Tuesday, October 30, 2012



JFK+50 received a copy in the mail today of "Listening In:  The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy."

The book, with accompanying CDs, includes the text of transcripts from JFK's recordings selected & introduced by Ted Widmer.

JFK+50 will include selections from the book in posts in the coming days.

Today we will look at Mr. Widmer's Introduction.

While JFK was not the 1st President to install recording equipment in the White House, Mr. Widmer writes:

"Kennedy's new initiative was on a vastly different scale."

He identifies Robert Bouck as the agent JFK directed to install the audio recording system which was known to a very few including the President's personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln & probably Bobby Kennedy.

Bouck installed one microphone in the kneehole of JFK's famous Resolute Desk & another on the coffee table in front of his equally famous Boston rocker.

These microphones were activated by pushing a "buzzer" type button located on the desk or at the coffee table.

More microphones were placed in the Cabinet Room along with a button to activate at the table.

As explained in an earlier posting on JFK+50, a Tandberg reel to reel tape recorder located in the basement was used to record the sounds picked up by the microphones.

But that wasn't all....JFK had a separate recording system set up to record his telephone conversations.

As to the reason for the installation of the recording systems, Agent Bouck wrote later...

"the tensions were kind of great during that period, & I think initially his concern was to record understandings that might have been had in those relations."

And Mrs. Lincoln expressed the view that the Bay of Pigs was the reason for the installation of the recording systems.

She also said that,to her knowledge, while JFK never listened to the tapes, she believed his sense of the importance of history was another reason he had the recording systems put in.

Mr. Widmer believes that these audio recordings represent "the closest to an autobiography we will ever get."  He writes at the conclusion of his introduction:

"Now, thanks to these tapes, readers can move past the myth, & judge the essence of a presidency for themselves."*

*The taping system was removed by Agent Bouck "immediately after the assassination" & the recording tapes finally ended up in the vaults of the JFK Library in Boston.

The existence of the tapes was not made public until 1973.