Sunday, May 20, 2018

JFK library releases last of his secret tapes

Final recordings President John F. Kennedy secretly made in the Oval Office include an eerie conversation about what would become the day of his funeral.

In talking to staffers while trying to arrange his schedule, Kennedy remarked that Nov. 25 was shaping up to be a "tough day" after his return from Texas and time at Cape Cod.

"It's a hell of a day, Mr. President," a staffer agreed.

The exchange was among the last 45 hours of private recordings Kennedy made, tapes the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum released Tuesday. They provide a window into the final three months of the 35th president's life.

They include discussions of the conflict in Vietnam, Soviet relations and the race to space, plans for the 1964 Democratic National Convention and re-election strategy. There also are moments with his children.

The tapes are the last of more than 260 hours of recordings of meetings and conversations Kennedy privately made before his assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

David Coleman, the professor who leads the Presidential Recordings Program at the University of Virginia, on Tuesday called the final recordings significant because while JFK didn't tape himself regularly, he chose to preserve important moments.

The university's Miller Center of Public Affairs has already published three volumes of Kennedy transcripts and is working on another two volumes from recordings that previously went public, Coleman said.

"Kennedy did not tape as systematically as Johnson or Nixon. But what he did tape was often very important discussions," he said. "What you have is an unusually rich collection of decisions being made in real time."

Kennedy kept the recordings a secret from his top aides. He made the last one two days before his death.

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