Everyone knows Nixon had tape recorders running in the Oval Office, but most Americans aren’t aware that FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower experimented with audio recording and that JFK installed taping systems in 1962 that he could activate to record significant meetings and phone conversations and, occasionally, his own reflections. All 265.5 hours of those tapes (with redactions, however) are now available at the Kennedy Presidential Library. This volume, accompanied by two CDs, gathers several dozen of the most interesting conversations. In addition to obvious subjects—Cuba, civil rights, space, and Vietnam—the collection also includes many remarks on history, politics, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and other foreign-policy developments. Because the tapes’ quality varies, some transcripts include too many skips and unclears to convey much meaning. Quite helpful, on the other hand, are the book’s illustrations, which range from photographs to contemporaneous documents and handwritten notes. Despite its limitations, Listening In lives up to Widmer’s descriptions, a portrait of a president being president, and the closest to an autobiography we will ever get. --Mary Carroll
About the Author
Forward by Caroline Kennedy, editor of the New York Times bestselling Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, She Walks in Beauty, A Patriot's Handbook, Profiles in Courage for Our Time, The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, A Family of Poems, and A Family Christmas and the coauthor of The Right to Privacy and In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action. She serves as president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and lives in New York City.
Annotation by Ted Widmer,
Director and Librarian of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. He is the author or editor of many works of American history, and a frequent contributor to The New York Times
, Washington Post
, International Herald Tribune
, and other publications. He was a speechwriter and senior adviser to President Clinton, and conducted the oral history project that accompanied President Clinton's preparation for his memoir, My Life
. He was educated at Harvard University.