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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Vice President

Jacqueline Kennedy: JFK's doubts on LBJ, Vietnam and hers on MLK


John F. Kennedy's brief presidency, ended with an assassin's bullet in November 1963, still has an enormous influence on many today, not just for its actual policies and actions but also for the notion of "Camelot," a mythologized, golden moment in American politics full of hope, promise and high style.

And no one knew Camelot better than First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (later Onassis).

Monday at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific time, ABC News airs "Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words," a two-hour special reported by Diane Sawyer that focuses on audio interviews Kennedy recorded with her husband's longtime aide, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., in early 1964.

By her request, the recordings were kept under seal until after her death in 1994, but the Kennedy Library in Boston has held them back until this month.

Along with the TV special, the audio and transcripts of the interviews are being released in book form this week as "Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy."

According to some reports the tapes were not to be released until 50 years after the former first lady's death. But daughter Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, the last surviving child of John F. Kennedy and the de facto protector of the family legacy who had her own brief unsuccessful flirtation with politics, decided to release them early.

ABC News disputed reports of sordid sexual content in the recordings, but they do reveal candid insights into Jackie Kennedy's feelings and recollections about Lyndon Johnson, the Vietnam War and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Says Kennedy, "Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, 'Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to this country if Lyndon were president?' "

Reportedly, Kennedy believed her husband was skeptical of success in Vietnam.

On his appointing Republican Henry Cabot Lodge as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, she says, "I think he probably did it ... rather thinking it might be such a brilliant thing to do because Vietnam was rather hopeless anyway, and put a Republican there."

Believing FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's report that his agency's wiretaps revealed King tried to arrange a sex party while in the nation's capital for the historic March on Washington in August 1963, Kennedy says, "I just can't see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man's terrible."
Those original surveillance tapes of King remain sealed by court order until 2027.

According to ABC News, Kennedy also recalls a scene in which historian David Donald in 1962 spoke to JFK and some of his friends and aides about Abraham Lincoln's presidency.

Kennedy reports her husband's reaction, saying, " 'Do you think' -- it's the one thing that was on his mind -- 'would Lincoln have been as great a president if he'd lived?' And Donald, really by going round and round, had agreed with him that Lincoln, you know, it was better -- was better for Lincoln that he died when he did."


Congress expands Fast and Furious probe to White House

NASA still trying to sell that story about U.S. astronauts walking on the moon

Not that it matters to interractial couples, but Americans near unanimity in approval

-- Kate O'Hare

Media critic Kate O’Hare is a regular Ticket contributor. She also blogs about TV at Hot Cuppa TV and is a frequent contributor at entertainment news site Zap2it. Also follow O'Hare on Twitter @KateOH.

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Photo: ABC News' Diane Sawyer with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. Credit: Ida Mae Astute / ABC News

Joe Biden: Deep in thought or nodding off? We report, you decide

Joe Biden resting his eyes or is he sleeping Vice President Joe Biden was given another big job by President Obama on Wednesday and the burden may have driven Obama's go-to guy into a moment of sleep or, at least, contemplation.

Biden, who has more than a nodding acquaintance with deficits, debts and federal budget woes, was caught apparently deep in thought or catching a few winks while Obama outlined his plan for dealing with the deficit. The video was posted on The Note, a political blog run by ABC News.

In his speech, the president explained that Biden would begin meeting with lawmakers from both parties next month with a goal of trying to work out a bipartisan deficit reduction plan.

The legislators will be chosen by the congressional leaders and they will seek some common ground between the widely different visions in the proposed GOP plan and the president's latest ideas.

Biden served in this role before on both domestic and foreign issues. He was one of those who recently helped negotiate the current compromise on this year's spending plan.

-- Michael Muskal

Photo: Screen shot from video off ABC News of Vice President Joe Biden with his eyes closed, apparently sleeping. Credit: ABC News

Who knew we needed a $1 Andrew Johnson coin?

Andrew Johnson Dollar Coin 2-11 Finally, a one dollar coin honoring Andrew Johnson, one of the most overlooked U.S. presidents ever.

OK, maybe James Garfield's six months in office were more forgettable. Or Warren Harding, the first sitting senator to move down to the White House.

Until this minute, millions of Americans had no idea we needed an Andrew Johnson presidential one-dollar coin, which came out just this week.

"Beginning today," the U.S. Mint's Daniel Shaver said Thursday, "millions of Andrew Johnson Presidential $1 Coins will be released into circulation by Federal Reserve Banks across the Nation. During 2011, they will make their way into the hands and pockets of many Americans, connecting America through coins to Andrew Johnson and his Presidency."

Also countless dresser drawers.

Though popular perhaps with the vending machine industry, one dollar coins aren't seen as often as, say, quarters. But there's a reason the Mint churns them out: It can sell collectors a....

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Democracy 'benefits greatly from having Keith Olbermann’s voice heard,' Al Gore declares

Former newspaper reporter Al Gore did not invent journalism. Or democracy. Or TV, for that matter.

But he finally got his no-name cable channel mentioned prominently in other media Tuesday with the announcement that political provocateur Keith Olbermann would launch a prime-time show there late this spring.

Olbermann, obviously reeling from Rupert Murdoch's rejection of hiring him again at Fox, has agreed to appear on and help manage Gore's channel.Keith Olbermann and Al Gore now TV partners

We've all heard of CEO's and CFO's. Well, Keith will be CNO of Gore's channel, meaning chief news officer, whatever that means.

In a conference call with reporters Gore said that in addition to his own hour-long show of the usual leftist rants, Olbermann will help develop other shows and provide his editorial guidance to someone there.

The newly-not-quite-fired-but-sort-of-dismissed MSNBC commentator will also receive an equity stake in the channel, whose Current average national evening audience wouldn't fill half an NFL stadium.

Slipping back into VP-speak, Gore said, "I find myself in susbstantial agreement with the views I've heard Keith Olbermann express." Translation: We think alike.

So KO seems unlikely to incur any censorship problems that he says he did not have at MSNBC. There, thanks to President George W. Bush, Keith helped revive its ratings from nowhere to somewhere, albeit a distant county from Fox News Channel.

Gore noted, somewhat defensively, that his channel is now available in more homes than MSNBC was in 2003. Key word there = "available." Our colleague Scott Collins reports here on MSNBC immediately disputing those numbers, perhaps an indication of the global warming competition ahead.

The Gore-Olbermann combo makes sense as they have much in common: Gore wasn't hired as president in 2000 and Olbermann again lost his job on Jan. 21.

 In effect, Gore is trying to do what other obscure outlets have tried to do to raise their viewer visibility in an overcrowded media scene. Think cable's Versus signing up the National Hockey League. Think TBS signing Conan O'Brien to a late-night show after his departure from NBC. Even the Discovery Channel went for Sarah Palin's behind-the-family-scenes Palintorial travel show set in Alaska.

Another nice benefit for Olbermann: It turns out that Gore, like the Republican Party all these years, thinks political donations are a form of free speech. So the K-man, who got in trouble for such political contributions just before The End when he was losing so badly to Bill O'Reilly, not only can give money to candidates he's promoting on his show; he's expected to.

That way all 23,000 Olbermann viewers will know they're getting the straight KO schtick.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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How President Johnson was nearly assassinated too

Democrats President Kennedy VP Lyndon Johnson and House Speaker john McCormack at the 1963 state of the union address 1-14-63

Here is an intriguing historical footnote about how John W. McCormack of Massachusetts nearly became the 37th president of the United States after the accidental assassination of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

It almost happened in the dark, nervous trauma of the early hours following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. Most Americans were still shocked, uncertain and little was known of the murder plot.

According to "The Kennedy Detail," a new book by former Secret Service agent Gerald Blaine, he was on the overnight shift in Johnson's home the next night when he heard footsteps in the dark.

Picking up his submachine gun, Blaine says he cocked it and put it to his shoulder as the steps came closer in the darkness. He put his finger on the trigger.Democrat representative John McCormack of Massachusetts

And around the corner came ... the new president. The gun of his own guard was aimed directly at the chief executive's chest.

Never mind the rich vein of conspiracy theories spawned by such a tragedy. The nation spent the next two years without a vice president. As set in 1792, the next in line to the presidency was the president pro tem of the Senate and then the House speaker.

In 1886, the succession after vice president was changed to the head of the oldest Cabinet department, secretary of State.

In 1947, at the suggestion of Harry Truman, the former VP who'd become president upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the order was again rearranged to its current priority: House speaker (currently Nancy Pelosi, D-CA), Senate president pro tem (Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-HI), secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) and on down through the secretaries of the next oldest Cabinet departments.

So the next in line of succession in November 1963 was -- and remains today -- the speaker of the House. He was, of course in those days, a Democrat, John W. McCormack, a career politician, like Kennedy from Massachusetts and the son of an Irish immigrant and laborer, then in his 72nd year. (See top photo, gray-haired man on the right atop the podium.)

No one can know how history and many lives would have been changed under President McCormack. President Johnson launched the War on Poverty, signed the Civil Rights Act and pursued the war in Vietnam with militant vigor. Johnson was easily elected to his own term in 1964 with Hubert Humphrey as his VP, but with antiwar protests mounting along with political challenges from within his own party, the Texan did not seek renomination in 1968.

Humphrey won the nomination at the Democrats' riotous Chicago convention but lost the general election to Richard Nixon. McCormack retired in 1971, after 43 years in the House. He died in 1980, 17 years to the day after the Kennedy assassination.

The crucial historical lesson in all this: Do not sneak up on your own Secret Service agents, especially in slippers.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Speaking of history, get yours here as it happens. Click here to join nearly 54,000 global readers who follow The Ticket with Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available here on Kindle now.)

Photo: Cecil Stoughton / White House via John F. Kennedy Library (Kennedy gives the State of the Union address, Jan. 14, 1963, in front of Johnson, left on the podium, and Speaker McCormack, right); Associated Press (McCormack, 1965).

After 18 months of Obama, Americans already feeling fonder of Dick Cheney, less so of Al Gore

Republican Dick Cheney Smiling

OK, here's a refreshing -- somewhat surprising -- poll to make some folks spew out their hot coffee this morning:

Americans arDemocrat Al Gore talkinge already starting to think better of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

There's a distinct global chilling going on about former Vice President Al Gore (you know, the divorce/alleged groping/debunked climate stuff).

And, eh, about the same feelings over Barack Obama's voluble sidekick, Joe Biden, who copied his notorious effing line from its inventor, his GOP predecessor.

The new Gallup Poll, released overnight, shows that a near-majority of Americans now views almost-president Gore unfavorably (49%), while 44% are favorable, down 14 points since his Nobel Prize glory days of 2007.

Democrat Joe Biden just leaving somewhere

As the most recent former White House No. 2, Cheney had the most to improve in favorable ratings. And, actually, he did improve the most in the opinion of surveyed Americans.

Cheney's robust unfavorable rating melted 11 points during the past 18 months of the Democrat duo of Obama-Biden to 52% now. While the Republican's favorables surged from their low point of 30% all the way up to an impressive 36% now.That's a stunning 20% improvement.

Maybe that's why the genial Cheney's smiling so broadly above. Or perhaps he has something cagey in mind for 2012.

America's top Amtrak rider stayed about the same in American minds as he was last fall before predicting incorrectly that NBA star LeBron James would stay to play in Cleveland -- 43% favorable and 41% unfavorable.  (No crosstabs of Ohioans.)

JB is down from his high points of 59% favorable and 29% unfavorable. However, those glory days actually came in 2008 before Americans got to know him as an actual vice president in charge of the economic non-recovery.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: White House; Associated Press; Getty Images.

Supreme Court shuts its (front) door as security claims another symbol of democracy (text of Breyer dissent)

Supreme Court's main entrance in 1958 by AP Photo
It was the last symbol of a free society. Now it is the latest victim of terrorist threats.

For generations, Americans looking to the U.S. Supreme Court as their last judicial appeal could climb the 44 marble steps leading to its front door and pass through the giant bronze doors, crossing under the words engraved above the stately columns, "Equal Justice Under Law."

Those majestic steps have served as a magnet, a natural draw for protests of everything from capital punishment and abortion to affirmative action and the imprisonment of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Those steps bore the caskets of justices who lay in repose as thousands of mourners paid their respects. The scene was so iconic, so evocative, that it became a template for depiction of a democracy at its finest, a staple of movies from the film classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" to the made-for-TV movie about the contested Bush v. Gore 2000 election called "Recount."

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court did something that no other high court in a democratic country has ever done -- not even Israel. It closed the front door to its building for security reasons, forcing those seeking justice to go through ground-level side entrances to a "secure reinforced area" where they can be screened "for weapons, explosives and chemical and biological hazards," the court announced.

It being the Supreme Court, there were of course dissents. Justice Stephen Breyer protested, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in his corner. "Potential security threats will exist regardless of which entrance we use," Breyer wrote. "And, in making this deci­sion, it is important not to undervalue the symbolic and historic impor­tance of allowing visitors to enter the Court after walking up [those] famed front steps."

The door closed on Monday, but we didn't want the week to pass without adding our condolences.

You can read the full dissent below, as provided by the court.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: The front steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1958. Credit: Associated Press

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Sarah Palin does Searchlight, Nev.; Al Gore settles for Strip

Nevada Democrat Senator Harry Reid of Searchlight

Mark your calendars for March 27, when former VP contender – and Marmot Day advocateSarah Palin is slated to rally Tea Party followers in Harry Reid’s rural Nevada hometown of Searchlight.

(Al Gore, who less memorably held the VP slot for eight years, is doing something that day, too. Oddly, it did not merit a much-read story on the Washington Post website.)

Palin, if she takes the embattled Senate Majority Leader’s advice, will order the famous 10-cent cup of coffee at the Searchlight Nugget – and say hi to Verlie, for Reid, the object of much Republican scorn.

(That night, Gore is scheduled to wax politically poetic at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Las Vegas, about 60 miles north of Searchlight. Hopefully he brings the pie charts!)

Palin might see Searchlight’s highlights which include, according to a magazine profile of Reid, trailer-lined streets, the scattered tombstones of the Searchlight Cemetery and a ridge that Reid pointed to and exclaimed: “This used to be a whorehouse!” No Saks Fifth Avenue, though. Or Neiman Marcus.

(Gore might wander the Strip and be accosted by handbillers wielding cards of topless women.)

If history serves, Palin might also say something outrageous and possibly inaccurate – death panels, anyone?– but the tea party-goers will nonetheless cheer the Alaska governor-turned-authoress who’s become one of the movement’s standard-bearers.

(Gore will probably say something sensible and cerebral, in keeping with his stature as a Nobel Prize winner. It will be delivered in a monotone with minimal facial expressions. Now, about his usual speaking fee.)

Hmm. Wondering which of them has a better chance of making headlines.

-- Ashley Powers

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Photo: Associated Press (not Al Gore).

John Edwards admits paternity -- why the wait?

So now onetime Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards has acknowledged what everyone else already assumed: He is the father of Quinn, the not-quite-2-year-old daughter of onetime aide Rielle Hunter.

"It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me," Edwards told NBC News.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The shock is not that the former senator from North Carolina had an affair with his filmmaker while his wife, Elizabeth, was battling cancer. He's already admitted that and a grand jury is investigating whether campaign funds were illegally used to pay Hunter. Meanwhile, he and Elizabeth -- subject of a scathing portrait as a shrewish wife in the new book about the 2008 campaign -- have apparently separated.

The news here, as "Game Change" author Mark Halperin said on MSNBC, is that Edwards lied first about the affair and then about his paternity -- and enrolled several aides in the deception -- so that he could earn a spot as a speaker at the 2008 Democratic Convention, which nominated Barack Obama, and then could lobby Obama for a shot at the vice presidency.

Some people call it Potomac fever, that moment of illness when your morals sink to your ambitions.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Going Fox, rogue Republican Sarah Palin joins Fox News Channel


One-time TV journalist Sarah Palin, who dabbled successfully in politics for a while, has decided to return to her media roots. (See video below.)

Fox News confirms this afternoon that the 45-year-old former mayor, city council member, state oil and gas regulator, unsuccessful lieutenant governor candidate, Alaska reform governor, unsuccessful Republican vice presidential nominee and most recently successful book author, has signed a contract with the top-rated cable news channel, Fox News, as a commentator across a number of programs.

Look for her on FNC as early as Tuesday evening.

The mother of five, including a special needs infant, will also host a show on inspiring American stories. While other networks struggle over the unfunny scheduling of late-night comics, it's another commercial coup for Roger Ailes, who's turned the youngish network the Democratic White House loves to hate into a real moneymaker.

Both sides issued the usual pre-printed PR yada-yada today. Palin is "thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News" which is "a place that so values fair and balanced news."

"Gov. Palin has captivated everyone on both sides of the political spectrum," said Bill Shine, programming exec vp. "And we are excited to add her dynamic voice to the FOX News lineup."

Despite Palin's often-barbed comments about biased media inaccuracies and her own....

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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