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Remembering JFK

22 Nov

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“We must use time as a tool, not a crutch.” — JFK

NOVEMBER 22

Today marks 48 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

It is a time when all Americans (even those who were not yet born in 1963) stop to reflect on what our country lost that day for we lost so much more than more than just a man — and we ponder what role that tragic event played in shaping the world we now find ourselves living in.

While it is important that we pause to remember the past, and to ask these questions about America’s future (he would want us to), let’s not allow ourselves to forget the man Jack Kennedy was. Because it seems that far too often, we focus our attention on his death and the many questions that still remain unanswered. Shouldn’t we instead remember his life?

Sitting atop the perch where Abraham Zapruder took film of the assassination, a young boy tries to make sense of it all. Dealey Plaza, Dallas, TX. June 1, 2008

Sitting atop the perch where Abraham Zapruder shot his film of the assassination, a young boy tries to make sense of it all. Dealey Plaza, Dallas, TX. June 1, 2008

Since this somber anniversary happens to fall around Thanksgiving, it just doesn’t seem appropriate somehow to be mournful. Rather, let us give thanks for all of the good things he brought to this world as a catalyst for change. Let us recall the way he inspired people around the globe; the hope and optimism he brought to the presidency. Let’s celebrate his vision, his strength, his courage, his razor-sharp mind, his gracecharm, and of course, that delightful, sometimes wicked wit.

This would be a perfect time to reach for one of your favorite books on the shelf and immerse yourself in some of his words. Listen to some of his best speeches. Because these things are the legacy he left us. His words will live in history forever and cannot be erased.

A single red rose on the Grassy Knoll in front of the former Texas School Book Depository (now the 6th Floor Museum).

A single red rose, left by an unknown admirer on the Grassy Knoll in front of the former Texas School Book Depository (now the 6th Floor Museum).

Naturally, we all have our own favorite books and speeches of JFK’s; I’ve certainly got a long list of works I find deeply moving and inspiring, but I’ll refrain from making any recommendations here because I feel that how each of us remembers him today should be a strictly personal choice.

But there is one little tidbit I want to share:

On November 19, 1963, just three days before his death, President Kennedy wrote this message for the re-dedication ceremonies of the national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:

“The goals of liberty and freedom, the obligations of keeping ours a government of and for the people are never-ending.”

Just one sentence, but this says it all. Written nearly a half century ago, his words serve to remind us all that there is still so much work to do. Lest we forget.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

May 29, 1917- November 22, 1963

Notes and flowers left for President Kennedy on the Grassy Knoll Fence. Dallas, June 2008

Notes and flowers left for President Kennedy on the Grassy Knoll Fence. Dallas, June 2008

 PHOTO GALLERY

Text and images copyright 2008-2011, New Frontier. All rights reserved.

 

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Happy Birthday, Bob

19 Nov

Robert Kennedy with daughter Kathleen

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BOB

Had he lived, Robert F. Kennedy would be 86 years old on November 20th. We thought it might be interesting to honor him this year not with a few selected quotations by him, but rather quotations about him.

How was Bobby Kennedy described by the people who knew him best?

Their opinions were not always kind, to say the least. Lyndon Johnson called Bobby “that little shitass” and “a grandstanding little runt.” (Kennedy, who cherished his very own LBJ voodoo doll, called Johnson “mean, bitter, and vicious–an animal in many ways.”)

Joe McCarthy’s chief aide (and longtime RFK nemesis) Roy Cohn referred to Robert Kennedy as a “rich bitch,” saying: “he always had that little smirk on his face, designed to get under my skin, and it did.”

Apparently the feeling was mutual, as the two men once nearly came to blows in the Senate hearing room during the Army-McCarthy hearings.

Jimmy Hoffa, who thought Kennedy “a damn spoiled jerk,” described his first meeting with him in 1957: “I can tell by how he shakes hands what kind of fellow I got. I said to myself, `Here’s a fella thinks he’s doing me a favor by talking to me.'” Hoffa later bragged that during the Rackets Committee hearings, “I used to love to bug the little bastard.”

As Bobby himself once said, we are not here “to curse the past or to praise it,” so we thought it appropriate to include the bad with the good when selecting quotes from others on what they thought of Robert Kennedy. Opinions varied, at times so wildly, you’d almost never believe that all of these people are talking about the same man.

The full truth about RFK, as ever, lies somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

I think that’s why he still fascinates us. Even after all these years, the real RFK is (to borrow from Churchill) “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” He’s a puzzle, difficult to solve, and yet we never seem to want to stop trying.

AS THEY REMEMBER BOBBY

“The major difference between Bobby and his brothers is that Bobby always had to fight for everything.”

— Bobby’s wife, Ethel Skakel Kennedy

“He was the smallest and thinnest, and we feared he might grow up puny and girlish. We soon realized there was no chance of that.”

— Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (mother)

“Jack is too soft and forgiving. You can trample all over him and the next day he’ll be waiting for you with open arms. But when Bobby hates you, you stay hated.”

— Joseph P. Kennedy (father)

“Bobby was the most generous little boy.”

Jack Kennedy’s lifelong best friend, Lem Billings. (To which Joseph Kennedy Sr. gruffly replied: “I don’t know where he got that!”)

“All this business about Jack and Bobby being blood brothers has been exaggerated.”

Bobby’s sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

“Kennedy was not arrogant, but he had a sarcasm that could be biting.”

Frank Hurley, Bobby’s classmate at Portsmouth Priory

“How would you like looking forward to that high whining voice blasting into your ear for the next six months?”

Jack Kennedy, on hiring his younger brother Bobby to manage the 1960 campaign.

“Jack thought Bobby was too serious, a severe figure, and tried to lighten him up. At the same time, he thought Bobby was…the sacred one. He felt protective about him.”

 — Chuck Spalding, longtime friend to both JFK and RFK.

“I don’t know what Bobby does, but it always seems to turn out right.”

–President-elect John F. Kennedy, shortly after winning the 1960 presidential election

“Up until the Bay of Pigs, Jack had more or less dismissed the reasons his father had given for wanting Bobby in the cabinet as more of that tribal Irish thing. But now he realized how right the old man had been. When the crunch came, family members were the only ones you could count on. Bobby was the only person he could rely on to be absolutely dedicated. Jack would never have admitted it, but from that moment on, the Kennedy presidency became a sort of collaboration between them.”

— Lem Billings, lifelong friend to the Kennedy brothers

“Everybody bitches about Bobby, and I’m getting sick and Goddamn tired of it. He’s the only one who doesn’t stick knives in my back, the only one I can count on when it comes down to it.”

— President John F. Kennedy

“You knew that, if you were in trouble, he’d always be there.”

— Former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis on RFK

“He had a better sense of what was important, and what was not, than anyone I ever met. Once he realized something was significant, he became the most deliberate, most thoughtful, most intense man.”

— John Nolan, Kennedy’s administrative assistant at the Justice Department.

“His most tenaciously maintained secret was a tenderness so rawly exposed, so vulnerable to painful abrasion, that it could only be shielded by angry compassion to human misery, manifest itself in love and loyalty toward those close to him, or through a revelatory humor.”

 — Richard Goodwin, speechwriter, longtime friend and advisor to JFK, RFK, and LBJ

Bobby and Jack

 “I always say—don’t try to psychoanalyze Bob. Look at what he said and look at what he did. He meant what he said, and what he did was incredible.”

 — Ed Guthman, Robert Kennedy’s special assistant for public information in the Department of Justice and his first senatorial press secretary.

Robert F. Kennedy

I remember once John F. Kennedy talking about his younger brother. He was talking about the time when they were both a lot younger, and Bobby was small and jumping off the family sailboat. JFK said, and I quote, “It showed either a lot of guts or no sense at all, depending on how you look at it.” I think you can say that about Bobby’s entry into the 1968 presidential race. It either showed no sense at all, or a lot of guts. I think there were some of both of those factors present.”

— Ted Sorensen, policy advisor, legal counsel and speechwriter for President Kennedy.

“In every presidential election since 1968, we continue to listen for echoes of Robert Kennedy’s speeches which urged us to turn away from war, embrace peace, share the wealth and the resources of the land with the less fortunate, embrace the ideal of social justice for all, and put aside the divisions of race, age, wealth, militarism and the narrow partisanship that have come to divide us– and divide us still.I believe we will look at what he was about, what his politics and policies were about, what his motivations and commitments were about, thereby enhancing the record of his life and times for those who will come to this place to continue the quest. Today, we remember the man, who for many of us changed our lives, the man who changed the country and, had he lived, would have changed it again and again.” 

— Bobby’s trusted friend and advisor John Seigenthaler

“The reason we should revive Robert Kennedy as a hero for our times, for the 21st century, is because he presents us with a flawed, complicated hero of great compassion, and leadership. His was not a leadership that sought to merely bear witness to the truth but rather one that sought results and shaped them in the anvil of action.I think that there’s nothing our politics needs today more than the image, the model, the example, and the inspiration of Robert Kennedy’s life.Throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis Robert Kennedy did what he had done as a young man. He asked moral questions: is it right or is it wrong? When I first met him, I didn’t like his answers. He was more of a Cold Warrior with a Joe McCarthy view of the world, than I was. What changed in Robert Kennedy, in my opinion, was that his view of the world became broader and deeper. The child that was compassionate, the child that was religious, the child that asked moral questions, was the man who in the Cuban Missile Crisis had the courage to ask the moral question, “Could we have a first strike and live with our conscience if we did?” In the face of the geo-politicians in that room, he asked those questions. That was not easy to do, and he did it….And then lastly, in this election right now, the clear, important message from a country divided down the middle is that we want the next President of the United States to find common ground in the way that Robert Kennedy did. He attempted to reach out to left and to right, and beyond all ideological barriers to find a common ground, to get things done.I would recommend to the next President of the United States that he immerse himself in the story of Robert Kennedy. I would say begin with Maxwell Kennedy’s beautiful book and then go on to Ed Guthman’s collection of speeches. Can we revive in our time some of what we had? …”a transcendent yearning for the possibility of redemptive change?” We all, I think, have that yearning. I think the American people have it. And the story of Robert Kennedy can drive us to try to realize that possibility.”— Harris Wofford, special assistant to President Kennedy, chair of the sub-cabinet group on civil rights.

Happy Birthday, Bobby Kennedy. This world misses you.

“The Kennedys” Miniseries Review

4 Apr

Television review: ‘The Kennedys’

Despite several strong lead performances, it turns out that even an eight-part miniseries can’t do justice to the story of one of the country’s most dynamic, if flawed, political families.

April 01, 2011|By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic

 

The main problem with “The Kennedys,” the rumor-plagued, eight-part series that was rejected by the History Channel, which had commissioned it, before landing at ReelzChannel, is not one of politics or even accuracy but of scope. It is impossible to tell the story of this iconic family even in eight parts, even by limiting the timeline, as creators Stephen Kronish and Joel Surnow have done, to the years between the beginnings of World War II and the assassination of Robert Kennedy. There is too much back story, too many important events, and too many Kennedys.

Kronish addresses the last of these problems by simply cutting the family in half. “The Kennedys” that the title refers to are Joe Sr. (Tom Wilkinson), Rose (Diana Hardcastle ), John F. (Greg Kinnear) and his wife, Jacqueline (Katie Holmes), Bobby (Barry Pepper) and his wife, Ethel (Kristin Booth). Fourth daughter Patricia is seen briefly in one of the later episodes, married to Peter Lawford and playing hostess to one of his Marilyn Monroe-studded soirees, while Rosemary, the victim of an early lobotomy, appears briefly in flashback. But Kathleen (who died in an airplane crash in 1948); Eunice, who founded the Special Olympics and was married to Kennedy advisor Sargent Shriver; Jean, who eventually became U.S. ambassador to Ireland; and Edward (Teddy), the longtime Massachusetts senator and onetime presidential candidate, are not only not present, they are never even mentioned.

Which is much more troubling than the various scenes of infidelity (Joe’s and Jack’s), election “rigging” (Joe’s), mob connections (Joe’s) and drug use (Jack’s and Jackie’s) that have apparently raised the blood pressure of Kennedy historians, History Channel execs and various industry watchers for reasons that, while watching the actual episodes, is inexplicable. There is nothing in “The Kennedys” that hasn’t appeared before in reputable books, films and articles in the Kennedy-obsessed “Vanity Fair.”

An argument could be made that a channel called “History” might want to avoid docudramas, which rely on artistic interpretation, but if it was the intention of producer Surnow, a political conservative, to sully the Kennedy name, he certainly went about it in a strange manner. Jack and Bobby emerge splendid, smart and heroic despite their flaws, and even Joe, though portrayed as a ruthlessly ambitious father and truly awful husband, appears in the end guilty of little more than old-time campaign tactics and a once-oppressed immigrant’s dream of joining the ruling class.

Casting went a long way toward balancing the script’s inclusion of the unsavory side of being a Kennedy. Wilkinson can do just about anything at this point in his career, and he illuminates equally Joe’s hubris and desperate fear of failure, while, with his perpetually worried eyes, Kinnear plays a JFK in constant pain — from his back, from his father’s expectations, from his own infidelities. Don Draper certainly never felt this guilty about getting a little on the side.

The revelation of “The Kennedys” is Pepper, most recently seen as the snaggletoothed villain in “True Grit,” who delivers an Emmy-deserving performance, slowly building a Bobby who becomes the family’s, and the Kennedy administration’s, spine of steel, aware of the choices and sacrifices he is making and prepared to make them every time. As attorney general, Bobby is the president’s hammer even as he attempts to be his conscience.

The scenes among these three men alone are worth trying to find out if you get ReelzChannel. Unfortunately, they are too often being moved through historical events as if they were chess pieces and are surrounded by a supporting cast not up to their level. Holmes is pretty as Jackie, but her emotions are confined to happy (“I love him”) and sad (“He cheats on me”), with absolutely no nuance and only the occasional flash of spirit, intellect and inner strength that made Jacqueline Kennedy an icon in her own right. As Ethel, Booth is almost unbearably perky in early episodes, although she mellows as the series unfolds; the scenes between Bobby and Ethel are far more poignant and powerful than those between Jackie and Jack. Hardcastle (married to Wilkinson) can’t do much with a Rose who spends most of the series saying her rosary and making pronouncements about God’s will in a broad Eastern accent — it isn’t until the final episode that mention is made of the crucial role Rose played in the political careers of her sons.

But she is just another victim of the genre’s biggest danger. In attempting to be both sprawling and intimate, “The Kennedys” winds up in a narrative no-man’s land. So the tensions of Bobby taking on organized crime, the riots in Mississippi, the Cuban missile crisis and the strained relationship of the brothers with J. Edgar Hoover and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson are treated with the same time constraints and dramatic emphasis as Joe’s endless “recovery” from his stroke and Jackie’s realization that being a first lady is difficult.

While this “greatest-hits” pace does take the potential sting from the more salacious details — Jack’s infidelities are few and far between, Frank Sinatra is blamed for any mob-related fallout, the pep-me-up shots Jack and Jackie receive do little more than pep them up — it also buries the fine performances of its leading men, who too often seem to be simply marching toward their characters’ inevitable doom.

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

“The Kennedys” Miniseries Dropped by History Channel; picked up by Reelz

2 Feb

From The Hollywood Reporter:

The controversial miniseries about the Kennedy family will have its world television premiere on April 3.

After a three-week journey, The Kennedys has found a home.

The controversial miniseries will world premiere on April 3 on the ReelzChannel, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Producers of the ambitious project from 24 executive producer Joel Surnow and writer Stephen Kronish have struck a deal with the independent, family-owned cable network to air the 8-part miniseires, which was abruptly yanked from the History channel on January 7 amid pressure from the Kennedys over its depiction of the political family. At the time, History owner A&E Television Networks told THR that “after viewing the final product in its totality, we have concluded this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand.”

But it is certainly a fit for ReelzChannel, a 4-year old independent cable channel owned by Minnesota-based Hubbard Communications that is available in 60 million homes nationwide on services including DirecTV, Dish Network, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Charter Communications.

Sources say the company stepped up with a big financial commitment for the lavish $30 million miniseries starring Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes and produced by Asylum Entertainment and Muse Entertainment.

Gallup Poll: Kennedy Still Highest-Rated Modern President

8 Dec

 

85% Says It All

 

According to a new Gallup Poll, President John F. Kennedy continues to earn the highest retrospective job approval rating from Americans, now 85%.

Ronald Reagan ranks second, with 74%. While these presidents’ ratings are largely unchanged from 2006, Bill Clinton’s rating has improved, putting him in third place, while Jimmy Carter, at 52%, has dropped from third to sixth. Richard Nixon remains the lowest rated.

The poll was limited to approval ratings for American presidents who have served in the past 50 years.

Approval of How Past Presidents Handled Their Job -- Recent Trend (2006, 2010)

The Nov. 19-21 Gallup poll asked Americans to say, based on what they know or remember about the nine most recent former presidents, whether they approve or disapprove of how each handled his job in office.

Kennedy has consistently ranked No. 1 in this Gallup measure initiated in 1990.

 

 

Read full story here: Kennedy Still Highest-Rated Modern President, Nixon Lowest.

Obituary: Robert L. Healy, former Boston Globe editor

10 Jun

 

ROBERT L. HEALY

 

Reporter who kicked gun from RFK’s killer dies

 

BOSTON — A longtime reporter and editor for the Boston Globe who is credited with kicking the gun from the hand of Sen. Robert Kennedy’s assassin has died. Robert L. Healy was 84.

The Boston Globe says Healy died Saturday of a massive stroke at his home in Jupiter, Fla. He had served at the paper as executive editor, Washington bureau chief, political editor and columnist.

Healy was the last reporter to speak to Kennedy the night of his assassination in June 1968. He is credited with kicking the gun from the hand of Sirhan Sirhan after the assassin was wrestled to the floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

A gregarious and energetic inside player, Mr. Healy played touch football with Robert F. Kennedy. He was a tennis partner of Hamilton Jordan, President Jimmy Carter’s chief of staff. Eugene McCarthy unsuccessfully recruited Mr. Healy to manage his 1968 presidential campaign. He was a pallbearer at the funeral of former House Speaker Thomas P. O’Neill Jr.

In 1977, one of Mr. Healy’s admirers, the Washington Post’s David Broder, said he had “as many drinking buddies among important politicians as any reporter around.’’

Mr. Healy was sometimes criticized for being too cozy with the powerful, especially the Kennedy family. “The Kennedy years were a once-in-a-lifetime situation for a reporter,’’ Mr. Healy wrote in a 1988 valedictory column.

A touchstone for Mr. Healy’s critics was his role in a celebrated — some would say inglorious — moment in Globe history.

Edward M. Kennedy was running for the Senate in 1962 for the first time. Mr. Healy learned that Kennedy had been expelled as a Harvard undergraduate for cheating on an examination. In three sessions held in the Oval Office, Mr. Healy negotiated with President John F. Kennedy, the candidate’s brother, over release of the story. The upshot was the Kennedys would cooperate if the story was played below the fold on Page One (that is, on the lower half of the front page). Furthermore, it ran with the innocuous headline, “Ted Kennedy tells about Harvard examination incident.’’

Yet, Mr. Healy’s work as reporter, editor, and columnist on the nomination of Boston Municipal Court Judge Francis X. Morrissey to the federal bench not only helped earn the Globe its first Pulitzer Prize, in 1966, it also created a very public embarrassment for the Kennedys.

Morrissey was a longtime Kennedy crony. In 1961, rumors circulated he was being considered for a federal judgeship. Mr. Healy revealed Morrissey had twice failed the Massachusetts bar exam and had gained admittance to the Georgia bar under dubious circumstances.

Four years later, sponsored by Edward Kennedy, Morrissey was nominated. Mr. Healy played a leading role in a 10-man Globe team that found further irregularities in his professional past. The nomination was ultimately withdrawn, and the Globe was awarded the Pulitzer gold medal for meritorious public service

Healy was known for his liberal politics and earned a place on the White House enemies list during Richard Nixon’s administration.

During 1997 and ’98, Mr. Healy served as an adviser on the Northern Ireland peace talks to US Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith and special negotiator George Mitchell. He was working on a book about the peace process at the time of his death.

During the 1970s, Mr. Healy taught a seminar at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government on decision-making in the Kennedy White House. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“A great ride,’’ Mr. Healy called his career in his final regular column in December 1988. “I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it.’’

Information from: The Boston Globe

Op-Ed: Planned History Channel Miniseries “The Kennedys” Inaccurate; Distorted

26 Feb

 

The Kennedy Brothers

ISN’T ASSASSINATION ENOUGH?

LET THE KENNEDYS REST IN PEACE

Dear Friends —
 
I am taking time today to write and express my extreme displeasure with The History Channel’s planned miniseries The Kennedys. After reviewing portions of the draft script, I was floored by the sheer number of inaccuracies, distortions and omissions of essential facts in this docu-drama.
 
This is not what future generations should be learning about the presidency of John F. Kennedy.
 
As we reach the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration this year, presenting an epic miniseries which is not only grossly inaccurate but clearly designed to assassinate the character of a president who gave his life for this country, is wholly unacceptable to me. 
 
My daily concern as a historian, author and museum curator is the quality of education we are giving our children in the field of history. As a radio/print journalist, Kennedy scholar, and founder of several websites devoted to the Kennedy family legacy, I have devoted 25 years of my life to providing accurate information to anyone who is interested in learning about our nation’s 35th president and his family.
 
So when I see a script like The Kennedys, proposed to air on (of all places) The History Channel, I shudder to think of the potential and far-reaching consequences.
 
When fiction is presented as fact, that is entertainment. It is not history and has no place on The History Channel.
 
I am also highly offended that the same History Channel which brought us such outstanding documentaries as JFK: A Presidency Revealed and Turner’s The Men Who Killed Kennedy would ever stoop this low, becoming little more than a mouthpiece for right-wing rumormongering and propaganda the likes of which we would expect from Fox News.
 
Many of my fellow historians and researchers have joined together to let the History Channel know how we feel. We must try and stop this miniseries from being produced as currently written.
 
Please ask The History Channel to allow JFK’s living decendants, friends and key advisors – as well as credible historians and researchers – to consult on production of The Kennedys miniseries. Then, and only then, can we rest assured that this presentation on the Kennedy family is truly “fair and balanced.” 
 
Please take a few minutes to learn more about The Kennedys miniseries here:

History channel draws flak for planned JFK miniseries

Pittsburgh Post Gazette – Dave Itzkoff – ‎Feb 19, 2010‎

 Also please visit the website http://StopKennedySmears.com to view a short film directed by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films which features interviews with Ted Sorensen, David Talbot, Nigel Hamilton, Rick Perlstein, David Nasaw and other Kennedy historians expressing their shock and outrage at this deeply-flawed production. You can view some excerpts of the script and decide for yourself is this is what you want your grandchildren to know about President Kennedy and his family. 

If Jack Kennedy were alive today, he’d surely sue them for defamation of character and win. But since he’s sadly not here to defend himself, looks like it’s going to be up to those of us who still care to speak up before it’s too late. 

If you agree, I hope you will add your name to the petition at StopKennedySmears.com and tell the History Channel to present real history. 

Thank You,
 
 
New Frontier
Founding Editor