tv Face the Nation CBS November 17, 2013 5:00pm-5:31pm PST
>> schieffer: welcome back to "face the nation." joining us now, the author of "jfk's last 100 days" douglas brinkley and university of virginia. doug brickly beyond this tragedy why was this such an important anniversary for america? >> well, i think a lot of people are remembering where they were, what i did that day. this was but to us live on television. playing clips of walter cronkite not just john f. kennedy, who is lee harvey oswald, why is jackie wearing a suit with blood. on and on for four days. everybody kind of tuned in. there's a line by bob dylan said people don't live or die people
just net. most people live in the-lined lives when kennedy was killed, they weren't floating any more it was like realtime adrenaline for the whole country. >> schieffer: you know, those of us who were here and covered this story, i think a part that is not really understood today is that beyond this tragedy that we saw unfolding on television, we'd never seen anything like this before. hanging overall this it was like we all felt on 9/11 we didn't know what it meant. we didn't know if this was the beginning of world war iii, a year away from the human missile crisis. it was just this profound, i can't understand this. why is this happening. and i think in a sense that america was never quite the same of a it was after that day. your book focuses on kennedy's last 100 days, why do you think that period was so important?
>> because finally in that period he was addressing the two great threats to our nation, a nuclear war and racial conflict. you know, at the inauguration robert frost wrote a poem that he couldn't deliver because a glare from the sun. a golden age of poetry and power which this is beginning hour. it was poetry in kennedy's first two years but he didn't marry poetry to power until finally in june he gave two very important speeches. the first american university speech proposing a test ban treaty. the second speech about race which he was finally sending a civil rights bill to congress. >> schieffer: race had not been all that important to him or at least publicly he did not mention it in his inauguration address. he was against james meredith enrolling at ole miss he urged him not to do it. he was against the march on washington sponsored by martin luther king. >> he was originally against it
because the march was going to be cat the capital he was afraid it would make a scene as they were trying to intimidate congress. he and bobby kennedy were through negotiations moved it to the lincoln memorial. but what you said is right, kennedy was very disappointing to the civil rights leaders on civil rights. but when he gave this marvelous speech on the 11th that time martin luther king turned to companion said, can you believe that white man not only stood up to the plate, he hit it over the ballpark -- out of the ballpark. >> schieffer: larry, one of the nuggets in your new book that i found so interesting, the story about jackie kennedy called the civil war historian james robertson, the night of the assassination to ask for help putting together her husband's funeral. >> it really impressed me enormously when i first heard this i decided to stress it in the kennedy half century, because i think one of the most
well-known stories and less told stories how jackie kennedy helped the country get through this and somehow in the midst of her shock and grief even on the flight back from dallas she was already planning to have a lincoln-esque funeral for her husband and to create the camelot. she was thinking about his legacy. when she was told about oswald he didn't even have the ability, the opportunity to die for civil rights it had to be some silly little communist. she wanted to convert his legacy in to something bigger and she did. >> schieffer: she actually tried to replicate in the white house how it looked when lincoln casket is brought. >> yes. that historian was called by the white house and told to go over to the library of congress get all the information he could about lincoln's funeral. first thing he said was, in the meantime you get all the -- he
went over to the library of congress they didn't have the lights on couldn't find the light switches they used flashlights they found old "harper's weekly" dashed over to the white house, got there in a sea of black bunting with a team of carpenters already ready to construct the lincoln east room affair. just as it had been in 1865. >> schieffer: and doug, you of course wrote the wonderful biographer of walter cronkite. this was a day that not only changed the country, it changed television. it changed the way we get information, this morning most people got their news from print and this -- nothing like this ever happened. >> you had the hearings being brought on tv that's just congress, certainly john glenn's started bringing people in to special effects television. bringing a real life trauma like this hour after hour after hour
with all those poignant moments including young kennedy children there at arlington national cemetery, jackie kennedy looking so almost madonna-like. every time you see that photo of her with the vail just most gripping drama. you mentioned after that, vietnam becomes the television war. watergate is brought on tv we're all turned in to these big events involving through the kennedy assassination. >> schieffer: as horrible as it was, i think what hit people even harder because they had come to believe did they not, thurston, that they knew the kennedys better than they knew any of his predecessors because of television. >> exactly. kennedy gave a televised, live televised news conference on average every 16 days. extraordinary. you compare to what happened
since. the other thing is that again and again you read people saying i knew him as if he was my brother, as if he was my son. charles de gaulle said they're crying all over france as if he was a french men. de gaulle was stunned by this. >> schieffer: he was, still in my view was the best there ever was at television and knowing how to use it and how to communicate on television. >> all presidents try to imitate john f. kennedy but they can't. he had a special magic, a special combination of rhetorical ability. ability to inspire and also self deprecating humor which some of our presidents really ought to acquire. >> the interesting thing he didn't like television that much. when he came to the white house he had all of the steps steps pulled out. so caroline can catch lassie. >> schieffer: i never knew that. why do you think it is, i'll put the question to all three of you, today, 61% of the american
people still believe that lee harvey oswald did not act alone. i think the evidence is overwhelming that he did. i've always tried to keep an open mind about various conspiracy theories. but as yet no one has shown me evidence to convince me that there was anybody else connected y. do you think that is? >> people looked at this as one of the most terrible things that ever happened in american history, it was. it was so big, how could you balance it with a loser, a total loser who failed at everything as lee harvey oswald had. there had to be more meaning in it. and they tried to invest the meaning by saying, it's the cia, it's the anti--castro cubans, it's lbj. but as you say you have to go by the evidence and we're still waiting for evidence beyond that of lee harvey oswald who clearly
was guilty. >> there's no question that the administration was using every means they could, they wanted to kill castro and they were sending sabotage missions and castro knew about that. but again there is no evidence that he ever acted on it. in fact he later said in interview i would always want a second source when i hear something from castro. he said, i'm smarter than that, basically. they would have obliterated this island if i haddon something like that. >> look, it's clear lee harvey oswald killed john f. kennedy. you ask why people wonder, i interviewed gerald ford once for a book i was asking him about nato, the fall of saigon he said, come here. look at this, there was a little stack like, this is my incoming about my presidency. now you see this stack, it was like towering, he said that was about me and the warren commission why i invented a
magic bullet. get some of the warn commission report i think it was at times sloppy, it was rushed, it was right in the end. maybe on this anniversary we need to thank people, the legacy of gerald ford and john mccloy and people that worked so hard on those multiple volumes because they i think nailed the story. >> schieffer: what do you think that john kennedy's real legacy is? >> first of all that he was the first catholic elected president. he kicked open the door after him came whole bunch of other minorities. he appointed the first polish american to his cabinet. he wrote a book about immigration called a nation of immigrants, very important to him. the other is of course the cuban missile crisis. kennedy hadn't -- i wonder if we'd be sitting here if there would be a dallas. his role in that was absolutely crucial and he realized it, too, afterwards at a press
conference. he'd been the only one who didn't want to have retaliatory strike. the press conference afterwards he refers to abraham lincoln, asked his cabinet to vote. lincoln says i vote nay the nays win. that had to be on his mind. >> schieffer: thank you all very much on this very special weekend in american history. we'll be back in one minute. i'm beth... and i'm michelle. and we own the paper cottage. it's a stationery and gifts store. anything we purchase for the paper cottage goes on our ink card. so you can manage your business expenses and access them online instantly with the game changing app from ink. we didn't get into business to spend time managing receipts, that's why we have ink. we like being in business because we like being creative, we like interacting with people. so you have time to focus on the things you love. ink from chase. so you can.
his day of coaching begins with knee pain, when... [ man ] hey, brad, want to trade the all-day relief of two aleve for six tylenol? what's the catch? there's no catch. you want me to give up my two aleve for six tylenol? no. for my knee pain, nothing beats my aleve. >> everything we saw him due was a huge enjoyment much life. he seemed that life is one fast moving train and you have to jump aboard and hold on to your hat and relish the sweep of the wind as it rushes by. you have to enjoy the journey, it's unthankable not to. i think that's how this country remembers him. in his joy.
>> schieffer: we're back now with our friends peggy and harvard university david, both who worked for ronald reagan. david also worked of course for president clinton. now peggy, you were a speech writer for ronald reagan i know president's write every word of every speech but that was a particularly eloquent thing, did you maybe help him draft it? >> i worked with him on that, that was in 1985, june of '85. the president and mrs. reagan were very fond of jackie kennedy and her children and they came to him personally said, we're having a fundraiser for this library that we're starting, could you help us? the jfk library at that point had not been fully endowed. the reagans, ronald and nancy reagan thought, that's history. that's not anything like that,
let's help them be a repositives for refor history. very graciously the president and first lady went over to ted kennedy's house and spoke about the nature and personality and character of this man, ronald rage began had politically opposed on a personal level was appreciating very deeply. it was very touching. it was nice. like the old days where you can be nice to the other side. >> schieffer: there is one kind of bipartisan thing in recent history, isn't there, david, that is that every president wants to be like jack kennedy in a way. >> absolutely. after lincoln died historians wrote that everybody want to get write with lincoln, walk in his footsteps that happened after john f. kennedy, in a book is very much about every president drool upon kennedy. especially bill clinton.
remember the scene when kennedy was young, came to the white house he sort of reached out touched the hand of god. he was always influenced by it and drew heavily upon it in his rhetoric and his actions. >> schieffer: just same question to both of you, what do you think this anniversary means for the country. i think it's very important for people who were not alive when this happened to understand as much as they can about this, what is it that you find most important, peggy? >> the 50th anniversary. this may be the last time we remember this shattering historical event, the last time we remember it on this level. the 60th and 70th would be like so many people who can talk about it will have left. this was a moment that for two generations of americans was quite something that entered their minds and their imaginations forever. the baby boomers of america, the
biggest generation in u.s. history they watched it live on this new thing called tv. i was a baby boomer, i can remember when we got our first tv just about 1959. it was just amazing to have it this shattering event enter your living room and enter your head through our parents, greatest generation, jack kennedy's generation it was losing one of their own, one who fought world war ii with them. they fought very much as mary mccrory who you knew once had conversation with pat moynihan waiting online to see john kennedy as casket at the capitol she said, what are we doing at jack kennedy's funeral, i can't believe it. we will never laugh again. pat said, you'll laugh again but never be young again. that was another generation that was just hit by this historical
event. >> you said last night on the special that it was a loss of innocence. i think that captures it absolutely right. for so many people america seemed to be at peace with the world, we were prospering, we had this sort of sense that we could go anywhere and do anything. and we had then -- that was a dawn of new age, it was tumultuous period that followed. there was a real sense, we often quoted yates in the '60s about things fall apart. after world war i. also something, we were robbed of a sense of the future. it was very different from the lincoln assassination when it was equal amount of grief but there was sense when lincoln died that his work was completed by 1855. the war was basically over. where as with kennedy it was just beginning and there was a sense that somehow the little
communist as jacqueline kennedy called him, had stolen their future. >> schieffer: lucy johnson when i talked to her she said, talking to her after we did the part on camera she said over and over her father kept saying "i've got to show them" "they killed our president but they haven't killed our country." everything he did lyndon johnson was concerned about how it would be viewed by the soviets. because they didn't know at that point what this was all about. and i think while it was one of the most tragic periods in our history it was also a time that we can all be proud of because when lyndon johnson stepped off that airplane he was in command and the president of the united states had been shot but there was another president there and the constitution once again had held. >> we had to prove we had it
all together. and he did. lbj understood not only is the world watching, american young people are watching. people are anxious. we hadn't been through a moment like this in a very, very long time. and he knew that the strength of this system, the continuity of the presidency, the seamless continuity of our politics, everybody must be reminded that continues. we're going to grieve, we're going to watch this tragedy but nothing changes here, america goes on. >> schieffer: what do you think so many people still cannot accept the fact that lee harvey oswald acted alone? >> well, i think opened this new age of skepticism, we're doubtful of what we're told by public authorities, it has become much worse in recent years. going through a particular acute period that have right now, i think that the fact that jack ruby got in there was able to
shoot lee harvey oswald so easily, we forget, you were here, bob, you understood the dallas-fort worth culture for the country to see ruby get in there and do that it's as if he's trying to silence him. that made a big -- >> schieffer: it's very hard for people to understand now that is how it was in those days. basically if you look like you belong some place, you could get in. that's why i always wore a hat as police reporter for "the star telegram" if people wanted to assume i was detective we let them assume that. you could do that in those days. i want to thank both of you so much. >> one last thing, bob. a poll asked americans who do you think -- any president who should it be. 50 years later it's jack kennedy. number one. >> schieffer: thank you all so much for being with us. it. >> was a privilege to be here. >> yes, it was. >> schieffer: final thoughts in a minute.
>> schieffer: when i arrived in argentina in 19 the cover the war a great brit tan i was told argentina had known reliable history. each of the country's leaders had rewritten history to play up his accomplishments and play down or eliminate whatever his predecessor had accomplished. a frequent habit of totalitarian leaders. in the days after oswald shot the president, the first reaction of many in dallas was to bulldoze this building as if that might somehow erase the whole thing in the fact that it happened here. instead, community leaders decided to make it in to a museum and center for scholarship about one of america's most terrible weekends. they recognize that democracy requires an accurate history without which we cannot understand how we came to be what we are. there had been threats of demonstrations and even violence from scattered right wing hate
groups before kennedy came to dallas, but his reception in every city including dallas was overwhelmingly friendly. the man who shot him was anything but a right wing zealot he was a loner, a loser and a failure who had defected to the soviet union. he was not from dallas or of dallas. yet for years in the minds of many it was somehow dallas' fault, it was not. and the sixth floor museum at dealey plaza has helped us understand that. we may never understand why oswald did it, but the assassination could have happened in any city in america. back in a minute. ♪ [ male announcer ] 1.21 gigawatts. today, that's easy. ge is revolutionizing power. supercharging turbines with advanced hardware and innovative software. using data predictively to help power entire cities. so the turbines of today...
>> schieffer: that's it for us today we'll be back in washington next sunday we want to thank you nor watching this special edition of "face the nation" marking the 50th anniversary of the kennedy assassination. we also want to give a big thank you to dallas county, the city of dallas and everyone here at the 6th floor museum. we'll see you next week. captioning sponsored by cbs captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
midwest, spawning massive tornadoes. an entire neighborho unusual for november. severe weather pounds the midwest sh spawning massive tornadoes and an entire neighborhood in one town in chicago is disseminated. at least five people are dead and dozens more injured following a tornado outbreak in e midwest. the weather even halted an nfl game for hours. this is the tornado that ripped through washington, illinois, as seen through a survivor's window. you could see the massive funnel race across the screen. that storm caused extensive damage and killed at least one person. it was one of 70 tornadoes today. wendy shows us the damage. tornado leveled an entire neighborhood in washington, illinois. residents went thr t