This weekend, The Weekend Reader brings you JFK’s Last Hundred Days by American historian Thurston Clarke. The president’s last 100 days took place during a pivotal time in American history: Kennedy was in the process of implementing progressive policies domestically and internationally during the Cold War and Vietnam. In JFK’s Last Hundred Days, Thurston describes the timeline of this period through a very personal look into the president’s policies and personal life. Thurston doesn’t entertain conspiracy theories, but focuses on what JFK did for America — improved immigration policy, focused on civil rights, moved to amend relations with the Soviet Union, and pushed for Medicare, among many other accomplishments.
You can purchase the book here.
Sunday, November 17-Monday, November 18
Palm Beach, Tampa, Miami
As they were driving to the West Palm Beach airport on Monday morning, Kennedy told Torby Macdonald that the weekend had been “really living,” and one he would never forget. The weather had been perfect, windless sunny days followed by clear nights. On Saturday afternoon they had sat on the patio in swimsuits watching the Navy-Duke football game. He had bet on Navy and after winning had insisted that Powers and Macdonald fetch their wallets and pay up. On Saturday evening he sang “September Song” and talked endlessly about von Braun’s prediction that the United States would beat the Russians to the moon. On Sunday they had gathered on the patio to watch the Bears play the Packers, and again he won the wager. The weekend reminded Macdonald of the months before the Second World War, “when there was nothing of moment on anybody’s mind.” The only jarring note came when he and Kennedy were swimming together and began discussing how they both feared being incapacitated by a stroke, as their fathers had been. Macdonald asked Kennedy how he would like to die. “Oh, a gun,” he said. “You never know what’s hit you. A gunshot is the perfect way.”
While Kennedy was enjoying the weekend pleasures of the average middle-aged, middle-class American male, his programs and initiatives were moving forward.
During a speech at the New York Economic Club, McNamara announced that a major cut in defense spending was “in the works,” calling it “a fundamental strategic shift…not just a temporary slash.”
The Associated Press reported that “the withdrawal of 1000 U.S. servicemen from South Vietnam will start Dec. 3, Major General Charles J. Timmes announced today. The men are to depart by the end of the year, leaving about 15,500 troops in the country.”
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Anthony Celebrezze presented the administration’s case for Medicare to the House Ways and Means Committee, describing it as “legislation to provide health care for the elderly under the Social Security program.” It was necessary, he said, because “the best that private insurance has been able to do to solve the dilemma of high costs and low income is to offer either low-cost policies with inadequate protection or more adequate policies that are priced out of reach of most of the aged.” The committee was not expected to vote on Medicare that year, but as the hearing progressed, the prospects for favorable action appeared to be improving.
Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach announced that the administration was “hopeful” that the civil rights bill would reach the House floor by mid-December and be passed by Christmas. The New York Times editorialized that even if this timetable was not met, its postponement into 1964 “would not necessarily be fatal.”
Walter Heller received a memorandum from Under Secretary of Agriculture Charles Murphy responding to his request to provide recommendations for “Widening Prosperity,” the new title of the president’s antipoverty program. Murphy wrote that because of the difficulty of “proposing any dramatic new legislative program to attack poverty in a time of tight budgetary restrictions,” he suggested waiting to launch it until the fall of 1964.
Jim Bishop and Pierre Saligner happened to dine at the same Palm Beach restaurant on Saturday evening. Salinger told Bishop that Kennedy was eager to read his book. It struck Bishop as odd that he should be so insistent on seeing the manuscript but promised to rush it to the White House.