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Archive for the month “February, 2012”


February 28, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 continues our report on the second conversation from “Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy,” published by Hyperion.

The second conversation was recorded on Tuesday, March 3, 1964.

Mr. Schlesinger asks Mrs. Kennedy if JFK’s interest in British history came from the period when his father was ambassador.

She answers:

“No, because he really spent very little time there.  It was all his childhood (reading) of Marlborough & Churchill.”

Mr. Schlesinger asks: “What did he think of FDR?”

She says:

“He often thought he was…a bit of a poseur, rather cleverly.”*

*I must admit that I had to go to the dictionary for this one.  

A “poseur” is defined as a person who pretends to be what he is not.  One who groups himself in a particular social clique but doesn’t believe in the principles held by said clique.

JFK’s coolness toward FDR, according to a footnote in the book, was a result of his father’s break with FDR over intervention in Europe, JFK’s resentment of Eleanor’s hostility to his presidential candidacy, & his own “lifelong aversion to all hero worship.”

Mrs. Kennedy recalls that Jack told her “how (FDR’s) foreign policy had been wrong & how he hadn’t been good there.”

FDR Memorial, Washington, D.C., Photo by John White (2011)

Jackie went on to say that (Jack) “just seemed to devour all of (the former U.S. Presidents)….he used them all. That’s what he did.”

“But (Jack) had this detachment…(an ability) to look at….all sides. Maybe that’s what makes some people, like Jim Burns (author of the 1960 book “John Kennedy: A Political Profile) who wondered if (Jack) had a heart.”

A footnote in Conversations tells us that the last sentence of Burns’ book on JFK says that JFK’s ability to bring passion to the presidency “would depend on making a commitment not only of mind, but of heart.”

Jacqueline was so irate at this comment, she wrote Burns in her distinctive longhand:

“I think you underestimate (Jack).  He has what may be the single most important quality for a leader–an imperturbable self-confidence.  When you have someone like Jack, why write him off as a pathetic little string bean?”**

**James MacGregor Burns is a noted historian & authority on leadership studies.  He holds a PhD in political science from Harvard & was a delegate to 4 Democratic national conventions.

James MacGregor Burns, FDR Library Photo




February  27, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 begins our report on the second conversation from “Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy”, published by Hyperion.

The second conversation was recorded on Tuesday, March 3, 1964.

Jacqueline Kennedy begins the 2nd conversation by discussing her husband’s reading habits.

She said:

“He’d read walking….at the table, at meals….after dinner…in the bathtub….”

He used to read me Edmund Burke’s ‘To the People of Bristol.’ *

(Jack) was just always reading, practically while driving a car.”

Mr. Schlesinger asks: “Would he ever read novels?”

Mrs. Kennedy answered:

“No, I never saw him read a novel.”

Arthur Schlesinger asks why.

Mrs. Kennedy responds:  “I think he was always looking for something in books–something about history–or for a quote.”

JFK Library Photo

Schlesinger comments that the President read mostly history & biography.

Jackie says:

“Yes, (he read) a lot of (American) Civil War…but…it was British (history) really.  He was something of a Whig, wasn’t he?”

*Edmund Burke, born in Dublin & educated at Trinity College, as a member of Parliament, along with his fellow Whigs, protested Lord North’s policy toward the American colonies.

Edmund Burke, National Portrait Gallery, Studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds

The address “To the People of Bristol” to which Mrs. Kennedy refers includes this quote which is published in the book:

“The Representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; & he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

In researching this address, I found it was delivered on November 3, 1774.  

Here is more from the speech not published in the book.

“Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different & hostile interests… but…is a deliberative assembly of one nation with the interests….of the whole.  

You choose a member….but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of Parliament.”


Detroit, Michigan (JFK+50) With the Republican Primary election in the state of Michigan coming tomorrow, candidate Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic, said today that President John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on the separation of church & state makes him “want to throw up.”

In a television interview, Mr. Santorum elaborated by saying:

“To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up.”

The Christian Science Monitor published this comment today:

“Kennedy didn’t disavow all roles for religion in public life.  Although (he) talked about “absolute” separation, his speech implied (that) no church would dictate his decisions (as President), & he would seek the best interests of a nation in which ‘no religious body seeks to impose its will….upon the general public.'”




Rick Santorum, really?  You have to trash a fellow Catholic, the only man of your own faith to be elected to the Presidency, in order to cater to the religious right of your party?  Shame on you.

JFK chose to make the speech to the Houston Minister’s Association in response to the criticism that as a Catholic, if elected President of the United States, he would be influenced by his church in general & by the Pope in particular.

This criticism had followed him throughout the campaign & in this speech he wanted to make it clear, as he had said before…..

“I hope that no American will vote either for me or against me because of my religious affiliation.  It is not relevant.  My decision on every public policy will be my own, as an American, as a Democrat & as a free man.”

The United States of America was founded on the principal of freedom of religion.  It is indeed a guarantee of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.  

That means, Mr. Santorum, that ALL Americans, regardless of religious affiliation, are free from the dictates of a STATE church.

The thought that it would ever be otherwise would make me, in your own words,  “want to throw up.”**

As President Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802

“Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence…the act…which declares that (there should be) ‘no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

**Chris Matthews did an excellent commentary ending his “Hardball” program tonight on MSNBC in defense of JFK’s separation of church & state speech.


February 26, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 concludes our report on the 1st conversation from “Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy”, published by Hyperion.

The 1st conversation was recorded on March 2, 1964.

Arthur Schlesinger asks Mrs. Kennedy about the relationship, which he describes as “a puzzle,” between Adlai Stevenson & JFK.

Jacqueline recalls that a meeting at the Democratic convention in 1952 between the two politicians did not go well.

She said: 

 “I don’t know whether Stevenson–but I think this about so many people–Jack made them jealous.”

Mrs. Kennedy also names Scotty Reston, New York Times columnist, & Dean Acheson as being jealous of JFK.  She says:

“(Jack) incited so many bitter jealousies.”

Mr. Schlesinger comments that “someone once said that Stevenson was a Greek & Kennedy was a Roman.”

Mrs. Kennedy does not agree with that assessment.  

She responds:

“No, I think Kennedy was a Greek & Stevenson was a…….”

Jacqueline does not finish her thought here but much later, after reading an early version of Schlesinger’s “A Thousand Days”, she wrote in a letter to him:

“I don’t know what Stevenson brought to American politics but he certainly showed many weaknesses….but don’t say JFK was a Roman….”

Finally, Mrs. Kennedy summed up Adlai with these words:

“It’s sort of sad, you know.  Jack achieved all (Adlai) dreamed of in his life, & it must be sad not to have.”*

*Adlai E. Stevenson, Governor of Illinois 1949-1953, & Democratic nominee for President 1952 & 1956, was born in Los Angeles & grew up in Bloomington, Illinois.

Stevenson attended Choate & Princeton.  

In his 2nd unsuccessful bid for the Presidency in 1956, he gave 300 speeches & traveled 55,000 miles.

He called upon the people to support a “New America” based on liberal ideas.

In 1961, JFK appointed Stevenson as Ambassador to the United Nations.  It was in that capacity he is best remembered for standing up to the Soviet ambassador during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Adlai Stevenson died on July 14, 1965.

Democratic Party Poster


February 25, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 continues our report on the 1st Conversation from “Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy”, published by Hyperion.

The 1st conversation was recorded on Monday, March 2, 1964.

Jacqueline Kennedy continues this conversation by reflecting on how her husband “kept his life in compartments.”

She says:

“The wonderful thing is that everyone in every one of those compartments was ready to die for him.”

She says that he loved them all…his family, the Irish…the politicians (like Kenny (O’Donnell) & Dave (Powers).*

Mrs. Kennedy “once….asked (JFK) what he thought his best & worst qualities were.”

JFK responded that he thought curiosity was his best quality while irritability was his worst.

Mrs. Kennedy elaborates by saying that her husband was never irritable with her, but she explains that she believes he means impatient.  “(Jack) didn’t like to be bored.”

On another occasion, she asked JFK how he would define himself.  

His answer:

“An idealist without illusions.”

Mr. Schlesinger asks about the Senatorial years. 

Jacqueline recalls that she would have “little dinners” with the Symingtons, Smatherses, Coopers as well as (Mike) Mansfield & (Eugene) McCarthy.

Schlesinger asks, “(Lyndon) Johnson, ever?”

Jackie responds in a single word:  “Never!”

*David Powers (1912-1998) is described in a footnote as an Irish-American from Charlestown (Massachusetts), jovial & unflappable, who started with JFK during the 1946 campaign & stayed with him as friend, raconteur, travel companion & man-of-all work.

JFK & Dave Powers, St. Matthews Cathedral, Washington, D.C. Photo by Abbie Rowe, JFK Library, http://www.maryferrell.org


St. Matthews Cathedral, Washington, D.C. Photo by John White (2003)



February 24, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 continues our report on the 1st conversation from “Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy” published by Hyperion.

The 1st conversation was recorded on Monday, March 2, 1964.

Mr. Schlesinger asks Mrs. Kennedy if her husband’s back operation in 1955 was “a kind of a turning point” in his political career.

Jacqueline Kennedy responds:

“No, I don’t think there’s anything in that.”  

She goes on to say that his dedication “was always there….then he started to write that book.”

Mrs. Kennedy continues….

“He talked to me…a year or so before (about) Edmund Ross being a classic example of profiles in courage.”*

In regard to the impact of her husband’s back problems on their life, Jacqueline Kennedy relates…

“I can remember him on crutches more than not (but) after he was introduced to Dr. (Janet) Travell…she put in this Novocain….life just changed then.”**

She goes on to confide to Mr. Schlesinger that the back operation JFK had was really unnecessary. 

She says:  “If it hadn’t been for Dr. Travell–I mean, no one can underestimate her contribution.”

Arthur Schlesinger asks if JFK “ever mentioned” the pain he suffered.

Mrs. Kennedy says:

“He never liked you to ask him how he felt….but he was never irritable.”

She confides that JFK’s back pain was “unpredictable” & says that she once asked him if he could have one wish, what would it be?

Mrs. Kennedy says that JFK ‘s answer was…“I wish I had had more good times.”

*Senator Edmund G. Ross, Republican of Kansas, was the last of 7 Republicans to go against party lines & cast a “not guilty” vote in the Impeachment Trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868. 

By doing so, Ross & his fellow Republicans helped acquit the President.  Ross lost his bid for re-election in 1870.

Senator Edmund G. Ross, Republican of Kansas, Photo by Matthew Brady/L.C.Handy, Library of Congress

**Dr. Janet G. Travell graduated from Cornell University Medical College in 1926.  She did research involving the concept of trigger points as a cause of muscular-skeletal pain.

 In 1961, she became President Kennedy’s personal physician & recommended a rocking chair to help alleviate his back pain.

JFK Library Image



Dr. Travell also served as Associate Clinical Professor at George Washington University.


February 23, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 begins our report on the 1st conversation from Hyperion’s book “Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy”.

The 1st conversation was recorded on Monday, March 2, 1964.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. asks Mrs. Kennedy about the 1956 Democratic Convention in which JFK made a bid for the Vice-Presidential nomination.

Jacqueline Kennedy recalls:

“Life with (Jack) was always so fast.  He always talked at home of what he was thinking about….But he’d never sort of plot little goals & tell you when he was aiming for them….”

In terms of her role in JFK’s political life, she says:

“I said (at campaign headquarters) I have an uncle who lives in Nevada (Norman Biltz).*

And nobody ever thought I had any political relatives, but this uncle was a good friend of Pat McCarran (Democratic Senator from Nevada, 1933-1954).** 

So we (she & Bobby) went in the little back room & called him up.”

She also gives the reason for her limited political knowledge:  She says:

“You musn’t think it bad that I don’t have all of these political memories because I was really living another side of life with him.”

“We’d never had our house until we’d been married four years….you were moving & everything was so fast.  We rented a house on P Street (in Georgetown) & then had Caroline & bought our (first) house in 1957.***

*Norman Biltz was a developer & real estate broker who arrived in Lake Tahoe in 1927.  He was described as “dark & handsome.”  Mr Biltz mailed a leather bound folio called ‘Nevada, the Last Frontier’ to the nation’s richest people & attracted 75 of them to settle in Nevada.  Among these were Arthur K. Bourne of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Major Max Fleishman, a yeast & gin magnet, & Captain George Whittell, a banker.

Source: http://www.tahoehistory.org


**Senator McCarran (D-Nevada) was the chief sponsor of the Internal Security Act of 1950 which required the registration of the American Communist Party & the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 which stiffened immigration laws.

Senator Pat McCarran, Democrat, Nevada, 1933-1954

***The house they rented was at 3271 P Street NW & the one they bought at 3307 N Street, both in Georgetown.  

The latter is described as a 3 story Federal red brick edifice, built in 1811, which Jackie called “my sweet little house (that) leans slightly to one side.”

3307 N Street, Georgetown, Photo by John White (2011)

According to Block Shopper, the property at 3307 N. Street was purchased in 2004 by Vincent J. Griski for the modest sum of $3,350,000.  The house has 4096 square feet, four bedrooms & 3 bathrooms.  

The Block Shopper website says that the property is now off the market.

3307 N Street, Georgetown, Photo by John White (2011)



February 22, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on Michael Beschloss’s introduction to “Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on the Life of John F. Kennedy” published by Hyperion.*

Mr. Beschloss begins his introduction with a quotation from Mrs. Kennedy’s obituary in the New York Times, May 19, 1994:

“Her silence about her past, especially about the Kennedy years & her marriage to the President, was always something of a mystery.”

Mr. Beschloss follows with a brief overview of Jacqueline Kennedy’s life, including her 1st brief meeting with Jack Kennedy in 1948 on a train from Washington, D.C. to New York.

After she left the White House in 1963, Mrs. Kennedy avoided the mansion.  That is, until 1971, when she took Caroline & John Jr. to view of the official White House portraits done by Aaron Shikler.

The idea of an oral history project, Mr. Beschloss tells us, was “much on (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s) mind after Dallas.”

Since much of the Kennedy presidency was in private conversations, either in person or on the telephone, an oral history was vital for preservation of the record.

So on March 2, 1964, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. visited Jacqueline Kennedy at her new home at 3017 N Street in Georgetown.**

It would be the 1st of 7 interviews recorded on audio tape for posterity.

Mr. Schlesinger told Mrs. Kennedy to speak as if talking to a “historian of the 21st century.”

Mr. Beschloss says that this oral history “constitutes a fresh internal narrative” & discusses some of Jacqueline Kennedy’s contributions as 1st Lady.

He writes that she transformed the role of the wife of the President of the United States & her “accute sense of how symbols & ceremony could shape American history” was vital in the days following JFK’s death.

Mr. Beschloss writes:

“Despite her insistence on privacy, Jacqueline Kennedy never forgot her obligations to posterity.”

She is the 1st wife of a President to submit to hours of intensive questioning about her public & private life.

“Now,” Michael Beschloss writes, it is time to “listen to what she has to say.”

*Michael Beschloss, born in Chicago in 1955, graduated with highest honors from Williams College.  He has been called the nation’s leading Presidential historian by Newsweek. 

His books include: “The Crisis Years: Kennedy & Khrushchev, 1960-1963” published in 1991, & “Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders & How They Changed America, 1789-1989”, published in 2007.

Michael Beschloss

**Mrs. Kennedy was forced to leave the house at 3017 N Street in Georgetown in September 1964 because of the many tourists who camped outside her door.

She & her children moved to Manhattan. 

3017 N Street, Georgetown, Photo by John White, July 14, 2003

The house, built in 1794, was the home of President Wilson’s Secretary of War, Newton Baker.  It was purchased in 1975 by former Miss America, Yolande Betbeze Fox.

3017 N Street, Georgetown, Photo by John White, July 14, 2003



February 21, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 begins our report of “Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on Life with JFK” published last year by Hyperion.

Today JFK+50 reports on the FOREWORD by Caroline Kennedy.

Caroline begins by writing that her mother wanted to “share her memories & insights (on the) life & career” of her husband as a part of an oral history project associated with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

The recordings of her conversations with historian & JFK Presidential aide Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. were made less than 4 months after JFK’s death.

Caroline says that the recordings “represented a gift of history & a labor of love” & gives the reason why she & her children decided to release them last year.

It was to coincide with the 50th anniversary of JFK’s presidency (1961-2011).

Joe, Jackie & Caroline at the Dedication of the Stephen Smith Center, February 1991

Caroline writes that her mother’s recordings were just part of her determination that the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library would be a “living memorial.”

Caroline tells us that her parents shared the love of history & her mother “resolved to do everything she could do” to make certain the record of JFK’s presidency was preserved.

Jacqueline Kennedy chose historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. to interview her precisely because the recordings were being made “for future generations.”

There were actually 3 interviews that Mrs. John F. Kennedy gave in the aftermath of her husband’s death.

The 1st, discussed in yesterday’s posting, was with Theodore White of Life Magazine in November 1963.

The 2nd was with author William Manchester for his book “The Death of a President”.

And the 3rd were the conversations with Mr. Schlesinger.

Caroline makes it clear that her mother intended for the recordings of these conversations to be released, so it would be left up to her daughter to decide when.

Caroline writes:

“Given the important role (my mother) played in the presidency of (my father) & its aftermath, it seemed a disservice to let her perspective remain absent from the public & scholarly debate that would accompany the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy administration.”*

*Please check out the posting “JFK+50 Goes to Washington” dated September 28, 2011 which reports on our attendance at Caroline Kennedy’s book signing at George Washington University.

Caroline Kennedy Book Signing, George Washington University, Georgetown, Photo by John White (2011)



February 20, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today, on Presidents Day, JFK+50 reports on Chapter 16 of Chris Matthews new book, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, published by Simon & Schuster.

The title of Chapter 16, the final chapter of Chris’s book, is LEGACY.

Chris begins this chapter by relating the circumstances involving Jacqueline Kennedy’s meeting in late November 1963 with Life magazine’s Theodore White.

Theodore H. White

The 4 hour meeting took place at the home of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

During the meeting, Jackie, according to Mr. White, “pushed hard for the idea” of her husband’s presidency being like CAMELOT.

Jackie told Mr. White: 

 “History is what made Jack.  He had that hero, idealistic side (but also a) pragmatic side.  If history made Jack that way, made him see heroes, then other little boys will see.”

White’s story, soon be published in LIFE,  was, Chris writes, “her gift to (JFK),” along with the “designing & staging (of) a magnificent funeral.”

Jacqueline & Jack Kennedy, September 15, 1962, Photo by Robert Knudsen

Chris says that “Jack’s closest friends have helped (him) answer (the question) What was he like?”

Chris quotes Jack’s friend Charlie Bartlett shortly after the assassination:

“(Jack) had uncommon courage, unfailing humor….ever-cautious intelligence, & over all matchless grace.  He was our best. We will remember him always with love & sometimes, as the years pass & the story is retold, with a little wonder.”


We hope all visitors to JFK+50 will read “Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero” & thanks to Chris Matthews for writing this great book.  

I must say that personally, however, I cannot apply the word “elusive” to my hero, Jack Kennedy, & cannot imagine my life over the past half century with any other. 

John White


February 19, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 concludes our report on Chapter 15 of Chris Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, published by Simon & Schuster.

The title of Chapter 15 is GOALS.

Chris tells us that Jack’s friend, Ben Bradlee*, told him on Veterans Day weekend that what he had been hearing about Dallas, Texas, where he was headed in a couple of weeks, was not good.

The Bradlees & Kennedys, White House Family Living Room, May 29, 1963, Photo by Cecil Stoughton, JFK Library Photo

JFK said that the “mood of the city was ugly.”  

That mood had been evidenced 1st hand by UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson when he was hit in the head with a sign by a Dallas woman.

But, even so, JFK was “looking forward to running against Senator Barry Goldwater” in 1964.

JFK’s confidence was high but at the same time he knew he had to win Texas & “perhaps” Georgia as well. 

He also needed to raise money.

Chris writes that JFK spent the next weekend with Torby Macdonald & on Monday, November 18, he made a political trip to Florida with George Smathers.

On the morning of November 22, JFK spoke to the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

This would be the President’s last speech.

JFK said:

“without the United States, South Vietnam would collapse overnight.”

Chris doesn’t include this, but before the speech JFK was presented with a Texas Stetson cowboy hat & when the crowd called for him to put it on, he laughed & said:

“I’ll put it on in the White House on Monday.  If you come up there, you can see it then.”

Chris writes that before he flew to Texas, JFK had asked his national security aide, Michael Forrestal**, to complete an “in-depth study of every possible option”  in Vietnam, including “how to get out of there.”

Michael Forrestal


*Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee was born in Boston.  He is 90 years old. Like JFK, he attended Dexter School & Harvard.  He later became editor of the Washington Post.

Mr. Bradlee lives in the Todd Lincoln House in Georgetown, & also in Drayden, Maryland.

Todd Lincoln House, 3014 N Street NW, Georgetown, http://www.ghostsofdc.org

    **Michael Forrestal’s father, James, was appointed as the 1st Secretary of Defense by President Truman in 1947.

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