JFK library to release last of his secret tapes

2012-01-24 07:22

Boston – Former and late US president John F. Kennedy’s library is

releasing 45 hours of privately recorded meetings and phone calls, providing a

window into the final months of his life.

The tapes include discussions of conflict in Vietnam, Soviet

relations and the race to space, plans for the 1964 Democratic Convention and

re-election strategy. There also are moments with his children.

The tapes, being released today by the John F. Kennedy (JFK)

Presidential Library and Museum, are the last of more than 260 hours of

recordings of meetings and conversations he privately made before his

assassination in Dallas, Texas on November 22 1963.

In the scheduling discussion three days before his killing, he also

eerily comments on what would become the day of his funeral.

“Monday?” he asks. “Well, that’s a tough day.”

“It’s a hell of a day, Mr President,” a staffer replies.

Kennedy kept the recordings a secret from his top aides. He made

the last one two days before his death.

Kennedy library archivist Maura Porter said yesterday that JFK may

have been saving them for a memoir or possibly started them because he was

bothered when the military later gave a different overview of a discussion with

him about the Bay of Pigs (an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba in April

1961).

Selling to young voters

The latest batch of recordings captured meetings from the last

three months of Kennedy’s administration.

In a conversation with political advisers about young voters,

Kennedy asks: “What is it we have to sell them?”

“We hope we have to sell them prosperity, but for the average guy

the prosperity is nil,” he says.

“He’s not unprosperous, but he’s not very prosperous. And the

people who really are well off hate our guts.”

Kennedy talks about a disconnect between the political machine and

voters.

“We’ve got so mechanical an operation here in Washington that it

doesn’t have much identity where these people are concerned,” he says.

On another recording, Kennedy questions conflicting reports

military and diplomatic advisers bring back from Vietnam, asking the two men:

“You both went to the same country?”

He also talks about trying to create films for the 1964 Democratic

Convention in colour instead of black and white. “The colour is so damn good,”

he says. “If you do it right.”

Porter said the public first heard about the existence of the

Kennedy recordings during the Watergate hearings.

In 1983, JFK Library and Museum officials started reviewing tapes

without classified materials and releasing recordings to the public.

Porter said officials were able to go through all the recordings by

1993, working with government agencies when it came to national security issues

and what they could make public.

In all, she said, the JFK Library and Museum has put out about 40

recordings. She said officials excised about five to 10 minutes of this last

group of recordings due to family discussions and about 30 minutes because of

national security concerns.

Porter has supervised the declassification of these White House

tapes since 2001, and she said people will have a much better sense of the kind

of leader JFK was after hearing them.

While some go along with meeting minutes that also are public, she

said, listening to JFK’s voice makes his personality come alive.

She said he comes across as an intelligent man who had a knack for

public relations and was very interested in his public image.

But she said the tapes also reveal times when the president became

bored or annoyed and moments when he used swear words.

The sound of the president’s children, Caroline and John Jr,

playing outside the Oval Office is part of a recording on which he introduces

them to Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko.

“Hello, hello,” Gromyko says as the children come in, telling their

father, “They are very popular in our country.”

JFK tells the children, mentioning a dog Soviet premier Nikita

Khrushchev gifted the family: “His chief is the one who sent you Pushinka. You

know that? You have the puppies.”

JFK Library spokesperson Rachel Flor said the daughter of the late

president has heard many of the recordings, but she wasn’t sure if she had heard

this batch.

“He’d go from being a president to being a father,” Porter said of

the recordings. “And that was really cute.”


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