David Kaiser on CNN, November 22, 2013, talking about the Kennedy Presidency


DEATH. LET’S TALK A BIT MORE WITH CNN’S CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT JOHN KING ALONG WINNING HISTORIAN DAVID KAISER WHO WROTE THE BOOK “THE ROAD TO DALLAS, THESSASSINATION OF JOHN F NNEDY.” LET’S START WITH YOU, DAVID. IT’S FASCINATING LOOKING AT POLL NUMBERS AND THE POPULARITY OF THE PRESIDENT. I SUPPOSE WHEN IS A LIFE IS TAKEN THAT WAY IN THE CONSCIOUSNESS OFANY PEOPLE, YOU CAN BASICALLY REWRITE HOW YOU THOUGHT OR WANTED THE STORY TO GO. AND YOU KNOW, SORT OF CHANGE IT ALONG TO SUIT YOUR OWN THOUGHTS. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?>>WELL, CERTAINLY. BU I WAS INTERESTED IN THE FIGURES FOR PEOPLE LIKE MYSELF WHO ACTUALLY DO REMEMBER HIM. I THINK MANY OF US THINK OF HIM FIRST OF ALL AS THE GREATEST POLITICIAN OF HIS GENERATION, THE GI OR GREATEST GENERATION AND SECONDLY, AS EMBLEMATIC OF A VERY DIFFERENT AMERICA, AN AMERICA OF WHICH YOUNGER AMERICANS TODAY HAVE NO IDEA WHEN THERE WAS A GENERAL CONSENSUS, A BELIEF IN THE UNITED STATES, A BELIEF IN THE PURPOSES OF THE UNITED STATES AT HOME AND ABROAD. AND IN WHICH KENNEDY WAS LEADING A GREAT EFFORT NOT ONLY TO BRING PEACE TO THE WORLD BUT TO INSPIRE THE WHOLE WORLD WITH THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE. AND TO MAKE AMERICAN LIFE FAIRER AND MORE INCLUSIVE AND MORE BOUNTIFUL AT HOME. AND THOSE WERE NOT JUST WORDS FOR HIM AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. THEY TOOK ALL THAT WILL VERY SERIOUSLY. AND IN THE THREE YEARS HAD HE AND PARTICULARLY IN HIS LAST YEAR IN OFFICE, HE MADE SOME SPECTACULAR PROGRESS TOWARDS THOSE GOALS. >>JOHN KING IS IN DALLAS, OF COURSE, HE’S GOING TO BE ANORING OUR SPECIAL COVERAGE ALONGSIDE OUR TEAM THERE ON THE GROUND. BUT DALLAS, YOU KNOW, FOR A LONG TIME FOUGHT AGAINST THIS NOTION AND UNDERSTANDABLY SO THAT IT WAS THE CITY THAT KILLED JP FK. TRYING TO MOVE ON, FOR INSTANCE, THERE WAS AN X MARKING THE SPOT OF WHERE JOHN F. KENNEDY TOOK THAT BULLET THAT EVENTUALLY KILLED HIM. THAT HAS BEEN TAKEN OUT. AND SORT OF. >>PAVED OVER. >>PAVED OVER. SO WHAT ABOUT NOW? WHY HAS IT TAKEN DALLAS THIS LONG?>>WELL. >>PART OF THAT IS THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP. MICHAEL, AND PART OF IT IS T AN APPROPRIATE WAY. IT IS AN ATTEMPT AT A BIT OF A PAGE TURNING>>DAVID, JFK HAD HIS FLAWS. PERSONALLY AND POLITICALLY AT TIMES. PEOPLE HAVE LARGELY FORGIVEN THAT, HAVEN’T THEY?>>WELL, I GUESS THAT’S TRUE. NOW,AGAIN, ONE REASON THAI LOOK BACK NOS TAL I CANNILY AT THAT ERA WAS THAT AT THAT TIME AND FOR SOMETIME BEFORE THAT IN AMERICAN LIFE, THE BASIC IS OBSERVED BY THE MEDIA WAS THA L THEIR OWN BUSINESS AND THAT ALL LEADERS AND TO FOLLOW THEIR INCLINATION NZ ON THEIR OWN TIME. AND IT CERTAINLY DID NOT PREVENT PEOPLE LIKE KENNEDY OR FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT OR MANY OTHERS I COULD MENTION, ANY EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIRS FOR INSTANCE. IT DID NOT PREVENT THEM FROM FUNCTIONING VERY EFFECTIVELY. IT CERTAINLY DIDN’T PREVENT HIM FROM FUNCTIONING VERY EFFECTIVELY. KENNEDY WAS A REMARKABLE MAN IN THAT HE WAS TOTALLY INVOLVED IN ANY MOMENT HE HAPPENED TO BE IN. AND IF YOU WERE IN THE ROOM ALONG WITH HIM AND MANY, MANY PEOPLE TESTIFIED TO THIS, HE MADE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU WERE THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD. I HAVE TO COME TO BELIEVE THAT WAS THE WAY HE WAS. THAT IF HE WAS IN A MEETING TALKING ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF SOVIET MISSILES IN CUBA, HE WAS TOTALLY FOCUSED ON THAT. IF HE WAS WITH A YOUNG WOMAN FOR AN HOUR, HE WAS TOTALLY FOCUSED ON HER. IF HE WAS WITH HIS CHILDREN, HE WAS CERTAINLY TOTALLY FOCUSED ON THEM. THAT WAS HIM. BUT HE WAS A BRILLIANT POLITICIAN AND IN MY OPINION, A VERY FINE DIPLOMAT AND PRESIDENT. >>HISTORIAN DAVID KAIR THANKS SO MUCH. ALSO, JOHN KING IN DALLAS AND JOHN WE’VE GOT PLENTY MORE TO TALK ABOUT WITH YOU TOO A LITTLE ON THE ASSASSINATION AND THE ANNIVERSARY AS WELL AS THE LEGACY OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY. WE WANT TO START WITH THE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER GERALD POSNER, THE HISTORIAN DAVID KAISER, BOTH IN WATERTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS RIGHT NOW. CORRESPONDENCE ED LAVANDERA IS STANDING BY AS IS OUR OWN JOHN KING. GIVE US A QUICK THOUGHT, GERALD. LET’S START WITH YOU. THIS IS THE HOUR TESTIFIES SHOT EXACTLY 50 YEARS AGO TODAY.>>WOLF, EVERY MINUTE THAT PAS AS WE’RE TALKING RIGHT NOW, THERE IS SOMETHING TAKING PLACE 50 YEARS AGO IN THE SETUP TO THE ASSASSINATION. JUST A FEWINUTES AGO, THREE OF OSWALD’S COWORKERS IN THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY DECIDED TO GO DOWNSTAIRS FOR LUNCH. ONE OF THEM SAID ARE YOU COMING ALONG TO HIM? HE SAID NO, SEND THE ELEVATOR BACK UP A THEY WENT DOWN. THEN THE NEXT FEW MINUTES AS THE PRESIDENT’S COMING DOWN MAIN STREET, IT’S LEE HARVEY OSWALD TAKING SOME BOXES AND STARTING TO FORM THE SNIPER’S NEST THAT POLICE WILL FIND AFTER THE ASSASSINATION. SO THE LEADUP TO 12:30 WHEN THE PRESIDENT IS KILLED IS FILLED WITH THE TIME FOR THE PREPARATION, FOR THE KILLING BY OSWALD. WE’RE PASSING THOSE EVERY MOMENT AS WE’RE SPEAKING RIGHT NOW. >>DAVID KAISER, GIVE ME A QUICK THOUGHT AS BEGIN OUR SPECIAL COVERAGE THIS HOUR. YOU SPENT A LOT OF TIME ACADEMICIANCALLY STUDYING THIS MOMENT. >>WELL, I DID. AND I HAD WRITTEN A BOOK ABOUT KENNEDY AND JOHNSON IN VIETNAM DURING THE 1990s, AND THEN CAME THE BIG RELEASE OF DOCUMENTATION THANKS TO THEJFK RECORDS ACT WHICH GAVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO LOOK INTO THE ASSASSINATION. I DO AGREE WITH GERALD POSNER THAT WILL OSWALD KILLED THE PRESIDENT. I THINK HE DID IT ON BEHALF OF ORGANIZED CRIME BUT IT TOOK A LONG TIME TO UNDERSTAND THAT BECAUSE WE HAD TO UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT WHICH INVOLVED ROBERT KENNEDY’S WAR ON ORGANIZED CRIME AND THE WAYS IN WHICH THEY WERE THINKING ABOUT RETALIATING AND CERTAIN LINKS AND CONNECTIONS THAT OSWALD AND RUBY HAD AND SO ON. I LAID THAT OUT AS THOROUGHLY AS I COULD YEARS AGO IN “THE ROAD TO DALLAS.” WE’LL GET TO THAT LATER THIS HOUR. I WANT TO GO TO JOHN KING RIGHT NOW ON THE SCENE FOR US IN DALLAS. YOU’ THERE WITH ED LAVANDERA, OUR LONG-TIME DALLAS CORRESPONDENT. JOHN, I KNOW YOU GREW UP IN BOSTON. THE JTFK ASSASSINATION 50 YEARS AGO THIS HOUR HAD A REALLY POWERFUL IMPACT ESPECIALLY ON FOLKS IN MASSACHUSETTS, HIS HOME STATE.>>CERTAINLY, WOLF, THE KENNEDYS — IT WAS CAMELOT. THE KENNEDYS HAD BEEN AND WERE, BOBBY KENNEDY WAS A SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK, BUT THE KENNEDY FAMILY WAS THE ROYAL FAMILY OF MASSACHUSETTS FOR SOME TIME. I WAS A WEEK SHY OF 39 MONTHS WHEN KENNEDY WAS ASSASSINATED. MY MOTHER USED TO TELL ME ABOUT THAT DAY IN THE HOUSE ABOUT SITTING ON HER LAP WHEN SHE WAS WATCHING THE TELEVISION REPORTS OF THAT DAY. AND IF YOU GREW UP IN BOSTON, THE KENNEDYS WERE LEGEND. A LOT OF THE IRISH CATHOLIC HOUSEHOLDS I GREW UP IN, IF YOU WALKED INTO THE FRONT HALLWAY OR KITCHEN, THERE WOULD BE A PICTURE OF JESUS CHRIST AND JACK KENNEDY. THAT’S THE WAY IT WAS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD GROWING UP. IT’S INTERESTING TO BE HERE ON THIS MANY SPECIAL DAY, AN I A N SCORE, 31%. LET’S BRING BACK MORE OF OUR PANEL IN MIAMI, THE INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST GERALD POSNER AND HISTORIAN DAVID KAISER JOINS US FROM WATERTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS. LET ME GET BOWING OF YOUR REACTION. JERALD, CAN FIRST TO YOU, THIS UNBELIEVABLE APPROVAL RATING FOR THE LATE PRESIDENT. WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THAT?>>IT’S BECAUSE KENNEDY WAS ALL ABOUT THE UNFULFILLED PROMISE OF WHAT HIS PRESIDENCY WOULD HAVE BEEN. CUT DOWN ONLY 2 1/2 YEARS INTO HIS PRESIDENCY. EVERYBODY LOOKS AND SAYS IF HE HAD STAYED FOR ANOTHER 5 1/2 IT, 6 1/2 YEARS HE WOD HAVE DONE CIVIL RIGHTS LIKE LBJ, ENDED VEET FAM ON A QUICK NOTE. AT’S WHAT WE THOUGHT AT THAT TIME. THAT’S THE HOPE THAT WAS CUT WN BY THE ASSASSIN BULLET. >>90% APPROVAL IS UNBELIEVABLE, WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT, DAVID. HISTORIANS AT THE TIME, JOURNALISTS, FOLKS AT THE TIME, CERTAINLY NOWHERE NEAR THAT KIND OF APPROVAL. BUT 50 YEARS LATER, PEOPLE LOOK BACK AND OBVIOUSLY LIKE HIM AND ADMIRE HIM. >>WELL, I THINK HE STANDS FOR HIS GENERATION THE GI GENERATION, THE GREATEST GENERATION. HE STAND FOR A DIFFERENT TIME. AMERICAN POLITICS AND IN AMERICAN LIFE WHICH IN MANY I WAS NOW LOOKS LIKE AN ACGE OF INNOCENCE IN WHICH WE ALL SHARED A BELIEF IN THE IDEALS OF AMERICA BOTH AT HOME AND ABROAD. HEMBODIED THAT. HE DESPERATELY WANTED TO MAKE AND HE TOOK SOME BIG STEPS TOWARDS DOING THAT. AT THE SAME TIME, HE WANTED TO FIND NEW NATIONAL ENTERPRISES THAT WE COULD GO ON THAT WOULD MAKE US PROUD AND BRING US TOGETHER. AN THE MOON PROGRAM WAS THE BEST EXAMPLE OF THAT. I THINK THERE IS A SENSE THAT IN SOME WAYS AT LEAST WE HAVE NOT HAD AS CAPABLE A PRESIDENT AS HIM IN THE YEARS SINCE. AND AGAIN, I THINK THAT THE NOSTALGIA FOR HIM AMONG PEOPLE YOUR AGE AND MINE AND OLDER, WOLF, IS THAT HE REPRESENTS AN AMERICA WHEN OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM WORKED MUCH BETTER THAN IT DOES NOW, WHEN THE NATION HAD COMMON VALUES TO A CERTAIN EXTENT THAT IT DOES NOT HAVE NOW AND WHEN WE COULD SOLVE PROBLEMS IN A WAY WE’RE HAVING A GREAT DEAL OF DIFFICULTY DOING NOW. >>THE COLOR GUARD — I JUST WANT TO TELL VIEWERS WHAT THEY’RE SEEING. COLOR GUARD WITH BAGPIPES ENTERING DEALEY PLAZA FOR THIS MEMORIAL SERVICE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE HOUR ONCE AGAIN, THERE WILL BE THAT MOMENT OF SILENCE. DAVID McCOULD YOU LA WILL READ FROM SOME OF THE MORE MEMORABLE MOMENTS OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY’S SPEECHES, AS WELL. WE HAVE A LOT TO LOOK FORWARD FOP I WANT TO BRING JEFF GREENEFIELD INTO THIS CONVERSATION. OUR OLD FRIEND HAS WRITTEN AN AMAZING NEW BOOK ENTITLED “IF KENNEDY HAD LIVED.” YOU LEARN A GREAT DEAL ABOUT WHAT POTENTIALLY, JEFF, COULD HAVE HAPPENED. GIVE US A HIS PERSONAL LIFE. BUT NOWN THE 50th ANNIVERSARY, NOT ONLY IS HE COMING OFF AS A SUSTAINABLE HERO, THE AMOUNT OF LOVE, THE OUTPOURING FROM LOVE FROM ALL OVER AMERICA, ITS BIPARTISAN AND SPIRIT. DAVID READING THOSE WORDS REMINDS YOU KENNEDY WAS THE GREATEST ORATOR OF THE 20th CENTURY. YOU COULD CHISEL SO MANY SPEECHES INTO MARBLE AND MONUMENTS. NOW THERE’S ANOTHER NEW MONUMENT IN DALLAS AS OF TODAY.>>GERALD POSNER, AS YOU REFLECT AND WE GET READY FOR THE FLYOVER TO RECALL AND TO HONOR THE MEMORY OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY, THIS IS A SPECIAL MOMENT FOR THE CITY OF DALLAS ITSELF WHERE THIS TERRIBLE TRAGEDY OCCURRED 50 YEARS AGO THIS HOUR.>>YEAH, ABSOLUTELY, WOLF. DALLAS DID IT SELF VERY PROUD TODAY WITH SOME SERENITY, A SOBER CEREMONY THAT WAS DISTINGUISHED AND DIGNIFIED. AND THAT’S REALLY WHAT THEY WANTED. THIS WAS A CITY THAT WAS IN TURMOIL AND FILLED WITH A LOT OF ANGER WHEN JACK KENNEDY ARRIVED. A FULL-PAGE AD IN THE NEWSPAPER GREETED HIM CALLING HIM ESSENTIALLY A TREEN SONNYER AND TRAITOR. IHINK TODAY, THEY DID AN ADMIRABLE JOB OF FOCUSING ON WHAT THEY SHOULD WHICH IS THE LIFE OF THIS MAN IN MANY WAYS BECAUSE AS WE’RE TALKING RIGHT NOW, YOU BRING YOURSELF BACK 50 YEARS AGO, JOHN KENNEDY IS AT PARKLAND HOSPITAL, YOUNG DOCTORS IN THEIR 20s, GOOD DOCTORS ARE WORKING FURIOUSLY TO TRY TO GET A SIGN OF LIFE IN HIM. IN JUST ANOTHER HOUR, JACQUI KENNEDY WHO OUR HEART GOES OUT TO BECAUSE WE SEE HER WITH HER HUSBAND IS GOING TO TAKE AN AMBULANCE RIDE WITH FOUR SECRET SERVICE AGENTS AND A BRIGADIER GENERAL TO AIR FORCE ONE WITH HER HUSBAND BUT HER HUSBAND IS IN A CASKET AND 20 MINUTES AFTER THAT STANDS NEXT TO PRESIDENT JOHNSON IN STUNNED SILENCE. WE’VE SEEN THAT AS HE IS SWORN IN AS PRESIDENT. THEN FOR THE ENTIRE RIDE BACK TO WASHINGTON, SHE SITS IN THE BACK OF THE PLANE WITH THE CASKET. THERE’S NO WAY YOU CAN GO THROUGH THE EMOTIONS OF THE DAY WITHOUT WANTING TO TURN THE CAR AROUND, TURN THE MOTORCADE BACK BECAUSE WE KNOW WHAT’S COMING UP. AS A NATION OUR HEART GOES OUT TO JACK KENDON AT ENTIRE FAMILY. DALLAS HAD JUST THE RIGHT APPROACH TO THIS. >>DAVID KAISER IS WITH US, AS WELL. WHAT DO YOU THINK FOLKS SHOULD LEAVE WITH FROM THIS HOUR, FROM THIS SPECIAL COVERAGE, THIS HONORING, THIS RECALLING THE LATE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES?>>WELL, I WANT TO DPREEL WITH GERALD POSNER THAT THE CITY OF DALLAS DID A WONDERFUL JOB. I WANT TO COMMEND THE MAYOR IN PARTICULAR FOR A VERY FINE SPEECH WHICH SEEMDS TO ME TO BE JUST ABOUT EXACTLY THE WAY JOHN F. KENNEDY I THINK WOULD HAVE WANTED TO BE REMEMBERED 50 YEARS AFTER HIS PRESIDENCY, NO MATTER HOW IT HAD COME TO AN END. IT WAS VERY WELL DONE AND AGAIN, I COULD NOT HELP FEEL, I SAID EARLIER THAT KENNEDY REPRESENTED A DIFFERENT AMERICA WITH DIFFERENT VALUES. AS I HEARD WOLF BLITZER READ THOSE — I’M SORRY, AS I HEARD DAVID McCULLOUGH READ THOSE MAGNIFICENT WORDS, I FELT THAT AGAIN. AMERICANS LISTEN TO THOSE WORDS CAREFULLY AND AN THAT THEY WILL STUDY KENNEDY HIMSELF BECAUSE HE AND HIS TIME SO MUCH EMBODIED THE VIRTUES OF WHICH WE ARE SO DESPERATELY IN NEED TODAY AND WHICH WE COULD REBUILD IF WE BEGAN TO DO SO. >>

Maurice Vega

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