John F. Kennedy 100th Anniversary: 2017 National Book Festival

>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, DC.>>Jane McAuliffe:
Well good morning. Good morning on this
very rainy day, alas. And welcome to the
History and Biography Stage of this year’s National
Book Festival. We’re delighted to see
all of you here and want to extend a special welcome to those
who are watching us live on C-Span. I’m Jane McAuliffe, Director of
National and International Outreach at the Library of Congress. And all of us at the library
are proud to host, once again, this free public event
which brings together many of our country’s favorite authors. We’re especially grateful
to the many sponsors who make this festival possible. And we’re thrilled that
the library has been able to hold this festival for 17 years. The library is thriving because of
people like you, library patrons and book lovers who not only enjoy
reading but recognize the value that literature has for our society. Now the History and Biography Stage
has been a perennial favorite here at the book festival. Today we have a terrific lineup
of authors on this stage — a dozen in all — and many of them are making their first
book festival appearance. Two of the authors, however —
A. Scott Berg and John Farrell — have been with us before and we are
so pleased that they are coming back for a return appearance this year. As an additional bonus, all of
the authors here at the History and Biography Pavilion will
be signing their books right after their presentations
downstairs on the expo floor. We begin today with a panel
discussion marking the 100th anniversary of John
F. Kennedy’s birth. Three authors — Steven Levingston,
Kathy McKeon, and Thomas Oliphant — will talk about their recent books
on this fascinating 35th president, his family, his campaign, and his
role in the civil rights effort. I’m sure this will
be an informational as well as inspiring discussion. But before we get started, I want to
give a special thanks to Wells Fargo which has generously sponsored the
History and Biography Stage here at the festival for seven years now. Wells Fargo Regional President
Michael Golden is here with us today and would like to say a few words. Mike?>>Michael Golden: Thank you. As Louise said, I’m Mike Golden. I serve as Regional President
for our operation here in the capital region
and it’s my pleasure to have been here all seven years. My family and I relocated to the greater Washington market
almost seven years ago now, and this was the very first
event that I had the pleasure of attending publicly after we
moved here from Atlanta, Georgia. So it’s been a real
pleasure to be a part of this festival for seven years. Our company, Wells
Fargo, is extremely proud to have been a charter sponsor
of the National Book Festival and also the sponsor of this
stage for all seven years. You know, we celebrate the
wonderful work that the Library of Congress does in promoting
literacy and active reading because Wells Fargo’s had an
active role of promoting literacy across our country
for a quite long time. Here locally in the
greater Washington market, last year our team members read
to more than 110,000 students in different school systems in
this great market, and we donated over 61,000 books in our
Reading First program. And downstairs you will find
Wells Fargo team members working in two different pavilions with
a number of fun activities — that’s the Let’s Read
America Pavilion as well as the Hands-on History Pavilion. So I hope you’ll take some
time to stop by there. But now it’s my pleasure to
welcome Mary Louise Kelly of the National Public Radio
who will now moderate our panel. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Mary Louise Kelly: Good morning. Can you all hear me? Excellent. That’s a good start. I’m going to lay four dates on you. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born 100
years ago this year, May 29, 1917. He was married September
12, 1953, elected president, took the oath of office
January 20, 1961. And of course died November 22,
1963 in Dallas at the age of 46. And I start with those dates
because they’re so well known. The arc of his life
is so well known. So many books have already
been written about him, and yet as evidenced by the trio
of authors on stage with us today, there is still so much curiosity
about that extraordinary life. So it’s a privilege to get to kick
off the book festival by talking about that extraordinary life
for a few minutes with you all and maybe asking what lessons
from that life might apply to today’s interesting times. So welcome to each of
the three of you — Tom Oliphant, Kathy
McKeon, Steve Levingston. Welcome to you all. I thought we would start by letting
each of you share a little bit of the particular vantage
point that you bring and what grounds your book covers. And I know you each brought
a few pictures we can share to give you a little bit of a taste
of some of this new literature and scholarship coming
out on Kennedy. So we’re going to go, I guess,
in the order we’re seated. Tom Oliphant, that means you get
the first word with your book, The Road to Camelot: Inside
JFK’s Five-Year Campaign. And your book, I know, is about
his rise to the White House and how close he came to losing. So maybe you can tell us
a little bit about that. I’m going to let you just
briefly talk us through some of the pictures you
brought to share. So we’ll go to this first one
and just tell us a little bit about the perspective
that you bring.>>Thomas Oliphant: That
picture is of what they call in politics a boiler room. It’s actually the sun porch of Bob
Kennedy’s house in Hyannis Port.>>Mary Louise Kelly: OK.>>Thomas Oliphant:
And it is shortly after dawn after the election. Kennedy at that point knows that he
is going to be the president-elect, but there are still a lot of
states in play and this was one of those election nights
that was an all-nighter. Kennedy didn’t go to bed until
around 3:00 for a short nap. And in those days, the first sign that you’d been elected
president was the appearance of secret service agents.>>Mary Louise Kelly: A-ha. They showed up and you knew
you were in good shape.>>Thomas Oliphant: Around dawn. And it was when he woke up
in his house in the compound, he noticed the agents and
that was the first clue to him that this had happened. While he was sleeping — the last
thing I’ll say — on election night, the state that in the public’s
mind and in journalism’s coverage that tipped this thing that made
it pretty clear that he was going to be the next president was
Minnesota which went back and forth all through the night and
didn’t fall over into his column until shortly before dawn. And the wise guys in that room
and the one just to the left at that point knew that
they had, as one put it, fallen over the finish line.>>Mary Louise Kelly:
Ah, OK [laughing]. Alright. We’re going to
quickly flip through a few of the others you brought. Stop me if you want or just
tell us what we’re seeing. Why’d you pick this one?>>Thomas Oliphant: That’s
a look at this guy right at the beginning of
the whole process. The hour mentor in this kind
of work, Theodore White, in The Making of the President 1960, wrote a story of a
year plus campaign. What Curtis Wilkie and I
discovered in our research was that this process was
actually five years of conscious pursuit
of national office.>>Mary Louise Kelly: OK.>>Thomas Oliphant: And it
started in the late summer of 1955 and that’s what John
Kennedy looked like then. You can still see a trace of
the skinny kid after the war.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Yeah.>>Thomas Oliphant: By the end
of 1956 when he made the decision to actually run for
president, he had filled out. But that’s what he looked
like when this all began.>>Mary Louise Kelly: OK.>>Thomas Oliphant: Everybody
remembers the rackets committee, as we called it in journalism. It was a senate investigation of
corruption in the labor movement that focused primarily
on the Teamsters Union and introduced the country for the
first time to the guy in the middle, Bob Kennedy, and to the evil figures in the Teamsters Union back
then, first a guy named –>>Mary Louise Kelly: So
what’s the date on this phot?>>Thomas Oliphant: This would
be in the summer of 1957.>>Mary Louise Kelly: 57. Alright.>>Thomas Oliphant: And
he’d already decided to run. His principal antagonist on the left
was Eleanor Roosevelt, shown here. She nipped at his heels for at
least three years, a little longer. She didn’t trust him and
she didn’t like him mostly because of his behavior during the
heyday of Senator Joseph McCarthy.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Mmhmm.>>Thomas Oliphant: But she
changed, as Kennedy did. And by this moment, when he
was nominated for president, you see Sam Rayburn
moderating a — quote — debate which really wasn’t much
of one before the Texas delegation and a few hangers-on
from Massachusetts at the Democratic Convention
in Los Angeles. Johnson, of course, and
Kennedy are shown there. This is two days before
he was actually nominated.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Alright. Thank you so much. Kathy, we’re going to come to you
and let you give a little preview of your book, Jackie’s Girl: My
Life With the Kennedy Family. For those of you who
haven’t had the chance to read this delightful book yet, it
is Kathy’s story of her time working for Jacqueline Kennedy and as
her personal assistant living with the Kennedy family for 13 years
and sometimes nannying to the kids. And Jackie’s Girl was what
Rose Kennedy called you. Is that right?>>Kathy McKeon: Yes. Yes.>>Mary Louise Kelly: The nickname?>>Kathy McKeon: Yes.>>Mary Louise Kelly: OK. So let’s go through your
pictures and you can tell us.>>Kathy McKeon: This was at
my wedding in ’71 and it was in Astoria Manor in New York. And I sent John [inaudible]
Jackie, I called Madame, an invitation to Mr. Onassis.>>Mary Louise Kelly:
Hang on one second. Can you all hear Kathy OK? Kathy, maybe take your mic and
just hold it a little bit closer to your mouth so we make sure
we can hear your stories.>>Kathy McKeon: Like that?>>Mary Louise Kelly: You
might need to unpin it. Sometimes they undress us. They don’t get close. You can unpin it. Tom, can you help her so she can
just hold it a little closer?>>Thomas Oliphant:
I’m good for something.>>Kathy McKeon: Hold like this.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Hold it up.>>Kathy McKeon: So I sent
them all an invitation and they all sent it back
saying they were coming. And I was really a little
nervous about this whole thing because I didn’t want my
guests to be crowding them. You know, I want them
to have a good time.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Aw.>>Kathy McKeon: So I was
very proud that she came to my wedding and the guests.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Oh, of course. It’s lovely.>>Kathy McKeon: Yes. And that’s a picture of my wedding.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Alright.>>Kathy McKeon: This
picture was up in Cape Cod.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Hold it just a
little pointing towards your mouth. Sorry. I just want to make
sure everybody can hear you.>>Kathy McKeon: This
picture was taken in Cape Cod. John –>>Mary Louise Kelly: Cape Cod. OK.>>Kathy McKeon: Yeah. John and Madame riding the horse. John wasn’t a big fan of horses,
but that was Colin’s little pony and then she outgrew the pony
and John was riding it then. But he got a –>>Mary Louise Kelly:
And here we are. He’s younger there, it looks like.>>Kathy McKeon: This picture
is in Newport Road Island. It was called the Windmill House. And John is eating cupcakes
and the dog is there begging. And she’s, Madame, is
figuring out, should I have one of those cupcakes or not? [ Laughter ] I don’t know if she had one,
but she was looking at them. [ Laughter ] This was the first
summer in Cape Cod on the Kennedy beach and was in ’65. And me and John had a little
shovel with us and we dug a hole and we decided to bury Shannon. [Laughter] And so he actually
loved it because it was nice and cool in there in the sand. And then after that,
when that was finished, John decided he’d take Shannon
down to the ocean and wash him off.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Aww.>>Kathy McKeon: This
picture was in Colorado. It took, for me to go to Colorado,
Madamee sent me to Bloomingdale’s to get all my skiing clothes. I had no skiing clothes. I didn’t know how to ski
and I had no skiing clothes. So she told me to go and meet this
lady in Bloomingdale’s and I did. She gave me the credit
card and off I went and I got all my clothes there. And I got myself a pair of gloves. The secret service guy
didn’t have a pair of gloves. He borrowed my gloves but
he never gave them back. [ Laughter ] Yeah.>>Mary Louise Kelly: And Kathy,
would you just tell the story of the day you met
the Kennedy family? As I said, you were 19 years old. You’d just arrived from
Ireland to New York. You’re looking for work
as a domestic servant and you get this summons
to Park Avenue. What happened?>>Kathy McKeon: Oh yeah. I was only 19 years old. I had a job taking care of two boys, but then my cousin was
working outside of 1040 and he was a New York City police
officer and he got really close to one of the secret service men. And the secret service
man said, you know, Jackie Kennedy is looking
for a nice Irish girl. You think you would take the job? And I said, sure I take the job. But I said, I have another
job but they said, OK, she’s looking for somebody. And I decide I’ll take the job. I went up to the 15th
floor on the elevator. I rang the doorbell
and the lady let me in. And then I met John and
John came down the hall and he says to me, my name is John. And I said, my name is Kathy. And he says to me, do you want
to see my dog doing a trick? And I said sure. He said, OK, Shannon, you put
the bone underneath the cushion. [inaudible] set the green
cushion on the couch. And he said, go Shannon. So Shannon went digging away
to get the bone and he got it. Oh, do you want to see
him do another trick? And I said yeah. And then he made Shannon roll over. And all of a sudden this nice,
soft voice came down the hallway and she says, John,
what are you doing? You’re ruining my couch! Right? And all of a sudden John
disappeared and then she — oh yeah, he took off so fast. Then she says, I’m Mrs. Kennedy. And I said, my name is Kathy,
and she said, I know that. And then she said — she just
looked at me for a little while and then she says,
when can you start? And I said, well I have a
job already, Mrs. Kennedy. But she said, OK, do you think
you could start tomorrow? [Laughter] And I said, well I have to let this other lady
know that I’m leaving. You know? Then I have
to get her reference. And she says to me, you
don’t need no reference. You’ve already got the reference. So actually John and
his dog interviewed me. [ Laughter ] And he was listening in the
hallway of the whole story. Yes.>>Mary Louise Kelly: That is hard
to top as job interview stories go. [Laughing]>>Kathy McKeon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Yeah. Alright. [Laughing] Steve
Levingston, let’s get to yours. Kennedy and King: The
President, the Pasture, and the Battle Over Civil Rights. So you chose to do
the story together, tying together Kennedy’s
life, King’s life, this fascinating interaction
of these two men who were at the forefront of the civil
rights movement in the early ’60s. Talk us through some of
the slides you’ve brought. What are we seeing here?>>Steven Levingston: Well,
my book is basically the story of the relationship, the
complicated relationship, between John Kennedy
and Martin Luther King. And it focuses on Martin Luther
King’s influence on John Kennedy in pushing him to become what
is arguably the first civil rights president. But — there’s a big but there — when John Kennedy first
came into office, he was not a civil rights advocate. He was rather opposed to
pushing forward on civil rights because it took away
from his domestic agenda and other foreign affairs
that he wanted to focus on. So Martin Luther King really had to
push him and these photos will sort of show you the arc of the
evolution of John Kennedy. The first one is from
the 1961 Freedom Rides which probably most
of us remember here. This is when white supremacists and
racists bombed one of the busses that was trying to bring down
segregation in interstate travel and tried to trap those
freedom riders inside. They finally managed to
break out but this was one of the early horrible incidents that Kennedy really didn’t
pay that much attention to. He didn’t really come out
strongly on really the moral issue that was involved in civil rights and that’s what always drove
Martin Luther King forward. Now we jump forward to the
Birmingham campaign in 1963. There were other issues before
this, but this is a significant one because it really did
change the view of Kennedy as he was stumbling
and dithering along. This is a photo of a children’s
march which King agreed to do reluctantly because he was a
little afraid of throwing children into the protests for
fear of them getting hurt. But he knew that what they
were working for was the future of these children and the
children wanted to do it. So they went forward. But here is some of the reaction. The police and the
fire departments — the fire department
somewhat reluctantly under the police orders —
used high-powered water canons, knocking children and
others to the ground. These fire hoses were so powerful
that they tore the clothes off of the protesters and
lacerated their skin. And the police, under the really
aggressive police chief Bull Connor, brought out these police dogs who –>>Mary Louise Kelly: This
is the same day, Steve?>>Steven Levingston: This is around
the same time, during the protests in Birmingham which spread
out over a period of time. They brought out the police dogs who were rather vicious
and attacked people. Here these next two photos will
show you the difference in the life between Martin Luther King, Jr.
and John Kennedy during this time. This is Easter weekend in 1963
during think protests in Birmingham. Martin Luther King is being arrested
and carted off to jail there with his friend Reverend
Ralph Abernathy. And it was in jail that he wrote
this tremendous piece called The Letter From Birmingham where he
outlined really the principles of the civil rights movement and
a defense of civil disobedience. And it was a beautiful
piece of work. Here on that same weekend is John
Kennedy with his beautiful children and beautiful wife going to church,
celebrating the Easter Sunday. This is at his father’s
estate in Palm Beach. Quite a contrast between these
two men who were very different and that was one of the reasons
there was such difficulty in the two of them coming to an agreement on
what needed to be done for America.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Yeah.>>Steven Levingston: This was
almost you could say the event that pushed Kennedy over the edge. This was on June 11, 1963
when the governor of Alabama, George Wallace standing there,
was blocking the schoolhouse door in the University of Alabama to prevent two black
students from registering. Kennedy federalized the
National Guard in that city and was appalled not only by
this but by all the other things that had occurred and in
a sense had an epiphany. And on that very night of June 11,
1963, we can go to the next photo and we’ll see John Kennedy was
eager to go on television live. He didn’t even have a
speech really prepared. He cobbled something together with
some of his staff and he announced that he wanted to introduce
civil rights legislation — which unfortunately he
wasn’t able to see through. Lyndon Johnson had to
follow that through after Kennedy’s assassination. But more importantly
for Martin Luther King, this was really the first
time that a president of the United States spoke
about the civil rights movement in moral terms. He defined that this
was a moral crisis in America that had to be fixed. After the speech, Martin Luther King
and many other blacks were ecstatic that they had finally been
able to make Kennedy come around after starting
from such a low base two and a half years earlier.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Thank you. Alright. Well thank you, all
three, for introducing your books. I’ve got a few questions that I
want to throw at all three of you and then we will for the
last few minutes open it up to questions from the audience. So as things are popping into your
head as you’re listening, get ready. I know we will carve out
a few minutes at the end. I want to start with a political
question and I guess I’ll aim this at Steven and Tom since your books
have more of a political slant. It is fascinating to
me as a reporter in Washington today
covering politics, covering national security, how often JFK still
comes up in conversation. You know, whether you’re talking
about secret back channels to the Kremlin, which RFK
was known to meet many times with that Soviet intelligence agent. Or you’re talking about
President Trump bringing members of his immediate family
into the administration, which of course was a path well
trod already by the Kennedys. My question to you would
be, would the Kennedy brand of politics work in
Washington today? Would it translate?>>Steven Levingston:
You do that one.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Tom. [ Laughter ]>>Thomas Oliphant: Thanks, Steve. I got a laugh at the Kennedy library
this spring during the centennial week when this was first
published in saying that there was a direct line from
what John Kennedy did between 1955 and 1960 and Donald Trump. Trump is not even imaginable without
Kennedy and that’s because in effect on the fly Kennedy invented modern
politics — all the elements of it. The media type, the TV commercials,
polling, the outside-in approach to organizing where you’re not
thinking of a national convention as an affair where big shots and
powerful people broker nominations. You’re seeing it as the culmination
of a process in which starting in 1960 politicians began to sort
of let this new group of people into the process called voters. And so that’s one reason. And people in national politics
today, if you’re starting out a campaign there’s
always somebody in the office who has encyclopedic
knowledge of Kennedy’s victory. It’s still studied [laughing].>>Mary Louise Kelly: Well and
one of the things — it’s true. It’s still studied today. And I was struck reading
your book by your description of Kennedy’s campaign as this
bold outsider insurgent campaign that managed to exasperate and
defy the party establishment. And I wondered — I mean, you
were writing this during the 2016 campaign.>>Thomas Oliphant:
Well, it is — I know.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Very different
candidate, different time, but –>>Thomas Oliphant: It’s
very hard to think of — because of all that happened
subsequently, it’s hard to think of him for what he was at the time. But he was a nobody. He was very young. His resume was extremely thin. His connections to what we would
call the Democratic Party were extremely tenuous at best. Everything had to be
built from the ground up. That is the story of
his political career. It was true when he ran for
Congress in 1946 as well as when he was running for
president in 1960 and as a result, because this new kind of politics
really was born with his candidacy, people still understand how
important it is to study it. But it makes me think of a
question maybe Kathy can help me with [laughing] and that is, did
she — from talking to her — did she hate this game or love it?>>Kathy McKeon: I
think she loved it.>>Thomas Oliphant: Why?>>Kathy McKeon: Because she –>>Mary Louise Kelly: Put your
mic back up so we can hear you.>>Kathy McKeon: OK. I think she loved it because
she was always out there to help the president
and Bobby Kennedy.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Yeah, yeah. Steve, how about you? As you were researching and
writing, were there through lines that you were seeing
parallels that apply to today?>>Steven Levingston: Well, what I
would say in terms of the relevance of this story of Kennedy
and King today is this. Civil rights progress is never over. Civil rights progress moves
forward and gets thrown back. It happened during the
brief time that I looked at the progress in ’61 to ’63. There’s two examples in the book. One is that night that John Kennedy
made that transformative speech — June 11, 1963 — was the same night
that Medgar Evers, an NAACP worker in Jackson, Mississippi, came home
and was excited about the speech as well but as he was
crossing the driveway of his home he was gunned down. So we had elation and tragedy. The same thing sort of
happened after the march on Washington in August of ’63. The march on Washington
was a wonderful event. The civil rights movement
was overjoyed by how it occurred peacefully. Martin Luther King
gave his, you know, his famous I Have a Dream speech. Everything went beautifully. And then a couple weeks later
we had another terrible event, a 16th Street Baptist
Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four little girls. So the progress goes forward. It gets struck back. You could flip it all the way to
today to see some of the relevance. We had a black president and
we’d thought we were entering a postracial world. Well we’ve had a backlash again,
as we all know, since that time, and a rise of white
supremacists and violence. So really the issue to take
away from all of this is that this progress is delicate
and it needs to be protected.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Quick point
and then I want to bring Kathy in.>>Thomas Oliphant: I kept running into still another
element of this, Steve. And that is that in great movements
like civil rights you always have to remember there’s a moral
track — the movement — and there’s a political track
to kind of get things done. And of course in my research
Kennedy is all politics until he becomes president. But what fascinated
me about your work — and maybe you could talk
about it just a little bit — is that Dr. King was not
above politics completely. And I’m thinking especially of
his reluctance to get busted at Rich’s Department Store in
Atlanta almost on the final weekend of the campaign in 1960 because
he was worried about the impact that would have on the election.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Right.>>Steven Levingston: But he did.>>Thomas Oliphant: He did. Yeah.>>Steven Levingston: I
mean, he played politics because he knew he
had to play politics. And he got arrested for joining in
a sit-in right before the election, a couple weeks before the election. And that really in some ways
turned the election to Kennedy because both the candidates,
Richard Nixon and John Kennedy, came under pressure to speak out
about Martin Luther King’s arrest. Well the Nixon campaign offered
a no comment and that was it. John Kennedy, through various
machinations with his family and his team, decided that he
wouldn’t speak out directly but he would make a call to
Coretta, Martin Luther King’s wife, and just tell her how concerned
he was about Martin Luther King and about Coretta because
she was four months pregnant. And that, of course,
got into the media and that rallied the black
constituency and they flocked to the polls when election
time came. And after that they claimed,
and with some validity, that they elected John Kennedy and
they expected him to work for him when he was in the White House and
that’s because so much frustration and anger once he was in
there and he moved so slowly.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Let me ask if
I may — I just want to get, let. There’s a story I want Kathy
to tell us before we open it up to audience questions
and it’s about the challenge that is no doubt familiar to all
three of you writing history, writing memoir, which is that
we all know how the story ends. There was a moment, Kathy, in
your book that so touched me where you were asked a question that
I think everybody of a certain age in America has been asked which is, where were you when
Kennedy was shot? And in your case, you
write about being asked that question by his daughter.>>Kathy McKeon: Yes.>>Mary Louise Kelly:
By Caroline Kennedy. What happened?>>Kathy McKeon: I was asked that
question by Caroline in her bedroom. She says, Kath, where were
you when my father was shot? And I said I was in Ireland. And she said, I thought you
were in the United States. I said, no I was in Ireland. And I said, everybody
in Ireland was very, very sad about what
happened to your father. And my mom — there was a picture in
the Sunday’s paper, a color picture in the middle of the paper. And my mom cut it out. She got it framed. She put it into it. She hung it up in the kitchen
in the middle between the Pope and the Sacred Heart
and President Kennedy. And it was there for years,
but it’s not there anymore. I think it fell out of the frame. You know? It was just
a newspaper picture.>>Thomas Oliphant: You know –>>Kathy McKeon: And
Caroline was really, really shocked that
I was in Ireland. And I told her that I
was going to a dance and I was — we were all dressed up. We went to a little store
to get some gum and the lady in the store said, Kath,
there is no dance tonight. And I said why? She said the president of
the United States was shot. Everything is canceled. Everything is closed down.>>Mary Louise Kelly: And you
wrote about being able to listen to the funeral on the
radio in your home.>>Kathy McKeon: Yes, yes. I listened to the funeral
on the radio. One radio and it was a battery radio
and it had to be charged every week because it would die out. And my father used to keep
it for football games. And we watched — no, we
listened from the radio and we could hear the
horse’s hooves going up and down the street
walking on the cobblestones.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Ah.>>Kathy McKeon: I know you
want to get a word in but I want to make sure we have time for a
couple of questions and then get you to your signings on time. So if you have questions,
you’ll see mics. There’s one on each side here. You can make your way forward. If you would tell us your name, if
you have an affiliation you want to share, and if you could
keep your question short and keep it a question,
I would be grateful. Thank you. Please, sir.>>Alright. Thank you for being here. John Kennedy –>>Mary Louise Kelly:
Bring the mic to you. There we go.>>John Kennedy remains my hero. This question, I guess,
is for Mr. Oliphant but can be addressed
to all three of you. One of the things I always find
fascinating about President Kennedy, or even Senator Kennedy as well,
was his self-effacing humor. Whether it was during
his various speeches, he seemed to always extemporaneously
come out with some kind of humorous remark about himself,
like I said, in a self-effacing way. And I find that in today’s politics or politically world
vastly different, of a vastly different aspect. I was wondering if you
could share that aspect of not only Senator Kennedy
but President Kennedy as well.>>Mary Louise Kelly:
Humor as a political tool.>>Thomas Oliphant:
One of the things that I thought was a gas during
the three years of poring over research materials
before Curtis Wilkie and I started writing is what an
interesting politician Kennedy was. And everything applied,
including humor. And as a matter of almost political
strategy, he used humor to deal with two issues that were
problems from the beginning of his political career
in 1946 until he died. One was his family’s wealth. And one of the, they called them
openers in Kennedy’s speeches that he used all the time — he almost never talked
about his wealth seriously. It was always humorously. And he said it was when he
was running for the senate against Henry Cabot Lodge in 1952
and he said he’d been talking to his father about what it
would cost and etc., etc., etc. Kennedy was also already
appearing to be ahead in the race and the question was how much
more to invest down the stretch? And Kennedy would say to
audiences, so my father said to me, he said look, I am willing to pay
for your victory but I’ll be damned if I’m going to buy a landslide. [Laughing] And the other topic
that occasioned humor as much as serious talk was his religion. You know, he was about to become
the first and only Catholic to be elected president
of the United States and humor helped him
get into the topic. At political dinners especially
he used to tell a story about Al Smith’s candidacy in 1928, the first Catholic
nominee, who had trouble. And he said the campaign unfolded,
the election occurred, Smith lost. And the day after the election
he sent a one-word telegram to Pope Pius the 11th: unpack. [ Laughter ]>>Mary Louise Kelly: Unpack. [Laughing] Very good. We’ve got one over here. Yes, sir?>>Hi. I was wondering how much
truth there was to the theories that the election was
stolen for Kennedy.>>Mary Louise Kelly:
Was the election stolen?>>Thomas Oliphant: Let me pick that
up on something Steve said first of all because it’s very important. There hasn’t been a lot of serious
studies of the vote but a couple that we found buttress this
point about the importance of African American
votes at the end. There’s a little story attached to
that too because unbeknownst to John and Robert Kennedy, the
liberals in his office arranged to have Kennedy’s intervention
in the King case publicized. And they printed at least a
million, maybe a lot more, of a two-page leaflet that had
Kennedy’s activism on one side and Nixon’s no comment and
Eisenhower’s no comment on the other, and distributed
them in churches all over the country the weekend
before the election on a — the paper was tinted blue and
they called them blue bombs. And if you study the vote, you
can see the spike in the turnout in Michigan, in New York, in New
Jersey, in upwards of ten states. Eisenhower himself thought that Kennedy’s intervention
had won him the election. The Republican National
Chairman that year, later Senator and Interior Secretary
Thruston Morton of Kentucky was positive
that’s what did it. And so I wanted to make
that point first of all. Secondly, we studied very
hard Illinois and Texas. And very quickly, it’s interesting
to me that after all these years, the same counties and the
same precincts are cited and nothing else. It’s an evidentiary
burden that the advocates of a fix have yet to satisfy.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Steve,
do you want to jump in?>>Steven Levingston: Well the only
thing I would say along those lines is the black voters did turn out in
huge numbers and I looked at some of the numbers myself as
well and certain states — I can’t remember which — but
it was such a close election that Kennedy eked by by several
thousand votes in some states, but there were 200,000 African
Americans who turned out. So they clearly turned the
tide in several states. And after the election was over,
the African American leaders said that they believed that the black
vote was responsible for more than 100 electoral votes. It was a hundred and something.>>Thomas Oliphant: Quite possibly.>>Steven Levingston: So that
hasn’t been disproved yet, so I guess we’d have to say
that it’s pretty accurate.>>Thomas Oliphant: Can I just
do three numbers real fast?>>Mary Louise Kelly:
Real short numbers.>>Thomas Oliphant: In 20 of
the states that night in 1960, the margin was below
five percentage points. And only North Carolina
was four to five points. All the others were below 4%. And Kennedy won 13 of them. And in five his margin
was less than 1%. So I think we’ve got
a very strong case.>>Steven Levingston: Yeah.>>Mary Louise Kelly: There we go. Alright. Yes, sir? You get the last question.>>OK. Thank you very much. I’m British. Kennedy, John Kennedy, indeed
was an inspiration to me. And in fact, in the UK a memorial
scholarship was created in his name. And it was that scholarship
that brought me to the States where I’ve spent the rest
of my professional life. But what I want — I was very
struck by his morality and his sense of politics, first of all
with respect to civil rights. But then there was another
event that nobody has mentioned and I wonder if you
have any comments. And that is Cuba and what he did
at that moment and in that crisis. I think that’s also
extremely important. Thank you.>>Mary Louise Kelly: I think maybe
a little bit outside the scope of all three of your books.>>Thomas Oliphant: Actually –>>Mary Louise Kelly:
Actually, alright. We got a bite.>>Thomas Oliphant: Cuba,
is that what you said?>>Mary Louise Kelly: Cuba. Cuba and the Cuban missile crisis.>>Thomas Oliphant: Yeah [laughing],
Cuba got Kennedy into a big mess. And he listened to his advisors
when he probably shouldn’t have and he was devastated by what
happened on the invasion.>>No, no, no, no. The October crisis.>>Thomas Oliphant:
The missile crisis.>>The October crisis.>>Thomas Oliphant:
Oh, the October crisis?>>Yes.>>Thomas Oliphant: Yeah,
that’s something different. That is a bit out of
my depth, I think. So I think we need to –>>Steven Levingston: Let me
just try very briefly one point.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Sure.>>Steven Levingston: And that is
that I think his astonishing, still, behavior during the missile crisis
— I mean, the part I want to know, and I talked to a friend at Harvard who is beginning the next
big biography of Kennedy, I want to find the kid deep
in the bowels of the Pentagon who when they were searching for
something other than the alternative of war or appeasement who
found the blockade idea. Because that’s Kennedy at his best
— experimental, looking for things that nobody’s thought of. That’s him. But I’ll tell you, the missile
crisis in some way is the cost of his having been too
political about Cuba earlier. We found Lou Harris poll — I mean,
it happened in civil rights too. Polls were driving a
lot of what he did. But on Cuba, after the
third debate with Nixon where Nixon was doing better
on particularly on a couple of foreign policy issues,
Lou Harris is the first guy to be a full-time pollster
on a presidential campaign. And his analysis after the
debate (based on polling) said that the issue that really has
America exercised right now is not the Soviet Union. It’s Cuba. And that immediately led to some
truculent rhetoric on Kennedy’s part that I think helped lay the
basis for the Bay of Pigs which in turn laid the basis for
those hideous 13 days in 1962.>>Mary Louise Kelly: Fascinating. So many stories that
we can tell up here. I want to thank all three
of you — Steve, Kathy, Tom. [ Applause ] Thank you. Fascinating perspectives
on the campaign and the civil rights movement
and on the personal lives of this extraordinary family. Thank you all. Thank you all. And enjoy your day. Enjoy the book festival. Thanks for coming. [ Applause ]

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