Photograph of the President’s meeting with the leaders of the March on Washington. Left to Right Willard Wirtz, Martin Luther King, Jr., Eugene Carson Blake, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Walter Reuther. Others not in order: A. Philip Randolph, John Lewis, Whitney Young, Mathew Ahmann, Joachin Prinz, Roy Wilkins, Floyd McKissick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
NEW YORK — President John F. Kennedy openly scorned the notion of Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson succeeding him in office, according to a book of newly released interviews with his widow, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The book, “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy,” includes a series of interviews the former first lady gave to historian and former Kennedy aide Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. shortly after her husband was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. Over seven sessions, she recalled conversations on topics ranging from her husband’s reading habits to the botched Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba.
“Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, `Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?'” she recalled. “And Bobby told me that he’d had some discussions with him … do something to name someone else in 1968.”
Jacqueline Kennedy also indicated that her husband was highly skeptical about victory in Vietnam, a central battleground of the Cold War and the conflict that brought down Johnson’s presidency. She said that JFK, a Democrat, had named Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican he had defeated for a Massachusetts Senate seat in 1952, as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam because JFK was so doubtful of military success there.
Jacqueline Kennedy spoke skeptically of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. She called him “tricky” and a “phony” after hearing about FBI tapes of him and a woman in his hotel room, while noting that JFK had urged her not to be judgmental. (JFK’s own adulterous affairs weren’t yet widely known.) She said King had mocked her husband’s funeral and Cardinal Richard Cushing, who celebrated Mass at the funeral.
“He made fun of Cardinal Cushing and said that he was drunk at it,” she said. “And things about they almost dropped the coffin. I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.”