Kennedy After Dark: A Dinner Party About Politics and Power

In this exclusive transcript from the JFK library, hear what he had to say just days after announcing his candidacy for the presidency

"It's possible my natural level is in the Senate," John F. Kennedy said—but then he won the 1960 election. As president, he and his wife hosted Ben and Tony Bradlee (left and third from left) at the White House. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)
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(Continued from page 9)

Bradlee: Well, what is the magic? And is the magic that you think exists and is important at forty-three, did you have any idea what it was at twenty-six?

JFK: No, but I did always reasonably well. In the first place I worked harder than my opponents, on at least three occasions, I worked harder, with the exception of Hubert, I think, than anybody else, every time I’ve run. And then I brought advantages, as I say, I brought advantages in ’46, and in ’52 I just buried Lodge.

Bradlee: Advantages . . . well-known family?

JFK: I don’t think he was tough enough, Lodge, because he didn’t do the work. He had every advantage in ’52. I mean that was really a long shot. Nobody wanted to run against him.

Bradlee: . . . Eisenhower?

JFK: Well, yeah, he’d won by the biggest majority ever in the history of Massa- chusetts the previous time he’d run, 560,000, he beat Walsh. After four terms. I mean, Walsh was a soft touch, but it was a hell of a victory, 560,000 votes. Fifty- two, a Republican year coming up, campaign manager.

Bradlee: But is it true that the magic and the desire changes with the office, because that seems to be true?

JFK: No, I just think that as time moves on, and you move on, your perspective changes. I don’t know what makes some politicians succeed and others fail. It’s a combination of time and their own quality . . .

Bradlee: And luck.

JFK: . . . and luck. I mean, the margin is awfully small between, you know, those who succeed and those who don’t. Like it is in life.


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