Jacqueline Kennedy's Audio Tapes Describe 'Our Happiest Years'


"When it all turned [out] so fantastically, he said, 'Well, if anyone's going to shoot me, this would be the day they should do it,' " she said.

President Kennedy comes across as a doting father who reserved time for his small children even during periods of high stress at the White House. She recalled that the president tried to take a 45-minute nap every day at lunch time, and would change into pajamas like his idol, Winston Churchill. He was a voracious reader who brought books with him into the bathtub, and even tried to read at meals and while doing his tie.

Before coming to the White House, she said, he would kneel on his bed to say prayers. As president, he occasionally slipped into a confession booth in Palm Beach, Fla., "like anyone would," she said, with a Secret Service agent holding a place in line for him and the priest never knowing he'd just had the president in the confessional.

The tapes also peel back a curtain on a first lady deeply engaged in her husband's presidency in ways both subtle and overt.

And, in tapes interrupted occasionally by the playful banter of 3-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr., they reveals a young widow who was working to craft the "Camelot" legacy as she adjusted to her sudden role as a 34-year-old single parent of two young children.

"If all this had to happen, I just wish he could have seen some more good things come in, that he worked so hard for. The tax bill, the civil rights bill, the economy up so high," she said.

"He really did so much. There wasn't that much more to do, except it would have jelled."

At the time of his death, she recalled, President Kennedy had begun plotting his 1964 reelection race. He was planning a presidential trip to Appalachia to highlight rural poverty, plus what would have been a history-making Cold War trip to the Soviet Union.

He planned to oust J. Edgar Hoover from the FBI in a second term, she recalled. That was among several things "he was going to do this time," but "they've all been done the wrong way" under President Johnson, she said.

Indeed, Kennedy had already given at least some thought as to who the Democratic nominee should be in 1968. Mrs. Kennedy said he felt strongly that Lyndon Johnson should not be president, a sentiment he shared with his brother, Robert, among others.

"He didn't like that idea that Lyndon would go on and be president because he was worried for the country," Mrs. Kennedy said of her husband.

At an earlier time, Mrs. Kennedy recalled how the Cold War crisis set the Kennedy presidency off-course. When President Kennedy learned of the failed invasion at Cuba's Bay of Pigs, less than three months into his presidency in 1961, he returned to the White House living quarters to weep, she said.

"He came back over to the White House to his bedroom and he started to cry, just with me. You know, just for one -- just put his head in his hands and sort of wept," she said. "It was so sad, because all his first 100 days and all his dreams, and then this awful thing to happen. And he cared so much."

By her own telling, Mrs. Kennedy was more involved in her husband's politics and his presidency than many historians have realized.

The president relied on her for private counsel, and her interests and passions shaped his relationships with world figures whom she dazzled, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Charles de Gaulle to Nikita Khrushchev.

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