Conversations with Kennedy

Conversations with Kennedy

Conversations with Kennedy

Conversations with Kennedy


Ben Bradlee first came to know John Kennedy well when they were Washington neighbors in 1958. They remained good friends and off-the-record confidants until President Kennedy's death. They also had a more professional relationship governed by Bradlee's job covering the capital for Newsweek.

Bradlee and his wife Tony participated in the parties at the White House and in more private moments when the president and Jacqueline were relaxing with friends. With Kennedy's knowledge, Bradlee kept notes of their intimate conversations. These records are the basis for this behind-the-scenes record of the human side of the JFK presidency.

For the first time, all the conflicting elements of Kennedy's personality are seen at the closest possible range. Here was a politician of the South Boston stripe who also was at home among the WASP intellectuals he brought into government, who loved the sick old tiger who was his father and yet would not be dominated by him, who understood his brothers' every quirk and strength, admired women, and had few illusions about human nature but nursed dreams all the same.


This is a record of conversations I had with John F. Kennedy during the five years that I knew him—be— tween 1959, when he was a senator running for president, and 1963, when he died on the I007th day of his presidency.

From the day I met him—I think it was in a Senate corridor after President Eisenhower's state of the union message in January, 1959—through the first year of his presidency, I kept no formal notes of these conversations. During that time I was first a political reporter in the Washington bureau of Newsweek magazine, and later its bureau chief. In those capacities, I wrote hundreds of thousands of words, many of them about Kennedy, many of them about conversations with Kennedy, many on the record, and many off the record. I have used these files to refresh my memory, in writing about conversations during this period.

But Kennedy's impact on me as a person, and as a journalist lately come to the glamor of Washington, was so strong—and remains so even today, fifteen years later— that I can still quote verbatim whole chunks of conversations with him.

It is this powerful impact which accounts for the absence of a formal record of our conversations during the first years of our friendship. It happens to very few of us that some neighbor, some family friend, someone whose children play with your children (however reluctantly), becomes president of the United States. It now seems clear that when it happened to me, that friendship dominated my life, as Walter Lippmann had warned me it could. It was invaluable . . .

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