Secret John F Kennedy’s Oval Office recordings revealed in new book
Talking to Harry Truman about sex, and Eisenhower about war
A new book entitled “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy" has compiled hundreds of hours of recordings made in JFK’s Oval Office. They offer a wide array of different insights, from personal matters to global issues.
While a lot of the content of the tapes is already known by the general public, this is the first time they’ve been compiled into a book. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation has assembled the highlights of the hours upon hours of recordings into a book of annotated transcripts and two audio CDs, and some of the material will be available online.
The value of this book, Putnam said, is that, “it is the first time the material has been published in one collection with annotations and a serious historian providing context for each conversation.”
The book includes the conversations about an array of different events, including key Kennedy comments on Russia and the Space Race, as well as more personal and “human” moments - such as him chatting with Harry S. Truman about keeping his wife satisfied, and talking with then-toddler John F. Kennedy, Jr.
On the space race in November 1962, the president told James Webb, the NASA administrator, that putting a man on the moon was his top priority.
Webb disagreed, saying general space exploration was more important, but Kennedy strongly disagreed, “If we get second to the Moon, it's nice, but it's like being second anytime.”
Kennedy had an obsession with the Russians and was very disturbed when the U.S. hockey team lost to Sweden, 17-2.
“Christ,” the president said. “Who are we sending over there? Girls?”
Kennedy spoke to former presidents like Eisenhower about major issues but his conversation with Harry Truman seemed to be about erectile dysfunction.
“Well, you sound in good shape,” Kennedy said on the tape.
“All right,” Truman replied. “The only trouble with me is that, the main difficulty I have, is keeping the wife satisfied.” Both men then laughed.
“Well, that's all right,” Kennedy said.
“Well, you know how that is,” Truman went on. “She's very much afraid I'm going to hurt myself. Even though I'm not. She's a tough bird.”
Widmer, the historian, states he thinks that Truman is referring to erectile dysfunction. “I wanted the book to have human moments,” he said.
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