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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  January 12, 2013 1:30pm-2:30pm EST

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the battle for power in russia. in tonight's programming will be concluded with our weekly afterwards program. reclaiming the founding fathers america's white ring at the george washington law school. visit for more on this weekend schedule. david nasaw recounts the life of joseph p. kennedy, patriarch of the presidential family which included john f. kennedy and robert kennedy and we also examine his business and politics, which included ventures in wall street and hollywood and founding chairman of the securities and exchange commission. this is a little under an hour. >> thank you all. i am pleased to be here.
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>> as i tell my history students, i teach at the city university of new york. [applause] >> thank you. as i tell my history students until they want to choke me, the past as is a foreign country. we can visit their. try to learn the customs, translate the language, or quail at the fowler, but we are foreigners in this strange land. this is true as much of the recent past as it is of colonial america or 12th century venice. writing about the recent past is not easy, as i learned at this time around. there are people that you must talk to. [laughter] while i was blessed from
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beginning to end fascinating people to talk to about joe kennedy, including large numbers of kennedys, i much prefer working from written documents than listening to people talk and trying to figure out what is real or imagined and what they know, what they think they know because someone told them what they don't know what all. the other difficulty about writing about the recent past is that it's not always easy to establish the past. the past that is so close to us. and yet, this is. to take apart, or commonsense view of the recent past and to interrogate what we think we know. to demystify a comedy mythologize, to move beyond the cliché about winners and losers and saints and sinners and the
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wisdom and encourage of our forefathers, especially those of the greatest generation. our job as historians. grounded in evidence. the life of joseph p. kennedy was, for me, a sort of anti-fun house mirror. which, if i looked at it long enough, would reflect back to me often a hazy and indistinct, distorted forms, images of the things and people and places which organized and arranged and told the story of 20th century america. i was a colleague of arthur's lessons are in the city of new york.
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i had used a treasure trove of material is that jean kennedy smith's daughter, who is writing letters from her father to her aunt and uncles, and in that treasure trove of material, i glimpsed a man who is different from everything i had heard. so i told jean kennedy smith at some point that her daughter should write a biography of her
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grandfather. and the man was absolutely fascinating. it's a good word to use when you don't know you'll be writing about it. it was fascinating in the biography. about a year later i saw her again and she said the family wanted me to do it, to write that biography. but they recognize that there was a need for such a biography. and i said that i am in the midst of writing another book. and she asked when i would be finished. and he can't say no to kennedy. and i said, i don't know, six months or so.
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someone i was convinced was a ted kennedy impersonator. i don't know if any of you grew up in new york or listened to don imus, but he had a ted kennedy impersonator and sounded just like this. so i listened to the message and then after listening to it, i decided it was the senator asking me to come to washington to talk to him about doing a biography of his father. i went to washington and the senator and i and his two dogs had lunch together on mondays. on mondays is dogs came to the senate with himmondays. on mondays is dogs came to the senate with him. it was a weird site, believe me. we were brought into a tiny conference room, the two dogs and the senator and me with a card table in the middle and the
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senator was always on a diet and he had the most interesting sliver of tuna fish that looked as old as he was. i had two pieces of bread and potato chips. and we talked for three or four hours. what i remember saying is that you don't want me to write this book. because i am a historian. and i'm going to find stuff. whatever i find, when put in the book. by the time this comes out, there might be a kennedy running for office. little did i know that kennedy would be joseph p. kennedy iii.
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that came before my book came out, the election day, but i was worried. and he said don't worry. he said everybody knows that my father had an affair with gloria swanson and i know my father was an anti-semite. and whatever you find enright is going to be sure to the man that i know and love and what is out there. and i said, okay. i want full access to everything. the family and the documents and everything that is stored at the kennedy library in boston that has been closed to researchers in washington.
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we will see the book when it was between hardcover and not before. and i won't be coming back to you for permission and whatever i find, i will use in the book. he said, okay. then it took 18 months to get all this in writing. and i was off and running. i found the more remarkable story and i imagine i would find. the story of a man who moves back and forth being outside and inside. i found the third-generation immigrant who cared little about the country that his grandparents had been born in and who no desire to visit
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ireland or read about it and considered himself 100% american and could not understand why anyone would think of him as less than that. he went to mass every sunday and confession. in the catholic church was the anchor of his existence. everywhere he went, he found out where the church was. when he went on vacation, he talked about confession being on friday. i mean, this, in one sentence,
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he grew up as the son of a very respected businessman and leader in east boston. he was the ultimate insider and even when he went to harvard. half of his class went with him in about 10% of the students were catholic. it didn't bother him nearly as much as the fact that he was too slow to make the varsity baseball team. he got his letter and was never a starter. he graduated from harvard and
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his wife began. he wanted to go into banking and finance and he discovered that every door was closed to him. every door was closed to him. his friends got interviews and jobs and major financial institutions and he got nothing. not an answer or an interview or anything. he took a civil service exam and became an assistant bank examiner and she traveled around the state examining books of banks and he won more than if he had ever gone into a management position. he wanted to get rich.
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he wanted to make enough money so that he could read leave every one of his children a million dollar trust fund in 1929. in order to do that, he realized that he had to do more than be a banker. he had to make deals. he kept afloat stock options for companies and raise money for the larger industry in and around boston. he realized he didn't have the connection and he'd never have the connection in any of the american industries. so he looked ahead and realized the financial institution was paying no attention to the industry that was about to take off. moving pictures.
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so he moved in and he began making his own deals and his own contracts and contacts. babe ruth knew his money and demanded to be paid upfront and kennedy never paid anybody up front. he eventually ended up in hollywood as the studio had of what was a minor studio and that wasn't going to stop him. he realized and recognized how he could convert his outsider status and how he could make it
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an advantage and benefit rather than a liability. he positioned himself as the boston banker. as the third-generation american. at a time when small towns and cities all over the country were aided and abetted them were beginning to fade that movies are dangerous to children. they are dangerous because they control who don't understand this well. in towns all across the country in states all across the country are beginning to institute censorship laws. hollywood had brought in will rogers who was part of this
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cabinet. and kennedy now positioned himself as the non-jew. and he made himself indispensable to the industry as such. studio after studio hired him. he demanded to be paid in stock options. by the time he left hollywood, he was a multimillionaire. he knew how to manipulate stock options and turn those pieces of paper into dollars, millions of dollars. he did at age 50.
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and she had millions and millions of dollars. he knew the way that stocks and bonds were traded and he knew that crash was coming and he pulled out all his money so that when the crash came, he was left with his millions and was an extraordinary position. a lot of people were suffering. but it doesn't compare to the depression of the '30s. kennedy was scared to death that everything that the country he loved, it was giving him opportunity that he had
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converted and was convinced that unless something was done to write the economy, capitalism was going to go down and democracy and with democracy everything that made this country great. he was convinced that the only man who could save this was franklin roosevelt. so in 1932, he signed on to the franklin roosevelt team and was one of the only bankers to do so. in one of the only irish catholics to take of a prominent position. and he was one of the only hollywood man with connections and he was solidly republican.
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the outsider was on his way to becoming an insider. and yet he refused to play by the rules and become part of the roosevelt team. he refused to unabashedly say whatever you guys want to do, i will back it, i'm with you. yet he was so important to roosevelt as a banker in an irish catholic and an incredibly smart man that roosevelt appointed him chairman of the securities and exchange commission.
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at the time it was horrifying. why are you putting a fox in control of the chicken. and joseph kennedy was the greatest chairman of the securities and exchange commission that we have ever seen. he knew every trick of the trade and pass so many regulations in such tough regulations that when he was finished, he had to get out of the market. because every device used he had outlawed. he began investing in real estate like the largest building outside the pentagon and the country. i don't think in philadelphia
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but in new york and chicago and westchester and albany. he does not where we wanted to be. he demanded much from roosevelt, and roosevelt gave it to him. he named him the first ambassador, the first irish catholic ambassador of the court of st. james. he became the ambassador to great britain. it was one of the worst decisions i ever made. he knew but somehow believe that he could keep kennedy and check what he could. when kennedy talked to his children, he was a cheerleader and an optimist.
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in his relationship to the world around him and the 20th century, he made his pile of money and he was convinced that it was going to be taken from him. he was convinced that it would be taken from the united states that the united states entered the war. entered world war ii on behalf of the british. nothing is more important than making sure that there was no war. keeping britain out of the water and then the united states out of the war. and he did everything that he possibly could. he violated protocol, he did not file orders. he met secretly with german diplomats and he was convinced that as a businessman, he knew how to negotiate a deal.
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and that if he were put in a room with hitler, the two of them could negotiate and he refused to see that hitler was a madman. but he didn't care about the german people. but he had other fears that drove him. he told the leader of the zionist community, i'm going to go meet with them and work it out. he became so anti-churchill, antiwar effort, that the british spying on him, which i found in the national archives in britain. there are records of his conversation with german
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diplomats. he wanted to negotiate an end to the war. to negotiate a settlement that would prevent war and that would rescue the jewish refugees. he went from being an insider to an outsider because they didn't -- he didn't know how to be an insider. he returned to the country in disgrace. supported roosevelt in 1940 which is all he wanted. it is why roosevelt did not fire him as he should have. he retired and kept away, he did an interview in boston. he said any money we give the
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british is wasted and thrown away. then he went to hollywood about the future of films and what were the film companies going to do if they couldn't export to europe. but then he lashed out at an audience that was almost all jewish. he said you guys need to stop making anti-hitler films. if you don't stop doing that, you are going to cause the next war. millions of american boys are going to be killed, blood will be spilled, and there will be the worst outbreak of this world
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has ever seen because everybody is going to blame everybody in this country -- they will all blame the jews. by 1940, he was a total, absolute pariah. nobody wanted to touch him. he didn't want to sign-up with winter because if he knew if he did that, there would be no place in politics for his children ever. so he stayed quiet. the miraculous part of the story apart that i can't tell you that you're going to have to read. [laughter] in 1940 the kennedy name was
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dirt. it was dirt among the isolationist and lindbergh people and because he wanted to protect his children. it was dirt among the roosevelt people and everyone who wanted or believed that americans have the support of the british in their war effort. twenty years later, his son was elected president of the united states. once again, the outsider had performed magic. he had become the ultimate insider, the father of the president of the united states. i am now delighted to take
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questions. [applause] >> there is a microphone here. hold your hand up your hand and don't speak until you get a microphone. >> that's a wonderful speech. is it true that roosevelt sent him to england to get rid of him because he considered him a pain in the knack? >> in part. that's a great question. but roosevelt didn't trust anybody. and he was a brilliant charmer and conniver, but roosevelt always said that three people could do one job and he believed that he needed kennedy because kennedy would immediately break reports of him directly rather than to the state department and
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that kennedy was smart enough to be his eyes and ears. what he didn't know is that quickly developed an obsession in making useless as a reporter on conditions in europe. and roosevelt would send over a variety of personal representatives to do the job that kennedy should have been doing in the court on british preparedness and whether or not they were going to enter the war on the side of the germans. he kept him there because he was worried about him. he was worried that he would come home and support republicans and run for president himself. >> okay, there is a question here and over here in the
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audience. .. >> some of that got to the harvard reunion. aside from that, no. no bootlegging whatsoever.
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the only -- the only -- the stories about bootlegging don't begin until the 1970s when nixon runs against jfk in 1960. nixon brings out researchers. he hires researchers all over the country to find every bit of dirt they can about the kennedy family, and they find plenty of dirt on joe kennedy, but no one accuses him of being a bootlegger. it's only in the 1970s when writers are trying to figure out the assassination, and they figure it can't be oswald, but the mafia. why would the mafia go after jfk and these explanations are put together, and all sorts of retired mafia, mafia person? some of it, you know, many miami, in israel, in europe, in the baa baa --
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bahamas, and, oh, a friend, and writers would not let it go. i'm reading this stuff, trying to track down every rumor, every story, and, you know, the credible witnesses include al capone's piano tuner who gives an interview in which he says he was tuning the piano when al and kennedy met together. they were -- they include the ex-wife of a chicago mobster who says, yeah, yeah, my husband was a good friend of joe kennedy. they included people who came out of the wood work to talk to me, including someone in a penitentiary in canada who insisted that his grand uncle had been killed by kennedy who
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was in partnership with truman as a bootlegger. [laughter] you know, how did bootlegging -- where did they get the booze? none of it made sense. it was one credible piece of data, one credible, and that was that a -- the canadian government was great during this whole thing. they didn't give a damn. they supported as much booze as possible coming across the border as long as the shippers paid an excise tax before they slipped it into the united states. joseph kennedy limited vancouver refused to pay the excise tax, and, you know, people have said, oh, there's the proof. there's the smoking gun. well, i found this kennedy. i looked at the business records and the tax records and the business directories in van do
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you ever, and -- vancouver, and it was david joseph kennedy who was born and raised and died in vancouver, so not my joe kennedy, so, no, no bootlegging of any sort. here, and then we'll go across. >> could you talk a bit about the relationship between joe kennedy, and his son, you know, and so -- kennedy, and his son, john, and his relationships with multiple women and whether that influenced him to follow that same path. >> yes. [laughter] yes. i think there are no kennedys in the audience here, are there? jack was much more predatory than his father was.
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joe kennedy spent his -- joe kennedy and rose had an arrangement that as we don't embarrass you, and i do whatever the hell i want, says joe, and he tried not to embarrass rose. i don't think jack had that same code. i think he embarrassed jackie in a way that, you know is inexcusable. one of the things i found is that i went to austin, texas to see the glorious swanson papers, and i teach ph.d. students. i'm the only historian who made the trip to austin, texas, with these great archives including
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the lbj library to look at the gloria swanson papers, and in the gloria swanson papers, i found her handwritten notes that she gave her, whoever wrote her autobiography. it had none of this, and the autobiography was written, you know, without much participation from the -- remember when, god, who was it? will chamberlain or charles barkley was asked -- barkly? yeah, what's this doing in your autobiography? he said, i don't know, i have not read it yet. [laughter] gloria swanson in the handwritten notes says that she tried during and after the affair to figure out how this devout catholic who went to confession and went to mass could cheat on his wife like
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this, and she said, and gloria was, you know, had her own prejudices. she didn't like jews very much or i don't know if she liked catholics very much of the she said it was because confession was like washing his hands. go to confession, wash his hands, and start all over again the next day. this is part of the story i have to tell. yes, sir, over here? >> would you elaborate a little more on why -- i think you said that you didn't think that joe kennedy -- or couldn't find evidence that kennedy was antisemite. how hard did you look? [laughter] >> no, i didn't say that. i said that his son, ted, say he's not. now, let me tell you what i -- this was not easy to figure this out, and it was not easy in large part because when you look
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at washington in the 1930s, and, especially the state department, everybody's an antisemite. the state department is frightening, and washington, outside the state department is only a little bit better so when you start talking about who is an antisemite, the question is way kind of an antisemite, okay? i had to define for myself what antisemite means, and i defined it as someone who believes that there's something in the yes gec makeup, in the blood that makes jews sinister, corrupt, and unable or committed to destroys christian morality. ben burke, henry ford, lady aster, kennedy's good friend, an
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antisemite, according to this definition that became my definition. breaken ridge law who ran the refugee program and kept out hundreds of thousands, as much blood on his hands as most germans was an antisemite. kennedy was not in that sense, but what kennedy was was kennedy, as time went on, absorbed every antisemitic myth and mythology. he used language, made speeches that were frightenly antisemitic. he believed the organized jewish community, not all jews, but the most powerful ones including
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those in the white house or close to the white house, they were all -- they were doing everything they possibly could to push the united states into war against germany to somehow get revenge against hitler. he believed the jews were warmongers, looking after only their own triball interests. they were not patriotic. in a follow-upny way, -- funny way, he accused the jews of everything that billy grahm and the protestants accused his son of when running for the presidency in 1960. he didn't believe it was possible to be a jew and to be a true patriot at the same time. those who opposed his son's election because he was roman catholic said that billy grahm
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among them were right out there in front said that you couldn't be a catholic and a true blooded american at the same time. because the vatican was going to give you orders, and you couldn't turn them down. >> is it true that kennedy's views about the future of the stock market was influenced by his boot black one day who was giving him advice on markets and supposedly kennedy said on the way to its office he thought something is wrong when a boot black can give me advice. >> yeah, a great story. i found no evidence for it. [laughter] no, it may be true. there's some stories that found no evidence for, and i didn't include it in the book because i couldn't verify it, but kennedy didn't need his boot black to
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tell him that. he was really smart. when you look back at the crash of 1929, as when you look back at the crash of 2008, you find that there are a lot of people who knew it was coming, and nobody was listening to. bernard knew it was coming, and he got his money out of the market. kennedy knew what was coming, and he took his money out of stock. it's the insiders who had to have known that the market was over sold. i mean, you know, the marks who was wiped out listened to insiders so he can be resolved of being stupid, but the people who worked as brokers had to have known it was coming. kennedy knew it was coming, and he got out.
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>> [inaudible] >> marriage to rose kennedy -- [inaudible] i have a little story which you may or may not know, one of my mother's friends grew up in palm beach, and she would be 95 if she were still alive now, and there came a time when she stayed home, didn't go to school -- [inaudible] everyone in palm beach shunned her, but bobby kennedy came and said our father said that we're allowed to play with you. >> yeah. i wish you would have told me that before. [laughter] yeah. it rings true. it makes sense. it makes perfect sense because
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nobody liked the kennedys in palm beach now, and kennedy at the time said to hell with you, you know? we'll make our own way and did. he did his own entertaining in his own house when he wanted to. he went to bradley's, the casino that he claimed had the best food in palm beach. the question is did kennedy marry rose fitzgerald because she was the daughter? did he court her? did he make her his girlfriend and go out with her and then marry her because her father was the mayor? yes and no. he was the -- she was thee most eligible girl. she was smart. she was pretty. she was vivacious. she had this carefree attitude.
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she was an extraordinary young woman, and i think kennedy was drawn to her, and kennedy knew, you know, i don't know what came first, but kennedy certainly knew that his girlfriend was the mayor's daughter, and that by marrying rose, he was going to climb a step. one of the difficulties was that kennedy's father who was also very important in irish politics had been the opponent so for a long time, the didn't want them to be married, not because joe kennedy didn't have bright prospects, but because his father was antihoney fits in election after election after election. joe kennedy's father believed that irish-catholic poll --
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politicians department have -- didn't have to appear as clowns, you know? curly was a clown, you know, and they were boisterous. they were loud. they were rebel rowsers. they were the worse kind of populous. joe kennedy's father was not, and one of the reasons why joe, himself, did not enter politics was that he was totally fed up with his irish-catholic, what he had seen as the dominant irish-catholic posturing to the people, you know? to the don't vote for that guy, he's not irish-catholic. only an irish-catholic can look after you. they looked after their own pockets.
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>> any comments on the lobotomy story with his daughter rosemary being done so she would not embarrass the kennedys and prevent the boys from becoming president? >> yeah. i spent a lot of time researching and found a lot of stuff. no. you can blame kennedy for a lot of stuff, but not for this. he loved that child. when he moved all the other children back to the united states, when the french -- when germany, when world war ii began, he kept rosemary with him in england because she was doing really well in the school, and he looked after her, and when you see the pictures, read the letters, i mean, he loved this child. everybody knew she was slow, but that was okay. she didn't, you know, it was
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okay, but as she grew older, and as she was slow, but smart enough to understand that her brothers and sisters were going out in the world, were going to dances, were going to play golf, that, you know, her brothers and sisters ten years younger could play by themselves on the front lawn, and she couldn't. she was not allowed to. she became increasingly angry, violent, she had a temper. she was no longer this sweet little girl. she was an angry, big woman of 19, 20, 21, and kennedy, as he did with all his chirp, took charge. rose didn't. he did. he went and sought the best medical advise, and the medical advice was get her a lobotomy. in this period of time, the
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lobotomy was the preferred intervention. there was critics, of course, but the man who did the lobotomy, he won a nobel prize for medicine. the man who performed the lobotomy on the teen that -- the teen that performed the lobotomy was a neurosurgeon from yale, and, you know, the head of johns hopkins, and they said to kennedy, she will still be slow, but we're going to do this operation, and she's not going to be angry. she's not going to be unhappy. she's not going to be discontent, but a happy child again. the lobotomy went drastically wrong, and she came out of it a vegetable. she eventually learned to walk, but she never spoke again. she didn't communicate. she didn't write.
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her intelligence was at a 6-year-old, and now it was a six month old. for two years after that, kennedy was the only one who kept in touch with her. rose didn't write her. rose's round robin letters to the family, rose would write the whole family and say x is doing this, y is doing this, but rosemary disappeared from family correspondence. kennedy continued to visit her, and he finally found the place for her. he wanted to put her in boston, in a place near boston. it was a home for retarded children, and they said don't do it because you can't protect the family's privacy and you can't protect your privacy. you can't protect her privacy most of all. they moved her to a convent home in winsconsin. all that, i understand. what i don't understand is that once he put her in this home,
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and she was well cared for, he never saw her again. the family only began to visit rosemary again after kennedy had a debilitating stroke, and they never told her. the only one who made sense of this to me was tim shriver. yunis began her work for the mentally disabled, you know, because of what the family went through, and tim shriver is an extraordinary young man who runs the special olympics now. he says, you know, you got to understand the shame that the family had because they couldn't do enough for their sister, you know? they couldn't do enough for her. they couldn't help her. they couldn't do anything. kennedy convinced himself and the rest of the family that she was better off by herself with the nun making her own community
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for herself in jefferson, wisconsin. i still don't understand it as much as i want to. one last question. >> what was his relationship with his son, and what did they think of him? >> his kids absolutely loved him. they adored him. i thought it was inauthentic in the beginning and that they were making it up. i couldn't believe, you know, i hope my boys speak of me one-half as well as his boys and his daughters, who had more of a reason. they loved the guy, and it was only after i did my research that i discovered why. he was an extraordinary father. what can be an sob -- watch my language -- in a thousand ways and be an extraordinary father,
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and he was an extraordinary father. he supported the boys. just one story. the bay of pigs, when we now know that jfk was absolutely distraught, jackie, in her interviews which were recently published, talked about seeing her husband, you know, just cry, a grown man just sob. because of the loss of lives. you know, he had sent these men over to die on a beach or to be captured. it was a major, major, major crisis. , and kennedy, the president, and kennedy the attorney general, at one point were trying to make sense of this, and bobby said to jack, let's call dad. it'll make us feel better. he always makes us feel better.
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bobby picked up the phone to call dad in palm beach, and dad got on the phone, and he said, look, guys, it's terrible. this was a fiasco, a debacle, but it was at the beginning of the four year term, and by the end, everybody will have forgotten, and the fact you apologized, jack, the american people love that. your polls will go up in two weeks, and kennedy was right. kennedy's a father. bobby was right. they felt better. and the polls did go up in two weeks. that was the father he was, and one of the father he was. there's lots to disstress me from beginning to end. anti-semitism, appeasement, the ruthless stock market republic -- racketeering. the lo --
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lobotomies i never understood in cutting rosemary often, and the relationship with all the children, including rosemary up until the last years, is truly remarkable. on that upnote, i thank you, all, for your attention. [applause]
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>> national press clubs books and authors night. "out of the news: former journalists discusses a profession in crisis." you are a former journalist. >> yes, i am. >> why? >> because i could not become, be the mother i wanted to of a small child and do the journalism i wanted to do, and then i found a really wonderful and fulfilling career as a public interest lobbyist, but i always was very emotionally attached to journalism, and this book gave me a chance to connect with people, many of whom left journalism at the top of their game with some of the biggest media outlets in the country, and i was able to explore with them their feelings about the profession, and this is really media criticism with a human face. these are wonderful stories because the lives of journalists are very exciting and rich and reasons for leaving the profession, and sometimes they
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leave and come back or sometimes they leave and start their own non-profit investigative journalism organization as chuck louis did, sometimes they leave like david simon and become the author of "the wire," and so these are people who have had rich and varied stories, and the stories are leaving readers with the idea that journalism is not dead. the future of journalism is uncertain, but the need for journalism continues. >> you profile 1 # 1 -- 11 former journalists in this book. what is different now in today's contemporary land scape than it was when you were a journalist? >> i think the biggest difference is that we are 24/7 so that right now, journalists don't have much time at all to
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go deep. there never was a lot of time to go deep and explore and be thoughtful, but now it's all about breaking news, and it's a big difference. there's also not a lot of opportunities for journalists to learn and grow and become more proficient and knowledgeable. i think that's the difference now too. >> was there something you heard from all 11 journalists that resinated with you in regards to why they left the profession? >> i think all of them, if not most, said, basically, i want to do more. >> would you ever come back to journalism? if so, what would you cover? >> i'm not sure. i love writing. i loved writing this book. i think it's more likely i would do another book. >> well, if you're a former journalist or interested in the profession, the author of "out of the news: former journalist discusses a pro


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