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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 22, 2009 8:00pm-9:00pm EST

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>> that is what she did. alaskans are much more like that. they're much more a hands off when it comes to social issues than conservatives in the lower 48. >> there have got to be a couple more questions. >> will you send her a copy of the book tinactin you think she will be the? >> we don't really know where she lives. >> we could definitely drive to her house, but did have a street address. the answer from the people was e-mail. we didn't want to e-mail. i know it is in bookstores. >> it is available. the price of 27.95. 26.95. cheaper on amazon. i hope she reads it. i don't know if she will. ..
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>> i think maybe she's starting to a little bit. we've seen in the health care debate she has immersed herself in that. >> it's unclear. >> right. that's true. but no you can tell that she is
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sort of maybe starting to recognize she needs to be perceived differently when it comes to policy. you notice if you sort of study her facebook pages of course every politician has someone their rights for them so this is not unique to her but let's say it's clear not all of the language is the language we know she uses a natural setting so she's got help now and has brought some people to help her with this stuff so in that sense i think it's clear she has acknowledged the fact she needs to change her perception that she isn't a policy wonk perce. >> and you see them only with her facebook pages but she had "washington post" op-ed and i sure she will continue that because she knows that she needs to be seen as more serious. >> again almost all of the aids we talk to close to her said she didn't necessarily come in with a strong knowledge base and they all sort of realize that durham
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maybe even overdid it. she had flash cards made up to study the debate of joe biden and one of the flash cards said the prime minister of the united kingdom was gordon brown so that is the nub of the legal level of knowledge they thought she didn't have the all said that she was a sponge when it came to learning things. she would brush up on it that night before she went to bed. all of the policy people on the campaign love working with her. >> they praised how she would soak up all this information. so i don't doubt we don't doubt she can't learn it is just whether she will. >> did you get a sense of how alaskans took the national media coverage of sarah palin. she had a grand opening and then got kind of rough ride. alaskans feel she was treated fairly by the national media? >> it goes to raise again because in some respects she's
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the hometown girl and they are justifiably proud of her. she's the most famous alaskan who's ever lived. when we went for the first rally in fairbanks i remember interviewing somebody and he said i've always thought of myself as an alaskan and never even necessarily as an american relief because it seems so far away and i thought was interesting. i feel like for the first time my part of the country. so i think they are power for in that respect, but there are also instances about her claim to the bridge to nowhere which were shaky let's say and alaskans do that better in all loveless and they just couldn't believe when she was going up there and making these boasts about the bridge to nowhere when they remember her a couple of years before being a strong advocate and not getting back the federal money granted to the state. solid and that's another thing that goes both ways. >> they were stunned by the media coverage that descended upon their state and when we were up there they were still reeling from it. when we first got there there
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were people who were not as accessible because everybody started to open up. but there was at first some resistance and they wanted to get to know was first to see what kind of people we were because they wanted to make sure this wasn't just some hit job. >> thinks the very much for coming. >> thank you. [applause] >> scott conroy is a digital journalist for cbs news who now lives in chicago. shushannah walshe was a reporter and producer for fox news channel from 2001 through the election of 2008. for more information about "sarah from alaska," visit history professor steven gillon details the a worse following the kennedy assassination on november 22nd, 1963 and the transfer of the presidency to lyndon johnson.
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mr. steven gillon uses newly declassified archival sources to explore the first hours of the johnson administration. barnes and noble in new york city hosts this hour-long event. >> i think the question when you write a book like this the first question that you have to answer is do we really need another book about the kennedy assassination? is their anything new to be said about the assassination of president kennedy? are there new materials that have become available that allow us to see these events in a different light, and obviously my answer to that question is yes for very selfish purposes. [laughter] boast of the books, the vast majority of books, you can fill a small library with books and articles that have been written about the assassination, the focus on one question, one singular question and that is who shot jfk, where did the bullets come from, was there a
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shooter on the grassy mall or was also called a patsy? was this part of a coup on the part of the military industrial complex because initiatives that kennedy had taken. these issues are fascinating. and they have inspired what is and remains and will remain a passionate debate among the people on all different sides of this issue. that's not what this book is about. i am not written a book about who shot jfk. i have no movie race to offer about where the bullets came from. this is actually a very different book. when interest is not who shot jfk. i'm interested in the transfer of political power that takes place in the hours after the assassination. i want to move the focus away from the tragedy that is 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
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the parkland hospital and an air force one and then back to washington, d.c. to give people a sense of the texture of the decisions he had to face and the choices he confronted. when you think about the kennedy assassination represented the most dramatic and sudden transfer of political power in american history. kennedy was the first chief executive to die instantly from his wounds. even abraham lincoln shot at point-blank range of the ford theater survived and lived on top of the following morning when he died. kennedy died instantly which confronted johnson with what i believe was an unprecedented i'm interested in is the leadership that followed the assassination and i focus on the first 24 hours. which is different from other books i've written and the books of their professional historians write. normally what we are trying to do is connect the dots to tell the story of change over a period of time.
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but what i try to hear instead is to focus on a single 24-hour period to give you a sense of the texture of the moment. my students over the years have always complained number 1i talked to fast and number to that history is boring. they say history is boring because we know the conclusion. why do we need to learn about dates and names eight times? what i find fascinating about history is being able to go back in a moment of time and understand the past has many different possible paths, there are possibilities, choices that were not taken and to put people back in that moment at the time to understand the range of traces in this case lyndon johnson faced and to realize how contingency and unintended consequences plea and the historical process and produce a result which no one at the time could have anticipated. bye focusing on 24 hours, buy focusing on some of the details the oftentimes get airbrushed of history i feel we are able to transport people back to that
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moment so you not only can now with a benefit hindsight a sense of to reevaluate some of the decisions lyndon johnson me but you can also put yourself back in that moment secure at parkland hospital and someone comes to you when you have the same information in front of you lyndon johnson had in front of him. he signed up 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 i would hyperventilate and pass out. that's why i am a professor and not president but it allows the individuals to go back in that moment of time and experience the same type of situations and the same choices lyndon johnson confronted and not only is the framework different, but i also in terms of the issue there are new sources available and i am grateful to the family of william manchester who gave me
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access to all of the research materials mr. manchester used to write his very controversial best-selling book the death of a president was published in 1967 and if you go back these materials opened last year for the first time i was the first one to use them and these materials almost all of these people with a few exceptions are now dead but when you go back and look at the interviews manchester open all the major players in 1964 and 1965 and this material was still fresh and these people come alive and will also comes alive are the human dimensions to the story that the human dimensions that have been left out of the warrant for example which as you know was a legal brief free clinical, a very concise but also -- its focus on solving a crime and it's not focused on lyndon johnson or his actions after the assassination and i've also found people volunteered and gave manchester material. material that wasn't available
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to the commission so there are flexible documents in the manchester papers which he chose not to use in parts of interviews he chose not to use, which i think provide a fresh light and new perspective on the events that took place that day. i also saw in the manchester papers and found them in a special collections archive. i also came across a very valuable oral history conducted by the john f. kennedy presidential library in 1978 with brigadier general got free mchugh, president kennedy's air force a donner november 22nd, 1963 and this falls into the category of dumb luck. i happened to be working at the kennedy library on the day 31 years after he conducted the interview that nicu's interview was declassified so within hours of it open to the public i was able to get access and use it in this book the first time and i will talk later on about some of
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the insights that this oral history provides. but finally there are just because i'm asking different questions in the material there's a lot of information that's been open to the public a long time that other people looking into this issue have not focused on at both the johnson library and the national archives, 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 vice presidential detail gave degree detailed reports of what they were doing on that day and what they saw and where they solve them. the few people who have used this report have been looking at it primarily to glean information about the assassination. but if you look at it instead to get a sense of work lyndon johnson is doing you get this great understanding of lyndon johnson and every step he's taking and who is in the room and who he is talking to and it is essential in trying to tell the story. so what do you end up with? so there's no questions using a
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different format and you have new sources so what is unable to say about november 22nd, 1963 that no one has said before? the first part of the story that i think is important is the defense that take place in the park one hospital roughly 40 minutes lyndon johnson is at parkland hospital from 12:40 until about 1:30 when he leaves for air force one, and the question that i try -- the question i asked of the material which has not been asked is why does it take so long for lyndon johnson to find out that kennedy is dead? according to the warren commission kennedy is shot at 12 trinkle 30. the right at the hospital 12:40, kennedy is pronounced dead at 1:00 lyndon johnson finds out she's dead at one trinkle 20. i think that is wrong for reasons i would be happy to elaborate on later but here's what happens, lyndon johnson to set the stage for the parkland hospital lyndon johnson is to cars behind, they turn on the plaza. when the first shot rings out,
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johnson hears it and he doesn't think anything of it. he has been in motorcades his whole life and for him it sounded like backfire from a motorcycle. he wasn't the least alarmed. rufus youngblood the secret service agent in the front seat of a car shares the same sound and he's also not alarmed about what he sees does alarm him. he looks out, looking at the grassy mall, the vice president making the turn on to elma and he sees people fall into the ground than he looks ahead and sees what he describes as unusual movements in the presidential car. so youngblood leaps out of the car and jumps over the back seat and he grabs lyndon johnson and throws him to the floor of the car and as johnson is being thrown to the floor of the car you hear a second shot in the third shot and depending with the reason believe the fourth come fifth and sixth but lyndon johnson is on the floor of the limousine and he hears these shots but he doesn't see anything. as soon as he is on the floor and roof this young blood, all
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180 pounds are on top of the car picks up speed and they began this frantic race to parkland hospital. johnson doesn't know what's going on. she feels the car accelerate and he -- you have to realize this is going 75 miles per hour. johnson wanted to hear how the local radio stations were covering the motorcade so we had the retial on the whole time. so they are racing to parkland hospital. he keeps looking over to make sure lady bird is o.k. but here's chatter over the secret happening. professor young blood at one point there's so much noise to talk to johnson he leans down and hills we are going to a hospital. it's possible there has been an incident in the presidential motorcade when we get to the hospital we are going to take you to a secure location do you understand and johnson says yes. so the pull out a hostile and realize johnson's car is a few seconds behind president kennedy's limousine. the kennedy limousine is part
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few yards away and the president is leading in the arms of the first lady. but johnson doesn't see this. s and as the screech to a halt to agencies about him and russian to the hospital and take him to the medical. the close the blind, remove people, put a guard at the gate and with him and with 13 and minor medical so there you have lyndon johnson, ladybird, rufus youngblood in a room with a sterile middle operating table, examination table and to plastic chairs. at this point lyndon johnson knows nothing. so the question then is why does it take so long for him to get information about what has happened to the president? just about everybody else in the presidential motorcade has either sold shots or the salles kanaby's body when they arrived at parkland hospital and had an understanding of how serious this was. so johnson wants information. he wants to know what is going on. he doesn't know whether the president has the first lady or
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no one. he gets his first report from the supervisor of secret service. emery roberts as soon as the car pulls into parkland hospital he jumps out of the backup car and goes to the presidential karkh, opens the back door and gets a sense how serious the president will score and he lifts up the first lady's arm and books of the president's head and tells william manchester that at that moment he knew kennedy was dead and that lyndon johnson was president of the united states. my secret service manual tells me to protect the president of the united states and that was lyndon johnson. you stay with kennedy and i'm going to johnson. so he goes and -- his the first person to give a report to lyndon johnson. robert made up his mind that kennedy is dead but when he sees johnson that isn't 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 kennedy o'donnell who was appointed
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secretary in fact the sort of chief of staff for the kennedy white house. and he wants to hear from president kennedy's secret service agent. so emory roberts leaves the room and as he leaves the room he runs into who had arrived at hospital late and didn't see anything that happened and he says to roberts have you seen what is the president's condition and he says very matter-of-factly the president is dead and leader roberts told him johnson didn't know what i knew just kennedy was dead. the next person that comes in is roy kellerman come in the presidential limousine. he was one of the people who helped lift kennedy's lifeless body from the car onto the stretcher and to bring him into parkland hospital. he walks into johnson and says the president's condition isn't good. anyone who has seen the president's wounds that's an understatement. the condition is more than of a good. the president's condition is fatal. a few minutes later kenny
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o'donnell comes back and says the president was in a bad way. so what i'm struck by is all of these people, kenny o'donnell was in a car 15 feet behind kennedy when he sees the fatal third shot and he says he's dead. so what i'm struck by, the question i'm asking 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 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 power of the presidency but they never say that and the question is why. why are the reluctant to say that? in the book i explore the different dimensions of this and i can there's lots of different reasons. grief and confusion and chaos play a role but there's also the issue that the kennedy people simply cannot accept the idea
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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 their leader this man that they loved, john f. kennedy was now dead. but it was too much for them to accept and have to verbalize the lyndon johnson, the man who they ridiculed, 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 are not able to tell him that. they give him the right advice. they tell him get on the plane and fly back to washington. they tell him what they should have told him that they can't bring themselves to tell him that kanaby is dead and that he needs now to assume the powers of the presidency. so this is i think one of the sort of issues they have to deal with when talking about park one hospital but there's another
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dimension. while people like kanaby o'donnell cannot bring themselves to acknowledge kennedy is dead and tell lyndon johnson he is now president they give him the right advice. but lyndon johnson's own insecurities are being played out of parkland hospital. johnson clearly has enough information. he knows from every robert kennedy is in serious condition and a likely die. so why doesn't johnson sees power? why doesn't johnson assume the powers of the presidency and having a general understanding of what kennedy's condition is? and the problem is lyndon johnson is so paranoid about robert f. kennedy and so afraid that if he appears to be overreaching, if he appears to be literally stepping over the body of a dead president to assume the power of the presidency key will be perceived as being out of line and that the kennedys will use this against them. he said in a phone conversation later on that he was afraid those first couple of days that
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robert kennedy was going to do everything he possibly could to deny him the presidency. so johnson, you have this stalemate, this standoff, and the minutes after the assassination on the one hand the kennedy people will not tell lyndon johnson that he's president and lyndon johnson refuses to assume the power. so what you have is a vacuum in parkland hospital and an acceptable period of time you have 40 minutes when the united states is without a functioning commander in chief. remember this is a year after the cuban missile crisis, the peak of the cold war. 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 spend a lot of time in the book focusing on that, those 40 minutes in parkland hospital and trying to explain this dynamic and this is significant because it sets the stage for the relationship between kennedy and johnson, the kennedy people and johnson not
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only the next 24 hours but over the course of lyndon johnson's presidency. some of the story i had to another critical moment i think is new and interesting that we haven't seen before. this brigadier-general gough free nicu he was with the presidential party on november november 22nd and to set the stage again what happens at parkland hospital johnson when he's finally told kennedy's did he leaves and goes to air force one and is waiting for the first leedy to show up to fly back to washington. the kennedy people put the body in a casket and they are ready to leave the hospital and a local issue, justice of peace tell him you can't take the party elite the body that the assassination is a federal crime it's a local crime governed by the local law which means autopsy has to be done. the kennedy people are not ready, not prepared to leave. they just watch their beloved president be assassinated. they are not going to leave his body behind.
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mrs. kennedy makes sure she isn't leaving without the body of the president said they kidnapped the body of the president of the united states and force their way past the local justice of the peace and load the car onto an ambulance and bring it out to airforce one. they quickly carry this heavy casket up the steps, put it in the back of the planned amstrup and as soon as they do that kennedy o'donnell says that this plan in the air which you have to realize obama was afraid that the dallas police are coming. the dallas police are going to surround the plame come aboard the plane, dragged the body off and bring it back and perform an autopsy. so he wants to get this plane in the air. so mchugh, the air force and to the president and responsible for maintaining kennedy fleet goes to the front of the plan and says get this plane in the air. he says i can't because there's going to be a ceremony on board and we are not sure. he eventually mckee finds out lyndon johnson is on the plane and the kennedy people don't know that. they think johnson has taken the
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other plane he flew in on which was then air force two and is on his way back to washington so the story nicu tells in this oral history which was released, declassified for the first time last year which revealed this book for the first time, this is what he says. he's walking up and down looking for lyndon johnson and can't find him. he's 6 feet four, tough guy to miss. he realizes the only places he hasn't looked as the presidential bedroom so he opens the door and 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 into the bedroom of his own account this is his account. he walks into the bedroom and 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 hysterically. it's a conspiracy.
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it's a conspiracy they are going to kill us all. i wonder what he did next. excuse me, close the door, what do you do after you have seen this? this story of what mchugh claims to have seen aboard air force one runs against every other view of lyndon johnson's actions that day. everybody who witnessed and salles lyndon johnson and observed lyndon johnson that they said he was quote, koln and collected even the secret service agents and the secret service agents don't really like lyndon johnson. when you write a book about lyndon johnson you realize most people don't like lyndon johnson but there's no reason they will say something nice about him that the observed he subdued the state which is appropriate given the location. so nicu's account fonts' counter to every other account we have lyndon johnson's of the question i had to grapple with is is it
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true. how 46 years later can you determine that an encounter between two men both of whom are dead ever took place. so, in the book lay out why i think what nicu says is true in also the reasons why i am suspicious and i leave it up to the reader to make up their own mind about whether how credible general nicu's account of lyndon johnson's behavior on air force one is, and finally i think this points a fairly positive portrait of lyndon johnson. i think when you look at the circumstances lyndon johnson faced november 22nd, 1963 he handled the crisis remarkably well. what johnson understood you have to realize when you're dealing with a situation like this there is no manual to read. there is no books to read about
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how to be a. johnson doesn't have advisers around him giving him choices are making recommendations, epic box a b or c. lyndon johnson is governing with his gut. it's his instinct. this is leadership that it's very basic. lyndon johnson deciding on his own what is right and what is wrong making decisions based on fragmentary evidence and what lyndon johnson understands instinctively is the single most important message he can convey is continuity. he needs to send a message to the american public, to our allies and potential enemies that the government continues, that he is in charge. and he does that brilliantly. he does it most brilliantly in how he choreographs the picture of the swearing-in aboard air force one. you have to realize the kennedy people could not want mrs. kennedy to participate. johnson understood the value of having mrs. kennedy in this
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photograph. he understood he needed to convey this image of continuity. so he asked mrs. kennedy to participate. he asked kennedy o'donnell to go back and get mrs. kennedy and mrs. kennedy to is a model of grace and dignity and strength says it's the least i can do, and that picture is from the plane takes off about three minutes after the plan -- picture is taken. that picture of the swearing-in is projected to the rest of the nation. so it sends exactly the image lyndon johnson needed to send and as quickly as could possibly be done. johnson so you know wanted to choreograph the exit from the plane at andrews air force base when they write in washington, on that occasion the kennedy group refused to cooperate and you've probably all seen these images of the small cargo truck coming down with a casket and
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mrs. kennedy and robert kennedy walk through 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 what happened is someone went through and hand-picked all the people who were going to leave with the body leaving behind some of the kennedy aides who were cooperating with johnson on the plane. as of that scene of confusion of the kennedy people getting off and leaving is against the carefully scripted damage that lyndon johnson wanted to present that evening. but also you see john thune the next day, johnson meets with the key members of the foreign policy team. jean roskam secretary of state, secretary defense robert mcnamara in both cases they went to the executive office building expecting to have a one-on-one meeting with lyndon johnson and you walk in and others lyndon reporters and photographers and lyndon johnson wanted to sit down and tell him in front of
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the national media the were going to remain and be part of his administration. that was the important message for him to convey and what's striking to me is a man that soberly and in using the media in these 24 hours would later be so clumsy, and in a way his relationship with the media. and we also see it's not just johnson the tactician. that evening, november 22nd, 1963, johnson comes back to washington later in the evening goes to the private residence called the elms in washington, d.c.. some friends are over and he finally goes to bed around 12:00 at night and johnson was never went to sleep a lot. he changed into his pajamas, gets into his king sized super sized king bed and invites three aides to join him and johnson is sitting in the head propped up with pillows with leedy byrd tossing and turning to sleep next to him lead out his vision of the great society. the great society was born within hours of the kennedy
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assassination. you get a sense of lyndon johnson as a visionary leader who had a clear sense where he wanted to take the nation and this in great compassion for the poor, his desire to push along the stalled civil rights legislation to do things for senior citizens. so there is you see i think it visionary johnson and also johnson who is a brilliant tactician. but he also see in these 24 hours the fall that would become the fatal flaw of the johnson presidency. lyndon johnson was devious and manipulative. he was so concerned and 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 the 24 hours. so he claimed kenny o'donnell told him to take air force one,
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kennedy claimed, the claim president kennedy flew in on when in reality the secret service that made the decision and air force one they did because they felt there was better communications. leader the shall issue but the taking of the oath, lyndon johnson clearly wanted to take the oath of office and he wanted to take it in part because he was afraid if he didn't and he was stuck in a plan for three hours on his way to washington that the kennedys would somehow find some way to deny him the presidency. but he manipulates robert kennedy. she calls the attorney general and manipulates robert kennedy into agreeing that he should take the oath of office in dallas on air force one and then when everyone else comes to the plan he tells them it was roberts idea. so it's so many times along the way he tells so many lives when he doesn't have to and i think it is that pension for deceit and insecurity that would become leader known as the credibility
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gap that would erode the moral authority of lyndon johnson's presidency. and what i'm struck by is in the end there is this irony that the assassination of president kennedy made the johnson presidency possible. but it also doomed failure. because it was kennedy's death if could meet the haven't been assassinated it's likely he would ever become president. johnson would have on the reelection in 64 and by 68 things have been going well robert would have been the heir to the throne and not lyndon johnson. but the assassination also doomed him to failure because it created a myth. it created a myth of the hartwick jfk. was the myth neither lyndon johnson certainly not lyndon johnson but no other political figure in america could have lived up to. so lyndon johnson spends out, since the final days of his
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presidency and of his life living in fell long shadow of the tragedy of november 22nd, 1963. let me stop there. what i would like to do before we take questions and answers and if you have a question we have a c-span microphone so we will ask that you wait until the microphone our lives. but before we get there one announcement, and that is why i obviously want you to read the book. it's very important that he read the book. i want to point out the history channel has done a wonderful to hour documentary that is based on the book which really captures a lot of the issues and personalities involved. the producer of the documentary is over here, anthony. stand up for a second. [applause] anthony i keep telling and then he needs to change his first name. anthony won an emmy a few years ago and when i was anthony my first name would be any award
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winning producer and my middle name would be anthony but he likes anthony said he sticks with that, but i think anthony did a brilliant job in this documentary, and it captures -- for me what's fascinating to watch how he took the words on the page and transform them into this gripping visual representation on television. if you haven't seen the document for i would encourage you to watch it. check your local listings or you can go to the history channel website at to find the dvd. so the microphone, we have a question here. >> even though you started by saying that your book clearly does not deal with the conspiracies, as you pointed out else is on most people's mind. so the question is what is your favorite since there are so many. the mom did, etc. etc.. what is your favorite? >> i am distinct minority.
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the question is what is my favorite conspiracy theory and the answer is none of them. i am of long -- i am one of those crazy people -- quote. [laughter] he liked me until just then. my personal feeling is the warren commission that lee harvey all small assassinated president kennedy. for the purposes of this book my own view is irrelevant because i am looking at what lyndon johnson the 24 hours after the assassination, and all lyndon johnson knew, while peacefully in back to washington on the air force one she hears the name of lee harvey also called for the first time. the first time that he hears it is in connection with the shooting of the officer. and what is fascinating about looking at this issue who shot jfk in the first 24 hours when i was struck by separate from the furious about whether all's what did or not is how worried lyndon johnson is.
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the information about austal coming out pretty quickly. and lyndon johnson finds out this man lived in the soviet union. he was somehow connected with the cubans. so he, what johnson is so afraid of as he's speaking back to washington about to try to assemble a government for the first time is that he's going to be pressured into a war with the soviet union. weather also acted alone or acted as part of a conspiracy lyndon johnson is afraid that there is going to be such a public backlash against a man who once lived in the soviet union and pledged out fidel castro that he's going to be forced into a war get johnson remember had been in washington a long time. he remembered the days of joseph mccarthy and wondered what the assassination, whether austal was a part of a conspiracy or not his sample biography and the facts of his life could produce the same result which is tremendous public outpouring and desire to go to an war with cuba
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or the soviet union. over here. wheat for the microphone there. >> as far as the continuity of the executive authority wasn't lyndon johnson in the house of representatives april 12, 1945 and experienced also the unprepared death of the president takeover of power during the second world war going on both against the monte the eckert japanese. this is a tradition in american history. what i would like to ask you regarding that is to put words together sadly for presidents have been assassinated. several others now remiss the tragedy. other than the death of president kennedy can you compare the other executive transfers. >> it's a great question. it sounds like it's one of the questions i asked in my exams. [laughter] there's a couple of different dimensions to the question. first the issue you raise is a good issue of out what happened
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when franklin roosevelt died, and what is interesting when roosevelt died is, the people with roosevelt in warm springs contact the white house and the first person the tell is eleanor roosevelt, eleanor roosevelt is attending a conference when she gets the notice to come back to the white house immediately. all of this is playing 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 informs the vice president, harry truman that roosevelt is dead and that harry truman is now president. within a few hours, 7:00 the evening within a few hours in the white house harry truman takes the oath of office. what is so different about this is this takes place in fall full and clear of the media. and i think you cannot
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understand the assassination and understand the impact it has had on the entire generation. i look out and i see people my age and some older. you remember where you work when kennedy was shot in large part because the media. this was the first event in human history that the entire nation experienced, an entire nation experienced in real time. with the roosevelt assassination people plead on radio people were watching this on television. kennedy used television to build a personal bond with the public and in the public felt a sense of loss when they saw him assassinated. within a few minutes of the shooting walter cronkite was on cbs announcing there had been shots fired at the presidential motorcade a few minutes after that he was on the air and stay on the area of the other networks, all the other networks, 23 back then, adc come in b.c., before the history channel. [laughter] both nbc, cbs and abc were on
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the air and stay on the air the entire weekend. so there is -- this is played out in public and what i was struck by, it's interesting i was watching this section about the oath of office. right around the same time barack obama was taking the oath of office and john roberts forgot the constitution. and i was struck that the next day roberts, they administered the oath of office again in private because on air force one johnson right back on air force one to why have to take the oath? am i president of the united states or am i not president of the united states until light take the oath of office and no one really knew the answer to that. by the time there's the press conference that malcolm is holding up the park would hospital when he says -- when he announces to the public kennedy is dead, it's not 1:36 or so. the first two questions he gets
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is where is lyndon johnson and has he taken the oath of office? so this is all playing out in the full glare of the media. the other presidents who were assassinated linder. when mckinley was shot at the exposition in buffalo in 1901 heat linker for days. there were reports he was getting better and he took a dramatic turn after i think he lived seven or eight days. when garfield died he lingered for time. so this is what was unique about the kennedy assassination was that he was the first president to die instantly in full view of the public and i think that changed the entire dynamic. it changed the relationship between the public and the presidency and also created extraordinary expectations and demands on lyndon johnson. when lyndon johnson gets off that plane, of air force one at andrews air force base at 6:12 the evening of november 22nd,
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most of the public is hearing his voice for the first time. candid camera, the tv show, the candid camera's get about a month or so ago before november 22nd you know what the joke was? do you know who lyndon johnson is and 30% didn't even know who he was. so lyndon johnson is in a matter of hours forced to not only as of the power of the presidency on the most horrible circumstances, but to do so in the full player he has to introduce himself and those words that he speaks at the air force base are the first time america heard a southern accent from an american president. certainly since the days of world war willson. this was new and shocking and it compounds the problem. it's one of the reasons why i you johnson in a favorable light because i think that this was an unprecedented crisis he faced despite his limitations and his penchant for deception that on the big issues he faced
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unprecedented crisis and he handled it remarkably well. that was a longwinded answer to the question. there was a very good question. let's go here and we have one in the back, too. >> that being said, what it lyndon johnson think robert kennedy could do to stop the presidency? i mean, they may not have known but there is so cool clarity in the constitution to secession. >> it is pure paranoia. the constitution made lyndon johnson president of the united states, not the kennedys and attorney general. why will point out is an interesting crinkle in this, is this is before the 25th amendment which laid out the procedure for filling in office and the vice president taking over the case of the president being disabled. the first president and vice president to have a formal agreement about when this would
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happen, how they would proceed with the president to be disabled was eisenhower and nixon and the agreement eisenhower and nixon wrote city essentially that if for some reason the president became incapacitated and wasn't able -- wasn't aware he was incapacitated the procedure they would use is the vice president would have to consult and get the support of half of the cabinet in order to assume the power of the presidency. lyndon johnson and john f. kennedy came to a similar agreement but there is one of little pause the had to be running around lyndon johnson's mind. kennedy said that he not only had to seek the support of half of the cabinet. he had to consult with the attorney general of the united states. attorney general of the united states is the president's brother, robert f. kennedy and lyndon johnson's arch enemy and the white house. you have to think again, you know a lot of this is speculative. we don't know what is going through people's mind but lyndon johnson being the political creature that he is new every
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word in the document and every punk chelation point and he knew what was he thinking? was he thinking this was going to be able for willson situation? and his paranoid mind did he believe that somehow the kennedys were going to try to hide the fact that president kennedy was disabled? mabey if he left. his query is first of all if he leaves the hospital and kennedy lives will the public believe that he abandoned the president and abandon the first lady? if he leaves and is isolate the light plane in three hours once the attorney general during? behind his back there's a separate military chain of command which goes through the secretary of defense which is robert mcnamara. you have to think johnson is pleading not all these scenarios. when you boil them down they are paranoid fantasies. there is the american public
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would accept lyndon johnson as president because the constitution makes him president, not the kennedy family and he didn't need the approval of the kennedy family that he is so -- robert kennedy vehemently opposed johnson's appointment and there is a famous scene the hotel in 1960 when the first president kennedy appears to ask lyndon johnson to be on the ticket and then robert goes down and tries to talk him out of it. so and there is a great story about when john f. kennedy was thinking about running for president he said robert and lyndon johnson is the big win for and shaker in washington and he goes to see whether lyndon johnson is going to oppose him, to run against him and johnson is going to try to stop it by supporting humphrey. so he goes to the lbj ranch and rfk is a slightly built man and johnson takes and dear hunting and instead of -- i don't know much about rifles.
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instead of giving him a regular dear rifle he gives him a high-powered shotgun so robert kennedy pulls the trigger and knocks him down like 3 feet and cuts his forehead and lyndon johnson make some comment about that's not the way a real man shoots a gun or something along those lines. robert kennedy hated him from the very beginning and johnson was convinced the whole time he is vice president he's convinced robert kennedy is trying to remove him from the ticket. johnson is convinced that roberts -- all the bad stories, every scandal that comes out in the media somehow connected to johnson. johnson is convinced it's robert kennedy. so, you cannot -- it's hard to understand the hostility that existed between the two men and i think that feeds john since paranoia. it's really paranoia, no basis
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in reason or rationality but sometimes people are irrational -- >> [inaudible] >> the point was this is not about the president be incapacitated. the first 40 minutes lyndon johnson doesn't know that and after her force one she doesn't know whether he officially becomes president until he takes the oath of office so one of the reasons he wants to take it so fast as he thinks once he takes the oath there is nothing they can do. the question is what could they do if they didn't take the oath but he needs that. he needs to know that he's president. i think questions in the back there. >> i should have preface this by telling you i only take easy questions and compliments. [laughter] these tough questions are just -- >> in the early part of your book to discuss the ways in which the kennedys and johnson try to solicit writers to
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provide an account that day that would support their view of what had happened and you talked about william manchester's influential narrative at death of a president. could you comment a little more on the way in which that influenced the narrative at manchester provided influence to the american public's view of johnson because it was probably the most important book published on the subject during the 60's at least. >> during the 1960's. very good. you're absolutely right. remember there is a great article actually in "vanity fair" recently about william manchester. the kennedy family hired manchester to tell the official version this is kennedy discourage other people from writing about the assassination and manchester is a brilliant storyteller and i actually admire his book. i think he gets most things right in that book and did a tremendous amount of research.
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when you go back and look for his research it's very impressive the amount of work he did in such a short period of time. he gets most things right, lyndon johnson almost completely wrong. and there is correspondence were manchester says he didn't like lyndon johnson, he never liked lyndon johnson and when the book was finally ready for publication it led to a lawsuit with the kennedy family and mrs. kennedy was primarily concerned that manchester had violated privacy and she sat down for long interviews and shared many details about feelings after the assassination and she regretted doing that and she blocked manchester from using those notes so for example to the wesleyan university archives and all of the interviews are there except the ones with mrs. kennedy and robert kennedy and some of the other kennedy people were there but a lot things are blacked out, so that was part of the agreement that manchester made
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with them. and she wanted him to remove this material. she also was concerned. she felt and robert kennedy believed the portrait that was simply to negative a supporter of lyndon johnson. it was so bad the port of lyndon johnson even the kennedy people objected and robert kennedy was afraid people will 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. so the kennedys did not accept this. if you don't want to accept this view that, this negative portrait that he beans of lyndon johnson, going through what manchester's is for example lyndon johnson was simply at the whim of the secret service agents when he's in parkland hospital he refuses to make decisions on his own the secret service or in his face. they are insisting he leaves parkland hospital right away and go back to air force one and he
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says no there are some comments he makes about lyndon johnson inappropriate but that book, that incredibly influential book dustin more than any other to define our understanding of lyndon johnson. manchester paints a portrait of the president who is insensitive to mrs. kennedy and the kennedy family seems over eager to assume the presidency and is just clumsy. johnson has this role to play and is walking a fine line on the one hand he's trying to be sensitive to the grief profound grief of the kennedy family at the same time he needs to leave a nation that when they arrive at andrews air force base the wanted that to be profit -- they didn't want the entire world to see mrs. kennedy. they didn't want them to see the casket carrying the body but he insisted the media be there. he understood the powers and he's walking this fine line and i think that looking at that the
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kennedy family and people are around the president it's hard to appreciate their grief and sorrow and loss but there is a sense of entitlement 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 with an interview and you go to the johnson library which by the we is a wonderful place to work. uzi all these notes where manchester is constantly writing mainly jack valenti asking for access and they keep putting him off and putting him off and then comes along jim bishop and jim bishop was a popular writer and it is interesting for me when i read history books i had the sense of historians need to be objective, fair minded. jim bishop is sending these love letters to lyndon johnson about your such a wonderful leader i
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couldn't imagine writing in negative book about -- johnson agrees to participate in a project jim bishop is doing about a day in the life of lyndon johnson which is but really what they both try to do, lyndon johnson does with bishop is tell his side of the story. so jim bishop comes out with a competing book a few years after manchester called the day kennedy died. but by 1960 people were sick of lyndon johnson and no one wanted to hear his side of the story. but oddly enough i think bishop was closer to the truth manchester but how many here know of manchester's bouck? how many know of jim bishop's bucha? we have a smart crowd. most people don't know who jim bishop is. most people haven't read the book but bishop although his account is manchester is too critical i think bishop is on the other side and he sees no fault of lyndon johnson and blames the kennedys for all things wrong with america and what i've tried to do is find a
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balance between the two. >> [inaudible] >> one more question. we have a comment and question. >> the bishop wrote a book on the day lincoln died. >> that's -- >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> that was earlier. what your, i don't know. >> he's using kennedy which he witnessed himself as an example in reference [inaudible] >> this one doesn't work as well. we have time for one more question. yes, over here. >> johnson was from texas, wasn't he? >> yes he was. >> so he would know about that place where kennedy was shot and must surely be paranoid because what you said about [inaudible]
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>> what's interesting about this story is johnson did not want kennedy to go to texas. texas was his turf. there was a debate going on between the two factions of the democratic party which i won't get into here and johnson clearly sided with john connally the governor of texas and kennedy was trying to find common ground. johnson wanted kennedy to leave texas to him. he had, we had done pretty well in the politics and thought he had a good idea how to manage it but kennedy insisted and at one point cut johnson out of the discussions about the trip to texas and he planted on his own and johnson one day finds out that john connally, the governor, is in town and he finds out, we have a meeting with president kennedy to talk about the trip so johnson isn't evenol


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