The Kennedys: A Culture Show Special The Culture Show


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The Kennedys: A Culture Show Special

Jonathan Freedland chairs a discussion on John F Kennedy, while producer Joel Surnow talks about the mini-series The Kennedys and the controversy that engulfed it.


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The energy, the faith, the devotion... Hello and welcome to

:00:11.:00:20.

this special edition of the Culture Show. Our subject is the Kennedys.

:00:20.:00:23.

That remarkable dynasty whose influence and legacy can still be

:00:23.:00:29.

felt today in America and elsewhere too. It's 50 years since John F

:00:29.:00:33.

Kennedy was sworn in as 35th President of the United States. But

:00:33.:00:36.

the family can still make the news, as the History Channel in America

:00:36.:00:41.

discovered to its cost. Its $30 million mini series dramatising the

:00:41.:00:43.

Kennedy story was axed following accusations of historical

:00:43.:00:53.

distortion, political bias, and Jackie muster a figure, if it's

:00:53.:00:59.

inevitable, she may as well make it convenient. So, please join us now

:00:59.:01:02.

for an exploration of the myths and the realities of that fascinating

:01:02.:01:09.

place that will be known forever as John F Kennedy was the shortest

:01:09.:01:13.

serving elected President of the post-war years. Just 1,036 days in

:01:13.:01:19.

all. When he was assassinated in Dallas on the 22nd November 1963,

:01:19.:01:29.
:01:29.:01:30.

he was already campaigning for a second term. Had it not been for

:01:30.:01:37.

the lone gunman, he probably would have won. But in the so-called

:01:37.:01:40.

1,000 Days of his presidency, JFK, his wife Jackie, and the Kennedy

:01:40.:01:42.

administration set a style of politics that would prove to be

:01:42.:01:48.

unforgettable. We'll be exploring that later with a panel of experts.

:01:48.:01:57.

But before the drama of politics, the politics of a drama. An eight

:01:57.:02:03.

hour, $30 million mini series made for the History Channel in America.

:02:03.:02:06.

But not shown there following a campaign that accused the makers of

:02:06.:02:09.

character assassination. Defenders of the series, which is now being

:02:09.:02:12.

shown on BBC Two, claim that the Kennedy family itself exerted

:02:12.:02:15.

pressure on the History Channel to drop the series. So here's the

:02:15.:02:25.
:02:25.:02:30.

story behind the making and the In the long history of the world,

:02:30.:02:36.

only a few generations have been granted the role of defending

:02:36.:02:41.

freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this

:02:41.:02:49.

responsibility. I welcome it! APPLAUSE That was John F Kennedy in

:02:49.:02:53.

1961. Here he is in at 2011, played by

:02:53.:03:02.

Greg Kinnear. The energy we bring to this end ever will like our

:03:02.:03:09.

country and all who serve it. But country relight the world. Here is

:03:09.:03:14.

Jackie, played by Katie Holmes. Jackie, you are going to be the

:03:14.:03:22.

first lady of United States. I can hardly think about it. It's all so

:03:22.:03:29.

unreal. Come on. Shearer is Bobby Kennedy, played by Barry Pepper.

:03:29.:03:37.

This is a new era, a new world order. I sincerely hope you can

:03:37.:03:46.

adapt yourself to it. And here's the Kennedy patriarch, Joe Senior,

:03:46.:03:52.

played by Tom Wilkinson. It's not what you are, it's what people

:03:52.:03:55.

think you are and with the right amount of money, you can make them

:03:55.:04:00.

think what ever you want. We are on our way, boys. This country is ours

:04:00.:04:07.

for the taking. A Yes, they are here, including that lone gunman,

:04:07.:04:15.

lurking in episode seven, to fulfil his predestined role. Lee, we are

:04:15.:04:23.

going down to have a look at Kennedy. Save me a spot. And so, my

:04:23.:04:28.

fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what

:04:28.:04:38.
:04:38.:04:44.

But the miniseries has sparked a bitter war of words between its

:04:44.:04:48.

creators and those who regard it as an attack on the legacy of the

:04:48.:04:57.

Kennedy family. And that is part of what I believe they were attempting

:04:57.:05:07.
:05:07.:05:07.

to do. I think there are people who just wanted a Valentine and I think

:05:07.:05:16.

the Valentines have been done. Kennedys, originated with the team

:05:16.:05:19.

behind the by whatever means necessary' TV thriller 24 executive

:05:19.:05:25.

producer Joel Surnow and writer Steven Kronish. As a family, they

:05:26.:05:27.

probably have the greatest collection of glamour, intellect,

:05:28.:05:36.

charisma, drama, flaws and gifts. It was a canvas on which you

:05:36.:05:45.

couldn't help, I think, but come up with a compelling personal story.

:05:45.:05:54.

Touchdown! What compelled us as storytellers was the idea of a

:05:54.:05:58.

father living out his ambition through his sons. I can't believe

:05:58.:06:05.

you did it. We did it! You think I was going to pay for a landslide? I

:06:05.:06:14.

love you boys. And then we had the dynamics changing from episode to

:06:14.:06:19.

episode, as we won't vote the story. I think his memory is a failing.

:06:19.:06:23.

You have got be as Attorney-General. Because that is what you are going

:06:23.:06:30.

to be. I'm going to Boston. Jack need someone he can trust and

:06:30.:06:35.

I needed to keep an eye on Jack. believe they elected me President.

:06:35.:06:45.
:06:45.:06:46.

Not you. That is very true, some. They did. We decided early on, the

:06:46.:06:53.

foreground of the story was going to be the personal story. And the

:06:53.:07:01.

background was going to be the political story. So the events like

:07:01.:07:04.

the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Election all

:07:04.:07:07.

supported the show. They almost became the plot. President

:07:07.:07:10.

Eisenhower approve this training and the ultimate purpose, the

:07:10.:07:15.

elimination of Fidel Castro. I just questioned whether or not to this

:07:16.:07:23.

would work. Yes, it will, Mr President. Without a direct

:07:23.:07:29.

involvement... The goal was to create the best drama we could make

:07:29.:07:39.
:07:39.:07:45.

Castro's intelligence services must have been tipped off. His men were

:07:45.:07:51.

waiting on the beach. I don't understand. He had a clear view as

:07:51.:07:55.

we approached. It was in the middle of the night. It was the conditions.

:07:55.:08:03.

What? A full moon. There is a record of what was said in the

:08:03.:08:06.

cabinet meetings and in the Oval Office. Jack Kennedy kept a tape

:08:06.:08:15.

system. Nixon was not the first. And so what we used were those

:08:15.:08:19.

records to construct a scene. said that the invasion force would

:08:19.:08:23.

land without resistance. You told me that Castro and the people of

:08:23.:08:26.

Cuba would rise up. You've been wrong about everything so far.

:08:26.:08:29.

support is the only way to stop this from becoming an unmitigated

:08:29.:08:39.
:08:39.:08:41.

disaster. It already is. In scenes where there is no literal record of

:08:41.:08:48.

what was said, we only used, what I would call, historic licence.

:08:48.:08:55.

you're going to be president and things are going to be different.

:08:55.:09:03.

That's probably true. Between us. We know enough about the attitudes

:09:03.:09:06.

of the characters to be able to create something that probably

:09:06.:09:16.
:09:16.:09:17.

comes reasonably close to probably what was said. Our marriage works

:09:17.:09:23.

because I decided several years ago to accept certain things about you.

:09:23.:09:29.

And I have dealt with it. I have had my private humiliations. But I

:09:29.:09:35.

won't have them in front of the American people. You take the facts

:09:35.:09:40.

that you know. The facts that we knew, for instance, were that Jack

:09:40.:09:44.

Kennedy had a tendency to be unfaithful. And that Jack and

:09:44.:09:54.
:09:54.:09:57.

Jackie stayed married. Hi, Toots. Those are two facts that we know.

:09:57.:10:00.

Now, knowing those two things, what conversations would likely happen

:10:00.:10:02.

to support those facts? We know that there were periods where

:10:02.:10:06.

Jackie had to get away. We know that there were periods where she

:10:06.:10:08.

suffered deep depression. We know that there were periods where she

:10:08.:10:11.

drank. That stuff is irrefutable. And so that's what we used to

:10:11.:10:20.

construct these scenes. But the road to Dealey Plaza has not been a

:10:20.:10:23.

smooth one. Even before the miniseries had been cast, it was

:10:23.:10:31.

engulfed in controversy. February 2010, a film maker named

:10:31.:10:34.

Robert Greenwald, who is a well known liberal, reached out to

:10:34.:10:41.

several historians. People who knew the history of the Kennedys. In

:10:41.:10:44.

fact, some who were close to President Kennedy and worked in his

:10:44.:10:46.

administration, because Greenwald, who used to work in the TV film

:10:46.:10:49.

business, had been sent early copies of the Kennedys scripts and

:10:49.:10:57.

was concerned about what he read. Its essential core, it's essential

:10:57.:11:00.

heart, it's essential DNA, says over and over again, sex and power,

:11:00.:11:07.

power and sex. Boy, there must be easier ways to get laid than to

:11:07.:11:10.

become President of the United States. They were very early drafts

:11:10.:11:12.

that this filmmaker Robert Greenwald had received. He objected

:11:12.:11:19.

to it. He put together a YouTube video, and had people like Ted

:11:19.:11:23.

Sorensen, who was the speech writer for JFK, as well as a collection of

:11:23.:11:32.

other historians, basically just trashing the scripts. Every single

:11:32.:11:39.

conversation between the President and the Oval Office, in which I,

:11:39.:11:46.

according to the script, participated, never happened.

:11:46.:11:49.

reached out to five historians including one or two who have been

:11:50.:11:52.

very critical of President Kennedy on a policy basis. But every single

:11:53.:11:55.

one of them responded quickly to say that they would participate and

:11:56.:12:02.

would go on camera because this was in fact a political hack job.

:12:02.:12:06.

you are an historian and you care about the truth, this is very hard

:12:06.:12:09.

stuff to read. And if it's filmed the way it's written it will be

:12:09.:12:14.

just heart-breaking. Greenwald certainly was not just presenting

:12:14.:12:17.

the film as an act of journalism but also an act of advocacy. That

:12:18.:12:23.

he regarded the film as a smear on the Kennedy administration. And was

:12:23.:12:26.

asking people to come to the website, sign an online petition or

:12:26.:12:32.

get involved otherwise to help, as he said, to stop the smears. We had

:12:32.:12:34.

a very high engagement to the Kennedy smears very quickly, and

:12:34.:12:38.

the numerical result was I think that 50,000 people in a week signed

:12:38.:12:43.

a petition. That's a serious amount of people. And that helped to get

:12:43.:12:49.

the History Channel's attention. haven't finished writing the

:12:49.:12:56.

scripts when that happened. We had not even begun to Vetter the script

:12:56.:13:02.

historically, for fine. Accuracy. We were just getting first drafts

:13:02.:13:09.

down, so we could look at it and see if the blueprint was right.

:13:09.:13:10.

channel actually spent several months having established

:13:10.:13:14.

historians review the scripts and review the finished films. And

:13:14.:13:17.

determine whether this was as historically correct as it could be

:13:17.:13:24.

portrayed. There had been compensations of time lines and

:13:24.:13:28.

telescoping of events which still concerned historians that even

:13:28.:13:32.

though this is the kind of thing maybe you see in a film like the

:13:32.:13:37.

King's Speech, the social network, if you look at the History Channel,

:13:37.:13:43.

can you show this mini-series? January of this year, the History

:13:43.:13:46.

Channel in America announced that it would not be showing the series

:13:46.:13:51.

it had invested $30 million in. Now it is being shown on the BBC.

:13:51.:13:56.

they had said the reason they were cancelling this is that this level

:13:56.:14:00.

of historical fiction didn't live up to the brand of the network.

:14:00.:14:03.

That was fiction. That press release was fictional and had

:14:03.:14:08.

nothing to do with it. Historical inaccuracy had zero to do with the

:14:08.:14:18.

cancellation. This statement was The motives behind the decision of

:14:18.:14:24.

the History Channel remain unclear. It is thought the Kennedys precious

:14:24.:14:34.
:14:34.:14:34.

-- pressured the board of the Channel. Joel Surnow out is a proud,

:14:34.:14:38.

right-wing Conservative. He advocates the positions that come

:14:38.:14:42.

with being a right-wing Conservative. Nothing wrong with

:14:42.:14:48.

that. If this had been called Joel Surnow out's view of President

:14:48.:14:53.

Kennedy with would not have seen anything. The idea that a

:14:53.:14:58.

Conservative cannot tell the story of the Kennedys is stupid. It is

:14:58.:15:03.

like Oliver Stone, a pretty known liberal, told the story about

:15:04.:15:12.

Richard Nixon. It is narrow-minded thinking. I have said this before

:15:12.:15:17.

that if Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg produced this mini-series,

:15:17.:15:22.

frame by frame, exactly as it is, it would be showing at the White

:15:22.:15:29.

House and heralded by the Kennedys. It would be trumpeted as a

:15:29.:15:39.
:15:39.:15:43.

reverential, patriotic look at the Here to discuss some of the issues

:15:43.:15:50.

are and McAvoy, Tony Badger, Air leading historian, Sarah Bradford,

:15:50.:15:55.

historian and biographer among others Jackie Kennedy and John

:15:55.:16:01.

Sergeant. Reverential and patriotic says Joel Surnow owl, the producer

:16:01.:16:06.

of the programme but it is a character assassination says the

:16:06.:16:12.

critic. Is it fair or foul? I spent an enjoyable time watching it. I

:16:12.:16:16.

thought it could have been replaced by Dallas and Bobby Ewing could

:16:16.:16:22.

have come on and we could have had Sue Ellen instead of Jackie Ewing.

:16:22.:16:27.

The politics is pushed so much into the background that what you're

:16:27.:16:35.

getting is a family supper of power, last, betrayal. -- saga. There is a

:16:35.:16:40.

problem which is, where is the politics? What makes the Kennedys

:16:40.:16:45.

the great political dynasty as opposed to a family who have a more

:16:45.:16:50.

than usually interesting life? could have gone in much harder.

:16:50.:16:55.

There was criticism that it was besmirching the reputation of the

:16:55.:17:00.

Kennedys. It could have worked with the womanising, the hidden health

:17:00.:17:04.

problems. They could have gone darker. The signs are they were

:17:04.:17:09.

ready to go. They were determined to bring out the sex and horrible

:17:09.:17:13.

things behind the scenes. They had second thoughts and were under

:17:13.:17:23.
:17:23.:17:23.

enormous pressure not to do that. I thought it was an inspired and an

:17:23.:17:27.

inspiring. We do see JFK grapple with the Cuban missile crisis.

:17:27.:17:33.

Politics is not completely absent quite is it? What is absent is what

:17:33.:17:41.

a difficult period Mrs. You have an enormous nuclear arsenal. -- period

:17:41.:17:47.

this is. Can't you show American power? This mild is only 90 miles

:17:47.:17:52.

off the coast. They get to that but they do not build up any sense of

:17:52.:17:57.

what the public mood is in this young President and the feeling of

:17:57.:18:01.

the time and the fact he is endlessly put upon by his father

:18:01.:18:09.

and brother. For people like me, it is so depressing. Joe Kennedy is

:18:09.:18:13.

the puppet master and his boys do his bidding. You have written a

:18:13.:18:18.

series of American lives, is that borne out by the series?

:18:19.:18:23.

Kennedy is powerful and unpleasant. If I do not do it myself, it never

:18:23.:18:28.

gets done. I do not think there is much evidence that, had it not been

:18:28.:18:38.
:18:38.:18:40.

for him, Kennedy might not have a regime won -- ran for office. His

:18:40.:18:46.

father tries to influence him left, right and centre. Sarah Bradford,

:18:46.:18:50.

you have written an acclaimed biography of Jackie Kennedy. What

:18:50.:18:54.

do you think of the portrayal of her and the relationship between

:18:54.:19:02.

her and her husband? Did you find it convincing? No, actually. I felt

:19:02.:19:09.

very sorry for Katie Holmes. Jackie had no need for her, no background

:19:09.:19:16.

to her. She portrayed a suffering and particularly by the

:19:16.:19:23.

infidelities of her husband. What is the answer to the question about

:19:23.:19:29.

why she put up with it? There were two reasons. She really did love

:19:29.:19:34.

him. There was a great deal of money and power involved. She got a

:19:34.:19:41.

kick out of there. She looks good there. Though she look the part?

:19:41.:19:47.

Yes, she looks good. When I looked back to the original Jackie Kennedy,

:19:47.:19:52.

I remembered how absolutely irritating she was. She was a

:19:52.:19:58.

simpering, over bread woman. We know she did go off and are

:19:58.:20:03.

ostensibly look for security in marrying Onassis. She was looking

:20:03.:20:07.

for money and looking for power. She was asking her husband for an

:20:07.:20:12.

expensive piece of jewellery. I'm sure she felt this very deeply.

:20:12.:20:17.

There was no one better at acquisition and Jackie Kennedy.

:20:17.:20:25.

That did come through. We always see her being made up. I think

:20:25.:20:31.

there is an under estimation of Jackie. In a spell? She is

:20:31.:20:40.

extremely intelligent. -- in this film? She was a cultured woman. She

:20:40.:20:46.

had this extraordinary obsession about money. It is perfectly true,

:20:46.:20:52.

she did. This programme is being attacked for being so harsh and

:20:52.:20:55.

critical. In some ways the historical records might have been

:20:55.:21:01.

more damaging than the programme. That is what makes it all so

:21:01.:21:07.

strange. You think, up they ever going to have a real discussion?

:21:07.:21:14.

Are they ever going to discuss the art of politics and presentation?

:21:14.:21:20.

We all know the power they had of manipulation and the power they had

:21:21.:21:26.

of real media skill. That is what made them such a terrific political

:21:26.:21:34.

asset. They did not want to make another West Wing. That is perfect.

:21:34.:21:40.

It reached the very small number of American viewers. That is why they

:21:40.:21:47.

went this way. They did not seem to be exceptional people, did they?

:21:47.:21:54.

do not think they came across as Dahl. The politics is blended so

:21:55.:22:00.

far back that it is distorted. You are just asked to focus on the

:22:00.:22:04.

person. If you take politics and of the drama, you do not get more

:22:04.:22:14.
:22:14.:22:15.

drama, you get less. Perhaps the makers were worried about that.

:22:15.:22:20.

What do you think of the human/political balance? Bobby

:22:20.:22:26.

Kennedy is shown as being a very strong figure. He has this very

:22:26.:22:30.

snarling relationship with the vice-president, Lyndon Johnson. Are

:22:31.:22:35.

they getting that right? certainly hated Johnson and the

:22:35.:22:40.

feeling is mutual. Your tremendous grasp of the obvious is

:22:40.:22:46.

contributing nothing. He was certainly his brother's enforcer.

:22:46.:22:51.

That was his role in government. You should be out there looking for

:22:51.:22:57.

John is exactly what he was doing. What you do not get from him very

:22:57.:23:03.

often is the sense of passion for politics and for issues. Issues are

:23:03.:23:08.

not what he is in this programme at all. Once you have decided it is a

:23:08.:23:16.

family drama, it is a family drama. It is a presidential drama. They

:23:16.:23:23.

are not in love with the Kennedys. Nobody thinks, how wonderful!

:23:23.:23:29.

Bobby shown like that? He is so weak. You seem to have been more

:23:29.:23:35.

taken with him than the rest of us. I thought he came off really badly.

:23:35.:23:41.

Gordon Brand says, he is my hero. Ed Miliband says, he is my

:23:41.:23:48.

favourite politician in history. The idea he could run for President

:23:48.:23:53.

in the last episode, it is about that. Before that, you do not think

:23:53.:23:59.

he could cut it. The answer to the political problem is, we will opt

:23:59.:24:04.

out of this. We're not in love with the Kennedys, why should we be?

:24:04.:24:08.

That is the history we are making at the moment. They are in love

:24:08.:24:14.

with the story, the drama is so wonderful. That is where it works

:24:15.:24:21.

best. You think, there is a story. A brother is the assassinated,

:24:21.:24:28.

elections and it raised issues. The daughter it is lobotomised. --

:24:28.:24:33.

racist issues. They have been raised the central part of it all,

:24:33.:24:39.

which is, why were these characters moving mountains politically? Why

:24:39.:24:45.

were they so exciting? Give us a feel for their power. I think

:24:45.:24:50.

political motive is a big gap was dug we have talked about Jackie

:24:50.:24:58.

Kennedy in the posters. There are other strong women in the stories.

:24:58.:25:03.

There is Rose, the matriarch and the wife of Bobby, Ethel. How do

:25:03.:25:12.

you think they are depicted? Ethel is much too pretty. Also she was

:25:12.:25:22.
:25:22.:25:22.

tough as well. She comes across as sweet and nice. Always ready to

:25:22.:25:28.

produce another baby. Also I thought Rose was OK at times but

:25:28.:25:35.

she was a much more powerful person than she is depicted in this.

:25:35.:25:41.

behaviour is an embarrassment. also thought to be was not made

:25:41.:25:50.

plain that she was a bad mother. She had no relationship with Jack.

:25:50.:25:53.

The parents are the most interesting people in it. I enjoyed

:25:53.:25:59.

those performances. I thought the weird brutality did come through.

:25:59.:26:05.

You say she had no relationship but when she comes to it, she used to

:26:05.:26:10.

smack them with a ruler. There's talk about some of the broader

:26:10.:26:14.

issues this raises a bad dramas like this and the obligation to be

:26:14.:26:20.

faithful to the historical record. There are many averse out there.

:26:20.:26:30.
:26:30.:26:31.

The King's Speech bad or the Oscars. -- many others. There is the story

:26:31.:26:38.

about the creation of Facebook. Or so Margaret Thatcher coming up in

:26:38.:26:45.

the Iron Lady. -- also. Tony Badger, you are a professional historian, a

:26:45.:26:52.

scholar. We heard Stephen talking about hysterical licence whether

:26:52.:27:00.

Renault transcripts or records. -- where there are no transcripts.

:27:00.:27:06.

think you have to recognise that by choosing to make it a family drama,

:27:06.:27:10.

where it focuses on private relationships, there is not going

:27:10.:27:16.

to be a record. Quite a bit is barely plausible. Some they make up.

:27:16.:27:22.

On things like the womanising, the medication, the relationship with

:27:22.:27:26.

Hoover, that is all there. People have written about it for years.

:27:26.:27:31.

The problem is putting it on the History Channel. Americans are more

:27:31.:27:37.

literal than we are. If you say it is historical, the Kennedys are the

:27:37.:27:42.

equivalent to royalty in the American Psyche and imagination,

:27:42.:27:46.

you have -- you are going to have people saying, it is not how

:27:46.:27:51.

history, what are you doing? number of people who are now ready

:27:51.:27:56.

to play Osama Bin Laden and Colonel Gaddafi, there are going to be

:27:56.:28:02.

these films being made. Dr idea, it does not matter, it is the

:28:02.:28:07.

entertainment industry, it is naive. For lots of young people, they

:28:07.:28:13.

cannot take the Kennedy thing in unless it is dramatised. The

:28:13.:28:19.

obligation and the demand is extremely high. This was precisely

:28:19.:28:26.

the theatre. Caroline Kennedy was worried about this drama. She

:28:26.:28:30.

thought these people would not mean anything to the younger generation

:28:30.:28:36.

unless it was acted out. If they concentrate on failings, they were

:28:36.:28:43.

not that good after all, were they? For a Kennedy and anyone on that

:28:43.:28:49.

site of American politics is awful. It is treason. A really serious

:28:49.:28:53.

business. Part of the campaign built up against this is

:28:53.:28:57.

contemporary liberals who think they Kennedy is such an iconic

:28:57.:29:00.

figure that if you take him down, suddenly the standing of the

:29:00.:29:10.
:29:10.:29:11.

It's an over the top of motives for saying he took some painkillers and

:29:11.:29:16.

was unfaithful. I think it's an over-reaction. It certainly exists

:29:16.:29:22.

in America. I can see why the Kennedy's were upset by early draft.

:29:22.:29:27.

It's not about the womanising, the drug taking. It's just given such

:29:27.:29:34.

enormous weight, and, if you read about the biography of Kennedy,

:29:34.:29:38.

most of the material is about womanising and drugs and it takes

:29:38.:29:44.

up about 10 pages of a 900 page biography. The Kennedy is

:29:44.:29:48.

understood that this is how history will be conveyed these days. The

:29:48.:29:52.

History Channel, I don't think, has ever done anything like this before.

:29:52.:29:55.

They were going into new territory and they don't think they

:29:55.:30:05.
:30:05.:30:15.

understood quite what they were letting themselves in for.

:30:15.:30:20.

Now it's time to put the drama of the Kennedy's to one side and to

:30:20.:30:30.
:30:30.:30:41.

consider the realities of the Kennedy years. I was a

:30:41.:30:49.

Correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. I was young, in my

:30:49.:30:56.

middle twenties, an idealist. And here was Kennedy, saying. Ask not

:30:56.:31:01.

what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your

:31:01.:31:11.
:31:11.:31:23.

country. I can remember the Correspondent a 4th Le Monde,

:31:23.:31:29.

cynical Frenchman. He was scornful. He saw this as a frank Capper movie.

:31:29.:31:39.
:31:39.:32:00.

A tree the media loved Kennedy. They would follow him around in

:32:00.:32:07.

this entourage. He had this aura. Music, football, sexual rumour,

:32:07.:32:17.
:32:17.:32:38.

You give us your rationale as to this shift in our defence? We

:32:38.:32:44.

become part of the play. And you lose some of the distance. You lose

:32:44.:32:54.
:32:54.:32:55.

the old idea of the press speaking I believe that this nation should

:32:55.:33:00.

commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of

:33:00.:33:10.
:33:10.:33:27.

landing a man on the moon and The Kennedy was very Catholic in

:33:27.:33:35.

Hollywood, as well as of the arts. So he could have Robert Frost read

:33:35.:33:40.

at the inauguration. He could have Pablo Casals play the cello at the

:33:40.:33:46.

White House. But he also brought in Frank Sinatra. And Marilyn Monroe

:33:46.:33:56.
:33:56.:34:01.

and Angie Dickinson. And then also the criminal element with Judith

:34:01.:34:09.

Exner and God knows who else. The administration had something of the

:34:09.:34:13.

feel of a royal or criminal family, where they were dependent upon each

:34:13.:34:16.

other. And it was the family that mattered. Then around that circle

:34:16.:34:19.

would be the hangers-on and the close friends and the old college

:34:19.:34:22.

pals and the whomever. And then the outer circle would be the beau

:34:22.:34:29.

monde. The celebrity. I only saw Kennedy close once, which was at a

:34:29.:34:33.

party that was being given. A birthday party for his younger

:34:33.:34:37.

brother Teddy. I had the impression of a man who was vulnerable and

:34:37.:34:42.

subject to all kinds of influences. Flatterers, camp followers, picking

:34:42.:34:47.

at him. Toward the end of the evening, I had the impression of a

:34:47.:34:57.
:34:57.:35:13.

Mrs Kennedy, I want to thank you for letting his visit your official

:35:13.:35:23.
:35:23.:35:27.

home. Thanks, Mr President, for all the things you've done. The battles

:35:27.:35:30.

that you've won. The way you deal with US Steel. And problems by the

:35:30.:35:33.

ton. Thank you so much. 14 February 1962. Jackie Kennedy invites CBS

:35:33.:35:36.

Television into the White House to show off the restoration work that

:35:36.:35:39.

she has overseen. The hour-long programme is watched by 56 million

:35:39.:35:42.

viewers. Mrs Kennedy, I want to thank you for letting us visit your

:35:42.:35:45.

official home. This is obviously the room from which much of your

:35:45.:35:49.

work on it is directed? Yes, it's attic and cellar all in one. Jackie

:35:49.:35:52.

is the perfect princess and she played the part beautifully. I mean,

:35:52.:35:55.

she had a little baby girl voice and she moved well. And she knew

:35:55.:35:58.

the names of French impressionist painters as well as names of

:35:58.:36:01.

American great presidents. I rather love this hall. It has all the

:36:01.:36:04.

colours one thinks of when one thinks of the White House. Red and

:36:04.:36:07.

white and blue and gold. She could tell the difference between good

:36:07.:36:10.

silver and cheap silver. It is gold. I wanted a very simple design so

:36:10.:36:13.

that the china and silver and glass would show up. It's a lesson in

:36:13.:36:23.

manners that she's teaching the 22nd October 1962. Presidential

:36:23.:36:30.

broadcast on the Cuban Missile Within the past week, unmistakable

:36:30.:36:33.

evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile

:36:33.:36:39.

sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of

:36:39.:36:42.

these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike

:36:42.:36:52.
:36:52.:36:53.

capability against the Western Hemisphere. To halt this offensive

:36:53.:36:55.

build-up, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment

:36:55.:36:58.

under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind

:36:58.:37:02.

bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain

:37:02.:37:05.

cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. It shall be the policy

:37:05.:37:07.

of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba

:37:07.:37:10.

against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the

:37:10.:37:13.

Soviet Union on the United States. Requiring a full retaliatory

:37:13.:37:19.

16th December 1962. Two months after the Cuban Missile Crisis,

:37:19.:37:23.

President Kennedy records a TV interview in the Oval Office.

:37:23.:37:26.

Announcer: After two years, a conversation with the President of

:37:26.:37:29.

the United States. As you look back, has your

:37:29.:37:33.

experience matched your expectations? I would say that the

:37:33.:37:38.

problems are more difficult than I imagined them to be. The

:37:38.:37:41.

responsibilities of the United States are greater than I imagined

:37:41.:37:45.

them to be. And there are greater limitations on our abilities to

:37:45.:37:49.

bring about a favourable result than I imagined there to be.

:37:49.:37:54.

He is saying things are much harder than he had supposed. Much more

:37:54.:37:58.

intractable than he supposed. But on the other hand, the decision

:37:58.:38:08.
:38:08.:38:13.

gets left to him. The easy decisions get made at a lower level.

:38:13.:38:16.

My favourite line was that, "It's one thing to make a speech and

:38:16.:38:19.

another thing to make a judgement." It's much easier to make the

:38:19.:38:22.

speeches than it is to finally make the judgments. Because

:38:22.:38:24.

unfortunately your advisers are frequently divided. If you take the

:38:24.:38:27.

wrong course, and on occasion I have, the President bears the

:38:27.:38:30.

burden of responsibility quite rightly. The advisers may move on

:38:30.:38:40.
:38:40.:38:42.

As Governor of the state of Alabama, I for bird this unwarranted action

:38:42.:38:52.

by the central government. -- I for bid. He comes to the office in 1961

:38:52.:38:58.

without much to say about black civil rights in United States. He

:38:58.:39:08.

is then presented over the next the necessity to send troops to get a

:39:08.:39:11.

student in to university in Mississippi. More federal troops to

:39:11.:39:18.

back down the insurrection of the Governor of Alabama. The heart of

:39:18.:39:22.

the question is, whether all Americans are to be afforded equal

:39:22.:39:31.

rights and equal opportunities. he reacts to events. He moves

:39:31.:39:37.

towards civil rights legislation. If an American, because his skin is

:39:37.:39:42.

dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if

:39:42.:39:47.

he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he

:39:47.:39:52.

cannot vote for the public officials to represent him, then

:39:52.:39:55.

who amongst us would be content to have the colour of his skin

:39:55.:40:04.

changed? It doesn't get past but Kennedy does respond. He

:40:04.:40:14.
:40:14.:40:23.

understands that the racial In the 1990, your sons, daughters,

:40:23.:40:28.

grandson's and grandchildren will be applying to the colleges in this

:40:28.:40:34.

state in a number three times what we do today. Our airports will

:40:34.:40:38.

serve it five times as many passengers. There is a sense he is

:40:38.:40:44.

looking forward to his second term. He was growing in office. He was

:40:44.:40:50.

gaining confidence. That sense he hadn't been defeated. He wasn't

:40:50.:40:58.

checking out. He entered office as a boy, and, had he been allowed to

:40:59.:41:04.

serve his two terms, he might have finished as a man. Euro old man

:41:04.:41:08.

should dream dreams. You're young men it should see visions, the

:41:08.:41:16.

Bible tells us, and where there is no vision, the people perish.

:41:16.:41:19.

President Kennedy in Histon last night, alive and vibrant, looking

:41:19.:41:29.
:41:29.:41:44.

At night before we would go to sleep, Jack like to play some

:41:44.:41:48.

records and the song he loved the most came at the very end of the

:41:48.:41:53.

record. The lines he loved to hear where, don't let it be forgotten

:41:53.:42:00.

that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known

:42:00.:42:06.

as Camelot. There will be great presidents again but there will

:42:06.:42:13.

never be another Camelot. transformed the notion of the

:42:13.:42:22.

presidency. Presidency suddenly became the man on the White Horse

:42:22.:42:27.

or the Redeemer. You see the same sort of thing with both Ronald

:42:27.:42:30.

Reagan and Bill Clinton and now Barack Obama. It is the image they

:42:30.:42:38.

have to present, the blank state on which the voters are free to

:42:38.:42:48.
:42:48.:42:56.

Those are the recollections. We have 1,000 days by which to judge

:42:56.:43:01.

President Kennedy and his presidency. It's not enough, but

:43:01.:43:07.

that's all we have got. How do we draw up a lead of what he achieved?

:43:07.:43:12.

First of all, you have to acknowledge is the cold war

:43:12.:43:14.

President and he confronted one of the most dangerous crisis in the

:43:14.:43:19.

cold war, the one which brought us closest to nuclear annihilation.

:43:19.:43:25.

And yet he also start the process with the Test mandate treaty.

:43:25.:43:29.

Cuban missile crisis, and the handling of it, it's almost over

:43:29.:43:35.

everything else, saving the world. Is that good enough, to say,

:43:35.:43:38.

whatever else is true, it was a successful presidency simply

:43:38.:43:48.
:43:48.:43:51.

He was very lucky in the missile crisis. But McNamara remembers, we

:43:51.:43:59.

were one of the best generation in American politics, we handled it as

:43:59.:44:03.

best as we could in yet reap almost blew the World Cup. They were so

:44:03.:44:10.

many things they did not know. -- World Cup. They did not know the

:44:10.:44:15.

Russians had tactical nuclear weapons. They did not know there

:44:15.:44:21.

were submarines going and a keeper who might have fired even after the

:44:21.:44:30.

settlement of the crisis. -- going under Cuba. They raise eight

:44:30.:44:37.

domestic agenda and issues which come up one after another. -- there

:44:37.:44:43.

is a domestic agenda. His two books tell us there was a Democratic

:44:43.:44:49.

Congress. -- history books. It was not all that its move because of

:44:50.:44:57.

the kind of democrats there were running Congress. He had a narrow

:44:57.:45:03.

victory. There were no coat tails effect for ordinary congressman. It

:45:03.:45:10.

was particularly true of southern Democrats. They had control of

:45:10.:45:20.

Congress in being a blocking force since 1978. Let's not forget they

:45:20.:45:26.

really were racist. These other Dixie cats. His Democrat party had

:45:26.:45:32.

all his power in the south but they did not agree with him. That is

:45:32.:45:36.

where LBJ came in as the running mate. There's always a problem,

:45:36.:45:42.

what should I do with nutters in the south? There was apartheid in

:45:42.:45:49.

the south. Was it really as bad as that? It was so. How should we view

:45:49.:45:55.

Kennedy? Was a leader to challenge the racist Setup or a follow-up?

:45:55.:46:02.

he became a leader but he was a follower most of the time. He was

:46:02.:46:08.

worried about being outflanked by the Republicans - liberal

:46:08.:46:15.

Republicans from the north-east. They existed in those days. At the

:46:15.:46:19.

end of the day, these white southerners are not going to be

:46:19.:46:27.

reasonable. They are not going to be moderate. There is a decent

:46:27.:46:31.

record. My guess is that people who were watching this President were

:46:31.:46:36.

not making calculations based on these sorts of the achievements on

:46:36.:46:42.

the ledger. There was something big about Kennedy. One reason I left

:46:42.:46:49.

England at that time was adult it was incredibly boring and static. -

:46:49.:46:57.

- was that it was incredibly boring. With Kennedy it was different.

:46:57.:47:02.

it the glamour thing? British politics did not look anything like

:47:02.:47:12.
:47:12.:47:13.

that, did it? Absolutely not. I went to Paris and Jackie was a

:47:13.:47:21.

stunning success. She suddenly became the star, the celebrity. I

:47:21.:47:26.

think people over here began to think, why can't ours be more like

:47:26.:47:33.

that? You were there in that period, a young student at the time. Yes, a

:47:33.:47:38.

gap year students. It has all the excitement that was generated by

:47:39.:47:44.

the Kennedys. It was palpable. I remember going to an Independence

:47:44.:47:49.

Day party at the Washington memorials. Word was coming round

:47:49.:47:54.

that the President was coming along. You cannot imagine the excitement.

:47:54.:47:59.

David Cameron going to Hyde Park is not the same. Everyone was gripped

:47:59.:48:05.

by the thought he might be amongst us, turned out he was not. That is

:48:05.:48:11.

what made him so bizarre. Was this to do with the glamour or the big

:48:11.:48:18.

foreign policy achievements? Cuban missile crisis had frightened

:48:18.:48:23.

us. That was quite important. Remember his tremendous skill with

:48:23.:48:29.

the media. When you have a young family in the White House for the

:48:29.:48:35.

first time and you play it, you see these interviews with him, it looks

:48:35.:48:40.

good, doesn't it? The key thing is and where he has got the television

:48:40.:48:45.

trick completely right is that he is not talking down. He is asked

:48:45.:48:50.

the question and he replies to the question as if, we would all see it

:48:50.:48:56.

this way, wouldn't we? We were born after the death of Kennedy. Does

:48:56.:49:01.

this still resonate for you? When you hear the speech, ask not what

:49:01.:49:07.

your country can do? I hear the voice of almost every one of the

:49:07.:49:13.

leader coming out of it. He is the playbook for how to communicate.

:49:13.:49:18.

That eye-level communication, you cannot listen to a Tony Blair

:49:18.:49:24.

speech. The Age of achievement and what he wanted to do. Getting hold

:49:24.:49:29.

of the future, that theme was there from Kennedy. They have to look

:49:29.:49:34.

after you but you must not look down on them. You see it in Barack

:49:34.:49:41.

Obama as well. You see Gordon Brown desperately trying to do it.

:49:41.:49:45.

ought to be simple but it is not. I have often asked a politician to

:49:45.:49:51.

walk in front of a camera and you will be amazed how few of our MPs

:49:51.:49:54.

can walk in a convincing way. What is striking that all these things

:49:54.:50:01.

we take for granted, the way a President, to be powerful, must

:50:01.:50:07.

have television power. He is not on his own in the media. Jackie is a

:50:07.:50:14.

dead at television. The sort of talk of the White House. -- the

:50:14.:50:21.

debt. How active was Jackie in the Kennedy household relationship?

:50:21.:50:25.

think she certainly had this vision of the presidency from the social

:50:26.:50:30.

celebrity point of view. The house of the sun came Cup making the

:50:30.:50:40.
:50:40.:50:41.

White House aide dingy old place but was run by Eisenhower into one

:50:41.:50:47.

of the most glamourous places. it her idea to bring in poets and

:50:47.:50:55.

musicians? Absolutely. It was no good doing this behind closed doors,

:50:55.:51:01.

you have to project it, inviting the cameras in. Also particularly

:51:01.:51:07.

Life magazine. She had a canny use of that. What is strange about it

:51:08.:51:13.

is she could be a very private person. She did look down on

:51:13.:51:19.

journalists, unlike Jack. It was a major part of her role. Camelot is

:51:19.:51:27.

a really odd idea. It was not a really happy place. What it does

:51:27.:51:32.

have his mystique and poetic mystique. It is more enshrined

:51:32.:51:37.

after his death because it has gone. It has gone and can never be

:51:37.:51:42.

regained and you wanted more. talk about the assassination. It is

:51:42.:51:48.

central to the Kennedy mythology it. Let's imagine ourselves in 1963, he

:51:48.:51:54.

is still alive. He seemed to be looking ahead to his second term.

:51:54.:51:59.

How likely was that he would be re- elected? Where their high hopes

:51:59.:52:05.

alert his election in 1960? He was certain he was going to get elected

:52:05.:52:15.
:52:15.:52:21.

in 60 full. He thought he was going to fight gold water. -- in 1964.

:52:21.:52:26.

did become the Republican standard- bearer. It was going to be a

:52:26.:52:30.

genuine battle of ideas. Kennedy was confident he would win and I

:52:30.:52:37.

think he would have done. The unanswered question, did the

:52:37.:52:41.

Kennedy administration lead to Vietnam or was there a way out that

:52:41.:52:46.

Kennedy would have taken? The counterfactual, because of the

:52:46.:52:50.

lessons he had learned from the Bay of Pigs, and his distrust of some

:52:50.:52:56.

military advisers, might have taken, in the long run, once elected,

:52:56.:53:00.

might have been prepared to take the United States at the Vietnam?

:53:01.:53:08.

But it is his men who have advised Johnson to go into Vietnam. Bobby

:53:08.:53:11.

Kennedy and Ted Kennedy are late in the day in deciding that the war

:53:12.:53:17.

was something they would be against. Popular culture blames Lyndon

:53:17.:53:23.

Johnson for Vietnam. Actually it begins in earnest under Kennedy. If

:53:23.:53:31.

he wanted to stop that much into war, he could have stopped it.

:53:31.:53:35.

you are sensing his unfinished business. An unfulfilled promise.

:53:35.:53:41.

In terms of the great Kennedy myth, very powerful stuff. To have him

:53:42.:53:47.

cut off as a young man, so he never grows old and never has the

:53:47.:53:52.

discipline and of a second term, that gives it a great, powerful

:53:52.:53:57.

drama. There are no images of him as an old man. It is not, here he

:53:57.:54:04.

goes again. Nothing is done for a second time. Tell us about the

:54:04.:54:09.

conduct of Jackie stayed after the assassination. It is famous that

:54:09.:54:13.

she wears the blood stained dress so that people will know what they

:54:13.:54:20.

have done. I think she meant right- wing Southerners at that time.

:54:20.:54:24.

is tempting to be slightly cynical about her conduct, thinking she was

:54:24.:54:29.

even doing her media management then in the days after the

:54:29.:54:33.

assassination. Particularly the funeral. She choreographs the

:54:33.:54:39.

extraordinary funeral. She said, it is all in the guidebook. She meant

:54:39.:54:44.

the White House guidebook, which described the funeral of Abraham

:54:44.:54:48.

Lincoln. There they had the Template and off they went. She

:54:48.:54:54.

seemed to follow up every detail, even down to making Littlejohn

:54:54.:54:59.

salutes his father. Which is the most poignant image of the funeral

:54:59.:55:02.

- the three-year-old saluting his father. The death had just happened

:55:02.:55:10.

and she is able to think about the image-making. She talks to jealous

:55:10.:55:15.

of Life magazine. Straight after the funeral, they were cut the

:55:15.:55:20.

language together, it is Camelot. She made sure that is the image

:55:20.:55:26.

that the Kurds in that article. What has been the effect of the

:55:26.:55:34.

Camelot? In one word, mythology. It claims the past as well as the

:55:34.:55:39.

present he lived in. That is what gives him universality as a

:55:39.:55:45.

political figure. What can you say that his beget in the imagination

:55:45.:55:53.

than Camelot? -- bigger. That is the dream, that is the legacy. It

:55:53.:55:59.

is stronger than anything he could have delivered had he lived. What

:55:59.:56:06.

is the narrative? What is the story? How can we understand it?

:56:06.:56:11.

For the Kennedys it is important to get an agreement with the end and

:56:11.:56:17.

then preserve it. We know he was a womaniser and he was corrupt and he

:56:17.:56:23.

was really in the pocket of the Mafia. You want to preserve this

:56:23.:56:28.

idea that this is one of the great presidencies. It is the case that

:56:28.:56:35.

if another cousin, a quite obscure nephew all great nephew, if they

:56:35.:56:41.

were related to Kennedy, there would be huge interest. Journalists

:56:41.:56:48.

are lazy. If they can repeat a story, they love it. Everybody

:56:48.:56:54.

knows how to write a Kennedy story. Will it have a tragic end? Might

:56:54.:56:59.

they be assassinated? It is so much part of what people know about

:56:59.:57:07.

politics - American politics. if it does not live on, it is in

:57:07.:57:12.

the minds of all politicians in the back of their minds. They all have

:57:12.:57:16.

an inner Kennedy they think they can find. Some of them do it and

:57:16.:57:25.

some of them do not. There is only one JFK. They cannot stop talking

:57:25.:57:32.

about him. It is part of mythology that it is unobtainable. In the

:57:32.:57:38.

2008 campaign, the comparison that was made was with JFK and not with

:57:38.:57:43.

Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson, who had these big legislative records,

:57:43.:57:51.

what is that? It is about a new generation. Clinton lived in the

:57:51.:57:56.

shadow of FDR. That is the person you needed to emulate. It has been

:57:56.:58:03.

terribly difficult. One of the reasons why Kennedy is such a sort

:58:03.:58:08.

of yearning for Kennedy among Democrats is they have not actually

:58:08.:58:11.

controlled the White House and controlled Congress and had a

:58:11.:58:16.

substantial record since Lyndon Johnson. Johnson is tarnished

:58:16.:58:21.

because of the war. The last one you can look back to his real

:58:21.:58:27.

confidence like, this is the way democrats ought to do it, was John

:58:27.:58:35.

Kennedy. Thank you all. That is all we have time for. Thank you and

:58:35.:58:42.

goodbye. The world is very different now. Nothing has happened

:58:42.:58:49.

In the 50th anniversary year of the inauguration of John F Kennedy as President of the United States, Jonathan Freedland chairs a discussion on our enduring fascination with the man, his short-lived administration and the extraordinary political family from which he came.

Historian Professor Tony Badger, veteran newsman John Sergeant, political commentator Anne McElvoy and Sarah Bradford, biographer of Jackie Kennedy, debate the myths and the realities of JFK as well as the controversies surrounding the American mini-series The Kennedys.

In an accompanying short film, Joel Surnow, executive producer of The Kennedys, talks about the making the mini-series and the controversy that engulfed it.