tv QA CSPAN October 31, 2016 6:00am-7:01am EDT
if that is all we know, we don't know nearly enough. brian: on the same page a little later, you bring up senator joseph mccarthy. mr. tye: the most counterintuitive piece of bobby kennedy's history is his early and close relationship with joe mccarthy. bobby kennedy in his early days was a cold warrior. he did not just believe there were threats in the soviet union but that they posed a threat the same way that mccarthy believed in america and he believed joe mccarthy was the one guy in that era that was really taking the fight to them. so he went to work for him enthusiastically and to understand bobby kennedy's beginning and what he became in the end, we have to understand his relationship with mccarthy. brian: mccarthy was a republican from wisconsin. what triggered -- i know you spent a lot of time in massachusetts, but what triggered your interest in this particular biography? mr. tye: i had grown up with bobby kennedy as an iconic figure.
in high school, i went to high school with his middle child, david, who would later die from an overdose. bobby kennedy was a big piece of who i was as a massachusetts kid. that was only half of it. the other half was that my mentors in journalism, people like bill codith and others were about the most rhinoceros-hided journalists that i knew. all three of them fell in love with robert kennedy and i wanted to understand why. brian: you were last here in 1998 for your book on the man who started the public relations business. you have done a lot of books since then and they are all over the place. how many have you done since 1998? mr. tye: a total of six since the first one. brian: what is your favorite? mr. tye: this one.
this one was 25% better than the one before because it let me interview more than 400 people, most of whom were heroes of mine growing up. there's nothing else that are than doing that. the good news was that i got the 400 people. the sad news was that easily a third of them died in the three years that i was writing this book. bobby kennedy would have turned 90 last november so his family, friends, and colleagues are old. brian: it is hard to believe that he was 42 when he was murdered. and that his murderer is still in prison. mr. tye: i don't think any of us will ever think of him as anything other than that 42-year-old forever young guy. brian: 88 years old. ethel kennedy, still alive and you spent a lot of time with her. mr. tye: i did two interviews, and each was two hours. it was extraordinary. it let me test out every theory that i had on bobby.
there is a kennedy mythmaking machine which tries to suggest that the mccarthy era was a footnote or an aberration. ethel was too old and too honest to ever have that be the final word. she explained among other things that joe mccarthy might have looked like a monster to the rest of america but to bobby kennedy, mccarthy was a guy that came over and played with their toddler kathleen and who was their friend as well as his boss. brian: where did you interview her and how is she doing? mr. tye: i wish i could tell you that i interviewed her and she had not agreed to be interviewed by authors for many years and she spoke with me because i am charismatic and irresistible but i think it was because she was sensing her mortality and i showed up on her doorstep. the doorstep was in palm beach.
a house nearby their family a house nearby their family mansion. we had an extraordinary time. at the end of my first interview, the then 85-year-old ethel walked outside with me in her bare feet and offered to drive me to the airport and make me a sandwich. i figured she was going to kick me out of the house after 15 minutes, so after two hours i counted myself lucky. brian: what impact did the 11 children that she had have on her life and her life with bobby kennedy? mr. tye: she was having children pretty regularly during the 18 years of marriage. the impact -- i think they were trying to outdo rose and joe who had nine children. they had 11 and they relished them. the one real escape that bobby had whether it was during the cuban missile crisis or the freedom riots in alabama and mississippi, the one outlet that he had was to play a game of tickle tumble with his kids. he adored them. it was an extraordinary joy to
them. and a joy to ethel after bobby died but the idea of raising on her own 11 kids, the oldest of which was a young teenager was an extraordinary thing for her to do. brian: what has she done over the last 50 years in regards to her husband? what kind of role has she played? mr. tye: one is the role of trying to memorialize him through concrete things. the robert kennedy center for human rights. the journalism award given out in his name. the kinds of things that perpetuate the values that he stands for. she has been politically active. and most importantly, i asked her at one point if she had ever considered getting remarried. she was clearly one of the most eligible women in america at the time of bobby's death. she pointed to her wedding ring and said i have been married all of this time. and she pointed up. she is an extraordinarily devout catholic and she pointed up and she says bobby is watching me and he is with me.
she has remained true to him in terms of his values and in terms of being his wife. brian: what did you learn from her? mr. tye: i learned about mccarthy. i got to test every theory that i had including the question -- i think bobby kennedy had one of the most profound and real political transformations. the idea of going from a joe mccarthy cold warrior to a che guevara liberal in america was an extraordinary change. she helped me understand what about him let him make that change. she also helped me understand his relationship with his brother jack, the defining relationship in his life. i think it was not just a clicée that they finished one another's sentences. they did not even need to utter a word because they understood through body language and knowing what the other would think about situations. they had that kind of communication.
the closest thing we ever had to a co-presidency were the kennedy brothers. brian: when john kennedy was elected president, how old was bobby kennedy? mr. tye: bobby kennedy when he became attorney general -- he died at age 42 and eight years earlier when he became attorney general -- he was 36. he was the third youngest attorney general in american history and he may have been the least qualified for that position ever appointed. his qualifications were that his father told his brother to hire him as attorney general. and jack would have defied anyone on anything except for his dad. bobby had never tried a case in a court of law. three years later, when his tenure ended with the death of his brother, he may have been
the best attorney general in the modern era if not forever in terms of everything from the war he waged against organized crime and corruption in unions to what he did for the civil rights movement. he may have been the least appreciated. he put meaning into the department of justice. with everything from bail reform to caring about court defendants. he understood that it was more then just chasing crooks. brian: we have some video of the mccarthy hearings. as you watch it, there are several characters there that you write about in your book. you will see bobby kennedy off to the left. you will also see roy cohn. mr. tye: roy cohn -- he was joe mccarthy's most important young, assistant and bobby kennedy's boss. in more modern terms, he was at
an old age, the tutor to donald trump. brian: let us watch this. senator mccarthy, a republican from wisconsin holding these hearings. we can talk about the people that we see. and a former senator from missouri is also there. [video clip] >> i think i made it very clear to you that neither you nor anyone else will ever get me to violate the confidence of loyal people in this government who give me information about communist infiltration. >> the officer informant who gave this fraudulent letter was guilty of sending this information to somebody not authorized to receive it. and in so doing, disobeyed the orders of his superiors. in view of the testimony mr. chairman, i do hope that every effort will be made to find out who was the informant.
brian: why was it so important that you write about bobby kennedy and senator mccarthy? mr. tye: partly because of what it it tells us about bobby kennedy. there were two sides of bobby kennedy. on the one hand, at those army mccarthy hearings, it was bobby kennedy who wrote the definitive report for the democratic senators who were in the minority then. it was such a good report and a complete report on things that mccarthy had done wrong, that the republicans adopted most of it and that was a report that led to the censure of joe mccarthy. but kennedy remained such a loyal friend to him, even possibly more so after the censure, that he turned out at mccarthy's funeral in 1957 which was not a place that an aspiring young democrat, especially one that wanted to see his brother elected president should show up.
brian: give us the whole story. mr. tye: as with everything with him, there are contradictory aspects. let me set the scene. in green bay, wisconsin, near appleton where mccarthy was buried. an enormous plane flies in from washington. 19 u.s. senators, seven congressmen and a handful of other luminaries get off the plane and are whisked away to appleton. after the airport has gone quiet, one last solitary figure gets off a plane. a young congressional aide named robert francis kennedy. he takes a ride to appleton with a reporter. he goes up at the church service and watches the funeral from the choir loft. at the grave site, all of the luminaries are over here and bobby kennedy is over here where no one will see him.
after the funeral, knowing that all of the reporters would write about him in their story, he begged the reporters not to and reporters in those days were obliging especially when the guy asking is a kennedy. is it the loyal side of bobby kennedy that showed up to the funeral or is it the other side, the guy who spins the story and scrubs the records? brian: talk about kennedy's relationship with his father who asked him to go to work for mccarthy? mr. tye: bobby kennedy spent his life trying to live up to the standards of his father. his father described him as the runt of the litter. bobby kennedy wanted to prove to his dad that he could matter. he worked harder at things. he did more of the things that he thought his father would like than any of his eight siblings.
by the end, by the time joe kennedy had a stroke, it was bobby that he declared to be the executor of his estate and it was bobby who he said was the most like him. they had an extraordinary relationship. and bobby kennedy to the end of his life felt his father had done more for any of them. brian: i wanted to show you some video from the 1968 campaign. i don't think you see this today. we will roll it. it is silent. you can see how people reacted to him in a crowd. you can see it on the screen. people are grabbing at him. you can also see, even a more frantic situation here. what was it about him -- look at that -- as he ran --that people wanted to touch him? mr. tye: the press labeled him the fifth beatle.
i think it was partly that he represented the sense of camelot lost in the kennedy administration. and partly the sense that people really understood that he had that kind of passion, not just to pick up his brother's cudgel but to do a lot more then what his brother was politically willing to do. i like to say that rose kennedy, who as your viewers will remember, lived to be 250 and was the matriarch not only of the kennedy family but in a way of america's first family, rose kennedy said she dreamed of one of her sons going into the priesthood. had jack kennedy gone into the priesthood, he would have been a pope. had bobby kennedy been a priest, he would have been a parish priest. he was a kind of guy that got down with people and loved being there. and he knew that it was not only
threatening because his brother had been assassinated and there was no way to protect him in the crowd. he would lose a shoe. his hands would come back bloody. people would grab a tuft of his hair. he understood that people related to him in that way and so even though it was scary, it was inspiring to him. brian: who did you learn the most from? mr. tye: i probably expected a lot and got even more from a guy named john who, by the end of his life, was probably bobby kennedy's closest friend. he was a journalist from nashville, tennessee. he was a mentor and a guy who understood bobby kennedy. he had worked for him at the justice department and he had helped him take time off after his fellowship.
he had advised bobby and helped rescue his california campaign when he was running for president. he gave me a sense of a melding. people knew bobby kennedy as a friend or as a professional. he helped me see the bobby kennedy that traversed the different worlds, personal and professional, and he so adored him but adored him from the take as a journalist. he helped me understand most of all the question that i went into the book with -- how could these half journalists fall in love with bobby kennedy? if i could tell you one brief story. and it is one of a guy that covered bobby kennedy in 1968 for the washington post. a guy named dick harwood. an ex-marine. harwood was assigned by ben bradley to cover the 1968 campaign because bradley believed he would be the one guy that would not fall in love with
the kennedys. one of his first experiences was to go out and play touch football with bobby kennedy. he came back with a badly bloodied nose. he thought bobby had played unfairly. he watched bobby during the campaign where he would go out and speak to white and black audiences. and he would say the same thing to all. he spoke with rich and poor and said the same things to each. he would tell people exactly the opposite of what they wanted to hear and it was what he thought they ought to hear. by the end, harwood said he was the opposite of a demagogue and he went to ben bradley and said i have fallen in love with bobby kennedy and you have to take me off the campaign. bradley told him to stick it out. the most eloquent of all of the obituaries that i read about bobby kennedy was by harwood.
brian: his son is very visible. go back to john. we got to know him here. as the publisher of usa today. he came here and talked about james polk. go back to the circumstances surrounding your chat with john who lived in tennessee. mr. tye: i got a contract from random house and the next day i got an airplane ticket to go to nashville to see john because he had colon cancer. i knew he was essential to the book. when i got there, and talked to him, it turned out that he lived about two years after that. he turned out to be not just energetic but inspired because he was talking about bobby kennedy. he also did me the most extraordinary favor of anything which was -- i think it was his word that i was ok that led ethel kennedy to talk to me.
there had been a circling of the wagons of the kennedys where they tried to keep people from talking to the press. partly it was that there were fewer people left to circle the wagons by the time i got to my book. and those that did circle the wagons liked john. everyone i have spoken with, i have been a reporter and an author for 30 years and i've never had an experience where all the 400 people i spoke with, easily half of them at some point during the interview cried. and it was not because of anything mean that i did. it was because remembering bobby kennedy and having the sense of what was lost with him dying so young brought back to them the extraordinary hope they had in him. and the sense of what they were
doing then -- several of these people went on to become attorney generals themselves. what they were doing in the kennedy administration mattered more than anything. brian: however, from your book, this quote from the number two guy at the fbi who was close to j edgar hoover. here is what you quote in the book. i hope that someone shoots and kills that s.o.b. mr. tye: we saw in the clip that you played a moment ago, the way he inspired people. positively. he did the same thing negatively in a way that jack kennedy and few other politicians have done. you have to go back to fdr to see someone that inspired as much venom as well as hope. brian: why did he not like him? mr. tye: he understood that
bobby kennedy given enough time would fire his boss, j edgar hoover. if i could tell one brief story about bobby's relationship with hoover. bobby kennedy comes in as a young attorney general and he is the boss of the fbi director who has been around for generations and survived a lot of attorneys general. and presidents. and bobby kennedy wants a hotline. on that line when bobby first tried to use it, in rang not at hoover desk but at his secretary's desk. bobby insisted that the phone go to hoover's desk. hoover, much as it pained him to do this, put the phone on his desk. the day after jack kennedy was killed, the phone went back on the secretary's desk. he was sending a message to bobby that he did not matter
anymore and that hoover had a direct line to the new president and did not have to worry about an intermediary like the attorney general. brian: here is an oval office tape with lyndon johnson and bobby kennedy from july 1964. there was an accusation being made that bobby kennedy was undermining lbj and leaking information. here is what they are talking about. and it makes sense when you hear it. >> he sends all kinds of reports to you about me from the department of justice. the planning and plotting of things. >> no, he has not sent me a report that i remember. >> i had understood that he had sent reports over about me.
>> no. that is an error. he never said that or indicated that or given any indication of that. mr. tyre: i definitely do not believe lyndon johnson because at the same time he was saying that, he was ensuring that fbi agents were at his nominating convention in 1964 keeping an eye on bobby kennedy. and bobby kennedy in his life had four people that he truly hated. one was roy cohn, one was j edgar hoover, and another was jimmy hoffa. jimmy hoffa. the one who he hated more than any of them was lyndon johnson. and from the moment that they met, when bobby was a young staffer with senator joe mccarthy, there was this antagonism there.
it was difficult to understand at that early phase. what i think it was is that bobby represented to lyndon johnson all of the things that came from the eastern establishment, especially the kennedys who came with extraordinary resources and never had to really work a day. that was everything that lbj hated. on the other hand, bobby hated that lbj would lie blatantly like he did in that phone conversation. the extraordinary thing about their antagonism is that had they ever been allies, we would've gotten a strong civil rights bill even earlier and they did end up being collaborators on it. and they both desperately believed that we had to do something more aggressive to attack poverty.
most importantly, rather than lbj reacting to bobby's antiwar sentiments by fighting even harder in vietnam, they might have come to some sort of resolution on vietnam. i think these two were political enemies -- it doesn't make sense when you look at what they represented and what they were trying to do for america. brian: lyndon johnson was probably about 55 at the same time as bobby kennedy was in his 30's. where was bobby kennedy when his brother --? mr. tye: bobby kennedy was a willmr. tye: bobby kennedy was a strong supporter of fighting in vietnam. more so than his brother. he had a sense that we could not just win but we could make a stand. he was so supportive of the counterinsurgency strategy. some people believe he coined that term.
he was there with his brother. as always, when bobby kennedy believed in something, he believed in doing it full tilt. brian: this is from june 9, 1964. a conversation. it is bobby kennedy talking to lyndon johnson about the war. >> i am fearful that if we move without any authority of the congress that the resentment would be pretty widespread and would involve a lot of people who would normally be with us if we ask for the authority. on the other hand, i would shudder to think that if we debated it for a long period of time and they are likely to do
that. our choice is not good. >> it seems likely that they will start asking someone to spell out exactly what is going to happen. if we drop bombs in and they retaliate will we bomb hanoi -- all of that business. the answers to those questions are so difficult to give, particularly if you are giving it to a lot of people that are antagonistic. >> that is all true. we cannot go into the details. if you take the other route -- they may ask you by what executive order you declare war? >> you really do not need that constitutionally. brian: what are you hearing? mr. tye: two people talking at cross purposes. bobby kennedy believed passionately when much of america still supported the war, he believed it was wrong and lbj was just talking in circles. he was not going to back down. one of the tragedies of that
whole relationship was that i think it was partly based on lbj misreading what happened in the cuban missile crisis that led him to be as strong-willed as he was about staying in vietnam. he thought it was jack kennedy standing down the cubans and making them with a blockade see that they had to withdraw the missiles without arguing anything in return. that is not what really happened. he did not know that at the time. the country did not know that until in the 1990's, the former defense secretary robert mcnamara at a conference in cuba explained that we had promised quietly, it was robert kennedy conveying the word that we would withdraw as a quid pro quo our jupiter missiles from turkey if the cubans withdrew their missiles from cuba but we would not say we were doing it as a quid pro quo. we would do it months later as a goodwill gesture.
lyndon johnson i think misread that it was compromise and not tough mindedness that won the day and bobby kennedy never shared what he knew about it at the time. brian: here is some video from the 1964 campaign when robert kennedy was running for the senate in new york at the result of bitter relationship between these two. this is president johnson campaigning for bobby kennedy in new york. >> the country needs robert kennedy in washington. his knowledge and fighting crime, his knowledge and education, his knowledge in bringing taste of the world is what brooklyn needs in the united states senate. you don't very often find a person who has the understanding
and the ability and the heart, the compassion that bobby kennedy has. new york needs robert kennedy. mr. tye: can i paraphrase what he was really saying there? i think what he was really saying is that i need robert kennedy out of washington, let's get him off in the senate. brian: he was gone at that time. mr. tye: he had retired as attorney general he was still being speculated as the guy who could challenge lbj. having him in the senate was precisely where johnson wanted him rather than hovering around washington and around his administration. i think what johnson expected, and he had a right to expect, in return for what he did -- johnson carried new york by more than one million votes and most
people who look at the election think that the reason that bobby kennedy one was because of the long coattails. he clearly understood that. when he thanked everybody on election night, the person he left out was lyndon johnson, who was watching it live from texas. one of the people he was watching it with with later write a memoir and said that it destroyed johnson that bobby was not grateful for what he is done. they should have realized that together they could have been an amazing force. as you say in your book, many books of been written about bobby kennedy. how many did you read? mr. tye: i have a library of over 500 books, some of which are partly about him in some which
are exclusively about him. when you try to sell a biography, you either want nobody to have written about him or you want enough people to have done it so there is new information or the interviews i had and a new thesis on what makes the person tick. brian: what did you tell your publisher that was new? mr. tye: all of these boxes of papers about the cuban missile material, new factual we are trying to understand that bobby kennedy was a lens into how america was changing at the time. he was a reflection of the change and a driving force in
the change, and to understand those 20 years, those critical 20 years in america, it was no better figure, no more zealot like figure that turned up in the middle of everything that bobby kennedy. and i think, nobody who better redefined what america became. brian: who is next on your list? we talked about at the kennedy. who is next on your list who told you something you don't know? mr. tye: one person who was terrific is george mcgovern, who is one of bobby's closest friends and strongest supporters in his presidential campaign. mcgovern helped me see, much in the way that martin luther king had to find it, the tough bobby
kennedy versus the tender bobby kennedy versus the tender bobby kennedy. he helped me see that this was an evolving character. he started out as someone who skewed to the side of toughness and after his epiphany moment of his brother's assassination in 1963, he started skewing to the underdog and tenderness and all of the things which mcgovern stood for years later. brian: give us some words to describe bobby kennedy as a person. how tall was he? mr. tye: under six feet, the only kennedy family member. i think he was 5'10" and a half. he had the look of a teenager, a that of buck teeth and a cowlick always falling in his face. if you saw him in the street, you would think he was one of
the neighborhood kids if you did not have his suit on. and yet there was something his presence that was even more magical and even more drawing people to him with a kind of charisma. you would never have seen the scene we watched a while ago, the crowd going madly wild, with jack kennedy or any other politician with a possible exception of barack obama in 2008, people responded to him. there was something about his vulnerability. when he talks, he would have to sit on his hands because his hands were shaking. he was not a natural speaker and even at the end of his life not naturally eloquent. begin speeches that are more memorable than anybody i can think of in the last 50 years. you go back to his youth. why did he have to go to three different boarding schools? partly because he was a
bad student and partly because he was a lazy student and partly because his parents could not decide if he belonged basically catholic school or a more protestant school more likely to get him into harvard. brian: how did he get into harvard if he was a bad student? mr. tye: luckily, he went to boarding school and went to milton academy at a time when if you were a decent student and you had a father who had been a harvard alumni and have lots of money he was willing to give, you could get into harvard. i would say he got in partly on the basis of what you have done -- he had done, but more on the promise of what he could become and the promise of what his father would donate. brian: what would have happened if he is grown up in a family with no money? mr. tye: a great question, and a great question, and it think he would not have had the opportunity to devote to public service, not worrying about money. he would've had to worry about all kinds of things that normal people worry about, and all the
kennedy kids had to worry about is what they wanted to do in terms of making the kind of contribution joe wanted them to make. joe had made enough money and his political aspirations were dashed early enough that he wanted his kids to never have to worry about money and always read about public service. ideally, in the case of his sons for all of them to become , president. brian: the ninth child, where did he fit? mr. tye: he was the seventh of the nine children, the third boy. he was the one who in that wonderful picture, we see bobby bare in -- bobby there in the white jacket. here's, not surprisingly, standing with his sister. his grandmother was worried that he spent so much time with the girls that he would become a sissy. i think in fact he became the
toughest one, the one you least want to face across the football field. brian: there is ted kennedy in the sailor suit. would you have liked joe kennedy? mr. tye: the journalist in me what it been fascinated by joe kennedy. given all that he's been through but more important, his candor. that's what cost in his ambassadorship to great britain when he talked about appeasing the nazis. i think i would've had a fantastic time with them and it would not have liked them. brian: when did you start your research? mr. tye: it took three years of research. i read a lot of things. three years seemed like an endless amount of time. brian: what are you doing now? mr. tye: i'm also running a
training program for health reporters, that is why spend most of my time in journalism doing. brian: who do you train? mr. tye: every year we taken a dozen reporters, they come to boston for 10 days of training on issues ranging from public health to mental health. brian: are you already working on another book? mr. tye: i just submitted a proposal for another book. it is never a book until the publisher says it is a book. brian: can you give us an idea of what it is about? mr. tye: someone almost as much a hero of mine as bobby kennedy and figure like him in terms of having a complicated story. host: you talk about all the letters his mother wrote him. mr. tye: the kennedy parents had nine kids and they used to joke that some of the kids were rose's and some were joe's. bobby was rose's. she decided he was tender enough and needed her guidance.
she adored him the most and had the highest hopes for and was most crushed by in terms of watching for of her kids die. how many children of his are not alive? mr. tye: nine out of the 11 are still alive. one died in a horrible skiing accident when he was throwing a football at the same time and crashed. brian: what did ethel kennedy tell you about his relationship with jackie? mr. tye: not as much as i would have liked, that was a tender topic. on the other hand, ethyl over the years has headed both ways with jackie. in some ways, she was the most embracing of jackie, and yet
after jack's death, there was a more competitive feeling, a sense that when jackie would say, i can't wait until her back in the white house, ethyl responded, "what do you mean we? " i want to run a clip of this so that people can see what ethel kennedy was like today. >> campaigning was against his nature. >> how did you like it? >> i loved it. >> i think when people think of bob kennedy, they think of courage. i cannot think of anyone who would better represent you in the senate of the united states. brian: was there anything she
told you that she did not like about her husband? mr. tye: rory kennedy is an award-winning filmmaker, and that will never win an award, but i think it should because every time ethel answered, it was with one or two words. they built an entire film around that. the only person she would have talked with like that was her daughter. she adores rory, who was in the womb when bobby died. i think the skill building around a reluctant subject is extraordinary. i interviewed half of the nine children and had some extraordinary sessions with them, and kathleen has shown up to two of my book talks.
she told wonderful stories. great, but they were also too young to have known much about their father's public life. the ones i most depended on were ethel and jean kennedy smith. i learned that in between the things that she said, i had a --se there were two tears tiers of kennedy children, the ones that got the most attention from their father, and then there were once like jean and bobby who spent their time listening and who adored their older siblings and yet who later imbibed the lessons of joe kennedy and the importance of the kennedy clan
as much as the older siblings. bobby had three totems and his life, when was the catholic church, he was probably the most devoted of any of the siblings. the second totem was the democratic party, he was clearly devoted. the most important of all was his family, and he was the leader of the klan after joe had a stroke. this is a strange question, was there anything that ethel said that was a bad memory of her husband? mr. tye: if she had bad memories she never would have shared them with anybody. she was as much bobby's partner as any couple that i knew and she hated the word partner. that's too much of a 2016 term. she saw herself playing a very subservient role in her public career, and i saw her as his
alter ego, the one who gave him the strength to run for office and to do this incredibly grueling campaign in 1968. brian: one of bobby kennedy's assistance worked for him, i want you to put this in context. mr. tye: he was one of the exceedingly smart, young aides bobby hired when he became a senator. peter was very helpful in the early days of the book in terms of pointing me to people to help me understand obvious a senator. -- robbie as a senator. -- bobby as a senator. peter is one of the people i was thinking of when i said, people who cried. he went on to have a really senior position in the clinton administration and health and human services, he is been a distinguished professor at georgetown law school and there
is no question that the most important period in his life professionally and personally was working for bobby kennedy. peter was with bobby -- one of the defining moments in his life as a senator was when bobby kennedy went to the mississippi delta to understand the poverty he had been hearing about in congressional testimony. peter and his soon to be wife, then a stranger to him, took bobby on a tour of tenant farmers shacks in the delta. when bobby thought no one was looking, he went into one check, got down on the floor with a toddler who had a distended stomach that made it clear the child was suffering from malnutrition. body tried to make eye contact with this toddler and have some human response, and the journalists who were watching what was going on, described the fly flying overhead, the refrigerator with a jar of
peanut butter, and the tears coming down the senators face when he was sitting on this shack dirt floor. most the senators would be moved by that. the next monday in washington met with the secretary of agriculture and got the rules changed for food stamps so there were fewer hungry people after his trip to the delta. it was extraordinary. one last thing about that trip, that sunday afternoon when he went home to his amazing estate called hickory hill in virginia, just over the hill from the cia, his kids and wife were sitting there with the fine china on the dining room table having their sunday dinner. bobby gave them a lecture saying that he had just been there at the delta, where in a house but size of the dining room, 15
people would be living, and the kids had a responsibility in their life to do something to try to make a difference. that speech is something you could write off as hyperbole, but kathleen kennedy was with me this week and she could recite verbatim every word of bobby kennedy said to the kids that day. i say this because it suggests how much they took to heart what he said and how just making political change was never enough for him. he had to infuse his own life and his own family with the things he was seeing in learning. brian: you did point out in your book that hickory hill sold for $8 million. mr. tye: it did, it was the other side of his life. he could afford anything. he thought about taking over the family and going to europe after jack's dad and leaving public service.
why did he have to be out there with crowds attacking him and running this quixotic campaign when he had this kind of money? peter edelman, the man u were talking about. >> is that more of a republican look at welfare? >> senator kennedy was calling for partnerships between government, the community, the private sector, really all the elements of our society. he did not have a label. he was not a traditional liberal. he was not a conservative, he really had a view of it that was all his own. that meant that the purpose of government is not just to tell people what to do, it is to help people build a community and to help people empower themselves.
brian: some people would say he was not a traditional liberal, or traditional politician. mr. tye: if bobby kennedy was precisely the type of tough liberal or tender conservative, many of us have been waiting for the reincarnation. brian: just as many people thought he was ruthless. mr. tye: there was evidence in his life or both, of the bobby kennedy in 1968 was a whole lot more compassionate than ruthless. i had forgotten that five other people were wounded at the same time. did you have a chance to talk to any of them? mr. tye: i did. i talked to a union organizer in california, a guy who believes there was more to it.
to me, the ultimate tragedy -- i don't know anything more about the assassination the people who have reported, and most of the people who can answer those questions have died. to me, the ultimate and ironic tragedy of bobby kennedy's death is that he spent the early part of his medical career trying to -- political career of trying to outrun run the stigma of being an anti-semite because of being joe kennedy son. the idea that at the end he would be killed because of his pro- semitic take. it was one more irony. brian: the shooter is in prison, did you try to talk to him? mr. tye: i would be fascinated to talk to him but i would expect to get a true or different story than the one he told 40 years ago.
brian: what was the impact on the country after he was shot? this was after martin luther king had been shot and his brother, jack. mr. tye: if i can rephrase your question the great what if. , i will give you my version. to -- bobby kennedy's last words were "on to chicago." he was due to meet with richard daily. son tells me's that there was a 70% or greater chance that his father would have endorsed abi kennedy during that trip to chicago. everyone i talked to says that if richard daily had done that, there would be a groundswell of people coming to support bobby kennedy. we would have had one of the two tickets.
it would have been either bobby kennedy-bobby kennedy to get or hubert humphrey-bobby kennedy. they liked one another. going up against richard nixon, there is nobody in 1968 who understood richard nixon's vulnerabilities better than the guy who ate years -- eight years before had run his brothers successful campaign against nixon. nixon thought bobby kennedy would be his opponent and i think he was afraid of bobby kennedy being his opponent. had bobby kennedy beat richard nixon the way he would have, america would be a different place, i think. some of the issues we are revisiting today, racial tension and international discord might be a little bit different if we had tried to address them 50 years ago. brian: we only have a couple of minutes left. william manchester, you have a
page on william manchester in the book. why did you include that? mr. tye: because i think understanding what bobby kennedy's fight was with manchester over jack kennedy's legacy was important, partly because the way he defended and jet kennedy because he was defending jackie kennedy. brian: manchester had three books. the last was finished by paul reed. what was the story behind the death of the president? mr. tye: manchester had the kennedy support in interviewing everybody about what happened, but when he told his story, the kennedys do not like the story, did not like going public with the tensions behind the scenes. they did not like the true story being told him that way. they wanted to spend it the way they wanted to and manchester refused. brian: what was the agreement
between manchester and the family? mr. tye: it was vague, and it was unclear what powers of veto they would have. manchester, i think, was frustrated to the point of depression by the battles he was having with the kennedys. the kennedys thought they had given him enough of their authority in doing it that they should have some role in it. it was some confusion about what journalism and authorship is about. let's see, you say, sued manchester, the family sued manchester. he had devoted two years to the project and was threatening to kill himself. mr. tye: he was depressed, whether he was suicidal, i don't know. he was going up against having done all of that work and having the kennedys trying to pull the
plug on it drove him to at least contemplating it. brian: anybody who refused to talk to you? mr. tye: that is good question and the answer is there are people bill moyers, he wants to write his own memoir and he is protective of lyndon johnson, but i would still love to talk to him, if he is listening. there are a few people like that. there are surprisingly few. people, you are lucky. brian: the book is called "bobby kennedy, the making of a liberal icon." our guest has been the author. thank you for being here. mr. tye: thank you for having
me. >> for free transcripts or your comments about this program, visit us online. as c-spano available podcast. >> if you enjoyed this interview, here are some other programs you might like to rory kennedy talks about her movie and her life as the daughter of robert kennedy. mark shields on his life in politics, including working on robert kennedy's campaign.
his work aswicz on robert kennedy's press secretary. you can watch these anytime or search our entire video library at c-span.org. a live with your calls and comments on washington journal. here teal talks about why he is supporting donald trump. mr. trump speaks in grand rapids. hillary clinton is in ohio at a campaign rally in cincinnati. c-span brings you more debates this week. andght at 8:00, rand paul democrat jim gray debate for the kentucky senate seat. wednesday night, live coverage of the louisiana senate debate between a field of candidates.
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fbi probe of hillary clinton's e-mails. we take your calls and you can join the conversation on facebook and twitter. ♪ host: good morning, it's october 31, 2016. it's halloween but more importantly for those on the campaign trail, it's now eight days until election day. it's also been three days since f.b.i. director james comey informed congress agents uncovered new emails that may be related to the bureau's probe of hillary clinton's private server. it up ended coach of the campaign and become a central talking point for donald trump and sparked criticism of comey from many democrats. morning on the washington journal we want to know if it's impacted your vote. has the f.b.i. email review made a difference to y