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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 22, 2009 9:00am-10:00am EST

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family in my book, the father of tom chan fled china in terror after the revolution in the mid 1940's. today, tom chan expens spends to months in china importing fireworks to america. >> steve roberts, author of "from every end of the earth," thanks so much. >> history professor steven g gillon, chronicles the hours after the kennedy assassination and the transfer of the presidency topline done johnson. mr. gillon uses recently classified sources to chronicle the first 24 hours after the assassination. barnes & noble in new york city
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hosts the event. >> when you write a question like this, the first question that you have to answer is do we really need another book about the kennedy assassination, is there anything new to be said about the assassination of president kennedy, are there new materials that are -- that have suddenly become available, that have not been available for the past 46 years, that allow us to see these events in a different light and obviously, my answer to that question is yes, for very selfish purposes. most of the books, the vast majority of books and you could fill a small library with books and articles that have been written about the assassination, they focus on one singular question and that is who shot j.f.k., where did the bullets come from, was there a shooter on the grassy knoll, was oswald a patsy, was this a part of a coup on the part of the military industrial complex because of initiatives that kennedy had taken? these issues are fascinating,
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and they have inspired what is and remain and will remain a passionate debate among people on all different sides of this issue. that's not what this book is about. i am not writing a book about who shot j.f.k. i have no new theories to offer about where the bullets came from or who shot j.f.k. this is actually a very different book. what i'm interested in is not who shot j.f.k., i'm interested in the transfer of political power that takes place in the hours after the assassination, and i want to move the focus away from the tragedy that's unfolding in the presidential limousine and move it back about 60 feet to the car carrying lyndon johnson, follow lyndon johnson over the course of the day, as he goes to parkland hospital and then to air force one and back to washington, d.c., to give people a sense of the texture of the decisions that he had to face and the choices he confronted. you when think about it, the kennedy assassination
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represented the most dramatic and sudden transfer of political power in u.s. history. kennedy was the first chief executive to die instantly from his wounds. even abraham lincoln who was shot at point-blank range at the ford theater survived and lived until the following morning when he died. kennedy died instantly, which confronted johnson with what i believe is an unprecedented crisis. what i'm interested in is the issues of crisis management and presidential leadership in the hours that followed the presidential assassination and i focus on the first 24 hours. you know, which is very different from other books that i've wris written and the bookst our professional historians write, because ultimately what we're trying to do is to connect the dots, to tell the story of change over a period of time, but what i try to do here instead is to focus on a single 24 hour period to give you a sense of the texture of the moment. you know, my students over the years have always complained that number one, i took too fast, and number two, that history is boring. they say history is boring
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because we know the conclusion. we know the end of the story, so why do we need to learn about dates and names and times? and what i find fascinating about history is being able to go back in a moment in time and understand that the past has many different possible paths, that there are lots of possibilities, choices that were not taken and to put people back in that moment at that time, to understand the range of choices, in this case, that lyndon johnson faced and to realize how contingency and unintended consequences play in the historical process and pro dawes a result which no one at the time could have anticipate. by focusing on 24 hours, by focusing on some of the details that oftentimes get air brushed out of history, i think we're able to transport people back to that moment, so you not only can now, with the benefit of hindsight get a sense to re evaluate some of the decisions that lyndon johnson made, but you can also put yourself back in that moment, so you're at parkman hospital and someone
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comes to you and you have the same information in front of you that lyndon johnson had in front of him, you find out the president has been shot, that this is possibly the first shot in what could potentially be a confrontation with the soviet union. what do you do in that moment? what choices do you make? i know what i would do. i would hyperventilate and pass out. that's why i'm a professor and not a president, but it allows the individual, the people reading this book to allow people to go back in that moment in time and experience it and experience the same type of situations and the same choices that lyndon johnson confronted and not only is the framework different, but if terms of the issues, there are new sources that are available, and i am very gradeful to the family of william manchester, who gave me access to all of the research materials ma there manchester used to -- that mr. manchester used to write his controversial book "the death of a president" was published in 1967 and these materials were opened up for the
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first time last year and these materials, almost all of these people, with a few exceptions, are now dead, but you go back and you look at the interviews, manchester i want viewed all the major players if 1964 and 1965 when this material was still fresh and these people come alive and what comes alive are some of the human dimensions to the story, the human dimensions that have been left out of the warren commission, which for example is a legal brief, which is sort of clinical and very concise, but also it focused on solving a crime and it's not focused on lyndon johnson or his actions after the assassination, and i also found that people just volunteered and gave manchester material, material that was not available to the warren commission, so there are for example, documents in the manchester papers, which he chose not to use, and parts of interviews which he chose not to use, which i think provide a fresh light, new perspective on the events that took place that day. i also -- and i sought out the
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manchester papers and i found them, they're at wesleyan university in a special collections archive at wesleyan university. i also came across a very valuable and useful oral history that was conducted by the john f. kennedy presidential library if 1978 with brigadier general god friday mc quen, and this just falls into the category of pure dumb luck. i happened to be working at the kennedy library on the day 31 years after he conducted the interview that mc cue's interview was declassified, so within hours of it being open to the public, i was able to get access to it and use it for the first time and i will talk later on about some of the insights that this oral history arises, but finally, because i'm asking different questions of the material, there's a lot of information that's been open to the public for a long time, that other people looking into this issue have not focused on. there's at both, the johnson
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library and at the national archives in washington, d.c., for example, there is a report conducted by the secret service, where all the secret service agents involved in the presidential detail and the vice-presidential detail gave very detailed reports of what they were doing on that day, what they saw and when they saw them. most people, the few people who have used this report have been looking at it primarily to glean information about the assassinations, but if you look at it instead to try to get a sense of what lyndon johnson is doing, you get this great understanding of lyndon johnson and every step he's taking and who's in the room and who he's talking to and it's really essential in trying to tell the story, so what do you end up? what's new. so there's new questions you're asking, using a different format and you have new sores, so what is it that i'm able to say about november 22, 1963, that no one as said of before? well, the first part of this story, i think, that's important is the events that take place in parkland hospital. the roughly 40 minutes that lyndon johnson is at parkland
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hospital from 12:40 until 1:30 p.m. when he leaves for air force one and the question that i asked of the material, which has not been asked before is why does he it take so long for lyndon johnson to find out that kennedy is dead? according to the warren commission, kennedy is shot at 12:30 p.m., they arrive at parkland hospital at 12:40 p.m., kennedy is pronounced dead at 1:00 p.m. lyndon finds out that kennedy is dead at 1:20 p.m. here's what happens, lyndon johnson to set the stage for parkland hospital, lyndon johnson is two cars behind kennedy in the motorcade when they turn on to daley plaza. when the shot rings out, lyndon johnson said he didn't think anything about it, he thought it was back fire from a motorcycle. he wasn't the least pit harmed. the secret service agent in the
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front seat of the car hears the same sound, he's also not alarmed but what he sees that alarms him, he's looking out at the grassy knoll where the vice-presidential car is making the turn and he sees people falling to the ground and he looks ahead and sees in front of him and sees what he describes as unusual movements in the presidential car, so young blood leaps out of the front seat of the car, he jumps over the back seat and he grabs lyndon johnson and he throws him to the floor of the car and as johnson is being thrown to the floor of the car, you hear the second shot and the third shot and depending on what theories you believe, the fourth, fifth and sixth shot but lyndon johnson is on the floor of the limousine. he hears these shots, but he doesn't see anything. he hasn't seen anything in the presidential motorcade. as soon as he's on the floor and rufus youngblood, all 180 pounds of rufus young blood are on top of him, the car picks up speed and they begin this frantic race to parkland hospital. johnson doesn't know what's going on, this car is going 70 miles an hour, it's an open
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limousine, the air is blowing through t. the raid offis at full blast. johnson wanted to hear how the local radio stations were covering the motorcade, so he had the radio on the homeowner time, so they're racing to parkland hospital and he keeps looking over to make sure lady bird is ok, but he hears chatter over the secret service channel but he doesn't know what is taking place and what is happening. rufus young blood, at one point, there's so much noise, in order to talk to johnson, he leans down and yells in his ear, we're going to a hospital, it's possible that there's been an incident in the presidential motorcade, when we get to the hospital, we're going to take you to a secure location, do you understand and johnson says yes, partner. so they pull up to parkland hospital and i realize that johnson's car is just a few seconds behind president kennedy's limousine. the limousine is parked a few yards away and the president is laying in the arms, in the lap of the first lady, but johnson doesn't see any of this. as soon as they screech to a halt, agents surround him, they rush him into parkland hospital, they close the blind, remove people, put a guard at the gate
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and put him in booth 13, so there you have lyndon johnson, lady bird, rufus young blood in a room with a sterile metal operating table, examination table and two plastic chairs, that's all -- at this point, lyndon johnson knows nothing. so the question then is, is why does to take so long for him to get information about what's happened to the president? just about everybody else in the presidential motorcade has either saw the shots, or they saw kennedy's body when they arrived at parkland hospital and they had an understanding of how serious this was. so johnson wants information, he doesn't foe whether connelly has been shot, the first lady or that no one is hur. he gets his first report from emory roberts, who was the shift supervisors of the secret service. emory roberts, as soon as the cars pulled into parkland hospital, he opens up the back door and he wants to get a sense of how far serious the president's wounds are and he
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lifts up the first lady's arm and looks at the president's head and he tells william manchester, in the interviewed he did with manchester, that at that moment he knew that kennedy he was dead and lyndon johnson was president of the united states and he says my secret service pan you'll tells me to protect the president of the united states, and that was johnson. so he goes into -- he's the first person to give a report to lyndon johnson. now, roberts has already made up his mind that kennedy is dead and johnson is present, but with he sees johnson that's not what he says. what he says to johnson, he says, i have seen the president's wounds and i don't think he can survive. and johnson says, i need more information, i want to hear from kenny o'donnell, who was -- his title was appointment secretary, he was in fact, sort of chief of he staff for the kennedy white house, and he wants to hear from roy kellerman, who was president kennedy's secret service agent, so emmy roberts leaves the room. he runs into lem johns, who is
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another secret service agent, who had arrived at the hospital late and says to roberts, have you seen -- what's the president's condition? and he says very matter of factually, the president is dead and later, roberts told william manchester, he said, johnson didn't foe what i knew which is that kennedy is dead. the next person who comes in is roy keller man. roy kellerman was in the presidential limousine, he was one of the people who helped lived kennedy's lifeless body from the car on to a stretcher and to bring him into parkland hospital. he says the president's condition is not good. anyone who has seen the president's wounds, that's an understatement. the president's condition is more than not good. the president's condition is fatal. and then a few minutes later, kenny o'donnell comes back and says the president was in a bad way. what i'm struck by is that hall these people, kenny o'donnell was riding in a car 15 feet behind kennedy when he see he is the fatal third shot and he turns to abe powers and says
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he's dead. so what i'm struck by, the question i'm asking myself is why doesn't anyone state the obvious? why doesn't anyone come to lyndon johnson and say mr. vice-president, the president has suffered a major head wound, even if doctors are able through some miracle, to keep his heart beating, he clearly can no longer function as president. you need as of this moment to assume the powers of the presidency, but they never say that. and the question is why? why are they reluctant to say that. in the book, i explore sort of all the different dimensions of this and i think there's lots of different reasons, obviously grief and confusion and chaos all play a role in it, but i think there's also the issue that most of the kennedy people simply cannot accept the idea that lyndon johnson is now president of the united states. this is a man who they detest. and it's hard enough for them to accept that their leader, this man who they loved, john f. kennedy was now dead.
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but it was just too much for them to accept and to have to verbalize that lyndon johnson, its man who they ridiculed, who they never wanted to be vice-president in the first place, was now going to occupy the chair that john f. kennedy once occupied, so they're not able to tell him that. they give him the right advice. they all tell him, get on the plane and fly back to washington, so they tell him what they should have told him, but they can't bring themselves to tell him, that kennedy is dead, and that he needs now to assume the powers of the presidency. so this is -- this is i think one of the sort of the issues that you have to deal with in talking about parkland hospital, but there's another dimension to it. while people like kenny o'donnell cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that kennedy is dead and to tell lyndon johnson he's now president, they give him the right advice, but lyndon johnson's own insecurities are being played out at park land
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hospital. johnson clearly has enough information, he knows from emory roberts that kennedy is in very serious condition and may likely die. so why doesn't johnson see pow power? -- cede power. why doesn't johnson assume the powers of the presidency, having this general understanding of what kennedy's condition is and the problem is that lyndon johnson is so paranoid about robert f. kennedy and he's so afraid that if he appears to be overreaching, if he appears to be literally stepping over the body of a dead president in order to assume the powers of the presidency, that he'll be perceived as being out of line, and that the kennedys will use this against him. he said in a taped phone conversation later on that he was afraid those first couple of days that robert kennedy was going to do everything he possibly could to deny him the presidency. so johnson, you have this stalemate. you have this standoff. and the minutes after the assassination. on the one hand,est kennedy people will not tell lyndon johnson that he's president and
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lyndon johnson refuses to assume the power, so what you have is a vacuum. in parkland hospital. you have an unacceptable period of time. you have 40 minutes when the united states without a functioning commander-in-chief, recognize, this is a year after the cuban missile crisis, this is the peak of the cold war. if anything, the imperative at that time should have been to maintain a chain of command. but for 40 minutes, we are without a functioning commander-in-chief and i spent a lot of time in the book focusing on those 40 minutes in parkland hospital and trying to explain this dynamic and this dynamic is significant because it really sets the stage for the relationship between kennedy and johnson, the kennedy people and johnson, not only over the next 24 hours, but over the course of lyndon johnson's presidency, so let's move the story ahead to another critical moment i think is new an interesting, that we haven't seen before, and this comes courtesy of general --
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brigadier general godfrey mc hugh. he was with the presidential party on november 22. and to set the stage again, what happens at parkland hospital, johnson when he's told kennedy is dead, he leaves, he goes to air force one, he waits for the first lady to show up with the body of the president to fly back to washington. the kennedy people put the body if the casket and they're ready to leave a hospital, a justice of the peace and coroner say you can't take the body back, the assassination of a president is not a federal crime, it's a local crime, which means the autopsy has to be done in texas. the kennedy people just loved the beloved president just be assassinated, mrs. kennedy makes clear she's not leaving without the body of the president, so they esendingly kidnap the body of the president of the you state, they force their way past the local justice of the peace, they load the car on to hand ambulance, to a hearst, they bring it out to air force one, they quickly carry this heavy
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casket up the steps, put it in the back of the plane, strap it in. as soon as they do this, o'donnell says get this plane in the air. o'donnell is afraid that the dallas police are coming behind him, the dallas police are in the cars, they're going to surround the plane, board the plane, drag the body off, and perform an autopsy in dallas. so he wants to get this plane in the air, so mc hugh, who is the air force aid to the president, is responsible for maintaining the kennedy fleet, goes to. front of the plane, he says to the captain, get it plane in the air, and the captain says, i can't, there's going to be a ceremony on board and we're not really sure hand eventually mc hugh finds out that lyndon johnson is on the plane and the kennedy people don't know that. they think johnson has taken its other plane, the plane he newspaper in on, which is air force two and is on his way back to washington, so the foremc hugh tells in this oral history, which was declassified for the first time last year, which was revealed in this book for the first time, this is what he says. he's walking up and down the
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plane, he's looking for lyndon johnson, he can't find him. lyndon johnson is 6'4", he's a tough guy to miss, so he realizes the only place he hasn't looked is the presidential bedroom. so he opens up the door and he looks in the presidential bedroom, no lyndon johnson. so the only place on the plane he hasn't looked is the bathroom. the bathroom in the presidential bedroom on air force one. so he walks if to the bedroom, by his own accounts, this is his account, he walks into the bedroom and he opens up the bathroom door and you know what he finds? he finds lyndon johnson. he finds lyndon johnson, he says, crawled up in a ball, on the floor of the bathroom. his hands covering his face crying his tearically. it's a conspiracy, it's a conspiracy. they're going to kill us all. they're going to kill us all. now that, i wonder what he did next, like, excuse me, close the door, what do you do after you've seen this.
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this story, of what mc hugh claims to have seen at -- aboard air force run, runs against every other view of lyndon johnson's actions that date everybody who saw will be, observed lyndon johnson that day said he was cool, calm, collected, even the secret service agents and the secret service agents don't really like lyndon johnson. you write a book about lyndon johnson, you realize most people don't like lyndon johnson, but they all observe he's subdued this day, which is appropriate given the occasion. so mc hugh's account runs contrary to every other account we have that day. so the question i have to grapple with, is it true. how, 46 years later, can you determine that hand encounter between two men, both of whom are now dead, ever took place? so i -- in the book, i lay out
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the reasons why i think the -- what mc hugh says is true, and also the reasons why i am suspicious. and i leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds about how credible general mc hugh's accounts of lyndon johnson's johnson behavior on air force one is, and finally, i think what this book -- it does something which fairly few books do which is paints a fairly positive portrait of lyndon johnson. when you look at the circumstances that lyndon johnson faced on november 22, 1963, he handled the crisis remarkably well. what johnson understood, you have to realize, when you're dealing with a situation like this, there's no manuals to read, there's no books to read about how to behave. johnson doesn't have advisers around him who are giving him choices, or making recommendations, pick box a, b, or c. lyndon johnson is governing with his gut. it's his n'sync. this is leadership at its very
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basics. this is lyndon johnson deciding on his own, what's right, what's wrong, making decisions based on fragmentary evidence. and what lyndon johnson understands in stingively is the single he most important message he can send on this day is continuity. he needs to send a message to the american public, our allies and our potential enemies that the government continues, he is in charge and he does that brilliantly. he does it most brilliantly, i think, in how he choreographs the picture of the swearing in on air force one. people didn't want mrs. kennedy in the photograph. he understood that he needed to convey this image of continuity, so he asks mrs. kennedy to participate. he asked kenny o'donnell to go back and get mrs. kennedy and mrs. kennedy, who is just a model of grace and dignity and strength, says, it's the least
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that i could do. and that picture is -- the plane takes off about three minutes after that picture is taken, the photographer goes to the a.p. in dallas, so while johnson is making his way back to washington, that picture of the swearing in is projected to the rest of the nation. so it sends exactly the image that lyndon johnson needed to send and it sent it as quickly as could possibly be done. johnson, just so you know, also wanted to choreograph the exit from the plane at andrews air force base when a they arrived n washington, but on that hoe indication, the -- occasion, the kennedy group refused to cooperate and you've probably all seen these images of this small sort of cargo truck coming down with the casket and mrs. kennedy and robert kennedy, who boards from the front of the plane, walks to the back and the other kennedy aides, what i found in the house select committee on assassinations, their papers are in the national archives in washington and i found an interview with one of the kennedy aides, which proves
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that what happened is someone went through and hand picked all the people who are going to leave with the body. leaving behind some of the kennedy aides who actually were cooperating with johnson on the plane, so that scene of confusion, of the kennedy people getting off and leaving, is -- went against the carefully scripted image that lyndon johnson wanted to present that evening, but also you see johnson the next day. johnson meets with the key members of kennedy foreign policy team. dean russ, secretary of state, and robert mcnamara and they went to the old office building, expecting to have a one-on-one meeting with lyndon johnson, they walk in, there's lyndon johnson, but there's also a whole bank of photographers and reporters. lyndon johnson wanted to get them to sit down and tell them in front of the national media that they were going to premain and be a part of his administration. that was an important message for him to convey, and what's striking to me is a man who is so billionant in using the media in these 24 hours, would later
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be so clumsy and -- in the way, in his relationship with the media and we also see it's not just johnson, the tactician. that evening, november 22, 1963, johnson comes back to washington, later in the evening, he goes to his private residence, it's called the elms in washington, d.c., some friends are oh he finally goes to bed around 12:00 a.m. at night and johnson was never one to sleep a lot, he changed into his pajamas, he gets into his super sized king bed and he invites three of his aides to join him and there johnson, sitting in the bed, propped up with pillows, with lady bird tossing and turning next to him, laid out his vision of the great society, the great society was born within hours of the kennedy assassination. you get a sense of lyndon johnson as a visionary leader, someone who had a clear sense of where he wanted to take the nation, and this ingrained compassion for the poor, his desire to push along the
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kennedy -- stalled kennedy civil rights legislation, do things for senior citizens, so there's -- you see, i think, a visionary johnson, and also johnson who is a brilliant tactician. but you also see in these 24 hours, the fatal flaw, what would become the fatal flaw of the johnson presidency. lyndon johnson was devious and manipulative. he was so concerned, so worried about the reaction of the kennedys that he made a member of the kennedy group somehow responsible for every major decision he made in that 24 hours. so he claimed that kenny o'donnell told him to take hair force 1, the kennedy plane, the plane that president kennedy had flown in on, when in reality the secret service had made that decision to take air force one. they did it because they thought there was better communications on that plane and later in the whole issue about the taking of
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the oath, lyndon johnson clearly wanted to take the oath of office, he wanted to take it in part, because he was afraid if he didn't take it and was stuck if a plane for three hours on his way back to washington that the kennedys would find some way to deny him the presidency. but he manipulates robert kennedy into agreeing that he should take the oath of office in dallas on air force one and then when everyone else from the kennedy group comes to the plane, he tells them that it was robert's idea so it's so many times along the way, he tells so many lies when he doesn't have to tell lies. and i think that penchant for deceit and dishonesty and insecurity that would become what would later be known as the credibility gap. that would erode the moral authority of lyndon johnson's presidency. and what i'm struck by is in the end, there's this irony, that the assassination of president kennedy made the johnson
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presidency possible. but it also doomed it to failure. because it was kennedy's death, if kennedy had not been assassinated, very unlikely that lyndon johnson never would have become president. kennedy and johnson would have won reelection in 1964 and by 1968, robert would have been the heir to the throne, not lyndon johnson, but the assassination also doomed him to failure, because it created a myth. it created this myth of the heroic j.f.k. it was a myth that neither lyndon johnson, certainly not lyndon johnson, but really no other political figure in america could have lived up to. so lyndon johnson spend hes the final days of his presidency and of his life living in the long shadow of the tragedy of november 22, 1963. :
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>> it captures, for me it was fascinating to watch how he took
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the words on a page and transform them into the gripping visual representation on television. if you haven't seen the documentary, i would encourage you to watch it and see a. check your local listings, or you can go to the history channel website at history.com. that's my one and that's it. the microphone, we have a question here? >> even though you started out by saying that your book clearly does not deal with the conspiracy, as you pointed out, this is on most peoples mind. the question is what is your favorite, if there are so many, the mafia, etc. etc., what is your favorite? >> i'm in a distinct minority. the question is what is my favorite conspiracy theory, and my answer is none of them. i am among -- [inaudible] >> i am one of those crazy
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people -- he liked me until just then. my personal feeling that the warren commission, lee harvey oswald assassinate president kennedy. for the purposes of this book, my own view is really irrelevant. i am really looking at what lyndon johnson do in the 12 hours after the assassination. at all lyndon johnson, and when he is flying back to washington on air force one, he hears the name lee harvey oswald for the first time. the first time he hears it is in connection with the shooting of the officer. and what's passing about looking at this issue of who shot jfk in the first 24 hours, what i was taught by, long theories that whether oswald did it, is how worried lyndon johnston is. the information about oswald coming out pretty quickly. lyndon johnson find that this man lived in the soviet union, that he was somehow connected with the cubans. so johnson is so afraid of, speeding back to washington,
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about to try to assemble a government for the first time, if he's going to be pressured into a war with the soviet union. whether oswald acted alone or whether he acted as part of a conspiracy, lyndon johnson is afraid that there's going to be such a public backlash against the man who once lived in the soviet union, that he's going to be forced into a war. and johnson have been around washington for a long time, remember this days of joseph mccarthy. whether oswald was part of a conspiracy or not, simple biography. the fact that his life could produce the same result, which is tremendous public outpouring and desire to go to war with cuba or with the soviet union. yes, over here? >> as far as the continuity, wasn't lyndon johnson in the house of representatives on
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april 12, 1945, an experienced the unpreparedness of the present takeover power, what i want to ask you regarding that is, just put the words together, sadly, for presidents have been assassinated several others, other than the immediate death of president kennedy can you compare or compare the other? >> that's a great question. i think it's one of my questions i ask in my exam. there's a couple of different dimensions to your question. let me discuss about the issue about what happened when franklin roosevelt died. what's interesting, when roosevelt dies, the people who are with roosevelt in warm springs contact the white house,
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and the first person they tell is eleanor roosevelt and eleanor roosevelt is attending a concert when she gets a notice to come back to the white house immediately. she comes back to the white house. office is playing out outside of the public eye. and then harry truman, it is eleanor roosevelt who summons harry truman to the white house. it is the former first lady who has no constitutional role or power who informed the vice president, harry truman, that roosevelt is dead and that harry truman is now president. and within a few hours, within a few hours in the white house, harry truman takes the oath of office. will what's so different about this is it just takes place in the full glare of the media. you cannot understand the assassination and understand the impact it has had on an entire generation. i look around and i see people who are my age, and some older dude you remember where you were when kennedy was shot. in large part because of the
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media. this was the first event in human history that the entire nation experienced, an entire nation experienced in real time. with a roosevelt assassination, people, it played out in reappear but people watch this on television. kennedy used the television to build a personal bond with the public. within a few minutes of the shooting, walter cronkite was on cbs announcing that there had been shots fired at the presidential motorcade. a few minutes after that he was actually on the air to key state on the air, and all the other networks. there were only three back then. abc, nbc, before the history channel. [laughter] >> both nbc, cbs and abc were on the air. they stayed on the air through the entire weekend. so this is playing out in public. what i was struck by, it's interesting, i was writing this,
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the section about the oath of office. right up under about the time barack obama's taking of office and john forgot the constitution. the next day, they administered the oath of office again in private. because was interesting, on air force one, johnson writes back on air force one he is liked what i have to take the oath? amide resident of the niceties or them under a gor or am i nott until i take the oath? when he announces to the public that kennedy is dead, roughly a round 1:36 p.m. or so. the first question is where is lyndon johnson and has he taken the oath of office? all this, it's all playing out in the full glare of the media. the other president who assassinated all link at. when mckinley was shot in
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buffalo in 1901, healing there for days. actually, there were reports he was getting better. he took a dramatic turn after i think he lived for about seven or eight days. when garfield died, he lingered for times. what was unique about the kennedy assassination was that he was the first president tonight instantly and he died in full view of the public. and i think that change the entire dynamic. it change the relationship between the public and the presidency. and it also created extraordinary expectations on lyndon johnson. when lyndon johnson gets off that plane, gets off air force one at andrews air force base at 6:12 on evening of november 22, most of the public is hearing his voice for the first time. the candid camera, the tv show. there was a candid cameras get about a month or so before november 22 you know what the joke was?
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do you know who lyndon johnson is? 30 percent of people did know who he was. lyndon johnson is in a matter of hours forced to not only a single power of the presidency on the most horrible circumstances, but to do so in the full glare of the media. he has to introduce himself. those words that he speaks at the air force base, the first time americans had heard his southern accent. sortie since the days of woodrow wilson. this was new and shocking, and it just compounds the problem. it's one of the reasons why i do johnson in a favorable light here because i think this was an unprecedented crisis that he faced, despite his limitations and his penchant for deception. that on the big issues, he faced an unprecedented crisis and he handled it remarkably well. that was a long winded answer to your question. it was a very good question. lets go here. and we have some in the back.
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>> what could lyndon johnson think of robert kennedy to stop the presidency? they may have not known, but there is some clarity to succession. >> it is pure paranoia. the constitution made lyndon johnson president made lyndon johnson president of the united states, not the kennedys and not the attorney general's. what i will point out is this which is an interesting take on this. before the 25th amendment which sort of laid out in the procedure for filling an office that is vacant. the vice president taking over in the case of the president being disabled. the first president and vice president have a formal agreement about when this would happen, how they would proceed. where the president to be disabled, were eisenhower and nixon. in the agreement that eisenhower and nixon had, said essentially that if for some reason the president became incapacitated
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and wasn't aware he was incapacity, the procedure that reduces the vice president would have to consult and get the support of half the cabinet in order to assume the powers of the presidency. lyndon johnson and john f. kennedy came to a similar agreement, with just one little clause. that had to be running around in lyndon johnson's mind of every boy second. kennedy said he not only had to seek the support of half the cabinet, he had to consult with the attorney general of the united states. attorney general of the united states was the president's brother, robert f. kennedy. in lyndon johnson's arch enemy in the white house. are a lot of this is speculative. we don't know what's going on. lyndon johnson being the political creature he is new every word in a document, and every punctuation point. and he knew, what was he thinking? was he thinking is going to be a woodrow wilson situation?
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in his paranoid mind, did he believe that somehow the kennedys were going to try to hide the fact that president kennedy was disabled, maybe -- first of all, if he leaves the hospital and caregivers, will the public believe that he abandoned the present and abandon the first lady? if he leaves and he is isolated on the plane for three hours, what is the attorney general doing, behind his back? there is a separate military chain of command which goes through the secretary of defense, which is robert mcnamara. you have to think that johnson is playing out all the scenarios. when you boil them all down they are all paranoid fantasies. the american public would accept lyndon johnson as president because the constitution makes him president, not the kennedy family. it needs the approval of the kennedy family, but he is so -- robert kennedy vehemently
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opposed johnson. there is a scene in biltmore hotel in first president kennedy appears to ask lyndon johnson to be on the ticket and then robert goes down try to talk you out of it. there's this great story about when john f. kennedy was thinking about running for president, he sent robert to lyndon johnson and he said lyndon johnson is a big mover and shaker in washingtwashington. he goes to lyndon johnson to see if he is going to oppose him, going to run against him. f. johnson is going to try to stop it by supporting humphrey. so he goes to the lbj ranch. rfk is a very slightly built man. johnson takes him dear hunting. and instead of giving him, and i don't know much about rifles, instead of giving him a regular deer rifle he gives them a high powered shotgun. so robert kennedy pulls the trader, and it knocks him down about 3 feet and cut into his
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40. lyndon johnson make some comment about that's not the way a real manchus again, or something along those lines that robert kennedy hated him from the very beginning. johnson was convinced, the whole time he is vice president and his convinced robert kennedy is trying to remove him. johnson is convinced that robert is conniving. all the bad stories, every scandal that comes out in the media is somehow connected to johnson, johnson is convinced that it's robert kennedy. so you cannot sort of -- it's hard now for us to understand the hostility that existed between these two men, and i think that feeds johnson's paranoia on the stage. clearly on paranoia. no basis in reason or rationality. sometimes people are irrational. [inaudible] >> but the point was this was about death. the president being asked.
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for the first 40 minutes of lyndon johnson doesn't know that. and after they are on air force one, he doesn't know whether he officially becomes president until he takes the oath of office. one of the reasons why he wants to take is the fastest he thinks what he takes the oath there's nothing they can do. the question is what they did if he didn't take the oath? nothing. but he needed that. he needs to know that he is president. yes, i think questions in the back there. i should have prefaced this by telling, i only take easy questions and competence. these tough questions are just -- >> i wanted to ask any early part of your book you discuss the ways in which the kennedys and johnson tried to solicit riders to ride in accounting that day that was support their view of what happened, and you've talked about manchester's very influential narrative. could you comment on the moron
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the way in which that influence, the narrative that manchester provided influence the american public's view of johnson? because it was probably the most important book that's published on this subject in the '60s. >> until today. >> in the '60s. >> very good. you're absolutely right. there was a great article after in vanity fair recently about william manchester. the kennedy family had manchester to tell the official version. mrs. kinney discourage other people from writing about the assassination. manchester is a brilliant storyteller and as they admire him. i think he gets most things right in that book that he did a tremendous amount of research. when you go back and look through his research notes, it's very impressive, the amount of work in such a sort period of time. he gets most things right. he didn't lyndon johnson almost completely wrong. there some
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corresponcorrespondence where manchester said he didn't like lyndon johnson turkey never like to lyndon johnson, and when the book was finally ready for publication, and led to a lawsuit with the kennedy family. mrs. kennedy was primarily concerned that manchester had violated her privacy. she's had sat down for long interviews and shared within many details about her feelings in the hours after the assassination. than a couple years later she regretted doing it, and she blocked a manchester from using those notes. so all the interviews are there except the ones with mrs. kennedy and robert kerry and some the other kennedy people are there, but a lot of things are blacked out. that was part of the agreement that manchester made with them. and she wanted him to remove this mature. she also was concerned, she thought, and robert kennedy believed that the portrait was simple to negative a portrait of lyndon johnson. it was so bad the portrait of
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lyndon johnson even the kennedy people objected. robert kennedy was afraid that people would see this as nothing more than a political attack by the kennedys against the sitting president at a time when robert kennedy is now in the senate. the kennedys really did not accept his, this very negative portrait that he paints of lyndon johnson. going through it, what manchester said for example the lyndon johnson was simply at the whim of his secret service agents. he refuses to make any decisions on his own. the secret service were in his face. they were insisting that he leave parkland hospital right away and go back to air force one. he is saying no. so he couldn't it is his own man in parkland hospital. are so many other comity makes about lyndon johnson i think are a necessary and appropriate, but that book, a credibly english book has done more than any to define our understanding of lyndon johnson.
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manchester paints a portrait of his boorish president who is insensitive to mrs. kinney and the kennedy family who seems over eager to assume the power of the presidency and clumsy. but johnson has this tough role to play, walking a fine line. on one hand is trying to be greek to the family. at the same time he needs to lead a nation. when they arrive at andrews air force base, the kennedys want that to be private. they did want the entire world to see mrs. kennedy. they didn't want them to see the casket carrying the president's body. but johnson insisted that the national media beta. he understood the power of symbol. he is walking a fine line. i think in looking at it, i think the kennedys, the family, the people around them, the slain president, it's hard to appreciate their grief and their sorrow and their sense of loss.
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but there is a sense of entitlement that i found difficult to comprehend. and i think that overall lyndon johnson manages that pretty well. johnson of course is not -- johnson doesn't cooperate with manchester. he refuses to sit down for an interview. you see all these notes where manchester is constantly writing mainly jackal and asking for access to the president. they keep putting them off and putting them off. and then comes along jim bishop. jim bishop was a popular writer. it was interesting for me when i write history books, they need to be objective, fair-minded. jim bishop is sending these log lift to lyndon johnson about you are such a wonderful leader. i couldn't imagine writing a negative book about you. so johnson agrees to participate in a project that jim bishop is doing about a day in the life of lyndon johnson, which is this puff piece.
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but what they're both trying to do, and what johnson does with jim bishop is tell his side of the story. jim bishop comes out a few years later after manchester about the day kennedy died. but by 1960 people were sick of lyndon johnson and nobody wanted to hear his side of the story. i did enough, bishop is closer to the truth than manchester. how many people here read manchester's book or know of manchester's book? how many people have heard of jim bishop's book? okay, we have a really smart crowd. [laughter] >> i think bishop actually, although his account if manchester is too critical, i think bishop airs on the other side. he sees no fault with johnson that he blames kennedys for all things wrong. what i can do is find some sort of balance between the two. >> we have one more question. we're going to comment and then the question. >> bishop wrote a book on the date link and i.
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>> the day christ died. >> but certainly lincoln. when did that come out? >> that was earlier. >> one year, i don't know. [inaudible] >> would have time for one more question. yes, over here. >> so he he even knows about the place where kennedy was shot, and he must surely be paranoid because what you said about, you know, there was a warning for kennedy not to go there. >> what's interesting about this story is that johnson did not
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want kennedy to go to texas. texas was his turf. there was a debate going on between two factions of the democratic party which i won't get into here, and johnson chlorate sided with john cong who was the governor of texas, and kennedy, kennedy was trying to find some common ground. johnson wanted jenni teasley texas today. he thought he had a pretty good idea of how to manage it. the kennedy insisted that my kennedy at one point cut johnson out of discussion about the trip to texas and he planted on his own. johnson one day finds out that john connor who is the governor is in town, and he finds out that, had the meeting with president kennedy to talk about the trip. johnson isn't even involved in the tree. he was concerned about doubt that he believes he knows dallas is a right wing hotspot. he's opposed to the idea of an open motorcade. you want kennedy to go to couple
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of locations and raise money and get out of texas. johnson, from the very beginning johnson was not in favor of kennedy going to texas. he opposed the trip but kennedy wanted to raise money and he wanted to get a measure of what was going to take place in texas. texas was a key state. kennedy had all recount out for a civil rights bill, and the whole issue of civil rights was turning one solid democratic south and the republicans south. you see the very beginning of kennedy trying to get a sense of how he's going to handle that. i'm told that's the last question we can take. i want to thank all of you for coming out tonight. thanks to c-span and barnes & noble. [applause]
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>> here with the author of the venus fix it.
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the remarkable story of the allied who saves italy's art during world war ii. who were the venus fixers. >> it was a small unit of the government during world war ii whose job it was to try and prevent damage to monuments, works of art. between 1943 and 1945. there were a very small group of men who are architects or historians, archaeologists, painters in civilian life and who were in the army and were selected for this particular job of. >> i would guess they were excited to be given this opportunity? >> gas. >> it is safe to say that lies are still in danger when they did rescue these items? can you give me some examples? >> yes. a lot of the damaged monuments were laced with mines, and so first always meant walking on rubble that had been filled with mines. so that was, and very often they
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-- i mean, part of their job was to get to the monuments as much as possible wichman in some cases the bombs were still or the artillery was still, that the battle was still on. one of these men rushed in the countryside where the germany and allies were still fighting. so did put his life in danger. >> was the group composed mostly of american soldiers? >> every unit of the alignment of the government was composed of british and american, that was one thing, so yeah, british and american. >> as far as the artifacts that were saved, can you give as a couple of examples of some of the better known pieces? >> well, there were lots of paintings and nazis had taken from florence. were talking about 563 paintings from the gallery, that were
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taken up north and traced back and returned to florence before the end, at the end of the war. so that was the most important accomplishment. >> could you put a general percentage on the amount of artifacts that were saved to? i think most would say that's not a very scientific way to put it, but add extraordinary how much was saved or how little damage. if you think that the command object campaign in italy, the entire territory, lasted 22 months, and what comes out to north, and it was a grueling battle all over, so in the end, there were three major buildings that were completely destroyed. everything else, thanks to their intervention, was restored after the war. >> what with the artifacts held during the war? >> everything that could be moved was taken out of the

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