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Warren Commission Hearings: Vol. VII - Page 456« Previous | Next »

(Testimony of Kenneth P. O'donnell)

Mr. Specter.
crowds of 50,000 or 100,000 people, and mingle with them at handshaking distance.
Mr. Specter.
Had you ever discussed the dangers inherent in a motorcade, for example, with the President?
Mr. O'DONNELL. Not specifically in a motorcade. I don't think the President's view was--very frankly, we had discussed this general subject. We used to go on trips, and sit around in the evening and this would come up.
Mr. Specter.
What was the President's view expressed during those conversations?
Mr. O'DONNELL. His view was that a demented person who was willing to sacrifice his own life could take the President's life. And that if it were to happen, I think his general view was it would happen in a crowded situation.
I don't think it entered his mind that it might happen in the fashion as of a motorcade.
Mr. Specter.
What was his reaction to that risk?
Mr. O'DONNELL. I think he felt that was a risk which one assuming the office of the Presidency of the United States inherited. It didn't disturb him at all.
Mr. Specter.
When was the last conversation that you had with him on that general topic?
Mr. O'DONNELL. The last conversation I had with him on that general topic was the morning of the assassination.
Mr. Specter.
Where did the conversation occur?
Mr. O'DONNELL. The conversation took place in his room, with Mrs. Kennedy and myself, perhaps a half hour before he left the Hotel Texas to depart for Carswell Air Force Base.
Mr. Specter.
That was in Fort Worth?
Mr. O'DONNELL. That was in Fort Worth.
Mr. Specter.
And tell us, as nearly as you can recollect, exactly what he said at that time, please.
Mr. O'DONNELL. Well, as near as I can recollect he was commenting to his wife on the function of the Secret Service and his interpretation of their role once the trip had commenced, in that their main function was to protect him from crowds, and to see that an unruly or sometimes an overexcited crowd did not generate into a riot, at which the President of the United States could be injured. But he said that if anybody really wanted to shoot the President of the United States, it was not a very difficult job--all one had to do was get a high building some day with a telescopic rifle, and there was nothing anybody could do to defend against such an attempt on the President's life.
Mr. Specter.
What was Mrs. Kennedy's reaction to that philosophy?
Mr. O'DONNELL. I think--I think she had not quite thought of this at all. She certainly had not thought of it in this way. But I think the general tenor of the conversation was that she agreed that this was--in this democracy, this is inherent.
Mr. Specter.
What had her reaction been to the trip to Texas up to that point?
Mr. O'DONNELL. She had enjoyed it. She had not been a girl who had loved campaigning. And I thought at the moment, at that very minute, that for the first time the President and I were discussing a forthcoming trip to the west coast, and he had asked her if she would come, and she said she would be delighted to come, and she would like to go from now on.
The President was delighted. We were all delighted.
Mr. Specter.
Had she been on any political trip before this trip to Texas?
Mr. O'DONNELL. No; she had not been on a political trip with us for quite awhile.
Mr. Specter.
When was the trip immediately prior to the one to Texas that she was last on, if you recall?
Mr. O'DONNELL. I don't recall. I don't recall.
Mr. Specter.
Was it during the 1960 campaign?
Mr. O'DONNELL. She was pregnant, as I recollect, during the 1960 campaign. She had been pregnant just prior to this. So that--and most of the other trips had been really the sort of thing that was difficult for Mrs. Kennedy to go on. But she had never evidenced to me quite as much interest in going on a--continuing to go on these trips, as she was after this.
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