tv History Bookshelf Larry Tye Bobby Kennedy CSPAN July 6, 2018 12:49pm-1:55pm EDT
c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. up next, on american history tv's history bookshelf, author larry tye talks about his book "bobby kennedy," the making of a liberal icon. this was recorded at the free library of philadelphia in 2016. tonight mayor green will join in conversation with the noted author larry tye who has
been embroiled in activity the past several days. bill green became a congressman in 1964, succeeding his father william his father was instrumental in the election of president john f. kennedy. bill green served as a congressman until 1976, during which time he took on the oil companies, helped defeat the oil depletion allowance. he became mayor, the 94th mayor of philadelphia in 1980, i'm pleased to say i was in his administration. and during his term he took on a lot of special interests. and actually implemented the first deadly force policy in the united states. he's also said a lot of interesting things, which i won't repeat here.
about, about santa claus doesn't live here any more. and city council is the worst legislative body in the free world. >> we always had a debate, i said he should have limited it to the free world. should have just said the world, that's beside the point. i might also add that his son, william j. green, you'll see a pattern in the names here. was a city councilman during his time on city council. helped fight back the wholesale closures of the free library branches. so without further ado, it's my privilege to welcome bill green. phil, thank you very much for that introduction. phil and i are very good friends, we worked together. he was the head of policy and planning while i was mayor and has done more for this city than you might imagine. he's the managing director, he
ran the schools, he ran the park. he headed all of those institutions and more. he was a pulitzer prize-winning reporter for the "philadelphia inquirer." phil, thanks again. i'm pleased to be part of this presentation. as you will probably find out tonight, some of the most memorable days and happiest days of my life were the times i spent with robert kennedy. let me begin by offering praise for larry tye and his book, "bobby kennedy: the making of a liberal icon." what larry offers us in the book is the result of extensive research including previously unpib lished reports and newly released materials from the kennedy library. and access to people that other authors didn't have, most notably to ethel enky did larry
made his career at the "boston globe" as an award-winning reporter, a "new york times" best-selling author, including the book "satchel" a biography of the life of baseball legend satchel paige. his books on pullman railroad car workers, superman and jewish renewal in different areas come to life for readers, not only because of his deep research, but also his captivating style. he also runs the boston based healed coverage fellowship. >> bobby kennedy, his strength, compassion and courage shine through any perceived shortcomings, through each
trait. the book has drawn praise from far and wide from jefferson biographer, jon meachum to former secretary of state john kissinger. the nor "times" book eview praises in this fashion. we are in larry tye's debt for bringing back to life the young, presidential candidate who, for a brief moment almost a half-century ago, instilled hope for the future in angry, fearful americans. what we will never know with certainty, not from 1,000 books, is what might have been. no one can say. no nixon, no watergate, less time in vietnam? no one knows. but i do know this. from the crushing pain that followed his brother's death, he emerged a wiser and even more compassionate man. as president, he would admit his
mistakes. war would be the very last resort. we would talk to our adversaries and listen to them. containing nuclear weapons would be a major urgent focus. he would be welcomed around the world. he would fight the corrupt and challenge the greedy and comfortable. most of all, he would remember the forgotten. those stuck in urban ghettos, mostly black. those in rural hollows across the land, mostly white. and those picking our crops, mostly hispanic. better yet, they would know it. they would see it, in his face. that is what might have been. robert kennedy said -- we can do better. he was right. never have those words "we can do better" been so true as they are this night.
larry, you're a great writer, you have written a great book and i am pleased to introduce you to my fellow philadelphians. [ applause ] >> so, what i'd like to do in trying to introduce bobby kennedy to you, and i assume a lot of people -- how many people in this room have lived through bobby kennedy's campaign in '68 or anything? so everybody. i'm going to call all of you up here to tell your stories in a minute. what i would like to do is take you through three moments in bobby kennedy's life that i think were really indicative of how he changed and who he was at three critical times. and the first one starts out in 1957. and bobby kennedy's friend and his first boss, senator joe mccarthy, from wisconsin, had
died and was being buried in a town called appleton, wisconsin. and for anybody who is not old enough to remember this was the table-thumping, red-chasing senator who basically saw a communist behind every pillar in the state department. and it shows up at the airport in green bay, wisconsin, the day of the funeral this enormous plane that comes in from washington. and off that plane stepped 129 u.s. senators, mostly republicans, mostly conservatives. seven congressmen and a bunch of other dignitaries and all of them do what dignitaries do when they get off a plane. they go into their limousines and they're whisked away. in this case to appleton, wisconsin and the funeral. and the airport after that gets very quiet. and when there's an especially clear notion that nobody else going to get off the plane, one last person does. and it is a thin, young
congressional aide named robert f. kennedy. and since there's no limousine there to take him to the airport. he bums a ride from a reporter he finds there, who is covering the funeral for the madison, wisconsin newspaper. at the funeral in the church, bobby kennedy watches from up in the choir loft. at the graveside service, all the dignitaries are over here and bobby kennedy is quietly over here. what he managed to do after the service was, in a way that you could never get away with doing today, but anybody could ask a reporter and generally be obliged back then, he got all the reporters who were there covering the funeral to leave out of the story that there was this young guy, bobby kennedy, who was there. and because they were obliging political reporters then and because he was a kennedy, he generally got his way. what that story does, what that funeral does to me, it says two things about who bobby kennedy
was back then. one thing it says is that he was the loyal friend of joe mccarthy, who understood not just that joe mccarthy was his dad's friend, but that joe mccarthy gave him his first job. in an era when much of america thought that communism was a huge threat, so did bobby kennedy and he thought there was only one person in washington who was standing up against the communists. so while jack kennedy said, stay away from the funeral. bobby kennedy did what he often did with jack's advice in those days, he ignored it and he was going to stand up for his buddy, joe mccarthy. that was bobby kennedy the loyalist. could you say i don't know what you think of joe mccarthy, but there was something noble about his being there when there was a potential risk. the other half of bobby kennedy back then was bobby kennedy the realist. he knew some day he wanted his brother to be president and new someday he might run for office himself. so he went to the funeral, he
showed up for his buddy, joe mccarthy. weigh he was going to make sure nobody was going to see him. anybody 0 who saw him wasn't going to talk about it. the two sides of bobby kennedy, the loyalist side, the realist side and that's who bobby kennedy was back then. >> he starts out as the ultimate cold warrior, much like his dad, joe kennedy was. i want it take you from that years, 1957, to a moment that i think was, if bobby kennedy had any single epiphany moment in his life, that was in 1963, in november of 1963. bobby kennedy on a november day in 1963 had come home from work at the justice department, with a couple aides. and he had had a swim at his pool at the estate in hickory hill, just outside of washington in mclean, virginia and he was
settling back to have a great lunch and eventually go back to work. at that moment when he just started eating lunch, the phone rings and it's the hot line to the white house. and by the way, there were more hot lines to the white house in his estate in hickory hill than there were in the vice president's residence back then, which was a huge bone of co-tension for lyndon johnson. any time that phone rang it was generally not good news and it was especially not good news when the guy on the other end of the line, the way it was that day, was one of the people that bobby kennedy most hated in the world. an fbi director named j. edgar hoover. and j. edgar hoover tells bobby kennedy, in a voice that bobby kennedy would generally describe as a monotone that was like j. edgar hoover had found another communist on the faculty at howard university. he says in that monotone voice, your brother has been shot.
and an hour later somebody calls back and says, your brother is dead. and that moment changed bobby kennedy's life in a way that was different than just losing his brother. he had lost his brother, he had lost his best friend and he had lost his whole sense of purpose. bobby kennedy had been close enough to his brother from the time that they went overseas, when they were both in their 20s. that the idea that jack kennedy was gone was a world-changer for him. and yet something happened magically for the next month. the kennedy family was as you would imagine, totally distraught and somebody had to take charge and it was bobby kennedy for the next month. he gave out assignments to the family you will take care of mom, you will break the news to dad, who has just had a stroke. you will do all these things that need to get done. it was bobby kennedy who went to the white house and decided whether or not it would be an
open casket. it was bobby kennedy who held the hand of jackie kennedy and john-john and caroline when they were devastated. they had lost their father, they had lost in jackie's case, the husband. it was bobby kennedy who helped the country that was going through a kind of mourning for their young president, was deeper and more profound than they had ever had happen. it was bobby kennedy who was the nation's mourner in chief for the next month. and that was quite an extraordinary thing that he managed to do, given how devastated he was. at almost a magical moment, exactly a month out, from the death of january kekdy when the family started pulling it back together and they went back to work, and to their lives and when the country had ended their period of mourning and they were pulling it together, bobby kennedy lost it. he went for the next seven months through something that today we would describe as a clinical depression.
and that ethel remembers 50 years later like it had happened a moment ago. he basically would go out in the middle of the night and drive around in his car, not knowing where he was going. he would go to work, couldn't sustain any attention in the meetings at the justice department. he had essentially lost his sense of what he was doing in the world. he debated about whether he should become a college professor and i'm convinced he would have made a miserable college professor and he never seriously thought about it. but everything was on the table. he debated whether he should take his $10 million inheritance and travel around the world with his wife and kids. he debated about a lot of things. and what he ended up doing was running for senator from new york. and it wasn't until the middle of that campaign that he really started coming out of his depression. it was at a moment when he realized he could actually lose an election which would have been a first for kennedy, that he started having a sense of two
things. one is, that he really did have something still to contribute. and the other as critically, was that people were responding to him. people were turning out in droves to all of his rallies, not because he was jack kennedy's surviving brother, but because he was bobby kennedy and he had something to offer. during that period when he was coming out of his depression, he came out of it the way bill suggest suggested in his introduction. he came out of it as a different person. he was at jackie's suggestion reading greek tragedies. this was a guy who for entertainment generally went out and played a bloody nose kind of touch football game. and that was what he considered his distraction. he was now closeting himself in his room and reading greek tragedies. and reading about the kind of hubris that he realized that he as a kennedy had had, thinking that the world was theirs to do
with what they wanted. and suddenly it all crashed around him. he came back in the world with a kind of empathy that he had never quite had before. we are all i suspect if i interviewed everybody in this audience, we're all some balance between tough and tender. but the dial on bobby kennedy that in his joe mccarthy days had started out weighted to the tough side, suddenly started understanding and being empathetic to the underdog in a way he had never really done before. so he in 1963 came out of the, this miserable experience with a whole new way of looking at the world. it was a good thing, because all the kennedy power that went with being the president's brother had disappeared and he had to find a new role for himself. so we started out in '57 with a tough guy, cold warrior bobby kennedy. in 1963, we see him going through a traumatic experience that changed him.
where i want to take you for our third story is to who bobby kennedy was when he ran for president in 1968. and that is a story that i think has particular resonance today. as we look around and try to get excited about the candidates who are running for president today. and i want to take you to one night in that campaign. do you remember, mayor, what the first contested primary was in 1968 when bobby was running? >> i think it was indiana? >> very good. he hasn't been coached and a great memory, it was indiana. so bobby kennedy, you may remember came in after -- >> you said to me tonight when i asked you a question, "just say indiana." >> so it was possibly if you had picked a single state of america where a massachusetts politician wouldn't want to have his first contested primary it would have been indiana. bobby kennedy had no idea on anything to do with farms, he
had no idea on anything that was going on in the midwest. he was a massachusetts born-and-bred guy, a senator from new york and this was new territory to him. and he was about to one night in this indiana primary, just before the indiana primary. he was about to fly in to indianapolis and go to an important rally in the middle of the city. that was a night that when he flew in and landed in indianapolis, he was told, he was told that martin luther king had been shot and killed. the mayor of indianapolis was a guy named richard luger, who went on to become a very powerful u.s. senator. mayor luger had one piece of advice for bobby kennedy. which is, you will not go into the african-american ghetto tonight and hold a rally that was scheduled. you won't go there partly because i'm worried about whether you're going to come out alive. and partly because i'm worried you're going to create a riot just by being there.
bobby kennedy did just what he had done with joe, with jack kennedy's advice in 1957, when jack kennedy told him to not go to the funeral. he said thank you, that's great advice and he proceeded to go off to the rally he had planned to go to all along. he ends up having his police escort peel off just before he gets to the ghetto. and he stands up on the back of a flat-bed truck. and for the next five minutes he gives one of the great speeches, maybe the greatest speech of his life and one of the great speeches in the history of american political oratory. he is telling the audience that night several hundred people, he is telling 90% of them for the first time. that their slain leader has been killed. that martin luther king is gone. you can hear, if you listen on youtube, to the speech from that night, you can hear gasps from the audience.
that people are devastated. but he proceeds for the first time in his life to talk about what it was like to lose his own brother. and the anger that he had felt when jack kennedy had been killed. he said our temptation is to want to strike out when something like that happens. when what we have to do is just the opposite. we have to come together as people in this audience, and as a country at this moment of trauma. what happened that night in isp was quite extraordinary. that in a country that night of mlk's death. when there were race riots in more than 100 cities, when in washington part of the city was burned down at night. there was one city in america that had a sizeable african-american population. that stayed peaceful that night. and that city was. >> indiana. >> this is great. >> so indianapolis stayed
peaceful that night because bobby kennedy had found the exactly the pitch-perfect tone to go into the ghetto around use. and it was a tone that was predicted, when much of the civil rights movement in the early days had given up on bobby kennedy ever getting what was really going on in the civil rights movement there was one person who had faith in him and said we have to stick with this guy, because some day he's going to get it. and that person was a guy who had been killed that day, martin luther king. and martin luther king was proven right that night when bobby kennedy in indianapolis gave exactly the speech that i think that hillary clinton and that donald trump and that barack obama had tried to deliver in the last month that they've all looked for just the right healing tone after dallas, after baton rouge, after st. paul. and none of them, and they gave long-winded oratories. none of them could find the tone that bobby kennedy managed that
night in indianapolis. and from that moment to the end of the campaign, i can say without any hyperbole, that bobby kennedy was easily the most popular white man in black america. in ghettos across the country when bobby kennedy campaigned for the next several months there was a very short sign that said it all. and that sign read -- white, but all right. there aren't many white politicians that people in black america would have said that about in 1968. what i want to do is take you to who bobby kennedy was and why we should still care about him. a half-century after his death. and i think that many of us have spent the last 50 years looking for somebody that was able to do what bobby kennedy seemed on the verge of doing back then in 1968. at a moment where the country was equally riven over racial
issues, was equally stressed out by what was going on overseas in that case, a war in vietnam. bobby kennedy seemed on the cusp of pulling together the kind of coalition, that we have never seen in this country. it was a coalition of the blue collar whites, who supported him in his early days. as a joe mccarthy cold warrior. it was a coalition of the blacks who listened to him and stayed peaceful that night in indianapolis. it was a coalition of a group that back then no politician ever spoke to. who were hispanics. bobby kennedy was the only one who went to california, the only politician in america who went to california and stood with caesar chavez during all of his hunger strikes. and he reached out to hispanics in a way that they rewarded him with almost 100% of their vote in the california primary. he was bringing together the groups of the dispossessed that we dream about doing today. the people who support donald
trump, and the people who support hillary clinton. and he seemed on the verge of becoming precisely the tough liberal or if you prefer, the tender conservative that i think we're still searching for in america. and before i go on and before we open it up to questions, one of the most tender moments that i've heard anybody describe about who bobby kennedy was this those later years was a guy named bill green who talked about what happened after his dad died. would you tell us that story, bill green? >> sure. my father died one month after president kennedy. but you couldn't before? >> right. >> would you mind reintroducing me and then -- >> i think he said to say "indiana." after my father died, i'll tell you a couple of stories about
that. when president kennedy died, my father did not want to go to washington, because he did not want to interfere with the kennedys. he did not want to intrude on their moment of sorrow. and my mother said to him, bill, you should go down there. and he went down and he went to the white house. and he came home and he told me the story of being on the first floor of the white house. that he was walking up to the second floor. and bobby came walking down from the second floor to the first. he took one look at each other, they both cried. and went up and down those steps. bobby kennedy. really was extremely grateful to my father. and i had that experience because when my dad died a month later, robert kennedy on christmas eve left his then-i think eight children in virginia while he came to philadelphia on
december 24th, for my father's funeral. and he brought with him a letter from jackie kennedy. which he had basically gotten from her the day before, which is as beautiful a letter as you'll ever want to see. and you know, he was in, fir of all, so he came to the funeral and he heard while he was here that i was interested in running for my father's seat. so about a week later i get a call. and he says to me -- i understand you want to run for your father's seat. and i said -- that's correct. >> and he said, well i sent kenny o'donnell up there. and he's looked at that situation and i know that mayor tate did a lot of the organization your father built are lined up against you. but if they take you on, i want you to understand that we will
be in. and i thought, i said to him. can i ask you a couple of questions, and he said yes. i said explicitly, what does "we will be in" mean? and he said to me, if they take you on, kennedys will crawl all over your district. now this is a month after the president's death. when if you, in fact several months later bobby kennedy came to 15th and chestnut and there were 30, 40,000 people going from 19th street to 13th street. it was just a mob scene and but he, even during that period where you would say he was -- he said one of the things -- so i said to him, who can i tell? that was the second question. he said tell them all. tell them all. >> and what he was really saying is -- you know you can tell them
i'm attorney general, too. because we're not going to lose this. and now he didn't say that. but -- bobby would not be in favor of doing anything but making sure i won in every way he could. the last question he asked me was -- do you need money? and i said no. i don't think so i think that friends of my father's will back me in this context. and he said, well, if you don't have enough, you write the check and we'll sign it. >> i would like to you come to see me in washington. and i went to washington, and i walked into his office, and i almost couldn't control myself. i had never in all my life. had not until this minute seen a face that sad. he was absolutely crushed, heartbroken. but not so heartbroken that he couldn't function and be at my mother's funeral.
not so heartbroken that he couldn't say -- and i said to him, i can't tell you what this means to me. a lot of the people my father helped in philadelphia like mayor tate and others, are against me. and you, with all that's going on in your life, are for me. and he put his head down and he just said to me -- don't you no he what your father did for my brother? don't you know what your father did for my brother? and what he really did was not carry philadelphia by 331,000 votes. when people credited my father for producing that victory. my father would laugh at home. he would say, you know the people win elections, politicians win primaries. the real help he was to the kennedys was in 1960 at the democratic convention. and it's, i'm talking about john kennedy, not robert kennedy, but you talk about one without the other. they were -- like that.
>> the line that you just used, what he did for my brother in 1960. that was a line that robert kennedy for the rest of his life used. that was the highest compliment he could pay to anybody was what had you done for john. because they were like that. they were like that to the point where ethel kennedy described the fact that there's a cliche that people are so close that they finish one another's sentences. but ethel kennedy said about bobby's relationship to jack was, they were so close that they didn't need to talk. they could just pick up one another's expressions. and that is why the closest thing, so there's another cliche in politics, that people talk about co-presidents, and before people elected, when it they're on a ticket together, they say this is going to be the closest working relationship we've ever had between a president and a vice president. the truth is no president in their right mind ever gives up power to a vice president or anybody else as a co-president. but the closest thing that america has ever had to a
co-presidency was when bobby kennedy was jack kennedy's attorney general. because he was not just his attorney general. he was his psuedo c.i.a. director. he consulted bobby kennedy more often than the secretary on foreign affairs. he was the guy that jack kennedy knew he could go to, whether it was the bay of pigs or civil rights or the cuban missile crisis. he could go to and bobby would have his back. he would be looking out for what was best for the country. but also what was best politically for jack kennedy. and that was an extraordinary relationship. and you saw it right there. >> that's why he would hang back at mcarthur's funeral. because he knew if he was seen there. he had to be there. because it was loyal. he knew if that was published and seen, that it would hurt jack. >> so -- >> i don't think he was being sneaky, like -- you know, trying to have it both ways. but he was always trying to help his brother and -- >> he did. but he -- >> he also wanted to be loyal to someone who helped him. >> he did.
so there was a magical moment, i'm not sure exactly when it happened. it was not yet in 1957, there was a magical moment where bobby understood, even when jack was alive that he had a political career himself. they used to joke that after jack had done it for eight years, bobby and you know that the joe kennedy had had initial aspirations to be the president himself. and during world war ii, at the start of world war ii, when he was the u.s. ambassador to great britain, he had not at an opportune moment, been a nazi appeaser. he went public with it he never denied it. a story in "the boston globe" helped get him fired by fbi fdr as an ambassador to great britain. the moment joe kennedy knew it couldn't be him, it was going to be his sons. it was going to be his sons in ort of birth. it was going to be joe jr., until he was killed in a
courageous mission in europe in world war ii. the day to joe jr. died, the mantle was passed to jack. when jack was killed, it was clear that it was going to be bobby. that's the way they worked. >> president kennedy was here in philadelphia on october the 31st, 1963. the 30th or the 31st. and i was in an elevator with him, with my father. and i had not really had any opportunity, ever to converse -- well actually, i did once, when he was running in 1960. i attended his strategy meeting. but he turns to my father and he says -- what are you going to do with him -- >> i said i was in my last year in wall school. he said what are you going to do with him, billy. to my father. they called them, bobby, teddy, jackie, billy. larry. it's a natural for you. and my father said to him, i don't know, mr. president what do you suggest? and he said, do what my father
did, run for congress. and what's so incredible about that is the minute a month later, i mean -- i was running for congress. and they were both gone. and bobby called me to help. so there's no way for me to explain to you how not just indebted, but how admiring i am of both the president and bobby. and i think that -- can i say this? >> i think that their loss both of them and bobby just compounded with what had happened to the president. is, was so harmful to this country that it's hard to imagine. and one of the things they did, and one of the things i have always believed, is that words count. and you mentioned what he did in indianapolis. what he did in south africa. every time a man stands up for, against injustice or speaks out,
you know. he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope to go to the berlin wall and have 1 million people -- my father's advice in the short period between president's death and my father's death, which my father went to new york on december 8th. we're now talking november 4 to december 8. he had talked to bobby. and i don't, i think that some of the big city democratic leaders in the north were perhaps a little concerned. that johnson might not be the candidate that bobby would be. i don't know that bobby ever expressed any interest in running for president at that point. or gave it any serious thought. but i know there was a discussion. and joe alsop must have either been there or heard about it. because lyndon johnson asked governor lawrence of pennsylvania to check out
something he thinks bill green was saying. >> and so you know. >> that at the, at that convention where lyndon johnson was nominated in 1964, johnson, while i think at that moment, bobby kennedy as you say had no interest in doing it. johnson was so mayor noid that he asked the j. edgar hover to have agents check out what was going on in the kennedy camp and to be stationed at the convention and report back to him, if anything if they picked up any sniff that there was going to be a kennedy, a draft kennedy movement. and the truth was, that the best speech at that convention was a speech that bobby kennedy delivered. there was depending on who's count you use, it was as long as 17 minutes of interruption, applause during bobby kennedy's speech. it was a speech that lbj thought was a critical speech about him. he talked about a garish son and
the loss of his brother, jack. in truth the end of that speech was the most rousing endorsement of lbj. bobby kennedy was, he was three things. he was a catholic, he was joe kennedy and rose kennedy's son and loyal to the kennedy family. and the third pillar that he stood on was he was a democrat and he darn well was going to support even though he detested lbj, he was going to support him in 1964. so could we, do we have microphones, do people have some questions that they would like to ask. maybe we can get microphones over -- >> you want to pass this one to someone? >> here we go, right here. >> how about here? >> great. >> in 1964 when eugene mccarthy showed that the map that humphrey was vulnerable, the stories came out that robert
kennedy was thinking of running. for president. i wrote him a letter and i said, don't enter the campaign, stay out. you are going to divide the anti-war movement. three weeks after he announced, he sent me a letter. and he said, as you see, i have entered the race. i in my letter i said neither one of them will go to the convention with enough votes and in the third or fourth ballot your name can be submitted and you will be the compromise candidate. three weeks after being elected, announced for candidacy, i received a letter from him. he said as you can see, i have entered the race. but i disagree with you. he said, i am not dividing the anti-war movement, i'm adding my voice to the anti-war movement. and i said to myself -- schmuck,
you just countersigned your death warrant. he had signed his death warrant when he accepted the warren commission report on the death of his brother. and when he announced he was going to run that was it. because there was no way that the people who killed his brother were going to allow him to be president. >> so i'd like to just make a couple maybe one -- >> well i would say there's no way to get around the fact that, that someone is pretty clear, i really love robert kennedy. it was a very awkward entry into that race and you know, i would have preferred if he was going to do it. that he did it earlier. so -- >> he did it, he did it, let's remind people, he did it four days after gene mccarthy beat -- when you added the republican write-in votes. beat lbj in new hampshire.
>> he won in wisconsin. >> we're talking about mccarthy beat lbj before robert kennedy got into it. the truth was, he gets into it and he looks like the ultimate, the cut-throat politician who lets gene mccarthy go do the tough work in new hampshire and bobby kennedy takes his mantle away four days later. and a guy named murray kempton wrote a telegram, sent a telegram to ted kennedy saying what you've just done. what your brother has just done in new hampshire shows that st. patrick didn't drive all the snakes out of ireland. the truth is when you look at what happened, the evidence is clear-cut that nine days before the new hampshire primary, bobby kennedy had decided to enter and he decided that it was only fair to mccarthy had been fighting in new hampshire for a long time. it was only fair to give mccarthy the clear shot before
he came in. when he was being a gentleman, and doing the kind of thing that the political campaign manager in him would have been anathema to do, he ended up hurting himself badly with the press and it took almost the entire campaign for reporters like marry mcguire and murray kempton to trust bobby kennedy. by the end of the campaign. one of the other ways that the campaign offers a dramatic contrast, to 2016, is the way the press had a relationship with the candidate. today as we all know, donald trump starts out by bashing and then banishes the press from his events, hillary clinton spends much too much time ducking and parrying with reporters. bobby kennedy started out with reporters like the ones we were just talking about, being skeptical of him. by the end, something strange happened and it was one of the things that drew me into the bobby kennedy story from the
beginning. the reporters started falling in love with him. my mentor in journalism. a guy named david halberstam, who wrote a book about vietnam. a guy covering the campaign for the "washington post" named richard harwood was assigned by ben bradley to cover the campaign. he despised bobby kennedy. and that was bradley thought the perfect guy to cover it he would never be won over by him. by the end of the campaign richard harwood made a plea to ben bradley, take me off the campaign, i've fallen in love with the candidate. harwood was an ex-marine and as hard-edged as you can get. the reason i think the press fell in love with bobby kennedy was exactly what the press is looking for today in a candidate. as is the public. it was a candidate who was authentic. it was somebody the political press in those days like today,
has a better snifter for who is real and who doesn't seem real and they decided by the end, that bobby kennedy was the one who had the courage to stand up in the senate and say "my brother jack and i got us into vietnam and we were wrong." and that's not something i'm sure that mayor green had the courage to stand up when he was wrong and say, we're wrong. but it's not something many political figures do. bobby kennedy, the way he shifted from the cold warrior he started out with, to the hot-blooded liberal he became in the end was often defying the political winds of the day to do that. that was something reporters love to see and it was something that i think the public would have liked to see. and probably something mayor green and i would agree on. is that after his victory that night in california, the night he was killed at the ambassador hotel in california, after his victory, he was scheduled the next morning to go to chicago.
and the sun of the then mayor of chicago, richard daley, the son, bill daley, who was obama's chief of staff for a couple years, says that that next day, his dad was a 70% chance that his dad was going to endorse bobby kennedy for president. and what that would have done, there was no more powerful establishment politician in america then, than the mayor of chicago, richard daley. and think if daley had endorsed, we had guys in philadelphia who were ready to go all out for bobby kennedy. i think bobby kennedy would not just have become the democratic nominee. but there was nobody in america who understood richard nixon's vulnerabilities, better than the guy who eight years before had led his brother's successful campaign against richard nixon. i think it's not too much of a what-if to say if bobby kennedy would have been the nominee, would have been the president and would have from day one, he
was a guy who was two passionate and too impatient to wait to try to get things done from day one he would have made a difference. >> you know i was going to, if you didn't mention that or get into that at some point. i was going to say one of the things that i did not know, or see anyone else write about, was the fact that daley might have endorsed. and with his son bill saying it, i can only tell you that the night before robert kennedy was killed. i was with him. i was strategizing as to what we would do. arthur schlessinger left his suite. we spent about a half-hour alone and strategized how we were going to deal with tate and company back here in philadelphia. who were against him. and i sensed that night with, robert kennedy, that daley was going to be with him. he told me i'm going to see dick
daley tomorrow and i think he was fairly confident that daley was going to endorse. i left the next morning during the primary because i had work to do back here. and got home. watched the speech on television when he won. went to bed, about 4:00 in the morning i got a phone call. what do you have to say about the kennedy thing? i said this is 4:00 a.m.th can't this wait? and i didn't know. and the reporter said to me, well he's, you know, he's been shot. and i cried. i couldn't go any further. i prayed and eventually i fell asleep. but i believe now that there was, if daley would have been there, that it would have greatly enhanced the chances of pulling it off. we'll never know. we'll never know what could have been. i think it might have worked. >> so sense we'll never know, and nobody can prove me wrong, i
want to add one other prediction of what i think would have happened then. i think what would have happened is, in those days, candidates, united after a struggle in a primary. i think it would have been a ticket that was a robert kennedy/hubert humphrey ticket. we have a question right there? you have a microphone. yes, sir, sorry. >> can you hear me? change of focus. you described the hierarchy of the kennedy brothers. what was their relationship of john and bobby to teddy? >> so in the hierarchy of the kennedy brothers, first of all, would you repeat the question was, what was the relationship of the kennedy brothers in terms of the hierarchy, and especially where did ted kennedy fit into that relationship? and the rose kennedy's dream was that one of her sons would go into the priesthood. and i would say that -- if they had done that, if jack kennedy
had gone into the priesthood, he would have been pope. because that was the kind of guy that jack kennedy was. he was intellectual. he rose above things had bobby kennedy gone into the priesthood, he would have been a parish priest. that's who he was, he was grassroots. ted kennedy, the question would never have come up. but ted kennedy, i think ted kennedy, i'm a massachusetts guy and ted kennedy was when i was at the "boston globe," arguably my best source for about 15 years and i think ted kennedy was as we all know, one of the greatest snoring ever. they called him the lion of the senate. i think ted kennedy spent his 50 years in the senate not trying to emulate his brother, jack. because jack was a short-term senator and didn't make much of a set of waves when he was in the senate. i think ted kennedy spent those 50 years trying to be bobby. he so adored his brother, ted was a senior snorenator.
ted kennedy gave bobby, he was the older and in the kennedy family. everything mattered who was the elder. and bobby kennedy got to choose his issues, he chose veet nam as his issue and ted kennedy looked to other issues. they adored one another. ted emulated bobby and when bobby died, ted kennedy for the rest of his life felt the pressure that i mentioned before, when one of the sons died, the mantle fell to the next one. i think ted kennedy never wanted to run for president, i don't think he especially wanted to be president. but that was something he had grown up thinking it was his responsibility. the party kept turning to him and i think he was happiest in life and happiest as a u.s. senator.
>>is my understanding that j. edgar hoover got permission from bobby kennedy. to put microphones in a motel and take mlk and blackmail him. is that correct? and, the first half of what you said is absolutely correct. that j. edgar hoover kept going back to bobby kennedy. asking permission to wiretap martin luther king jr. and the reason he wanted to wiretap him was because there was a fear and a fear that hoover fanned, i think without any convincing evidence, that there were leftists and
communists in martin luther king's hierarchy. at the moments j. edgar hoover survived through endless attorneys general and presidents, because he always had some dirt on somebody. he knew exactly the moment to ask what he wanted. and he asked repeatedly for authority to wiretap in the end bobby kennedy gave it to him and in the end bobby kennedy gave it to him without defending that decision at all. he gave it to him for a strategy reason. the kennedys were about to propose a major civil rights bill and the most embarrassing thing in the world to them would have been if a bunch of leftists had turned up in martin luther king's camp and j. edgar hoover would have used that information to embarrass the kennedys and undermine their efforts at civil rights. the idea that the wiretaps, which did provide embarrassing information about king, the idea that bobby kennedy wanted that circulated is exactly the opposite of the truth. bobby kennedy when he realized
what was happening and that hoofer was using it to tarnish martin luther king's reputation, he tried to withdraw the tapes and transcripts, it was too late. remember our story from what state? our story from indiana was -- that the one who forgave bobby kennedy, who understood the goodness had him and forgave him more than anybody else, was martin luther king, at a point when his protege said this guy, bobby kennedy is no good. and martin luther king was right. what mattered to king much more was by the end of his tenure as attorney general, bobby kennedy was calling in, federal troops to stand up to. most of you are old enough to remember george wallace' famous stand in the schoolhouse door in tuscaloosa, and bobby kennedy had learned from his mistakes in aniston, in birmingham. in montgomery, and at ole miss. that had you to call in troops early because you weren't going
to appease the arch segregationists. and by the end of his time as attorney general, bobby kennedy understood that. there is nobody in america who did more during his lifetime, no the just with civil rights, but for the other great passion of martin luther king jr.'s life, which was ending poverty. one last thing i want to say about that and this is more than you wanted to hear in answer to your question, but the bobby kennedy in his life had four great enemies, we've talked about one of them and that was j. edgar hoover. another great enemy was a guy who we have discovered in recent months, was a tutor of donald trump in his early days. a guy named roy cohn and bobby kennedy despised roy cohn and i think unfairly blamed all of mcdarthy's excesses on roy cohn. mccarthy was the boss and the excesses were his responsibility. he hated roy cohn, he hated j. edgar hoover. he detested jimmy hoffa.
the head of the biggest, most powerful union in america, he thought was corrupt. those people you could argue was good reason to detest. the fourth person on the hate list was a great tragedy, to me, was lbj. constitutionally these guys were so different. one was a harvard educated guy who grew up rich in massachusetts. the other was a guy from east texas who grew up poor and resented anybody who was harvard educated and who talked like bobby kennedy talked. and had they ever united, in a coalition, they could have gotten more extraordinary things done. they both wanted to promote civil rights. both wanted to end poverty. the idea that they were at cross-purposes to me is a huge tragedy and i think one of the things that made lbj more determined than ever to stay in vietnam was that bobby kennedy was calling for him to come out of vietnam. and bobby would track things, every time he gave a rabid
anti-war speech it seemed like the next day lbj increased the bombing of north vietnam. >> one of the things that struck me in the book that i didn't remember -- >> would you tell them how many times you've read the book, by the way? >> i'm the only person in america who read his book twice, i think. >> my wife. >> i was going to say. >> his wife read it five times. because every day he says, did you read it again? >> well. >> start to say one of the things in the book that -- >> what lyndon johnson did with his civil rights bill for which he gets enormous credit, was put bobby in charge of getting it through. >> that is so true. >> the purpose for doing that, was that if it failed, he would have bobby to blame. >> so, think there were two purposes, one is exactly the purpose you said -- >> two, he wanted it. >> and he knew there was nobody bet another could play off the
dead president's memory. but you also have to understand. so jack kennedy filed that civil rights bill, lbj toughened it and it was a better bill, the bill that lbj ended up with. but it was jack kennedy who filed that bill and the only one of jack kennedy's advisers who told him that you ought to file a civil rights bill. jack kennedy was cautious enough. he wanted to wait until they won re-election in '64 to file a bill. bobby said you got to do it now. that was who bobby kennedy was. he had no patience. he came from essentially they were only a couple years apart in age. but it was a different generation. jack kennedy was from the world war ii, we know what life is like generation. bobby kennedy was, was a, enlisted in the navy. and he saw active duty going out of port and coming back to port. and i think falling once and nicking his lip and that was the war injury bobby kennedy ended up with. and for the rest of his life, he
felt a little bit inadequate. because he hadn't fought in the war. and he spent so much of his life dealing with what he thought were inadequacies. when he was born, in that early generation of the kennedy kids, nine kids, bobby was the one, his dad described as the runt of the litter. and the one who was least likely to be able to do anything. and bobby spent his life working harder than any of his siblings to show his dad that he wasn't the runt and that he could get things done. and in the end joe kennedy acknowledged that the kid who was most like him, the kid he most adored i think at the end and the kid he made executor of his estate, there was nothing more important to joe kennedy than who executed that estate was his son, bobby kennedy. great so do we have time for one more question here? one more question. >> can you take that mic?
>> thank you very much. robert kennedy has a hero of mine. i think primarily because i've been fascinated by his journey. from where he started. so i guess my question is, having precisely writ bn this journey, what do you think the, i guess older for lack of a better word, bobby kennedy would have thought about the younger bobby kennedy, who was a little, much more conservative and not very forgiving and very judgmental? >> so that is, i don't know this woman, but that was a perfect last question. and the question was again, what do the older, how would the older bobby kennedy judge the younger bobby kennedy? when i thought i was being tough on bobby kennedy and wonder weathered i was being too tough, i used precisely that standard. what would the later bobby deny kendy have said about the earlier one? i think he would have said about the mccarthy era, that yes, america was anti-communist then
and yes, joe mccarthy in the early days it looked like was standing up legitimately against communist threat. he would have said the early bobby kennedy was tone-deaf to all of joe mccarthy's victims in a way that the later bobby kennedy would never have let him get away with. he would have said that about vietnam. the early bobby kennedy went to vietnam and said in vietnam, we will stand by you, because we think you can win this war and it's an important war to fight. and one of the primary authors of the u.s. counterinsurgency strategy was bobby kennedy. he stood up. we don't have to guess about what he would have said about that. he stood up in the u.s. senate and said, i was wrong, he did that in issue after issue. that's the standard. it's the later bobby kennedy. what jules fifer, called the
good bobby. the one who was running for president and would have made one of the great presidents, it's not accidental that barack obama and and i think hillary clinton look as their role model more than any politician americ history to bobby kennedy as being the one they wanted to model themselves after. so, as we end, i would like to just say one last thing. so, bill green, in introducing, he skrojoked that i have writte books on very strange topics and i wrote a biography of superman and i would like to present this shirt to bill green. i won't make you put it on tonight. but do we give him a wonderful round of applause for, if nothing else, reading the book twice. thank you very much. >> you couldn't have known that that's what everybody called me when i was mayor. >> there will be a book signing
for those of you who have books. you can line up along the west floor of the gallery. sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern on reel america, the president, 1968, a film detailing the tumultuous month of june 1968 through the camera lens of the white house photographic naefl unit, covering the activities of president lyndon b. johnson. >> at 3:30 a.m., the president
was awakened with the news that senator robert f. kennedy had been shot and critically wounded. the day of the senator's death, president johnson sent letters to the president of the senate and the speaker of the house, which urgently implored congress to enact a meaningful and effective gun control law. in june, much of the president's attention was centered on the paris peace talks. earlier in the month, u.s. negotiator cyrus vance returned to washington to report on an apparent impasse from those meetings. from vietnam, however, the reports were far from optimistic. instead of a slowdown, the communists had launched a massive new wave of assaults throughout the south to erode resolve on the home front and grasp heightened leverage in the diplomatic struggle. at a news conference on june 26, the president announced that supreme court chief justice earl warren was retiring. in making his third and fourth
appointments to the high court, the president knew that his choices would affect the destiny of the nation long after he himself had left office. >> watch "reel america" this weekend on american history tv on c-span3. president trump will announce his choice for the supreme court monday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern. you can see the announcement live on our companion network, c-span. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c., and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider.
to mark the 50th anniversary of robert f. kennedy's assassination in los angeles, arlington national cemetery held a ceremony last month commemorating rfk's life and legacy. the organization founded in 1968 to honor his memory, robert f. kennedy human rights, hosted this event. >> ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the invocation by father matt malone. >> let us pray. we meet not in a moment of mourning but in an hour for hope, for
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