There is so much fascinating material in these new tapes, “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.” I got the book last night and couldn’t put it down.
Also had the chance to talk about it with Caroline Kennedy, when she came by this morning for an exclusive interview on “GMA.” The first thing I wanted to know was how tough was it to release the tapes – unedited – knowing that we’d hear Jacqueline’s unvarnished views. Like her description of Martin Luther King as a “tricky person” and that she couldn’t “see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.”
“I think people really need to understand the purpose of an oral history. And it really – the value of it is it is immediate, it is honest,” Caroline told me. “I think that was very brave of her to do that and to be honest. But it’s got limitations. It’s just – it’s a primary source document. It’s like a diary or something like that, it’s really a snapshot.”
As much as Caroline wanted to protect her Mom she understood that Jacqueline agreed to these 1964 recordings with historian Arthur Schlesinger because she was “guided by her sense of history.” Her husband was shot four months earlier and since he didn’t have the chance to give his perspective, Jacqueline gave hers.
“This was something where she felt the obligation to be honest and she had always told us that she was going to put it away for 50 years,” Caroline said.
Caroline first read the transcripts after her mom’s death in 1994. But it wasn’t until this past summer did she listen to them in their entirety. And as the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration approached, Caroline decided now was the time for us to hear them too.
“There are flashes throughout where I hear her and there are parts to me where it sounds like it was a very long time ago, just the way she speaks and the things she said,” Caroline told me.
Things such as the former First Lady’s surprisingly traditional view of women, telling Schlesinger that “women should never be in politics, we’re just not suited for it.” I asked Caroline what her mother would think now about these recordings.
“It was funny because my daughters listened to it too and they were just absolutely horrified…’Did she really think that?’ And of course time has moved on and it shows you both there are many timeless things in here but it really is a snapshot of a world that we barely recognize,” Caroline said.
Watch the whole interview here to see what Caroline thinks her father would have done in life after the White House.