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tv   Neal Gabler Catching the Wind  CSPAN  January 12, 2021 6:32am-7:39am EST

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he was kind of thinking he was going to run for the unfinished term and nobody really told him until very long down the line that that wasn't going to happen .
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that this was now ted's seat and that ted was going to run and then smith was going to be evicted from that. and then smith was a great kennedy, loyalist and all that but nothing stood in the way of kennedy ambition. and given ted's own ambition although he was largely pushed into that seat by his father as i said earlier, he said tojohn and robert, you've got yours and now it's ted's turn to get his and 10, though he didn't do murder, he wanted the seat but he was kind of pushed into it . and pushed into a difficult primary campaign by the nephew, speaker of the house john mccormack and his nephew had mccormack ran against ted . first at the democratic state convention and then when ted
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got the endorsement against him in the democratic primary . it was a really brutal primary of these two massachusetts dynasties . to see whether of the more seasoned mccormack would beat the completely unseasoned kennedy, both when their term is up but in the book i try and tell it in some detail because it's a very interesting story about how the kennedys operate and a very interesting story to about ted's kind of natural instincts for politics. because though he had no political training whatsoever, he had that her instincts politically than either of his brothers. >> i think it's interesting, though there's one small detail that when ted one,that ben smith resigned . early and what was the reason forthat ?
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>> ben smith resigned in 1962 so ted kennedy could get seniority over the other incoming freshmen in the 1962 class . so ted was the senior senator of that classof freshman senators . >> that seems like such a political detail but paying attention to every detail of how to move forward. so he's in the senate and we've already talked about some of the first things he did and of course i want to tell you about how his brothers fascination shifted to him and of course his brother bobby talked about it but how that shifted and that was not there first cross, how many were there inthe family, nine ? >> nine children. >> sold oldest brother had been killed in the world war. one of the older sisters had died in a plane crash . and another sister, rosemary
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was hospitalized more or less permanently . >> she was mentally challenged. and the kennedy family, the kennedy fallon family as i said earlier and this is a matter of rose as much as anything else, the kennedy family to understand the family and i go into some detail in the book about this, to understand how the family functions you have to understand anesthetics were everything to rose kennedy and it was all about how you looked and dressed and even her piety was a step, i'm not saying she wasn't a spiritual woman but the kind of theatricality of her piety, how she went to church and how often she went to church and she made her children go to church and everything in the kennedy family was theatrical and cosmetic and it was very difficult for a child who was mentally challenged to live up to the
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kennedy aesthetic. and i think a lot of people know the story of what ultimately happened to rosemary which was that she was beginning to act out as she got older and became a teenager and joe kennedy, though he didn't do this out of any sense, many awful things in his life but this he did not do out of any sense of trying to punish his daughter or of any sense of being -- >> he was strongly medically advised. >> it was strongly medically advised that he will daughter . >> regretted every minute after. >> rose claimed she neverknew about until much later which may be true, i don't know . but basically, rosemary was kind of, if you want to look
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at it metaphorically she was destroyed for not living up to the kennedy standard, the kennedy standard. >> so the family with nine children will basically 30 to death and one to the hospital and then john was killed and robert was killed and all that happened so majority of the nine children were dead were 45 years old basically, right? i think, that very devastating. it's not like it was the middle ages when people die in the mid-60s. so you talk about teddy taking the stand body first taking the stand and then ted taking up forhis three older brothers . it was something unusual, something emotionally unusual and the family was set up to do just that is if joe was not came into or something
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like that and the family aimed at the kingship is basically what happened. >> let me on what you're saying because i don't think people understand this. yes, there was a succession the idea was like in football, next manner. it was next man up when somebody dies . patrick kennedy said something to me very interesting and it makes an awful lot of sense. particularly when you look at the damage in that family. because the idea of next man up what was really joe kennedy kind of idea, you are stoic. nobody cries among the kennedys, he always said katie stillcry . used up and you go and you do what you have to do but what patrick said to me was he said , you really have no idea kind of damage that all
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of these deaths inflicted upon the kennedyfamily . he was stoic but that stoicism was the mandate of joe kennedy. because underneath that stoicism, patrick said was posttraumatic stress disorder . this was a family that was wracked and destroyed those deaths. and the story i tell here of ted after the death of john but particularly after the death of robert to whom he had grown very close. they were senate compatriots. he had gone to this senate in 62 and bobby had come in 64 as preparation for what you hoped would be a presidential bid which he ultimately did run for and they were close as children although there was still an age differential between them but they seemed very close in thesenate .
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and when bobby died, ted was devastated. absolutely devastated. he was a lost man. and i know when i write these books, i often compare it to method acting because you feel what the subject is feeling. you try and get yourself into the subject almost as an actor would get himself into a role. i could never ask a kid in my life ever but i can, i understand this kind of mechanism. >> and you appreciate good acting. >> i very much appreciate good acting. but i was getting myself inside of ted and feeling
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what ted wasfeeling which was again, he's a lost man . these lost everything. and he also feels that he's next on top of everything else so he's notonly lost everything,anything that mattered to him , these are the only things that really matter to him . but he also now was the next one on the firing line because by succession he had to pick up the following standard . and when i was writing these passages in the book and they are long because the devastation goes on , ted does not recover quickly and not only does he not recover quickly but he almost seems to internalize the pain so deeply that he goes through a long bout of self-destruction which chappaquiddick frankly becomes a part of . as i quote somebody who knew ted quite well saying
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chappaquiddick was sort ofthe last act of bobby's death . but when i'm writing those things and i'm feeling what ted is feeling, it's to get inside of ted or try, attempt to get inside of ted. this is a family that's destroyed . we only look at a family comes together and that survives. kennedy's family did not really survive. and the damage inflicted on ted we think of ted as well as this happy-go-lucky figure, and there's truth in that, i'm not saying that is completely a mischaracterization of him but what we don't see is what was hidden by that kind of performance and what was hidden was a man who was very , very deeply wounded by life
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. deeply wounded by life. >> not just his brother but you tell the story of the plane crash right after the civil rights act passed which killed one of his colleagues and nearly killed him. and then of course chappaquiddick so why don't you tell a about that plane crash but the plane crash disappears in history . and then chappaquiddick i think it could have been givented's lifestyle exactly what people say about it . but that's not the way it was and i find that interesting. you get hung for the thing you actually did almost correctly . >> that's absolutely true. >> he had his own personal tragedies before 1970. >> that's right.
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>> it was still in his 30s, right? >> it was born in 1932. so 38 years old. the plane crash happens the night of the passage of the civil rights act of 1964 area ted stays at the senate to see the final passage of the bill and races off with senator birch to the massachusetts state democratic convention which is going to nominate ted kennedy for his own term. now, he spelled out in 1962 his brothers term and in 1964 he was running again two years later for his own and birch buy was to deliver the keynote address so he and birchby in birchby/zoom up in
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this jet to accept the nomination and birchby will give the speech.people don't remember this episode in kennedy's life because there's so many other tragedies that overwrite it but what happens is there's after coming into the airport in northampton massachusetts, the pilot miscalculations. and he hits trees and he clips the plane and the plane crashes and you're right, one of ted's aides dies. the pilot dies as well. birchby and more than what managed to escape and talk in the book about what the plane look and it's horrible, like a piece of tinfoil. they managed to escape and race away from the plane before it explodes. ted is trapped in the plane and can't get out. and it turns out his back is broken.
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birchby decides to rush back to the plane which he does. and he finds ted and in a herculean act, people who lift automobiles or might be pinned underneath, he somehow manages to get ted out of that plane and carry him across the field and away from the fuselage. and ted survives, but they're not sure he's going to survive and in fact for weeks he is dangling between life and death in the hospital and the cause is back is broken he can't move and he's put in a striker plane which looks like what a rotisserie would be. he's stuck between these two metal plates and spun around and he's there for six months . six months in the hospital he basically cannot breathe.
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these slowly begins to convalesce and that happens in june, he doesn't get back to the senate until december. so in that period, several things. that also leads by the way, he is never able, he was a great athlete or an extremely good at threein college . but his back is such that he's in constant pain. and it remains in pain for the rest of his life, not only emotionally which he certainly was an in thiscase physically . these two pains that he was trapped between but he also uses that time in the hospital to conduct for himself a tutorial where he has great professors from mit and harvard come to the hospital and to school him on
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a host of issues because he's determined now. he wants to be a great senator. he's not going to waste this time and he uses that time to be tutored to become what he hopes will be a great senator . now, that's the accident. >> one little divergent here. the kennedys are considered among the most influential politicians that we had in 50, 60 years but none of them are good students, they have a history interest and so on. >> teddy was often considered the worst which also prompted people to call him the least intelligent kennedy and i would make an argument that not only was he the most complex of the kennedys although that tribute will often go to bobby but i think ted was more complex even than body and ted is often
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called the least intelligent of get the kennedys when you read these two volumes, you may come to the conclusion and i don't see this because i'm holding a brief for jack kennedy. one thingi tried to do is never start with a preconception . i don't write about people i love or hate because that leads to a book that is not going to be very good. i write about people whose lives are interesting and who i can investigate. but i believe that ted kennedy may have been and i'm not the only one who said this no less then joe kennedy that teddy is the brightest. there are many many demonstrations of that ithink in these two volumes . but i want to just add, i close that chapter of the plane crash with a phone call from lyndon johnson who calls teddy while he's in the hospital and says some people say it doesn't hurt to suffer a little.
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and ted, i forget ted's exact response to that but it's something along the lines of well, it's supposed to help you. >> or haven't i suffered enough already ? >> we do not have anywhere near the time to litigate chappaquiddick here but i will say about chappaquiddick , and i intentionally, i'll tell our listeners i intentionally did not name a chapter chappaquiddick in this book. for this very reason, i first thing anybody would do with that chapter and it would be the only thing they really . i don't do that because i think the clinic is a very very complicated kind of thing and it's not just a soap opera event. ted kennedy is often accused including by himself of having committed some sort of grievous crime at chappaquiddick.
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i hate to disagree with things after the accident and not reporting it but i think to view it that way misstates everything about it. to just conceptualize it, you have to understand at that point ted kennedy is kind of as i said earlier aloft man. he hasn't found his bearings. he hasn't found his bearings for a very long time. one could make the argument he hasn't found his bearings until he marries vicki many years later, 1992 so he's a lost man. and he goes to chappaquiddick and he goes to that party because he's asked to do it by one of the so-called boiler room girls who worked for bobby kennedy and who were basically having a kind of weight there for bobby. the last thing in the world ted wanted to do is attend
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another so-called week for bobby but he does it but you have to understand that the emotional condition he's in is very tenuous. very tenuous. and you have to understand that whatever happened at chappaquiddick and only two people really know what happened although i try and give as detailed an account as i can possibly give having read everything i can possibly read and gone through the inquest and transcript very carefully. but again, i won't hold brief necessarily for ted kennedy but i will for mary jo kopechne. that's an insult to her memory to think you would have done. it wasn't who she was or what she would have done and in point of fact it wasn't what
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ted kennedy at that time with that woman would have done, not a woman court for his brother and was honoring his brothers memory . ted kennedy did a lot of stupid and awful thing many, that wasn't one of them i don't think but the thing that's important to understand which was lost even at the time is chappaquiddick was anaccident . there are many books written about how he deliberately killed her for reasons that made no sense for the cia had her killed. there are so many rude goldberg explanations for what happened at chappaquiddick but i don't want to give away the ending here but here's a spoiler alert. oxen occam's razor makes the most sense in this situation. ted kennedy told a story about what happened and we read in many many accounts including most by important journalists that there are 1
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million holes in his story and all of that. you know something, there are minor discrepancies in his story but this notion that there are major holes in the story, not major holes in the story and that idea he didn't report the accident because there was some nefarious scheme, i know the movie talks about teddy's first responses, now i'll never be president,that's nonsense . that's utter nonsense. that's not who teddy kennedy was. this must be a sniveling idiot. ted kennedy said afterwards and anybody knows this is true but anybody who knows anything about human nature knows this is true. he said i didn't report the accident because i didn't want to pick up the phone and tell the kopechne's. this man will hurt so many times in his life to pick up the phone to hear in joe's case, the army came or the
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navy came to the house and said your son has died but when kathleen died they picked up the phone, he'd been through that and he didn't want to do that and that doesn't make him courageous, it doesn't make him good , it doesn't make him right. in some ways it's reprehensible that he wouldn't pick up the phone and make that call but it's certainly understandable it's understandable . >> another detail that you give also undercuts the mostly negative idea about it is that he didn't try to help her and the way you describe is one thing that was very clear is that everybody who tried was pulled away by the current. that is, even scuba divers that were good at this could not resist the current so if he told the story of diving down three or four times and was exhausted but couldn't do
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anything, that might have been self-serving like it was just a little pond, people think it was a little pond without any money water so why does that make sense but your version, with everybody else trying the same thing and professionals were still having trouble makes it clear that could be the true story. >> people go to great lengths and when i see people, let me amend that. republicans at the time, one in particular by the name of richard nixon went to great lengths to try and make chappaquiddick into something other than that. to make it into something where ted kennedy murdered mary jo kopechne. that's certainly what ted kennedy would do when there is no evidence that ever in his life when he do something like that. >> there is evidence that nixon would do what he did which i thought was interesting that they had a dirty trick that they wanted
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how party for the boiler room girls, with the other people that worked with mary jo in order to try to seduce them, incriminate them in some way in order toget them to lie about the situation . >> nixon sent lothario's to romance the boiler room girls to get dirt on ted kennedy. i mean, if there's a villain in this it's richard nixon. and even if you can in some ways sympathized at times with nixon who was a man who lived with his resentments, they were so deep. they were so deep and he looked at the kennedys and he saw they had everything. they had wealth and looks they had affability and he himself said i'm not the kind of person that people like, i quote that in the book. people don't like me but he also was resentful for that. he had none of those things. and he lived his life in terror of the kennedys but as
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time went on he really lived his presidency in terror of ted kennedy even after chappaquiddick that ted would conduct a kennedy restoration somehow, that's what kennedys did. they were so good at that and everybody for gave them, they didn't forgive him for chappaquiddick and there was no restoration but the conflict between nixon and kennedy is an extremely interesting one that shapes american political life for quite some time . >> you clearly did a lot of research because you quote nixon many times in the about lots of things and i was wondering did you get that from transcripts of tapes or didyou ever listen to his tapes ? >> i did listen to many of the tapes because i have transcripts but also some of those things you pull right off of the tape. this is nixon saying those things and it's always better to listen to them .
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to see his tonality and how he says things, how he stops short of using or thickens so as often as possible i tried to listen to thetapes as i did with lyndon johnson tapes as well . it took me 10 years to write this book and volume 2 which is already written and is out next year and people wonder, my wife included why does it take you 10 years? but there's a lot of material out there and you don't ever want to cut corners although inevitably you do . it's very best to dig into everything not only to acquire it george but also to give the sense that you've mastered it also that when you're writing you feel on top of the material and you can write with a certain kind of confidence. it's not just the detail you want in the but it's the confidence and the authority you want in the book.
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to feel that you've done the job and the reader can trust you. and it's very important tome . i want the reader to trust my opinions. >> it's interesting that both lyndon johnson the democrat and richard nixon the republican both aimed, both had very interesting relationships with the kennedys and at the same time , we're always trying to make sure that they are all right with the kennedys. doing little personal things like doing a nice personal thing when patrick had his surgery but at the same time now we're going to get him this way so there's a lot of belief that politicians are insincere and your book is not helping. >> i think that's very true. lyndon johnson was a master
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manipulator. and he loved to manipulate ted because he couldn't manipulate bobby. he and bobby were at loggerheads and bobby detested lyndon johnson lyndon johnson detested basically all the kennedys. for many of the same reasons you pointed out that richard nixon did, he resented them. he felt they had gotten everything and he got nothing and they resented lyndon johnson because they thought you was a usurper. he had taken john kennedy's place. he was insincere. he didn't care about civil rights or any of these things which was not entirely true johnson, he did care about civil rights but johnson was able to attend because his own family was always deferential so here with this gargantuan figure, both physically and spiritually, lyndon johnson and lyndon johnson knew how to play ted
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kennedy although i talk about one passage in the book where he thinks lyndon johnson kind of overstates his own ability of manipulation because they think he can pick teddy against bobby. he thinks he get can get teddy teddy to turn on body and is teddy himself said a kennedy is never going to turn on akennedy . that's just nevergoing to happen . and to get him to turn on bobby? they might make wild remarks at one another and digs at one another but kennedys never turn on kennedys and that was a miscalculation on lyndon johnson's part. >> it's funny, these two guys are feeling insecure and resenting the kennedys there both president of the united states, it's not like their failures. >> but they are not loved. what they don't have is that
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sense of charisma with that the kennedys had to draw on the better angels of the nation. whether the kennedys had a right to do that or not and i'm not sure that john kennedy really was that kind of moral figure. he came to his morality relatively late in his presidency and bobby came to morality late in his life. ted is the one who cames to morality the earliest and i don't really make the statement in this volume or whether i make it in volume 2 but that we read bobby and john into ted as, and it makes ted seem more liberal, mister liberal i think that we read ted who really was the most liberal of the kennedys back into his brothers so that they become more liberalin retrospect . >> you mention that in the first volume and i thought it was a good comment. we've only got a couple
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minutes left unfortunately but i did want you to talk a little bit about all that legislation. especially the stuff when action was counteracting or the medicare, it was interesting, medicare for all was an expression 50 years ago and teddy was aiming for it. the cancer act, there are so many things and i'll leave it to the readers to see how that legislation was created but the horsetrading that goes on and the way that teddy had learned to not manipulate but do well with older senators, even ones he didn't agree with you what the youngest, it was nice when you. talk minutes about that. >> we think of lyndon johnson as the master of the senate, the title of one of the volumes of his great biographies and he's a master of the senate because he knows how to intimidate and
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get the things he wants by just kind of eating this overbearing figure. but ted kennedy was no less a master of the senate,he introduced 2552 pieces of legislation and asked just under 700 pieces of legislation . he was certainly the most inductive senator in the history of the american senate but he didn't do it lyndon johnson's way. he had his own technique which was never to be overbearing but to be deferential, to be nice, to be friendly, to get people on his side. he was the carrot to lyndon johnson's stick and to understand how he worked, i think i can summarize it in something you would never hear said in today's senate. whenever he would introduce a piece of legislation that a republican. meaning the republican sponsor for this because that's how we'regoing to get legislation passed .
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we will get i joining together with republicans also say the perfect is always the enemy of the good. he wanted medicare for all but teddy was willing to strike a gigantic bargain with richard nixon came this close to passing where they would have a healthcarepolicy that assembled very much obamacare . they came this close kennedy always said it was the greatest regret of his life, of his political life and nixon with nixon reeling from watergate and chappaquiddick that theycouldn't get together and just make that happen . it would have had national healthcare in 1974. rather than when obama passed it. >> we will end with this last, you end with the end of the liberal our cost of housing, the pulsing issue and how this totally love was
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carrying the banner for two brothers was still not loved in this circumstance in boston and for his people, so why don't you wait a little about? it's interesting because it's about kamala harris. >>, americans were not the integration that something that speaks well to america then, you can't speak as well america now that americans act as a rights act as before you a. only protected 65 they were poor integration but when it came to integrating schools, causing children, that i don't think people realize what a major force that was intending american, white american support let's . austin was the integrated and
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it was being integrated through busing and it was absolutely botched, the whole process was botched. it was the courts that ordered the busing and they ordered students bust from irish and italian neighborhoods. into black schools from black schools and irish and italian schools and it just was an absolute disaster. ted kennedy was no great opponent of busing he was a great component of integration and he supported the court ordered plan. what happened and i'll make this, it's a long story and i'll make it just very brief. boston, his people the irish catholics and italian catholics of boston turned on ted kennedy. they turned on him because they thought he had no sympathy for their situation and ted was caught betwixt and between which was kind of
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the conundrum of liberalism at that time. ted couldn't turn his back on integration. he wouldn't do that, he couldn't do that but he also didn't want to turn his back on the working class irish and italians of boston who resented here was ted kennedy between these two forces. he opted for integration but in doing so, he lost the allegiance of the irish and italian catholics and lost it to the point, this book ends literally with ted kennedy running for his life. that's not an exaggeration. running for his life from a mom of largely irish catholics who want to kill him. who wants him killed. that's the end of the liberal our. >> was a nice dramatic weight and. and that's a nice dramatic way to end this discussion as well .
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it's fascinating that i have to ask, what did he win by in his next election, this next elections for senator was two years later and he decided not to run for president but was his margin lower than usual ? >> slightly. >> so he recovered but we find that out involume 2 . >>. >> thank you for joining us neil. that was a very good discussion. so ends another event at the commonwealth club and its hundred 100 eight year. i hope you enjoy it, come back and see us again. >> every yearbook tv asks members of congress about the books they're reading . >> joining us now on book tv is representative tom cole, a republican from oklahoma. congressman, we asked you this question four. you


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