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JACK KENNEDY, ELUSIVE HERO: LANDING I

February 10, 2012


JACK KENNEDY, ELUSIVE HERO: LANDING I


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on the 1st part of Chapter 14 of Chris Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, published by Simon & Schuster.



The title of Chapter 13 is LANDING.


Very soon after his election as 35th President of the United States, Chris writes, Jack Kennedy notified J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI & Allen Dulles at the CIA that “their jobs were safe.”


In Chris’s opinion, to do otherwise would have “unsettled the country” during the Cold War .


JFK appointed 2 Republicans to his cabinet:  Douglas Dillon, Secretary of Treasury & Bob McNamara, Secretary of Defense.


Other appointments included Adlai Stevenson, UN Ambassador & Walter Heller, economic adviser.


Chris writes that JFK’s appointment of Bob Kennedy as Attorney General & a plan to elect Ted to his old Senate seat in 1962 represented a reward to Joe Kennedy.


Chris does describe Bobby’s appointment as “sheer unadulterated nepotism.”


JFK+50 note: It was, after all, the 1st time in US history that a member of the President’s family was to serve in his own cabinet.


On January 20, 1961, JFK was sworn in as the new President & gave his eloquent Inaugural Address.


Chris says that “those decisive phrases have not lost their resonance.”


JFK, “from the start,” called upon the people of his country “to join…to be part of something larger than themselves.”



                                                Inaugural Address
                                                  January 20, 1961
                                    Photo by Donald Mingfield
                          US Army Signal Corps/JFK Library


Taking the power of the Presidency is never an easy proposition, but Chris lets it be known that from the get-go JFK faced the threat of nuclear war over Berlin.


Jack needed relief from the pressure, so he brought his old bud, Lem Billings, to Washington regularly.  In fact, Lem had his own bedroom in the White House.*



The Peace Corps was, Chris says, “in the process of becoming a reality” while the First Lady set up her plan to redecorate the White House.


Jackie’s friend, Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, in the meantime, went to work on the new layout of the White House Rose Garden.**



                        White House Rose Garden (2007)


*Another source I found says that Lem was at the White House most week-ends during the Kennedy administration & that Ted Sorensen called him “an almost…fawning admirer ….of his friend.”


**Ms. Mellon created a space with a central lawn boarded by flower beds planted in the French style.  Her design can still be seen in today’s Rose Garden. Ms. Mellon is 101 years old.  When her daughter, Eliza, passed away in 2008, Caroline Kennedy sat by Ms. Mellon’s side at the funeral.



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