NEW YORK -- 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy asked the CIA to install recording devices in the Oval Office and today, many of his conversations with cabinet members, staff members, and heads of state appear for the first time in the new book, “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy.”
“CTM” co-host Gayle King sat down with Caroline Kennedy to listen to and discuss the tapes.
Caroline reacted to a recording of her father, dictating a letter to her mother, about a recent trip to the beach with Caroline. In the recording, he called her “beautiful” and a “Great success on the beach...seemed to love the water.”
Caroline smiled after listening to the clip and recalled, “the scene that he is describing is really familiar.”
She also told King that the tapes gave her a “much greater appreciation for him at work. No kid knows what their parents do all day,” she said, before adding, “I feel so lucky that there are so many recordings of him.”
Still, she said having a president for a father was just normal life for her. “He became president when I was three,” she told King. “It was just where we lived, what I did...it was a big treat to be able to go see him in the office.”
Kennedy and King listened to a recording of JFK discussing the logistics of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Kennedy was struck by her father’s “attention to detail” and his “incredible memory, incredible curiosity.” “That was something I had always heard about from my mother,” she said.
She also spoke about JFK’s involvement in civil rights, and a clip in which he got heated in talking with Mississippi Governor Barnett about the handling of James Meredith, the first African American to attend the segregated University of Mississippi.
“He’s really mad. I know that tone of voice from my aunts and uncles,” she said of the recording. “Civil rights really went from being an important but not heated issue at the very beginning of his presidency to being the to the major domestic crisis of the 20th century and the moral issue of our time.”
But when it comes to carrying on the possibly daunting name of such a beloved—and at times, controversial—American dynasty, Caroline told King that she did not find the Kennedy legacy overwhelming but said, “I’m really proud of my family. I can’t imagine having better parents or a more wonderful brother. I feel really fortunate...I wish they were here.”
One piece of Kennedy family news she remained mum on was the new, revealing memoir penned by Maria Shriver’s estranged husband, Arnold Shwarzenegger. “I don’t have any thoughts to share on that,” Kennedy told King.