tv History Bookshelf John Shaw Rising Star Setting Sun CSPAN January 14, 2021 7:03pm-8:02pm EST
jean shaw talks about his book, rising star, setting sun, dwight d. eisenhower, john f. kennedy, and a presidential transition that changed america. he are counts the period from kennedy's close election victory on november 8th 1960, to his inauguration on january 20th, 1961. barnes and nobles carbon dale illinois location hosted the event in october 2018. >> i would like to talk about my book rising star, setting, sun and do it by first telling some back story on how i came to write it, and then some of the research challenges i faced, particularly in an academic community. it might be worth describing some of the challenges of writing the book. also, they illuminate a bit about kennedy and eisenhower,
and lastly i want to talk about kennedy and eisenhower, the two main stars of the book. i will tell you a bit about them and the different challenges they had in the transition period. the transition was a drama that unfolded in four or five main acts. i will quickly go through that and we will be happy to take any questions or comments you might have. my wife mandy and i were talking this morning and a couple months ago i spoke about this book in washington, d.c. at an event hosted by the u.s. senate library. it was a nice event of the capital visitors center, a good audience, good questions. towards the end, a young gentlemen raised his hand and he said he worked at the u.s. senate gift shop. he said he would like to promote the book. he said could you just sort of boil it down to kind of a quick
summary, an elevator version. for a book offer, that is a hanging curveball. i said absolutely and started talking, and talking, and talking. i look over and i see him squirming in his chair, and i think this is a long elevator ride, isn't it? the top of the washington monument by now. i think in terms of my brief summary of the book, it's about a ten-week period in american history between john f. kennedy's election on november 8th, 1960, and his inauguration on january 20th, 1961. this is a ten-week period, which i think is interesting for a lot of reasons, but particularly because it was an important political transfer of power between and outcoming demonstration and an incoming one. it was an important generational shift, when you had the oldest man ever to serve in the white house passing office to the youngest
elected president, and i think it was a cultural moment in which historians try to find identifying moments, but i think you could argue this was a time when the 19 fifties ended and the 19 sixties began, this generational shift. why did i write the book. in 19, or in 2013, i wrote a book called jfk in the senate, which as you might surmise was about john f. kennedy's senate career. and so i spent a number of years immersed in john f. kennedy's time between 1952 and 1960. there was all sorts of information about this period and kennedy's life. this book came out in 2013, part of a lot of books that came out at that time on the anniversary of kennedys assassination. i rode the tidal wave of kennedy books and was not sure
if i had sort of been done with that genre and was going to move on with something else. but i happened to be in a bookstore in washington, d.c., and i was flipping through a book about 50 great speeches in american history. flipping through the table of contents, i saw that a lot of these speeches were separated by five, ten, 15 years, big periods of time. then two speeches were separated by three days. it was eisenhower's farewell address and candies in awe girl. immediately, i started thinking, two big speeches, two of the biggest in american history separated by three days? how did people process that? did they have any sense of what was happening? then i thought a bit about the speeches, which i was generally aware of. eisenhower's farewell is better known as his military industrial complex speech, in which he goes against tight. you have the conservative republican, the five star general, warning about an over extension of too much military
spending, cautions about excesses and urges the country to be more modest and its foreign policy, and then you had kennedy, the liberal democrat, sort of having some of the harshest cold war battery it was a moment of having the conservative republican give a debate speech and the liberal democrat give a hawkish one. i was in d.c., on the metro back to our house. i pulled up my notepad and in the course of about 25 minutes sketched out the broad elements of the book. the person sitting next to me must have thought i was a mad person, because i am just going through my notepad, flipping it, out outlining the book. i put together a proposal, spoke to an agent in d.c., in new york, jonathan lyons, who has been really great to work with. he liked the basic idea. he thought the frame needed to be adjusted, so we went back
and forth and settled on the notion of a ten-week period in which kennedy prepared to become president and eisenhower prepared to leave center stage. that was sort of the genesis of the book. in terms of the research challenges it posed, i was determined to write a book that really relied heavily on primary sources. i wanted to look at the documents, the letters, the newspaper articles, to get a sense of what it was really like to be on the ground this time. i worked with folks at the senate library. they gave me literally hundreds of pages of newspaper clippings and almanac's from that time. i was able to sort of piece together the atmospherics of this time. and then i spent some time at the kennedy and eisenhower libraries. a lot of their materials are available online, but i spent a week in boston at the kennedy library and then a week an ad al ain at the eisenhower
library. as my wife and colleagues will attest, i am sort of an old school guy. all these are the researchers are taking pictures of documents with their cameras and sending it to the cloud and all sorts of magical things, and i was at the xerox machine just plowing page by page. in fact, the kennedy library actually had to go and get a new suitcase to take my stuff home. the library said no one has ever actually had to purchase the suitcase to bring the stuff back home. but as i brought the materials home and started to process it, it became clear there was a big disparity in the kind of sources. eisenhower, as you might know, was president during the time, and pretty much every minute of his working day was chronicled, literally minute by minute accounts of his time as president. and, additionally, eisenhower was a man who put together very rigorous organizational systems. every meeting had extensive
minutes and comments. for the eisenhower side, there was this massive trove of documents. kennedy side was harder, because one, in the early part of this period he was just the junior democratic senator, and then in july, he became the democratic presidential nominee. it wasn't until december he became president elect. additionally, candidate was not particularly well organized. he was sort of, even though people think the 1960 campaign was a well orchestrated machine, in fact, they were making it up on the fly, and it was chaotic and disorganized. try to piece together the diary and calendars of kennedys secretary, alan lincoln, she was about as disorganized as jfk, and me. there was not a lot of. help there.
there was not that much to go on. this was sort of intuition and lock. i started looking at the press conference transcripts of pierre salinger, who was kennedy's press secretary. it was interesting, because throughout this transition, he was giving press conferences every day, and some days two and three. and so, l'g"■by being able to rd his briefings to the press, i was able to piece together this story. i had a calendar of 1960 and 61. on wednesday, we will be announcing this, so i /y calendar and so forth. just as an aside, salinger was a very exuberant, fun loving guy. reporters loved him, but he was not particularly precise. they were constantly correcting him. he would say something and they would mistake a title or mistake a day and reporters were constantly correcting him. i was working in my office in
d.c. and mandy would walk by and i would be laughing and she would see what and i would say what salinger do today. people were needling him and saying what kind of information will you give us today. still, that turned out to be a valuable way to piece together the kennedy part of the story. as i begin to talk about kennedy and eisenhower, i want to make one quick comment that we sometimes forget. this story is primarily about kennedy and eisenhower, but think of the secondary figures who are part of this story, people who are not even central stage. we have richard nixon, the outgoing vice president, who had been candid these opponent in the 1960 election. lyndon johnson, the outgoing senate majority leader, who is kennedy's incoming vice president. you have robert kennedy, kennedy's campaign manager who
would become attorney general, joseph kennedy, ted kennedy, jackie kennedy, some of kennedy's on to rock, ted sorenson, arthur celeste injure, arthur goldberg who became a supreme court judge. on the eisenhower side, you had eisenhower, his brother milton, maybe as a cultural figure, you had eisenhower's cabinet that is pretty interesting. and illinois had two important senators who were part of this mix, paul douglas and everett dixon. you have people like george mcgovern who was a congressman and william full bright. it's an amazing cast of characters. there was a very vivid account of washington on the eve of the inaugural about the trains pulling into town. it was written by a junior reporter from the new york times name david helper stem who has about six or seven major books that are out there.
the washington post had a young beat reporter who was assigned outside of kennedy's house in georgetown, and it was cold, and bitter, and every article was grumbling and sardonic. his name was tom wulf. and he has about six or seven major books that are out there too. it's just a cast of characters, really quite remarkable. kennedy and eisenhower are interesting in their own right, but particularly interesting as mirror opposites of each other. they are so wildly different personalities. eisenhower, i will say, was the one character who surprised me in my research. he was a much more interesting and complex and compelling person that i think our cliché notion holds. eisenhower is from texas, grew up in abilene and kansas, went to west point military
superstar, five star general, the man who defeated hitler, organized the day. his public demeanor it was a placid, amiable guy who liked to golf and cook steaks and play bridge. but behind the scenes, he was an extrovert, but kind of an explosive temper. he would snap pretty quickly and blow over quickly. but he would snap quickly. he was an amazingly and surprisingly great writer. i was not expecting dwight eisenhower to be a good writer, but i would read his memoir, particularly his diary entries, and it's precise and vivid and colorful. that was a part of eisenhower that really surprised me. for all of the paper that the ads and howard ministration generated, he processed information best buy hearing people debate issues in a group.
he liked to have all his experts in front of a table to go around and debate an issue. everyone says eisenhower was surprisingly creative, interesting, out of the box thinking, as he was poking at peoples theories and ideas. we think of him as sort of a prodding, placid, kind of dull guy, but up close he was quite an impressive character. kennedy was very, very different. he was 27 years younger than eisenhower. as we know, he was from boston, but didn't live there long. urban, harvard educated, junior officer in world war ii, a war hero in the sense of having his boat destroyed and saving a number of people. kennedy was also very different than his public perception. we think of him as a big almost larger than life historical figure, but up close, he was a reserved, private, somewhat aloof person. he once said that if he is on
an airplane he would rather be reading a book than talking to the person next to him. he once wondered if he would be more successful in politics if he had a personality like hubert humphrey, more exuberant, colorful. so kennedy was reserved. he had a wonderful, sardonic wit. he had a quality that i think is lost in american life. he could poke fun at himself. it's a small story, but a classic one. he did not know much about foreign policy. at one point, he was giving a speech on foreign policy in nebraska or south dakota. a little rapper goes across stage and he says, excuse, me there is my farm program. we don't see that a lot. maybe john mccain might be able to do that, but i can't think of anyone else in this generation of american politicians who could poke fun at themselves and endure some of their weaknesses. kennedy was a voracious reader. and he liked to process information largely by reading.
he hated meetings. he hated convening big groups of people. he oftentimes would grab a few people in the hall to talk about this or that, and i think it was good in the sense that he was a quick study, but bad in the sense that he oftentimes didn't get a real full airing of views. he sometimes did not have a full and detailed staff process. let me just talk a bit about the ten-week period. it is important to take note of the fact that eisenhower and kennedy faced very different challenges during this ten-week period. eisenhower was the president. so he is running the country. there was a lot of turmoil in the world. africa was in flames, particularly the congo. the colonial apparatus was collapsing. there was war tracy in southeast asia. there was a crisis in the international gold market. eisenhower had a very complicated world he had to manage.
additionally, he was starting to think about retirement, and it was with some trepidation. as much as he said i can't wait to retire, he's a driving, hard charging guy, but he wasn't sure what he would do with himself. he was arranging a nice retirement, but he was starting to wonder how he was going to really spend his time. he was starting to wonder about writing his memoirs. initially, he wasn't going to. then he was so angry at kennedy's 1916 campaign, he said i have to write a memoir to explain my administration. that was a major task faced. and he also was intent on giving a farewell address that will be remembered. a true from the farewell address of george washington, which summarized his career and his vision of the nation. eisenhower actually started working on his farewell address in 1959, a year and a half before he ended up giving it. that was eisenhower's task. it was a busy time, but a lot
of it was farewells and departures. as you look at his schedule, it is getting kind of sadly empty of real events. kennedy faced a very, very different challenge. first of all, he had to make sure he won the election. we all knew it was close, but there were 11 states in which republicans were ready to mount serious challenges. so as much as kennedy tried to affect a nonchalance, he was worried. he was worried. and he was watching very, very closely those states and trying to make sure the democratic apparatus was active and defending his interests there. he also had to put together a government. he had been on the campaign trail for four years. he knew a lot of campaign operatives. he knew a lot of intellectuals from the northeast, but there was huge parts of american society that had very little familiarity. he needed to develop a legislative program.
for four years, he had been on the campaign trail, making all sorts of promises. you forgotten what he had even promised to people. in december, he had one of his staffers say, let's assembled the promises i made. i want to know when i told people i would do. richard goodwin, doris kern's goodwin's husband, who just recently passed away, was charged with putting together this list of campaign promises. kennedy needed to prepare to depart from the senate, and wanted to leave in a way that the seat would be open in a year and a half for either ted or bobby kennedy. he was involved in very complex negotiations with the governor of massachusetts, who is a democrat. this guy and kennedy hated each other. there was a lot of brinkmanship about just how the senate seat would be disposed of, and that was heavy on kennedy's mind. he was thinking about how to
leave massachusetts, and ended up putting together at the last-minute this marvelous farewell address in massachusetts, which is dad thought was so good that it might steal from the kind of thunder of his inaugural address. of course, he needed to work on his inaugural. that's just some of the backdrop to the story. let me describe it in the sense of four or five acts. the first one would be election night, 1960. kennedy voted in boston, flew up to cape cod, spent probably one of the most difficult days of his life in the family compound. he knew the election was going to be close. he wasn't sure he was going to win. there were three kennedy houses on this compound, his father's, his, and roberts, and he was going from house to house, trying to read, trying to toss the football. he was just a mess. he was very nervous. across the country, richard nixon was in los angeles,
probably even more exhausted than kennedy. he had promised, perhaps foolishly, to visit all 50 states before the election. so on the last weekend, he basically had to fly to alaska, touch toes, get the heck out of alaska and get back into the states that he knew were going to decide the presidential election. so he was utterly exhausted. he votes in los angeles, outside los angeles, on election day. his wife and two daughters go off shopping. nixon is restless. he doesn't know what to do with himself, so he does what any california guy does. he hits the road, drives down with his security detail down the pacific highway, w4 (q=am town called oceanside to fill up with gas, a filling station. he gets out of the car to watch the guy pump gas and introduces himself, richard nixon, please vote for me. he gets back in. they drive down to
he has lunch at a german restaurant and mexico on election day. i think it's safe to say, and apparently it was good mexican food, i've read. i think he will be the only presidential candidate who on election day spends at least part of that day in a foreign country. and nixon says, if i lose, they won't care, if i win, they will think it was interesting. he actually stops at one of the churches along the highway, which he apparently knew. school kids looked up and saw richard nixon walking past their classroom on election day and said, what. he waves at them. so he goes back to the ambassador hotel and has a very tense night waiting for the returns. and the third person was dwight eisenhower, who began election day in d.c., helicoptered to gettysburg. he was the first to vote in his precinct.
he was back in washington by 7:30 in the morning. he had a very tense and difficult day, and he saw the election as a referendum on his presidency. he didn't love richard nixon. he had significant misgivings about him. he liked kennedy even less, hated the campaign he had run. he thought nixon's victory would be sort of a confirmation of his success. he had a tense night. accidentally, his press secretary said it a congratulatory telegram to kennedys people fairly early in the night. so his press guy, jim hagerty, calls appears hammond durant says it's a mistake. maybe in this environment, something different would happen. he could have just put it aside, but eisenhower saw the election as utterly central to his legacy. and when nixon finally did concede, eisenhower said this is the biggest repudiation i
have had in my life. it's a repudiation of me. that would be the first act of election day, 1960. the second one is less than a week later, november 14th, seven or eight days after the election. kennedy is the apparent victor, nixon the better vanquished. they are both down in florida, vacationing, relaxing. they say we really ought to have you go to nixon and accept his congratulations, accept his defeat, except his sore, as it were. they had a very intricate negotiation involving former president hoover, eisenhower, and others. and it was sort of decided that nixon should meet with kennedy. kennedy's motives were less magnanimous than he would probably profess. he wanted it to appear that
nixon was acknowledging his victory and that the country was unifying and it's time to move forward. they had about was by all accounts a tense and not particularly comfortable meeting. they met for an hour. the fullest account we have as by richard nixon in one of his memoirs, and he says kennedy during this meeting said it's too close to know who won the election. i'm not sure of kennedy said that. my guess is that kennedy may have felt that, but i doubt he was going to confide to richard nixon, when there's 11 states still in dispute, that it's still not clear who won. i don't think that's what happened. kennedy's assistant said as he was leaving and heading back to where kennedy was, he said how did it go, and kennedy said i think it's better for the country that i won.
the third act, i would say, was about a month later. and a lot happened between this. but it's the first meeting between, the first face-to-face meeting, between kennedy and eisenhower. they had known each other since 1945 a bit. they had been in meetings together, bill signings, photo ops, but best i can tell, they never actually had a one-on-one meeting until about a month after the election. and the meeting went very, very well, in large part because there are two liaisons that did such a remarkable job. kennedy's chief liaison, card clifford, you will hear quite a lot about him, very well organized, a real mover and shaker, he was kennedy's liaison in the transition. eisenhower's liaison was a man by the name of jerry persons, his chief of staff, who was this softspoken, amiable alabama. clifford and persons knew each
other well and liked each other. from the outset, they said let's make this transition. work let's not do it in the press. they met regularly. they talked on the phone. they trusted each other. they liked each other. one of the first jobs they faced was preparing this first meeting between kennedy and eisenhower. the briefing books are just remarkable. kennedy was basically given this 150 page tour de force about problems in the world. clifford and persons negotiated with issues would be raised. both were well prepared. kennedy arrived, kennedy was chronically late. chronically late to everything. and his aides said this is one thing you cannot be late to. even more than your wedding. this is one thing you need to be on time for. kennedy says, i get it, i get it. so kennedy is driven in a white cat-like to the white house.
they arrive so early, they are approaching so early, that kennedy says i can't get there ten minutes early. let's circle. they circle the white house and get caught in a traffic jam. kennedy is not happy. so they arrive a minute or two late, and eisenhower had arranged a military band to greet kennedy. but one of the great photographs of this whole transition is taken here where kennedy is walking up the steps of the north portico. eisenhower is reaching down to shake his hand. we never think of eisenhower as this great stage manager, but somehow i don't think that visual was a mistake or just an accident. it was very much him reaching down and talking to the man who is the age of his son. but the meeting actually went quite well. they met for an hour and a half privately and then in another hour or so in a big group. kennedy red eisenhower well. he was respectful and ask questions.
complimentary, deferential, he had spent his life living with a very difficult older man, his father. so he knew a little bit about how to negotiate this meeting. so eisenhower was surprisingly impressed by kennedy. he was not expecting to like or be impressed by him, but he was really taken by him. and kennedy had a grudging respect for eisenhower. he sort of said derogatory things, but he said i can see the force and toughness and kind of magic of the man. so that was one of the kind of signal moments. about a month later, actually a bit more than a month later, the day before the inauguration, they met again. january 19th. my book chronicles everything that happened between them, but they made for the second time before the day kennedy is to be inaugurated. eisenhower shows him the crown jewels. how to work the nuclear codes. how to have emergency vacuous chins. how to summon a helicopter.
they do all the nitty-gritty of the presidency. then they have a wide-ranging discussion about things like cuba and laos and the gold price. some really tough substantive talks. they break apart in the early afternoon, kennedy steps out onto the white house lawn and the reporters flock to them. he speaks to them and the snow starts coming down. if you know about the eve of inauguration in 1961, about eight inches of snow came crashing down on washington, utterly paralyzed the city. jackie kick him out of the house and told him she had to prepare. he spent the day at a friends house having meetings.
think about it as this mystical and magical moment. a close though it was total chaos. the city was still paralyzed. they are running about 45 minutes late. kennedy was sworn in at 12:51. he became president at 12. so he was sort of an hour behind schedule. the podium where he was to get his inaugural address started smoking. there was a short out. so the smoke is rising and i somehow returns to him and says, you must have a hot speech coming in. so one of the iconic moments of that, and i have the picture in
the book, is that kennedy is to give his inaugural. he has a jacket on, but he takes it off and he's giving his speech for the ages. off in the corner of this photograph you see eisenhower with a scarf and a heavy coat kind of huddled next to jackie kennedy. eisenhower, or kennedy is looking like he's the man of the decade. so that was sort of, that was my last chapter, rising star and setting sun. as we know, history is complicated. at that moment it looked like kennedy was going to dominate the 1960s, unlimited potential. within three years he is dead. and historians are still trying to understand his presidency, trying to figure out what was really accomplished. the public tends to see kennedy is one of the five or six best presidents. historians are more skeptical. but it's still so hard to evaluate kennedy because much of what he started was
unfinished. it's unclear if he might have made a course correction on things like vietnam. but then eisenhower is interesting because at that moment, on inauguration day, it's like he's going to go out to pasture. but he lived until 1969. during kennedy's presidency he consulted him a fair amount. johnson consulted him frequently. nixon did as well. he was an active figure in the 1960s. let me just say this, historians did a survey of the best americans in presents -- best president in american history. eisenhower was near the bottom, kennedy love that, eisenhower was furious. he did not take it well. but as the years have unfolded and more documents of come out, historians have become much more positive on eisenhower.
we understand that he was a far more activist president than we realized. we aí ñ'■get a sense that therea lot more strategy than many appreciated at the time. i think the last poll that suspended a couple of years ago had eisenhower sixth. he was way up there. and again, we are still trying to get measures of both kennedy and eisenhower. so what do we make of(' transition? one is that i think it was an important cultural moment. as one era ended, another began. i think mechanically, it was organizationally, it was pretty well done. they are managed to transfer power in a way that was respectful and professional. i mean a lot of policies were made during this period, which i chronicle in the book, which are hard to evaluate. decisions were made on southeast asia and cuba that became hugely consequential.
and it is unclear how they would have been made if eisenhower would have been in office a few more months, or if kennedy had come in earlier. so the policy aspect of this transition is kind of hard to really unpack. the thing i took away was the professionalism of the two. kennedy and eisenhower were not pals. they were not buddies. this book is not a bromance. they were rivals and opponents, but they did it in the context of being professionals and being civil and thinking about the good of the country. i think maybe that quality of the transition is so striking now, as we look at our political environment in which there is so much acrimony and polarization, and the sense that this other guy or the other party is the enemy as opposed to just an opponent or adversary. so let me stop there. i would be glad to take any questions or comments you might have on the book.
as you might know, i should also add i'm the director of the paul simon public policy institute. i feel very privileged to be the director. so any questions about the institute, i would be glad to answer. >> i was under the impression that eisenhower was popular throughout his presidency and even at the end. the other comments i wanted to make was i'm sure that we might not remember any of eisenhower's cabinet, but kennedy was one of the best and brightest, cannot and all that, i'm sure that really chafed eisenhower to see that following his administration. perceived his adult presidency. >> there's a couple of great points i can draw from. the first is kennedy's cabinet is interesting because kennedy did not really know many of the
people in his cabinet. his secretary of state he knew for a week before he made him secretary of state. bob mcnamara he knew for a week before he made him secretary of defense. there was a chaotic random quality. one newspaper pundit called his cabinet nine strangers and a brother. bobby kennedy was the attorney general. so the kennedy cabinet were still trying to untangle the vietnam legacy in particular which weighs heavily on that. eisenhower had a solid functional cabinet. there were some good people. they followed his no drama type of approach. but they were solid professionals and i think they were pretty solid. eisenhower's popularity. i think it averaged 64% during his presidency. the intellectuals did not
respect him. he was constantly derided as just a guy who loved to golf and cooks. -- and cook steaks. he was respected by the country very deeply. in fact, time magazine had a poll in 1990 -- 1959 i believe, it was a gallup poll that had him as the man of the decade. so eisenhower was respected and revered by the people, but less so by the intellectual class. that grated on him, he pretended that it did not, but it did bother him and it was something that he sort of had to wrestle with. >> i guess i'm kind of surprised. kennedy did not have a lot of respect for eisenhower. >> the question was on kennedy's respect for eisenhower as a military
leader. i think he was ambivalence. i've not been in the military, but i think there's always a sense that as a junior officer, that the guys are on top no less than they really think they know. there's always this rolling the eyes at the guy at the top. i'm short kennedy in his calmer and more reflective moments credited eisenhower as being a very serious military leader. i think candidates critique might have been that eisenhower's skills that he demonstrated as a military office were less relevant to the political domain. kennedy thought it involved more given take, compromise, maneuvering. he thought eisenhower was a sort of strategy guy who had a ambiguous approach to the administration. i think kennedy respected eisenhower's military prowess, but did not think he was a particularly effective president. >> we see this transition
between the old generation and the new generation, the world war ii generation to the next generation. [inaudible] >>. kennedy ran exclusively on that theme, a generational shift. he was only three years younger than nixon. we always think of nixon as perpetually old, but he was 46 and kennedy was 43. although he was one of these 46 year olds who did not project youth and dynamism and the way kennedy did. it's worth noting that kennedy had significant health problems throughout the 50s. his senate career, he was chronically ill. and so -- that he was very good about projecting youth, vitality, had a suntan all the time and was photographed playing football and so forth. but kennedy ran explicitly on a
kind of generational theme. he sort of said the eisenhower years were tired and reactive. we need a new generation and a new era. so kennedy quite shrewdly played on that theme. someone actually said, what did kennedy like? can it -- they said kennedy did not like old people, he did not like to talk to old people, he like to talk to people that were around his age. some people think that he could've learned from some of the older folks who would put some kind of perspective into it. in fact, clark clifford once said this is the cockiest group of people i've ever been around. and sam rayburn famously said i would feel a lot better if some of these people would actually run for sheriff once. >> [inaudible]
>> the question pertain to just how the kennedy's, particularly jfk, used television to great effect. and of course most notably in the debates. i think the debates were one of the central factors that allowed kennedy to be elected. he understood the debate was not sort of an oxford style who had the most points. he was pulling to the cameras. he made sure he had a nice suntan that day and a suit that looked good on tv. nixon would be making very technical points that were fairly substantive and kennedy would just kind of pivot and look at the tv screen and
communicate that way. so i think kennedy had a great appreciation for tv. one other aspect of this whole transition period was during this period for the first time that they decided to have televised news conferences. that was one of the things pierreà salinger negotiated with the journalists. the press will go to hell if we have televised press conferences. salinger said maybe we won't have as all of them. they wondered which ones were newsworthy. so they had this likely debate about whether to televise news conferences and kennedy was the first one to have televised news conferences that we're live. so he had 18 appreciation of television, it's importance to his presidency. >> as we know, kennedy played a
significant role in jack's political career. what was his role during the transition. >> he was quietly behind the scenes. his most significant role was in the appointment of robert kennedy as attorney general. there's a great story where clark clifford, jfk did not want bobby to be attorney general. bobby did not want to be attorney general. joe kennedy wanted him to be attorney general. so at a certain point, kennedy turns to clark clifford, his campaign liaison, and says would you please go to new york and talk to my dad and tried to talk him out of this idea of bobby being attorney general. it's just not a good idea. clifford said, so you want me to go to new york and talk to your dad about this? he says, yeah i do. so clifford flew to new york and in clifford's memoir, there was this great meal with the ambassador, they called him ambassador kennedy, pleasantries and how well the transition was going.
then i had to say, mister ambassador, i have one thing we need to talk about. i really don't think that it's good for jack or bobby or the administration for bobby to be attorney general. he laid out his view on that. according to clifford, at the end of it, he said thank you very much for the compelling presentation, you made some interesting points, bobby will be attorney general. clifford later says, it was sort of scary to see how he operated. it was kind of scary to see how jfk was intimidated by his dad. his dad was this commanding presence. but it's kind of funny because jfk also had a way of needling his father and defusing situations with humor. on when i count, joe kennedy was just being very critical of one of his daughters for spending too much money. just ripping into her.
she storms out of the room crying and then she comes back a few minutes later and kennedy says, come down, we decided that needs to work a little harder. so he has a very complex relationship with his father. he admired his force and toughness. he once told someone i've never seen my dad read a book. so he did not think he had the sort of intellectual interests and curiosity that he would've liked. bp' formidable guy and spent a lot of his life trying to negotiate his way around his father's demands and soü forth. >> can you tell us a little bit more about the relationship of eisenhower and nixon. you said that between the two, eisenhower favor nixon. >> yeah, eisenhower never warmed to nixon. and it began badly because he
names him as vice president and then there were some complex financial things that exploded. the famous checker speech in which nixon defended himself and said he hadn't done anything illegal. so this is during the 1952 campaign, and eisenhower seriously thought about kicking nixon off the ticket. he decided to stay with him, but he never warmed to him. he thought he was a smart and hard working guy, did not think there was much command presence. at one point in the administration, actually try to talk nixon into leaving the vice presidency to become secretary of defense. nixon did not like that idea. eisenhower said, i think he may have believed this, that part of the his military career was rotating through offices and thought it would actually be good for next thing to have some real administrative
experience. but of course, nixon knew that in american politics, to go from the vice presidency to the cabinet position would be not good. the one other point i will make is that eisenhower's role in the 1960 campaign is interesting because eisenhower said to nixon, i will do whatever you want me to do, i appreciate that you have to run on your own and if you need me to get out of the way, i will. i will just give some broad speeches about peace and prosperity in america and you can go after kennedy. so i said i will stay within the campaign. but as the campaign unfolded, and particularly after the first debate, eisenhower said this guy may lose to kennedy of all people. so eisenhower said i will be glad to give some more speeches, i will be glad to talk more, so they are trying to negotiate that. and then there is conflicting accounts. nixon wanted eisenhower to go
on the campaign trail and really go at it, but maybe eisenhower went to pat nixon and said my husband is still not in great health. to have this extensive involvement in the campaign would affect his health. could you make sure your husband does not ask him to do this. hard to know. a lot of after the fact discussions about what role he should have had. so eisenhower, and eisenhower did nothing -- not think that nixon did a good job defending the administration. kennedy spent the whole campaign hammering away at his presidency. he was waiting for nixon to wage a vigorous and persuasive response. i think nixon believed it made a little sense to debate the last eight years. he said we've done a great job, we need to do better. so nixon did not really want to debate the point. but eisenhower felt that he should have done much more to defend the administration. so it was a very complex relationship. he ended up endorsing nixon for president in 1968, but
relatively late in the game. and shortly after his grandson became engaged to nixon's daughter, which people candidly say was not a secondary consideration. and nixon was the presumed candidate, but eisenhower did not endorse nixon in 1968. he held back quite a ways. maybe one more. >> eisenhower was the last non-politician, right? >> yeah, but eisenhower had risen up through the ranks of the military. he had commanded the largest military expedition in world history. he was a skilled administrator. he had been president of columbia university.
he was a different sort of person. he was a problem solver, and administrator, and executive. and he had a completely different vision of the presidency than i think mr. trump does. he revered the presidency. he felt it was critical that the president always conduct himself in public with respect and decorum. not challenge peoples motives, argue the issues. in fact, i wrote an essay, and read before trump's inauguration saying what trump could learn from eisenhower. it was a long article. there was a lot he could learn i think. maybe one more question? >> do you think kennedy would have liked the content of
eisenhower's final speech about the military complex? >> it's interesting. i might say a word about the two speeches because i think, at the time, eisenhower's speech was thought of as nice and solid and good. but people did not really dwell on it very much. three days later, kennedy gives this wildly poetic stirring an odd-year-old. nodules and farewells are fundamentally different speeches as well. in the farewell, you summarize what you've done and give your admonishments for the future. as an integral, you are pointing in a new direction and sort of saying, the status quo is in effect unacceptable for me to move forward. i don't know if kennedy would have agreed with that. one point that's really important to note is that during the 16 campaign, kennedy ran to the right of eisenhower on military issues. he was saying eisenhower was not funding the military enough
and that because she was not funding it enough, the soviet union was turning to push ahead in a number of key areas. that infuriated eisenhower. he said nobody knows the military budget better than i do. don't tell me i'm underfunding the military. i know what resources are needed. so i do not know that kennedy had really thought through the defense problem and issue all that carefully. i think he had sort of fallen into a talking point that the u.s. had fallen behind the soviet union, that you had a new energetic administration to go forward. at that point, i don't think that he had really thought deeply what level of military spending was necessary, and even what level of military engagement the u.s. should have around the world. so that's another one of those questions, had he been reelected in 64 and lived, maybe he would have developed more nuanced views on the topic. it's hard to know.
>> kennedy's views on vietnam changed considerably. as you point out, and went to vietnam when he was still a member of the house. in his early years in the senate, he gave these remarkable speeches in which he said i western power is not going to win in vietnam. it's not going to happen. and he was very critical of the eisenhower administration for having embraced france to an extent. but when the french left at the u.s. entered, both kennedy and eisenhower had reservations, but they sort of in the country in in small ways. eisenhower first with advisers, and kennedy them more robustly. i don't think either of them
would be particularly, i mean i don't think history looks down -- looks upon their vietnam policies is particularly inspired during the late fifties and early sixties. i think both kennedy and eisenhower were more skeptical. i think they made some mistakes that were hugely consequential for the rest of the decade, and beyond. >> [inaudible] >> number that book, it is one of the better books i've read in a long, long time. is there one more question? are, i can stop here if you ...
next on the presidency, a look back 30 years to january 16th, 1991. president george h. w. bush announced from the oval office the start of the persian gulf war, named operation desert storm. the militaryp; aerial bombing of iraq. the bombing was an effort to drive saddam hussein from neighboring kuwait, which iraq had invaded several months earlier.