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September 28th, 2012
10:37 AM ET

Historian Ted Widmer on “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of JFK”

Fifty years since John F. Kennedy was president, details of his presidency are still unfolding. In July of 1962, President JFK installed hidden recording systems in the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room to record conversations between him and cabinet leaders on national and international issues. These newly released secret tapes from inside the Oval Office and some private conversations offer a revealing look inside his presidency and a personal glimpse of the man as well. Historian Ted Widmer wrote about these 265 hours of recordings in “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of JFK.”

Widmer describes the recordings as highly sophisticated and clandestine. “It was a very closely held secret,” Widmer says. “A tiny number of people knew. Most of his top advisers had no idea.”

Widmer credits JFK with knowing their value, though JFK never said what his goal was for recording them. “I think it was for history,” Widmer says. “I think he was getting ready to write his memoirs, for that long into the future day when he wouldn’t be president anymore. And he just wanted to capture the raw stuff of what was happening.”

Widmer explains that the recordings demonstrate JFK’s true character and personality as president. “Throughout a capacity to learn, he was a decisive president, and you get that feeling. But he was also evolving, in the way we hope our presidents do. On civil rights, there was a lot of movement,” he says.

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  1. Jennifer

    McCain.Why?1) More relevant exrnpieece2) Better plan for the economy -lower taxes is proven to stimulate a recession3) We love Sarah Palin as V. P.4) NRA gun control5) Better forward thinking energy policy drilling in gulf, nuclear plants and no taxes fines on automakers who are already struggling,6) no redistribution of wealth and policies that violate American way of life/thinking.7) scared of Obama and his socialistic/marxist thinking. Do not like Pelosi and Democrats tax and spend philosophy.9) want to keep businesses strong and free form excessive costly regulation10) want to stimulate jobs11) do not want to encourage handouts12) do not want democratic house, senate and white house. all three would be out of control13) some would vote for better family values14) We want less government15) We want less government intrusion and control16) We want freedom17) We think Obama's pro union stance and new regs will cost jobs.18) We think Obama's pro minimum wage stance and new regs will cost jobs.19) We think Obama's ending the secret ballot stance will cost jobs if you do not vote the way OBAMA thinks you should and the ballot is no longer secret you will lose your job.20) We think Mccain has more exrnpieece for foreign policy21) We think McCain has better idieas for intelligent environmentalism.22) McCain is going to have a spending freeze and will seek to have a more efficient Government.23) Palin said they were going to balance the budget by the end of their first term24) Obama has voted for tax hikes 94 we don't believe he will change now.25) McCain can work across the aisle better with both parties.26) because of Joe the Plumber exposing the wealth redistribution plan of Obama which takes money and costs jobs.etc.

    November 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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