Saturday, January 17, 2009

JFK and the F Bomb

The many audio recordings made by a brief span of U.S. presidents in the middle of last century are damn fascinating. Yet these recordings will likely stand as a brief anomaly of unparalleled insight, never again to be repeated in our history.

After Nixon, no president recorded anything (of which we know, anyway) in the way of their private meetings and phone conversations.

What we have from Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon are about as close as any of us will ever come to knowing first-hand how presidents interacted with others and how they operated in the inner recesses of the White House, out of the spotlight.

President Kennedy's are perhaps the most compelling listening, given how few recordings there are in total, how short his administration was, and of course his tragic murder at the peak of his political and personal prowess.

Here is a real gem in which Kennedy unleashes on AF General Godfrey McHugh over something rather trivial, which is what makes Kennedy's rather hyperbolic outrage so amusing. It shows how conscious Kennedy was of image and the mores of the time, but also a bit of how he probably didn't suffer bureaucratic fools gladly.

McHugh seems thunderstruck by Kennedy's profanity-laced tongue-lashing. All this over a photo of an Air Force officer posing next to Mrs. Kennedy's bed on Air Force One, one specially-bought for her during her pregnancy while in the White House.

Kennedy conflates the whole affair into a threat to Air Force funding, thundering "You just sank the Air Force budget!"

Great stuff...

No comments: