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tv   Robert F. Kennedys Political Legacy  CSPAN  June 30, 2018 8:50pm-10:01pm EDT

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center for congressional history and education, author jules bohrer talk john about his legacy years later. this is an hour and 10 minutes. >> robert f kennedy was running for president when he was a decimated -- when he was assassinated after winning a california primary on june 5, 1968. he died a few hours later on june 6. years thate of those historians and journalists like -- i like call a watershed. alike call a watershed. es yearshat echo later. be oner 1968 will always that will live in our history
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books. our panelists today will explore some of the reasons why. we're honored to have with us you distinguish veteran les who was an eyewitness to the kennedy assassination. he was covering the kennedy campaign and traveled extensively with kennedy during that campaign. , which you will be able days, the last85 campaign of robert kennedy. the baltimore sun, the washington star, the los angeles times, the washington post, and together with jack jerman he published a syndicated column. many of you in this audience perhaps remembers jack overtired
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here to jefferson county after his long career in journalism. jack was also on the maclachlan tv show for a number of years. jules were great friends and colleagues -- college. they wrote many papers together on presidential campaigns. start as a journalist in 1954. in addition to the books he cowrote with jack, he is the author of 13 more books including a biography of jill biden and the resurrection of richard nixon and, more recently, the american vice presidency. our other historian and author is johnnd reporter bohrer who has written in
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many different papers. he is the author of the " revolution of john kennedy." this is his first book and a good one that explores the kennedy's difficult odyssey after the assassination of his brother in 1963. said jackrough brilliantly captures the compassionate hero who still country a half a century later. i agree with that and i'm sure jack likes that. onk's day job is producer msnbc. mr. bohrer is a resident of new
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york. our moderator for today is don ritchie in the middle there. a historian of the united states senate who served in the historical office for almost 40 to 2015.m 1976 up he and i were graduate students together and he is also a member of the board of directors here the center. he is a graduate of the city college of new york, the university of maryland, and served in the u.s. marine corps. his books include "the u.s. gallery," andess "electing fdr." please welcome our panel. [applause] take it away don. >> thank you for the nice
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introduction. thate talking about a year those of us who remember living through was a difficult year. when i think of 1968, when i think of most is phones ringing late at night with people calling up and saying something awful has just happened. one of those calls came in two or 3:00 in the morning to say that robert kennedy had been shot in los angeles. there were milestones of that becauset were indelible they were so personal. on new year's, at the end of the year, i was relieved the 1968 was over and i assumed that things got better in 1969, not realizing what was coming up ahead. we have today to find authors. jules is a legend in the press corps. he is been presenting since 1954.
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this probably no one who is serving congress that he hasn't covered one way or another. or has a story about one way or another. john is coming as a journalist, but also as a historian -- and historian -- an historian. there are two books, this is an eyewitness account and a riveting account of kennedy's campaign leading up to his funeral at the end as the revolution of robert kennedy is the study of years of 1963 up to 1968, what's made robert kennedy the unique politician he was. i thought we could open this jules.ith all these years later, when you think back on robert kennedy, what first comes to your mind? he was his brother's brother.
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politics. he got into way thatch an extreme he worshiped his brother. died -- robertdy kennedy died to in a sense, the idea of how he was going to continue the legacy of his brother by this time, he had been the united states -- in the united states senate, and the evolution of his deciding to work for the president was a rather painful one. he evolved it as a personality in his own right.
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sense, the leader of another younger generation who endured the assassination of joey kennedy and eventually agendao carry out his and legacy. >> i think that is a very good point. time ofennedy, at the his brother's assassination had no job and was not related to his brother's political goal. you look at his professional school952, the law graduation so he could work on the senate campaign in massachusetts, and 56 he dropped his job to go to work on least evenson's campaign -- lee ste venson's campaign.
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in 1960, he worked as hard as ever including here in west virginia to see that his brother is elected. he decides after the election and maybe i will go do something different his father says no, you need to be the attorney general, you need to be there for your brother he goes and does that. in 1963, when his brother was --assinated, he has to make not only does he lose his brother, he loses his boss and direction. jules said he is very protective of his legacy and he was thinking of all the ways how he would continue his brother so he would not be forgotten. he goes and pursues power in different ways over the course of those four years. latert is it 50 years that jury back to studying robert kennedy? >> i was thinking of this not long ago as a college student in maryland. the reason i'm smiling big is
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because i read this book and was such an all, and it was 2005. politics was not interesting but it was not exciting. i was thinking at the time, wouldn't it be great to live in a time where politics is unpredictable and you don't know what you are going to wake up to? [laughter] john: and so 1968 had this appeal. [laughter] my job these days. i found robert kennedy to be a really inspiring figure, a person touched by tragedy, who was able to overcome the things that were holding them back and restraining him. he was a very restrained person. jules writes about this in his book, not running until march of 1968 because of his fears of what people were going to think if he did run.
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donald: what your saying is beware of what you wish for. jules, can you talk about what was robert kennedy's extraordinary political appeal? he stands out among his generation and most of them since then, having a remarkable emotional appeal. jules: i think it started from the loss of john kennedy. he committed himself as i said before to carry out the legacy, but in the process, he developed himself -- i won't call it a cult, but certainly an emotional following himself. because he was a young man who had had a great wealth, but he had also suffered greatly. his family. i remembered once talking to ted
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.ennedy i had been in washington with robert kennedy during the riots after the assassination of martin luther king. we were in one of the black neighborhoods of downtown washington. a woman came up to him and said, "darling, i knew you would be here. i did." he had that emotional appeal. part of it was his youth. brash.d be very what he considered his people, and that was the people who were needy, who had -- were disadvantaged in some way.
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really reacted to them and they reacted to him. all the driving force in politics was as has already been mentioned to carry out the agenda of his brother. an emotional adventure for him to do it in a thethat he could advance needs of these people who looked as almost a savior. donald: john, in your book, you talk about the frenzies when he went out into the public, even ripping his shoes up. can you talk about that? john: he talked about himself as a symbol of what his brother representative. when he would go in public, people would want to touch him the 1964s said in
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race, the idea is we will march him up and down broadway and everyone will see him and then we win in a landslide. people wanted to mourn with him and grieve with him. that had a tremendous power. bobby kennedy was not a popular person before his other's assassination -- his brother's assassination. he was not going to go into the campaign because he had been so unpopular with what he was doing on civil rights. on both sides people thought he was hampering progress. people thought he was cramming progress down our throats, civil rights down our throats. as he went on, he realized he had this great power with the people who cared about his brother, and also he wanted to make sure he was securing his brother's legislative agenda and administration's agenda. he wasn't quite sure when lyndon
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johnson would do that. he didn't see the great society coming perhaps. he also had great criticism of lbj and what, how he was going about things. so he has to reinvent himself as a politician after his rather's assassination -- his brother's assassination. january 1960 4, 2 months after, he begins taking speech lessons in manhattan with the woman who drained eleanor roosevelt while she was first lady. robert kennedy, public speaking lessons up until his first major speech after his brother's assassination in scranton, pennsylvania on st. patrick's day, he realizes, i have to be good at this. there is the evolution of a politician. it would not have happened without people wanting to see him and touch him and let them know how he felt -- they felt. donald: extraordinary what you
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describe. rubbing his hand raw from people grabbing onto it. john: one of my favorite stories is from his men that come to see him in the middle of the new york campaign. he is lying on a lounge chair. they don't recognize him because he is so drag old. he reaches out with the pinky of his left hand because everything else is so bandaged. he goes, this is what i want to talk to you about. [laughter] also a very complex individual. anald: the cartoonist had series of famous cartoons in the 1960's of the good bobby debating the bad bobby. what was it about robert kennedy people saw such completely different images of him? there were two parts of him. we were just talking about his compassion.
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that visit in washington, ted kennedy said, when i asked him what he thought was the appeal, he said, they see that he hurts and they hurt. so they can identify with that. individual, he has so many things, and he did have a short temper and could be unpleasant, particularly with the press. that connection of somebody who couldtood their situation be a little irreverent for a moment is somewhat the feel that donald trump has for his game. -- gang. [laughter] donald: did you find you have to wrestle with these two sides? john: there is a great cartoon from the atlanta constitution of a bunch of children sitting on kennedy's lap all smiling at him
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. the caption is, you must -- you are the nice man named ruthless opportunist. [laughter] john: there was a confliction, but there was a great well of empathy or bobby, and had great empathy for people. he goes to west virginia in 1964 and is going through a very impoverished town. he is sitting with a young girl with cerebral palsy. his microphone onto her dress. they have the same number of children i think at that point. bobby had nine children. he goes, it is a terrible thing they did to your brother. bobby pat him on his back, knowing look. another person gives him a piece of newspaper clipping they had hung on the wall, a picture of jfk. these were people who didn't have much to give at all.
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the fact they were giving him something, you get back in the car with the journalist and has thepicture of jfk, and journalist asks him, this has been a difficult day? abi says, hard to say. he turns the picture over because he can't look at it. people could feel that from bobby he had this sense of grieving and loss and he understood what they were maybe have lost as well and were hoping to have for the rest of their lives. donald: you brought up the words that follow him through his career, and that was ruthless. you want to explain why that was about him john:? john:he was the campaign operative for his brother. as jfk would meet with favor seekers in the house or senate, he would smile, listen to what they wanted and nod. he said go see bobby. bobby was the one to say no. a lot of people would blame bobby for things that happened in the kennedy administration.
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robert kennedy did this to me. that person, that enforcer, he was stuck with that role. he embraced it because of the time. that was his only job. he didn't see anything beyond that. he was endlessly calculating. there is another story from lyndon johnson's inauguration. the morning he and teddy drive from his house in hickory hill and pass arlington national cemetery. jfk is buried there. the brothers pray, they go on to the inauguration. they don't stay for the balls. bobby comes home and passes arlington, decides to stop again. .e stops and praise -- prays as i'm there is a photographer and journalist. it appears in the newspaper. a republican senator, unnamed, , we areese journalists a hard-boiled crowd. we notice things like that.
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what they are saying is bobby .as using jfk as a photo op he would never do that. but he was also not unbelievable i think, bobby kennedy, in those days. donald: in your book, you describe how the journalists on the train with bobby had a song about ruthlessness in the sense they were teasing him about. jules: it happened in the indiana primary. there was a local song that theme semi-famous called wabash cannonball, a train that ran through the state of indiana. when the campaign got into it was an inspiration to those of us in the press to play on that song. ,e wrote six or seven stanzas
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song called the ruthless cannonball. [laughter] jules: i have all the stanzas in my book. you have to buy it, but one that stuck in my mind was about gene mccarthy who was running against robert kennedy for the democratic nomination. that is, that sentence, that stanza went "here comes gene mccarthy down the other track. 1000 radcliffe dropouts all mast for the attack bobby has got the right away from here back to st. paul because money is no object on the ruthless cannonball." [laughter] donald: in your book you don't say who wrote that song, but i think you have given us a suggestion about -- [laughter] donald: bobby seemed in that case, he left with the reporters. jules: he recorded it.
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he would always have some come back to put us in our place. in those days, we have a president of the united states who valued loyalty greatly and had sort of an extraordinary personality, a little bit unusual. we are not used to that anymore. in the 1960's we had lyndon johnson. lyndon johnson had a dislike for robert kennedy that was enormous. robert kennedy seems to have reciprocated. it was a district of time for the democratic party and the senate to have the two most influential people in the party dislike each other so much. yet on the issues there wasn't that much difference between them on some -- not many. how can you explain this deep-seated dislike of these people? john: i think when it comes to the issues, bobby thought lyndon was telling people in december
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--3 johnson is much more can much more conservative than you think. he was proven wrong. he was later complaining johnson was getting too much credit for what jfk had started. there is a through line and that his criticism of lyndon johnson. he didn't like him. they had, he didn't trust him. he lied too much. believe, like, i his criticism of his father he had offered in 1960 during the convention. he didn't, he wanted someone i think to be with the kennedy legacy, and lyndon johnson wanted a johnson administration. it was something he would say in 1964. he was open in that johnson doesn't want me to be a part of this administration because i am a kennedy and he wanted things in his own. jules: that is true. , lyndonous question
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johnson became his brother's president. -- vice president. bobby resented that and never forgot it. there is a well-known story at when john kennedy decided for various reasons that he needed or wanted or needed and wanted lyndon johnson as running mate. bobby kennedy went down to convey the information to johnson, but did his best to try not to take the vice presidency. that was always remembered in that relationship between lyndon johnson and robert kennedy. john: all that sort of spilled
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out about 1965, 1966 when people from kennedy started writing their books. you had the sitting president and senator from new york fighting over, were you supposed to be president or were you accidental? this wasn't supposed to happen. there was a quote that said none of this would have happened if we weren't so tired last night. it was like a rebuke of lyndon johnson mother sitting president at the time. he was sensitive to that. donald: he was looking over his shoulder. the word was robert kennedy would challenge him at some point, i was concerned the kennedys were going to come back and take his spot. he was paranoid to a degree, but there was some realism to his concerns in that situation. but it is a remarkable relationship between the two of them. now it is in broadway plays, all the way in the great society,
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include the tensions and robert kennedy and lyndon johnson as part of the story at that time. we can't talk about the 1960's without talking about the vietnam war. in what ways do you think the vietnam war contributed to the schism between these two? may ofobby kennedy from 1964, you see him give johnson advice about the vietnam war in which he says it is a military solution -- political solution, not military. johnson has the opposite reaction. in one phone conversation with bobby had another phone conversation with a senator saying we need somebody with stars, a general, to take the situation, not some diplomat like bobby is trying to put forward. robert kennedy was differential -- deferential. he understood the presidency the
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first two years, he volunteered to go as ambassador to vietnam in 1964. downn johnson turned him for a number of reasons including the fact they couldn't lose another kennedy at this time. as it went on in 1966, bobby had been giving private advice about how to take care of vietnam diplomatically. in the hearings, the secretary of state seemed open to elections involving the nlf, the .iet cong's political arm bobby put out this statement saying, we need to give them a share of the power and responsibility. a firestorm of criticism came back. hubert humphrey, from his brother's old advisers, everyone in washington basically seeing this through the lens of johnson versus kennedy and his personal feud. bobby didn't think much of it. he had gone to vermont to go
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skiing and had to come back to have a press conference to explain his press conference area that was the kind of political relationship they experienced. bobby had a temper that contributed to what he did not get into the race earlier. speaking of vietnam, that is where it comes down. twopeople who thought different solutions. jules: the vietnam war generated a huge street protests. and robert kennedy over time developed an ability to deal on ithat, to capitalize and to make that connection with opponents of the war, with people who were hurting economically. johnson, he didn't help himself. because his own personality,
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rather arrogant attitude. robert kennedy helped himself because with his ability to and equatestrings his concerns with the people who were in the streets made him much more effective politician in terms of dealing with the protest. donald: jules, you covered that campaign. the main opponent at that time was eugene mccarthy. can you talk a little bit about mccarthy and how he figures into this equation? in largecarthy emerged part because robert kennedy declined to play that role early on. , students inen
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north carolina or duke created the johnson movement. it really wasn't going anyplace. at they tried to recruit first robert kennedy who wasn't interested, then two or three other politicians including george mcgovern who said, why don't you talk to gene mccarthy? mccarthy was not a star in the senate, not well-known. keyad a certain soft charisma of his own. candidate a bombastic . he was not an emotional candidate. he was intellectual. onthat time, it worked well american campuses. mccarthy movement to
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going out of kids who were called clean for gene. they would cut their long hair, todoorknocking through generate support for mccarthy. but mccarthy was kind of overwhelmed as a candidate by the charisma of robert kennedy when he came into the race. on.rthy held he declined to pull out of the race and declined to even came up with robert kennedy has an unofficial team to get rid of johnson. i have always felt mccarthy was an extremely important character because hele saga did have a limiting effect to the emotional appeal of robert
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kennedy, but not sufficiently to overcome it. john: mccarthy also felt slighted that power and possibility speech, there was a new story not long after in which gene mccarthy gives a comment saying i proposed the same thing two months earlier. no one paid attention because i am not a kennedy. i recall reading in jewels' book , telling him and other reporters maybe three or four, two weeks before he announced for the president saying these are the areas where to mccarthy -- where gene mccarthy went wrong. he could have got people behind him if he had been more sensitive. bobby didn't think much of him. celebrity -- was a jean thought bobby was a celebrity. donald: he did have charisma because he took poetry at the university of maryland after that campaign.
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taught history class in the same room mccarthy took poetry in just previously. it was my job as teaching assistant to go down and clear the coeds out because they had congregated around the podium. people really were spooning for gene in those days. he was an important figure in the campaign, but it added to the peculiar chemistry of the 1968 election. jules: to the report about mccarthy as a poet, i went to a campaign. he reentered the race either that year or the next year, and we went to a small campus north chicago. chicago.of he began to recite his poetry.
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the meeting was held in an old h for those of you. to remember that. it was a tin roof. he began reciting his poetry, then he launched into his own low-key campaign pitch. it started to pour. rain poured down. you could hardly hear or understand him. the moderator was i think the president of the college, said, -- her, i think we should hesitated for a while because i don't think they can hear you. he said, i can hear me. [laughter] jules: that was gene mccarthy. donald: since we are here at the robert c. byrd center, i thought we should talk little bit about
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robert kennedy as a legislator. i am curious about what your thoughts are and how did it -- how did robert kennedy related the other senators, like robin byrd -- robert byrd. was he much of a legislator? jules: i wouldn't say he was much, but he was regarded as kind of a one-man senate. he was different, and he wasn't very approachable. he approached them too much. dida senator, i thought he a lot of things in the state of new york, but it wasn't presidential level. no -- wascarthy with no great it is later either. -- legislator either. john: bobby was really
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unconventional as a senator coming in. i think jfk waited a year or so before he gave his first senate speech or remarks in the well. teddy waited a year and a half before she did. bobby waited four weeks. the first bill was related to the appalachian aid bill. it was part of the campaign promise that they were going to include these southern tier counties in upper new york state into this bill that provided aid that was being championed by jennings randolph, the senator from west virginia. bobby goes, and he makes over the weekend, writes this amendment and delivers a speech, first comments on the floor of the senate. .t is a $1 billion bill in 1965 on the front page of the chicago tribune is not a picture of jennings randolph, but robbie kennedy. that was sort of the town. -- tone.
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bobby had a weird relationship with his secretary who would tally up the hours he had set presiding which was like a duty of freshmen senators to sit and preside over the senate. bobby had 75 hours compared to 125 for walter mondale who was a freshman at the same time. bobby writes i didn't do too well, did i? the secretary writes, nope. he brought great attention to senate hearings that other senators could not bring, and those field hearings which he is famously tangling with the sheriff of delano county in california. kern county, i should say. he would draw attention. -- the big three automakers, those hearings. the washington post said he dressed down the executives of
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the big three as if they were teenagers flunking their driver's ed test. and with the prosecutorial nature, he relished that part of being a senator. they always thought he was going to tackle education, and he never really dead. he did have an ability to attract publicity which is important to get people to pay attention. in those days tv didn't do gavel to gavel of hearings. the cameras literally would be off until some celebrity spoke, then the lights would light up the room and that person would speak. then as soon as that person finished speaking, the lights would be off. it was the 30 seconds or 60 seconds on the news. whenever there was a kennedy speaking, the lights were on. i presume the other senators noticed that, they went into eclipse when those people spoke. he still was able to bring important attention to the
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another question i have come both of your books, you talk about the campaign but you also talk about a lot of the things he did, climbing mountains, some of the risks he took in coal mines and things like this. do you have a sense of robert kennedy being fatal lettuce -- fatalistic after 1963, willing to put himself at risk more than person?cted of a usual >> they seemed to always been doing feats of physicality. if you watch the children swimming when they were young, it is like whoa. he went on a 50 mile march when andas attorney general, salazar was supposed to go along and talked his way out of it. was costly challenging
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himself physically, he was very masculine in that sense and wanted adventure. climbing a mountain without anyone else who was not a professional -- excuse me, he was the only nonprofessional who went on the climb. it was dangerous and quite alarming. he nearly fell a few times. but at the same time i think that was just part of his being. during thated him campaign, was he taking extraordinary risks? unnecessary risks? risks, butaordinary being out there and a climate of the day was risky, as we found out. i want to talk a little bit about another part of robert kennedy, dealings with the press. enjoyed our he pulling his chain a little bit, but he was not very approachable, at least at the
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beginning. one of my first encounters with wasrt kennedy was when he on the labor rackets committee. would come to those hearings occasionally because people from new york were involved in the rackets. i was working for an obscure , and i tried to ask him a question, and he was the only one that would answer me. he would say, and you are? [laughter] so i came away from that a little agitated about kennedy, a little put off.
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when john kennedy ran in west had an experience that made me realize the difficulty of dealing with a kennedy. the headquarters of the john kennedy campaign was in charleston in a hotel. served also as a pressroom. one night, i walked into the pressroom and there was nobody there but robert kennedy. he recognized me enough to know so -- he didter, what a lot of politicians did and still do to reporters, tried
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to milk me for information about what was going on. [laughter] >> i had an unexpected 45 minute conversation with robert kennedy, as that unfolded. like, i have it in with the kennedy family. the next morning, i went back to the pressroom, which as i said, was also the breakfast room. there was my friend bobby kennedy sitting down with salinger and o'donnell and two or three of the other biggies in the campaign, and i said, might if i join you? it was like being in the arctic. [laughter] >> so i did not have breakfast with robert kennedy. [laughter] and on thewent on, campaign itself, we were frosting together, the
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ore off and i found him very approachable and likable. there was always that side of him. why even now,s there is a soft heart in journalism for robert kennedy. >> when you were doing research, how useful did you find the newspaper accounts? what kind of source is journalism for historians? >> robert kennedy was probably the most covered person in that period, just because somebody people saw he was a future president. one senator anonymously said, do you treat robert kennedy differently? no, i treat him the same way i do any other future president. [laughter] >> that's how the press treated
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him as well. you could get for five accounts from the same event from different angles, and i found that so valuable. thanks to some of the digitization of newspapers, it makes it so much easier for journalists and people doing research, to pull out -- that was the primary source i think you could get for a lot of those events. they were not in other ways recorded. i cannot have done it without that. >> those of you who do not use inquest, it has every word certain newspapers searchable, so you can throw out anything and find out exactly when it appeared in the new york times, chicago tribune, the washington post. it is a godsend to historians. for those of us trying to figure out the balance of things, you can read the same story in the
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new york times and then in the chicago tribune and get very different takes on the same offense. -- same event. reporters, but different attitudes, different views and different editors. >> what would take one hour in a microfilm machine, you can do in a minute and a half. >> exactly. before we opened it up for questions, i want to ask you a counterfactual question. that is, do you think robert kennedy that have won the nomination and the presidency in 1968? >> i doubt very much he could've gotten the nomination because then,y the selection was when gene mccarthy was clearly beaten, humphrey all the while never engaged in the primaries.
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all he had was johnson and the regular democratic primary report. he had almost enough to be nominated. kennedy got a huge boost from california. it did not last long, obviously. as far as getting the nomination, because of that fact , i find it hard to see enough regular democrats and humphrey supporters who would switch. the convention in chicago was such a disaster. if kennedy had been alive and going to that convention, it is
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that theable to me ,entiment for him personally his objections to the war in vietnam, could have gotten him the nomination. not bet the runway on it, but i think he would trounced richard nixon if he had been nominated. nixon was so intimidated by the .hole kennedy family mind, had he in my lived, and gotten the nomination, he could have become president. and ad man for bobby's
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campaign would always say if he beat nixon,y almost bobby kennedy would have taken them. i'm not certain about that given the electoral college, if wallace would have surprised him. going back to getting the nomination, i think bobby had a strong shot at it. one of the things i write about in my book is in 1964, when bobby was first deciding how he was going to pursue power, he went a conventional route and thought, if i want to be president, i should be vice president. he immediately looks at it through the lens of convention delegates and where the power is. ways newspapers helped me as i could track where he was planning on going and who he was meeting with. relye knew he could maybe on a great emotional appeal, and so did lyndon johnson. he actually moved the kennedy
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tribute, the tribute to john f. kennedy, later to after the balloting for vice president and president, so that the outpouring of emotion, the kind we saw at the 1964 convention where bobby stood there for more than a dozen minutes just eating not sweep theld convention and lead to a body nomination of some kind. somebobby nomination of kind. i think he was aware of that situation, and how he was going to persuade party bosses to come along with him. an uphill climb come and the electoral college was also troubling for that election. still a phenomenal politician, a person who is able to bring together disparate groups in a year of division, who talked about unity. he might have been able to do that in a way other politicians of the error could not do.
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his death was really a national tragedy. would like to give you a share in this discussion. if you have a question to the authors or a statement to make, if you would like to use one of the microphones in the front, we would appreciate that. king wasartin luther assassinated, bobby was in indianapolis that night. i would love to hear your comments about the remarks he made. >> you were there, weren't you? in indianapolis? >> yes. that was the most amazing speech i had ever heard. from a politician. king was assassinated in memphis indiana.nedy was in the word finally came to kennedy
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when he was on the plane going back to indianapolis, and his campaign people, or he decided he wanted to go to an african-american community and talk to the people. they did not know, nobody in the crowd knew who had happened to king. mankiewicz, bobby's press secretary, gave him the news on the plane as they were going to and kennedy asked him to write down a few ideas, notes for him to speak to this black audience. indianapolis, for one reason or another, make a said we arekiewicz
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separated. kennedy went to the black community and frank arrived late. , butritten a few ideas never got there in time. and kennedy made this most amazing -- the most amazing remarks. was, i had ahich member of my family and he was killed by a white man. i know how you feel. because that is how i feel. that's not the exact quote, but i have them in the book. remarks by quoting,
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as he called it, my favorite poet. there are remarks in the book how that kind of a loss affects people. he quoted it and make a wit's -- mankiewicz was astonished. this was robert kennedy's off-the-cuff remarks, and they were played this year in many places on television, and those he told the crowd about martin luther king. , hehe quote he recited found originally in the book after the assassination in 1964,
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about "the greek way," pain following drop by drop on the heart. in which he was basically talking about acceptance through acts we cannot control. one of the interesting points i sawd was when journalists him walking up and saw his lips moving, talking to himself. that they said realized later when he was talking to himself, he was talking to jack. his brother was on his mind. yes people to go home and say a prayer for the king family. >> he was also reciting the words. >> another question. glad you brought that up,
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to me that was bobby's finest hour. i wanted to share with you the time i met bobby kennedy. we moved to washington was i was -- when i was eight, and my father worked on the commission for equal opportunity, and we had a chance to go to the white house. jfk was out of the office and we , but we couldted meet the attorney general. here came bobby. ladies, good afternoon and gentlemen, and he walked over to me, they rolled, the least among us, and asked me my name and how old i was, what great i was in. he knew how to address an eight-year-old. and on herwarmth ability -- and vulnerability.
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pardon me. bobby was all thought ruthless, but i saw that kindness because of the way he related to me. later as a junior high school student, i campaigned for him and i celebrated his remarks when king was shot. i cut out the newspaper article. i read about it in books, and about 10 years ago on youtube, i discovered you can see the film of that one on the flatbed truck. hesitating grace of robert kennedy. and what might have happened if he had been elected? with great respect, i disagree with you, i think he would have overwhelmed humphrey and i think
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he would have won the nomination. of course, i can't back that up with facts, as a 15-year-old. [laughter] he could reunite the blue color and the intellectual, and what did we get? era, thisof that graceless sociopath of a man, and. -- man, nixon. i turned against the government and protested the vietnam war, and to me we left a lot of people in the field. i am sorry, you were going to say. >> i was going to say robert kennedy understood. really from an early age. he wase to remember, born seven years after jack and joe, and another seven or eight years before teddy. anyid not have any voice --
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boy playmates. he went to more schools than he could name as a child. i think he understood loneliness. i think children he could relate to well. thatwas thrilled to get attention, and he was my favorite kennedy after that. [laughter] >> i have to say, i think he was considered the runt of the kennedy brothers, he was not a physical athlete like his older brothers, especially joseph. he needed to prove something, and so he had that double personality of someone who needs to prove something. >> he was not built for, but he lettered at harvard instead of them. he willed himself to be a better athlete. thank you for your comments, that was really nice of you. >> another question or comment?
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1968, -- in 1969, i wrote a paper in college, and i read your book. hard question to answer and i want to thank you for the work you have done all these years. a couple of weeks ago, it came withhat rfk junior met an sirhaner on -- sirh and now believes he did not kill his father. do you have any opinion? >> my own recollections from being in the room, i don't believe there was a second shooter. , but i alsoeen covered the grand jury hearings, and there was never any
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indication of that. and what difference does it make now? any other questions? you speak of bobby's loyalty to the president. different views from the president's policies, and would he have changed those policies if he had won the presidential nomination? feltere were things he differently on. he was very careful about saying jfk would have done this. edelman, after a speech about latin american, the dominican republic, peter was interviewed by a journalist for new york newspaper, and they kind of question and pushed them, is he
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saying jfk would have said that? if you hear that, your that. washeadline on the next day , rfk says jfk would have wanted this. and rfk went through the roof. i think he did have to make his brother did not -- brother was not faced with. aboutt think he thought whether his brother would do that, he thought what was right and what was wrong. in the book, i have a photo of the cabinet room, they dedicated a bust of jfk, and in the background, he hovered over decisions like vietnam. people inme of the
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the room who served with jfk in that room looked at bobby and thought, we have to carry out our commitment in vietnam, we saw jfkword, and bobby and thought perhaps we need to think differently as in the cuban missile crisis. so you have those conflicts. they were brothers and they saw things differently from time to time. >> certainly on the vietnam war. that for robert kennedy to become president, we would not be there much longer than we were. with jfk, it never came to the point where we felt we could get out of there. >> also, you mentioned latin america, and bobby had a different policy on latin america and south africa. his visit to south africa was an enormous event for that country.
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visited 30 years later and people were still talking about the impact of robert kennedy's visit, which put him at all is with the administration and much of the thinking in the united states at that time. i think he was quite advanced on u.s. relations with other countries, not just in terms of vietnam. i think there were areas. certainly in terms of the great society, the kennedy brothers were promoting some of that legislation, ted kennedy was sponsoring, more of a legislator in that respect. it wasn't as if there was a huge chasm between kennedy and johnson on domestic issues. i think we have time for one more question. two more questions, that is ok. we have time for two more questions. >> i will make it quick. my name is jessica, thank you for the work you do. , so a peace corps volunteer
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i feel connected to the kennedys. i believe martin luther king jr. sensed there was a coming assassination that was coming in his future, and i'm wondering if the kennedy had any inclination he would get shot. thank you. kennedy was a fatalist. he knew what the situation was in the country. but i don't think that was his way -- i don't think that got in his way. he was determined to do what he had to do. don't know if he was surprised or not surprised, but he knew what the temper was of the country and he was aware that something could happen. he ever had ank death wish or was in that sense
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said, thoseas you who write don't shoot, and should right, and he knew the danger. when he was running percent in 1964, he would say, i could have gone home and run my flag up the flagpole and tell anyone -- and tell everyone about how i saved the country that one time, or i could continue to contribute. and i think he caught about -- thought about public service, and he could not walk away from that. >> thank you all. event inack to this mourning for our great national tragedy 50 years ago, but i wanted your insights into the brothers savedhe the world that we knew, the cuban missile crisis. knowe read about it and i
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bobby started it aligned tentatively with the military, and we know that he and his brother did it all. do you have insight? >> it is somewhat controversial because there has been some scholarship saying robert kennedy was much more aggressive about taking on the cubans, and right away with the military solution. issue to thinkat differently or try to perhaps use more diplomacy, a softer touch, perhaps make a better solution. he talked about the great moral choices they faced. how manyed later cubans they estimated would be killed if they decided to take out the site. they were a thousand. towas something he used paint the great responsibility of someone who would hold the great possibilities of the
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presidency. robert kennedy played an essential role in being a go-between to avoid the situation. i have no doubt that he would have done whatever his brother had decided to do, but he did play a very critical role in averting nuclear war. was struck reading your book how often he referred back to that, how pivotal it was in his thinking about the world. we have to extraordinary authors who have written to terrific book. there will be time to talk to them afterward and purchase their books. i encourage you to read them because i have found them both really fascinating accounts of a really important figure in american history and i think it is appropriate we are here to
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recognize him 50 years later. thank you all for coming today. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] >> each week, railamerica brings you archival films that provide today's public affairs issues. next, "salute to the canadian army,", documenting the military history of our neighbor to the north and 1958, from the french and indian war and the korean war. produced


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