Read The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby Online

Authors: Richard D. Mahoney

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The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby

BOOK: The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby
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The Kennedy Brothers

The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby

Richard Mahoney

Copyright @ 1999, 2011 by Richard D. Mahoney


All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Arcade Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018.


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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Mahoney Richard D.

[Sons & brothers]

The Kennedy brothers : the rise and fall of Jack and Bobby / Richard D. Mahoney. p. cm.

Originally published as: Sons & brothers, c1999.

Includes bibliographical references and index.


1. Kennedy John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963. 2. Kennedy Robert F., 1925-1968. 3. Presidents--United States--Biography 4. Legislators--United States--Biography. 5. Brothers--United States--Biography 6. United States. Congress. Senate--Biography 7. United States--Politics and government--1961-1963. 8. United States--Politics and government--1963-1969. 9. Kennedy family. I. Title.

E842.1.M34 2011






Printed in the United States of America

William P. Mahoney Jr.,
father and friend

“But sometimes in the middle of the night, their wound would open afresh. And suddenly awakened, they would finger its painful edges, they would recover their suffering anew and with it the stricken face of their love.”


— Albert Camus, found in RFK’s commonplace book of quotes, entry circa 1966

Table of Contents


Title Page
Copyright Page
Summer 1929 - Nantucket Sound
Crusades - 1951 – 1959
October 19, 1951 - Saigon, Vietnam
August 18, 1956 - Chicago, Illinois
December 20, 1956 - Chicago, Illinois
The Campaign - 1960
February 29, 1960 - New York City
May 10, 1960 - Charleston, West Virginia
March 4, 1960 - Havana, Cuba
July 16, 1960 - Santa Monica, California
September 24, 1960 - Beach, Florida
October 21, 1960 - South Florida
November 8-9, 1960 - Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and Forest Park, Illinois
December 15, 1960 - Washington, D.C.
Ordeal - 1961
January 18, 1961 - Léopoldville, the Congo
April 4, 1961 - New Orleans, Louisiana
April 17, 1961 - Bay of Pigs, Cuba, and Washington, D.C.
May 14, 1961 - Anniston, Alabama, and Washington, D.C.
July 13, 1961 - Chicago, Illinois
November 9, 1961 - Washington, D.C.
December 19, 1961 - West Palm Beach, Florida
Triumph - 1962
February 2 — 28, 1962 - World Trip
March 22, 1962 - Washington, D.C.
July — August, 1962 - Washington, D.C., Havana, Point Mary, Key Largo
September 30, 1962 - Oxford, Mississippi, Washington, D.C.
October 1, 1962 - Washington, D.C.
October 16, 1962 - Washington, D.C.
December 29, 1962 - Miami, Florida
Rendezvous - 1963
April 9, 1963 - Washington, D.C.
April 25, 1963 - New Orleans
April 26, 1963 - Williamsburg, Virginia
June 11, 1963 - Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Washington, D.C.
July 25, 1963 - Moscow and Washington, D.C.
August 7, 1963 - Boston
September 7, 1963 - Havana, Cuba
October 26, 1963 - Amherst, Massachusetts
November 17 — 20, 1963 - Palm Beach, Florida; Washington, D.C.; Havana, Cuba
November 22, 1963 - Washington, D. C.; Dallas; and Havana
Bobby Alone - 1964 — 1968
September 27, 1964 - New York City
March 24, 1965 - Mount Kennedy, Yukon Territory
March 15, 1966 - Delano, California
June 6, 1966 - Cape Town, South Africa
November 2, 1966 - New York City
February 6, 1967 - Washington, D.C.
March 16, 1968 - Washington, D.C.
June 5, 1968 - Los Angeles


y association and friendship with the exceptional staff, past and present, of the John F. Kennedy Library have made this book possible. Megan F. Desnoyers, William Johnson, Suzanne K. Forbes, Jo August, Sheldon Stern, John Stewart, Alan Goodrich, Jim Cedrone, Dan Fenn, and William W Moss made the going bearable and, at points, even easy. They of course bear no responsibility for the result. My selection in 1987 as the John F. Kennedy Scholar by the Kennedy Library and the University of Massachusetts at Boston enabled me to do much of my research for this book.

I should also thank the staffs of the National Archives and Records Services, the Library of Congress, the FBI records office in Washington, D.C., the Adlai E. Stevenson Papers at Princeton University, the Chicago Crime Commission, and the Centro de Estudios Sobre America in Havana.

Among those who read portions of the manuscript along the way, made useful suggestions, and always encouraged to me to push on: Donavon Ostrom, Paul Erickson, Stanley Sheinbaum, Bill Gilliam, Chenoweth Moffat, Grant W. Johnson, Mary Jo West, and my sisters Noel Shambayati, Eileen Mahoney, and Mary Mahoney. My mother, Alice D. Mahoney, as always, provided criticism, insight, and the indispensable service of taking care of my daughter, Molly.

I should recognize others who went out of their way to assist me: Oliver Stone, Mayra I. Alvarado, Blas Casares, Andrew and Teresa Molander, Jorge Recarey, Eric J. Farber, Robert Scheer, Samuel E. Belk III, Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, Peter McClennen, Samuel G. Vagenas, Kenneth and Katrina Carlsen, Paul Rosen-feld, Gene Fisher, and my teaching assistants at The American Graduate School of International Management, Thunderbird: Nozar Afkhami, Laura Wente, Elka Popova, Marilyn Edelman, and Mark A. Staehle. Each semester my foreign policy seminar students at Thunderbird gladly read portions of the manuscript, and they deserve recognition for what improvements they made.

Among Kennedy friends and lieutenants who were especially helpful: Dolores Huerta, Harris Wofford, Angela Novello, the late W. Averell Harriman, the late George W. Ball, the late Kenneth P. O’Donnell, the late David F. Powers, the late Lord Harlech, the late Edmund A. Gullion, and the late Cesar Chavez. There are those in Havana and Miami for whom printed recognition would imperil their persons, but who provided information and guidance in this project. I thank them as well.

Without my father’s friendship with the Kennedys and his attentive support for each of his nine children, including myself, I would not have attempted this journey. Without the unusual skill and grace in execution of my editor, Timothy Bent, I would not have completed it.


y father was a friend of Robert F. Kennedy and an ambassadorial appointee of John F. Kennedy. He, and consequently the rest of our large Irish-American family, admired the Kennedys uncritically, a sentiment that was reinforced by the nature of their deaths. One of the last things Robert Kennedy did on June 5, 1968, in his suite at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles before going downstairs to accept victory in the California primary was to make a list of friends he wanted to call when he got back to his room later that night. Among them was my father.

In March 1974, when I first went to the Federal Records Center in Waltham, Massachusetts, which then housed the Kennedy papers, I did so more in the manner of a pilgrim than a scholar. I was a member of the faithful, looking for evidence, even relics, of the blessed era. I would sit for hours in the poorly heated research room reading JFK’s office files and the oral histories of RFK’s brief run for the presidency six years earlier. I became friends with the late Dave Powers, then curator of the Kennedy Library, who had been Jack Kennedy’s best friend. I would often drop by his office in the late afternoon and listen to him tell stories about the Kennedy brothers, Jack in particular. The figures Powers evoked fit my family’s conception of them — men full of wit, charm, and purpose who, in those Watergate years, seemed nothing less than heroic.

Yet scholarship was beginning to offer a second, far harsher evaluation of the Kennedys. President Kennedy, some scholars charged, was responsible for bringing America into the nightmare of Vietnam. Other scholars claimed that Attorney General Robert Kennedy had, for reasons of political expedience, done the minimum on civil rights. I decided that I would take a look for myself at an area of the Kennedy record that had not yet been analyzed — the Kennedy administration’s policy in Africa, where I had spent part of my youth.

Over the years, I became a familiar figure to the staff of the Kennedy Library. Much of my first book,
JFK: Ordeal in African,
published by Oxford University Press in 1983, was based on what I found in the National Security Files, which the library staff had effectively declassified. Between 1974 and 1980, I also did 223 oral history interviews. These encounters opened doors that led to unexpected places. I remember a winter day in 1976 in Princeton, New Jersey. At the conclusion of an interview with the late George Ball, undersecretary of state during the Kennedy years, he invited me to have a look at his transcribed telephone conversations, about ten thousand in number. For three weeks, I read through those telephone conversations in Ball’s home, often leaving at daybreak and then returning a few hours later.

I was stunned by what they revealed. The picture they painted of the Kennedys was very different from the treasured anecdotes, those memorable and canonized speeches, or the top-secret memos covering “policy options.” What emerged first were traits common to powerful men — expediency, calculation, and manipulation. But the transcriptions also revealed other qualities that were, I came to believe, unique to the Kennedys — an icy wit, an awareness that they were players on a stage, and a capacity for growth nurtured by their constant collaboration. Depending on the conversation, they could be idealistic or Machiavellian, utterly conventional or suddenly imaginative, hot or cold. The Kennedy brothers seemed neither as grand and omniscient as the “court histories” that sprang up after the president’s assassination portrayed them, nor as cunning and shameless as later books, such as Seymour Hersh’s
The Dark Side of Camelot
, argued. They were both self-creative and self-destructive.

I began to question the standard portrait of the male Kennedys as a perfectly functioning juggernaut. That Jack, Bobby, and their father, Joseph P. Kennedy, worked as seamlessly and relentlessly as a combat unit on their path to power seemed true. That Bobby, as executor of his father’s fearsome will and facilitator of Jack’s ambition, was the key actor in the triumvirate seemed obvious. But I heard accounts of tensions among them. Former Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, another friend of my father, told me that Bobby, in his crusade to destroy the American Mafia in the McClellan Committee investigation in the late 1950s (a committee on which Goldwater served), had stumbled over evidence of his father’s dealings with the underworld. “It just killed him,” Goldwater recalled. I wondered what other kinds of combustion Bobby’s moral ambitions had touched off, both within and without the family.

In 1987 I was appointed the John F. Kennedy Scholar at the University of Massachusetts and the Kennedy Library. I spent a year lecturing, writing, and organizing symposia at the Kennedy Library. Revisionary analysis of the Kennedy years had shifted once again, this time to “character issues.” Private sins were said to be revealing of the Kennedys’ deficient public character. I gave a lecture in which I suggested that the Kennedy story might simply be a projection of America’s own unresolved self-concept, its continuing pretense of politics as redemption. The Kennedys had become, I argued, “caricatures of our unsettled national psyche.” They were “warped mirror-images of our own hopes, doubts, and indulgences.” Thus they could only be saints or scoundrels, disinterred on occasion to reflect some current need to moralize to the body politic. I believed then and believe today that at the base of this tendency is America’s inability to see its history as tragedy: to recognize, even embrace, the incompleteness of its ideals and its own struggle against doubt and violence. Perhaps by facing this we could come to a cathartic and settled view of ourselves and the Kennedys. “Tragedy,” Bobby Kennedy said during his run for the presidency in 1968, “is a tool for the living.” But we have found no such tool, and our literalness has rendered the Kennedys unrecognizable, even ahistoric. Something in their story was missing.

BOOK: The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby
12.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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