Another side of Jacqueline Kennedy
Like any powerful family, the Kennedys had complicated relationships with those who shared their lives at the top. They valued loyalty, vision and ingenuity. They hated dullness, indecision and self-promotion, even among their own.
Jacqueline Kennedy dismissed the idea that the eldest Kennedy son, Joseph Jr., would have been president had he not been killed in World War II. "He would have been so unimaginative, compared to Jack," she said.
She contrasted the integrity of Robert F. Kennedy, the president's brother and attorney general, with the designs of sister-in-law Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Robert Kennedy had begged JFK not to appoint him, fearing charges of nepotism. Eunice Kennedy, meanwhile, was eager to see her husband, Sargent Shriver, named head of the department of Health, Education and Welfare.
"Eunice was pestering Jack to death to make Sargent head of HEW because she wanted to be a cabinet wife," Jacqueline Kennedy tells Schlesinger. "You know, it shows you some people are ambitious for themselves and Bobby wasn't."
Politics means doing business with people you otherwise avoid and Jacqueline Kennedy logged in many hours. She endured dining with journalists and members of Congress who had criticized her husband.
She called Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg "brilliant" but added that "he talks more about himself than any man I've ever met in my life." White House speechwriter Theodore Sorensen had a "big inferiority complex" and was "the last person you would invite at night."
She referred to France's Charles de Gaulle, whom she had famously charmed on a visit to Paris, as "that egomaniac" and "that spiteful man." Indira Gandhi, the future prime minister of India, was a "prune - bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman."
She was especially hard on Lyndon Johnson, who had competed bitterly with her husband for the presidency in 1960 and became vice president through the kind of hard calculation for which the Kennedys became known: Johnson was from Texas and the Democrats needed a Southerner to balance the ticket.
Once in office, Johnson's imposing personal style and reluctance to speak up during cabinet meetings alienated the Kennedys.
They mocked his accent and his manners, while he resented the Kennedys and other "Harvards" he believed looked down on him. Many top aides left soon after Kennedy was assassinated. Robert Kennedy became a public critic of Johnson's presidency and challenged him for the nomination in 1968.
"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.
Historians have described President Kennedy as unemotional and undemonstrative. But his widow recalls him lying on the floor with the kids, watching the late fitness instructor Jack LaLanne on television. They would follow LaLanne's moves and at times the president's toes would touch with his son's. JFK "loved those children tumbling around him in this sort of - sensual is the only way I can think of it."
Her closest moments with her husband came during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union seemed on the verge of nuclear war. She would lie down with him when he took a nap and walk with him, the two saying little, on the White House lawn.
Some officials had sent their wives away, but the first lady resisted. If the bombs fell, she wanted them to be together.
"If anything happens, we're all going to stay right here with you," she remembers telling her husband. "Even if there's not room in the bomb shelter in the White House. ... I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too - than live without you."
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