i think the one thing that surprised me most -- scott with
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his research probably know about this -- one of the most interesting people i interviewed was a close friend of john kennedy who introduced him to jaclyn bouvier and they were close friends all his life there is the gentleman was reporter for a newspaper in tennessee. he had a funny feeling about it and called his friend jack and he had no qualms about going to the house. he was very angry still and they
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acquired the job to create an atomic bomb and he was very angry he had to hear about this from the cia and was determined to create the bomb and detonate it. that was not something known previously. >> once present thing about the premise of the book was how similar ronald reagan and john kennedy were, both in terms of the families they raised, they had these big brothers that beat them up all the time, nomadic childhood, and then in their policies, certainly the republicans really wanted to use jack kennedy as a lodestone. but kennedy cut tax rates more than ron reagan did. it's strange, the kennedy marriage, because as i grew up,
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any time you went to the supermarket, all of these magazines, jack and jackie, the greatest love story of history. that was probably the most surprising thing, reading your whole life, finding out they had this intense love affair, and the only letter he ever wrote her was "wish you were here." that was the length of their correspondents. -- correspondence. one of his lovers when he was in the navy, he adored her, but because of her marital circumstance, it could not be. that was someone he was looking for and i think if maybe he had been a little more open, jackie would've had the relationship,
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too, but they didn't. >> one more? >> sorry. >> i believe in your book, you mention they never really met each other, reagan and kennedy? >> that is true. it's very odd they would not have met. reagan was born in 1911, kennedy in 1917. very close in age, both very much in hollywood. joe kennedy senior was a heavy investor in hollywood. he made his money as a bootlegger, people say. that's not true. he made his money and banking, shipbuilding, and motion pictures. he created the rko studio. you would think with reagan big in hollywood in kennedy going to hollywood.
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kennedy lived with robert stec for months trying to figure out what gave stars charisma. he saw here he cooper and said, this guy is jaw dropping when boring, but we go outside of the restaurant and we get mobbed. what is it? and can i get it? reagan probably made more speeches. he was the official corporate spokesperson for general electric and the host for general electric theater and later "death valley days." it was estimated he gave the speech, that he had been speaking for 250,000 minutes, which means to give the speech 8000 9000 times. and yet they never met.
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it was a very strange situation. never met. >> thank you very much. >> thank you very much. >> thank you very much. [indiscernible] [applause] >> would you like to sign some books? >> we would love to. >> the first row can come right up. the register is right there. [laughter] >> if i signed them, you have to buy them. they won't take them back. [laughter] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] >> -- c-span3 this weekend. this weekend, hillary rodham clinton and william weld on their duties during the impeachment of president nick's in. mrs. clinton: it does fall on
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you in the house to examine abuses of power by the president . be as circumspect and careful as john doerr was. fromain yourself grandstanding and holding news conferences and playing to your base. this goes way beyond whose side you are on or who is on your side. explore our nation's past every weekend on c-span three. president johnson: i want to tell you that i hang my head in shame at the industry, in particular can't guide and what i would say is very unfair, personalized reporting of these fellas, and i think, you ought to know that opinion because you
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will be disappointed in me down the road if i do not tell you that. i will just tell you frankly i think your industry is wrecking all of us. well, that's very heavy-handed. wrecking the country. very disturbing. and we are hearing that today. the press is the enemy of the american people according to trump. the press is not the enemy of the american people. the press is out there doing the work of the american old. --american people. betweenht, the tension american presidents and the press. --ch on c-span's q and day q&a. >> next on american history tv, from the western history association annual meeting,
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outgoing western history association president martha sandweiss gave an illustrated talk about how historians can use photographs, and the stories behind the photographs, to study and understand the american west. professor sandweiss has been studying and writing about photographs for forty years and argues that more historians should use photographic archives in their work. >> one minute past 12:30 p.m. welcome, everyone. i have the happy task of introducing your president and my friend marnie sandweiss. we will present this room and tell the story of marnie and me and her work, which got us all here. let me start with the magical alchemy of graduate school. all of us led to headed thinkers turned into old intoned scholars and teachers. the process works soth


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