A major work of documentary history–the brilliantly edited and annotated transcripts, most of them never before published, of the presidential conversations of Lyndon B. Johnson regarding the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath.
The transition from John F. Kennedy to Johnson was arguably the most wrenching and, ultimately, one of the most bitter in the nation’s history. As Johnson himself said later, “I took the oath, I became president. But for millions of Americans I was still illegitimate, a naked man with no presidential covering, a pretender to the throne….The whole thing was almost unbearable.”
In this book, Max Holland, a leading authority on the assassination and longtime Washington journalist, presents the momentous telephone calls President Johnson made and received as he sought to stabilize the country and keep the government functioning in the wake of November 22, 1963. The transcripts begin on the day of the assassination, and reveal the often chaotic activity behind the scenes as a nation in shock struggled to come to terms with the momentous events. The transcripts illuminate Johnson’s relationship with Robert F. Kennedy, which flared instantly into animosity; the genuine warmth of his dealings with Jacqueline Kennedy; his contact with the FBI and CIA directors; and the advice he sought from friends and mentors as he wrestled with the painful transition.
We eavesdrop on all the conversations–including those with leading journalists–that persuaded Johnson to abandon his initial plan to let Texas authorities investigate the assassination. Instead, we observe how he abruptly established a federal commission headed by a very reluctant chief justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren. We also learn how Johnson cajoled and drafted other prominent men–among them Senator Richard Russell (who detested Warren), Allen Dulles, John McCloy, and Gerald Ford–into serving.
We see a sudden president under unimaginable pressure, contending with media frenzy and speculation on a worldwide scale. We witness the flow of inaccurate information–some of it from J. Edgar Hoover–amid rumors and theories about foreign involvement. And we glimpse Johnson addressing the mounting criticism of the Warren Commission after it released its still-controversial report in September 1964.
The conversations rendered here are nearly verbatim, and have never been explained so thoroughly. No passages have been deleted except when they veered from the subject. Brought together with Holland’s commentaries, they make riveting, hugely revelatory reading.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: The Kennedy Assassination Tapes|
|Release Date: 09-14-2004|
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|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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The Kennedy Assassination Tapes
1963 November 22
The day began on a note of keen anticipation. Friday, after all, would take the presidential entourage into Dallas, that unrivaled bank and bastion of anti-Kennedy sentiment. It wasn’t simply the distinction of having been the only large American city to favor Richard Nixon over John Kennedy in the 1960 election that indelibly tagged Dallas. No, it was the sheer emotion and staggering wealth of its opposition in the three years since then that made the city synonymous with Kennedy’s bitterest critics. Above and beyond its role as a wellspring for anti-Communism, and anti-Communist paranoia, Dallas was the fount of some of the ugliest anti-Kennedy vitriol in circulation.
Foremost in everyone’s mind on the morning of November 22 was Adlai Stevenson’s visit to Dallas on October 24. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, an experienced politician in his own right, had encountered hostility before on the campaign trail. But it was nothing compared with the mob that descended on him as he left the Dallas municipal auditorium after delivering a speech in favor of U.S. participation in the UN. One well-dressed woman hit him on the head with a placard, and a college student spat in his face. “Are these human beings or animals?” Stevenson muttered as he wiped the spittle off. Afterward he pretended to treat the incident with aplomb, but privately he was shaken to the core. He had never encountered the kind of mindless, raw hate he saw on display in Dallas.
The Stevenson incident might have remained an isolated black eye but for a coincidental development. In a telling reflection of their growing influence