Happy Birthday, RFK

20 11 2011
Robert Kennedy with daughter Kathleen

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BOB

Had he lived, Robert F. Kennedy would be 86 years old on November 20th. We thought it might be interesting to honor him this year not with a few selected quotations by him, but rather quotations about him.

How was Bobby Kennedy described by the people who knew him best?

Their opinions were not always kind, to say the least. Lyndon Johnson called Bobby “that little shitass” and “a grandstanding little runt.” (Kennedy, who cherished his very own LBJ voodoo doll, called Johnson “mean, bitter, and vicious–an animal in many ways.”)

Joe McCarthy’s chief aide (and longtime RFK nemesis) Roy Cohn referred to Robert Kennedy as a “rich bitch,” saying: “he always had that little smirk on his face, designed to get under my skin, and it did.”

Apparently the feeling was mutual, as the two men once nearly came to blows in the Senate hearing room during the Army-McCarthy hearings.

Jimmy Hoffa, who thought Kennedy “a damn spoiled jerk,” described his first meeting with him in 1957: “I can tell by how he shakes hands what kind of fellow I got. I said to myself, `Here’s a fella thinks he’s doing me a favor by talking to me.'” Hoffa later bragged that during the Rackets Committee hearings, “I used to love to bug the little bastard.”

As Bobby himself once said, we are not here “to curse the past or to praise it,” so we thought it appropriate to include the bad with the good when selecting quotes from others on what they thought of Robert Kennedy. Opinions varied, at times so wildly, you’d almost never believe that all of these people are talking about the same man.

The full truth about RFK, as ever, lies somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

I think that’s why he still fascinates us. Even after all these years, the real RFK is (to borrow from Churchill) “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” He’s a puzzle, difficult to solve, and yet we never seem to want to stop trying.

AS THEY REMEMBER BOBBY

“The major difference between Bobby and his brothers is that Bobby always had to fight for everything.”

— Bobby’s wife, Ethel Skakel Kennedy

“He was the smallest and thinnest, and we feared he might grow up puny and girlish. We soon realized there was no chance of that.”

— Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (mother)

“Jack is too soft and forgiving. You can trample all over him and the next day he’ll be waiting for you with open arms. But when Bobby hates you, you stay hated.”

— Joseph P. Kennedy (father)

“Bobby was the most generous little boy.”

Jack Kennedy’s lifelong best friend, Lem Billings. (To which Joseph Kennedy Sr. gruffly replied: “I don’t know where he got that!”)

“All this business about Jack and Bobby being blood brothers has been exaggerated.”

Bobby’s sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

“Kennedy was not arrogant, but he had a sarcasm that could be biting.”

Frank Hurley, Bobby’s classmate at Portsmouth Priory

“How would you like looking forward to that high whining voice blasting into your ear for the next six months?”

Jack Kennedy, on hiring his younger brother Bobby to manage the 1960 campaign.

“Jack thought Bobby was too serious, a severe figure, and tried to lighten him up. At the same time, he thought Bobby was…the sacred one. He felt protective about him.”

 — Chuck Spalding, longtime friend to both JFK and RFK.

“I don’t know what Bobby does, but it always seems to turn out right.”

–President-elect John F. Kennedy, shortly after winning the 1960 presidential election

“Up until the Bay of Pigs, Jack had more or less dismissed the reasons his father had given for wanting Bobby in the cabinet as more of that tribal Irish thing. But now he realized how right the old man had been. When the crunch came, family members were the only ones you could count on. Bobby was the only person he could rely on to be absolutely dedicated. Jack would never have admitted it, but from that moment on, the Kennedy presidency became a sort of collaboration between them.”

— Lem Billings, lifelong friend to the Kennedy brothers

“Everybody bitches about Bobby, and I’m getting sick and Goddamn tired of it. He’s the only one who doesn’t stick knives in my back, the only one I can count on when it comes down to it.”

— President John F. Kennedy

“You knew that, if you were in trouble, he’d always be there.”

— Former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis on RFK

“He had a better sense of what was important, and what was not, than anyone I ever met. Once he realized something was significant, he became the most deliberate, most thoughtful, most intense man.”

— John Nolan, Kennedy’s administrative assistant at the Justice Department.

“His most tenaciously maintained secret was a tenderness so rawly exposed, so vulnerable to painful abrasion, that it could only be shielded by angry compassion to human misery, manifest itself in love and loyalty toward those close to him, or through a revelatory humor.”

 — Richard Goodwin, speechwriter, longtime friend and advisor to JFK, RFK, and LBJ

Bobby and Jack

 

“I always say—don’t try to psychoanalyze Bob. Look at what he said and look at what he did. He meant what he said, and what he did was incredible.”

 — Ed Guthman, Robert Kennedy’s special assistant for public information in the Department of Justice and his first senatorial press secretary.

 

“I remember once John F. Kennedy talking about his younger brother. He was talking about the time when they were both a lot younger, and Bobby was small and jumping off the family sailboat. JFK said, and I quote, “It showed either a lot of guts or no sense at all, depending on how you look at it.” I think you can say that about Bobby’s entry into the 1968 presidential race. It either showed no sense at all, or a lot of guts. I think there were some of both of those factors present.”

— Ted Sorensen, policy advisor, legal counsel and speechwriter for President Kennedy.

“In every presidential election since 1968, we continue to listen for echoes of Robert Kennedy’s speeches which urged us to turn away from war, embrace peace, share the wealth and the resources of the land with the less fortunate, embrace the ideal of social justice for all, and put aside the divisions of race, age, wealth, militarism and the narrow partisanship that have come to divide us– and divide us still.I believe we will look at what he was about, what his politics and policies were about, what his motivations and commitments were about, thereby enhancing the record of his life and times for those who will come to this place to continue the quest. Today, we remember the man, who for many of us changed our lives, the man who changed the country and, had he lived, would have changed it again and again.” 

— Bobby’s trusted friend and advisor John Seigenthaler

“The reason we should revive Robert Kennedy as a hero for our times, for the 21st century, is because he presents us with a flawed, complicated hero of great compassion, and leadership. His was not a leadership that sought to merely bear witness to the truth but rather one that sought results and shaped them in the anvil of action.I think that there’s nothing our politics needs today more than the image, the model, the example, and the inspiration of Robert Kennedy’s life.Throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis Robert Kennedy did what he had done as a young man. He asked moral questions: is it right or is it wrong? When I first met him, I didn’t like his answers. He was more of a Cold Warrior with a Joe McCarthy view of the world, than I was. What changed in Robert Kennedy, in my opinion, was that his view of the world became broader and deeper. The child that was compassionate, the child that was religious, the child that asked moral questions, was the man who in the Cuban Missile Crisis had the courage to ask the moral question, “Could we have a first strike and live with our conscience if we did?” In the face of the geo-politicians in that room, he asked those questions. That was not easy to do, and he did it….And then lastly, in this election right now, the clear, important message from a country divided down the middle is that we want the next President of the United States to find common ground in the way that Robert Kennedy did. He attempted to reach out to left and to right, and beyond all ideological barriers to find a common ground, to get things done.I would recommend to the next President of the United States that he immerse himself in the story of Robert Kennedy. I would say begin with Maxwell Kennedy’s beautiful book and then go on to Ed Guthman’s collection of speeches. Can we revive in our time some of what we had? …”a transcendent yearning for the possibility of redemptive change?” We all, I think, have that yearning. I think the American people have it. And the story of Robert Kennedy can drive us to try to realize that possibility.”— Harris Wofford, special assistant to President Kennedy, chair of the sub-cabinet group on civil rights.

 

Happy Birthday, Bobby Kennedy. This world misses you.

Advertisements




“The Kennedys” Miniseries Disappoints Critics, Viewers

5 04 2011

Television review: ‘The Kennedys’

Despite several strong lead performances, it turns out that even an eight-part miniseries can’t do justice to the story of one of the country’s most dynamic, if flawed, political families.

April 01, 2011|By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic

 

The main problem with “The Kennedys,” the rumor-plagued, eight-part series that was rejected by the History Channel, which had commissioned it, before landing at ReelzChannel, is not one of politics or even accuracy but of scope. It is impossible to tell the story of this iconic family even in eight parts, even by limiting the timeline, as creators Stephen Kronish and Joel Surnow have done, to the years between the beginnings of World War II and the assassination of Robert Kennedy. There is too much back story, too many important events, and too many Kennedys.

Kronish addresses the last of these problems by simply cutting the family in half. “The Kennedys” that the title refers to are Joe Sr. (Tom Wilkinson), Rose (Diana Hardcastle ), John F. (Greg Kinnear) and his wife, Jacqueline (Katie Holmes), Bobby (Barry Pepper) and his wife, Ethel (Kristin Booth). Fourth daughter Patricia is seen briefly in one of the later episodes, married to Peter Lawford and playing hostess to one of his Marilyn Monroe-studded soirees, while Rosemary, the victim of an early lobotomy, appears briefly in flashback. But Kathleen (who died in an airplane crash in 1948); Eunice, who founded the Special Olympics and was married to Kennedy advisor Sargent Shriver; Jean, who eventually became U.S. ambassador to Ireland; and Edward (Teddy), the longtime Massachusetts senator and onetime presidential candidate, are not only not present, they are never even mentioned.

Which is much more troubling than the various scenes of infidelity (Joe’s and Jack’s), election “rigging” (Joe’s), mob connections (Joe’s) and drug use (Jack’s and Jackie’s) that have apparently raised the blood pressure of Kennedy historians, History Channel execs and various industry watchers for reasons that, while watching the actual episodes, is inexplicable. There is nothing in “The Kennedys” that hasn’t appeared before in reputable books, films and articles in the Kennedy-obsessed “Vanity Fair.”

An argument could be made that a channel called “History” might want to avoid docudramas, which rely on artistic interpretation, but if it was the intention of producer Surnow, a political conservative, to sully the Kennedy name, he certainly went about it in a strange manner. Jack and Bobby emerge splendid, smart and heroic despite their flaws, and even Joe, though portrayed as a ruthlessly ambitious father and truly awful husband, appears in the end guilty of little more than old-time campaign tactics and a once-oppressed immigrant’s dream of joining the ruling class.

Casting went a long way toward balancing the script’s inclusion of the unsavory side of being a Kennedy. Wilkinson can do just about anything at this point in his career, and he illuminates equally Joe’s hubris and desperate fear of failure, while, with his perpetually worried eyes, Kinnear plays a JFK in constant pain — from his back, from his father’s expectations, from his own infidelities. Don Draper certainly never felt this guilty about getting a little on the side.

The revelation of “The Kennedys” is Pepper, most recently seen as the snaggletoothed villain in “True Grit,” who delivers an Emmy-deserving performance, slowly building a Bobby who becomes the family’s, and the Kennedy administration’s, spine of steel, aware of the choices and sacrifices he is making and prepared to make them every time. As attorney general, Bobby is the president’s hammer even as he attempts to be his conscience.

The scenes among these three men alone are worth trying to find out if you get ReelzChannel. Unfortunately, they are too often being moved through historical events as if they were chess pieces and are surrounded by a supporting cast not up to their level. Holmes is pretty as Jackie, but her emotions are confined to happy (“I love him”) and sad (“He cheats on me”), with absolutely no nuance and only the occasional flash of spirit, intellect and inner strength that made Jacqueline Kennedy an icon in her own right. As Ethel, Booth is almost unbearably perky in early episodes, although she mellows as the series unfolds; the scenes between Bobby and Ethel are far more poignant and powerful than those between Jackie and Jack. Hardcastle (married to Wilkinson) can’t do much with a Rose who spends most of the series saying her rosary and making pronouncements about God’s will in a broad Eastern accent — it isn’t until the final episode that mention is made of the crucial role Rose played in the political careers of her sons.

But she is just another victim of the genre’s biggest danger. In attempting to be both sprawling and intimate, “The Kennedys” winds up in a narrative no-man’s land. So the tensions of Bobby taking on organized crime, the riots in Mississippi, the Cuban missile crisis and the strained relationship of the brothers with J. Edgar Hoover and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson are treated with the same time constraints and dramatic emphasis as Joe’s endless “recovery” from his stroke and Jackie’s realization that being a first lady is difficult.

While this “greatest-hits” pace does take the potential sting from the more salacious details — Jack’s infidelities are few and far between, Frank Sinatra is blamed for any mob-related fallout, the pep-me-up shots Jack and Jackie receive do little more than pep them up — it also buries the fine performances of its leading men, who too often seem to be simply marching toward their characters’ inevitable doom.

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com





Gallup Poll: JFK Still Most Popular U.S. President

8 12 2010

 

85% Says It All

 

According to a new Gallup Poll, President John F. Kennedy continues to earn the highest retrospective job approval
rating from Americans, now 85%.

Ronald Reagan ranks second, with 74%.
While these presidents’ ratings are largely unchanged from 2006,
Bill Clinton’s rating has improved, putting him in third place, while
Jimmy Carter, at 52%, has dropped from third to sixth. Richard Nixon
remains the lowest rated.

The poll was limited to approval ratings for American presidents who have served in the past 50 years.

Approval of How Past Presidents Handled Their Job -- Recent Trend (2006, 2010)

The Nov. 19-21 Gallup poll asked Americans to say, based on what they
know or remember about the nine most recent former presidents, whether
they approve or disapprove of how each handled his job in office.

Kennedy has consistently ranked No. 1 in this Gallup measure initiated in 1990.

 

 

Read full story here: Kennedy Still Highest-Rated Modern President, Nixon Lowest.





RFK Jr. Files For Divorce

14 07 2010

The Kennedys at an NRDC Event, Apr. 1, 2008

 

July 13, 2010

Bobby Kennedy Jr. sues wife for divorce

Shawn Cohen and Jorge Fitz-Gibbon
spcohen@lohud.com

WHITE PLAINS — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed to divorce his wife of 16 years just three days before Mary Kennedy was charged with drunken driving, according to records obtained by The Journal News.

The May 12 divorce filing also came a day before Bedford police responded to the Kennedy home for a “domestic incident” during which her husband alleged she was intoxicated, records show.

It was among several police visits to the Bedford estate in recent years, according to police incident reports.

Robert Kennedy, a prominent environmentalist at Pace University School of Law in White Plains, declined to comment this week.

“I’m not going to talk to you about my personal life,” he said Monday.

He is the son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in California in 1968 during his run for president.

According to records on file with the Westchester County Clerk’s Office, the Kennedy family scion filed the papers on May 12.

On May 10, two days before the filing, Mary Kennedy called 911 herself, police said. Officers responding to the house reported she was “visibly intoxicated” and had “great difficulty collecting her thoughts and articulating her reasons for calling.” She told police her husband was “verbally abusive to herself and her children.”

On May 13, officers were summoned to the South Bedford Road home at 9:16 p.m. and filed a state domestic incident report before leaving.

On May 15, Mary Kennedy was stopped outside St. Patrick’s School on Greenwich Road near the couple’s home and charged with driving while intoxicated. Police said she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.11 percent at the time of her arrest. The legal limit is 0.08 percent.

She was ordered to undergo evaluation for potential alcohol abuse and is due in Town Court on July 22.

Her lawyer in that case also declined comment on the divorce proceeding.

Details on the divorce filing, including grounds, were unavailable. New York state does not have a “no fault” divorce law, though it will go into effect in September.

The couple has four children.

This would be Kennedy’s second divorce. He was married to Emily Ruth Black. They divorced in 1994, a month before he married his current wife.

 





Op-Ed: The History Channel Brings Shame, Shame on the Family Name

27 02 2010

 

The Kennedy Brothers

 

ISN’T ASSASSINATION ENOUGH?

LET THE KENNEDYS REST IN PEACE

Dear Friends —
 
I am taking time today to write and express my extreme displeasure with The History Channel’s planned miniseries The Kennedys. After reviewing portions of the draft script, I was floored by the sheer number of inaccuracies, distortions and omissions of essential facts in this docu-drama.
 
This is not what future generations should be learning about the presidency of John F. Kennedy.
 
As we reach the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration this year, presenting an epic miniseries which is not only grossly inaccurate but clearly designed to assassinate the character of a president who gave his life for this country, is wholly unacceptable to me. 
 
My daily concern as a historian, author and museum curator is the quality of education we are giving our children in the field of history. As a radio/print journalist, Kennedy scholar, and founder of several websites devoted to the Kennedy family legacy, I have devoted 25 years of my life to providing accurate information to anyone who is interested in learning about our nation’s 35th president and his family.
 
So when I see a script like The Kennedys, proposed to air on (of all places) The History Channel, I shudder to think of the potential and far-reaching consequences.
 
When fiction is presented as fact, that is entertainment. It is not history and has no place on The History Channel.
 
I am also highly offended that the same History Channel which brought us such outstanding documentaries as JFK: A Presidency Revealed and Turner’s The Men Who Killed Kennedy would ever stoop this low, becoming little more than a mouthpiece for right-wing rumormongering and propaganda the likes of which we would expect from Fox News.
 
Many of my fellow historians and researchers have joined together to let the History Channel know how we feel. We must try and stop this miniseries from being produced as currently written.
 
Please ask The History Channel to allow JFK’s living decendants, friends and key advisors – as well as credible historians and researchers – to consult on production of The Kennedys miniseries. Then, and only then, can we rest assured that this presentation on the Kennedy family is truly “fair and balanced.” 
 
Please take a few minutes to learn more about The Kennedys miniseries here:

History channel draws flak for planned JFK miniseries

Pittsburgh Post Gazette – Dave Itzkoff – ‎Feb 19, 2010‎

 Also please visit the website http://StopKennedySmears.com to view a short film directed by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films which features interviews with Ted Sorensen, David Talbot, Nigel Hamilton, Rick Perlstein, David Nasaw and other Kennedy historians expressing their shock and outrage at this deeply-flawed production. You can view some excerpts of the script and decide for yourself is this is what you want your grandchildren to know about President Kennedy and his family. 

If Jack Kennedy were alive today, he’d surely sue them for defamation of character and win. But since he’s sadly not here to defend himself, looks like it’s going to be up to those of us who still care to speak up before it’s too late. 

If you agree, I hope you will add your name to the petition at StopKennedySmears.com and tell the History Channel to present real history. 

Thank You,
 
 
New Frontier
Founding Editor

 





Congressman Kennedy Steps Aside

12 02 2010

In other shocking political news today, Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy announced that he will not seek re-election, leaving the U.S. Congress without a Kennedy for the first time since 1947.

Wow. Now that’s what I call “pulling a Lyndon,” allright.

“I shall not seek, nor will I accept…oh to hell with it, I quit, ok?”

After Scott Brown’s stunning victory in the Massachusetts special election for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, is the tide turning in American politics? For better or for worse? Your thoughts?





Say It Ain’t So Joe: Kennedy Sidesteps Uncle Ted’s Senate Seat

8 09 2009

kennedy funeral 18

Joe Kennedy III (center), heir apparent to the Kennedy political patriarchy, has declined to run for his late Uncle Ted’s U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts.

 

SAY IT AINT SO, JOE

 

It’s not a Kennedy seat anymore.

Joe Kennedy, eldest son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, ended a political epoch today when he declined to run for the Senate seat held by his uncles Ted and Jack. (read his full statement below)

This means we are not likely to see anyone with the name Kennedy seek to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in the US Senate.

Let the Democratic flood gates open.  Some MA Dems have already announced their candidacies, others are likely to do so in the near future now that the Kennedy intentions are clear.

A likely crowded and competitive Democratic primary is scheduled for December 8.

When the MA legislature convenes this week, the issue of changing the law to allow for an interim appointment will get consideration.
Statement from Citizens Energy President & Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II

September 7, 2009

I want to thank the millions of Americans who have expressed their love and admiration for Senator Kennedy over the last few weeks.  It was very moving to see so many people come out to pay their respects to a man who fought so hard to make this world a better place, especially for those struggling for life’s basic needs – a decent home, a living wage, a safe neighborhood, their daily bread, a good education, and access to health care.

  

Given all that my uncle accomplished, it was only natural to consider getting back involved in public office, and I appreciate all the calls of support and friendship that have poured in.

 

My father called politics an honorable profession, and I have profound respect for those who choose to advance the causes of social and economic justice in elective office.  After much consideration, I have decided that the best way for me to contribute to those causes is by continuing my work at Citizens Energy Corporation.

 

Our efforts cover a broad array of the challenges facing this country – to heat the homes of the poor, install energy-savings technologies to cut costs for homeowners and businesses, build wind farms throughout the United States and Canada to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and construct transmission lines to carry new sources of renewable energy.

 

Over 30 years after starting the company, there is much yet to be accomplished at Citizens Energy, and I continue to be committed to our mission of making life’s basic needs more affordable.”