JFK on Nov. 20, 1963 at a White House reception...
Newly released tapes recorded by President John F. Kennedy reveal his feeling of foreboding just before his assassination.
Speaking to an aide three days before he was shot dead in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, JFK eerily comments on what would become the day of his funeral
‘Monday?,’ he says. ‘Well that's a tough day.’
‘It's a hell of a day, Mr. President,’ a staffer replies.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is releasing the last 45 hours of more than 260 hours of privately recorded meetings, conversations and phone calls.
They include discussions about the conflict in Vietnam, Soviet relations and the race to space, plans for the 1964 Democratic Convention and re-election strategy. There are also tender moments with his children.
But some of the material captured on the cassettes is still deemed so sensitive to national security they have to remain classified.
Kennedy kept the recordings a secret from his top aides. He made the last one two days before his death.
Much of the material concerns the day-to-day schedules which make up White House life.
The exchange about JFK's fateful trip to Texas comes as senior staffers try to organise his diary for the week.
The President talks about expecting a briefing book by the Saturday before the trip and then moves on to a meeting with General Nasution of Indonesia
‘I will see him, when is here here? Monday?,' he says.
A staffer responds: 'Monday and Tuesday.'
'Well that’s a tough day,' the President remarks.
'It’s a hell of a day Mr President. He’ll be coming back here though, I understand on Friday because I offered to entertain at dinner.’
JFK: ‘I’m going to be up at the Cape on Friday – so I’ll see him Tuesday (November 26).'
There is also a session with advisers on young voters, which could easily take place in a modern-day administration.
‘What is it we have to sell them?,’ the President asks before saying: ‘We hope we have to sell them prosperity, but for the average guy the prosperity is nil.'
‘He's not unprosperous, but he's not very prosperous. ... And the people who really are well off hate our guts.’
JFK also comments on the distance 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. ’
Kennedy library archivist Maura Porter said that JFK may have been saving them for a memoir.
It is also possible he wanted to keep an indisputable record of his meetings, prompted by the military producing a different interpretation of a discussion about the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
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, the JFK Library and Museum has put out about 40 recordings. She said officials excised about five to ten 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 spokeswoman 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.’
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.’
More information about the archive can be found on www.jfklibrary.org
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