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Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy Hardcover – September 25, 2012


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Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy + Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy + Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; Har/Com edition (September 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401324568
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401324568
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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.

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Customer Reviews

It contained the audio CD.
R M
Very interesting and easy to read, This is a book that I would recommend to anyone interested in years past when our government worked for everyone.
James
Dozens of recordings are thoroughly documented in transcriptions and bits of background information.
mcode518

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 81 people found the following review helpful By The Ginger Man VINE VOICE on September 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
According to Caroline Kennedy, JFK "installed secret Oval Office recording devices after the Bay of Pigs disaster so that he could have an accurate account of who said what, in case of any later disputes as to the exact nature of conversations." The full 265 hours of taped conversations have now been made available by the Kennedy Library. Listening In presents transcripts from more than 60 of these conversations and two CDs which carry the audio from 36 of them.

The true value of this package is the CD which allows the listener to eavesdrop on "a president being president" as described by editor Ted Widmer. He claims that this is the closest to a JFK autobiography as we can ever get. While the audio quality on some of the entries is weak, on others the voice of the President is hauntingly clear and evocative. And the range of the selections is as wide as can be imagined. We hear the President finish a conversation with his daughter to be briefed by the CIA on their discovery of offensive missiles in Cuba. He argues with Mississippi Governor Barnett about how to restore order during the integration of the University ("How can I remove him, Governor, when there's a riot in the street and he may step out of the building and something happen to him?") JFK gives his regards to Yugoslavia Marshal Tito and chews out his assistant defense secretary for publicity about a costly furniture purchase ("You just sank the air force budget! You're crazy up there! Are they crazy? That silly bastard with his picture next to the bed?") In one call, he briefs former President Herbert Hoover about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Hoover emerges from a different world in which he was chief executive in 1928 and opens by observing, "It seems to me these recent events are rather incredible.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By S. O. Baldrick on October 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book isn't for everyone. Those with little knowledge of history or the politics of the early 1960s will find this sparse reading. Perhaps some are expecting conversations about hookers or JFK talking about nailing Marilyn Monroe. No, the book doesn't offer anything like that. However, if you know a little about the era, there is much here to keep your attention.

This is a book of interesting nuggets. If you want complete histories, you will need to look elsewhere. But the nuggets can be very revealing. It's interesting to listen to his advisers suggest invading Cuba during the Missile Crisis... it's incredible to listen to JFK calmly try to examine what the Soviet Union was hoping to accomplish. Although JFK tends to be immortalized far too much, these tapes do reveal a cool thinker who doesn't let his emotions make his decisions for him.

There's funny stuff in there too... like when JFK practically loses his cool when he hears the Navy spent five thousand dollars dressing up a maternity ward for the First Lady... or how he thought the movie "PT-109" was too long.

With a book like this, you get out of it what you want. Personally, I found it interesting to "eavesdrop" on conversations that were, in many cases, top secret.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Auriandra on October 18, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition with Audio/Video
It really bothers me when people use Amazon comments to complain about things like price or, in this case, the quality of the audio on their Kindle or Apple devices. Those reviews belong with those products, not with the book. These ratings throw off the Amazon user, who looks to the review stars to represent the content.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James R. Holland VINE VOICE on October 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is really a collection of interesting text-captions made from secret recordings and illustrated with White House photographs taken during Kennedy's Administration. Personally, this reviewer found the photos to be an important part of the book. The guts of book are of course the text and recorded hisory, but the pictures make it a more interesting and understandable read.

"...Kennedy was determined to have a reliable record of the words that were spoken in the White House. And so n July 1962, Secret Service agent installed a sophisticated taping system in the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room of the White House. The reasons for this installation were never explained, by Kennedy or anyone else, in fact, the very existence of the taping system was a closely held secret..."

"A vast amount of information was gathered by those recording devices--248 hours of meetings in the Oval Office and Cabinet Room, and 17 and a half hours of telephone conversations and dictated private reflections."

In the book's foreword, Caroline Kennedy, who was present during some of the secret recording sessions, states that: "I was always told that my father installed secret Oval Office recording devices after the Bay of Pigs disaster so that he could have an accurate account of who said what, in case of any later disputes as to the exact nature of the conversations." And while Caroline can now appreciate the importance of those tapes of actual history being made, at the time she and her brother were much too young to have understood much of what was being discussed.

The various transcripts of the conversations are made more understandable by the fact they are illustrated with pictures of JFK with the people he was meeting with.
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