Bobby Kennedy – Chris Matthews

22-7-18

Dear Partners in thought,

I would like to tell you about another book while giving you some personal context as to why this one.

When I was a teenager growing up in Paris in the 1970s, I had a natural attraction for that country far away that I only knew through the movies and made me dream: America. Nothing represented this vague but powerful American dream as the Kennedys, that Boston political dynasty of whom we knew only the beautiful aspects in an age of other media. I like to think that my first memory as a child, even if dreadful, was that of JFK’s assassination in Dallas when I was three years old in the middle of a dinner with my parents and friends, though perhaps I crafted that memory to fit my later bond. When I was 20, my first trip to America was to Harvard so I could improve my deplorable English language skills, a place I am sure I primarily selected for its link to JFK and RFK. The brothers had a knack to enthuse with their one liner like “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” or “I dream things that never were …and say why not” reflecting nobility and leadership by example befitting that American aristocracy and limits constantly pushed further embodying what America should be for me.

In the 50th anniversary of the Los Angeles assassination of RFK, which marked many, cross-generation, as America at the time was going deeper into Vietnam and through a soft civil war of its own, I would like to recommend you to read “Bobby Kennedy – A Raging Sprit” from Chris Matthews, the well-known MSNBC “Hardball” presenter and Kennedy biographer. CM wrote this book to “commemorate” at this juncture but also, unsurprisingly, “in the hope that our country can find its way back to the patriotic unity he (RFK) championed”. The fact that I was also in Boston and Cambridge, MA in July is of course not foreign to my wanting to remember and discover.

One of the nice features of the book, that reads very well, is CM reminiscing about his parents and himself about the era, watching the various Kennedy developments that he narrates in his book. His Catholic Irish American roots were also another element of closeness with the Kennedy saga at the time and help us understand the historical stint of “discrimination”, still floating at election time, and the impact of Al Smith’s 1928 defeat in the Irish American psyche. He was also part of the “Movement” generation in the late sixties, expecting to go to Vietnam after his draft deferment, though ending up in Africa for the earlier JFK-created Peace Corps, then working as an aide in Washington, eventually for Tip O’Neil, the veteran Democratic legislator from Boston, before joining the media world where we have known him over the years. While most of us will know about RFK as Attorney General in JFK’s team, the book unusually sheds light on his early years, his role in the McCarthy “red” hunt and the years after Dallas, – making appear as less of a liberal than we remember – while providing insights on the particular Kennedy family dynamics.

Going back to CM’s appellation, “Bobby” was fourth generation Irish-American from Boston, the fifth child and third son of his large family led by patriarch Joe Sr (Joseph P. Kennedy) who had married Rose, the daughter of a former Boston Mayor, John “Fitz Honey” Fitzpatrick. Joe Sr had gone to Harvard, class of 1912, establishing the family as a prominent one (he was in his own words, the youngest President of an American bank at age 25) though still not included in the Boston elite world run by the WASP establishment of the Cabots, Lodges and Lowells, due to his Irish “off the boat” heritage. This Irish origin would have a big impact on Bobby, who felt it the most in his family generation, feeling vividly the meaning of discrimination (in the late 19th century, shops would have job offers in Boston with “Irish need not apply”) and would lead the family to migrate down to Bronxville in the vicinity of Manhattan for 12 years to more fully benefit from their status in society. Bobby went to many schools, unlike his brothers Joe Jr and Jack (JFK) who stuck with Choate, the Wallingford, CT-based elite boarding school. He suffered most from a lack of love and support from his father who much preferred Joe Sr as the future family leader, being the eldest son, and Jack also as the two were seen as tougher individuals than Bobby, who would look for approval from him all his life. Unlike his father, Bobby was also interested in helping the “forgotten” (we’d say the left-outs today), be they from the black minority (as seen later in the civil rights fight), white miners from the Appalachians or farmers from Kansas. He saw it as the duty from the members of his privileged class to help the less privileged ones and not squander their wealth on futile matters. While his father and then Jack were the two most important family figures for him, Bobby could not manage to be close to the latter much due to the eight year age gap and the fact that Jack and Joe Sr were away at boarding school nine months of the year, prompting his mother Rose to make up for the neglect displayed by his father. Bobby found in his Catholic faith, the strongest in his family, the moral rectitude that guided him all his life and also defined some of his key, highly principled, political fights, like that against Communism as the Cold War took hold (that also explained his role with Joe McCarthy and his famed subcommittee) in later years.

When young, Bobby, like the whole family, followed the steps of his father’s career, the latter that was now heavily influenced by politics. Joe Sr who backed Republican Hoover in the 1928 elections against his roots and historical party affiliations, went back to the Dems backing FDR as the safest choice to “preserve my own interests” in 1932 during the financial crisis of the times. As a close ally of FDR and while he did not get his rewards quickly, he was nonetheless appointed as the first Chairman of the new SEC in 1934 (the thinking being that as one of those responsible for the crash, he would be able to know how to prevent the next one), then Chairman of the U.S. Maritime Commission in 1937 and in the late thirties, while aiming for Secretary of the Treasury which FDR rejected, he finally obtained, after much pressuring of the President, the Ambassadorship in London, taking the whole family with him across the pond. This post defined Joe Sr in inglorious terms and ended any hope he would have of a subsequent senior political career, having a very adverse impact on the whole family and deeply wounding young Bobby. As the war was looming, Joe Sr became a lead Appeaser (more Chamberlain than Chamberlain) in relation to the Nazi territorial demands at a time when America was officially neutral. He was recalled by FDR after two years, becoming then de facto a voice for America First, close to famed (Transatlantic!) flyer Charles Lindbergh, and against any U.S. intervention in the war, the latter that became unavoidable after the December 1941 surprise Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor U.S. Navy base and Pacific Fleet. Both Joe Jr and Jack went to war as officers, Joe as a bomber pilot, Jack first in Army intelligence in DC, then in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific theater where his team rescuing exploits with PT 109 became legend and eventually paved the way for what was not thought yet as a political career. Joe Jr was the one destined for politics, with Joe Sr preparing the grounds, though the former was consumed with family redemption and flew mission well beyond his quota, turning down leaves, to meet death over France during a very perilous mission targeted at a Normandy V2 missile base. Jack then became the anointed Kennedy to lead the family to an even greater future. Bobby, who had started college at Harvard, wanted to fight but was too young and was sent to Officer Training in DC on the recommendation of Jack who thought him too young and unprepared to join the fight, something that Joe Sr engineered, also to keep him away, against any of his son’s expected urges, from the battlefield. WWII ended in Europe and then in Asia before Bobby could fight which marked him deeply, feeling like a failure, making him getting released from officer school following a direct approach to Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, joining in early 1946. Being his usual bold, Bobby enlisted as a regular seaman (I wonder about Dad’s reaction back in Hyannis Port), joining the new U.S. Navy destroyer named after his lost eldest sibling: USS Joseph Kennedy Sr. While serving he wrote his best friend about his Southern shipmates that ” possessed a lot of something a lot of guys at Harvard lacked” (writing to his parents in a more diplomatic that he was “certainly meeting people who had a different outlook and interests in life”), reminding some of us who did our military service of similar, useful feelings. Back at Harvard, Bobby went straight to his junior (third) year and seemed to focus on football, an unlikely activity for someone of his frame where he mixed with “real guys” who were at Harvard primarily due to their football prowess (including Ken O’Donnell, another hard-nosed Irish American who would end up going on to work with JFK at the White House, leading the Irish pack while Ted Sorensen led the “Intellectuals”) and were from the wrong side of the tracks but all veterans. This experience, which was an integration process for him and a way to get the fatherly respect he craved (he would never surrendered on the field, always getting back up), cemented his interest in American society as a whole, well beyond his socially-secluded Beacon Hill and Hyannis Port, leading to his future profile as a politician.

Upon graduation, Bobby went on to graduate school, not at Harvard, as he rejected the family tradition (even if none had gone to graduate school), but at UVA (University of Virginia) Law School in Charlottesville. Upon graduation and while marrying old relationship Ethel (having first dated her sister long ago), he went on to join the Department of Justice, an association that would stick, to work on a major fraud case. In the meantime, his brother Jack, who had won a Boston seat (where Harvard is also located, but full of working class voters) in Congress on the back of good looks, charm, family money and a great war record was in Washington with many freshmen veterans, like Californian Republican Richard Nixon (with whom he shared a seat on the Housing, Education & Labor Committee and already engaged in a debate in the Spring of ’47 on the Soviet Union like in a prelude of the 1960 presidential race). While he was suffering from then a severe case of Addison’s disease (he was given the last rites three times before the White House), Jack was fulfilling his father’s family master plan, which he naturally liked very much, with all siblings being unwittingly shadowed by his successes. In 1952, Jack decided to run for the Massachusetts Senate seat held by an older war veteran who had relinquished briefly his seat to fight: Henry Cabot Lodge, a Boston Brahmin who was running for reelection (interestingly both their grandfathers had fought for the same Massachusetts Senate seat in 1916 with the WASP winning). As the campaign was faltering, in part as its manager could not handle Joe Sr and his desire to be “involved”, Ken O’Donnell, previously introduced to Jack by Bobby, planted the seeds of the idea that the latter should help the former in managing the campaign. At that time, Jack did not really follow what Bobby was doing and vice versa, while Bobby was keen on crusading against fraudsters. In the end, family ties prevailed and Bobby, initially grudgingly, got involved in the world of politics, also mutating into what people described as a “hard-driving, take-no-excuses street fighter”, the man who was doing the bad things for Jack, sheltering the candidate in the process. This first step into the political arena, crowned by a hard fought victory for Jack (given Lodge’s longstanding representation and wide popularity, also a a veteran who unusually had relinquish his seat to fight), changed Bobby while enabling him to find a path to fight to redress the wrongs he perceived in society.

In spite of his father’s pressure, Bobby, having had a taste of it, did not want to enter the political arena as feeling neither interest in public speaking nor backslapping and despising opportunists and self servers (one of whom being Lyndon Johnson, Senate minority leader and Jack’s ever nemesis, though in his case daily due to the fact that a younger LBJ was present in the Oval Office when FDR sacked Joe Sr, making fun of the event with his own network, something Bobby could never manage to forget). Thoughts of Bobby in the Governor’s mansion in Boston for 1954 were equally dismissed. Bobby just “didn’t like politics”.

In February 1950, Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy, a close friend of the Kennedy family as part of the Catholic Irish-American clan, started his hunt to unearth Communist sympathisers in the wake of the Alger Hiss “scandal”, denouncing on the way “the most treacherous…those bright young men born with silver spoons in their mouths…”. Of relevance to Bobby, who had developed some hatred of FDR’s late foreign policy leadership and whom he saw as responsible for gifting Central Europe to Stalin (Why did we fight the war?), McCarthy was structuring his crusade in a fight between communist atheism and Christianity, something that was bound to resonate deeply and did. Then the Korean War erupted when the north sent 90,000 troops down South that year and seized Seoul, prompting UN resolutions and the dispatch of Douglas McArhur and American troops only five years after WWII, directly making the case for hunting the “Reds” at home more vivid. On the back of a Republican sweep, Joe McCarthy became head of the Committee of Government Operations and thus its Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations that could investigate anything it wanted, including whether there were spies and traitors in the midst of the U.S. government. Bobby had much respect for McCarthy, which was mutual, also due to clan-like Catholic Irish American-based family ties and as the latter was close to Joe Sr and had indeed dated sisters Eunice and Pam in the past (on Eunice’s later wedding day, he sent an engraved gift stating “From the one who lost out”). Seventeen years his junior, Bobby was enthused about working for one of his father’s friends while fighting the good, black and white, anti- communist fight. While he was angling to becoming counsel to the sub-committee, the job went to contemporary Roy Cohn, a Columbia Law whiz kid and son of a judge, who became McCarthy’s infamous enforcer and whom Bobby, who ended up being a mere assistant to the Committee’s general counsel, never liked personally, also due to his expeditive investigation and interviewing methods with suspects literally dragged down in front of the sub-commmitee with little regards for damages to careers and lives regardless of any proof of actual guilt. Bobby kept on working with McCarthy out of respect and belief in the mission but also as he felt that the latter was also the subject of bigotry and early roots on the wrong side of the tracks, features he felt vividly about. Bobby nevertheless ended up resigning in late 1953 as he could not go on with the subcommittee’s methods which he felt were not reflecting American values even if he felt that the purpose of its fight was noble and necessary.

Bobby then went on to work for the former President Hoover Commission to promote the efficiency and economy of the Federal Government of which Joe Sr. was a member and likely helped get him a role with. He was quickly back on the McCarthy Commission as it was decided that counsels should originate from both main parties and not just represent at the time the Republicans. Bobby, who felt he could play a role fostering more fairness in its methods, then became the Democratic Counsel on the subcommittee he had quit before, working closely again with McCarthy but being able to deal with Roy Cohn, at times “very physically”, from a status of equals. McCarthy went into a feud with the Army on a case related to one medical officer suspected of being a communist sympathiser that put him on a collision course with the Undersecretary of the Army Robert Stevens, whom he vowed very directly to him to destroy. Ultimately this fight was one too many with Stevens in turn releasing files about the preferred treatment Roy Cohn would have engineer in strongly pushing for his supposed “boyfriend”, a matter that was handled with all the ways of the prevailing times (the terminology “gay” would come later). The fight went on with McCarthy who was subsequently censured in December 1954 by the Senate for his methods, losing his political clout (also in the American opinion, previously having reached great poll heights), going into depression and heavy drinking, coming several times to Committee hearings drunk and finally dying of liver collapse in 1955. Of note, the colourful Wisconsinite at the time of his demise was still respected if not admired at the personal level by both Jack and Bobby, the latter who went “confidentially” to his funeral mass in DC, showing the bonds of friendship and that of the Irish clan. Jack and Bobby liked the “tumult” in the man and his rebellious spirit that led him, finally, too far. (As an aside, Roy Cohn went on to work eventually with and for DT as his personal lawyer – pre- Michael Cohen – in the 1980s though it can only be a “fun fact”).

Joe Sr. now wanted Jack to go the next steps, offering in 1955 to LBJ to fund his run for the Presidency in 1956 against an Ike reelection as long as Jack was on the ticket, an idea that LBJ dismissed outright. Instead Jack went on with his idea to be on the ticket with Adlai Stevenson who would have another go at the top job though in the end chose to let the Convention select the VP. In the end, five men competed for the VP slot, with Jack initially ending up second behind Estes Kefauver, a Senator who had gained national fame in his televised hearings against organised crime in 1950 and would ultimately secure the nomination against a late-coming anti-Catholic drive that was fatal to Jack in the primaries. Bobby ended up campaigning for Adlai Stevenson whom he thought had great qualities at the beginning but could not decide anything during the campaign, not relating to his audience like with coal miners in West Virginia where “he was taking above the heads of people”. In the end, Bobby voted for the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket so despondent he had become, preferring to stick once again to values he though they would best defend. Late in 1956, Joe Sr. and Jack agreed that 1960 would be Jack’s time and that Bobby, as his top enforcer, would be his campaign manager. In the meantime, Bobby went on to work as Counsel on the Senate’s Rackets Committee where he went against the Teamsters, whom sister Pam, thought was another word for mafia, such the reputation of the labor union organisation had been well established in the minds. Bobby’s targets were David Beck, the Teamsters President and Jimmy Hoffa, the man who was seen as the future of the Teamsters and ran it all. Hoffa was subsequently entrapped by a sting operation where money was given to a Government informant in exchange for intelligence on the government plans and Hoffa was indicted, leading to a criminal trial in 1957. He got off against all odds as the jury was swayed by a testimony (apparently indirectly bought by the Teamsters) from boxing champion Joe Louis who vouched for Hoffa and the fact that the case was based on what was successfully demonstrated reasonable doubt, a verdict that hit Bobby who could not accept such an escape from a just punishment in his black and white world world (making the defense lawyer remind him that the white hats don’t always win). Bobby went on after Hoffa, whose internal status had grown with his court win, and while “getting” David Beck, could not secure a conviction against Hoffa with the two actively duelling very directly during the hearings, this for three years running (Hoffa would be convicted during two trials in 1964, sent to jail in 1967 and then physically (being) “vanished” in 1975, and declared officially dead in 1982. Good movie with Jack Nicholson, “Hoffa” in 1992).

As the 1960 presidential race was profiling itself, Bobby went to LBJ, the two being natural enemies by then albeit from the same party, to ensure that LBJ would not run against Jack, would do nothing against his run and would not support another Democratic candidate. While LBJ agreed to all three points for tactical reasons, he was mulling supporting Adlai Stevenson for a third run, the latter which fizzled out. His lieutenants, including John Connally, then Governor of Texas, started to make statements about Jack’s Addison disease and the risk associated with a President affected with it, a subject that was addressed by the Kennedy camp and did not stay in the news long. As the LBJ support had vanished, Jack was not surprised to see him throwing his Stetson in the ring. Jack would eventually win the nomination, overcoming the Al Smith Catholic syndrome after having clinched states like Protestant Wisconsin in the primaries. Thinking about his ticket, he thought LBJ could bring in the South and balance his own Northeastern patrician profile even if his charm and war record would help nationally. Bobby was adamant for Jack not to chose LBJ due to his poor relations with organised labor and his own distaste for the Texan but in the Jack prevailed in one of the most difficult issue to manage among brothers. JFK-LBJ would face Richard Nixon-Henry Cabot Lodge, the latter, also a ticket balancing act, having lost his Senate seat to Jack eight years earlier. There were a few debates, including the one where Nixon “sweated” too much in a new age of television and while Ike started to make rousing speeches supporting Nixon, his VP, it was too late. However the result was very much closer than anticipated by the Kennedy camp with Jack getting 34,108,157 votes against Nixon’s 34,108,157 though with no electoral college surprises like in 2016, prompting Jack to think that the Catholic and Irish roots might have not totally disappear as factors for many voters. Bobby was seen as a major driver of victory when Jack offered him a copy “The Enemy Within” that he’d written with the ironical inscription “For Bobby – The Brother Within – who made the easy difficult”…while Jackie added “To Booby – who made the impossible possible and change our lives”. Bobby went to become Attorney General, which was not an easy call, given the nepotism issue (see today, knowing that 1961 was even worse for such a case), but Jack was adamant about having Bobby by his side and (unlike in the 2017 case) he had shown a clear knack for the top DoJ role in his good fights against the teamsters and assorted mafias, while preserving the rule and spirit of the law.

JFK dealt with two major topics during his presidencies (Cuba – bay of Pigs and nuclear standoff – and the Soviet Union – Sputnik, Berlin) and two nascent matters which LBJ would be involved with (Civil rights fight and the Vietnam War escalation). We all know those key moments that showed JFK flat-footed by his intelligence team (Bay of Pigs), showed extreme leadership (Cuban missiles crisis and its nuclear standoff), the New Frontier and “the man to be on the moon” (post-Sputnik) and Berlin (its wall and “Ich bin ein Berliner”). In all these major events, Bobby was close to his brother, assisting him in the decision-making, also true to his belief that cabinet members should contribute well beyond their sphere of competence, getting David Halberstam to write his famed 1972 “The Best and the Brightest” (also showing they can make mistakes, this with the ease of the rearview mirror, like for Vietnam) and the mythical spirit of Camelot as was described the JFK White House. In mid-1963, the Catholic Diem brothers, ruling South Vietnam since 1955 and a 90% Buddhist population, were slaughtered in a coup with the rise of a military leadership taking over with the North showing increasing plans to reunify the country by force . JFK would not have the time (literally) to deal with this development, which the DC establishment, remembering Korea, wanted to stop by any means, including military. In the meantime, Dr. King was in the news to champion the nascent civil right movements which would later see him dealing closely with Bobby, the latter who was increasingly involved in that fight as Attorney General (exemplified by the well known case of the enrolment of James Meredith into the University of Mississippi, Ol’ Miss, triggering a violent clash between U.S. Marshals and then White Supremacists but winning the day – or actually the night then). The Dallas assassination on 23 November 1963 was a terrible shock to Bobby already a “brooder who carried the agony of the world” by nature, who lost a brother but also a raison d’être so much his life had been focused on making things happen for Jack. He eventually would leave the White House, not feeling close to LBJ, its new occupant, in spite of their deep-seated, mutual hostility having been kept in check for public affairs reasons. One event of the first year of Jack’s Presidency that marked both brothers was the stroke of Joe Sr that incapacitated him fully. At this stage and while they rushed back to Hyannis Port, there is a feeling that Joe Sr., post 1960 election victory, had stopped being a major factor in the evolution of the lives of both Jack and Bobby, who had reached a stage where their omnipresent father and Deus ex-machina could no longer dictate, least influence the course of their own future. The stroke just confirmed a gradual vanishment in the sunset, with the brothers being now focused on running the Western world.

While he was not a natural politician, not wanting to play the game and time and time again putting principles ahead of politics and partisanship, he nevertheless decided to go for the junior New York Senate Democratic seat in 1964, knowing he would come in as a carpetbagger and admitting it in meetings. Funnily at the time, younger brother Ted was the senior senator of Massachusetts, having taken the seat from Jack, who had won it in 1952. Bobby was a Democrat in the Senate though not part of its liberal faction, especially on foreign policy matters, while he was increasingly very progressive on domestic affairs going even more deeply in the defense of downtrodden Americans he kept calling the forgotten, be they white or blacks at the time. He was very involved in the lunch of Bedford-Styvesant rehabilitation project in Brooklyn in early 1966. It was a real challenge for him to decide whether to run for President in 1968, not that he did not want to exert retribution regarding LBJ but as Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy was taking the lead on the anti-war front, a subject that was also evolving for Bobby, an erstwhile cheerleader for full engagement, and where he finally expressed its strong opposition as a war morally wrong, focusing on principles as well as inefficiency. He felt that he had no room to get in, which changed when LBJ decided to not go for another mandate, officially preferring to focus on the conduct of the war (unofficially as McCarthy was to trounce him 2-to-1 in the Wisconsin primary, also getting fixated on Bobby’s potential run, knowing that it would create a strong following based on the Kennedy mythical aura). While getting in late in the primaries, Bobby won a series of them, being at a rallye when Dr. King, MLK, was shot dead, strengthening his resolve and being faced with a dual message on the need to unify America while enforcing law and oder in face of the race riots that ensued the assassination. His primary journey, also marked by his only defeat in liberal Oregon, culminating in the fateful victory in California and that tragic June post-election result night at the Hotel Ambassador. CM does not go into Bobby’s assassination (many books, particularly on this sad 50th anniversary, have and we remember the pictures of he fallen hero in the hotel lobby with his eyes, fully open, but not seeing anymore) as he did not go into Jack’s in Dallas, preferring focusing on their accomplishments and lives rather than the grim details of their demise.

Bobby was very different from Jack. As Arthur Schlesinger, “Intellectual-in- Residence” at the JFK White House elegantly put it: “John Kennedy was a realist brilliantly disguised as a romantic; Robert Kennedy, a romantic stubbornly disguised as a realist.” Bobby was whole and a stern fighter while Jack, still majestuous, was more at ease with what would we know today as the “swamp” and its trade offs. Bobby gradually became RFK against all odds (and maybe due to his father he needed to prove something) as he dutifully followed his older brother’s career and to a great extent managed the key parts of his political life while he was campaigning but also being the uber confident to Jack, the one giving him the unvarnished truth, as Jack wanted. After Jack died, Bobby felt it would never be fun as it once was, regardless of whether he became President while deep down he needed his own Bobby he never found in spite of close friendships like with Ken O’Donnell and others. His is a story of moral rectitude, empathy for the forgotten, upholding defining values as well as class and personal duty above any personal ambition – probably why he marked so many and his example resonates all the more in 2018 and with the American leadership we know.

His story is that of a President that never was but could have been. We will never know whether he would have been a game-changer for his times. However it’s no wonder why 50 years after the Hotel Ambassador, people write about him and the “dreams” that never came through.

Coming back to 2018, the comparison between the message of RFK, even if it was idealised by us, and that of Steve Bannon and its “Movement” set out to disrupt the forthcoming EU parliamentary election is absolutely amazing. Whilst dealing with a likely collusion in their own election, the U.S. Administration is planning in its National Security Advisor to influence elections in Europe and promote anti- European Union parties that would fulfil DT’s dream of not dealing with Europe but in the end smaller countries. I am without words and an orphan. What cannon does not get is that America is not a country, it’s a state of mind and while stealing its dream he reduces it to a mere country which will be increasingly irrelevant.

I dedicate this note to Anne, the truly amazing lady I met at Thunderbird, epitomising my American dream, and thought I was part of Camelot so Boston-preppy I was on that intro day. I would like to say more but I will stop here.

Warmest regards,

Serge


Note: As an aside, it is astounding to realise that of the eight children of Joe Sr and Rose, five died before their times and in terrible circumstances: Joe Jr., Jack and Bob but also daughters Rosemary (years later following the lobotomy she was subjected to by Joe Sr. to improve her “condition”) and Kathleen or “Kicks” who had married a British Lord who died in the war and then died in 1948 in a plane crash of her own. There is a distinct Greek tragedy feeling attached to the Kennedys, something that Jack’s son, John-John, sadly confirmed when piloting his own plane which crashed en route to a Marha’s Vineyard family wedding in June 1999, killing him, his wife and sister in law on a flight he should not have taken but, in true family tradition, wanted to beat the odds. Interestingly, Rose, their mother and grandmother, lived to reach the great age of 104, passing away in 1995. One can only think of the traumas she must have endured as a mother.


Serge Desprat- 22nd July, 2018 (Prague)

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