tv Up W Steve Kornacki MSNBC November 17, 2013 5:00am-7:01am PST
the money you spend here, stays here. in this place you call your neighborhood. small business saturday is november 30th. get out and shop small. nbc has canceled all regular programs until further notice so we can bring you every facet of this development as it continues to happen. >> 50 years since the assassination of john f. kennedy. since that tragedy, since that inexplicable loss brought about changes, changes in the way we govern, changes in the party, changes in how we cover the american presidency. we'll get to that this morning, we'll try with a remarkable mix of panelists, people who have worked with president kennedy, people who are eyewitnesses to history. people who covered president kennedy, have studied president kennedy, are related to
president kennedy. we're excited about all that we have planned for today and we begin today in dallas, 50 years ago, this friday. john fitzgerald kennedy, the president of the united states, was on a political visit to texas to mend fences in an intrapart feud among state democrats. first lady jacquelineccompanyin first of many trips as her president prepared to seek a second term. it was the middle of the day when the motorcade reached daley plaza in downtown dallas. >> it is approaching 12:30 p.m. dallas time. the crowds and the tall business district are overfilling the sidewalks. some throw streamers and torn paper in a miniature ticker-tape parade. the reporters look at each other, there have about no incidents. 12:32, the crowds are thinner. nbc cameraman dave wigman takes a passing shot of a building and
three shots are heard, like toy explosions. wigman jumps from his car, running towards the president with his camera running. people scream and lie down, grabbing their children. >> that was robert mcneil, a young nbc news correspondent describing what he saw later that night. neil was in the press bus tailing the presidential motorcade where everyone only heard the shots, didn't see them hit the target. nbc news quickly caught up with the man who did. >> fortunately i was probably 50 to 20 feet away from the president when it happened. >> tell us exactly what you saw, sir. >> he was coming down the street, and my 5-year-old boy and myself were boy ourselves on the grass there on palmer street. and i asked joe to wave to him and joe waved and i waved and the man -- >> that's all right, sir. go ahead. >> as he was waving back, the shot rang out and he slumped down in the seat and his wife
reached up toward him and he was slumping down and a second shot went off and just knocked him down from the seat. >> in the moments after that shooting, all anyone knew was confusion, chaos, was hysteria, even terror. remember there was no cable television back then. no 24-hour news networks. just a few major networks and old antenna televisions. and when the shooting happened, those local network affiliate stations were all airing their own programming. networks cut in as fast as they could, means viewers of nbc stations looked up and suddenly they saw nbc news' frank mcgee standing over the anchor desk in new york explaining to fellow anchors what the news division was doing to collect information. >> we have a mobile unit on its way to the white house now as you just reported, the white house doesn't seem to be have any more information than the reporters on the scene. and we are also establishing contact with our robert mcneil, who is with the president's
party in dallas and we expect to be getting reports from him very shortly. so as you can imagine, extensive efforts are being made to get our men dispatched to the right place at the right time and get as much information on it as we can. >> the technology of the day was under enormous strain. every radio and telephone circuit connecting dallas to the rest of the world was instantly snarled. anchors in new york began relaying whatever reporting from dallas and from memorial hospital they could collect. they confirm that the president had been shot, and they confirmed he was still alive. then a new grave detail, they learned there had been a call for a neurosurgeon, suggesting injury to the head or the spinal cord. also a call for a priest. nbc's bill ryan urged caution. >> it might be pointed out in that last report from dallas, the calling in of surgical specialists and a priest, that this is -- this is routine in a situation like this, if a catholic is in critical
condition, summoning of a priest is not necessarily mean that the illness or the affliction will be terminal, but death is necessarily near. >> more and more information trickled across the wires. robert mcneil secured a line from parkland hospital. they struggled to patch him into the television broadcast. the connection to a station in ft. worth flickered on without sound and the picture went and the whole connection dropped out completely. bill ryan described the nbc newsroom. >> this is a time of what would probably best be described as controlled panic. >> finally an audio connection to mcneil at parkland hospital was established. frank mcgee leaning shoulder to holder with chet huntley in new york in studio 5hn reported the words that mcneil told him for all the world to hear. >> we do not know exactly where he was struck nor how many times? >> he was carried into the hospital. >> he was carried into the
hospital. >> unconscious and bleeding. >> unconscious and bleeding. >> and last rights of the church have just been administered. >> and last rights of the church have just been administered. >> and that's all for the moment, tank. >> bob tells me that's all for the moment. >> every new word, every new report on every network, the chaos, there was still momentary rays of hope, rays of hope that could quickly prove to be fleeting. here was bill ryan just after 2:30 eastern time, 1:30 in dallas. >> senator ralph yardborough, in a nearby car when the attack took place on the president, he saw the president's lips moving and what he called a normal rate of speed while mr. kennedy was being rushed to the hospital. how much it mean, we do not know. >> there is present word from the hospital, bill, they're trying to make arrangements as quickly as they can for a press conference. where as much details as they have can be disseminated. >> there is word that one neurosurgeon has arrived at the hospital. i should imagine in a case such
as this that virtually every medical specialist of any sort and description and capability would be called in to the hospital so that all medical treatment would be available to the president. chet? >> in this momentary lull, i would assume the memory of every person living at this moment has flashed back to that day in april 1945, when franklin delano roosevelt -- >> excuse me, chet. here is a flash from the associated press. dateline dallas. two priests who are with president kennedy say he is dead of bullet wounds. >> that is how word landed in the nbc newsroom. and in living rooms and workplaces and bars all across america. that press conference that frank mcgee mentioned is where a white house press aid officially confirmed it. the president of the united states was dead. every other television network, every radio signal in america, the same bulletin, the same shock struck with the same immediacy, and nbc news team in times square captured one such
moment. >> a flash from dallas, two priests who were with president kennedy say he is dead of bullet wounds. this is the latest information we have from dallas. >> what is your feeling right now? >> i really couldn't say. really. right now i just don't know what to do. i don't even know where to go what to say. nothing. >> so it was, half a century ago, the nation absorbed this massive shock, assembled around television sets, huddled around the nearest radio, drawn by word that kennedy had been shot. to learn together its young and vibrant president was gone. here with me to talk about that day is robert mcneil, the young nbc news correspondent we referred to in the clips, also the former executive editor and co-anchor of pbs' mcneil news
hour. walter maiers, pulitzer prize winning reporter for the associated press who covered every presidential campaign from 1960 to the year 2000, and shirley franklin, former democratic mayor of atlanta and the recipient of the jfk profile in courage award. thank you for joining us today. i think there is a lot of memories for all of you and a lot of emotions, just in watching all of that. i'll start with you, robert. we relied so much on your reporting. i wonder if first you can just sort of take us back to that day, and to the climate of american politics, the climate of politics in texas, that sort of john f. kennedy was walking into. there was concern before his trip in general about how he would be received there? >> yeah. there was a lot of conservatives, opposition to kennedy. and an example on the way in to the motorcade into dallas, and the outskirts, one man had a sign, i hold you, mr. kennedy, and your blind socialism in
total contempt. and that had been expressed by the biggest newspaper, the morning newspaper in dallas that morning. but the trip had gone so well for them, politically. there were rapturous receptions in the other cities and in ft. worth that morning, you just showed, in speaking there, with the congressional delegation from texas, and the governor, lined up behind him on the platform, looking like guilty school boys because they were feuding among themselves, this one couldn't ride in the car with that one and that sort of thing. but the crowd reaction to the kennedys, up until then, and that morning, and in those days you could get very close to a president walking around the crowd. and the crowd was rapturous in greeting him. and then that was the case as we moved into dallas, and along the
fence the president and mrs. kennedy came off the plane, she and that extraordinary pink suit, color of strawberry ice cream, the blue lapels turned out, they gave her a bunch of blood red roses to hold against it, they went up and worked the fence. i was close enough i could see a hand reach out and pluck one of the ends of the roses off her -- the bloom of her rose off the thing. anyway, then the motorcade into dallas, quiet on in the scout skirts, but extraordinary in the main part of the city. i was in the first press bus, a bit elevate in the front and i could see along the front of the motorcade and there was, like, it was look a river that had burst its banks with the crowds coming out on to street and going back in. you thought the motorcade won't be able to get through them, but it did. we turned the corner into dealey plaza, i was working at my watch wondering about doing an nbc news on the hour piece in the coming hour. there was a bang, we all said what was that?
was that a shot? was that a back fire? and then there were two bangs closer together, bang, bang. i said, those are shots. those are shots. stop the bus. the bus driver stopped, i got out of the bus. the bus rolled on. and i saw people running up what became known as the grassy knoll, including policemen. i thought they're chasing a gunman, i ran with them. and we got to a fence at the top and everybody looked around a bit. policeman went over the fence. i went over the fence with him. nothing there. but empty railroad tracks as far as i could see. i ran looking for a phone, ran along the top and the first building i came to that looked like it might have one was the depository. i ran up the steps. as i did, a young girl in short sleeves came out and i said where is the phone? he said, better ask inside. i did and got through to the nbc radio desk immediately, did a bulletin, shots were fired as the presidential motorcade passed through downtown dallas. people screamed and lay down in the grass. it is not known if the shots were directed at the president.
anyway, then we got into that situation with the phones and huntley and mcgee and at one point there are even shots of huntley hold a microphone against the ear piece of a telephone trying to pick up a signal and that's when mcgee says, hey, let's just -- mcneil, you say a sentence and i'll repeat it. extraordinary. but the bad technical problems of the time that -- the technical crudeness did not distort the journalism. i thought the journalism was very, very -- and every part of it i was aware of that day was very sound. you mentioned the -- you showed the eyewitness of the man who had been lying on the grass with his son and had seen the top of the president's head blown off a few feet away from him. one of the things i can't understand is why as i ran up the grassy knoll so fixated on chasing the police i didn't stop myself and ask one of those people what they just seen.
but then why did i run up the grassy knoll? >> right. >> obviously because i saw the policeman going up and the policeman thought they heard something up there. >> that is -- that is a great scene setter and we'll take a break and reset with the rest of the panel. hi there, welcome to the gallery. how do you react when you first see this? it looks kind of like a dancer? reality check: some 4g lte coverage maps don't really look like maps. seems like maybe... a bunch of berries. a witch-like shrew. this one feels more empty. i'm seeing america, but a lot of it is missing. what do you see here? clearly a picture of the united states. check the map. verizon's superfast 4g lte is the most reliable, and in more places than any other 4g network. i should switch to verizon immediately. that's powerful. verizon.
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it just doesn't seem real, and that seems to be the prevailing attitude here now, even at this late hour, somehow there is an unreality about it all. this is richard valieriani, nbc news at the white house. >> that was a correspondent at the white house on that day. walter, we just heard robert describe what it was like to be in dallas that day. what was it like to be covering this in washington, d.c. that day? >> well, i was in the washington
bureau, and had just come back into the bureau, and my first instinct was to pick up a telephone and try to make a call to one of my congressional sources. you couldn't make a call. every circuit in washington was instantly -- sounding busy. you couldn't get a dial tone. so really my first piece of the story was when i was sent to the white house to cover johnston's return from dallas, so i was there when he first entered the white house. interestingly, he headed it only momentarily long enough to pass through and go to his vice presidential office, where he worked for the first days of his presidency. >> which was not in the white house. >> whiches with was across the in the executive office building. out of deference to mrs. kennedy, he worked there, they didn't move into the white house
for a while. but the scene at the white house was, well, funeralial is a silly word to use for this, but that's what it was, it was, as they say, a very momentary entrance into the white house, but i remember filing the bulletin that johnston stepped into the white house that was now his and with that, i covered some side stories. one of my more striking memories is of the funeral procession the following week, up connecticut avenue to the cathedral and what was said to be the greatest collection of world leaders ever assembled since the congress of vienna. as i walked up connecticut, i looked to my left and there was salassi and charles de gaulle, the long and the short of it.
>> it resonated around the world. senator wofford, you were abroad, in the peace corps program. how did you find out and what was it like being abroad for this? >> well, embassy called up with the bad news and it was a fact we didn't have hanging -- you didn't call until we knew he was gone. and then from that moment on, all of ethiopia, the word came back from the 400 peace corps volunteers around the country, how their neighbors had come with food, with sympathy. you realize -- and then as we got reports, i was peace corps representative for all of africa, we got reports from the 100 some countries where volunteers were serving that the same thing has happened. it was a worldwide mourning. and it reflected the fact that kennedy had sort of embodied
what the world in some sense had been hoping for or believed in about america, young, can do, optimism, ideals. he had caught the imagination of people all over the world. not just the great moments in berlin and the massive crowds he assembled, but he went into peasant homes, had his pictures all over him, africa. and he reciprocated because his number one interest in his life was the world. >> yeah. and mayor franklin, you were a college student in washington at the time. you would go on later in your life to win the john f. kennedy profile and courage award. what was it like just being a student in washington, on a day like that? >> i was actually working at sears, when was called sears and roebuck, huge factory -- kind of a warehouse setting. and i took a break.
during the day. and i heard the news on the radio. and i went back to my supervisor and told her that i really needed to leave for the day, that i was just completely devastated, i needed to be alone, i wanted to leave. and she told me that if i left, i would be fired. and i caught the bus and went to my apartment and -- >> you did leave? >> i did leave. and like so many other people just felt as if i was in mourning. i felt completely devastated. this was the first presidential election that i had actually followed as a teenager, and i was one of the many people who was hopeful and thinking that this president was going to represent my point of view. and he was gone. so i think many, many people felt as if it was a family member, someone close to them who had died. >> the only -- the only
comparison i can think about, i wasn't around back then, i think of 9/11 and this network every 9/11 anniversary, we run on this channel what the live nbc news coverage was that day. i read the statistics about the day of the kennedy assassination, about 50% of the people in the country that afternoon were tuned into their televisions, watching it. by the time the funeral happened a few days later, it was something like 80, 85% of the entire country was watching it. besides 9/11, i don't think there has been another event in the television age that has brought the country together like that. >> newsweek magazine said a little condescendingly that television came of age that weekend. and in fact, three years later, by 1966, the national surveys said more people got their news from television than from newspapers. can i say something about emotions catching up. i don't think i felt anything for days. for the day of the assassination, the day after, we were too busy.
and you think, like any reporter, what do i do? where do i go? who do i call? then until the funeral, and i was with an nbc crew at the top of the grassy knoll, shooting the faces of people who had come to look at the flowers and the signs and the notes that are left there. and an elderly man came along with a transistor radio and sat down on a bench beside us and the transistor radio was tuned to the funeral in washington just as the black watch highland pipe band passed the microphones. and the sound of the bagpipes and the memory of having seen this same unit on the south lawn of the white house nine days before with president and mrs. kennedy and their children watching from the balcony and the beautiful autumn day, suddenly i was just in tears. i was sobbing. tears running down my face. it was so unusual to cry, that the saltiness of the tears got me. it all caught up because i had two children, who were exactly the ages of caroline and john
john. i just moved them from england where i lived for eight years, and i asked myself, what kind of a country have i brought my children to. >> you mentioned the technology. i think it is impossible for many of our children, certainly the generation to understand the difference between what we could and did do to communicate this story in 1963, and what happens now. i mean, obviously there was mass confusion. the day after the story, very prominent journalists were writing for print that it was a product of the mood created by the right wing of dallas, because the assumption was that it was going to be the far right that would give kennedy trouble. and, of course, it was a very confused communist. but imagine that story in the age of cell phones, cell cameras, twitter, facebook, and
the wild far of information and misinformation that would have descended on society if all those things that existed -- >> and as it is, 50 years later, we still have about 28,000 different conspiracy theories out there about what really happened. just something we will get into a little later in the program. but walter mears talked earlier about the scene when lyndon johnson entered the white house as president for first time. >> the french doors leading into the oval office of the president of the united states, the rocking chair and other mementos and reminders of the late president kennedy, mr. johnson paused and then passed on through. and he passed on through alone. the deep sweep power brush by oral-b for the first time. wow. it's "wow," you know? wow. wow. that feels wow! [ male announcer ] oral-b deep sweep, featuring three cleaning zones with dynamic power bristles that reach deep between teeth to remove up to 100% more plaque
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♪ ♪ must be the honey! ♪ it is so honey swagalish ♪ so much crunch, can you handle this? ♪ ♪ the party in the bowl don't stop! ♪ ♪ must be the honey! we are the thinkers. the job jugglers. the up all-nighters. and the ones who turn ideas into action. we've made our passions our life's work. we strive for the moments where we can say, "i did it!" ♪ we are entrepreneurs who started it all... with a signature. legalzoom has helped start over 1 million businesses, turning dreamers into business owners. and we're here to help start yours. i think mr. nixon is an effective leader of the party. i hope he would grant me the same. the question before us is, which point of view and which party do we want to lead the united states? mr. nixon, would you like to
comment on that statement? >> i have no comment. >> september 26th, 1960, kennedy and nixon face to face in chicago, with the whole country watching on television. there had never before been a general election presidential debate before that night. far from the mandatory quadrennial event it has become. a night that vividly demonstrated the potentials and perils of live debate. there was kennedy, tan and rested. both men were competent, but kennedy flashed an extra bit of poise, of grace, of charm. he was telegenic. maybe all superficial, maybe something else, but he won the election by less than 119,000 votes of 68 million cast. in less than three years as president, he then hailed 64 televised press conferences. he was our first television president. joining us now at the table is kerry kennedy who heads the robert f. kennedy center for justice and human rights and niece of john f. kennedy.
the rest of the panel is still with us. shirley, i'll pick it up with you, you were talking about what just the news of 1963 meant to you, moved you so much, you put your job on the spot. i wonder how much of what you knew of president kennedy and what president kennedy meant to you if 1963 was because of what this -- at that point relatively new medium television, what you learned of him through television. >> i learned a lot through television. and the news was something that i watched with my family. sometimes with my grandparents, my parents, and there was a lot of discussion about it. and so i didn't know so much about him from the print media, but more about from television and i watched the debate with my family. and there was a lot of discussion as to whether he was the right person, whether he was too young, whether religion should be a matter of consideration. so i couldn't vote, obviously. i was 15 years old, but i had very strong feelings that he should be the president.
>> kerry, what is it that people saw? because the previous generation -- we had eisenhower before, truman, and fdr used the radio very effectively but no president, no presidential candidate understood and mastered television before. what do you think it was that people saw when they saw john f. kennedy on television, that connected with them? >> well, i think, you know, he was youthful, he was vigorous, he was handsome, and he was incredibly articulate. but that all pales in comparison with the message. you know, he -- he was a real leader and he was a leader during the cuban missile crisis, when people believed and it was true that our country, our world could be annihilated in -- at any moment over the course of 13 days. and he led us through that crisis. he stopped the berlin crisis. he started the peace corps that
brought over 130,000 young americans throughout the world to work on poverty. he started the -- so many of these different programs, you know, he challenged us to put a man on the moon. i think that it was the substance that really invigorated people, and made him a beloved president. >> but it was the substance, but at the time of the debate that was really a debatable point. barry goldwater said he listnd to the debate on the radio and then saw it. listening to it, he thought nixon won. watching it, he knew nixon had not. i saw the debate in berlin. they put it on in the berlin hilton hotel and a lot of prominent west berliners came to watch, including billy grant. they came out very long faced because the man they thought who would be their strong stalwart anti-communist champion nixon
had clearly been bettered and they came out thinking nixon had lost. >> to me, the crucial thing about that first debate and i was a very junior ap reporter, my role that night was stenographer, i made notes for the important people, but the image was a big thing. but the most important thing i think is that kennedy emerged as a viable, reasonable challenger to nixon, who had the national standing, the national reputation. he debated khrushchev on moscow and, you know, all of that. and yet here was this young senator who was on the same stage, on an equal footing and more than holding his own, now he was a real presidential candidate, with the standing, the challenge, the national figure, and, you know, i think that changed everything. and nixon thought so clearly
enough that he prevented there from being any further debate until 1976. >> nixon never participated. another part of -- as president we say there were 64 news conferences and they sort of became events in and of themselves, people look forward to watching these because of the banter between kennedy and the press. we have an example. let's play that right now. >> could you tell us generally your feelings about your press conferences today, and your feelings about how they're conducted? >> you said you needed some abuse, but not to any lack of respect, i don't think. >> kerry, that is something i think people when they think of john f. kennedy think of his wit. >> yes, absolutely. he was very, very funny. he was quick. but i think what was incredibly special about him is that he appealed to the best in all of us. you know, he didn't appeal to people's anger or their
resentfulness or their fear of the other. he appealed to when we think about ourselves, at our very best, that's who he was speaking to. the side that said we can be one america, that all americans deserve the vote and can have the vote, that we can overcome our racial hatred in this country. and that we can work on poverty, both in the united states and around the world, and that we can be a country committed to human rights. and our greatest values and that was incredibly appealing to our country. >> and that is certainly what i love about him, but the debate, it was as if he was talking directly to you. and i didn't get that same sense and i think if you look back, he was able to connect through the screen, through the television in a way that i just had not seen before. >> i think that's a great way of putting it. the first politician who realized he wasn't just looking at a lens, he was actually
speaking to americans, sitting in their living rooms, watching on it have beens and got a sense watching the debate that nixon did not get that at all. i want to thank shirley franklin for joining us this morning. rome wasn't built in the day and neither was camelot. the creation of an american political dynasty. that's next. road closed? there's a guy... excuse me? glacier point? follow me! ♪ follow me! keep up, keep up, keep up. ♪ look he's right there! follow me! [ male announcer ] the nissan pathfinder. wow! follow me! [ male announcer ] nissan. innovation that excites. now get a $279 per month lease on a 2014 nissan pathfinder. ♪
really, honey, why can't you just deal with it like everybody else? because i took a pepcid®. fine. debbie, you're my new favorite. [ male announcer ] break with tradition, take pepcid® complete. it works fast and lasts. get relief from your heartburn relief with pepcid® complete. by 1964, the kennedy name was so powerful in the democratic party, that the national convention in atlantic city, president lyndon johnson moved the kennedy tribute film from monday to thursday, after the balloting. that was to make sure it wouldn't set off an emotional stampede that could sweep robert kennedy into the vp slot on the ticket. lbj had reason to be afraid. rfk introduced the film that thursday night, it set off an ovation that lasted for 22 minutes. the making of the kennedy mystique, that's next. you start at point "a."
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caroline wanted her uncle ted's endorsement of barack obama in the winter of 2008 and was taken that the ultimate sign of the party establishment embracing the young first term senator. that's not always what the kennedy name represented. they were the outsiders in the democratic party, right up until the moment jfk won the white house. his triumph wasn't the story of the democratic party electing its candidate, it was the story of a family that created its own party within a party, a party built around jfk, a party that eclipsed the rest of the party, a party that became the party. it begins with joseph p. kennedy, born in east boston, 1888, son of a respected businessman. went to harvard, but the banking elite didn't want to let an irish catholic in. so made his own way in and found himself president of the bank at the age of 25. married the mayor's daughter, made a large family, went to new enterprises, the movies, hollywood, played the stock market so well that the crash of 1929 barely touched him.
and then went into politics. backing franklin roosevelt in 1932. fdr awarded joe kennedy with a number of high positions, chairman of the s.e.c. for one, most remembered for his role as ambassador to great britain. and for a judgment call that ruined his own political career. nazi germany bombarding london in 1940, he advised the president there was no sense of the u.s. getting into europe's war. that miscalculation marginalized him into domestic politics. so joe kennedy sr. poured his efforts into his own children. his oldest son joe jr. killed in the war. second son jack stepped in to take his place. when the young jack kennedy ran for congress in boston in 1946, he was an outsider too. quite literally. his address was a hotel room. . he outworked his opponents and with his father's money he licked the competition. and in 1952, jfk ran for the senate in a terrible year for democrats nationally, the eisenhower landslide. this was then a republican
friendly state of massachusetts. his opponent had a marquis name, henry kabt lodge. kennedy won an upset again. they replicated this model in 1960 in the wisconsin proom ima in the west virginia primary. joseph kennedy stepped out of the spotlight, leaving the stage so his kids could shine. he stopped by the president elect's home in georgetown, to meet john f. kennedy jr. >> i counted this up. >> how do you feel about jackson? >> after all, it is amazing. >> joe kennedy was insistent that jack bring robert into the cabinet as attorney general. president kennedy could have someone he could absolutely trust in that position.
rfk resisted the idea, tried to get washington wise men clark clifford to talk him out of it. we know how that went. >> i am pleased to accept the position of the attorney generalship of the united states. >> in 1961, joseph kennedy suffered a debilitating stroke, lived out the last decade of his life away from public view with the knowledge that his family name had become the gold standard of american political dynasties. for more on the party that joe built, i want to bring in philip johnson, former massachusetts democratic party chairman, former rnc chairman and msnbc political analyst michael steele, david nassaw, author of the patriarch, remarkable life and turbulent times of joseph kennedy. and kerry kennedy. david, i'll start with you. in looking at joseph p. kennedy sr., is this the story that history sort of tells and the story we got there, this was
maybe a man with his own ambitions and a bad judgment call during world war ii sort of caused him to pivot and focus on the ambitions of his children. is that what happened? >> somewhat. i think joe kennedy knew he was smart enough to know that he wasn't going to get elected. country wasn't ready for an irish catholic president who spoke his mind. there was talk in 1940 if roosevelt didn't run for a third term, maybe, maybe kennedy, but he knew that wasn't in the cards. what he did know was that the next generation, the next generation had a chance. the next generation had a chance to make that move from outsider irish catholics into washington and the white house. >> and, phil, in massachusetts, sort of the epicenter of the kennedy political world, can you talk about what the kennedys
meant at that time? what it meant the rise of a prominent irish catholic family in massachusetts and what they still mean today. >> extraordinarily important to the irish, i think, and i speak as an irish person. my grandfather came here from ireland in 1881 and loved james michael curley. my father was navy and harvard and younger was a generational change and he worshipped john f. kennedy. and my grandfather came along for the kennedy ride, in the end, but it was my father who thought that curley made the irish look bad. and he did in many ways. so people forget it was a new generation of irish, you know, sort of post world war ii and post world war ii period, people who had been -- had the world war ii experience, and wanted to change and reform politics in massachusetts that led to the rise of jack kennedy. and when he defeated henry cabot
lodge, it was an earth shaking movement because lodge was not supposed to lose that race. kennedy wasn't supposed to win it. i think arguably it put him on the road to the white house. >> and when we talk about what john f. kennedy encountered too in 1960, it is the story of -- i mean, the west virginia primary was can a catholic win over a heavily -- all the doubts about a catholic president. can you talk about the path to the presidency for jfk? >> i think it is very important. jfk knew that he had to not only run in every primary, but he had to win every primary. and he did. he showed the party leaders that an irish catholic named john fitzgerald kennedy could be elected, was electable. nonetheless, i think we forget this, when the votes came in, when the votes came in, congressional democrats got 54.7%, it was a landslide in
1960. john fitzgerald kennedy got 49.7%. so 5% of the democratic vote stayed away from kennedy because he was irish catholic. one of the legacies of that presidency, which we don't spend enough -- pay enough attention to, is whether you loved or hated john fitzgerald kennedy. within ten days of his assuming the presidency, it was clear that he was faithful to the constitution, and the fact that he was an irish catholic did not mean that he had any less allegiance or patriotism to this country. and following that thousand days in office, i mean, look at the last election, we had two catholics running for national -- >> you go from talking about how there is sort of a -- the stigmatized catholics and costing to go into the kennedy name being magic, growing up in massachusetts, i learned firsthand, the name -- the power
of the kennedy name at the ballot box. michael, i want to bring in, you had ideas of running against the kennedy name in maryland in 2002. kathleen kennedy-townsend was the democratic nominee, you were the republican candidate for lieutenant governor. your ticket was successful. it wasn't in massachusetts. what was it like running against the kennedy name? >> i was state party chairman at the time. and i remember when ehrlich's team approached me about running on the ticket, i was, like, okay, but as a good party chairman, you're, like, okay, we can do this. i'm sitting there going, we're running against a kennedy in maryland. okay. so, but, you know, there are a lot of factors and a lot of, you know, politics on the ground that played into that race. but you still had to give wide berth to the family tradition, certainly the political tradition of the kennedys. i grew up in a very democrat
household. there was martin luther king, john f. kennedy and jesus christ on my wall. >> what happened? >> right. exactly. exactly. as i like to say, my mama raised me well. but the fact of the matter is, you know that was very much a part of my experience growing up. here i was now, state party chairman, you know, battling against, you know, kathleen and glendening administration at the time and now face to face running against her on the ticket was really profoundly important, as part of generational shift, but also some of the political aspects of it, the die nynamics being unde change as well. that's interesting how that generation and subsequent generations of the kennedys have, you know, worked with politics and how they have made that not so much the front and center as it was back in the day, but now have found that balance. but i didn't know at that time how that was going to play out.
i was running against kathleen kennedy-townsend. >> we're talking about the kennedys as a political powerhouse and we have a kennedy at the table. w we're going to get her thoughts on this when we come back from the break. your retirement. ♪ ameriprise advisors can help you like they've helped millions of others. listening, planning, working one on one. to help you retire your way... with confidence. that's what ameriprise financial does. that's what they can do with you. ameriprise financial. more within reach.
we were talking in the last segment about the many successes and the few of the setbacks that the kennedys had in politics. but kerry, just tell us from your statement, growing up in the kennedy family, when you get beyond jfk and rfk and ted kennedy, there is a whole other generation involved as well that has run for office. what is it to grow up in the kennedy family? is there a certain expectation that, yeah, if you can, you know, your life takes you to public service, that's where you should point it? is there a certain expectation in the family? >> there is a great culture of service. not necessarily elected office, but everybody seems to be involved in some sort of public service, whether that's their main career or it is an
important sideline. you know, i have -- i have 85 nieces and nephews who are in hyannis port every summer and the discussions on the boats or on the beach, walking, is that it is always about politics and what's going on in the newspapers and people are expected to be part of that discussion. and to serve. and when i talk to any of my nieces and nephews about what they want to do, i think i have 14 who are in college right now, they're all trying to figure out how do i have a nonprofit career? i wish them luck. and, you know, it's hard. that's a hard way to go through life. you don't get everything you would want to get. but they -- but they're very committed and, you know, that's really what jack and grandpa really believed in, my father and teddy and everybody else. >> there was one question, i do
want to get it in quickly, it occurs to me there is another generation of kennedys, joe kennedy iii a congressman for massachusetts. a moment sticks with me from a couple of years ago, when scott brown was running in the special election in massachusetts, against martha coakley, she had all of her problems as a candidate, but david gergen says to scott brown, you know, talks about the obligation of this is ted kennedy's seat you're running for. scott brown replies, this isn't the kennedy seat this is the people's seat. i wonder if the kennedys being established as a political dynasty over the years has a backlash -- a certain backlash to that built up over the years? >> i think ted kennedy said that the family forechutunefortunes, politically, ebb and flow, and there rupps a are ups and downs. in massachusetts, there aren't a lot of downs. i don't think kennedy will lose massachusetts in part because of the commitment of the kennedy family has had to what kerry
talks about, public service and reforming government and the inspiration that we all experience for president kennedy and bobby kennedy and teddy about our need to become involved in these very important issues. joe's doing very, very well. young joe. and i think he has limitless future, whether in massachusetts or nationally, whatever he chooses to do. and who knows what other kennedys might come along. i think many of us, whether we're kennedys or not, have been influenced tremendously by the legacy of that family. >> can i pick up on that quickly, during teddy's funeral, there were lines, thousands, tens of thousands of people waiting to get in to see him. and we went out and shook hands with all of them. the thing that was so extraordinary is that each one had a story, not about his health care policy, but he had touched their lives. he refused to -- to go through
the picket line, one woman said to me, a group of nurses. somebody else said he got my kid out of the war when he had to come home. he helped somebody on an immigration issue. so it is not about all about policy at that level. it is really service to human beings. >> all right. wint to thank -- i wish we could keep going with this thing. i want to thank david nassaw, kerry kennedy, and phil johnston. stay with us. much more ahead. i make dirt. ♪ very, very heavy. i'm not big enough or strong enough for this. there should be some way to make it easier. [ doorbell rings ] [ morty ] here's a box, babe. open it up. oh my goodness! what is a wetjet? some kind of a mopping device. there's a lot of dirt on here. morty, look at how easy it is. it's almost like dancing. [ both humming ] this is called the swiffer dance.
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are nausea, diarrhea, and headache. some side effects can lead to dehydration, which may cause kidney problems. if your pill isn't giving you the control you need ask your doctor about non-insulin victoza®. it's covered by most health plans. just a few weeks before the fateful trip to dallas, the gallup polling organization announced that the approval rating was 58%. good number, healthy number. the number the current occupant of the white house would be thrilled to have, but not a stratospheric number. but that's where the numbers were virtually from the moments he was pronounced dead.
americans have consistently ranked him near or at top of the list of the best presidents of all time. just last wyche, gallup measured the popularity of every modern president, every president since eisenhower. kennedy finished in first place with 74%, rating him outstanding or above average. 14 points ahead of ronald reagan. 85% approval rating. same level that number has been at for years, hasn't fallen below 76% since 1990. what complicates this sterling reputation is how short his presidency was. less than three full years. not much longer than gerald ford or miller filmore. two plus years in power came with serious blemishes. june 1961, kennedy heads to vienna for a two-day summit with the soviet premier. the cold war is barely a decade old, but intensifying by the minute. the disastrous bay of pigs invasion was six weeks earlier, episode that dramatically weaknd kennedy's image with america's
ed adversaries. vienna is a crucial meeting, the first chance for two leaders with a power to destroy the world to size each other up, to take the measure of the other. for the american president, nothing short of a debacle. the worst thing in my life, jfk confesses to a friendly journalist when it is over. he savaged me. weeks late, khrushchev's command, the berlin wall goes up. around this time, kennedy feels trapped by the events in south vietnam. the domino theory, the idea that if one southeast asian nation fell to communist, all the others would follow, is conventional wisdom and he endorses it. he endorses it two months before his death. >> mr. president, have you ever had any reason to doubt this so-called domino theory that if vietnam falls, the rest of southeast asia will go along behind it? >> no, i believe it. i believe it. >> kennedy questions whether the u.s. has the capacity to destroy the vietcong militarily. doesn't want to be the president who loses a war to the
communists. november 1963, nearly 16,000 american military personnel in vietnam. domestically, the quest for civil rights is coming to a head. the eve of the 1960 election, jfk places a phone call to coretta scott king, whose husband sits in a georgia jail, to comfort her, tell her he's thinking of her. the black vote, aleast among blacks who had the right to vote back then was up for grabs in 1960 and the gesture helps win a majority of it. helps him win the whole election. it raises hopes among african-americans it will be president kennedy who will, after decades and decades of inaction, after reconstruction, deliver a real meaningful civil rights law. but it is inaugural, kennedy speaks of freedom around the globe, but not in the segregated south. for more than two years as president, inaction is the rule. what jars the kennedy white house, the horrible images from birmingham in 1963, the attack dogs and the fire hoses, the screaming tare fide innocent
children. it is in june of that year that george wallace makes his stand for segregation at the university of alabama. and kennedy responds with one of his finest hours as president. >> we are confronted primarily with a moral issue. it is as old as scriptures and clear as the american constitution. >> still, even with the president now really truly totally on board with the push for civil rights, nothing happens. the bill hits a dead end on capitol hill, the same dead end that has been maintained by white segregationists southern democrats since reconstruction. that, in fact, is the story of a lot of kennedys' domestic agendas. it was kennedy's death that brought his most ambitious agenda items to life. the outpouring of national grief created momentum. the man who became president, lyndon johnson, is a masterful legislative tactician, in the two years after kennedy's death, the civil rights act, the voting rights act, the tax cut,
medicare, all barreled through congress and into law. the same time, american involvement in vietnam only escalated. this is not so say kennedy's presidency was without achievement. kennedy's mix of resolve and restraint during the cuban missile crisis of 1962 will long be cited as a model of statesmanship. the nuclear test ban treaty signed by the united states, the soviet union and britain in 1963, less than two decades after hiroshima is another clear triumph. still there is also a clear disconnect between how kennedy's presidency is assessed by historians and tend to rate him as a slightly better than average commander in chief. the rest of america continues to revere him. where does this disconnect come from, the power of image, the president who symbolized youth and hope in a new generation, the best of america cut down in his prime, cut down just when he was on the verge of greatness. is it a testament to the loyalty of his circle, to all the kennedy men and women who devoted themselves for years for
decades to painting a bright historical picture of his presidency? something else? what was the real legacy of john f. kennedy's presidency and how should we think about it today 50 years later. here to try and answer this, we have with us former rnc chairman and msnbc political analyst michael steele, jane hall, journalism professor at american school of communication, robert macneil, former co-anchor of macneil lehr news hour and harris wofford, former democratic senator from pennsylvania who assisted president kennedy in the white house. there are a lot of different aspects of the kennedy legacy to get into. the two biggest ones are civil rights in vietnam. senator wofford you can start with the story of civil rights. we're sort of living through this lbj moment in modern history now. yes, kennedy, at the time of his death, certainly the final
months of the presidency, really all along in his heart, was on the side of civil rights. but it took lbj to get it through. what do you make of that, that reading of history? >> they needed each other. but one without the other wouldn't have had the success. remember, kennedy's platform that he endorsed heartily at the convention was the strongest civil rights platform any party had ever had. and the inaugural address didn't just leave out civil rights, except for the at home and around the world, we're going to support human rights. it was no domestic issue that he talked about at all. it was just the world. it is an interesting thing to read. and then came, i think he was very happy when he was leading for texas. two things, one, the american university speech, and the next
day, the speech on civil rights and sending the bill up to congress. and he had gotten the message from congress that key republicans had assured that they were going to have a rule that would bring the bill up. i don't think it would have passed, but he had gotten that word and when he got on the plane, his last words were quotingquote ing thareau, westward i go. >> i had just seen some testimony from the kennedy archives, that when it was suggested to jfk that he choose lyndon as his running mate, he immediately said we should do that. he can win texas and he can break the south. >> break the south. >> that was the verb. >> and, you had thoughts on the american university speech. >> the day before he gave this remarkable speech where he
announced talks with khrushchev, and said the united states would not conduct atmospheric nuclear tests. and it was a remarkable speech. we have a video where young people are reciting some of the words of the speech. it was ted sorenson, the primary architect of that speech. he was criticized by the civil rights leaders as i understand it for being so focused on his foreign policy and being afraid he was going to lose the south. so the two, i think, one of the reasons his appeal is so strong is the power of imagery. also the power of rhetoric. the idea that you can use words to inspire people and move them to action. today i think we have a lot of rhetoric and it maybe doesn't end in action. those two speeches ended in action. pretty significantly. >> i was going to say on the civil rights piece, in particular, i think a lot of folks really sort of gloss over the back story there. they want to project kennedy as this patron saint of civil rights. he wasn't.
he was very hesitant and very concerned about the political balancing act that would be required of the presidency at this time to do it. the real force for civil rights was his brother. bobby. the call to coretta scott king took a long time to make happen. it meant the president heard that king was sitting in jail, i got to call and get him out of there. no, it was relentless pushing inside the west wing by the attorney general on this issue. the president is a hero of civil rights to some extent, but a reluctant hero. he didn't come into it in -- with the full charge and force of politics behind him, but rather the urging of his brother who was, i think, really the crux of the issue. >> the thing for people to appreciate about american politics back then was that the south, which we now think of as the republican bastion -- >> all democrats. >> that was the democrats, had to have the south.
>> he was most concerned about the backlash, with respect for the irish catholics, of white northerners where it is in the northern states that kennedy won the great increase in black voters. it is also the possibility knowing south boston that there would be a white back flash if he moved -- i think the analogy with clinton, i mean, with lincoln's need to find the right moment to sign the emancipatici proclamation and -- before he was killed, the abolitionists were still critical because it hadn't gone far enough, but the lincoln's popularity before he was killed was probably lower than almost any president of the civil war. >> interesting how -- >> i think lincoln and kennedy is worth pondering. >> just the factor of the march on washington, which the president resisted, john lewis
was with a group of leaders who went in to see the president, they told them they wanted to organize this and louis says the president's body language was so negative, he turned in his chair and began stressing won't that create riots, won't it create trouble? but i was in the white house with the other reporters the day of the march on washington, we all watched it on television and we knew the president was watching a few doors away. we all said to ourselves, why is he so cool about this? why does -- it was clear -- it had clearly become a i hhistori event, with the peacefulness of the thing, the goodwill, the large number of white people who were part of it, and in the end of the day, he did not go over there, but he brought them from the white house and gave them coffee and -- >> but he wouldn't have had a successful march or there wouldn't have been a peaceful one if he hadn't sent the civil rights bill up several months before, if he hadn't talked on civil rights to the nation. it would have been an angry march. it was a march that once it took
place, he was very happy about it. when he went to dallas, both the world policy and the civil rights position were happy. he was a happy man when he went. despite the little trouble with -- >> the other issue i want to -- we have civil rights, the other big issue, when we talk about jfk is vietnam. i want to get into that more right after this. online but they didn't fit. customer's not happy, i'm not happy. sales go down, i'm not happy. merch comes back, i'm not happy. use ups. they make returns easy. unhappy customer becomes happy customer. then, repeat customer. easy returns, i'm happy. repeat customers, i'm happy. sales go up, i'm happy. i ordered another pair. i'm happy. (both) i'm happy. i'm happy. happy. happy. happy. happy. happy happy. i love logistics. this is the creamy chicken corn chowder. i mean, look at it. so indulgent. did i tell you i am on the... [ both ] chicken pot pie diet!
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president johnson is taking over and in fact has taken over the government of the united states and done it rather briskly. he has been careful to not to seem to be interfering in the white house. he has done his business in the building next door, has asked all the white house staff to stay, has had what few announcements he's had issued
through the white house press office. but he has nevertheless taken over and has announced that tomorrow, tomorrow afternoon, he will have a high level conference on the war in south vietnam. >> this is sort of a debate waged by historians, by allies of john f. kennedy, the kennedy family, for years, the basic question of if john f. kennedy had lived, would vietnam have been escalated in the same way, to the same degree it was over the ensuing years by lyndon johnson. wasn't to sta i want to start to get into that. i want to bring melanie miller. thank you for taking the time this morning. we're talking a little bit in this last segment about that transition from jfk to lbj as president. and specifically when you look at what then happened in
vietnam, under lbj, do you look at this as lbj was continuing jfk's policies, or would something different have happened if jfk had remained the president, do you think? >> i think something definitely different would have happened. and probably some 58,000 young americans would still be alive. roger hillsman, who was on the state department desk for southeast asia told me himself that the president would call him at night and say, roger, how are you going to get me out of vietnam? i think robert kennedy also said that he and his brother had been in indochina and back in 1951, '52 era and saw what happened with the french. and he was very adamant about the fact that he -- his brother wasn't going to let the same thing happen to america that had happened to the french. so i think those who were in the white house staff with him, those who knew him very well, and as he said in the famous
walter cronkite interview, that in the last analysis it is their war, the vietnamese's war and it was the matter of getting past the election so he could then focus on withdrawing the troops and i think that would definitely have happened. >> what do you -- here at the panel, what do you make of that, robert, when you -- >> i know a lot of people believe that. i would like to believe it. if it could have taken that course. i come to looking at the president's legacy with a foreign policy bias, because i didn't come to washington until march of '63. very much an outside, a newcomer. but i had been overseas all that time. and i had -- my ears were stuffed with the stale rhetoric of the cold war. i had been in berlin when the wall went up, i had been in cuba, i had a canadian passport, wondering if i was locked up in a hotel, wondering if i would get bombed by american planes because kennedy was under great pressure to use air power
against the missile sites in cuba. my final take on his presidency and the legacy is through that foreign policy bias. i think he showed, this is relevant to vietnam, i think he showed extraordinary growth in what can only be described as taking military advice with a grain of salt. it -- after the bay of pigs debacle, he was increasingly skeptical of the advice he got from the military. and i think that might have carried over into vietnam. >> we look at lbj, what was your observations of senator wofford of what it was that drove lbj to escalate the way he did in vietnam. >> i think you have to be sympathetic of the fact he said i've kept the kennedy guys, mcnamara and bundy, on my staff and they're the ones advising me to do this. i give him a lot of sympathy for that. and i wish those two hadn't been there.
i actually supported kennedy because of the 1951 meet the press statement about indochina when he came back, and then the two great speeches on foreign policy in 1957 on algeria and poland, and how we needed a new foreign policy. i have no way of proving that he would have gotten us out of vietnam. but i bet on it. >> i think that's a very important point. the people around the president transitioned into the johnson administration. so the people who were the hawks, if you will, who were pushing for the best and the brightest, right, pushing for greater involvement and engagement were part of the johnson administration and actually move that pendulum a lot further. the question remains, it is an important one, just how much influence they would have had, even though the president was personally reticent in that
crucible, just how much influence would mcnamara and others have in helping the president move away from that reticence into more action. because, remember, they had gone if a handful of the 16,000 in a very, very short period of time of having, you know, advisers on the ground in vietnam. >> and melody to bring you back in, can you talk more broadly about that transition in general, from the kennedy administration, to the johnson administration. we were talking earlier about sort of robert cairo, the historian, the writer popularized the idea that a lot of what john f. kennedy wanted to do, lbj had the means to do administratively, as someone there for the transition, can you talk about that transition in history? >> i think i would like to make a couple of key points with regard to vietnam and the transition. there were 16,500 advisers in vietnam. no ground troops actually fighting. i think all of 54 people had
died at the time of john kennedy's death. and he was not going to put, you know, fighting units in there. and i believe that robert kennedy was adamant about that, and also with regard to the white house staff, walt rostow was a hawk and he told marie ritter he was getting much better reception of his views from lyndon johnson than he ever did from john kennedy. and i really, really think that with roger hillsman telling me he was calling him in the evening saying we got to get out of there, we got close to those that knew him well. and lyndon johnson is said to have told generals i'm not going to be the first president to lose a war. you can depend on me to escalate and win this thing. so there is that. with regard to the transition,
lyndon johnson was very gracious to mrs. john f. kennedy and there was an office provided for her in the executive office building where i was, and we were handling mail coming in from all over the world, and it was just extraordinary, because you would open the letters and you would see the ink had run on them they are -- their tears had fallen as they were writing the letters and there were letters from peace corps volunteers who said, you know what, in africa, they call us kennedy's children. they say he didn't send the marines, he sent us food. i had a experience with a young man from kenya i was working with, he was one of randall robinson's aides on africa and we were setting up a forum in the caucus room now named after kennedy and it was all about apartheid. he told me when he grew up in kenya, john kennedy had upped the aid allotments of foot for much of africa. he said when i'm hungry, i ask
my mother if i can have my kennedy now. his very name was sustaining life. they thought their food would get cut off when he died and many of them walked barefoot for seven days to find a peace corps volunteer where they could express, you know, their condolences. >> and, jane, i want to make sure to get your thoughts in here too. >> i think the pernicious met why for metaphor, was it civil war or communism? we have to keep in mind that kennedy's people were called warriors too. he threatened nuclear war before he wanted to wage peace. we have to consider this historically. i wanted to say it is a great tragedy. johnson is viewed in terrible -- if you look at the ratings, johnson doesn't get credit for his civil rights agenda because of the great tragedy of vietnam. >> yeah. that's right. anyway -- >> and the war on poverty. >> right. that's right. the war on poverty under lyndon johnson. thanks to melody miller for
joining us and former senator and white house staffer harris wofford and michael steele. up next what do the gallup polls say about conspiracy theories the week after the assassination? we'll tell you right after this. so i deserve a small business credit card with amazing rewards. with the spark cash card from capital one, i get 2% cash back on every purchase, every day. i break my back around here. finally someone's recognizing me with unlimited rewards! meetings start at 11, cindy. [ male announcer ] get the spark business card from capital one. choose 2% cash back or double miles on every purchase, every day. what's in your wallet? i need your timesheets, larry! woah! what? it's called a smoky eye. [ female announcer ] you may not be the best at new trends but you know what's best for your kids. so we listened when you said gogurt should have only natural colors and flavors and no high fructose corn syrup. thanks, mom. wears off. [ female announcer ] stop searching and start repairing.
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we found riley at the shelter, and found everything he needed at angie's list. join today at angieslist.com one of the biggest jfk assassination conspiracy theorists was one of the other people in the car. texas governor john connolly. >> we had just turned the corner, we heard a shot, i turned to my left, i was sitting in the jump seat, i turned to my left, looked in the back seat, the president had slumped. he said nothing. all simultaneously as i turned i was hit. and i knew i had been hit badly. and i said, i knew the president had been hit and i said, my god, they're going to kill us all. >> the staying power of the conspiracy theorists. that's next. chantix... it's a non-nicotine pill.
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in november, 1966, on a third anniversary of the kennedy assassination, texas governor john connolly, the man riding in the jump seat in front of jfk, man also hit in the shooting, sat down with life magazine to review the kennedy assassination film. the zapruder film, frame by frame. what he said was explosive. connolly insisted the film proved, proved by his reaction that he was hit by a separate bullet than the one that passed through president kennedy. the implication that another shot had been fired almost simultaneously suggesting that there was more, much more to the story of the kennedy assassination. if connolly is right about his own wound, oswald could not have had time in with 1.3 seconds to fire at both kennedy and connolly. there would have to be a second assassin. connolly wasn't the only one making this assertion. his wife nelly who is sitting next to him in the car backed him up. she even helped re-enact -- helped connolly re-enact the
scene for the photographer, standing in for jfk in the shot. he told life, they talk about the one bullet or two bullet theory, but as far as i'm concerned, there is no theory. there is my absolute knowledge. this sense of knowing, just knowing something is wrong with the official story of the kennedy assassination was then and still is prevalent among the american public. gallup poll conducted in the week after the assassination and the murder of the prime suspect, lee harvey oswald, found 29% believe that he acted on his own, while 52% believed there was some other group or element also responsible. so widespread dowd ceded a veritable industry of conspiracy theorists, amateur and professional. poured over the 26 volumes of the warren report, one made an index. and in new orleans, the elected district attorney jim garrison took up the investigation himself, convinced there was more to the story. march 1st, 1967, his office
announced a major development. >> arrested this evening in the district attorney's office was clay shaw, age 54. mr. shaw will be charged with participation in a conspiracy to murder john f. kennedy. it should be pointed out, however, that the nature of this case does not conducive to a immediate succession of arrest at this time. however, other arrests will be made at a later date. >> when shaw went on trial two years later, he was acquitted in an hour. that didn't stop oliver stone from popularizing garrison and his theory in a film. it didn't stop top tier hollywood stars from joining the cast. the 1991 film jfk was a huge cultural phenomenon, it reinvigorated all the doubts, all the suspicions out there. belief there was a conspiracy to kill the president has polled as high as 8 0%. most recent number released by gallup friday puts it low, down
to 61%, but still a majority. joining me to discuss the enduran endurance, we have walter mears with the associated press become to the table and jane hall, robert macneil, former television report and news anchor and philip shannon, author of the book "a cruel and shocking act," the secret history of the kennedy assassination. a former reporter with the new york times. philip with a book title like that, you're the perfect person to start this discussion with. first, explain in your view why people -- why is there -- so easy for people to believe there must have been more to this story than lee harvey oswald and what have you found about the truth? >> there had to be something more to the story. the warren commission, they called oswald the pitch squeak, the idea this pitch squeak with a $21 mail order rifle could change the world in a mill second, could bring down the most powerful, most glamorous man in the world didn't make sense. it made more sense there was a group of evil men behind closed
doors who had done the conspiracy theories start p spinning within hours. for me, that's where the questions begin, because there is evidence out there that oswald told other people what he was going to do, weeks ahead of the assassination and other people may have encouraged him to do that. >> jane, it seems to me, there is the climate -- i'm trying to figure out the roots of the conspiracy. there is the climate of the time, there is this -- if you can reduce the warren commission's explanation to anything, it is the magic bullet theory. that's what it gets ridiculed as. it feeds the doubt. all the political connections that are drawn, who was oswald connected to, was it the soviets, the cubans, the mafia, what do you see as the ingredients that kept this alive for so long. >> people believe 9/11 didn't happen. and so i learned a lot reading
about phil's book. and i think that gave fuel to the fire. the cia and the fbi didn't want things that were unflattering to them. the kennedy family didn't want his disease revealed in an autopsy, that a doctor burned notes. i didn't know about that until i read about this recently. i think there is fact that the government was seemingly reluctant on this and they did it and said lbj wanted it to prove that oswald was the lone gunman, that leans towards giving credibility to people who are paranoid about government and about the mafia. the mafia is first thing that people think was involved. >> and, i think part of what fed it at the time, i imagine, is that you have this character introduced to the american public the day of the shooting. lee harvey oswald, okay, the man suspected of killing the president. before anybody learns anything about him, he's shot live on national television. i mean, walter, how much of it just stems from the fact we never as americans, we never really got to learn anything
more about lee harvey oswald than what we got in the first two -- >> i think a great deal of it. oswald is the perfect figure to give rise to conspiracy theorists. he's 24 years old. he's been kicked out of the marines as unstable, basically. he has tried -- he shot himself with an illegal gun when he was in the marine corps. he defects to russia. they don't want him much. he comes back, he goes to mexico city, he tries to go to cuba, but that's time the fbi and the cia are all over him, understandably. and so you got the perfect mix of really strange guy and strange connections to give rise to conspiracies. i think phil mentioned one central point in all of this, that is then and i think even now it is hard to and we are reluctant to accept that so
erratic and aimless a figure as this could have told attotally distorted our history and no one demonstrated otherwise. >> so, robert, as an eyewitness in dallas, you talked earlier in the show about how you -- there was sort of the instinctive reaction of the crowd in dallas when the shots rang out was to run up this grassy knoll. we talk about the grassy hill, the grassy knoll. that's part of the idea of the conspiracy, is that people there must have heard something coming from on top of this hill, from behind the hill. >> that's the only thing i can contribute. i ran up the grassy knoll because i saw policemen running up there and i thought they were chasing a gunman. some of the conspiracy theories turn on a shot having been fired from the overpass there. though nobody has come up with hard evidence of that. and i've never seen -- i hadn't made a study of conspiracy theories, but i have never seen
any hard evidence that convinces me that either oswald was not the shooter or that there was a conspiracy around him. i would be very interested to see it. i know the industry thrives. actually there are some polls that put the figure of americans who believe in the conspiracy higher than the government does. the history channel did a survey recently and it came out at 78%. i think another peace of this is just the emotional radiance that the kennedys achieved in the minds of the public and the inconceivability, enlarging on your point, the inconceivability of that being shattered in this way by this man who that evening i heard him say, i didn't shoot anybody, i'm just a patsy, oswald in jail. >> the idea that just one person like that could take down something -- somebody that meaningful to the country. we'll pick it up right after this. [thinking] is it that time? the son picks up the check?
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i never realized kennedy was so dangerous to the establishment. is that why? >> that's a real question, isn't it? why? the how and the who is just scenery for the public. oswald, ruby, cuba, mafia. keeps them guessing from the most question why, why was kennedy killed? who benefited? who has the power to cover it up? >> from the 1991 film "jfk." philip, speaking sort of theoretically, if there were a conspiracy, is there an answer to that question, that question of why? >> there may be people, in the height of the cold war, connected with the cuban government or supportive of castro who may have thought if oswald had a chance to take a shot at the president, he should do it. that may be the nature of the conversation that oswald had in mexico city, he was seven weeks before the assassination. i got to say, i went into this
not knowing anything at all about a connection between mexico city and the kennedy assassination. i don't think most americans do. but what happened during those five or six days that oswald is in mexico, those five or six days that he was in mexico may be important. and what i've seen of the record, clearly the cia and the fbi did not want to figure that out. because if they did really investigate what have happened, it might have shown just how much they'd really known about oswald before the assassination. >> so is what you found basically the possibility, not that there was a massive conspiracy, where people planned it, but more like there was a broader awareness? >> the story seems to be that oswald goes to mexico city, he's trying to get a visa to go to cuba. he wants to defect to cuba much as he tried to defect to russia four years earlier. and while he's there, he makes the statement "i'm going to kill kennedy," which means people in mexico city knew it. oswald is a castro supporter.
people around the cuban embassy in mexico city might have seen oswald as a potential -- somebody who could seek vengeance for fidel castro against john kennedy. >> is this something -- do we expect to ever get a definitive answer to? >> there have been at least 1,400, more than 1,400 books written about jfk conspiracies, and as robert said, nobody's ever come up with an answer yet. i doubt that we're going to now. i have one thought about the whole idea of a conspiracy pip covered washington long enough to know that if you want to have a conspiracy and there are three people involved, one of them is going to blow the whistle, within a month. >> right. >> and if there are two involved, it can keep if one of them dies. >> that's the other part of this. we always talk about, we think of the government, the popular notion of the government as this sort of bumbling, bureaucratic mess. and then to pull off something
as wide scale as suggested in the oliver stone movie, you try to reconcile that with the government we know. >> well, that's true. and you know, i don't know. i mean, phillip would know. is this such a cold case that we will never know about this trip to mexico? do these records exist and they've been suppressed? >> that's the thing. the mexico city story is kind of wide open. because some of the people who dealt with oswald in mexico city are still alive. and the fbi and the cia never sought them out 49 years ago. i found that for the book, and presumably they'll talk to others if they have the opportunity. >> so there it is, in ten years, when we do the 60th anniversary, that will be the next piece we'll be talking about. i want to thank you all for joining us. up next, a word from president kennedy's successors. power consumption in china, impact wool exports from new zealand, textile production in spain, and the use of medical technology in the u.s.? at t. rowe price, we understand the connections
a lot of the research, all of that video, a lot of the guests he saw here today, a lot of it would not have been possible without him. a big thank you to jack bore for that. we'll see you again next week, but before we go we would like to leave you with president kennedy followed by the chief executives who followed him. >> the golden torch of thomas sets john fitzgerald kennedy aflame. >> it was several years ago that john f. kennedy and i sat in this chamber as freshman congressmen. >> president kennedy entered the white house, convinced that racial and religious discrimination was morally indefensible. >> and john f. kennedy spoke of the burden and glory that is freedom. >> as president kennedy proclaimed in a call to conscious -- >> as a teenager, i heard john kennedy summonsed to citizenship. >> kennedys promised to pay any price to assure the survival and success of liberty.
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this morning, my question, just how conventional is it to be disgusted by interracial colors. and foot soldier tanya fields is back to talk about the shaming of poor mothers. plus, nerdland goes to space camp. but first, sanctions, sanctions, and more sanctions. are they working in iran? good morning. i'm melissa harris-perry. on thursday night, former secretary of state, hillary clinton, asked and sort of answered a big question oe