JFK's faked wit

Cecil Adams had already written that JFK’s book, for which he got a Pulitzer Prize, was ghostwritten for him.

However I remember reading somewhere that his clever responses on press-conferences had also been invented by someone else. That is when JFK was going to a press-conference to display his wit he already new the questions which will be asked and the clever answers he will give.

Unfortunately I don’t remember the source of this knowledge. Anyone does?

This claim, if true, would seem to have a factual answer.

As such, it will be better served in General Questions than in Great Debates.

Off it goes.

Before press conferences, presidents (and any other press conference-giver) are routinely briefed about topics that will likely come up so they can have answers ready. Some, like Kennedy and Reagan, might use the opportunity to be ready with a little quip. Questions are also routinely planted with friendly reporters, although that’s more so the president can say what he wants to say and maybe guide later questions.

Don’t discount that Kennedy, like Reagan, had genuine wit, though. Read this for a brief history of how he first tried making a little joke at a press conference.

Surely, ghostwritten books and prepared answers, including quips, are par for the course for politicians, and for celebrities in general.

I totally agree.

But winning a Pulitzer for a ghostwritten book? Not so much.

Perhaps, there are more cases, but we just don’t know them. On one occasion a Washington Post columnist got a Pulitzer Prize for a 77 year old story.

Well, why is that? Is it because it is against the Pulitzer rules, or is it because most ghostwritten books are second rate?

The former. Under the Pulitzer Prize Plan of Awards, the prizes for books are supposed to go to the authors of the books concerned. For a ghostwritten book that’s presumably the writer, not the person who commissed the book.

Is it “fakery” if most twentieth-century presidents employed speechwriters?

His predecessor had Ike wit.

Whereas the guy before that couldn’t even get his headlines right?

I think everyone is aware that speechwriters exist. But in that case the act is the the delivery of the speech itself, which the speaker is the sole performer of.

But with a book, the writing is the act. There’s a substantial difference, at least in my opinion, between having somebody write a speech for me which I then deliver and having somebody write a book for me which I then put my name on the cover of.

I think most people now agree that Eisenhower was sandbagging his press conferences. He often felt that it better served his purposes to appear vague over his intentions on some issue as it gave him more flexibility in dealing with it. If, for example, a reporter asked Eisenhower whether or not he was going to veto an upcoming bill and he gave a direct yes or no answer, then he’d have publicly committed himself and wouldn’t be able to negotiate with Congress and might end up having to explain to the public why he changed his mind. So instead when a reporter asked him about a veto, he’d “answer” with some platitude about the Constitution and the separation of powers that didn’t address the question.

Some reporters mistook this dissembling for indecision. They assumed that if Eisenhower wasn’t telling them what his plan was, it indicated he didn’t have a plan. But insiders say that wasn’t the case. They have said that Eisenhower would be clear and precise about what he was doing when speaking in his office and would then go out and give an appearance of being undecided for the press.

Basic decency requires not putting one’s name on the book one did not write. And if he already did this, why not get a prize as well? A ghostwriter is the one whose name you do not see on the book cover. He is like a ghost whom you haven’t seen and only heard some tall-tales about. How would Pulitzer committee know? And if it do know, would it care?

Pre-dates Kennedy by 100 years.

Perhaps. But, as we know, the practice is common.

They might not know, but if they knew they would care. The prize rules do stipute the “author” as the recipient of the prize.

The criticism, I think, is not of the Pulitzer committee for awarding the prize to the book. How could they have known it was ghostwritten? I haven’t read the book, but for all I know it’s literary merit fully justifies the award of the prize. The criticism would be of the publisher for submitting the book for the prize, representing as the author someone who was not, in fact, the author. And I think there’s also a criticism of Kennedy for permitting the nomination, and accepting the prize, when he knew he hadn’t written the book.

This is just a strange play written by Woody Allen. I have seen that statement about Kennedy in a serious source.

However the following Lincoln story is true

And indeed Lincoln was no hero. He refused all the duels he was challenged to, just like Karl Marx.

I reject the suggestion that accepting or rejecting duels is a measure of heroism.

I thought he accepted the one where he could choose the weapons, so he chose swords. When his challenger saw his reach advantage he recused himself.

Accounts vary, but I think that’s correct: http://www.lib.niu.edu/1995/ihy950248.html