Three Days After Announcing He Would Run, JFK & Jackie Met With Writer-Friends


Newsweek's James A. Cannon: Why did you get started in politics? Why were you ever interested in it?



 JFK: In the 30s, when I was home from school, the conversation was always about politics. Want a cigar?

Cannon: It's all right. Talk loud.

JFK: Not in the sense of sort of being emotionally stirred about great issues, but really, just about the whole interest of my father was (unclear) in politics, in the Roosevelt administration...

JFK (to Jacqueline Kennedy and Tony Bradlee): You might want to go to sit in the other room...

Ben Bradlee: No, no, no.

JFK: They don't want to listen to this.

Ben Bradlee:
They do!

Tony Bradlee:
We do, Jack! We love it, Jack!

JFK:
Tony doesn't and I don't. Jackie doesn't.

T. Bradlee:
Yes, I do, Jack! I'm so interested...if it makes you uncomfortable, we won't.....

Ben Bradlee:
It's going to be all stilted unless we can have some of that.

Jacqueline Kennedy
: Ben said we should interrupt and I should show my views and a grasp of the issues.



Jackie KennedyBen Bradlee: And provoke, is that not right?

Cannon: Absolutely.

Ben Bradlee: Then when was the moment that you absolutely were bitten with it?

JFK: Once I started, I worked damn hard, and I did the same thing in '52 as I am now doing, which may not be successful nationally. start early, Try to get the support of nonprofessionals., in a sense, who are much more ready to commit themselves early, and then it's just long, long, long labor. Early...

Cannon: Why do you do it now? Why do you go to all this effort? Obviously you're a well-to-do guy who could live off the fat of the land. Why do you go in for politics?

JFK: I think the rewards are, first, infinite.

Cannon: What are they?

JFK: Well, look now, if you went to law school, and I'd gotten out, which I was going to do (unclear) and then I go and become a member of a big firm, and I'm dealing with some dead, deceased man's estate or I'm perhaps fighting in a divorce case, even a case of one kind or another, or some fellow got in an accident, can you compare that, or let's say more serious work, when you're participating in a case against the DuPont Company in a general antitrust case. which takes two or three years, can you tell me that that compares interest with being a member of Congress in trying to write a labor bill, or trying to make a speech on foreign policy? I just think that there's no comparison.



T. Bradlee: Can I ask you a question?
JFK: Sure.
T. Bradlee: Is being the president the ultimate of everybody that goes into politics?
JFK: In the sense of being head of whatever organization you're in politics evolved really after you got into it. Is that correct?

Cannon: What you are suggesting is that your interest in politics evolved really after you got into it? Is that correct?

JFK: well, no...well,that's partially correct. It wasn't overwhelming. I didn't participate in political activities in college...I hadn't even considered myself, because I'm not a political type...I think it's hard work. My grandfather, John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, was a natural political type. Loved to go out to a dinner. Loved to get up and sing with the crowds. Loved to go down and take the train up and talked to 18 people on the train.

Cannon: What makes you different?

JFK: I'd rather read a book on a plane than talk to the fellow next to me, and my grandfather wanted to talk to everybody else. I'd rather not go out for dinner.

T.Bradlee: You look as though you enjoy it. Which helps.

Ben Bradlee; But Jack, that whole projection that comes with modern times.

JFK: I think I just happen to fit now. I mean, I think people don't like this.

Jacqueline Kennedy: I think that's 19th century politician, don't you?" Like your grandfather, that you people are suspicious of?

Ben Bradlee: Now the politics have to be constantly on the air.

JFK...I have a particular type of personality which, I don't look like a politician. And all the rest, which helps me. Everybody isn't an extrovert in politics. I would say that a lot of the Senate certainly are not extroverts...

Ben Bradlee: But Jack, I mean, you are! No?
JFK: No, I don't think I am, actually.
B. Braedle: But you like it. and you live on it.
JFK: All these things may be true. Listen, I'm just saying what I would be doing, you know I don't go out to dinner.

Ben Bradlee:; I know, I'm not trying to provoke you.
JFK: I understand. I'd be delighted if I had Hubert Humphrey's disposition. He thrives on this. He loves to go out and campaign for five days. It's a lot of work. I just don't think you have to have that type of personality to be successful today in politics.

I think you have to be able to communicate a sense of conviction and intelligence and rather, some integrity. That's what you have to be able to do. This hail-fellow is passe in many ways. Those three qualities are really it. Now, I think That some people can do that. I think I do that well. I mean, I've been really successful , politically. I think I can do that. But it isn't anything to do with being able to go out and just love it.

Cannon: Does it ever concern you that you have lost your sense of privacy? You obviously can't have...since everybody knows you now.

JFK: That's the real pleasure about Jamaica in a way. You really can't go any place particularly without...but I don't mind. I think that's part of runnning, so I'm delighted really, I used to walk down the streets in '45 and nobody knew me. Now that's l5 years of efforts has gone into getting known. I mean, it isn't pleasant for the person, but as an investment of energy it represents some....

Cannon: What's your reaction when someone comes up and says, "I saw you on television"?

JFK: "They come from Massachusetts? (Laughter.) It's all right. I don't mind. I'm asking their support, so, you know...

Cannon: Do you take any special efforts to maintain a sense of privacy? Do you have a private phone? Unlisted?

JFK: I do.But everybody seems to have it.

B. Bradlee; I just would like two minutes on the magic of politics (laughter) ...Somebody must have said that to you. "You can be....."
never mind president, but you can go so high.It's an adrenalin on a man.

JFK: I agree. It's stimulating. Because you're dealing with...Life is a struggle and you're struggling in a tremendous sort of arena. It's like playing Yale every Saturday in a sense.

B. Bradlee: But the drama of it.

JFK: How could it be more interesting than this sort of checkerboard chess struggle of the next seven months?