HST on Kennedy Tapes in New Book
September 24, 2012

Harry & Bess Truman, Truman Library photo

Newly released recordings of President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office reveal moments of historic drama leavened by personal conversations with past presidents.
On tape, Kennedy discusses the Cuban missile, the Cold War space race, and Vietnam. Also included is a very terse conversation with Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett about the chaos surrounding the integration of the University of Mississippi. Audio of the recordings is available in companion with a new book titled “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy.” The recordings were made by a then secret White House taping system. They were removed from the White House after Kennedy’s assassination and later handed over to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. The library has kept the conversations private until now.
One passage has a Missouri connection. According to the New York Times, Harry Truman, the icon of Missouri politics, makes a brief cameo where he discusses a private matter with Kennedy concerning old age and marital satisfaction.
“Well, you sound in good shape,” Kennedy said.
“All right,” Truman replied. “The only trouble with me is that, the main difficulty I have, is keeping the wife satisfied.”
“Well, that’s all right,” Kennedy said.
“Well, you know how that is,” Truman said. “She’s very much afraid I’m going to hurt myself. Even though I’m not. She’s a tough bird.”
Ted Widmer, the historian who edited the book, told the Times he included the exchange because he “wanted the book to have human moments.”
The book, along with two CDs of audio clips, is available for purchase at book stores on Tuesday.