Wednesday, September 14, 2011

13/09 Jackie: In her own words

Jacqueline Kennedy was the consummate presidential consort – clever, stylish, loyal. But tapes of her candid thoughts about political figures, about to be heard for the first time, make for illuminating, unsettling listening, says David Usborne
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
There is mirth in the tapes too
There is mirth in the tapes too
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It is a country worn down by present dangers (the economy) and exhausted by commemorations of grief (9/11). Around the corner is an election where retrenchment and lost ambition will trump hope. Oh, for the days of... what or who? Oh, for the bright beacon days – of course – of Camelot.
Tonight a wish will be granted by the fairy godmother of the nation. Imagine she has dropped in and asked: "Which figure in your recent history, taken too young, should I restore to you, at least in voice, to give you distraction?" So some might answer Elvis or Tupac Shakur, but it's a decent bet that many will have looked up and said Jackie. Give us Jackie again.
And presto! With gratitude in truth to Caroline Kennedy, Americans will stay in tonight to watch as ABC News pushes the play button on tapes of a seven-part conversation the former First Lady had with the historian and former aide to her husband, Arthur Schlesinger, in 1964. It will be a Disney ride aboard a spinning teacup – gilt-edged like the dinner service she introduced to the White House – to a heroic past of glamour, to when the Kennedys were America's royalty.
There is a health warning posted before we board. Passengers may experience brief periods of vertigo. The tapes, made four months after JFK's assassination in Dallas, do offer confirmation of a wife unstintingly loyal to the husband she has lost and the father of her children. But they swerve alarmingly – or deliciously – when Mrs Kennedy turns to describing characters she didn't quite approve of.
The trailers for the tapes – The New York Times boasted its own synopsis yesterday, and ABC primed its ratings numbers with a few juicy audio excerpts on its news bulletins – read like those saucy teasers in the tacky tabloids. Which women's rights pioneer did Mrs Kennedy dismiss as a "lesbian"? Which American civil rights movement icon did she consider a womanising "phoney", and which leader of a European nation an "egomaniac"? And what scared her husband most about Lyndon Johnson?
Maybe it was the skill of Mr Schlesinger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicler of American public affairs who died in 2007, that drew Ms Kennedy into becoming, well, a bit bitchy. Just about everyone she dishes dirt on has a legacy, by the way, rather more substantial than hers. Did she really say that about Indira Gandhi?
Theoretically, we should be hearing none of this quite yet. When Jacqueline Kennedy agreed to give what is, all the juicy bits aside, a unique oral history, she demanded that they be kept under lock and key until 50 years after her death. The guardian of the tapes was Caroline. And she, it seems, is the one who concluded that they deserved unveiling before then. The deal that was struck was simple: a book and accompanying audio discs would be released on 14 September 2011, which is tomorrow. And ABC would be tied in to give it maximum exposure.
That this was coming has been known for some time. Different news organisations in recent months have unleashed nuggets of speculation of the "explosive" revelations. We would hear, they said, of how she struck back at her husband for his serial infidelities by revealing details of her own love affairs. That does not seem to be the case. Nor do we hear much of what some expected from Mrs Kennedy on her alleged distrust of the conclusions of the investigation into her husband's assassination. Indeed, it appears that JFK's death is not discussed at all.
History, meanwhile, is not likely to undergo much rewriting because of what she is heard saying, although scholars will linger over her description of Johnson and the concerns JFK and his brother, Bobby, had about him possibly becoming President, which of course he did through circumstances neither could have predicted. They were thinking of 1968, when JFK would have finished his second term.
"Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon was president?" she quotes her husband saying of his then Vice-President. "He didn't like that idea that Lyndon would go on and be President because he was worried for the country. Bobby told me he'd had some discussions with him. I forget exactly how they were planning or who they had in mind. It wasn't Bobby, but somebody. Do something to name someone else in '68."
Perhaps not surprisingly, the most difficult moments of her husband's truncated presidency – the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and then the Cuban missile crisis – elicited some of the most touching passages. The former prompted Kennedy to cry in the private quarters of the White House. The long missiles drama was the time when the wife knew that her place was nowhere but beside her husband.
"That's the time I have been closest to him," she is heard saying, in her breathy tones. "And I never left the house or saw the children, and when he came home, if it was a sleep or a nap I would sleep with him. I said: 'Please don't send me to Camp David, me and the children, please don't send me anywhere. If anything happens we are all going to stay right here with you.' You know I said even if there is no room in the bomb shelter in the White House, which I saw, I said, 'Please... I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too – than live without you'."
The context is important, of course. Though in later years she was to marry her shipping tycoon and would eventually live a private life in Manhattan as a publisher and champion of charitable causes before dying of lymphoma in 1994, Mrs Kennedy appears content to be a woman and a wife more from the Mad Men era.
At one point she describes her marriage as "rather terribly Victorian or Asiatic", dedicated to preserving "a climate of affection and comfort and détente" in the White House. At the time of the making of the tapes she was still in "the extreme stages of grief," as Caroline points out in an introduction to the book. Moreover, she knew she was making an oral history and saying ill of her husband would never have done.
Of others, she was entirely less circumspect to a degree that she must have looked back at with a certain flushing of cheeks. Thus Mrs Gandhi was in her books "a real prune – bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman". It was the French President Charles De Gaulle whom she considered an "egomaniac". She is heard attributing to her husband doubts about the sincerity at times of Franklin D Roosevelt: "Charlatan is an unfair word," he allegedly said of the former wartime President, but "he did an awful lot for effect". Better perhaps she had kept her opinion of Martin Luther King Jr to herself. He is the "phoney" whom, she suggested, had been caught while under electronic surveillance – he was not an FBI favourite either – arranging romantic liaisons.
Those women she dismissed almost childishly as sexually suspect were Madame Nhu, sister-in-law of the president of South Vietnam, and Clare Boothe Luce, a former member of Congress. "I wouldn't be surprised if they were lesbians," she is heard whispering in conspiratorial manner.
But there is mirth in the tapes too. She is heard recalling trying to impress President Sukarno of Indonesia by having a copy of a new book about his personal art collection open on a table in the White House so he would notice during a meeting with her and her husband. Only too late did she see that his taste ran mostly to a kind of portrait of a woman "naked to the waist with a hibiscus in her hair". She added: "I caught Jack's eye, and we were trying not to laugh at each other." Of Sukarno, she concluded, "he had a sort of lecherous look" and "left a bad taste in your mouth".
And if Ms Kennedy steers clear of her husband's own weaknesses toward the fairer sex, she does offer other insights, like the fact that generally he rose at 7.45am to be read his daily briefs, put on pyjamas for his afternoon naps, went through the most perfunctory rituals of prayer at night, kneeling on the mattress of their bed, and never grew out of having toys in the bath, something that greatly amused officials visiting the private quarters. "All along his tub were floating animals, dogs and pink pigs and things. And you'd hear this roar," of laughter from behind the locked door, she says. Every First Lady evokes curiosity in most Americans. What influences did they have? How did they tolerate the pomp, even the boredom? Nancy was a possibly dark force behind Ronny's Oval Office desk, even offering him guidance from readers of the stars. That she was unutterably devoted to her husband has never been in doubt. One modern First Lady had troubles with drink, another with an intern who got altogether too close to her husband. Anyone watching Michelle Obama in the gallery of Congress last Tuesday as her husband unveiled his American Jobs Act to a joint session of Congress may have been struck by how stern she appeared. Is someone making tapes of her true feelings?
In talking to her historian friend, Mrs Kennedy pauses to note that when her husband was seeking election, some in the electorate had particular doubts about her, but that much of the popular scepticism had evaporated when she found her feet and most notably after she had taken television viewers into the White House to see the style she had introduced to it.
"Suddenly, everything that had been a liability before – your hair, that you spoke French, that you didn't just adore to campaign, and you didn't bake bread with flour up to your arms – you know, everybody thought I was a snob and hated politics," had just gone away, she said. "I was so happy for Jack, especially now that it was only three years together, that he could be proud of me then. Because it made him so happy – it made me so happy. So those were our happiest years."
The television audience for her White House tour was 56 million, by the way. She may not do quite so well today, so many generations later. But the number will be high for the ABC channel in a nation tired of bad news and ready from some Camelot relief.

Real-time updating is enabled(Pause)
  • Is it bitchy to tell the truth? Now that western culture is dictated by a bunch of politically-correct, self-seeking phonies, anyone who dares to call a spade a spade is seen as a right-wing fanatic. The lefty liberals who don't accept any absolutes are the most absolutist on those who dare to differ. They are tolerant only of those who hold their own beliefs.
    The Kennedies, in America, came from humble origins. The rest of us non-English Brits have had to swallow the English Monarchy, aristocracy who really are pribileged, self-regarding, and self-indulgent media-created snobs. It was because of those people that many of the English themselves beat it to America, as did many of our ancestors from the rest of the British Isles. As a Scot, give me the Yanks any time! At least when you talk to one they will answer you honestly. Jackie Kennedy has done just that.
  • malafemmina 2 hours ago
    What is all this cutesy-poo writing about fairy godmothers? Jackie Kennedy was, like her sister, brought up by her mother to be a whore (or "adventuress," if you think it's a romantic thing to do) and she became one. Her marriage to Onassis shocked Americans because they thought she had greatly changed--but that marriage showed what she was all along. She was what every woman who bought the Fifties line would have been if she had the looks and the background and the technique, a courtesan (another word that sounds nicer but means the same thing). That dreadful, phony voice of hers was cultivated for conveying to every man "Oh you're so wonderful" no matter what the words. It was a tiny squeak that escaped from the immense pressure of repressing all passion and independence.

    I'm not saying Jackie didn't have her points. While it would have been nice if she became known for her commitment to social justice rather than cuisine and couture, she was an educated, sophisticated, and stylish woman, a vast improvement over most Presidential wives. And she did have her principles--when JFK wanted her to kick Sammy Davis Jr. out of the White House when he showed up with a white woman, she refused. And how much can you criticise a woman whose husband's brains were blown out inches from her face? But can we please stop idolising someone who represented a cold, materialistic approach to marriage that women since have rightly rejected.
  • everybody on here thinks they know everything, well if you do, then where is Jimmy Hoffa?
  • Solidified in cement...under a huge building.  Where else?
  • ryhope1 19 hours ago
    Why this never-ending obsession with this highly privileged, self-regarding, self-indulgent, media-created snob?
  • First Ladies are put in a rigid vise by the American public.They are to avoid politics, except being completely supportive on their husbands.They are much like the royals, visiting hospitals, schools, and  attending charitable affairs.Only many of them, like Jackie, had minds of their own, and in this case she expresses her thoughts. I don't know much about the foreign personalities she speaks of. But the FBI was convinced that the Civil Rights movement was being funded by the Soviets. So they kept a close check on Rev. Martin Luther King, and he did have many affairs with the women connected with the movement.
  • Expatnhappy 21 hours ago
    What is still a shock about the Whitehouse tour is Mrs Kennedy's Marilyn Munroe way of speaking: that breathy coy submissiveness.
  • The tapes make it clear that Jackie was a double agent for the Kirhanese, a small band of Massachusetts zealots who traveled with bags of lox under their breaths and believed that pillbox hats should be worn to conceal one's antennae and radio headgear, the wireless connection to their ultimate divinity, the Morton Salt Girl (who was by the way, a Lesbian. So HA-HA! all you blasphemers).  This becomes obvious when her own legacy of terrible pinks and that intolerably high vocal squeal is placed on a reel-to-reel and played sideways with the sniffering and blubbering of the Cucumber Cakes famous recording of "High Tide Comes a Rocking Over My Sister's Jesus (In the Loaming, In the Loaming)". This was discovered by the, now deceased, hip-hop artist Blow N' Go. We can no longer doubt the so-called conspiracy theory of the connection between Lee Harvey Oswald and the Spice Girls who were emissaries from Kirhan and intermediaries to the world of bathtub toys and mutual castigation. And speaking of cucumbers, never does she mention the deep affection Kennedy held for cucumbers in the sideboard and over the head of the bed next to the portrait of the bleeding heart of Mary! How else would those eyes follow you everywhere? Can there be any doubt now that she was an alien and never shared his bed, being required to sleep in a row of cabbages in order to re-energize her mu-mu? One must be careful not to disrupt the flow of neons to the upper chambers of the moligula if one hopes to stay alive in the vicinity of such a vast supply of mendacity and utter brainlessness. And these days who can escape it? Can we afford to avoid the "inside job" theories now? No matter how absent of loquaciousness and absurd they appear to be? I think not. Not this close to the fall of the sacked and bedded Virgins of Capital and how we have made a passle of lies out of the terrible falling of a couple of stacks of building blocks. Don't misunderstand me, I am not stupid enough to believe that Lady Bird listened in on every murmur that ever came from the water closets of the white house... but what has ever been made of her propensity to smile even while she farted? You tell me if you think you know. But never inhale. Not here.
  • THE REVISED KAMA SUTRA: A NOVEL , which your newspaper reviewed when it was published by Fourth Estate, contains a series of letters from the protagonist to Jackie Kennedy. An Indian novel with Jackie Kennedy in it! How likely is that?

    In THE KILLING OF AN AUTHOR, my literary autobiography, Jackie Kennedy figures once again.

    For your readers, here is the link:
    Richard Crasta
  • zeltia 1 day ago
    These tapes unfortunately prove that her charisma was unfounded, as in most cases and that we can be taken in by a hat and a frock and a few words in French!   I do hope Michelle has more to her than Jackie O la la! Many women of that era were best a baking bread as she infers and although Jackie was not caught up to her elbows in flour, perhaps that would have been a better historical image than the one we are getting from these talks.  She sounds spoilt, frivolous and a bit stupid...ok, so she had inherited good taste for interior furnishing....she had all the best designers at her beck and call...not a personal virtue. Sounds like a very lack lustre interview and in 50 years time would probably not even be admitted to television...too tame, not enough swearing, no vampires , no living dead hiding in the bedroom, no sex or drugs, no D.N.A. possible interest for television of today let alone 50 years hence!
  • d'Albert Matlhoko 1 day ago
  • ninsim 1 day ago
    I wonder if there is a tape of her observations after  being seen off by Christina Onassis clutching the paltry 20 million she was given after her grubby attempt to muscle in on Onassis's fortune.
  • hodgeey 1 day ago
    This is the guy from the gangster family who nearly had the world blown up by putting rockets near Russia; if he hadn't backed down to Kruschev we would have been finished.

    A typical new imperialist; served as an inspiration to the likes of Clinton, Blair, Obama and the other criminals.

    A revolting creature with a decadent lifestyle.
  • maug11 1 day ago
    Although Mrs Kennedy would have been affected by depression and grief, she may also have been affected by the 'chemicals' given to her by their (she and the President"s) own 'Dr Feelgood'. Amphetamines have a way of sharpening the brain and loosening the tongue. They were not considered to be addictive in the 1960s. And excellent for someone with an eating disorder.
    And as for not leaving his side during the missile crisis - wise move, I would not either, as he and the other cabinet elite had a safe and fully equipped nuclear shelter in which to survive.
  • sheriff77 1 day ago
    I dont believe the government line that he was assassinated by a lone gunmen.

    is believing that there there was an organised plot to murder a conspiracy

    yep it sure is then that is what it was No !!??
  • JFK's Presidency was bought by his ambitious father Joe Snr. Deals were done with the Italian mafia and with their help, Kennedy just made it to the Presidency.  When he was Attorney General, his brother  RFK then had the temerity to 'go after' organized crime and the Mafia.  The Mob felt shafted.  It does not pay to cross the Mafia or break promises made to them.  Could they have had a part in the assassination?
  • georgesilver 1 day ago
    Kennedy was killed because he wanted to destroy the "private" banking cartel's Federal Reserve.   He had also produced "real" debt-free money ready to go.

    Lyndon Johnson became President and immediately got rid of the "real" money and protected the Fed.

    Always follow the money when you want to find the reason and person responsible.
  • kensparker 1 day ago
    So the recent reports that Jackie believed that Lyndon B Johnson and a cabal of Texas tycoons were involved in the assassination of her husband were all B.S?
  • The truth is we don't know the truth of the matter. Of course, this means that anyone is free to offer their own conspiracy theory and people like Old Git Tom will pronounce anyone who doesn't agree with his conspiracy theory as a 'supine conservative'. All totally meaningless and unhelpful of course, but this kind of thinking is always rife when  the conspiracy theorists are left to run amok. Quite funny, but ultimately unenlightening.
  • Brian Tran 1 day ago
    What John & Jacqueline Kennedy possess more than any other Presidency is "flair". All you other presidents can eat your hearts out!
  • nuzenite 1 day ago
    What sort of a woman would have a no sex stipulation in the marriage contract? Poor Aristotle Onanist :-))
  • Erm, would you have sex with Ari? Assuming you were a woman and heterosexual? No, neither would I. I rest my case. ;)
  • Not even if I were gay......................
  • Old Git Tom 1 day ago
    A tragic life for a woman; her liberal president husband murdered, then his brother as he ran for office, then her son - of an air crash when he announced the intention. All just bad luck, the media assure us. OGT
  • Sheesh, you and your conspiracy theories. Her son announced his intention to do what? And, why shoot the messenger in this instance? There has been a multiplicity of investigations and theories as to the so-called ' curse of the Kennedys' and they have all been largely fruitless in terms of producing anything that would justify your conspiracy hints. But, why are you blaming the media????

    P.S. You should be aware that John jnr was advised by his flying instructor and close friend, not to fly as he was not instrument trained and the weather was bad and forecast to become un-navigable without instrumentation. The idiot was foolhardy enough to disregard this sound advice and fly ( he also had a foot in plaster after breaking it two weeks prior..). The fact that he was prepared to fly when under-qualified to do so in those conditions speaks to his irresponsibility and willingness to risk the lives of his passengers and himself. It is sad, but those are the facts. Now, if you have anything, absolutely anything, to add to these facts, please do so.
  • Not more of your supine, conservative conformism? You've obviously not investigated the evidence. You prefer 'official' pap.

    "Most people prefer to
    believe their leaders are just and fair even in the face of evidence to the
    contrary, because most people don't want to admit they don't have the courage
    to do anything about it. Most propaganda is not designed to fool the critical
    thinker but only to give moral cowards an excuse not to think at all."  -
    Michael Rivero

    Bon appetit.   OGT

  • There you go. You fancy yourself as some kind of maverick despite no supporting evidence. Hide behind Michael Rivero's notion of conservative thinking while doing nothing more than exhibiting a craven conservative need to follow him. You have no evidence and so I will dismiss what is offered by you without evidence, without evidence. Those are the rules of logic and any deviation from you without any argumentation whatsoever means that you are the craven conformist here and not those that have examined this case from various tangents and not found the evidence to support the contradiction of the accepted version by many of us. Tough titty. But, you don't argue intelligently.
  • If you used some definitive factual evidence, you would not be reduced to these wild, ad hominem haymakers.

    So, JFK, his brother, & his son met violent ends. For you a matter of bad family luck, presumably? I could list the relevant, eminent people who thought & said differently, but I can't be arsed.

    By the way, the majority of American people consider the 3 WTC buildings were brought down by explosives, not to mention 1,500-odd architects, engineers & scientists. But I doubt you are well enuf informed to know this. You are now part of a shrinking minority of crazed believers in gov conspiracy blah, blah.

    If inexpedient truth irritates you, why no go back to your Mail, Telegraph, or Pravda - much more your hammer, surely? Work, believe, obey, & pay your taxes.  OGT

  • ineluctable2u,no evidence of explosive charges?! I refer you to the c1,500 architects, engineers & kindred experts who say otherwise. There is also the evidence of our own eyes. May we also mensh the feverish haste with which the collapsed steelwork was illegally removed - that's called removing vital evidence from a crime scene. As to the giveaway of the BBC2 prediction of Building 7 collapse, your explaining away amounts to 'fog of war' moonshine. Or, Larry Silverstein's "Pull it"? Prima facie, we have motive, methodology & supporting expert witnesses, probably why the 'official inquiry' completely ignored the embarassing case of Bldg 7.    OGT 
  • You are the one that has provided no definitive factual evidence. Actually, you have not provided any facts at all!!!! What's up? You seem very rattled and determined to cling to silly argument and nothing to substantiate your conspiratorial bent. As usual!

    I don't care personally, what the American people think- most of them have never consulted an engineer's report I bet you, or they would know better. I doubt you are well enough informed to know this, but do some research and you may reach some understanding eventually- before it's too late ;0).

    The fact you keep hammering away at tomkyle makes me believe he really got under your skin. Well, what you don't understand is that he researches things and has this strange tendency to know what he's talking about! You have provided nothing to make me do anything but smile at your daft conspiracy theory which is the same old garbage you trot out in response to every issue. Blame the daleks, OGT and understand somethings are far more sensibly explained without resort to your usual paranoid guff.

    You seem to present as an automaton who works, believes and obeys the most delirious stupid conspiracy theory going. I doubt you pay taxes though.

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