hand and cached before had this and that is my chevy chase street in about. [applause] again, because i am an ocd won't and a former strategist, you'll find them here john kennedy second acceptance speech in the goldwater kennedy debate and his advisers want him to debate them if they have i tell the country that and what is my explanation for not leaving? because he said that i know it benefits the calendar. but the idea is that kennedy wins and just have a little bit more fun, a rewrite the lyrics of some rock songs and some say it is my book.
i'm not going to give away all of this stuff, but the most consequential question is what happens with vietnam and civil rights. and what about the 22nd approach is? they can be a huge debate. the conservatives will tell you that he ran as a hawk and he often said that we are not going to leave vietnam than we would have the same advisers as lyndon johnson. ..
the army couldn't get the troops there kennedy was on the phony, are the troops? they're on the way. so you have that. and in an effort to kind of bring reality some fantasy together, i construct a meeting in which most of the participants speak the words they actually spoke at one time. i just put it somewhere else. there's a man, an unsung hero of vietnam, civil serviceman named paul, head of the vietnam working group, and in a meeting with the other big shots had the temerity from the back to say,
maybe we shouldn't be there? and a couple weeks later they got rid of him. now, kennedy was one guy what wanted as much information as possible. so i construction a meeting where kennedy brings there is guy to sit down and fight it out, and at the end of it, this is what kennedy says. here's the point, he says. said it to you, mike, mike mansfield, knowledgeable man about vietnam. i said it to kenny o'donnell and charlie bartlett, we don't have a prayer of staying in vietnam. those people hate us. they're going to throw our asss out of there at am any point but i can't give up the territory to the viet cong. every word of that comes from
john kennedy's mouth. that's what he said. so, my belief is that he would have gotten out. but not frontally. he was conscious enough of the problems not to, for instance, good on television and say, my fellow americans, we can't win here. we just -- no matter how strong we are no matter how many people we put in vietnam, we can't win this because -- it's not central to american security. that domino theory i once espoused, the philippines will not be threatened if south vietnam fall, which was the belief of many policymakers. so he kind of stalls through '64. when the pt boats are attacked he does not ask for a gulf of tonkin resolution help doesn't want to be given a blank check because the hawks will demand i cash it. and in 1964 he has a second
summit meeting with nikita khrushchev, which was on the table, and he cuts a deal with khrushchev, could not stir stuff up and we can get out of this thing. and basically i think in the back of his mind, he knew, that sooner or later vietnam would fall, but needed to fall later. in a way that america was not involved. because the political cost after we waged a bloody war. there is in this book a phone call between senator rich russell of georgia, a big hawk, defends the communism is horrible. in that phone call, over and over again, richard russell is saying, this is a terrible idea. we should not -- and the
president saying, what can i do? well, maybe you can find a government that will ask us to leave. once again. all of richard russells words are the words he poke to lyndon johnson in a phone call. if you put john kennedy in that other end of that phone call, then what kennedy is hearing is what i think richard russell is trying to say, find some way out of this. johnson thought differently. hi didn't care about the world. he was a domestic politician. his framework was the cold war. he said two days after dallas i'm not the first american president to lose a war. that's not how kennedy thought. much more detached, beth for good -- both for good and bad, president. so i think vietnam doesn't happen. i'll come back because it's critical to talk about the late '60s. also, the civil rights effort is much less effective, because kennedy doesn't know the senate the way johnson does, because he
is not a southerner, and because kennedy's death itself was a powerful lever, an emotional lever, do this for jack kennedy. the civil rights bill at the time ovoidal last was bolted up by the southern democrats and there's a quote in the book -- richard russell says, we should thank lee harvey oswald he was such a poor shot. we beat john kennedy on civil rights. could not have beat lyndon johnson. once again, flip of what richard russell said. we chief beaten kennedy on civil rights but we can't beat johnson. i do think eventually -- i'm not discounting social forces -- that the civil rights movement would have triumphed. simply as everett dirkson, an idea whose time has come, but would have happened less quickly and less successfully.
on the domestic side, i believe there would have been no great society program, because that's not how john kennedy thought. that was johnson. who dreamt of being the second fdr and who had grandiose notions what use could do with legislation, and kennedy was more detached in that sense, too. we're going to have medicare and have demonstration programs, but i think it would have been acutely aware, for instance 0, the political dangers of a great society program with big city mayors at odds with community based organizations, fighting for money. kennedys were from boston. they understood the black-white conflict in terms of white working class and schools. johnson saw it as the north and the south. so i think you would -- kennedy just didn't talk that way. i can't imagine him calling for a war on poverty. because he had a great degree of skepticism about the power of government, whether it was military or domestic. he would have had programs, but
smaller, more modest, and it would have been very important for kennedy to make sure that this wasn't seen as a racial program. shortly before he left for dallas, the one political meeting he had, he was talking about poverty, and the record of the census bureau, said this is all real. i wouldn't do that, mr. president. you got all the poor votes. you need suburban votes, salt lake hands with cops. kennedy said when did democrats back to republicans when they move to the suburbs? he was curious about that. which suggested he might have had more ability than the democrats in the late '60s to lessen -- although he cooperate have stopped the split between white working class and blacks, but he might have been better at it. just two more things. i'm going by the time i was told to speak, so -- actually i have
a few more minutes but maybe you don't. i'm going to try to give you as much as i can without violating the rule that so many mothers taught their daughters earlier. they don't buy the milk if the cow -- don't buy the cow if the milk is free. think about the late 1960s and the culture. and on this one i interviewed a number of leaders of the new left. tom hayden and i wanted their take on this. if kennedy lives, and there's no vietnam war, then what happens to the movements of the 60 ares? my feeling is, you had a huge cohort of young people, change in sexual more raise, sex, rug, and rock 'n' roll many people find very attractive. of course in the proper dosage. so, you would have had rock
music that turned and kids protesting rules on campus that treat them like children. would would not have had the weather underground, flag burning, that lurch into a kind of dark feeling about the country that really some of us very vividly remember. so, for instance, why do i say that? well, for one thing in real life, even in 1964, students for democratic society, which by the end of the '60s was split when the lunatics and the weather underground lunatics, was reformist. they endorsed lyndon johnson. part of the way wisconsin lb -- part of the way with lbj. want to see the con shen sunday objector. if you don't have a vietnam war,
you have a lot more young people responding to one of the best parts of kennedy, which was civic engagement, a lot of people engaged in the domestic peace corps and vista. i asked tom hayden -- in the back i have tom hayden going to work for the office of economic community. i was asked where did you get that? i said, tom hayden he told me. woodstock you would have had. altamont, you would not have hat. youth rebound -- youth rebellion, but not he turn toward an apocolyptic view. so what about kennedy's personal life? which was outrageous. this was not some sort of charming rogue who was -- "time magazine" had this code in the
old days. if he were somebody's mistress, you were his great and good friend. if you were gay you were a confirmed bachelor, and if you hit on every woman you saw you had, quote, an eye for a well-turned ankle. that was honest to god the "time magazine." dish kennedy is in a different clamps when you're having sex with the mistress of a mafia boss, dallying with a woman who is suspected east german intelligence agent, you're taking threats that go way beyond the threat to your marriage. there's one brilliant psychotherapist -- the question is, we all know that the press never covered this. right? the fact is, in the weeks before dallas, a couple of reporters were beginning to kind of get the story. and it was -- bobby kennedy was panicked. he kept having to go to hoover,
who knew everything, and who kennedy despised as much as hoover desspiesed him and almost begged him to help him damp down the story. which hoover did, having gotten job security for a lifetime. in my book the people who want this exposed are political enemies of kennedy who are furious about his cold war revisionism. people in the intelligence community. and then the question is, what would have happened in her my advisor -- some of my friends were saying look what happened to clinton? and the advicer said that was 1995. 1965, no. he didn't put is this way but i did. can you imagine jack and jackie sitting down with walter cronkite and jack saying, i've caused pain in my marriage? i mean, that's what clinton said, and -- we get what you're saying. 1965, on television, married
couples slept in twin bedes. so the question is, what would have happened if he was threatened with scandal in here's the darker side of the kennedy legacy. they would have used whatever means at their disposal to keep it quiet. the evidence for this is in 1962, the steel companies all raised their prices in a way that kennedy treated as probably -- properly as a bree trail, a broken promise you. said you want do it. you're making me look bad. the language kennedy use i will not repeat here, burt it was sulfuric. so what happened? the power of the presidency and the attorney general, was used to force a rollback in prices, and -- see if i can fine this. what robert kennedy said was we did everything we had to.
we were going for broke. we got the tax return office the steel company executives, got their expense accounts, we wire-tapped their home. and they -- kennedy heard a report on huntley-brink lee, thought it was too kind. he told the fcc i want you to do something about that. here it is. robert kennedy's quote. we're going for broke, their expense accounts, where they'd been, i told the fbi to interview them, march into their offices-subpoena their company records. we can't lose this. later jack kennedy said about clark clifford's role, can't you see clifford outrunning the possible course office action the government can take? you know what you're doing when you screw around with the power of the president? i don't think u.s. steel or any other companies want internal rev enough agents checking expense accounts. want government to go back to he tell bills to fine out who was
with you? these are real quotes. now, if the kens were prepared to do this to stop a steel price hike, what they do to keep the presidency in their hands? some of you know i worked for robert kennedy. no public figure i admired more. but this this dark side. they get away with it but people know that something is up. one of those underground things that know. it's all kind of underground. last, 1968. what happens? so here are two notions. if there's no war in vietnam, then richard nixon's most powerful argument for the presidency -- i know the world, i know the soviet union, i can bring peace to vietnam -- is
irrelevant, and the republicans can find somebody who could actually win elections, say the governorship of california by a million votes. reagan made a very lame last minute bid for the nomination. take away the vietnam war, nixon's strong point, and i realize the idea of a first-term person -- president is absurd. but it's been known to happen. and on the democratic side, absent the vietnam war, who is the most ardent peace candidate? within the democratic party? it's hubert humphrey, who before vietnam and before his imprisonment by lyndon johnson, was a with disarmament advocate and was behind the peace corps.
so i set up a humphrey and reagan election and i don't tell you who wins because i didn't want to figure that out. and there's an interesting exchange between john and jacqueline kennedy at the end of the book. some stuff that is to come. and i'll again -- if you don't buy the book you'll never find out. >> , so, to conclude, this exercise, which as i say some people find foot winging, toyed a old farced word, is useful. one, i ought to convince people not just this example but countless others -- how much life is contingent. how much fate plays a role, and how much a sense of humility, therefore, is useful, particularly in leader, in the knowledge they can't anticipate every event. they don't know when the black swan is going to show up and they have to at least calculate
the possibility their assumptions may be undone, and second thing is, character matters in a leader, and by character, i don't mean private personal morale. i mean what is the temperment. are they personalizing issues? are they looking for other -- as many different sources of information as possible? are they willing to say i have to rethink my assumptions? and i think it's -- if nothing else, the work i've done over the last few -- convinced me the way we cover our political choice process is completely irsvelte -- irrelevant because we don't know how to deal with that, and dealing with it in history, you say it really does matter. what kind of person is in leadership because the wrong kind of person can lead to profoundly different results. and with that i'm going to stop and let you ask your questions. thank you for listening. [applause]
>> because we want to honor c-span, please use the mic. and we need a common understanding of the meaning of a question. a question. so not a proposed to after the spanish armada loss. so i respect this. the more questions we get the better. >> in your imagine, would you imagine a little more of the future of lbj had kennedy lived? i gather you assume he would have had a political death if he lived. yes. >> but what would -- he would have lowe's his base in the next five years? >> actually, are doris goodwin was my adviser, who has knowledge about johnson. don't make him just the bad guy. there was this other side. so actually in this bike, lyndon johnson goes back to texas, becomes president of his alma mater and plays a critical roll
role in passing the voting rights act so there's a redemption for him in this. whether i -- there's a limit even to my wonkiness, so i didn't decide, well, i wonder if he could have run for the senate. but i didn't do that. he has a place of honor. >> you think kennedy would have won the '64 election? assuming the ran against goldwater or member else? >> that's what i -- you may have come in late. i covered that. >> i'm sorry. >> inflames i didn't hear myself, i'm pretty sure i covered that. i if goldwater is the nominee -- itch george romney got the nomination it would have been tough because he -- the whole southern base of the democratic party is gone and romney could have been competitive, but the way he did run for president, said he could have self-destructed every bit as much in '64 and '68.
>> thank you. first off, it's been a pleasure being here and watching -- i've been watching you sense i was a kid -- >> thank you for that. really. they had television back then, did they? >> yes, they did. but i've also been enjoying your alternate historiness recent years. do you've -- do you have any plans in the future? >> no. i'm done. the reason is i would become the georgie jessle of alternate history. what do you think would have happened if -- the interviews for that one would be fairly tough. no. i enjoy this process, but because my standard is one plausibility, two, a very tiny twist of fate, and, three, consequentiality. so if somebody said if dukakis beat bush in '88.
i would say, yeah, that's really interesting. so that's why. maybe some day i will return to this, but -- there are a lot of good stories about them. a lot of twists and turns. but other people have mined them. certainly phillip roth is a real novelist, and'll you know phillip k. dick? wrote a book called man in a high castle which premises a nazi victory in world war ii. roosevelt, he says, was killed, john nance gardner was the president and he just failed so badly the country couldn't fight a war. i'm done. the next book is a genuine novel, i'm making it all up. and perhaps we'll gather here in a couple of years if i pull this awesome but i appreciate the question. >> thank you. >> i think you mentioned you thought oswald was the lone gunman. >> i did. >> i guess it's a weird question
because it's instead of why, i should say why not what do you think that? seems leak the majority of americans think there was some conspiracy. >> now because they saw jfk and -- >> oliver stone -- >> i do blame hem because he have a one country, that must have happened. let me make a different point. i don't choose to relet gait -- re-litigate it. i duck the question in the book because it would eave overwhelmed the book. it's based on a fair amount of reading. let me ask you a different question. whoa do most americans believe it was a conspiracy and why did robert kennedy raise that question? this is the conclusion, because the minute kennedy was souths the first thing bobby did was call the head of the cia and say, did one of your guys do that? and he sent an investigator, organized crime, teamsters, never found anything. this is what i think. if people -- look, if some day
some guy walks in with evidence and says, it was the teamsters, organized crime, the exiles, it was castro, who certainly had a motive. kennedy tried to kill him several times. rogue agents in the intelligence. roger stone, the political black arts guy. the republican, going to dallas on november 22nd to, quote, prove lyndon johnson killed him. what i think is this. it doesn't seem right that so consequential an act could have come at the hands of so insignificant a twerp as as polled. a loser, wife-beater, couldn't keep a job. went to the soviet union, came back, was thinking about going again, delusions of grandure, did try to kill major general walker with the save rifle he killed john kennedy later. jackie kennedy said, how could that have been?
an insignificant guy like this guy, a nothing. it's much more satisfying, if that's the right word, that kennedy was killed for a reason. wanted to end the cold war. castro wanted to get even with him for trying to kill him. organized crime, which was furious at his -- at bobby's efforts to crush them. and here's the point. bobby knew better than anybody. fro the rackets commitey and organized crime and attorney general, there were tons of people who would have revelleed at john kennedy's death. so it makes sense to say, yeah, a lot of people had motives to kill him. doesn't mean they did. one other point. oswald fits the model of almost every other assistant and would-bev assist sin. the same personality. richard pavlec, blew up kennedy. the guy that almost killed roosevelt. the killer of president
garfield, leon -- mckinley's 'assassin. a great scrabble name. all of them, loners, mentally unstable, delusions of grandeur, crazy people. i guess i could add arthur bremner and mark david chapman, john hinkley. that's the model. the only exception in american life was lincoln. that was a conspiracy. but you know, doesn't mean -- that's where i come from. >> very interesting. >> since you announced you're ending your alternate history, we can't let you off that easy. your become is about about ticks and the '6s 0's, what do you see if with a kennedy -- for example, martin luther king, charles manson, whatever.
>> there's a seen here where kennedy meets the beatles, by the way. ahead to do that. >> which was his favorite beat until. >> there you are. >> john, i hope. >> i hope john but he had very conventional musical tastes so probably was paul. but by the way, in real life, the beatles play a significant role in this story because many people -- and i'm one of them -- believe that the beatles' appearance in america in january of 1964 was the first time we let ourselves have some fun. i remember being in front of a tv set in a dorm and they came on and it was like, okay, we can play a little bit. look, if i'm right, it's a less violent time, i don't know how to do what you want to do. clearly there would have been somebody who wanted to kill martin luther king. somebody tried before he was killed. i think in general, it's a --
yeah, that's what i midwest by woodstock but not altamont. and season of the witch does not come. that's what i mean. >> what would you envision for robert kennedy? >> that's a good question. not just a good one but one i'd like to answer. i don't think he could have run for president in 1968, because he would have spent eight years as kennedy's coo. the second term -- theirs is something that was speculated on. bobby would become secretary of defense. move macma anywhere a to state, get rid of rusk, and if historians are right that kennedy wanted to end the cold war and make deals and stay out of vietnam can he had to have a secretary of defense who clearly was speaking for him. and somebody who was tough enough to look at the generals and say, no. so that's -- i can't imagine how you -- in the scene i have a
texas senator who get ease selected. george herbert walker bush who says we don't do dynasties in america. you can say if there's -- there's no nixon presidency no watergate, although sit certainly possible another president could do other things. the fact that some stuff doesn't happen, doesn't mean other bad stuff doesn't happen. so that's where i am on that. >> thank you. >> okay. if we're done with the questions, thank you very much for coming. buy if you want. [applause] >> is there a nonfiction author or book you'd like to see featured october boon -- booktv? send us an e-mail or tweet us. >> we conclude our block of
programming on president john f. kennedy in recognition of the 50th anniversary of his assassination. we profile robert mcnational marry ha and aides arthurs schlessinger, jr. and ted sorenson. this is about an hour. >> i'm so delighted you're here and looking forward to this conversation. the first question is, 50 years after his death, president kennedy has an 80% approval rating among the american public. which is nothing to sneeze at in this contested age. is the public wrong? >> well, you know, first of all, it's 85%. >> it's gone up. >> and the result of the recent government shutdown, i suspect if you did it today, it might be 90%.
i don't think it's wrong in the sense that people in this country want to feel better about government. they want to feel better about the country's future. and i think that's what kennedy still gives people. you know, they compare him to other subsequent presidents. johnson, with vietnam. nixon, with watergate. jimmy carter, one term, the first bush, one term, the second bush, leaves under a cloud. and so they looked to two presidents to give them better hope and feeling about the government. first of all, kennedy -- reagan in this poll, which kennedy had 85% approval, reagan had 74%. so, people remember the kennedy -- he put a man on the
moon, that he called his administration the new frontier. he is frozen in our minds at the aim -- age of 46, and nobody could quite imagine if he walked into this room tonight, he would be 96 years old. it's 50 years later. but he is still young, vital, energetic, an exciting personality. and people are attached to that, and i think -- my teacher was richard hoff steader, a great historian, and he once said to me that america is the only country in the world that believes it was born perfect and strives for improvement. and his is what innocence kennedy gives people to this day. i'd say one other thing. which is that the kennedys are american's dynasty.
not the roosevelts or the bushes. and what people find so appealing about them is on the one hand they represent the fulfillment of the american dream. the irish catholic, who became fabulously rich and famous, you see, and on the other hand, so stark horse, that the oldest brother killed in world war ii, the oldest sister killed in a plane crash in france in 1948. the president assassinated. bobby kennedy assassinated. the president's son killed in a senseless plane crash in -- off cape cod. jacqueline kennedy died in her early 60s of cancer. ted kennedy, the horror at chappaquiddick where the young woman died in the accident. so they identify also with the suffering that the family has
gone through, because everybody worked through some kind of difficult any their lives. so it's the combination on the one hand of their fame and fortune and on the other hand their suffering, their tragedy. but they are really the dynastic family. >> explain the public's fascination. you tell us the truth and we have had a range of kennedy biographies, and then there was the tearing him down and the exposure of his womanizing and the concealment of his health problems. but i left this book feeling this was pretty positive portrait and my tickaway is you paint the picture of a president would came in with a lot of faith in his advisers and was willing to devery -- did he ever to them and that led to the bay of pigs, but by the time of the
cuban missile crisis he was responsible for his own decisions and resisted irrational action and saved the world from nuclear annihilation. >> he brought in what the david hallber symptom called the best and the brightest. he wanted intelligent and accomplished people to come in and be around him. he didn't know them. the only one he knew was, of course, his brother, bobby, who he made attorney general, and somebody said to him, you know, it's not a great idea to appoint your brother attorney general. he really doesn't have significant legal experience that would qualify him for the job. and kennedy said, i need someone i can put my feet up with and talk to candidly, because he did not know dean rusk.
he didn't know bob mcnamara. he didn't know stu douglas, who was eisenhower's secretary of the treasury, and bundy, who became his national security adviser, he knew him, but not very well from their associations, and the harvard board of -- whatever it's called. and -- harvard university faculty? >> right. you're hearing from a long-serving academic. anyway, he was comfortable with robert kennedy. and i must say the thing you never have are the many conversations, i think, he and bobby had behind the scenes. they're not tape recorded, they're not on paper. but people can detect that they'd come into the room and they'd meet with the cabinet or they'd meet with the many
advisers, and bobby would drop the hammer or the dime on somebody, and jack would sit there with a slight smile on his face because bobby was doing his bidding, and my guess is they work out what bobby was going to say before hand. so he was very comfortable with bobby. i call bobby the advisor in chief. he didn't have a chief of staff but bobby kennedy did it. just become more directly to your point, he grew in office. he learned that you can't just take at face value what advisers were telling him. he was badly burned by the bay of pigs experience. walked around afterwards saying how could i have been so stupid? and he saw charles degaulle at the end of may, shortly after that, and degaulle said to him, get the best advice you can, the smartest people you can possibly
bring into your administration. but at the end of the day you must make the decision. you're the one who has to decide what is appropriate and wise, and kennedy remembered what hari truman says, the buck stops here. so he grew and he was skeptical and he had greatest tension with the joint chiefs of staff. he battled with them over the issue of nuclear weapons. >> they -- as you say, both president kennedy and bobby kennedy come off much better than the joint chiefs and many of the advisers. they were pragmatic, cared about politics and argued for military restraint, and both the joint chiefs and people like bundy and macin marry -- mcna mara tarnished their reputation biz their performance in vietnam. why was kennedy better than his advisers?
>> well,. >> kennedy was deeply troubled by the fact -- i still teach'm in washington, and these young people 20 years old, they don't have a clue as to hugh frightened and concerned people were in the '50s and '60s about the possibility, indeed even the likelihood, that there could be a nuclear war. kennedy at one point said to somebody, in private, i'd rather my kids be red than dead. he never could have said that in public. but what worried him so much was the fact that the chiefs, when he came into office, that local commanders in the field, if
there were an incident with the soviets, that they could unleash a nuclear weapon, and bundy said to him, we need to get the nuclear war plan and we need to increase the controls over whether and when these weapons will be used. bundy called up the generals, the pentagon, in charge of the nuclear war plan, and said, we want to see it. the general said, i'm sorry, we don't show that. and bundy said, i don't think you understand. i'm asking for the president. and so then they had a briefing for kennedy, with charts and discussion of how many weapons they had and how they might be used, and they were talking about the possibility of dropping 170 atomic and nuclear bombs on moscow. 170. and that what they described
would, in a war, wipe out hundreds of millions of people in russia, eastern europe, china, you see, and as kennedy walked out of the room he said to dean rusk, the secretary of state, and we call ourselves the human race. just was horrified at the thought that there could be such a conflict, and he would be the responsible person. he was the one who was going to pull the trigger. he didn't want any of them to have that control. he reserved it for himself, and of course, the open moment in that regard was in the cuban missile crisis when they wanted to bomb and invade, and he -- with mcnamara's help and advice he was ordered to diplomacy which resolved that crisis peacefully. he held the joint chiefs at arm's length throughout the crisis, and at the end of it, he called them in to show them a
certain deference. they came in, and they said to him, mr. president, you've been had. khrushchev is hiding the missiles in caves. the white house leaked this to the press. khrushchev wrote kennedy, depressants live in the caveman age. i'm no caveman. well, they had a plan to drop a nuclear bomb on cuba. one mega ton nuclear bomb. would have turned the island into a pile of rubble. let alone what it would have done to the south coast of florida. but they had come out of world war ii and their attitude is, if you're fighting a ruthless enemy you bomb them back to the stone age. you have an advantage, you use it. kennedy just didn't want to subscribe to this, and he thought they were off the wall. he just resisted their advice.
>> the missile crisis is rivetting and you tell the stories of the generals who are keen to absolutely have nuclear escalation and many of the advisors, including bundy, pushing him in the same direction, and the whole thing seems to have been saved slow communication, the fact they were able to get two letters from khrushchev in responsible to the second one, the peaceful one. could the world have been saved in the age of the internet? >> well, that's -- yeah, it's such a different world. it's so changed. and could kennedy have gotten away with the compulsive womanizing? could he have hidden his health problems? floshbill clinton found out, this is not something you can get away with. and -- but it was a different time. and i interviewed several
journalists, my first book on kennedy, and i asked them if they knew about the womanizing, and they said, yes, they did. but i said, why didn't you report it? they said, just wasn't done in the '60s. you didn't invade a president's private life in that way, and you were much more restrained. >> you acknowledge the most extreme excesses, the womanizing and the way he would humiliate his mistresses by making them be with his aides in the white house pool and so forth. you say he did it not because of the passion or the sex but because of the need for affirmation and attention. was that too generous? >> i think probably both help felt like in a sense he was a prince of the realm and he could get away with it. he was entitled. he was president. the most troubling thing i found with him in that regard was the
fact he seduced this 19-year-old, 20-year-old, had an fair with her for a year and a half. my story about that is that when i was working on that first volume, i read an oral history by the white house deputy press secretary, and those 17 blacked out pages, and i happened to meet her at the cocktail party in washington shortly after that, and i said to her, barbara, it's 40 years later. what about those blacked-out pages. she said, i'll open them for you. so i went to the archivist at the kennedy library and she said could i read the 17 pages and she shook her head and said, bob, please, don't get me in trouble with the ken kennedys. ask them for it direct live. well, needless to say, i didn't whet my appetite, and i --
>> an historian. >> got to do your research. and so i went back to her and she -- what i found there was that he was having this affair with that 19-year-old kid, that he seduced her in jackie's bedroom. anyway, on the eve of the publication of my book, the new york daily news called me up, and they said, who is this woman? what's her name? i said i don't know. barbara didn't tell me. didn't want to know. probably in her sixes in now. -- 60s now. leave her alone itch trust barbara is telling the truth. well, investigative journalists, they found out that this woman, her name was niemibarresford, her maiden system was at miss porter's school, and for three days running after that they ran headlines about kennedy's monica.
and on the first day they ran the headline on page 3. they had a big picture of monica lewinski and next to her a picture of me -- [laughter] >> you had to tell your wife, i decide not have -- >> i said to my wife, i don't even know the woman. anyway, these were the adventures a historian can get into. it really was something off the wahl wall about this. egads. president of the united states, 46 years old, and this young woman was baffled by him, and so it just was over the top. and so there was something unwholesome, one might say, about the way in which he behaved here, but again, he got away with it, and i don't think he would have been detected. even if he had another five years in the white house,
because the journalists didn't report it. >> did it have an effect on his leadership? he liked jackie kennedy to flatter him and tell him how great he was but told her nothing and she had to read the newspapers. this does lead to criticism and people who would challenge him? >> he and bob where were very guarded in many ways. joe, the father, once told them, never put anything on paper. and indeed, joe was the one who counseled them not to reveal jack's health problems, which were quite substantial. , because joe said, it can't do him any good. for the world to know he is sickly or has addison's disease and has this miserable back problem and other'm -- can't help him in any way at all. so they were guarded and very
protective of their image and reputation. now, joe kennedy, as early also 1920s, understood that public relations -- and he hired p.r. people to polish his image, and he was very mindful of this, and i think jack and bobby were, too. and joe told them, the only one you can really trust is the immediate members of your family. however close you may be to this aide or that aide or this cabinet member or that cabinet member, bobby is the only one you can really trust and i think that's the way they operated. >> health problems. would you reveal before any other historians, he was taking all sorts of pills during the crisis. how much of the health problems was the drugs he took for the condition and how much was the underlying condition. >> you know, jeff, i was mindful of this when i gained access to
the medical records because the committee wanted a professor at harvard, the other at yale, and then ted sorenson, and i talked sorenson into giving me access to the records. he didn't want to do it. the other two were ready to do it. so, sorenson didn't know what was in the records, and "the new york times" found the revelations so interesting that -- the book was about to come out -- the pressured the front page story about the revelations, because it was kind of shocking. the image of kennedy was of this robust, vital, active young man, who played touch football, weapon when in fact he was burdened by these terrible health difficulties, and on a host of different medications, and when i read the records i took with me to washington -- to boston, rather, a friend from washington, -- jeffrey kellman,
a wonderful physician, because i didn't have the expertise to understand what i was looking at, let alone the medications, and we sat there and looked at -- and he shook his heat and said, look at all these medications he is on day by day. so i set his medical records and the medications he was talking down alongside of the 13 days of the missile crisis, and what i found was he was extraordinarily stoic and able to -- because of taking the medications, i think, able to deal with the tensions and the pressures that were on him as a consequence of that crisis. and i think that people currently, or in recent years, have not complained about the coverup of his health problems because they see him as heroic, as stoic, and as someone who took the burdens of health difficulties in stride.
and southernson was -- sorenson was angry at me for revealing the material, and he would say everytime i saw him there, was no coverup, but ted kennedy told me he didn't know that much about his brother's health problems until he read my account. and he learned about his brother's health difficulties from my book, and arthur shot sin jerry and -- they were very positive about my book because they thought it made the president look courageous and stoic and i think that's how the public views the health situation, not as something to complain about as -- when he was president, but someone who -- it adds to the positive image of him. >> stoic, courageous, others are call, cerebral, not a natural
politician, more interested in reading historical biography, than in shaking hands, repeatedly, as i read this book, i thought of another president, and that is president barack obama. you have had dinner with president obama several times, as a group of historians summoned to talk with him. you have an impression on him? compare kennedy and obama in terms of leadership style and temperment. >> first off, i would say that if it weren't for kennedy i don't know that obama ever would have made it to the white house. because kennedy broke the hold of the protestant -- white protestant male on the office and opened the idea it could be a much broader group that can think about running for the office, and when we see a woman as president in the not too distant future -- not lobbying for anybody now --
>> nonpartisan -- >> that's why i said that. and -- but we will see a woman, and at some point we may see an asian american, hispanic, but i think obama's presence there can be traced back to kennedy. and obama's quite interested in kennedy and interested in the history of the presidency. we have had four dinners with him, and at the first dinner he wanted to talk about how other presidents had achieved their transformative presidency. roosevelt, woodrow wilson, fdr, reagan. how did they achieve big transformations, and the second dinner he wanted to talk about how to reclaim his hold on the public and the united states because this is 2010 and he was slipping. 2011, he talked about the
election, the coming election of 2012, and tell you one anecdote. he complained about congress in particular michelle bachmann, shook his head and said, what she says about me, and so i said to him marx president, i guess you know what mark twain said about congressmen. shook his head. mark twain said, suppose you were a congressman and an idiot. but i repeat myself. [laughter] >> he loved it. but, yeah, coming back to your point, i think there are similarities. continuities. obama's very cerebral. is an academic, and kennedy wrote books, published books, and obama wrote books, and i think there's a certain affinity
for -- now kennedy was never a glad-hander and certainly obama is not a glad-hander. i have next 0 to him at one dinner and there's no small talk. he is very serious and it's all business, all the time, and that's fine with me. i'm an academic, too, but kennedy never really liked that kind of traditional boston, how is your grandma and your uncle so and so, and he never engaged in that type of chatter, and i think obama is very serious about what he -- and of course the knock on him has been that he didn't -- hadn't cultivated the people in congress the way lyndon johnson did, because johnson was the guy that pressed the flesh, and somebody said when lyndon backed you into a corner and breathing into your mouth you knew you were finished. so, i'm very -- a very, very difficult style, and i think
obama is a lot more like kennedy than compared to johnson. >> there are differences, though? both appointed experts, the best and the brightest, the green team, the all harvard and rhodes scholars but kennedy learned to stop deferring to them and exercising leadership by making a bold move on his own. has obama been similarly bold? >> jeff, i think obama's problem in a sense is that he has already been there a long time as presidential administrations go. he is the 44th president, and what always startles people is that there had been only 18 of the 44 presidents, only 18 who had been elected to a second term. pretty astonishing. and there's been only 13 who served eight years or more. franklin roosevelt served for
12, but three of them never got to the second term. lincoln assassinated. mckinley assassinated, and nixon, forced to resign. obama will be just the 14th 14th president to serve eight years when he gets through his second term. but it's the second term curse. would we be sitting here talking in this way about kennedy if he had had a second term? ... i