NEW YORK (AP) — President John F. Kennedy openly scorned the notion of Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson succeeding him in office, according to a book of newly released interviews with his widow, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
She said her husband and his brother then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy even discussed ways to prevent Johnson from winning the Democratic nomination in a future contest.
The book, “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy,” includes a series of interviews the former first lady gave to historian Arthur M. Schelsinger Jr. shortly after her husband was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. Over seven sessions, she recalled conversations on topics ranging from her husband’s reading habits to the botched Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba.
The book will be published by New York-based Hyperion Books on Sept. 14. The Associated Press bought a copy on Thursday.
JFK chose Johnson, a Texas senator and former political rival, as his running mate in 1960. But Jacqueline Kennedy told Schlesinger in the 1964 interviews that he often fretted about the prospect of a Johnson presidency.
“Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, `Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?”‘ she recalled. “And Bobby told me that he’d had some discussions with him … do something to name someone else in 1968.”
Johnson was sworn in as president after JFK’s assassination and was elected to a full term in 1964. He declined to seek re-election in 1968.
Jacqueline Kennedy said JFK, a Democrat, had named Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican he had defeated for a Massachusetts Senate seat in 1952, as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam because JFK was so doubtful of military success there.
“I think he probably did it … rather thinking it might be such a brilliant thing to do because Vietnam was rather hopeless anyway, and put a Republican there,” Jacqueline Kennedy said.
JFK sent military advisers to Vietnam to help train the South Vietnamese Army to contain communism. Johnson, as president, would later commit ground troops to the conflict.
Jacqueline Kennedy painted an unflattering portrait of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in the book, calling him “tricky” and suggesting he was sexually adventurous. She said he had mocked her husband’s funeral and Cardinal Richard Cushing, who celebrated Mass at the funeral.
“He made fun of Cardinal Cushing and said that he was drunk at it,” she said. “And things about they almost dropped the coffin. I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.”
The book comes with eight audio CDs of the interviews.
Jacqueline Kennedy’s voice is strong and clear, but the interviews are occasionally interrupted by sounds of her children, Caroline, who was 5 at the time, and John Jr., who was 3.
The book barely mentions JFK’s assassination. In a forward, Caroline Kennedy says her mother had discussed the assassination at length with historian William Manchester but later sued to keep much of the material from being published until 2067.
Caroline Kennedy said the interviews in the new book were “by far the most important” her mother, who died in 1994, ever gave.
“My mother willingly recalled the span of her married life and shared her insights into my father’s private and public political personality,” Caroline Kennedy wrote.
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