“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

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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

 





On Inaugurals: RFK Jr. Looks Back to JFK; Forward to Obama

18 01 2009

John F. Kennedy takes the oath of office, becoming our nations 35th president. January 20, 1961
John F. Kennedy takes the oath of office, becoming our nation’s 35th president. January 20, 1961

 

MEMORIES

On the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration, the latest issue of Newsweek features recollections of inaugurals past from the likes of Rep. John Lewis, Ari Fleisher, Franklin Graham, and my personal favorite, Karl Rove (who recalls how his first night on the job was capped by a stern warning from a West Wing janitor to “respect the house” — he should have heeded this advice). 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is also interviewed for the article. Here’s what he had to say:

“I was only 7 years old when my uncle became president, but I remember his Inauguration Day better than any other. He didn’t say anything to me that day; there were too many people all over, and they all wanted to talk to him. But our entire family was there to watch him. After the inaugural ceremony and the parade, we were allowed into the White House to see where my cousins would be living. We saw their bedrooms and explored the whole house. We ran through all the halls—outside to the pool and down to the basement and into the bowling alley. That was the first time we were in the house and, as little kids, it felt enormous. It was a really big place. As time went on, my uncle invited us back frequently, about once a month. When I was a few years older, I met with him—just us—in the Oval Office and he talked with me about my interest in the outdoors, about pollution and environmental issues of the time. At one point after that, he arranged for me to interview Stewart Udall, who was the secretary of the interior. To thank my uncle, the next time I went to the White House I brought him a salamander.”

…uh, well…there’s more to that story. For reasons that might be obvious, RFK Jr. left out the best part. So we’ll turn to a 2006 New York Times article to provide the punchline:

“One of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s family mementos is a boyhood photo of himself in the Oval Office with his uncle President John F. Kennedy. Then 9, Mr. Kennedy — who is still known as Bobby — had just given the president a spotted salamander in a small vase. The salamander appears to be dead.

“He does not look well,” President Kennedy told Bobby as they observed the slimy pet. The president is prodding it with a pen, to no avail. “I was in denial,” Bobby Kennedy said, explaining that he had probably doomed the salamander by keeping it in chlorinated water.

Not to attach too much significance to a dead salamander, but, oh, what the heck: the photo distills some Bobby Kennedy essentials — his matter-of-fact presence in royal circles, his boyish chutzpah and a lifelong appreciation for animals (even those he has killed).

Now 52, Mr. Kennedy, is one of the country’s most prominent environmental lawyers and advocates. Clearly he was traumatized by his youthful act of environmental insensitivity and vowed as an adult to become a fervent protector of all the planet’s salamanders. Or perhaps this is overreaching, seeing too much in a simple picture. (Sometimes a dead salamander is just a dead salamander). “

Here’s that famous photo now:

“He does not look well”: Seven year-old Bobby Kennedy Jr. with his clearly amused Uncle Jack (and a very dead salamander) just two months after JFK’s Inauguration, March, 1961.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (and in fact, the entire Kennedy clan) will be in attendance Tuesday when Senator Barack Obama is sworn in as the nation’s 44th president. Joking with reporter Kris Jenner about a “Kennedy invasion” of D.C. next week, Bobby quipped: “I think there’s four million people who are going to be in Washington this weekend, and probably around half of them are Kennedys!”

Without a doubt, the Kennedy clan will have more influence in this White House than with any administration since JFK. Bobby Jr. will likely be a frequent guest in Obama’s Oval Office, engaging in private discussions with the president about the environment. This time though, we think he should probably leave the salamander at home.





Remembering “Citizen Ed” Guthman: He Showed Us How It’s Done

6 09 2008

Ed Guthman 1919-2008

Ed Guthman 1919-2008

 “INNOCENT PEOPLE WERE TERRIFIED BY THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT”

– ED GUTHMAN, 1998 

From accused communists to Freedom Riders to the Branch Davidians, Guthman protected and defended their rights

The late Ed Guthman,  who died last Sunday at the age of 89, was a rare bird the likes of which we may never see again in the world of American journalism. He was far more than just a journalist, he was an activist– using the power of his pen to bring our attention to society’s ills. His hard-hitting investigative pieces often turned up evidence which cleared the wrongly accused – and his gift of wordsmithing could then argue a persuasive case in defense of the so-called “public enemy” – eventually swaying the tide of opinion in the accused’s favor.

In short, he helped us all to see just how wrong we usually were about things.

Whereas the mainstream media gold-diggers of today love to blindly pile on any celebrity or public servant suspected of wrongdoing and rip their reputations to shreds, Guthman possessed that now-rare quality called empathy. He understood well how lives could be destroyed, families broken and spirits crushed by simple misunderstandings, or even by deliberate disinformation campaigns. Guthman held dear every Americans’ right to privacy, to express themselves freely, and their right to be innocent until (gasp!) actually proven guilty. What a concept.

Guthman didn’t just spend his life defending the famous — in fact, most of the people he helped were ordinary folks you’ve probably never heard of — but he had this uncanny way of always choosing the most unpopular person or cause in the room and taking a stand for their right to an honest, competent defense. Whether it was his investigative series which cleared the name of accused communist Melvin Rader during the 1950’s “red scare,” fighting for the rights of African-Americans while serving in attorney general Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department in the early `60s, or standing up for the Branch Davidians (at a time when it was quite unfashionable to do so) in the 1990s, Ed Guthman defended them one and all.

He knew about media witch-hunts, allright. As a byproduct of post-WWII America, he watched (no doubt in utter horror) as the private lives and political beliefs of so many innocent Americans were flung open to public scrutiny and ridicule. He saw names and careers dragged through the mud, sometimes with little or no evidence other than Joe McCarthy’s finger pointed squarely at them. Commie-hunting was America’s favorite pastime in the 1940’s and 50’s, often preferable to baseball, Mom, and apple pie, and it seemed like everybody was getting into the act: neighbors snooped on neighbors, becoming amateur informants in the federal government’s seriously overreaching effort to round `em all up. Few dared to question, lest they themselves wind up being accused of sleeping with the enemy, too.

Enter Ed Guthman, a 29 year-old reporter for the Seattle Timesin 1948. Having returned from the war (he was highly decorated, having received both the Purple Heart and the Silver Star), young Guthman was certainly eager for a good story – and boy, did he get it in the case of Melvin Rader. 

Rader, a mild-mannered University of Washington philosophy professor, had been swept up in the dragnet, accused of being a Red. A paid government witness told a state legislative committee that Rader had attended a secret communist training school in New York state in 1938. In fact, Rader had been with his family at a forest camp near Granite Falls.

Guthman, with the support of his editor and publisher, tracked down information corroborating Rader’s account, exposing the accusations as groundless, and exonerated the professor. His work earned the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished national reporting and was announced by Dwight D. Eisenhower, then president of Columbia University, which hands out the award. It was The Times’ first Pulitzer.

While most journalists toil for a lifetime towards one day achieving that most coveted of awards, for Ed Guthman, winning the Pulitzer Prize was only the beginning of what would be a very long and distinguished career. At age 29, this man was just getting warmed up.

Mr. Guthman left the Seattle Timesin 1961 to work for Robert Kennedy when he was attorney general and then as senator from New York, from 1961 to 1965. Mr. Guthman drew on those experiences to write or co-edit four books about Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968. (Guthman was at the Ambassador Hotel that fateful night and had spoken to Bobby just minutes before shots rang out.)

Last year, Kennedy’s brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy, wrote a letter honoring Mr. Guthman for a lifetime-achievement award Mr. Guthman received in Los Angeles. “In those early days at the Justice Department, on Bobby’s Senate campaign, and later at the RFK Memorial, you’ve always been there with your good judgment, unflappable presence and trademark smile.”

THE MAN WHO DEFENDED PUBLIC ENEMIES BECOMES PUBLIC ENEMY #3

Mr. Guthman’s association with the Kennedys also helped land him on President Nixon’s infamous “enemies list.” (Hey, for that alone, the guy deserves a standing ovation.) They say you can always measure the quality of a man by his enemies, and earning the #3 spot on Nixon’s enemies list speaks for itself, does it not?

Colson’s now-infamous memo described Guthman as “a highly sophisticated hatchetman against us in `68,” and menacingly added, “it is time we give him the message.”

Well, things didn’t work out quite the way Nixon and his ratfuckers had planned. Guthman was instrumental in exposing the Watergate scandal over the next few years, and this time it was Nixon who “got the message” when his presidency ended in disgrace. Score one for Public Enemy #3.

Guthman got on the wrong side of another president’s administration – a Democratic one this time – in 1993 when he expressed his outrage at the Justice Department (yes, the same Justice Dept. where he once served with Kennedy, which had somehow lost its’ moral compass along the way) for launching a military-style raid on the Branch Davidian church at Waco, Texas.

83 innocent men, women, and children died in the flames of a church set ablaze by incendiary devices which, as it turned out, had been employed against them by federal agents. This sort of thing doesn’t happen in my America, Guthman said, and he called attorney general Janet Reno on the carpet publicly for having the unmitigated gall to proclaim herself a devotee’ of Robert Kennedy’s. (He was joined by another brave stalwart of Kennedy’s Justice Dept., Ramsey Clark, who also served as attorney general under President Lyndon B. Johnson). Sorry, Mrs. Reno, they bluntly informed her, but Bobby would never torch a church.

In 1993, Guthman was named to a federal panel reviewing the government’s role in the deadly raid on David Koresh’s “compound” (media-speak for offbeat churches these days). The panel concluded that top officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal agency that conducted the initial action, had been negligent in overseeing the operation.

“…OF THE GOOD GUYS OF AMERICAN JOURNALISM, ED GUTHMAN IS ON THE FRONT PAGE.”

 – TOM BROKAW

Guthman’s many amazing true life dramas (a Pulitzer waiting to happen for any journalist who might attempt the Herculean task of writing his biography) and accomplishments are far too numerous to list here. We can only give you a few snippets, as we did in his obituary earlier this week, and encourage our readers to do a bit of homework on their own. Take some time to get to know Ed Guthman, and you’ll surely wonder why his name wasn’t a household word. But his name wascertainly well-known around schools of journalism, and that’s where you’ll find, to this very day, another crop of aspiring writers who benefited from Guthman’s mentor-ship.

He taught for many years at USC’s Annenberg School, influencing the minds of countless young reporters, who have since gone out into this dog-eat-dog world armed with the knowledge – and above all else, the empathy  that Guthman always practised in his own craft. He developed in them a thirst for truth, and taught them how to dig until they found it. Then, he inspired in them the courage to publish that truth and stand by it, no matter what the consequences.

Bryce Nelson, a colleague of Guthman’s at both the L.A. Times and at USC, said, “Ed Guthman was a hard-hitting investigative reporter, an editor who believed strongly in the idea of service to his country and his community. … He was a very warm man of great integrity who was totally committed to protecting each American’s rights to freedom of speech and the press guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Well said, and very true indeed. But of all the tributes to Ed Guthman I’ve heard and read this past week, none can compare to what Tom Brokaw wrote of him a decade ago in his bestselling 1998 book The Greatest Generation, in which Guthman was profiled. Brokaw said: “In any accounting of the good guys of American journalism, Ed Guthman is on the front page…I will always think of him as “Citizen Ed”…”

It seems fitting somehow to conclude this remembrance of Ed Guthman not with my words, or even those of a famous television journalist like Brokaw. Perhaps instead you’d like to read the sentiments of one of those young journalists who rose up, as it were, under Professor Guthman’s wing.

Just this week, I exchanged correspondence with a writer named Michael Stusser, who reads this blog regularly and who posted a comment about Ed Guthman here shortly after his passing. His article about working with Ed (published in Guthman’s old haunt, the Seattle Times), is one of the best tributes to the man I’ve read anywhere. With Mr. Stusser’s kind permission, his original story is reprinted below. Enjoy!

A LIFETIME OF ADVICE, CAREFULLY SCRIPTED WITH A RED PEN

Special to The Seattle Times

Over the years, I searched for a mentor like most folks look for deals on eBay. I clung to Hunter S. Thompson’s every drunken move when he showed up comatose at the Berkeley campus. After co-authoring the “Doonesbury Game” with Garry Trudeau, I begged him to get his nose out of his own book and blurb mine (he passed, saying he was too busy). And for several years I worked under Ralph Nader, hoping that some of his mad civic brilliance might rub off on me, only to find the consumer advocate goes through organizations, interns and ideas faster than Diddy changes nicknames.

Turns out there are two types of mentors in this world: ones you wish for, and ones who actually turn out to be invaluable advisers. Ed Guthman was the latter.

I first met Ed in 1989 as a staff writer for the Commission to Draft an Ethics Code for the Los Angeles city government. Superlawyer Geoff Cowan had been appointed to put together a tough new ethics package after Mayor Tom Bradley — and pretty much everyone else in City Hall — had been using the legislative branch to remodel their houses and buy Ferraris. Cowan’s genius was in recruiting experts in various fields to help his staff come up with the best regulations possible. If you ever wanted something hard-hitting, honest, and well-researched, the guy you brought in was journalist Ed Guthman.

In 1989, I was a 25-year-old graduate of the Coro Foundation with no idea where to begin writing a code of ethics, much less my own moral code. Ed cleared that notion up in a hurry. “Ya get out there, talk to everyone you can, and sort the details out later. Now let me see your interview list.” My list — made up on the spot — had the mayor, his chief of staff, and a couple of shady city council members I’d read about in the paper.

Well, these people were fine and dandy for background, according to Guthman, but only to cover yourself once City Hall found out how tough the new rules were going to be. Ed had our staff meet with the most corrupt lobbyists, real-estate tycoons and sleazy schmoozers in California, Republican or Democrat, in order to discover how the game was really played. Only then could you find a way to close revolving-door loopholes, “gift exchanges” and pay-for-play schemes being used by those in the know. Turns out, people love to talk, and better yet, will actually answer pretty much anything you ask them. Ed knew that, I didn’t.

It wasn’t until almost six months working with Ed that I found out — from my mother (who had watched him win a Pulitzer Prize at The Seattle Times) — about his amazing credentials. Not only did he stand up against McCarthyism in the 1950s (saving an innocent professor’s career), but Captain Guthman was a decorated veteran (yes, a Purple Heart and, though he’d never show it to you, a Silver Star), RFK’s press secretary at the Justice Department, and No. 3 on Nixon’s list of enemies!

In addition to a wonderful social conscience, Ed had a warm heart, a huge laugh (always a pleasant surprise when dealing with an intimidating and gruff fellow) and a work ethic that would make an over-caffeinated mule look lazy. Unless you’re dealing with Donald Trump clichés, professional wisdom often needs to be culled over time. Just once, I longed for Ed to say, “Son, let me tell ya how we broke the Watergate story wide open.” But the man was too modest to tell tales of yore or give straight-on advice, so you had to dig for it.

Show him your work and ask for feedback, and he’d happily provide it, red pen and all.

One rule I learned from Ed was that the moment you’d finished your research and assumed the job was done was precisely the time to make another round of calls. There was always someone you’d forgotten to talk to, an item that needed clarification, or one more line of questioning that would surely arise after sitting on the info for a night and pondering the big picture.

Our Los Angeles ethics code was eventually packaged into a successful citizen’s initiative, leading to the creation of a new watchdog agency. Ed served a term as president and was a board member on the committee from 1991-98. For Ed, the road was a rocky one; he had no patience for the infighting from council members. Luckily, he had another gig to distract him, teaching students at USC how to be journalists with integrity and a backbone.

When I moved back to Seattle, where Ed was born and raised, I picked his brain about whom I should meet with. “Everyone,” was his response, and rather than give me names and numbers from a Rolodex, he spouted off the top dozen or so movers and shakers in the community. “Just call ’em up, tell them you want to talk about what’s going on, and go from there.”

Could I drop his name? “Sure, if you think that’s really going to help.” It did.

I soon found work on another citizen’s initiative, attempting to create a Seattle Commons — sort of a central park funded by taxpayers. I knew the reasons I supported the plan (green space, anyone?), but didn’t quite have a hook for our publicity campaign.

“Go walk the damn thing,” was Ed’s advice. “Have a look around, talk to a few people, see what’s there now, then convince other citizens to do the same.” The suggestion was classic Ed: simple, based on first-person investigation, and not reliant on spin or politics.

A few months back I met a young salesman at the Apple store. He recently asked me to look over a Web site he had created for the Seattle Symphony. “Where’s the information about the musician’s backgrounds?” I heard myself bark. “And make some calls to the two tenors who are still alive or somebody who’ll endorse the damn thing!”

This kid may not be seeking out a mentor, but, thanks to Guthman, it looks like he’s got one.

Edwin O. Guthman passed away last weekend at the age of 89, but his influence on me — and perhaps the next generation — is everlasting.

Michael A. Stusser is a Seattle-based writer, and author of “The Dead Guy Interviews: Conversations with 45 of the Most Celebrated, Notorious and Deceased Personalities in History” (Penguin).

 

Copyright RFKJrForPresident.com. Stusser’s article is copyright 2008, The Seattle Times Company.

 





Ed Guthman (1919-2008)

2 09 2008

* It saddens us greatly to report the passing of a true American patriot – Ed Guthman – at the age of 89.

Ed Guthman and Robert F. Kennedy

Ed Guthman and Robert F. Kennedy

 ED GUTHMAN (1919-2008)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Edwin O. Guthman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was on the infamous “enemies list” prepared by aides of President Richard Nixon and who served as press secretary to Robert F. Kennedy, has died at 89.

Guthman, who had a rare disease called amyloidosis, died Sunday at his Pacific Palisades home, said Bryce Nelson, a family spokesman.

“Ed Guthman was not only a great friend, but a great journalist,” Paul Conrad, a longtime political cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times, said Monday. “He was the only person I ever tore up a cartoon for.”

Guthman was the Los Angeles Times’ national editor from 1965 to 1977, then served for a decade as editorial page editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1950 for his stories in The Seattle Times on the Washington Legislature’s Un-American Activities Committee. His reporting cleared a University of Washington professor of allegations that he was a Communist supporter.

Guthman was press secretary for Attorney General and later Sen. Robert F. Kennedy from 1961 to ’65.

A Kennedy loyalist in his private life, Guthman wrote or edited four books about Kennedy. And he always wore a tie clip that President John Kennedy had given him, according to the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

The Los Angeles Times’ obituary of Guthman provided more details of his work with RFK:

In “We Band of Brothers,” Guthman’s 1971 memoir of his years with
Kennedy, he made no effort to hide his affection for Kennedy,
portraying him as a stalwart friend, an impassioned advocate for civil
rights and a demanding boss, whose wry humor brought levity to many
grim moments.

Guthman recounted the time that he was in Oxford, Miss., with other
Justice Department officials in 1962 when rioting broke out on the eve
of James Meredith’s enrollment as the first black student at the
University of Mississippi.

A hate-filled mob armed with rocks, chunks of concrete and guns was
attacking a force of about 300 federal marshals, who were under orders
not to fire their pistols at the crowd. The marshals sustained heavy
injuries while Guthman and the other Justice Department officials
watched in agony.

That night, Guthman called Kennedy in Washington to report on the
situation. “How’s it going down there?” Kennedy asked, to which the
aide replied, “Pretty rough. It’s getting like the Alamo.” After a
pause, Kennedy quipped, “Well, you know what happened to those guys,
don’t you?”

The president sent in the Army to disperse the mob, and Meredith
walked up the university steps the next morning.

The exchange between Guthman and Kennedy was repeated in many
published accounts of the conflict as a classic example of the
camaraderie between the attorney general and his staff.

“The way I look at it, we were beleaguered and blood-spattered and he
knew it and worried for our safety. And yet when I think of Oxford,”
Guthman wrote, “this is what I remember first: the light remark that
raised our morale and helped us through the night.”

Guthman spent five years in Kennedy’s service, leaving in 1965 after
accepting an offer from Los Angeles Times Publisher Chandler to
oversee the paper’s national coverage.

Three years later, on the night of the 1968 California presidential
primary, Guthman spoke to Kennedy just before the candidate left his
room at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles to make his victory
speech; he was shot moments later by Sirhan Sirhan.

Guthman rushed to the hospital, and when he returned to The Times
early the next morning, he sadly suggested that an obituary be
prepared. Kennedy died the next night.

Ed Guthman in more recent years

Ed Guthman in more recent years

In 1971, Guthman was the third name on a 20-name list of political opponents singled out for harassment in a memo sent from Nixon aide Charles Colson to aide John Dean.

The memo described Guthman, then national editor for the Times, as having been “a highly sophisticated hatchetman against us in ’68.”

He was a journalism professor and senior lecturer at the University of Southern California from 1987 until his retirement last year.

“He exemplifies the ultimate journalist. I’m successful because of what (he) taught me,” CNN anchor and USC alumna Kyra Phillips said during a tribute at the university last year.

Tom Brokaw praised Guthman at that tribute as one of the “greatest generation,” the USC Daily Trojan reported at the time. “I will always see Ed Guthman as citizen Ed Guthman,” Brokaw said.

In the 1990s, Guthman was a founding commissioner and a president of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

He also was one of three outside experts who reviewed — and harshly criticized — the 1993 federal standoff at the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas, in which about 80 people died.

Born Aug. 11, 1919, in Seattle, Guthman attended the University of Washington and worked as a reporter for the Seattle Star before he was drafted in World War II. He served in North Africa and Italy, was wounded, and received the Purple Heart and the Silver Star.

Guthman is survived by three sons, a daughter and five grandchildren.

(This version DELETES an erroneous reference to amyloidosis being a blood disease.)

From the Associated Press.





This Is Your President’s Brain On Drugs

15 06 2008

This Is Your President's brain on Drugs

Brings a whole new meaning to “Skillethead”: Ad copy for Bush’s new drug abuse prevention campaign (this one might actually work – talk about scared straight!): “Hey, Kids! Drugs are bad. If you do drugs, you could end up like the President of the United States. Wait…what the hell did I just say?”

THIS IS YOUR PRESIDENT’S BRAIN ON DRUGS

(HUH? WHAT BRAIN?)

BUSH STILL SNORTING COKE IN THE WHITE HOUSE, NEW BOOK SAYS

In his controversial new book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan reveals his strong suspicions that President Bush’s old coke habit isn’t just past tense.

McClellan believes that Bush has used cocaine during his term as President.

Bush’s onetime spokesman/paid liar McClellan, the man who used to keep the President’s secrets, is spilling them all now in his explosive new White House memoir. Why he’s doing it is anybody’s guess.

Maybe McClellan is driven by some noble sense of duty to let the truth be known. Perhaps he’s pissed at his old boss and is using the book as a means of giving Bush his comeuppance. Or hell – maybe he just needed to make a few bucks.

Then again, blabbermouthing seems to run in the McClellan family, much as a penchant for drugs and war profiteering runs in the Bushes blue blood. They’ve certainly got their family traditions — and so it seems Father’s Day would be a perfect time to get into this bizarre generational tale of Bush, Barr, Baines, and the unfortunate Kennedys who always wound up on the receiving end of whatever bloody messes these men made.

FATHERS AND SONS

Let’s start with the McClellans, who seem to have a fascinating familial habit of writing shocking tell-all books about their former White House bosses.

Scott McClellan’s father, Barr McClellan, penned a scathing (if rather dubious) indictment of the President he once served some 40-odd years ago, Lyndon Baines Johnson — in which he accuses LBJ of participating in the conspiracy to murder President John F. Kennedy.

Barr McClellan was a fellow Austinite and close friend to LBJ, one of his top personal lawyers who reportedly knew where all the bones were buried. For some reason, he chose to reveal much of what he knew (or thought he knew) about Johnson’s alleged involvement in his 2003 bestseller, Blood, Money and Power: How LBJ Killed JFK.

Then you’ve got the Bushes. Suspicions and conspiracy theories abound that the president’s father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush (known to his friends by the curious nickname “Poppy”) not only profited personally from CIA drug running operations — just as his father had done quite well for himself making deals with the Nazis during WWII — but that he too was a key conspirator in the plot to assassinate President Kennedy.

The killing doesn’t stop there. Nope, some people believe that Lil’ Bush had something to do with the death by plane crash of the president’s late son, John F. Kennedy, Jr. in 1999. I’m not even gonna go down that rabbit hole because I don’t particularly feel like getting shot today, but I’ll just point out that this is what other people have said. Make of the information what you will.

Now, let’s get back to the McClellans and their Big Mouths, shall we?

Just as they used to call LBJ poking his finger into your chest “the Johnson treatment,” nowadays, when a former president’s trusted aide plunges his penknife in your back, it’s called “the McClellan treatment.”

Of course, Barr McClellan’s allegations about Lyndon Johnson are far more serious and damaging to the former President’s legacy than anything his son is saying about George W. Bush in his new memoir. After all, cold-blooded murder is a much higher crime than a bloody nose caused by overindulgence in cocaine. But if Scott McClellan’s allegations about Bush’s drug abuse are proven true, this would nonetheless prove beyond any doubt that our President is mentally and physically unfit to serve, his judgement seriously affected by cocaine use.

And to think that for all these years, we’ve been spending so much time and effort trying to figure out why President Kennedy’s brain is missing from the National Archives. Turns out our current president’s brain is missing, too.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your president’s brain on drugs.

Got Coke?

BUSH IS COKED UP?

OH! WELL, THAT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING

If it turns out to be true that indeed, Bush has been putting rock-size chunks of the federal budget up his nose, would you really be surprised? Actually, when you think about it, the scenario makes perfect sense. Bush being a cokehead would easily explain every decision and baffling public statement the President has made over the past eight years.

Missing those warnings before 9/11. Using the tragedy to launch a “War on Terror” which has resulted in the loss of our civil liberties; military invasions of other nations causing tremendous destruction and loss of life . A belligerent, insane foreign policy. Out of control deficit spending. A plunging economy. An incompetent (more likely corrupt) government. An over-inflated sense of self-importance and arrogance. And a total inability to speak complete, rational sentences.

That’s just the short list, of course – but you get my drift.

If you’ve ever known (or perhaps been) a coke addict, you know these classic behavior patterns intimately. Cokeheads are selfish bastards who don’t care who they hurt. They’ll lie repeatedly when confronted about any wrongdoing, and they’ll never admit to screwing up. They’ll spend money (preferably someone else’s) like there’s no tomorrow. They’ll rob you blind, and wouldn’t think twice about mugging their own mother to buy another hit.

They suffer wild mood swings and violent rages. They live in the constant delusion that the entire world revolves around them – and only them – and if you don’t like it, they’ll throw you under the bus, back up and roll over your ass just for a laugh. The sound of bones cracking under their wheels gives them a perverse kind of thrill; they totally get off on this sort of thing.

Y’know, come to think of it, this is all starting to sound familiar. Don’t you think the President has been looking more than a bit tense lately? (And all this time you thought he just had the perpetual sweats because he was a little nervous about being impeached!)

Bush on Coke

DARN TOOTIN’

Many lightyears ago (the `90s), in a galaxy far, far away (Austin, Texas), Scott McClellan was Bush’s press secretary when he became Texas governor. He claims in his new book that during Dubya’s term as governor, he once heard Bush privately confronted by a supporter about whether he used cocaine.

He says Bush offhandedly replied that he couldn’t remember “whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don’t remember.”

McClellan writes, “I remember thinking to myself, `How can that be? How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn’t make a lot of sense.”

Other alarming rumors of drug use have dogged Dubyathroughout his political career. In her book The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, author Kitty Kelley quoted Bush’s former sister-in-law Sharon Bush as saying that he “did coke at Camp David when his father was president – and not just once, either.”

Sharon later denied telling the story to Kelley, but another person present at the interview supported the writer’s version of events.

In 2000, when Bush was running for president, Adam J. Smith, then-associate director of the Drug Reform Coordination Network wrote: “it is becoming increasingly clear that George Junior most likely did toot a line or two back in his halcyon days.”

But what about now, the world wants to know?

As recently as 2005, the controversial investigative journalist Tom Flocco reported that concerned Secret Service staffers had “written national security field reports” which “all but confirm that President Bush has been using drugs which could be affecting his performance as the nation’s wartime commander-in-chief.”

The report also alleges that Bush used Prozac and alcohol (not a friendly combination when mixed, by the way) in addition to cocaine while president.

“Federal agents have at different times witnessed President Bush doing cocaine in the early morning hours at the White House and drinking straight shots of whiskey in the evening hours on other occasions.”

(What, you mean to say he only drinks in the evening? Those who have witnessed the president’s clearly crocked, slurred-speech stupor at 9 a.m. press conferences might beg to differ.)

BUT HAS HE STOPPED BEATING HIS WIFE?

Not only is Bush reportedly hitting the sauce again, he’s been having some nasty blowups with wife Laura as well, who herself is no stranger to the bottle.

According to several sources, the two have bitterly argued over his boozing before. One argument two years ago turned so vicious, Laura stormed out of the White House and checked into a Washington, D.C. hotel for the night. Another fight got physical, leaving the president with two unsightly gashes on his cheek where a furious Laura reportedly had raked his face with her nails.

Beverly Hills psychologist Lillian Glass (who has seen more than her share of cocaine addicts) says that Bush’s coke abuse would explain his mood swings, paranoid rages, and the violent bustups with his wife.

Glass believes it would also explain Bush’s aggressive behavior and stubbornness. “We’ve seen an aggressive stance which lead to the invasion of Iraq. That could be an attitude that stems from cocaine abuse,” Glass said.

“If he’s been abusing cocaine,” she asserts, “Bush would be in a weaker position. He doesn’t have all of his faculties, and he may be more vulnerable to being led astray.”

“Given all these things,” she concludes, “you have to wonder if George Bush has been using cocaine during his presidency. His behavior certainly makes you wonder!”

Recent editorial in the European press

Apparently the European press is starting to wonder, too: a recent foreign editorial calls Bush’s general sanity into question.

PARTY ON, W

So the president’s a miserable drunk and a cokehead. Wow, like that’s the news of the century. Anybody here at all shocked?

I mean, we always knew the man was a loser who dozed in school, played hooky from the Air Force, partied like Keith Richards and drove like a bat out of hell. The son of the CIA President born with “a silver foot in his mouth” (thank you, Ann Richards), whose Daddy bought him the Texas governorship and later, the White House. Who would be so astounded now to find that leopards don’t change their spots?

And apparently, McClellans never do, either. I’m not sure if we owe Scott and his dad a heap of thanks for the books they’ve written, or if we should tell them to sit down, shut the hell up and just be loyal to your Prez, already.

I’m not sure if we should spend a whole lot of time pondering their motivations in penning these controversial tell-alls. Who knows why they blabbed, and who really cares? The McClellan’s revelations only serve to confirm what many people were already were inclined to believe: that there’s something rotten in Denmark (or Austin, as the case may be) – and it’s been stinking up the joint for nearly 45 years.

Somebody needs to call up Waste Removal and tell them to take out the trash that has befouled Austin’s backyard for way too long. The citizenry down here have grown weary of the stench. Maybe it’s time to get to the bottom of these rumors of murder, mayhem and debauchery once and for all. Then we can forever solve the mystery and clean up this crap pile.

DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS

But at the moment, Austinites have a bigger whodunnit to unravel — who burned down the Governor’s mansion the other night? Apparently, some terrorist – or perhaps just a drunken idiot – torched the historic 1856 home by throwing an Unidentified Flaming Object onto the porch at 2 a.m. last Sunday morning, somehow miraculously breaching the high security walls and avoiding detection by the DPS guards on night watch.

Governor Rick Perry (who formerly served as Bush’s Lt. Governor and resident Butt-Boy) was not home at the time of the fire, which completely totaled the mansion. The first couple have been living elsewhere for the past year while the Governor’s mansion was in the throes of an extensive remodeling job. And get this: the remodel was to include the installation of a fire sprinkler system. Guess they won’t need it now that the place is little more than a pile of smouldering 152 year-old lumber.

I must confess my first thought upon hearing the news was: oh shit – was the president in town?

Persistent visions haunted my thoughts of Bush going out on a Prozac and alcohol-fueled Saturday night spree, filling the presidential limo with several hot young strippers and offering the girls an after-hours private tour of the Governor’s mansion in a vain effort to impress them. (“Hey, check it out, ladies — I used to live here back when ya’ll were just a twinkle in your Daddies eyes. Heh, heh, heh…”) The strippers exchange nervous glances amongst themselves, wondering how to politely escape this creepy braggart, even if he is the President of the United States.

Upon arrival at the Governor’s mansion, Bush discovers to his dismay that the house is locked up tight at 2 a.m. (much like certain parts of the strippers’ anatomies will be presently), even to the President. Feeling somewhat rejected, he sits down on the porch, fumbles around for a lighter in his pocket and offers his victims ladyfriends a hit from the crack pipe. But just as he’s leaning over to pass it over to a very attractive blonde, his squinty eyes become transfixed on her ample busom, thus causing him to lose his already precarious balance on the porch stoop. All of a sudden the burning bong slips from his hands and…Uh-Oh!

Relax. Just kidding about all that. We all know that the president would never accidentally-on-purpose send important national landmarks (oh, like say, for example, the World Trade Center or the Pentagon) up in spectacular balls of fire. I mean, sheesh — there might be people in there who could get hurt or killed, y’know? Nah…that’s just too crazy, even for our George, right?

Anyway, the whole town is in a tizzy over this tragedy, and a massive manhunt is underway for the arsonist. Heaven help the fool who did this dastardly deed, I say – the eyes of Texas are upon them, and the wrath of Texans can indeed be an ugly thing.

Don’t Mess With Texas. And if you torch our historic Governor’s mansion, we’re going to find you and make you regret the very day you were born. We’re going to kick your ass six ways from Sunday and then hang you from the highest tree while we enjoy an afternoon picnic in Wooldridge Park. We’ll spit in your eye and pee on your grave. And we ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie.

You’ll please excuse us if we don’t have time right now to bother with investigating the murder of a past president or the drug abuse of a current one. Hell, we’ve got ourselves a firebug to catch, boys!so let’s round up the posse and string `em up!

(Anybody got any string?)

“Lynch `em!”

(Anybody got any lynch?) 

“IMPEACH `EM!”

(Anybody got any `em peaches?)

 

 

Copyright RFKin2008.com. All rights reserved.





There Goes The Opposition — Kerplop!

7 06 2008

Hillary's Got Hope

OOPS, THERE GOES THE OPPOSITION — KERPLOP!

HILLARY QUITS RACE; ENDORSES OBAMA

WASHINGTON (AP) – Hillary Rodham Clinton ended her historic campaign for the presidency on Saturday and told supporters to unite behind rival Barack Obama, closing out a race that was as grueling as it was groundbreaking.

The former first lady, who as recently as Tuesday declared herself the strongest candidate, gave Obama an unqualified endorsement and pivoted from her role as determined foe to absolute ally.

“The way to continue our fight now to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States,” she said in a speech before cheering supporters packed into the ornate National Building Museum, not far from the White House she longed to govern from.

“Today as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him and I ask of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me,” the New York senator said in her 28-minute address.

With that and 13 other mentions of his name, Clinton placed herself solidly behind her Senate colleague from Illinois, a political sensation and the first black to secure a presidential nomination.

Obama, in a statement, declared himself “thrilled and honored” to have Clinton’ support.

“I honor her today for the valiant and historic campaign she has run,” he said. “She shattered barriers on behalf of my daughters and women everywhere, who now know that there are no limits to their dreams. And she inspired millions with her strength, courage and unyielding commitment to the cause of working Americans.”

Aides said Obama watched Clinton’s speech live on the Internet and tried to call her later. His campaign put a photo of Clinton on its Web site and urged supporters to send her a message of thanks.

For Clinton and her supporters, it was a poignant moment, the end of an extraordinary run that began with an air of inevitability and certain victory. About 18 million people voted for her; it was the closest a woman has come to capturing a nomination.

“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it has about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before,” she said.

Indeed, her speech repeatedly returned to the milestone her candidacy represented for women. In primary after primary, her support among women was a solid bloc of her voting coalition. She noted that she’d received the support of women who were 80 and 90 years old, born before women could even vote.

She acknowledged the unprecedented success of Obama’s candidacy, as well.

“Children today will grow up taking for granted that an African-American or a woman can, yes, become the president of the United States,” she said.

Obama secured the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the nomination Tuesday after primaries in South Dakota and Montana. He planned to spend the weekend at home in Chicago.

Joining Clinton on stage were her husband, the former president, and their daughter, Chelsea, to loud cheers from the crowd. When she spoke, they stepped away.

In decided to suspend her campaign, Clinton kept some options open. She gets to retain her delegates to the nominating convention this summer and she can continue to raise money. It also means she could reopen her campaign if circumstances change before the Denver convention, but gave no indication that was her intention.

As soon as Clinton finished speaking, some of the nearly 300 Democratic party leaders and elected officials across the country who had pledged their support to her as superdelegates released statements announcing they now back Obama. The switchers included some of Clinton’s most high-profile supporters, including Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Maine Gov. John Baldacci.

Clinton supporters began lining up at dawn to attend the farewell address. A smattering of Obama backers showed up as well, saying they did so as a gesture of party unity.

Supporters and press jammed the museum’s vast ground floor, with the second and third floor balconies quickly filling up as well. The stage was draped with American flags, and a sound system blared upbeat music.

As they awaited her arrival, campaign staffers milled the room, exchanging hugs and saying goodbye.

Clinton seemed almost buoyant in her address, feeding off the energy of a loud and appreciative crowd.

“Well, this isn’t exactly the party I planned but I sure like the company,” she said as she opened her speech.

Clinton backers described themselves as sad and resigned. “This is a somber day,” said Jon Cardinal, one of the first in line. Cardinal said he planned, reluctantly, to support the Illinois senator in the general election. “It’s going to be tough after being against Obama for so long,” he said.

Clinton’s presidential Web site on Saturday thanked her backers. “Support Senator Obama today,” her Web page said. “Sign up now and together we can write the next chapter in America’s story.”

Republicans quickly launched a “Clinton vs. Obama” page on the Republican National Committee’s Web site drawing attention to her criticism of Obama during the campaign.

As a prelude to Saturday’s speech, Obama and Clinton had a face-to-face meeting Thursday evening at the Washington home of a Senate colleague, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein.

Clinton was expected to campaign for Obama and to help with fundraising, while seeking his assistance in retiring her $30 million campaign debt. The New York senator has told colleagues she would be interested in joining Obama as his running mate.

The undisputed front-runner when she announced her candidacy in January 2007, Clinton saw her march to the nomination derailed a year later after being swamped by Obama in Iowa’s leadoff caucuses. She stayed alive after a narrow victory in New Hampshire five days later. But her campaign never fully regained its footing despite strong showings in several big-state primaries beginning in March.
06/07/08 15:20 © Copyright The Associated Press.

* Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who endorsed Sen. Clinton for president, has said that if his candidate is not the party’s nominee, he will unite with his fellow Democrats (and, ahem, family members) to support Barack Obama.

And with all this Obama/JFK/”Hope” fever in the air, thought this might be a good time to bring back a slightly revised version of Kennedy’s 1960 campaign theme song in honor of the presumptive Democratic nominee. So with our sincere apologies to Ol’ Blue Eyes, here `tis:

HIGH HOPES

Everyone is voting for Barack
Cause he’s got what all the rest lack 
Everyone wants to back — Barack
Barack is on the right track. 
‘Cause he’s got high hopes 
He’s got high hopes
Twenty-Oh-Eight’s the year for his high hopes. 
Come on and vote for O-bama
Vote for O-bama
And we’ll come out on top!
Oops, there goes the opposition – ker – 
Oops, there goes the opposition – ker – 
Oops, there goes the opposition – KERPLOP!

O–B–A–M–A
He’s the man we need today 
Everyone wants to back — Barack 
Barack is on the right track. 
‘Cause he’s got high hopes
He’s got high hopes
Twenty-Oh-Eight’s the year for his high hopes. 
Come on and vote for O-bama
Vote for O-bama 
Keep America strong. 
Obama, he just keeps rollin’ – a – 
Obama, he just keeps rollin’ – a – 
Obama, he just keeps rollin’ along.