Jackie Kennedy's Candid Interviews Revealed
I confess that like a lot of baby boomers who were children in the early 1960s, I remain endlessly fascinated with Jacqueline Kennedy, the first lady who flickered across our black-and-white TV screens like a goddess in a pillbox hat and gloves.
Jackie, as we all called her, was so exquisitely, impossibly glamorous and serene -- even when she was shrouded in a black veil at the funeral of her assassinated husband. That she seemed to say little in public, particularly about the issues of the day, didn't matter. It only added to the the graceful luster of our national feminine enigma. Here is a glimpse of her relentlessly perfect poise in a 1962 CBS News segment, in which she gives a tour of the White House.
But now, that image of Mrs. Kennedy could be radically altered by the release on Wednesday of a new book -- and an accompanying set of recorded interviews -- that reveals a very different, and more outspoken woman.
Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, written by daughter Caroline Kennedy, is based on 8.5 hours of interviews that the first lady gave in March 1964 as part of an oral history project about the Kennedy Administration that she and the president's brother, Bobby Kennedy, initiated. The tapes were sealed and deposited at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, where they have remained for the past 47 years, unheard by the public -- until now.
Jacqueline Kennedy gave only a few interviews between her husband's assassination and her death in 1994, but this one -- conducted by former JFK aide and historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. -- by far seems to contain the most surprises. Here are some of the revelations being trumpeted on news websites and in the blogosphere:
- When her husband revealed to her in the fall of 1962 that the U.S. and the Soviet Union were on the verge of war over the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba, Jacqueline Kennedy begged her husband not to send her and children Caroline and John Jr. away to a hiding place, according to this New York Times article. "If anything happens, we're all going to stay right here with you," she reportedly said. "I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too -- than live without you."
- ABC News, which will air a special about the tapes, reports that in the interviews, the first lady said her husband didn't want his 1960 running mate and vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, to succeed him in 1968, and sought a way to prevent that from happening. "Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, 'Oh God, can you imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were President?'" Despite the political rancor between her husband and his second-in-command, Kennedy herself was fond of both Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird.
- A CBS News story leads with the revelation that Jacqueline Kennedy disliked Martin Luther King, the civil rights leader who today is a revered national icon. She derided King as "terrible," "tricky" and "a phony." Those opinions are startling considering her husband's famous October 1960 phone call to King's wife Coretta to express solidarity with the activist, who at the time was imprisoned in Georgia.
- A British newspaper, the Daily Mail, reports that the first lady called future Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi "a bitter, pushy prune" and regarded French head of state Charles de Gaulle as "an egomaniac." She also derided Democratic women who preferred twice-unsuccessful presidential candidate Sen. Adlai Stevenson to her own husband. "I always thought that women who were scared of sex loved Adlai," she said.
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