tv Book Discussion Bobby Kennedy CSPAN November 27, 2016 6:00pm-7:01pm EST
there's lots here to see. it would take you weeks to see at all. what i say to america is stop on by. give pittsburgh a chance. it's not the city you might think it is. 1979 c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. tonight meir mayor green will join with larry tye who's been a whirlwind of the past several days. bill green became a congressman in 1964 succeeding his father william j. green.
his father was instrumental in the election of president john f. kennedy. bill green served as a congressman in 1976, during which time he took on the oil companies and helped defeat the oil depletion allowance. he became the meir of philadelphia -- the mayor of philadelphia and i am pleased to say i was in his administration. he took on on a lot of special interests, and actually implemented the first deadly force policy in the united states. he also said a lot of interesting things i won't repeat here. about the worst legislative body in the free world. [laughter] we always had a debate i might
also add that his son helped fight back the wholesale closers of the the library branches. without further ado is made privilege to welcome bill green. [applause] we were great friends and worked together ohad workedtogether oni was the mayor and has done more for the city than you could imagine. he ran the schools from the park, he headed all of those institutions and more and was a pulitzer prize winner for the philadelphia inquirer. [applause]
>> iem pleased to be part of the presentation. as you will probably find out some of the most memorable and have used days of my life were my time i spend with robert kennedy. let me begin by offering praise during his book, "bobby kennedy" the making of a liberal icon. what he offers us in the book is the result of extensive research including previously unpublished reports and the newly released materials from the kennedy library and access to people that other authors didn't have most notably. he made his career as a "new york times" best-selling author including the buck satchel.
his many books on railroad car workers in areas come to life with the readers not only because of the deep research but also as captivating style. he also runs the boston-based health coverage fellowship that helps the media do a better job reporting on health issues. the making of a liberal icon is not a valentine. but hivalentine. but his strength, compassion and courage shine through any perceived shortcomings with each trade as i would say is admiring portrait. the book has drawn praise from jefferson biographer jon meach meacham. the book review praises in this
fashion we are at his death for bringing back the young presidential candidate who for a brief moment instilled hope for the future the fearful america americans. but we will never know for uncertainty, not from a thousand books, is what might have been. no one can say. nixon, watergate, vietnam, no one knows. but i do know this, from the crushing pain that followed his brother's death, she emerged and even the more compassionate man. as president, he would admit his mistakes. the war would be the last resort. we would talk to our adversaries and listen to them containing nuclear weapons would be a major
urgent focus and he would be welcomed around the world. he would fight the corrupt and fight most of all the forgotten those stuck in urban ghettos mostly black, those in the hollows across the land and those picking the crops. they would see it in his face and that is what might have been. robert kennedy said we can do better. he was right. never have those were then so true as they are this night. you've written a great book and i'm pleased to introduce you to my fellow philadelphians. [applause]
what i would like to do in trying to introduce bobby kennedy to you and i assume -- how many people in the room have lived through the campaign and 68? i'm going to call all of you appear to tell your stories. [laughter] i would like to take you through the moments in his life that are indicative talking changed and who he was in critical time and the first one starts off in 1957. his friends and first boss senator joe mccarthy died in a town called appleton wisconsin.
he was a senator that basically saw a communist behind everyone in the state department. he shows up at the airport in green bay wisconsin with an enormous plane and off the plane steps 19 senators mostly republican and mostly conservative. all of them do what the dignitaries do when they get off planes because of the limousines and they are whisked away to wisconsin. the airport after that gets quiet. when there's the notion no one else is going to get off the plane, one last person does. since there is no limousine to take him to the airport come he gets a ride from a reporter at
the madison wisconsin newspaper. at the funeral in the church she watches from up in the loft and while the dignitaries are over here and bobby kennedy is over here but he managed to do after the service anybody could ask him to be obliged he got them covering the funeral to bleed valve of the story. because he was a kennedy he generally got his way. what that story does, without moment does it says two things to me about who he was back then. one thing it says is that he was a loyal friend of joe mccarthy who understood he was his dad's friend but gave him his first
job and in the era when much of america thought communism was a huge threat, so did bobby kennedy and he thought there was only one person in washington standing up against the communists. so while jack kennedy said to stay away from the funeral, he did what he often did in those days. he ignored it and was going to stand up for his buddy. so you could say i don't know what you think of joe mccarthy that you could say there was something noble about his being there when there was a potential risk. the other half back then was that he was a realist. bobby kennedy that new he wanted his brother to be president and might someday run for office himself, he went to the funeral and showed up but he barnwell was going to make sure that nobody was going to see him. so the two sides, the loyal
side, back to bobby kennedy was then and that's who america was then in the conservative era of eisenhower. so he starts out as the ultimate cold warrior just like his dad was. i want to take you from the year 1957 to the moment that i think if he had any single epiphany moment in his life come it was 1963. bobby kennedy on a november day 1963 had come home from work at the justice department with a couple aides. he had a swim at his pool at estate just outside of washington in virginia settling back to have a great lunch and eventually go back to work. at that moment when he started it was the half went to the white house.
there were more than there were in the vice president's residence that was a contention for lyndon johnson. but any time the phone rang it was not good news. it was one of the people bobby kennedy hated in the world, fbi director j. edgar hoover. and he describes it as monotone and says in a voice your brother has been shot. at that moment changed his life.
he lost his brother, best friend anin the whole sense of purpose. he'd been close enough at the time they were both in their 20s but the idea that jack kennedy was gone was a world changer for him and get something happened. they were totally distraught and somebody had to take charge. bobby kennedy for the next month gave out assignments to the family. you will take care of mom and break the news to dad just had a stroke. you will do all these things that need to get done. he went to the white house and decide whether or not it would be an open casket. he held up a hand of jackie kennedy and john and caroline when they were devastated.
bobby kennedy helped the country going through a morning more profound. that was quite an extraordinary thing he managed to do given how devastated he was. when the family started pulling it back together and went back to work and the country ended their period and started to pull it back together, bobby kennedy lost it. he went from the next seven months to something today we would describe as a clinical depression and that is rendered 50 years later like it happened moments ago.
he would go to work and couldn't sustain attention in the meetings at the justice department. he lost his sense of what he was doing in the world and debated about whether he should become a college professor and i am convinced he would have made a miserable professor and never thought about it but everything was on the table. he debated whether she should take his inheritance and travel around the world with this wife and kids. he debated a lot of things and what he ended up doing is running for senator from new york and it wasn't until the middle of the campaign he started coming out of this depression. it was at that moment he realized he could lose which could have been a first he started having a sense of two things. he did have something to contribute and people were
responding to him not because he was the surviving brother but because he was bobby kennedy's brother and had something to offer. have something to offer. when he was coming out of his depression as it was suggested, he came out a different person. at the suggestion he was reading tragedies and this is a guy that for entertainment generally played a touch football game and that is what he considered his distraction. he was now reading about the kind of hubris he realized they were thinking it was the world to do with what they wanted and suddenly crashed around him. he came back into the world with a kind of empathy that he never quite had before. i suspect if i interviewed everybody in the audience, we
are all between tough and tender but the dialogue in his days started out waiting for the tough side and started speaking empathetic to the underdog in a way that he had never really done before so in 1963, he came out of this miserable experience and it was a good thing because he had to find a new role for himself. it's who bobby kennedy was and
as we look around and get excited about the candidates running for president today i want to take you to one night in the campaign. when i ask you a question tonight just say indiana. [laughter] if you pick a state they wouldn't want to have a contested primary he had no idea on anything going on. he was a massachusetts or an wod brad guy, senator from new york and this was all new territory.
one night in the indiana prima primary, he was about to fly to indianapolis to go to an important rally in the middle of the city. when he landed in indianapolis, he was told martin luther king had been shot and killed. the mayor of indianapolis went on to become a powerful u.s. senator and had one powerful piece of advice which was you will not go and hold a rally that was scheduled partly because i'm worried whether you are going to come out alive and you will create a riot just by being there. in 1957 when they taught him not to go to the funeral he said thank you, that's great advice
and he proceeded to go out and do it all along. he ends up having his police escort pilaf just before he gets to the get-go and he stands up on the back of a flatbed truck and for the next five minutes, he gives one of the great speeches of his life in the history of the american political oratory. he is telling the audience that night, several hundred people, telling 90% of them for the first time that their leader has been killed, 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 he felt when jack kennedy had been killed. he said our temptation is to
want to strike out when something like that happens but we have to do the opposite. we have to come together as people in this audience and as a country in this moment of trauma. what happened that night in indianapolis was quite extraordinary. in a country that night when there were race riots in more than 100 cities and washington part of the city was burned down that night there was one city in america that had the population that stayed peaceful that night and the city was philadelphia? indiana. [laughter] so indianapolis stayed peaceful that night because bobby kennedy found the pitch perfect tone to go into the ghetto and use, and it was predicted when much of
the civil rights movement in the early days had given up on bobby kennedy ever getting what was going on in the civil rights movement. there was one person that had faith in him and said we have to stick with this guy. he'd been told of the day martin luther king and he was proven right giving the speech i think hillary clinton and donald trump and burdock obama tried to deliver but they all looked for just the right tone after dallas, baton rouge, st. paul. i can say without any hyperbole he was the most popular and in
the ghettos across the country when he campaigned for the next several months there was a sure sign that said it all. there are not many politicians that they would have said that about in 1968 so i want to take you to why we should still care about him half a century after his death and i think that many of us have spent the last 50 years looking for somebody that is able to do and places a country that was overridden with racial issues come equally stressed out by what was going on overseas in that case the war in vietnam bobby kennedy is on the cusp of pulling together the kind of coalition that we had
never seen in this country. it was the coalition that supported him in his early days as a cold warrior. it is a coalition of the blacks that were sent to him and stayed peaceful in indianapolis. it was the coalition that back then no politician ever spoke to. bobby kennedy was the only one who went to california, the only politician who went to california and a stud with cesar chavez during the hunger strikes and reached out in a way. he was bringing together the groups we dream about today. he seemed on the verge of becoming precisely the top liberal or if you prefer to
attend are conservative but i think we are still searching for in america. before we open up for questions, one of the most tender moments i've heard anybody describe he was in those leaders years talks about what happened after his dad died. would you mind reintroducing me. [laughter] >> i will tell you a couple stories about that. when president kennedy died, my father didn't want to go to washington because he didn't want to interfere or intrude in
everyone's sorrow and my mother said to him you should go down there. he went down to the white house and came home and told me the story as he was walking up to the second floor and bobby came down from the first, they took one look at each other, they both cried and went down the 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 last in virginia while he came to philadelphia at december 24 for my father's funeral and he brought with him a letter from jackie kennedy that he basically got him the
day before that was as beautiful as you would ever want to see. he heard while i was here interested in running in my seat. i got a call and he said to me i understand you want to run for your father's seat. [laughter] i said that's correct. he said i sent kenny o'donnell up there. he looked at the situation and i know a lot of the organizations are lined up against you. but if they take you on i want you to understand we will be in. i said to him to ask you a couple questions and he said yes. i said what does we will be in
explicitly mean and he said if they take you on, kennedys will crawl over your district. now this is several months after bobby kennedy came to 15th and chestnut and there were 30, 40,000 people going from 19th street to 13th street and it was a mob scene. even during the period i said can i tell and he said told them all. what he was really saying is you can tell them i'm the surgeon generalsurgeongeneral, too becat going to lose this. bobby wouldn't be in favor of doing anything but making sure
in every way he could. the last question he asked was do you need money and i said i don't think so. friends of my father's "ask me in this contest and he said if you don't have enough, you write the check and = it. i would like you to come see me in washington. i went to washington, walked into his office, and i almost couldn't control myself. never until this minute had i seen a face that's sad. he was absolutely crushed, heartbroken but not so much he couldn't be at my mother's fear or say -- i said to him i can't tell you what this means to me. a lot of people my father helped guard against me coming at you
with all that's going on in your life are for me and he put his head down as head don't you know what your father did for my brother? don't you know what your father did for my brother? it wasn't by the 3,031 votes when people printed my father for producing that victory my father would laugh at home and say people win, politicians win primaries and the help he was to the kennedys was 1960 at the democratic convention. i'm talking about john kennedy, not robert kennedy, but you can't talk about one without the other. they weren't like that. >> what he did for my brother in 1960, that's a line for the rest of his life for the highest compliment he could see to
anybody's what was done for john because they weren't like that to the point where ethel kennedy describes the cliché that people are so close they finish one another's sentences. what she said about the relationship is they were so close they didn't need to talk. they could just pick up one another's expressions and that is why there is another cliché in politics when people are on a ticket together they say this will be the closest working relationship we have had. the truth is no precedent in their right mind ever gives up power. the closest thing america has ever had is when bobby kennedy or jack kennedy as attorney general because he wasn't just the attorney general, he was the cia director.
he could go and look back at what was best for the country but also best politically for jack kennedy, and that was an extraordinary relationship. he knew that he would have to be there because it was illegal but he knew that if it was published it would hurt jack [inaudible] >> there was a magical moment and it wasn't yet 1967 there was a moment even when jack was
alive he had a political career insulting to be used to joke. you know they had initial aspirations and during world war ii when he was the ambassador to great britain they never denied it and helped get him fired. at the moment he knew it couldn't be him if he has sign signed. it is going to be joe junior until he tried to take out the sites in europe. on the day that he guided the mantle this past jack and when jack was killed, it was clear that it was going to be bobby.
>> i was in an elevator with them with my father and i haven't had an opportunity to converse. i did once i attended a strategy meeting that he turned to my father and said what are you going to do and i said i was in my last year of law school. they call hi called him billy, , teddy, jackie, larry. [laughter] my father said i don't know mr. president what do you suggest. bobby called me to hope so
my advice he talked to bobby and i think some of the big-city democratic leaders in the north were perhaps a little concerned that johnson might not be the candidate bobby would be. they must have been there or heard about it because lyndon johnson asked governor lawrence of pennsylvania to check out. at that convention where lyndon
johnson was nominated at the moment as you say he had no interest, johnson was so paranoid that he asked the agents to check out what was going on in the camp and to be stationed at the convention and report back to him if anything there was good to be a jack kennedy movement and the truth was that the best speech at the convention is a speech that bobby kennedy delivered depending on whose account you use on the minutes of interruption applied during the speech but it was a speech that lbj and his paranoia phosphors about him and the loss of his brother jack and at the end was the most rousing endorsement be kennedy was three things, the
third pillar he stood on he was a democrat and was going to support even though he detested lbj he was going to support him does anyone have questions they would like to ask a maybe we can get some microphones over. >> when eugene carthy story came out i wrote a letter and i said to stay out you will defy the
antiwar movement. three weeks after it announced, he sent a letter that said sbc i've entered the race. in the third or fourth will be to compromise kennedy. after elected he said as you can see i've entered the race, but i disagree. i am adding my voice to the movement. he signed in when he announced
that he was going to run, that was it because they were going to allow him to be president. >> i will just make me the one or -- >> there was no way to get around the fact. i would have preferred he did earlier. he did it after gene mccarthy beat lbj in new hampshire. he gets into it and it looks like the ultimate politician and
then bobby kennedy takes the mantle away four days later. he said what you've just done in new hampshire shows saint patrick didn't drive all of them out of iowa. [laughter] the evidence is clear cut bobby kennedy decided to enter and he decided that it was only fair mccarthy had been fighting for a long time and it was only fair to give that a shot before he came in. when he was being a gentleman during the things the manager would have asked him to do he ended up hurting himself badly
with the press and took the entire campaign to come around and trust bobby kennedy but by the end of the campaign it is the way the press had a relationship with the candidate. as we all know today donald trump starts by banishing the press for his event. hillary clinton spends time with reporters being skeptical of him. by the end, something strange happened, and it was one of the things that drew me into the story from the beginning. my mentor in journalism that won a pulitzer prize for his coverage ended up writing a book
that was a valentine to bobby kennedy covering the campaign for the "washington post" named richard was assigned by bradley to cover the campaign because he was very cynical. he thought he would never be won over by him. they made a plea tick me off the campaign i've fallen in love with the candidate. i think it is exactly what the press was looking for today and a candidate as is the public. it was a candidate that was authentic and that the political press can tell who's really into doesn't seem real and they decide by the end he had the courage to stand up in the
senate and say my brother and i were wrong but it's not something that many political figures do. the way that he shifted from the cold war that he started out with to the liberal that he became in the end was to find the political whims of the day to do that. after his victory tonight he was killed at the ambassador hotel in california, after his victory committee was scheduled for next morning to go to chicago. the son of the then mayor bill daley who is the obama chief of staff for a couple of years said
his dad was going to endorse bobby kennedy for president and we had those in philadelphia ready to go all out. they understood the vulnerability better than the successful campaign against richard nixon and i think it isn't too much of a what if to say he would have been the nominee, the president, and would have from day number one he was passionate and inpatient to wait to try to get things done.
it's the fact they might have endorsed. the night before kennedy was killed, i was with him strategizing what we would do. we spent about half an hour strategizing. he taught me i'm going to see him tomorrow and i think that he was confident he was going to endorse. i had work to do back here. i got home and watched the
speech on television, went to bed about 4:00 in the morning i got a phone call. 4:00 in the morning, can't this wait. the reporter said to me he's been shot. i tried, i couldn't go any further, eventually i fell asleep, but i believe now if he would have been there, it would have enhanced the chances of pulling off the boat. we will never know what could have been but it might have worked. i think what would have happened is in those days they united and would have been a ticket.
you describe the hierarchy. what was the relationship of john and bobby and teddy? >> the question was what is the relationship between the brothers in terms of the specialty in that relationship and her dream is one of her sons would go into the priesthood and i would say if jack kennedy had gone into the priesthood that's the kind of guy that he was coming isn't electable and he would have been a perished
priest because that's who he is. so i am a massachusetts guy and arguably my best source for about 15 years i think ted kennedy was one of the greatest senators and he spent his 50 years in the senate not trying to emulate his brother because he was a short-term senator and didn't make much of a set of waves. he adored his brother and ted was a senior senator and had been elected before bobby. the only time is when they were visiting one another's offices.
they got microphones and blackmailed him. >> j. edgar hoover kept going back asking permission to wiretap martin luther king because there was a fear that i think without any convincing evidence was in the hierarchy and at the moment j. edgar hoover survived through angeles attorneys general because he always had a dirt on somebody
and knew the moment to ask for what he wanted so she asked for the authority to wiretap and in the end he gave it to him without defending the decision at all he gave it to him for strategic reasons. they weren't about to propose a major civil rights bill and the most embarrassing thing to them would have been if the leftists turned up in the camp and j. edgar hoover would have used that information to embarrass them and undermine the civil rights. the idea that the wiretaps that provided embarrassing information, the idea that bobby kennedy wanted that circulate it is the opposite of truth. when he realized what was happening and that hoover was using this to tarnish the reputation he tried to withdraw the tapes and transcripts and it was too late.
remember the story from indiana is the one who forgave bobby kennedy more than anybody else was martin luther king at the point when the provision is said he's up to no good and martin luther king was right of wiretapping was a bad thing but with mattered more to bobby kennedy was calling in federal troops and most of you will remember the famous stand in tuscaloosa and bobby kennedy learned from his mistakes and birmingham and montgomery you have to call for troops in early. by the end she understood there is nobody in america who did more than his lifetime ending
poverty. one thing i want to say in his life he had four great enemies. another one that we discovered in the recent months bobby kennedy despised roy columns into the excesses were his responsibility. he detested the head of the most powerful union bobby thought was corrupt. those people you could argue there was good reason to detest. the one to me is a great tragedy and that is lbj.
they were so different one grew up rich in massachusetts and the other was from texas and grew up poor and presented. had they ever united in a coalition, they could have gotten more extraordinary things done. the idea they were at a cross purpose was a huge tragedy and one of the things that made him more determined than ever is bobby kennedy was calling for him to come out of vietnam. every time he gave an antiwar speech it seemed like the next day they increased the bombing of north vietnam. >> one of the things that struck me in the buck --
>> did you tell them how many times you read the book? >> i'm the only person that's ts read the book twice. [laughter] spank my wife. >> his wife read it five times. [laughter] what lyndon johnson did in the civil rights bill is put bobby in charge of getting it through. if it failed he would have bobby to blame. i think there were two purposes. one is the purpose you said, and he wanted it and knew there was nobody better to play off of the president'presidents memory buto have to understand jack kennedy filed a bill and jack kennedy
filed the bill and the only one of the advisors told him you want to file a civil rights bill said he was cautious of that and wanted to leave to file the bi bill. that's who bobby kennedy was. he had no patience. he came from essentially only a couple of years apart in age but it was a different generation. he was from the world war ii we know what life is like generation. bobby kennedy was enlisted to many fee and saw active duty going out of supporting back to the port and i think falling once and licking his lips and that is the injury bobby kennedy ended up with 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 in the earlier generation, nine kids, bobby is the one that his dad described as the runt of the litter and the least likely to be able to do anything. bobby spent his life working harder than any siblings to show his dad he could get things done. in the end he acknowledged a decade that he made executor of the estate, and there was nothing more important was his son bobby kennedy. we have time for one more question. >> [inaudible]
>> he went to vietnam and said we will stand buy you because we said you can when the board and one of the primary authors of the counter insurgency strategy was bobby kennedy. and he said i was wrong. he did that issue after issue is what was called the good body and the bad bobby and i was the dominant personality and i think what made one of the great presidents ended is not accidental that brought obama and hillary clinton looked as there will model more than any other