Miller Center

John F. Kennedy Presidential Recordings

Kennedy Dictabelt Conversation 11C.1


Download: WAV MP3

Tape: 11C.1

Conversation: dictabelt

Date: March 07, 1963

Details: Kennedy and Edward Kennedy


The previous day, President Kennedy's special assistant on foreign trade, former Secretary of State Christian A. Herter, met in Washington with representatives of the textile industry. The wool industry was lobbying for special protections against foreign imports. The Kennedy administration had already provided such protections to the cotton industry, but balked at doing so for wool, in part because of strong British opposition to it. Ultimately, the administration rejected the wool industries proposals.1

In this telephone call, President Kennedy and his brother Edward, the new freshman Senator from Massachusetts, marvel that Herter turned up the meeting on the topic of protecting American products in a foreign-made luxury car.

Editorial Note: This recording consists of two parts designated as conversation numbers 11B.4 and 11C.1. The National Archives and Records Administration has witheld the first part (11B.4) under the privacy provisions of the donor’s deed of gift.

Edward Kennedy: . . . [Unclear.] You know, the thing that sort of got this—the one thing like yesterday that they had the big horse laugh about is they said, “here’s a guy”--one of the, you know, the wool people said, “here’s a guy who’s talking about keeping out foreign imports,” he says, “and what’s he do but pulls up in a Mercedes-Benz.”2

President Kennedy: Who was that?

Edward Kennedy: [Christian] Herter.3

President Kennedy: Oh, is that right?

Edward Kennedy: Yeah, and he evidently drives around here, and he’s got that Massachusetts governor’s license plate on, or something, so everyone turns around and takes a look.4

Both laugh.

Edward Kennedy: He drove up to that wool meeting, and he said that really let the air out of every balloon in there. 

President Kennedy: Right.

Edward Kennedy: But . . .

President Kennedy: But, of course, it’s tough. Did I tell you? Boy, we went through that yesterday for two hours.

Edward Kennedy: Yeah.

President Kennedy: About what we could do on wool. You see, those guy’s don’t want to give up that market.

Edward Kennedy: Yeah.

President Kennedy: And . . . you know, it’s just—

Edward Kennedy: Well, he’s got a—you know—

President Kennedy: —but anyway, Christian, he’s a great free-trader. But we’re anyway—we’re going to—we’re meeting with [John] Pastore tomorrow, and we’ll discuss it then.

Edward Kennedy: Yeah. He’s—Mike’s got—he’s really got an awfully good grasp, and he made a hell of a good presentation—

President Kennedy: Right.

Edward Kennedy: —of the problems.

President Kennedy: OK. Good. Fine.

Edward Kennedy: Good enough.

President Kennedy: See you later.

Edward Kennedy: Bye.

  • 1.Richard E. Mooney, "Herter Consults Textile Leaders," New York Times, 7 March 1963, p.9; Julius Duscha, "Administration Reported Vetoing Wool Raisers' Protection Demands," Washington Post, 12 March 1963, p.A2.
  • 2.Mercedes-Benz is a German company.
  • 3.Christian A. Herter was President Kennedy's special assistant on foreign trade and a former secretary of state.
  • 4.Herter had been the governor of Massachusetts from January 1953 until January 1957.