Archive | September, 2008

Ted Kennedy Rushed to Cape Cod Hospital

28 Sep

ted%20kennedy%20in%20hyannisport.jpg

SENATOR KENNEDY APPARENTLY FINE AFTER HEALTH SCARE

Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy was back at home this morning after a health scare Friday. The liberal icon, who is being treated for a malignant brain tumor, was briefly hospitalized yesterday after suffering a seizure.

He was rushed to Cape Cod Hospital after a call was received at about 5:12 p.m. from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. His representatives issued a statement saying doctors believed the incident was “triggered by a change in medication.” He returned home by 8 p.m.

Boston Globe photographer John Tlumacki caught a picture of Kennedy, stepping out onto the front porch of his home at the compound and looking at the pea-soup fog that enveloped the waterfront.

 

Story from the Boston Globe.

Ted Kennedy Introduces National Service Bill

13 Sep

still working despite brain tumor

Senator Ted Kennedy: still working despite brain tumor

KENNEDY CALLS FOR MORE AMERICANS TO ENTER PUBLIC SERVICE

From the Boston Globe

September 12, 2008

NEW YORK – Senator Edward M. Kennedy, sidelined from the Senate as he undergoes treatment for a malignant brain tumor, plans to introduce a sweeping new national service bill today to recruit 175,000 Americans of all ages to do service work in health, education, environmental protection and anti-poverty programs, with their work partly subsidized by the federal government.

The plan, meant to build on national service initiatives that began under former President John F. Kennedy and expanded under former Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, would provide an estimated $5 billion over five years to encourage citizens from kindergarteners to retirees to get involved in community organizations – including faith-based groups – on a series of programs targeted at national problems.

The new corps members would be paid modest salaries to spend a year working on specific national problems. Employers would be eligible for tax cuts for giving workers time off to do community service, while a new venture capital fund would also be created to boost the creation of new service organizations.

The measure is the first major piece of legislation the ailing Massachusetts lawmaker has presented since being diagnosed with a brain tumor in May. While the senator does not plan to return to Washington full-time until January, staff and colleagues say he has been working assiduously from his home in Cape Cod, following legislation, talking to fellow senators, and sponsoring amendments to bills.

The service plan – crafted by Kennedy over the past eight months with Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah – is meant to marry the two parties’ often competing approaches to community service, encouraging the volunteerism advocated by many Republicans while providing federal financial assistance requested by some Democrats.

“What this bill is saying is, we need both,” said Alan Khazei, co-founder of City Year, a Boston-based youth community service group and a chief advocate of the new bill.

The measure will be unveiled in concert with a national symposium on national service in New York. Former President Bush – who initiated a “1,000 Points of Light” program to encourage volunteerism – and former President Clinton, who helped create AmeriCorps, a federally funded program to encourage national service – are set to appear in videos touting the benefits of community work. Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President Kennedy, is scheduled to be at the event along with Queen Noor of Jordan, dozens of military officials and numerous members of Congress and community activists.

Current national service programs are working well, Kennedy staffers said, and the new plan would build on them. The Peace Corps, President Kennedy’s program to help developing countries with basic needs, would also be expanded.

But the new plan, staffers said on condition of anonymity, would be aimed at people of all ages. While many volunteer programs now attract young college graduates willing to work for low salaries before settling into better-paid job, the Kennedy-Hatch plan would give older Baby Boomers an opportunity to take time off for community service, perhaps transitioning into a second career.

Retired people generally not sought out by community service organizations would be encouraged to get involved and eligible for an “Encore Fellowship” to extend their tenures beyond one year. Schoolchildren, meanwhile, would be taught to incorporate a “lifetime of service” into their lives, starting with smaller efforts such as food drives, aides said.

Kennedy has been absent from Washington since May, except for a single appearance to cast a dramatic, determinate vote on a measure to block scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. The Massachusetts lawmaker also made a powerful speech at the Democratic National Convention last month in Denver.

But Kennedy has continued to work despite his illness, issuing dozens of statements and signing onto several bills and amendments since he became ill.

Khazei said Kennedy has been working on the national service plan consistently since January.

“He hasn’t missed a day. He gets more done from the Cape than most of us do in a week,” Khazei said. “He’s a hero.

Interview with Kerry Kennedy

8 Sep
Kerry with her mom Ethel Kennedy at a recent benefit for the Riverkeeper organization, headed by Kerrys brother, Bobby Kennedy, Jr.)

Kerry with her mom Ethel Kennedy at a recent benefit for the Riverkeeper organization, headed by Kerry's brother, Bobby Kennedy, Jr.)

Kerry Kennedy, the seventh child of Robert F. Kennedy and a human rights lawyer, spoke to Boston Globe religion reporter Michael Paulson about her new book, “Being Catholic Now.” The interview took place Aug. 22 in Hyannis Port. Below is an edited transcript of the interview:

Q&A WITH KERRY KENNEDY

Q: What inspired this?
A: So, what happened is that I was feeling conflicted because my Catholicism is so deeply important to me — it was my sense of connection to the almighty, to humanity, to my heritage, my upbringing. And my Catholicism informed my view of the world, and the work that I do every day on social justice issues. And yet, so often when I went to church, I was confronted with words and symbols that were anathema to my values. I was in a, for many years, in a northern Virginia parish which didn’t allow girls as altar servers, and in which every Sunday, in the midst of horrendous poverty, and living in a world where a billion people live on less than a dollar a day, the only thing we seemed to be praying for was that women would stop having abortions, and it just didn’t seem right. And then there was the whole pedophile scandal, and the mishandling of that by the bishops. So this was all sort of brewing. It wasn’t something that I was very conscious of, or focused on, particularly, but at a certain point I thought, I need to resolve this issue. And I looked at my three daughters, and the way I was raising them, and I wanted them to have this tremendous gift of faith that I really do view as a gift, but I also want to feel comfortable with saying they ought to be catholic. So I thought it was time to take some time and reflect more deeply on these issues.

Q: This was recently, that a parish allowed no girl altar servers?
A: This is now. There is only two bishops in the country which did not allow girls as altar servers, and one of them is northern Virginia.

Q: I have a sense of you parents as very devotional. Where does your Catholicism come from? What role did it play in your upbringing?
A: Well, it was central to my upbringing. I mean, we woke up in the morning and we were down on our knees consecrating the day to Lord Jesus. Then we’d go down for breakfast, and we’d say prayers before breakfast. Then we’d finish breakfast, we’d say prayers after breakfast. Prayers before and after lunch. Prayers before and after dinner. Read the Bible after dinner out loud. And then before bed spend about 20 minutes with the entire family saying prayers together. Church every Sunday. After my father died, we went to church for a long time every day, and then every other day during the summer. And we said prayers in between those times. Prayers for things, to St. Anthony to help find something that was lost. Prayers to St. Christopher when we got on a boat or in a car or in a plane to go someplace. There were St. Christopher medals around all of our necks. There were statues of Our Mother, and in every room of our house were a cross, the Bible, and then all sorts of religious books. And in the dining room, in the kitchen, and on every single bedside in my mother’s house, there is not one but two Mass schedules. So this is very present. And Bobby (Robert F. Kennedy Jr.) probably told you this, but his entire bedroom was decorated with the life of St. Francis, with a book that had been cut out and had been framed — the life of St. Francis. So it was very, very present.

Q: Was this from your mother or your father?
A: Both. You know, my father thought about being a priest. And my mother — and I think everyone who spends 12 years in Catholic school thinks about being a nun — actually more than that because she went to Manhattanville College as well. My mother goes — she’s a daily communicant. So I think on both sides.

Q: What was your relationship to Catholicism as you grew up?
A: I went to the Convent of the Sacred Heart for four years. It was interesting to me because, in a family where men were clearly favored over women, this was an atmosphere, a world, run by strong, determined, smart women in leadership, who had high expectations of the girls, and this tremendous sense of love and commitment to the wider world. We had a nun — the head of the order there, was the reverend mother, was called mother Mouton, and she was this wonderful French woman, and there was a rule at Sacred Heart that you weren’t allowed to talk in the halls, and I was forever talking in the hall and always being sent to her, and she always did the same thing, which was that she would wrap her arm around me, give me a lollipop, and said, ‘Jesus loves you, no matter how you misbehave,’ which was pretty wonderful, and then she would talk about the war in Vietnam. And it was a very different form of discipline and sort of vision of the world, and one that was full of love and outrage at injustice, and that had a great influence on me. This was fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grade, and then I went to Putney School in Vermont.

Q: Did you go to a Catholic college?
A: No, I went to Brown and then I went to Boston College Law School.

Q: And did you continue, once you were not living at home, practicing Catholicism?
A: No, when I was in high school I went to Mass every once in a while, and certainly anytime I was at home, but on my own, every once in a while. My roommate in high school was also very, came from a very traditional Catholic family, so we would go off together to church on occasion. And then when I was in college, I went through confirmation, and then when I got married I really went to church every Sunday, and have basically done that since then, which was 1990, when I was 30.

Q: And why did you return?
A: I returned because I wanted to have a stronger relationship with God, and a deeper sense of spirituality.

Q: And did you find that at church?
A: Sometimes. As I say, I was conflicted, and increasingly conflicted, because sometimes I would leave church feeling elated, and sometimes I would leave church feeling very angry and frustrated by the insensitivity to social justice issues that to me are part and parcel of Catholicism, of our faith. On the other hand, that was sort of what was happening on the home front, but my work is in international human rights, so I was in Poland at the height of the Solidarity movement and witnessed the tremendous influence of the Catholic church giving refuge to Solidarity activists, and encouragement, and the tremendous role of the pope in encouraging that movement for freedom. And then I worked in El Salvador and Guatemala, Mexico, all of these places during the 80s when there was so much violence, and when the church again was just this tremendous sanctuary, and where Archbishop Romero, for instance, really led, was the spiritual force behind so much of the movement for freedom. And again, in Korea, South Korea, where the combination of the Catholic church and other Christian churches gave sanctuary, strength to the democracy movement there. And a few years ago, 2003, I went to Liberia. I have to tell you, virtually every country I’ve gone to, the Catholic church is on the cutting edge of social change. Really extraordinary. And I can tell you so many stories about that. But in Liberia, the Catholics account for about 7 percent of that population, and during the 14 year civil war, when Charles Taylor was the dictator, the Catholic church was the only institution that kept schools open and kept hospitals open. And this is in a country that is maybe 70 percent Methodists, and they had a lot of missionaries there, but they weren’t able to keep those institutions open, and the government institutions closed down, but the Catholics kept them open, and so it has just played this enormously important role. And I saw the, you know, I went to the Catholic church program, which was rehabilitating child soldiers, and another Catholic church program, this was so incredibly moving, where they were bringing together people from two communities who had basically slaughtered each another. And that, and the Catholic church there also started their peace and justice program on the Catholic radio station, (which) was really the only voice of opposition throughout the Taylor regime, and the fellow who ran it was a guy called Kofi Woods, he was, because of his work, on those issues, with the Catholic church. He was picked up by the minister of justice and his three thugs during the Doe regime and tortured and left to rot in a prison cell, and then when the Taylor regime came into power…that minister of justice and those three thugs were picked up by Taylor, and thrown into the same prison cell he had been in. And he (Woods) had been freed, and he was a lawyer, and went to visit them, and he said, ‘I’ve come to see if you’ve been mistreated,’ and he said, ‘I will take your case for free,’ because there is no lawyer in the country who would defend them. So he went to defend his own torturers, and that was his sense of faith. So for me, I was witnessing the mighty spirit, and the tremendous capacity of this institution which was so much a part of my history, and my family, and my sense of spirituality and my vision of social justice in the world, and then coming back and hearing bishops who were protecting their turf instead of protecting children and playing three-card monte with the pedophile priests and blaming it on people who are gay. So it was important to me to resolve that.

Q: So when the sex abuse crisis exploded, were you surprised?
A: I guess I wasn’t so surprised that it was going on, because I think so many of us knew, or had heard stories, or had friends who that had happened to. The thing that was surprising to me in the sex abuse scandal was not that children were being abused by priests, but that the bishops were protecting them, and that the bishops were refusing to take responsibility for their own failure to protect. I think that was surprising and enormously disappointing and disturbing. But the thing that I came to realize in writing this book is that the church is not the candles and the robes and the beautiful cathedrals, and it’s not the bishops and what they do or don’t do, or the proclamations that come down from the Vatican on occasion, but it’s all of us. That’s the meaning of Catholicism — universal — and there are a billion Catholics. So it’s the community, a Catholicism based on the idea that we should love God and we should love one another. So, as Robert Drinan in this book pointed out, the pope apologized for 92 things that the Catholic church had done wrong, and he (Drinan) said, ‘These are fallible people and I expect them to do fallible things in the future as well.’ And so I think that that is a source of comfort for me, to view it sort of in that way, that we’re all fallible, and we’ll all make mistakes, but that this is an important institution to be part of.

Q: Did you ever toy with leaving the church?
A: No. Not precisely. There was a time, as I said, in between high school and when I got married, I guess, where it just wasn’t very central to my life, the church itself. But I was still always praying. So it was not, there wasn’t a time when I said, OK, I’m not going to be Catholic anymore. I think that’s a very, very, very difficult thing to do.

Q: Are you raising your daughters in the church?
A: Yeah, and I teach CCD at our local church, St. Patrick’s in Armonk, NY.

Q: You go to Mass?
A: Yeah.

Q: When did you start working on this project?
A: In November 2005.

Q: You could have written a memoir or something more journalistic. How did you think, I’m going to go talk to other people?
A: Well there were two ways that I thought about that. One is I wrote another book, called Speak Truth to Power, and that is interviews with human rights defenders around the world, and I greatly enjoyed that and I learned a lot from talking to other people, and so that’s why I chose to approach it in this particular way.

Q: Do you think you did it because you hungered to do another book, or was there something personally you were hoping to get?
A: I was trying to resolve that issue, of how do people who disagree with what the institutional church is saying to them look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘I am a Catholic.’ And what I found is that absolutely everybody disagrees with the church. The cardinals disagree with the church, and the nuns and the priests, and even Tom Monaghan disagrees with the church, so everybody has a disagreement, which is interesting to me. It’s just not a monolith at all. It’s an enormous organism with a lot of moving parts and people with strong opinions and I think that that’s good. I also think that Catholicism is inherently about contradiction. So much of the New Testament is about Christ arguing with the Pharisees and with the scribes and with the Jewish leaders of the day, and as Pope Benedict said, it’s a quest for the truth. And so if you’re going to have a quest for the truth, you’re going to have a lot of questioning of authority. And we’re taught to have obedience to authority, but we’re also taught to revere saints, so many of whom were burnt at the stake or martyred because they questioned authority. And then we are told that Christ has died but Christ is coming again. And when Catholics say I don’t understand this, how can this really be transformed into the blood of Christ, is this really the body of Christ that we are eating now, they are told, ‘That’s the mystery,’ and ‘Go in peace,’ and that’s sort of it. And so I think that, in a way, I think it’s good, because it prepares us to deal with so many other parts of life, where there are conflicting emotions. At the moment of greatest love, there is greatest fear, and at the moment of enormous repression, there is resistance, and therefore a chance at revolutionary change. And so I think our lives are full of contradictions.

Q: How did you come up with the list of who you wanted to talk to?
A: Well, I wanted a diversity of people, from a lot of different professions, so there’s historians and doctors and comedians, political commentators and politicians, and so a diversity of professions. And I wanted people who are known to have a strong intellectual sensibility on some issue, not necessarily on this one, and then I wanted a mix of men and women.

Q: Were most of them people you already knew?
A: It was a combination, and there’s also people who are conservative, from the conservative side of the church, and more progressive side of the church, and then there are also Democrats and Republicans, you know, Bill O’Reilly to Bill Maher.

Q: Did anybody turn you down?
A: One person.

Q: Do you want to tell me who?
A: No.

Q: And how did people respond when you said, ‘I want to explore with you how you relate to this faith’?
A: They were very open about it, and enthusiastic about talking about it, and it was kind of great, because a lot of the people I talked to are used to interviews — you must find this as well — but they’re not used to interviews about this. And so there’s a kind of raw honesty that you get in discussing this subject with people who don’t discuss it professionally, and insight that you might not otherwise get. And a lot of them were very funny, and wonderful. Nancy Pelosi saying, ‘My mother always wanted me to be a nun,’ and then I said, ‘But did you want to be a nun?’ and she said, ‘No, I wanted to be a priest.’ And Susan Sarandon, who said that during her first days at Catholic school, she was told that she had an overabundance of original sin. And Bill Maher, who is so, basically he said ‘I’m on a mission, I’ve been given this gift, to stop organized religion.’ He’s very funny, in talking about the number of people who God slaughtered in the Old Testament, Sodom and Gomorrah alone…Some of it is kind of funny and ridiculous like that, and then a lot of it was very deep. One of the people who I was surprised by in my interview was Andrew Sullivan, because I disagree with almost everything he’s ever said or written politically, and yet, on this subject, he was so deep and passionate and reflective — it was very, very interesting to me, about what it means to be a devoted Catholic and gay and HIV-positive, and how he grapples with that. And then some of them were deeply moving. Gabriel Byrne talking about being a victim of pedophilia when he was a child, and how he attempted to grapple with that, and Danny McNevin, talking about the same issue, and then of course Anne Burke who led the independent audit committee was fascinating about her frustration with the bishops in trying to get them to take responsibility for the crisis, and yet how that experience really deepened her faith.

Q: How did you choose Cardinal McCarrick?
A: I have always deeply admired him, and it was actually kind of interesting, because I think he’s mentioned in four different interviews in my book as somebody who others admired — John Sweeney and E.J. Dionne and Andrew Sullivan. So there you go — for Cardinal McCarrick to be admired by that diversity of people is pretty extraordinary. So I went to talk to him and you know what’s amazing is he said that he started school in a classroom where they had three kids to a bench and 70 kids in his class — I think that was first grade or kindergarten — can you imagine? How — I mean, if you spend even five minutes with six year olds, trying to imagine organizing 70 of them, it’s pretty incredible.

Q: What surprised you?
A: There were pleasant surprises, moments of laughter in interviews that were unexpected, and moments of insight, for instance, talking to Andrew Sullivan as I just mentioned, or when Bob Drinan was talking about abortion rights, and in the midst of this discussion he was having with me, we were in his office and the phone started to ring, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s the pope, telling me to shut up.’ And so that was kind of funny. And different things were sort of wonderful. Donna Brazile…told a very, very moving story about her wanting as a child, knowing as a child, that she’d grow up to be a priest, and that in her youngest years the black kids, the black families had to stay in the back of the church, and then after Martin Luther King died they could move more and more forward, and then she, at a certain point, would get to the church, she’d make sure she was in the front row, because she had to see what the priest was going to do, because she was going to be a priest, and she had to know what he was doing up there. And how when he would preach, she would listen to what he’d say, and then go back and read the Bible passage and see if she agreed with him or not, and come back and ask him questions. A very active, involved and engaged child. And when her mother asked her in passing one day what she was going to do, and she mentioned she was going to be a priest, (she learned) to her shock, that women couldn’t be priests, it’s just not possible…So there were things like that, that were very moving. And again, I think Danny McNevin’s story about the impact of being a victim of pedophilia, on him and his family, is deeply moving, and his quest to seek justice, and how difficult that has been.

Q: So how did all this affect your faith?
A: You know, it deepened it tremendously. And the sense of spirituality, I think primarily because I started thinking about it. You’re writing a book about something, you start thinking about it a lot more, and talking to people about it a lot more, and learning about it, and that has been a wonderful experience. I also happen to belong to a fantastic parish in Armonk, New York, and I have a great, great, great, great pastor, who is always quoting Dorothy Day, and puts a picture of Gandhi with a halo over his head on the altar.

Q: You say it deepened your faith but also you were confronted by so much injury — these girls who wanted to be priests, these boys who were abused, the gay man — over and over again you ran into people who have conflict with the church in some way. How do you think about that?
A: I think that the church has done enormous harm over the years, and continues to do enormous harm to people in different ways. The institutional church does that. But that is separate and apart from my sense of connection to the Almighty, when I pray. And that is something that I think is part of the mission of being a Catholic is to expose those areas of injustice, and try to confront them, and I hope through this book I have advanced that in some small way.

Q: What is your hope that readers will take away from this?
A: I hope that they’ll feel like they’re not alone…I hope that people will feel that there are a lot of others out there who are grappling with the same issues: Should I raise my children Catholic? What does that mean? Am I a good Catholic? What does it mean to be a good Catholic today? If I’m not following the way I was taught as a child, or that my parents approached the religion, does that mean that I’m somehow missing something, or that I’m bad? And I hope also that others might feel a sense that the essence, the goodness of Catholicism, of that relationship with God, of that sense of love, can be embraced without embracing the parts of the institutional church which are anathema to your values, to one’s values.

Q: You work in the human rights world, you live in the Democratic political orbit, do you find that you have to defend being Catholic?
A: Sometimes, yes. I mean, people aren’t openly aggressive about it, but there is, yes, skepticism, and sort of, sometimes a look of confusion.

Q: How do you think being a Kennedy affects your relationship to the Catholic Church?
A: Traditionally there was a very strong one, I think, in my grandparents era, and in my parents. I don’t have a particular relationship with the hierarchy of the church. I have wonderfully important relationships with people who are at different stages of that hierarchy — some higher and some lower, but it’s not an institutional relationship. But I’m also not in political office, so it’s just a little bit different.

Remembering Ed Guthman

8 Sep

Ed Guthman 1919-2008

Ed Guthman 1919-2008

 “INNOCENT PEOPLE WERE TERRIFIED BY THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT”

 

– ED GUTHMAN, 1998 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

THE MAN WHO DEFENDED PUBLIC ENEMIES BECOMES PUBLIC ENEMY #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 – TOM BROKAW

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

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

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

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

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

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

A LIFETIME OF ADVICE, CAREFULLY SCRIPTED WITH A RED PEN

Special to The Seattle Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Kennedy Aide Ed Guthman Dies at 89

2 Sep

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

Ed Guthman and Robert F. Kennedy

Ed Guthman and Robert F. Kennedy

 ED GUTHMAN (1919-2008)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Guthman in more recent years

Ed Guthman in more recent years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

From the Associated Press