Trying to figure out Jack Kennedy

Updated

Let me finish tonight with the intrigue about the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes. I’m personally transfixed by them. I’ve been studying Jack Kennedy - who he was, what he was like to be with - for years. 

His wife, obviously, saw a side of him others didn’t.  They had a fine intellectual relationship - batting comments back and forth about the people around them all the time, enjoying the life they shared, life at the very top.  

Yes, they were quite a pair in public.  But imagine their back-and-forth in private over the sound of Jack’s record player. And while the tapes haven’t come out yet, the whiffs that have gotten out confirm some interesting stuff. One is that Jacqueline Kennedy knew her husband pretty well. More than most people knew him, at least, and in different ways. She called him that “unforgettable, elusive man.”

“Elusive” he certainly was.  And she, again more than anyone, knew the many sides to him. The “idealist” was a big part, but not the only one, she knew.  She said that “all men” are a combination of bad and good. She was taken with how Jack prayed on his knees each night before bed, how he went to church religiously all his life, how he went to confession regularly, even if, as I’ve discovered, he had to sneak in among the secret service agents so the priest didn’t recognize his voice as he once did.  As a fellow Catholic, I understand him, having found this out, especially given all the rest we’ve learned. 

I knew that his views about Lyndon Johnson were complicated, too.  He picked him as his vice presidential running mate against the wishes of his brother Bobby and a lot of liberals.  Yet he liked him and knew he needed him.  

Jack’s last political conversation was driving to the airport in Fort Worth that late November morning.  There he was in the car trying to figure out why Fort Worth had been so welcoming of him and Dallas was so red-hot right-wing.  He was, to the end, a student of politics, knowing that he needed to carry Texas, trying to figure it out - just as so many people are today. 

And just as Barack Obama may be thinking how much he’d rather run against the right-wing Rick Perry of Texas than the more mainstream Mitt Romney, Jack Kennedy was hoping to run against the hard-right Barry Goldwater, worried about taking on the popular moderate, Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York.

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past years trying to figure out Jack Kennedy, what he was really like, what he was like to be in the room with him.  My big book comes out November 1.  These tapes of Jacqueline Kennedy confirm a lot of what I’ve discovered from her and others.  It’ll be fascinating, as I said, to sit and hear this woman - who rarely spoke publicly, give her take and share her memories of all we in the country went through together in those great days.  

 

 

 

 

Trying to figure out Jack Kennedy

Updated