Democrat and Republican negotiators reach two-year budget deal to fix federal spending at $1.012tn
Democrat and Republican negotiators reach two-year budget deal to fix federal spending at $1.012tn
• President challenged GOP to offer alternatives to health reforms
• White House using site's improvements to turn debate around
President's call for delay stuns US and assembly he convened to approve deal critical to paying Afghan army and police salaries
A US-Afghan security pact critical to Afghanistan's ability to pay its soldiers and hold off the Taliban is in limbo, after President Hamid Karzai shrugged off the recommendations of a national council he convened to approve the deal, and said he would continue talks with Washington.
After a year of negotiations the Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, of 2,500 delegates was widely expected to approve the agreement to keep US troops in the country after the current combat mission ends in 2014.
But Karzai stunned US diplomats and many of his own security officials when he told the opening session of the jirga that the bilateral security agreement should not be signed until after presidential elections in April.
Washington quickly shot back that a deal had to be agreed by the end of the year, but on Sunday Karzai said the US had to prove its good intentions by keeping its soldiers out of Afghan homes, ensuring the vote is transparent, and promoting peace talks with the Taliban.
"If I sign and there is no security, then who is going to be blamed for it?" he told delegates, who interrupted his speech several times to both question and support him.
The agreement will allow US soldiers to stay on at nine bases, mentoring the still ill-equipped and patchily trained Afghan police and army, and pursuing al-Qaida and linked groups.
It is politically sensitive for many reasons, not least because it undermines Afghanistan's reputation as the "graveyard of empires", with the ignominious withdrawal of Soviet forces referenced several times in jirga speeches on Sunday.
But without the deal, the US is unlikely to part with the $4bn a year needed to pay Afghan military salaries, or provide the helicopters and other equipment promised to the Afghan army.
Many Afghans feel that the imperfect deal is the only protection they have against powerful neighbours. One of Karzai's security advisors warned parliament that without the deal the country would be isolated "among wolves", and the military chief asked opponents of the deal to say where else they would come up with police and army funding.
At the end of the Loya Jirga, which has no legally binding powers, a string of delegates came up to the podium to commend the deal, some to ask for small changes, but most urge Karzai to sign the agreement by the end of year.
Karzai chose to ignore those requests, warning his audience that "Afghanistan has always won the war but lost in politics". He added that he planned to carry on with negotiations because the US had broken previous commitments to protect the country and support the peace process.
"Lack of trust is the core of the problem," his spokesman Aimal Faizi said before the speech, adding that Karzai thought American officials were bluffing when they warned of a total pullout by the US. "We don't believe there is a zero option," he said.
But many in Washington and Afghanistan fear Karzai is underestimating the exhaustion of both the US public and the Obama administration with a long and costly war, and that he is taking a huge risk by delaying the deal.
After Karzai finished, Sebghattulah Mojaddidi, the chairman of the gathering, took to the podium again for an emotional speech aimed at the leader who he said is like "my own child".
Afghanistan had kicked out a superpower before, Mojaddidi said, and could do the same if they did not stick to their side of the deal. "This is good for us. If the Americans don't follow the agreement, I will be responsible."
Mojaddidi warned that he would go into voluntary exile if Karzai did not sign the deal.
The US embassy in Kabul declined to comment on the status of the agreement. "We are studying the president's remarks, we continue to believe that concluding the agreement as soon as possible is in the interests of both nations," a spokesman said.
Management consultants McKinsey warned in March that the website rollout was vulnerable to failure, released files show
Hammond calls his 10-year sentence a 'vengeful, spiteful act' by US authorities eager to put a chill on political hacking
US secretary of state says new sanctions could endanger prospects for peaceful end to nuclear standoff with Tehran
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, warned Congress on Wednesday against hurting a historic opportunity for a nuclear pact with Iran by pressing ahead with new sanctions while international negotiators seek to prevent Tehran from being able to assemble an atomic weapons arsenal.
Kerry said the United States and other world powers are united behind an offer they presented to Iranian negotiators in Geneva last week. But he said new action now from US lawmakers could shatter an international coalition made up of countries with interests as divergent as France, Russia and China, endangering prospects for a peaceful end to the decade-long nuclear standoff with the Islamic republic.
The countries worry that Tehran is trying to assemble an atomic weapons arsenal. Iran insists its programme is solely for peaceful energy production and medical research.
"We put these sanctions in place in order to be able to put us in the strongest position possible to be able to negotiate. We now are negotiating," Kerry told reporters ahead of testifying before the Senate banking committee. "And the risk is that if Congress were to unilaterally move to raise sanctions, it could break faith in those negotiations, and actually stop them and break them apart."
With nuclear negotiations set to resume in Switzerland next week, the Obama administration dispatched Kerry and the vice-president, Joe Biden, to Congress on Wednesday to seek more time for diplomacy. They faced scepticism from members of Congress determined to further squeeze the Iranian economy and wary of yielding any ground to Iran in the talks.
Kerry said the negotiators should have a few weeks more to see if they can reach an agreement.
"The Iranian regime hasn't paused its nuclear programme," said Ed Royce, a Republican and House foreign affairs committee chairman.
"Why should we pause our sanctions efforts as the administration is pressuring Congress to do?"
Kerry said the potential accord with Iran relates to a "tough proposal," adding: "If it weren't strong, why wouldn't Iran have accepted it yet?"
Kerry said, "What we are asking everyone to do is calm down, look hard at what can be achieved and what the realities are. If this doesn't work, we reserve the right to dial back the sanctions. I will be up here on the Hill asking for increased sanctions, and we always reserve the military option. So we lose absolutely nothing, except for getting in the way of diplomacy and letting it work."
"We ought to be actually ratcheting up the sanctions against Iran," Republican Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell.
"What the administration was promoting is something the Israelis think is a bad deal for them. It's pretty clear the Sunni Arab allies of ours also think it's a bad deal. Looking at it strictly from an American point of view, I think it's a bad deal as well."
Last week's talks broke down as Iran demanded formal recognition of what it calls its right to enrich uranium, and as France sought stricter limits on Iran's ability to make nuclear fuel and on its heavy water reactor to produce plutonium, diplomats said.
Barack Obama spoke on Wednesday with the French president, François Hollande. The two countries are in full agreement on Iran, the White House said in a statement.
Obama is under pressure at home and abroad to resolve the Iran nuclear standoff, having said the US has until some time next year before the Islamic republic could reach nuclear weapons capacity.
Obama has reached out in an unprecedented manner to Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, with the two men holding the first direct conversation between US and Iranian leaders in more than three decades.
At the same time, Obama has angered US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, which see an Iranian nuclear arsenal as existential threats.
The new sanctions were overwhelmingly approved by the Republican-led House in July. The legislation blacklisted Iran's mining and construction sectors and committed the US to the goal of eliminating all Iranian oil exports worldwide by 2015. If the Senate banking committee pushes off its parallel bill any longer, lawmakers could attach it to a Senate defence bill, which could come up for debate as early as Thursday.
Senator gives interview to Der Spiegel, saying general should 'be held accountable' for Edward Snowden leaks
Senator John McCain has called for Keith Alexander to "resign or be fired" as the head of the National Security Agency, in an interview with the German news weekly Der Spiegel published on Sunday.
The senator for Arizona, a former Republican presidential candidate, said Alexander should be held accountable for the leaks of thousands of documents by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, which revealed NSA surveillance and spying on a massive scale. McCain said Snowden, who worked for the NSA as a contractor, should never have had access to classified information.
"And now we have a contractor employee, not a government employee, who has access to information which is, when revealed, most damaging to the standing prestige of the United States and our relations with some of our best friends," McCain said. "Why did Edward Snowden have that information? And what are we doing as far as screening people who have access to this information? It's outrageous, and someone ought to be held accountable."
President Barack Obama, the NSA and the congressional intelligence committee had responsibility for the sharing of classified information, he said.
Asked if Alexander should resign, McCain said: "Of course, he should resign, or be fired. We no longer hold anybody accountable in Washington."
Asked if the US intelligence services were out of control, McCain said: "There's not been sufficient congressional oversight, and there has been an absolutely disgraceful sharing of information that never should have taken place. For many years, we had an absolute provision that any classified information, which was going to be shared, is based on need-to-know information."
McCain also spoke to the news weekly about reports, prompted by research by the magazine, that the US had been monitoring the cellphones of German chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders. He said it was "conceivable" President Obama had not known about the German chancellor's phone being monitored, but added that he should have.
"Knowing how angry Angela Merkel was, he should have apologized," said McCain. "You know, I've had to do that on numerous occasions in my life. The pain doesn't last very long."
He was asked about whether the US was a real friend of Germany, following revelations that Merkel's phone had been monitored.
McCain said: "Friends spy on friends. We all know that, but there have been certain boundaries. Those boundaries were probably, to some degree, there because we didn't have the capabilities we have now. But when you go to the point where you invade someone's privacy, the leader of certainly Europe, if not one of the most foremost leaders in the world, Angela Merkel, then it was a mistake."
The interview moved to recent discussions in Germany over the possibility of granting asylum to Snowdon, who is currently in Russia. McCain said he did not believe it would happen. "We're too good of friends," he said.
He said he believed Snowden would never return to the US, where he would face trial, even after his asylum in Russia expires at the end of the year.
"[Russian president Vladimir] Putin will grant him asylum indefinitely," McCain said. "The Russians know if they send him back that's a lesson to other people who might defect. I'm sure that Mr Snowden has told them everything that he possibly knows."
Snowden has denied that he has passed information to the Russians, and said he did not take any NSA documents with him. But McCain said: "If you believe that Mr Snowden didn't give the Russians information that he has, then you believe pigs fly."
Re-elected governor tells talkshows focus is New Jersey as Republican rival Rick Perry questions his conservative values
A landslide victory in New Jersey, one of the most liberal states in the country, has propelled Chris Christie to the front ranks of Republican presidential hopefuls for 2016. On Sunday, the governor attempted to dismiss speculation that he was gearing up for the role – for now.
"What I'm interested in doing is being the governor of New Jersey," Christie said on Fox News Sunday, one of four of the main talkshows on which he appeared, excepting only CNN's State of the Union. "The fact is we've got a lot of things to do, a lot of things to focus on, and I know everybody's going to be speculating on what may come on my future and lots of other people's future in our party.
"But the fact is: I'm focused on being the governor of New Jersey and being the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. I think those two jobs will keep me pretty busy over the next year."
However, earlier, on ABC News' This Week, Christie said he didn't know whether he would be completing the full four years of his second term.
"Listen, who knows," Christie said. "I don't know. I'm going to continue to do my job and finish the job. But everybody who is trying to figure out what life is going to bring you a few years from now, I didn't expect to be sitting here four years ago. So, nobody can make those predictions."
Christie, who beat Democratic nominee Barbara Buono with 51% of the Hispanic vote, refused to call on Washington lawmakers to include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He has previously supported citizenship and in-state tuition for undocumented students, a position that put him at odds with the GOP base.
The governor twice side-stepped the question from host George Stephanopoulos, and would only say that the current immigration system was "broken" and had to be reformed.
"It has to be figured out by those in charge of the national government," he said. "My job is to fix what's going on in New Jersey. I will tell you this, George, we won't be able to fix everything in New Jersey until the national leaders set a national immigration policy."
Asked again about a path to citizenship, he said: "George, I don't get to make those determinations. It's 2013, i just got elected the governor of New Jersey again. I have already said what I believe. It's a broken system and it needs to be fixed. Let's get to work doing it."
On Face the Nation, on CBS, Christie took a similar tack in answer to requests for his opinion, as a potential presidential candidate, on the breakdown of nuclear talks with Iran. "I'm the governor of New Jersey," he said. "When guys like me start to shoot off on stuff like this it's really ill-advised. I'll leave it to secretary [John] Kerry and the folks that are in charge of this to make decisions.
"Folks in my sort of position that spout off opinions on things like this off the top of their head just wind up doing more harm than good."
Christie won in New Jersey with 66% of the independent vote, 32% of Democrats, 51% of Hispanics and 21% of the African-American vote. His re-election has sparked much debate over what it means for Republican strategy, as well as his own prospects in 2016. In interviews on Sunday, he repeatedly stressed his willingness to work with opposing points of view, telling CBS: "Look at New Jersey – we're not using divided government as an excuse not to act. We get together, we argue, we fight, we debate but then we conclude the argument by getting together round a table and getting things done."
However, critics are quick to point out Christie's ideological differences from the conservative Republican base which could prove problematic in any run for the presidency. As well as his previous support of a path to citizenship, he also supports gun control.
Other issues for Christie should he run in 2016 were also touched on in his interviews. He criticised claims about him in a new book, Double Down: Game Change 2012, for being part of a Washington "parlour game". The book, written by Time's Mark Halperin and New York Magazine's John Heilemann, alleges that he was not selected by Mitt Romney as a vice-presidential running mate in 2012 because of concerns that emerged during the vetting process. On Fox News Sunday, Christie said:
"The only person who hasn't said that is Governor Romney, who has completely refuted what they said in the book. He did it immediately after the book came out."
On Sunday, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, took a jab at the Christie, questioning whether his 22-point victory in New Jersey had any wider meaning for the Republican Party.
"Is a conservative in New Jersey a conservative in the rest of the country?" Perry said in an interview with This Week that was aired after Christie's. "We'll have that discussion at the appropriate time."
Perry, whose presidential bid in 2012 ended after a series of gaffes, did not rule out running again in 2016. "Second chances are what America has always been about," he said.
John F Kennedy's untimely death has meant that the president remained for many a symbol of youth and promise, frozen in time in a series of iconic photographs. To mark the 50th anniversary of his assassination we ask those whose paths crossed his to choose the photograph of him that means most to them – and to tell us why
Thomasina Lowe is the daughter of the late Jacques Lowe, a photographer who met Kennedy in 1958. Lowe's intimate access to the Kennedys created some of the most iconic images of JFK's presidential and family life.
This contact sheet was my father's first photo shoot with Jack Kennedy at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, in late summer 1958. It was the first time they'd ever met, and was a difficult meeting. Joe Kennedy, who had arranged the shoot, had obviously not told his son that there was going to be a photographer around when he came home, and insisted that he wear a suit, which Jack Kennedy wasn't best pleased about. At first, he was quite reserved and not very forthcoming, but when my dad asked if Caroline and Jackie could be involved in the photo shoot, he became more at ease, providing a more intimate shot. It shows us Kennedy as a politician, but also as a dad and a husband.
It's hard to imagine now that this awkward first meeting turned into a friendship. But late one night, my dad got a call from him: "Jackie and I are in New York tonight and we wanted to go through the pictures. Could you come over?" He went over, and it was all slightly surreal; Kennedy greeted him in a towel, and Jackie shouted out "Is that Jacques?" as she was splashing away in the bath with the door slightly ajar. Kennedy was very friendly and open. He apologised for having been a grumpy subject, and thanked him for the photos. That was the beginning of their relationship.
Once Kennedy announced his candidacy, he asked my father if he would document the campaign trail. There was clearly a great deal of trust and respect between the two of them, which is why so many of those photographs are so intimate, so unposed. And they just got on: Kennedy had a very dry sense of humour, didn't take himself too seriously, and was quite a bon vivant – my dad certainly appreciated that. I came across a letter recently that my father wrote to John Junior [JFK's son] in 1998. He writes: "You are the son of a president I loved, a president who changed my life, a president whose edict and expectations of me I hope I fulfilled. […] I am still trying, and I think I am successful in guarding the memory." Despite the iconic status that Kennedy has, my dad always spoke about him in personable, modest terms, as someone he admired, someone who had inspired his politics. He spoke about him as a friend. I know it's strange, but I've always thought of [the Kennedys] as quite normal people.
I was born in 1968, so I wasn't around during the Kennedy era, but Kennedy's civic-mindedness and ability to inspire people to make a difference is something I inherited. I was raised to believe in taking responsibility for not just ourselves but also for our neighbours, and I feel quite strongly about that. I now work for a charity and do a lot of work in the community. But I'm aware of what an impact Kennedy had on my father's life, not just in terms of his career but also what it meant to be involved in such an important historic experience. CJ
Herbert Meza is a retired Presbyterian minister who arranged for JFK, then a senator, to give a talk about politics and religious tolerance at the Rice hotel in Houston, on 12 September 1960.
When I was a minister in Texas in 1960, I invited John F Kennedy to speak at the Houston Ministerial Association, of which I had recently become president. By then, the Kennedys had realised that the important issue in the presidential campaign was going to be the religious issue. Several prominent Protestant ministers in this country had spoken loudly against a Roman Catholic being president, whereas I felt that there ought to be no religious litmus test for the presidency of the United States. Soon after I sent the invite (I also invited President Nixon, but he declined), the Kennedys wired me to say they would come.
There was so much demand for tickets that we couldn't meet in a church, so we arranged to have it instead in the Rice hotel. On the night, Kennedy's liaison, Jim Wine, came down and said: "We've got a problem." Lyndon B Johnson, then Kennedy's running mate, wanted to introduce him. I said no, this is not a political meeting. Mr Wine went up and came back and said: "LBJ says no damn little preacher is going to tell him what to do in Texas." I told Mr Wine: "If the VP comes down and gets on this platform, I'm going to step down, and he's going to find himself moderating a meeting of the Houston Ministerial Association." At that time they were experimenting with CCTV, so in the end they gave him a screen to watch and kept him upstairs.
Kennedy was very nervous. His hands were shaking. He asked me how things were going. I said: "They're fine, we have very large crowd but I think you'll get a fair shake." He said: "All we ask is that you be fair," and I said, "I intend to be fair." And so the meeting began.
He made a very important and moving address, telling the people that he was not going to create a pipeline between Washington and Rome, that on any decisions of state he would be his own person, that no priest had the right to tell him what to do. Once he started the address, he seemed to be very calm. He seemed very sincere. His words were very potent. He spoke with a sense of authority that people respected and appreciated.
After he spoke, we opened the meeting for questions. And there were many questions, some very belligerent, but I kept the meeting pretty much under control. Some of the questions were tough, but he answered them all. At the end, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. We were all shocked. It was supposed to be a hostile audience but they gave him a standing ovation.
I met President Kennedy again the day before he was assassinated. He stopped in Houston on his way to Dallas and we were invited to meet him at the airport. When he came by, I said: "We met under very different circumstances last time." He said: "Reverend, I remember, I'm glad to see you, how are you?" I said: "Fine." He moved on and Jackie was next. And Jackie said: "How are you, glad to meet you", and she moved on. When LBJ got to me, however, he turned his back and talked to someone else.
With Kennedy's assassination, America lost the dream. Many of us younger men were so encouraged by his presidency, the way he ran, the way he spoke, his sense of openness and fairness, his programme thus far. We truly felt we had lost a dream. KF
Robert Dallek is a historian and author of several bestselling presidential histories. He is described by the New York Times as "Kennedy's leading biographer".
This picture shows the tension with his advisers and the challenges he faced in governing. He was profoundly sceptical of their advice, which you can see here. Kennedy was principally focused on foreign policy, he used to say that politics can unseat you, but foreign policy can kill you. Ending the prospect of nuclear war was what concerned him most. He repeatedly struggled with his joint chiefs of staff over the question of control of nuclear weapons after learning from his national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, that local commanders had the authority to start nuclear conflict [faced with a substantial Russian military action]. He held a briefing with them and heard about a proposal to drop 170 atomic and nuclear bombs on Moscow and that hundreds of millions would be killed. As they walked out the room, Kennedy said to his secretary of state, Dean Rusk: "And we call ourselves the human race?".
There was also lots of tension and conflict among his advisers over what to do about Vietnam. This was a terrible dilemma from the start of his presidency. It was muted against the backdrop of Cuba, Berlin, Khrushchev and civil rights. But it was an ongoing crisis, and there were people in his administration – such as Walt Rostow – who wanted to talk about sending in American troops because he subscribed to the Eisenhower domino theory – if South Vietnam falls, the rest of south-east Asia will go with it.
He increased the number of military advisers from 600 to more than 16,000 in response to pressure from some of his advisers but there were others who said if you put 2-3,000 men into the jungles of Vietnam, you'll never hear from them again. Kennedy said he wasn't going to do that and in summer of 1963 he directed Robert McNamara, secretary of defence, to plan the reduction of military advisers. There was some question of how to get out of there. We'll never know of course what he would have done, but I think he would have been very reluctant to increase American involvement the way Johnson did. But he was getting very divided advice.
He was the youngest man ever elected to the White House at the age of 43. He's described as the first TV president – not only did he do the first televised debate, he was the first to hold live, televised press conferences. He knew TV was his ally. Some advisers counselled him not to but he thought he could reach the public. He was a risk-taker. He was a first-class womaniser but the press didn't report it – you didn't invade a president's privacy at the time. Even now, 50 years after his death, he's one of the most admired presidents in US history, with an 85% approval rate.
The enduring fascination is that to this day he gives people inspiration and hope. He is identified with youth, he's frozen in our minds at the age of 46. The Kennedys are America's royal family, they're iconic. They are also star-crossed and there's so much tragedy. Americans identify with their success, but also their loss and their suffering. KS
Ban Ki-moon is secretary general of the United Nations. He met Kennedy at the age of 18 after winning an English language essay contest sponsored by the American Red Cross.
I met President Kennedy on 29 August 1962. I was one of 112 student representatives from 42 countries invited by the American Red Cross for a Visit of International Students to America (VISTA) programme. I was just an 18-year-old boy from the countryside in South Korea, and had never been able to travel outside of my small village, let alone to the US. You can just imagine this boy from a dusty small town suddenly seeing the president of the United States of America on the South Lawn of the White House. I got his autograph on a White House glossy bulletin but before the ink was dry all the other student representatives rushed to grab it, and their fingers smudged it. I really regret that, otherwise I would have his signature. But the experience of meeting him was exhilarating – it was the most inspiring moment in my life; a real turning point.
At that time, South Korea was very poor and devastated by the Korean war. Kennedy's speech that day allowed me a moment to reflect on what I should do and inspired me to serve my country. Even as a young man who didn't know much about the world, I was able to understand something crucial about the values of humanity from him. He said: "It's most encouraging to have people here from so many different countries, including countries where the government leaders don't always get on, but I think the people do." I was astounded – we were in the middle of the cold war at the time. I'll never forget what he said next: "There are no national boundaries to [the issues of suffering people everywhere]; there is only a question of whether we can extend a helping hand."
As secretary general of the United Nations, I speak to many students around the world while travelling and always echo President Kennedy's message from that day. I tell young people: "Be a global citizen, look beyond the borders of your own country. Confront the hard and harsh problems of today's world, and work for solutions." He gave me a great vision for humanity, and in that regard, President Kennedy has been an inspiration to me during the past 50 years.
When I heard that he had been assassinated in 1963, I was speechless. I was a college student in Seoul and taking a walk, and was almost crying. As a young person who had met him just a year before, it was a great shock – and not just for me, but for all Korean people and people all around the world. It was a huge loss for the world at the time.
But I do think his vision still lives on through the United Nations. I recently re-read his final speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September 1963 and it's brilliant, so much of what he said is still true today. He described the indivisibility of human rights, opposed wasteful military spending, called for racial and religious tolerance, praised United Nations peacekeeping and insisted that we embrace peace on paper and, more than that, in our hearts. They are all values that we members of the United Nations uphold and defend every single day: I resolve to go forward into the future to realise a life of dignity for all and a better world for all. CJ
Dallas mother Kathleen Vaughan and her 15-month-old daughter, Peggy, were photographed greeting JFK and his wife, Jackie, when they arrived at Love Field airport on 22 November 1963. Less than an hour after these pictures were taken, President Kennedy was dead.
KATHLEEN When I woke up that morning, I hadn't made any plans to go down there – in fact, I hadn't even discussed it with my husband. He'd gone to work and I thought, you know, it would be neat to see a president. I'd never seen a president before. I was 25 at the time, pregnant with my second child and I took my 15-month-old toddler with me.
I left early enough so I could get right up in the front. We were behind a chain-link fence and we had to stand there probably about an hour and the crowd started filling in behind me and I was beginning to feel a little pressure – you know, thinking, what have I done here? Then the plane lands, the Kennedys are greeted by local dignitaries and then they start to make their way along the fence and I see we're gonna get to see them up close. Then Jackie reached forward and just patted Peggy on the side of the face. She moved on and then the president stopped in front of me. We just kind of looked at one another and I put my hand out and said: "Welcome to Dallas" and he said: "Thank you."
I think most people have a basic respect for the office of the presidency, no matter who is president, even if you don't agree with their politics. It was nice to be able to meet them even though I didn't vote for him. Afterwards, it took me several minutes to get out of the field and back to my car because of the crowd. I was no more than about a mile from home when – I had the radio on – it came on the news. The reporter sounded like he had been running; he just gasped out the words "shots fired at the limousine" and when I got home, I went to the neighbour next door, who were good friends of ours and had a TV set, and I never will forget what she said: "Dallas will never live this down." It took several days for it to sink in, actually. It was an awful, awful feeling. I still have the newspaper that came out the next day. And, of course, I kept the clothes we wore that day.
PEGGY Over the years, people have come over to my house and they see this picture sitting there and they ask: "Why do you have a picture of Jackie Kennedy?" And I say: "Well, that's me, actually!" A lot of people, I've never told about it.
I do feel a connection with the Kennedys. Growing up, I read tons of books about them because I'd met them. I've read one by William Manchester, The Death of a President, about a hundred times. It's just an extremely detailed account of everything that happened. I remember when Jackie was dying, watching all the news about that and thinking, you know, wow, that's somebody I had a contact with.
I do agree with a lot of the things that he stood for – public duty, community involvement and, to me, he really stood for peace, For example, with the Cuban missile crisis, a lot of his advisers were telling him to be more aggressive and to attack and Lord knows what might have happened [if he hadn't reached an agreement with Khrushchev]. I'm pretty certain that he didn't even own a gun and I think it's ironic that he was killed in such a violent manner when he was such a peaceful person.
There was just a lot of trauma in the city afterwards. For years, people were so upset that something like that would happen here and [we] were really hated. And, of course, there are so many peaceful people here. It's not all cowboys and rednecks – it's a very sophisticated city in a lot of ways but, unfortunately, Dallas has its place in history now.
I am an assistant for a psychologist here now and I work in a high-rise and I can look out on a clear day and see downtown. I can see Love Field and I can see the planes coming in there and sometimes I think about it all. On a really clear day, you can see way off on the horizon the skyline of Fort Worth and that's where he spent his last night, where they hopped on a plane and he came into Love Field. Sometimes, I look out there and think, God, they just didn't even know what they were getting into. UK
Clint Hill is the former United States secret service agent who was in the presidential motorcade during the assassination, and is credited with saving Mrs Kennedy's life.
It was a beautiful day, the crowds were large and enthusiastic as we travelled through the city, as they had been in San Antonio, Houston and Forth Worth the day before. The president didn't want the top on the car: he wanted it to be open, so people would feel he was accessible. Wherever the motorcade had been, the crowds had been friendly, so what happened that day really did come out of the blue; we had no idea. At the point where we had to go down Elm Street, which passed immediately in front of the book depository, there was this explosive noise over my right shoulder. I was in the car right behind the president's car, on the running board on the left hand side in the forward position, so I'd been scanning to my left and straight ahead. When the noise occurred I turned towards it and witnessed what happened in the back seat of the [president's] car. As soon as I saw what had happened, I jumped and ran to the presidential vehicle, which was going at about 12mph.
The president had been hit by the first shot, just below the neckline and to the right of the spinal column.
I was trying to get up on the back of the car to form a shield behind the president and Mrs Kennedy and prevent any further damage being done, but, just as I approached the car, the third shot rang out and hit the president in the head. At that time he slumped to his left. Mrs Kennedy climbed on top of the trunk trying to retrieve some of the material that had come out of his head.
I got up on the back of the car and put Mrs Kennedy into the back seat where she had been sitting, and when I did that the president fell into her lap. He was wearing a back brace, which prevented him moving forward or back: he could only move to his left, towards Mrs Kennedy. And, as soon as I climbed up on the back of the car, it was clear to me the wound to the president was fatal. I was willing to take a bullet as that was my responsibility, to do whatever I could to protect the president of the United States. I didn't really think about it; I just reacted and screamed for the driver to get us to a hospital. We drove there very, very fast. I was up on top of the back of the car. The president and Mrs Kennedy were right beneath me; I was trying to shield them.
He was a wonderful man, a devoted father to his two children and to his wife. He was very down to earth with all the secret service agents – he called us all by our first names. He was concerned about our welfare and would carry on conversations with us. He was a great man to work for, and I think you'd hear that from every agent who worked for him. He was so interested in the space programme, in civil rights. He established the Peace Corps to help people in other countries – he wanted to do the best he could and help other people as much as possible. They were such a good-looking couple: they were young, very active. They had a rock-star glamour to them, they were American royalty. They kept me with Mrs Kennedy for one year after the assassination, then I was returned to the White House. It was difficult leaving her, but we both knew that was going to happen. KS
The Day Kennedy Died, featuring Clint Hill, is on ITV on 14 November, 10.35pm. Five Days in November by Clint Hill is published on 21 November
Hugh Aynesworth witnessed the assassination of John F Kennedy, the capture and arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald at the Texas theatre, and the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby when he was a reporter on the Dallas Morning News. A four-time Pulitzer prize nominee, he is one of the most respected authorities on the assassination of John F Kennedy, and has investigated the links between Lee Harvey Oswald and the FBI and reported on the trial of Jack Ruby.
I was in the office at the Dallas Morning News, four blocks away from where Mr Kennedy was shot, and I was in charge of the space race coverage, so I was feeling a little left out that day. Everyone else from the office headed down there, so when I got tired of answering the phones, I walked over to Dealey Plaza to see what was going on.
There was a heavy security presence on the ground, which you can see in the pictures. The town was arch-conservative, so we were anticipatory that morning. Most of them hated Kennedy, so I expected some kind of embarrassment. I knew a couple of groups had vowed to picket. But the haters – a coalition of far-right nuts and rich people who were to the right of Ghengis Khan – hadn't really showed up. As the motorcade came down Main Street, though, it was really exciting. It was a beautiful November day, warmer than usual. The crowds were going crazy – they were seven or eight deep. Jackie was in her pink suit and Mr Kennedy looked so happy. I was pleased. Then I heard what I thought was a motorcycle backfire, but of course it was the first shot. A few seconds later came the second and third – the whine of rifle shots was unmistakable. The first shot went through the back of his neck, and went on to hit John Connally [in the front of the car]. Kennedy had a huge back brace on, and that was why he died – he couldn't fall over on to Jackie's lap. Connally fell over on to his wife when he was shot, and that saved him. The second shot missed, but the third shot was the one that tore off the back of his head. The back brace held him up for the killing shot.
It was pandemonium then. People were running every which way and knocking one another down and screaming. You didn't know where to run, or where the shots were coming from, or who was doing the shooting. Within a minute or so my news experience kicked in and I saw a man directly in front of me, on Houston Street, in front of the book depository, shouting: "Up there! I saw him." I ran to him, but when he found out I was a reporter he got scared. I then overheard a police radio, saying an officer had been shot over in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. I thought, if someone shoots at the president here, and then three or four miles away an officer is shot, it had to be connected. I grabbed a TV crew and told them what had happened. We sped like mad to the scene and got there before most of the police. The guy I tried to interview turned out to be the only eye witness, Howard Brennan – he thought Oswald had been protecting the president. His description of Oswald was on the money, and formed the basis of the APB [all-points bulletin]. It probably cost the police officer [JD Tippit, who approached Oswald as a result of the description] his life.
I always stayed close to police radios in those days. I heard another report, that there was a suspect in the theatre a few blocks away, and here I came face to face with Lee Harvey Oswald as he was arrested. Oswald pulled his gun on another officer, who somehow managed to get his hand in the firing mechanism to jam it. Then he was jumped on by five or six policemen. But the FBI knew Oswald, and his background as a Russian defector, they knew he'd brought a Russian wife back with him, which was highly unusual then. They had a file on him, but they didn't tell the police or the secret service. KS
PJ O'Rourke is an American political satirist, commentator and journalist.
I was incomparably shocked by the assassination. I can't think of any event that didn't involve me personally, that produced that kind of shock in my life, except maybe 9/11. I'm not a wild fan of the Kennedys, and that's an adult judgment distanced by many years and much information from the time of the assassination. I remember wearing a pin saying "If I were 21 I'd vote for Nixon".
But Kennedy was a man of enormous charm; I have over the years known a couple of people that knew him quite well, including William Atwood [publisher and US Ambassador to Guinea]. He had an unstinting admiration for Kennedy. This is not the only time I've run across this, so there had to be something there. If I don't know quite what it is, it's perhaps the shallowness of my imagination.
Looking back he was a normal, flawed human being. He was good at exerting the charm that is necessary in politics, and which seems to be absent from it at the moment. I had a lot of Catholic friends and lived in a Catholic area. The extent of American anti-Catholicism back then is hard to exaggerate. The idea of a Catholic president was groundbreaking. Kennedy had to come right out and say, I will be a president that is a Catholic, and not a Catholic who is the president.
This picture captures the pathos and the bathos of the situation. Here's this poor little boy, not quite comprehending what has happened. My own dad died when I was just short of nine, which makes this picture particularly powerful for me. My sisters were about the age of young John when he died, and I remember their semi-comprehending hysteria. It's a picture that really touches the heart and yet it is bathetic in the sense of how it has been cynically used by the media – the cheap emotional content that has been extracted from this real emotional moment.
The picture also captures the Kennedys' unfailing sense of style – it just isn't in the Kennedys not to look good. One can't think of a better example of public grief graciously expressed. Jackie did it just right. We witnessed the way she becomes a person, becomes visible as opposed to a prop – in those days the wives of candidates did not actively campaign, they stood adoringly at their husband's sides. She was famous for her looks, but people didn't have any sense of knowing her until she did a tour of the White House [In 1962, Jackie showed TV viewers around the building in a CBS documentary watched by 80 million].
I had dinner with Jackie once. I was a young man in New York, about 30, so she was an older woman of course. I was sat next to her at a dinner party. I just didn't know what to say. She was so great – she was magic. She could see I was gobsmacked. She was more photogenic than she was pretty, but by the end of the evening, I was smitten. She had it going on – what ever "it" is she had that – such tremendous magnetism.
It was one of those situations where virtually every subject that could possibly come up is some sort of minefield. She walked me through it, she was so gracious. At the end of dinner, as was the case back in those days, people smoked. I offered her a cigarette and went to light it, and the matchbook I took out of my pocket was advertising an uncirculated Kennedy stamp, so the face of her dead husband was on my matchbook. She saw it, but showed no sign. Of all the matchbooks, in all the pockets in all the world… KS