Robert F. Kennedy: Ripples of Hope: Kerry Kennedy in Conversation with Heads of State, Business Leaders, Influencers, and Activists about Her Father’s Impact on Their Lives-Kerry Kennedy
Recently, I watched the Netflix series Bobby Kennedy for President, a look back at Robert K. Kennedy’s (1925-1968) memorial campaign for the oval office in 1968 that was tragically cut short by his assassination at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California on June 5, 1968. The footage is good and the sense of loss from his death is evident from start to finish. His daughter Kerry is the president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and a world-renowned activist for social change and instrumental in keeping her father’s legacy alive. And with this recently published masterpiece, his legacy is assured to remain intact for future generations.
The book is not a biography of her father. There are others that have been published for that purpose including the well-respected and widely read Robert Kennedy and His Times, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) The purpose of this book is far different and in fact, it does not include biographical information. The book is a collection of interviews with a wide range of individuals who either knew him or were inspired by him. Quotes from him can be found in between interviews and sometimes in the middle. Also included in the book are photos of Kennedy, some of which may have been rarely seen until the publication of this book. Contained within the pages of this book are some of the best interviews I have ever read. Each speaker reflects on Kennedy but they also explain their own personal story, how Kennedy relates to it and how they intend for society to move forward.
The list of speakers is too long to type here but the first is Harry Belafonte, now in his 90s but still sharp as a tack. His interview is deep, thoughtful and sets the tone for the rest of the book. And with each speaker, the words become even more powerful. Following his tone, we read the words of Bono, Tony Bennett, Alfre Woodward and even former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. One interview that stood out to me among several, is that of MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough who until recently, was a registered Republican. His interview highlights Kennedy’s ability to transcend party lines and reach people from all walks of life. Scarborough is candid and he remains an important voice on the state of politics in America.
Author Thurston Clarke provides the foreword and an important question comes us that forms the premise of the book, “what did he have that he could do this to people?”. The question arose as his funeral train made its way to Arlington, Virginia. An estimated two million people lined the train route from New York to Washington, D.C. They came from different political parties and ethnic backgrounds but were united in grief. The question itself is one that America has been trying to answer since his death. In the pages of this book, it becomes clear that he had more than any of us could have imagined. Unfortunately for myself, I never had the opportunity to see him speak in person and have had to settle for his writings and those of others who knew him or decided to write about him. But his quotes and actions throughout his life have served as part the foundation upon which I live my life. Because of him, I have always understood the amount of courage it takes to speak your mind freely for the right cause even if it brings the wrong reaction. He was the first and the only politician I have ever seen walk into the most desolate and impoverished areas in this country. Instead of lip service to constituents, he possessed the drive and empathy to venture where no politician dared. And this point of view is firmly supported by the interviews in this incredible collection of words of wisdom sparked by a man whose main sense of purpose was those around him.
Kennedy’s transformation from Attorney General to Senator and then candidate for President of the United States had not been seen before and has not been seen in America since. In fact, the transformation was so surreal and the heartache so great, that David Halberstam made it the subject of a book, The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert F. Kennedy. In death, Kennedy has become one of the greatest what if questions we have. What if he had lived and been elected President? I think if he had, I and millions of other people would live in a very different America. Did he have the ability to end all of America’s problems? Not at all, no one does. But he would have set the country on the path it needed to be on. Some of the interviewers stated that they feel that the United States never got over his death. After reading about his life and studying his words, I believe they are correct. His death and that of John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) continue to haunt this nation as reminders of the dangers of extremism and the uncomfortable truth that those who dare to speak out and commit to profound change, remain targets for those committed to violence and social upheaval.
This past June, marked fifty years since he died and the passion with which people speak of him, speaks volumes about his life. We shall never see another Bobby Kennedy but what is consoling is that he lives on in the spirit of millions who have taken his messages to heart. Love him or hate him, his impact on America then and now is uncanny.
“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live” – Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy
He was arguably the most feared and secretive intelligence officer to have worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. And although he left the agency in 1974, his name still conjures up images of the cold warrior with nerves of steel, engulfed in the world of counterintelligence and determined to protect the United States at all costs. Formally he was known as James Jesus Angleton (1917-1987), but to author Jefferson Morley, he is referred to as the ghost. The title fits appropriately for the secret life of the late CIA spymaster was one which Hollywood could never replicate on screen. By all accounts, his personality was outwardly unassuming, but behind the horn rimmed glasses, was an operative that ate, slept and breathed counterintelligence.
This project began in 1994 and the amount of research Morley has invested is impressive. Angleton did not leave behind diaries or personal writings, he was far too cloak and dagger for that He did however, testify before Congress as the CIA’s domestic mail spying program came under fire after being revealed by the press. The spymaster escaped without prosecution but his career at the agency was effectively finished. He would remain hidden in the shadows but still involved in the field until his death on May 11, 1987. The mystery surrounding Angleton helps to keep him in the public light, but what is it about him that is so fascinating?
Morley has composed a solid biography of Angleton, but there is still much about his life that has probably been lost to history. Angleton himself said that he would take things to his grave and I have no doubt that many secrets were buried with him. And next to Allen Dulles, Dick Helms, Bill Harvey, Cord Meyer and the many legendary officers once part of the OSS, Angleton stood as a gatekeeper to the trove of the Agency’s dark secrets. And throughout his life he was involved with a cast of characters who made their names famous as operatives of the agency that John F. Kennedy once threatened to scatter into a thousand pieces. As he moves up the ladder and increases his power, his secretiveness and paranoia grows at an exponential rate. His hunt for Soviet moles would prove to be one of the final nails in the coffin of his career and nearly crippled the CIA. But was he too paranoid or did he know more than he let on?
There is so much about Angleton’s life that remains a mystery. He was a family man, but his wife and children barely factor into the story. Instead, the book is filled with CIA intrigue, informants, double agents and political gambles in Washington. And sadly, it seemed that when no enemies existed, they were manufactured to suit personal agendas. And for Angleton, this might have been an underlying cause of his later obsession of moles within the government. But such was Angleton’s mind, the maze with false exits, traps and more riddles than answers. The man whom Morley calls “the ghost”, led a life which did not give away secrets and prevented even the most prying eyes from gaining too much insight. It may have been by design or just an extension of the counterintelligence legend’s way of operating.
To say that Angleton’s life was incredible would be a severe understatement. In fact, throughout every major event that takes place, the CIA seems to be close by and his actions regarding some are bizarre and even disturbing. Although detested by many, scared of by others and mind boggling to subordinates, he endeared himself to more than one president and those relationships gave rise to many questions surrounding his actions following JFK’s murder, RFK’s murder and the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer.
By the time he died, his CIA life was far behind him but the saying goes that you never really leave the agency. For James J. Angleton, the agency was his life and in a taped interview with Thames TV in 1975, he stated pointedly that he regretted nothing. I have no reason to doubt him and after reading this book I believe that you will also feel the same way. But as I read the book, I could see that in more than one way his life was quite tragic. As Morley explains, secret intelligence work was his life, but what suffered in the process was his personal life and in some cases his health. In a tragic fate, the love he would give to the CIA would not come to him from his family. Even to them he remained the elusive ghost.
Readers who are familiar with the stories from the cold-war CIA era will know many of the facts revealed in the book. We have heard the names before and their actions are now well-known. But I do think that the section on Lee Harvey Oswald is telling and adds yet another question to the mystery of Kennedy’s murder. When asked about the assassination, Angleton reportedly said ” a mansion has many rooms, I was not privy to who struck John”. Exactly what he meant we will probably never know. But what is clear is that Angleton possessed knowledge of many things that most Americans would prefer not to know.
I cannot imagine that writing a book on a secret CIA operative is an easy task. But Morley’s account of Angleton’s life is a solid work and will be appreciated by historians. Love him or hate him, there is no denying Angleton’s legacy, fame and infamy in the annals of the history of the Central Intelligence Agency.
“Deception is a state of mind–and the mind of the state.”– James J. Angleton
On August 5, 1962, newspapers around the world relayed the news of the death of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) the night before at her home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, California at the age of thirty-six. The cause of death was listed as suicide from an overdose of the drugs Pentobarbital and chloral hydrate. However, decades after her death, several question still remain regarding that tragic night of August 4, 1962. What really happened that night and why was she paid a visit by then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) and his brother-in-law Peter Lawford (1923-1984)?
The image we have been given of Monroe is a drug-addicted sex symbol, starved for validation from the opposite sex and unable to cope with the rigors of Hollywood. Her previous suicide attempts gave credence to this perpetuated image and for many, it was the ending that they expected for quite some time. Her life reads like a tragic novel of a heroine unable to fully come to terms with herself and seeking love and affection in all of the wrong places. However in just thirty-six years, she lived a live that some can only dream of. At at one point in her life, she was the most desired woman in the world. Donald H. Wolfe takes us back in time to the those final days in August, 1962 to piece together what really did happen and why.
The book opens by revisiting the night of August 4 and the pandemonium that ensued following Monroe’s death. Immediately we learn of several disturbing facts that set the tone of the book. Wolfe does an incredible job of keeping the suspense going and the reader engaged. And rightfully so, he not only explores her death but also provides a concise biography that sets the stage for events that took place later in her life. Behind the facade of a starlet singing happy birthday to the President, lay a woman raised in a childhood which could best be described as tragic. However, in order to understand Monroe’s life and her death, it is necessary to explore her beginnings which Wolfe presents to us without breaking the momentum of the book. And I can assure you that once you start you will be hard pressed to put it down.
Although the book is about Monroe’s final days, there are many sub-stories that are told which gives us an inside view of the inner-workings of Hollywood and politics in the middle of the twentieth century. As she moves through one circle to the next, some of the biggest names in show business, sports and politics make an appearance in her life such as John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), Clark Gable (1901-1960), J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) and Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999). However, among all of the people who cross paths with her, her life takes a much darker and tragic turn through her association with the Kennedys and their associates and it is this relationship that forms the crux the remaining third of the book. After you have finished the book, you may come to see the administration in a different light. Today it is public knowledge that an affair did take place between Jack Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. And if all accounts are correct, Monroe and Robert Kennedy also had their intimate moments. The sexual content is fodder for gossips and tabloid magazines. But what was critical was the true nature of their relationship and the many secrets Monroe possessed about the most powerful man in the country. In fact, it is quite possible that she did have the power to bring down a presidency. Was this the reason for the urgent visits by J. Edgar Hoover to the White House in May, 1962 and that last visit by Robert Kennedy on the day she died? Or was this the reason for the heated arguments that took place between Monroe and Robert Kennedy in the weeks leading up to her death? And how much did she know about their association with Frank Sinatra and mobster Sam Giancana? Certainly, many of their discussions which were likely picked up by the FBI may never be known. Other recordings by the President are locked away in the Kennedy library. A little over one year after Monroe’s death, John Kennedy himself was cut down in a hail of bullets in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Several years later, Bobby would be gone as well, also the victim of an assassination at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California on June 5, 1968. In death they joined a long list of political figures and stars that died during the turbulent decade of the 1960s.
Marilyn Monroe remains a sex icon decades after her death. Young women still hang posters of her on their walls and purchase t-shirts with her image. In death, she became a legend whose left this world far too soon. Her life was in some ways a soap opera with affairs, fairy tale romances, political scandals, drugs, mental health issues and tragically, broken homes. Sadly, many people in her life failed her not just on one but on several occasions. But if there is one inspiring aspect of the story, it is her resiliency to move forward in life and command respect even in the most difficult of times. And had her life taken a slightly different course, then perhaps she might still be alive today well into her senior years and full of knowledge about Hollywood’s golden era. This is the story of the life and final days of Marilyn Monroe, a true Hollywood icon.
Robert Kennedy In His Own Words: The Unpublished Recollections of the Kennedy Years-Robert F. Kennedy, edited by Edwin O. Guthman and Jeffrey Schulman
The election of Barack Obama to the office of President of the United States marked a turning point in American history. His successful campaign and subsequent eight years in office vindicated the late Robert F. Kennedy who in 1961 said he believed that in forty years a negro could be president. At the time the thought seemed absurd as American struggle with social division fueled by ethnic discrimination. But if we look back on his words, we can see that his foresight was not only accurate but uncanny. From time to time I think back on the many quotes from him regarding his views on society. His assassination during the 1968 presidential race left a void in the United States that has never been filled. He remains one of the most popular, unpopular and tragic figures in the history of this nation.
Following the death of John F. Kennedy, life took on a different meaning for the former Attorney General. He became the patriarch of the Kennedy family and struggled with his own future and emotions resulting from the untimely death of his older brother. As a member of the president’s cabinet and younger sibling, he was present during ever major crisis faced by the new administration. The wisdom and insight that he gained from his time in service of the country makes him one of history’s wisest witnesses. The Kennedys have always been controversial. Most people either love them or hate them. No matter which side of the fence you find yourself on, one thing that is true is that the election of John F. Kennedy was one of the brightest moments in world history. From 1964-1967, Kennedy gave closed-door interviews to Anthony Lewis (1927-2013)who worked as a columnist for the New York Times, John Bartlow Martin (1915-1987) who served as an Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) who served as JFK’s special assistant and John Francis Stewart who was chief of the Oral History Project at the John F. Kennedy Library from 1966-1969. The interviews sat dormant for over 20 years before this book was published in 1988. They were then edited and composed into this insightful account of the workings behind the scene in the Kennedy administration.
Kennedy was always very frank in his statements and never one to sugar coat anything. This book is no different. In fact, he is even more frank and I believe part of the reason is because not much time had passed between the assassination in Dallas and when he began to sit down for these interviews. The wounds were still open and many raw emotions were in play. However to his credit, he answers each question directly and quite extensive. Only on a handful of times does he express disinterest in speaking about a certain topic. Considering what had just happened to his brother, it was remarkable that he was able to sit down and open up about a lot of topics. But the one topic he does not discuss at all is the assassination itself. He does talk about a few events following the murder and in particular his encounters with the new president Lyndon Johnson. It is no secret that the two did not get along and Kennedy does not hide his contempt for Johnson. He gives clear reasons for his dislike for Johnson and leaves it up to the reader to decide whether they’re justified or not.
In addition to Johnson, Kennedy is asked his opinion about many other political figures at the time and he gives his honest opinion on all of them. What I came to find in Kennedy was a man rigidly principled in a world where things were either right or wrong but not so much in between. In his eyes either you were effective at your job or you were of no use. As cold as it sounds to the reader, for a new administration that survived one of the closest elections in history, a senate filled with rabid Democratic southerners opposed to the “Catholics”and civil rights, a tight ship was needed in order for the new president to enact domestic legislation and compose effective foreign policy. When his brother appointed him as Attorney General, even he thought it was a mistake. But as we can see in hindsight, it was one of the best decisions made by John F. Kennedy. The level of trust and dedication exemplified by Robert Kennedy to his brother, the administration and the country are inspiring. Of course, we could point out many errors made along the way. The same could be done with every administration. However, their vision to steer America on a new path was bold and unprecedented a time when America was still struggling with a dark and violent past. The challenges they faced through opposition and inefficiency are cleared explained by Kennedy giving us a sense of the staggering amount of difficulty JFK faced in dealing with the Senate and House of Representatives. Incredibly, in spite of the opposition, they succeeded on many fronts and would have continued on the same path.
President Kennedy served in office less than three years. But in those three years, he faced some of the biggest threats to the safety of the United States. Berlin, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam put the world on edge as democracy in the west came face to face with communism in the east, backed by the ideology of the Soviet Union, the nation’s fiercest opponent. As they weathered each storm, they stood side to side making critical decisions to carefully avoid the outbreak of a nuclear confrontation. And it may scare some readers to learn just how close we came to war with the Soviet Union. The place where it would have happened might surprise you as well. There are other small tidbits of information revealed by Kennedy that cast light of the severity of maintaining world peace.
The questions he was asked were strictly about the administration. There are nearly no discussions about the personal lives of anyone except for a question regarding the rumor that JFK had been married prior to meeting Jackie. The reason is that the interviews were done for the JFK Library and needed to be as exact as possible. Furthermore, there are plenty of books that tackle the personal lives of the Kennedys. The most popular being Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot. This book is Kennedy’s show and he shines in his assessment of what it was like helping his brother run the country and the many challenges and successes they had.
The murder of John F. Kennedy remains one of America’s darkest moments. His assassination in Dealey Plaza and the murder of his alleged assassin two days later shocked the world and marked a turning point in American history. The Warren Commission’s report is still the government’s official position on the murder. It concluded that there was no conspiracy to murder John F. Kennedy and that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. In 1966, Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment was released and became the first major book to challenge the Commission’s conclusions. Lane became a pioneer in the process with his book being followed by more than 200 hundred others regarding the events of that day. Each has its strengths and weaknesses but all provide a window into what some have called the crime of the century. There are literally dozens of theories as to how and why Kennedy was killed. It is up to the reader to cross-reference the facts and reach a conclusion. However, in the majority of the books regarding the murder, all tend to focus on the complicity of the U.S. Government and organized crime. The Italian-American mafia has long been suspected in the assassination. But like everything else regarding the murder, things are not always as they may seem.
Michael Collins Piper has composed this incredibly well researched account of what he calls the missing link in the JFK assassination. As can been seen on the cover, the book has faced strong opposition resulting in enormous challenges faced by the author to have it published. To some it may seem strange that a book on a crime that has been written about hundreds of time should face such stonewalling. But as the reader descends into the deep subject at hand, it becomes evidently clear why the book has had so much trouble going to press. Piper’s missing link is the role of Israel and the Mossad in the murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Because Israel is a close ally of the United States and has a strong lobby with American borders, any discussion regarding a possible Israeli link to the murder of a U.S. President is bound to raise suspicion and cause adverse reactions. Piper has been called a traitor and anti-Semite. But if the reader has an open mind and considers the many angles to the crime, the book is an invaluable asset for anyone seeking to learn the truth about the forces behind Kennedy’s assassination.
What makes the book stand out is the revelation that takes place early in the book. Piper is not the first to cover the material as he freely admits. But he is the first to connect many of the dots that have gone unnoticed by other researchers. What we learn early in the book is a once hidden fact that President Kennedy had been involved in a behind-the-scenes war with Israel over its ability to develop nuclear weapons. Kennedy had been pressuring Israel to dismantle its nuclear stockpile and made no attempt to hide his disdain. This serves as the crux of the book and Piper does an incredible job of putting all of the pieces together to give the reader a picture of who benefited from Kennedy’s removal.
For some readers it will be hard to accept that Israel could have played a role in the crime or even that the Mossad is as dangerous as alleged. But the key to understanding the authors contention is to read while having an open and highly attentive mind. It should be pointed out that the author is by no means anti-Semitic. He has simply researched a critical angle of a horrible crime that changed world history. Through Piper’s work, we can see the spider-web of connections from some of the darkest figures in history. He takes a closer look at the lives and actions of several well-known figures such as Jack Ruby, David Ben-Gurion, Mickey Cohen and Meyer Lansky, the legendary crime figure. But he also reveals critical information about lesser-known figures that held parts of the world in an iron-grip which in turns exposes the underlying connections between the CIA, Mossad and even the SAVAK, the Iranian intelligence faction. We are introduced to Tibor Rosenbaum, Max Fisher, Shaul Eisenberg and Louis Bloomfield. All of these men are critical to the author’s story and the facts surrounding their actions will prove to be hard to refute. But Piper does not stop there. In fact, the amount of notorious figures and interconnections between them is nothing short of staggering. And forces us to reexamine everything we thought we knew about Kennedy’s death. The book is not for the faint at heart but if the reader thinks clearly and rationally while reading this incredible book, it will become clear why this is indeed the final judgment.
Each time I drive across the Robert F. Kennedy memorial bridge as I pass from Queens to the Bronx and sometimes Manhattan, I think about his importance to the State of New York and the United States. The former attorney general, senator and presidential candidate was one of the most polarizing figures of his time. His murder on June 5, 1968, shocked the world leaving millions of people speechless about what they had just learned. A young Jordanian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan was later tried and convicted for the murder and the case is considered solved in Los Angeles County. Similar to the murder of John F. Kennedy 5 years earlier in Dallas, Texas, upon closer examination, many disturbing facts emerge that cast a chilling doubt over the official story.
Fernando Faura worked for the Hollywood Citizens News at the time of the murder, and subsequently began his own investigation into one aspect of the crime that has never been solved; the identity and role of the woman in the polka dot dress seen exiting the Ambassador Hotel while declaring “we shot him”. To this day she remains a mystery. What we do know is that several witnesses all confirmed that not only was she there but that she did in fact make the declaration of Kennedy having been shot. Unsatisfied with the LAPD’s official story, Faura began his own research into the crime and his incredible journey to find the truth is documented in this excellent account that he calls the polka dot file.
Some researchers into the murder of John F. Kennedy have said that the murder of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippitt is the Rosetta Stone of the crime. Like Dallas, the woman in the polka-dot dress is the Rosetta Stone of this crime and as we see through Faura’s notes, finding her was similar to looking for a needle in a haystack. The crime occurred in the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department, but as Faura points out, more than 400 FBI agents worked the case. The FBI’s investigation contradicted some of the LAPD’s findings and remain disputed. Witnesses to the crime were badgered and coerced into changing their stories by the LAPD and photographs of the crime taken as it happened by a 15-year-old fan of Kennedy, disappeared while in police custody. The originals have never been found. The LAPD made a mockery of the investigation, ignoring many clues and witnesses and in the process, allowed Sirhan to be convicted while the other conspirators escaped.
But just why is the woman in the polka dot dress so important? It is alleged that three prior to the murder, she was seen in Sirhan’s company and even on the night of the murder. Further, it is also alleged that she was seen in the company of Anne Chennault, the wife of the late Claire Chennault, founder of the Flying Tigers. Chennault has long been suspected of helping Richard Nixon with getting the South Vietnamese government to refuse to attend the Paris Peace Talks to the chagrin of President Johnson. At this point in his life, Kennedy was fiercely against the war and the possibility that his assassin was in the company of a woman linked to Chennault, friend of Nixon and acquaintance of many in the South Vietnamese government, would have added a mind-blowing and treasonous element to the investigation. The results would have been far-reaching, possibly all the way to the White House.
Faura’s pursuit of the woman resulted in several important interviews that shed light on the events of that night. It should be noted that the witnesses stuck to their stories and one of them, John Fahey, even took a polygraph examination, passing on all but two questions asked of him. Sandra Serrano, castigated by the LAPD, is vindicated here and her testimony is corroborated by others. Sadly, Serrano and many other witnesses were either discounted or ignored by investigators. The chance to learn exactly who the woman in the polka dot dress was, had been lost to history. We can only speculate as to who she might have been or what her motives were or if she’s still alive. She was seen in the company of at least one male companion. His identity is also unknown. Faura was on the right path in his investigation. The refusal of the LAPD to be more cooperative and their efforts to sabotage his investigation are regrettable and disheartening for the truth about Kennedy’s murder might never be known in full. If things had gone different, perhaps history would be telling a different story surrounding the murder of Robert Francis Kennedy.
The disappearance of James Riddle Hoffa remains one of America’s great unsolved mysteries. Stories from those pertaining to have knowledge of his final moments are endless and the number of false leads has been staggering. Hoffa, as President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union from 1958 to 1971, ruled with an iron fist before being convicted in 1964 of attempted bribery. He was pardoned by President Richard Nixon in 1971 but would never again regain control of the union he once dominated. His disappearance on July 30, 1975 left many unanswered questions about his true motives and movements behind the public light.
On January 30, 1957 the United States Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management was created to investigate corruption in American labor unions. Designated with the role of Chief Counsel was a young attorney who later went on to become attorney general and 1968 democratic presidential hopeful, Robert F. Kennedy. In this memoir of his time on the committee, Kennedy recounts the exhaustive investigative efforts of those who served on the committee in an effort to shed light on the nefarious dealings of union and labor officials and effect reform throughout the United States. At the center of the committee’s target lay James R. Hoffa and his International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Starting with Dave Beck, Kennedy carefully reconstructs the deeply seated mismanagement of union funds resulting in the most opulent lifestyles for top officials. Facing a culture in place for many years, Kennedy and his staff are met with opposition and resistance to efforts to probe into the dark side of American labor unions. It’s no secret that Kennedy and Hoffa had a strong distaste for each other and on more than one occasion, Hoffa threatened the future attorney general with physical violence. Kennedy would respond with his “get Hoffa squad” in an attempt to bring down the man who Kennedy believed was a menace to the American way of life.
Kennedy’s memoir serves as a step back into time when labor unions and the American criminal underworld were held together with strong ties resulting in a dark cloud hanging over workers throughout the nation. And while John Kennedy does make an appearance, this is Bobby’s show and he does not disappoint. Some of the most notorious figures in underworld history also make an appearance such as Johnny Dio, Joey Glimco, Larry and Joe Gallo. Their testimony and the anecdotes about their appearances before the committee are both humorous and mystifying. We see through Kennedy’s recollections and samples of committee testimony that a very dark side to American labor unions remained unknown to the American public for many years. But this phenomenal account one of America’s most defining eras, has stood the test of time as a go to source for information of the mission to stop the legendary and infamous James Riddle Hoffa. And as Kennedy reminds us at the end, in order for society to move forward and for justice to prevail, we must always be willing to confront the enemy within.
The administration of John F. Kennedy continues to draw fascination and examination more than 50 years after his assassination. The young president and his brother had envisioned a new America full of social change, changes in foreign policy and economic reformation. The murders of John and Robert Kennedy permanently changed the course of American history. Following their deaths, the Vietnam War, Watergate, Iraq and many other regrettable events would damage America’s reputation abroad. David Talbot, author of ‘The Devil’s Chessboard’, brings to us this New York Times Bestseller about the relationship between Jack and Robert Kennedy, the obstacles the new administration faced and the aftermath of that fateful trip to Dallas.
Camelot is the word most often used to describe the Kennedy administration, and its usage only grew after Kennedy’s death. His administration is still subject to fierce criticism and debate often dividing people between either for or against its actions from 1961-1963. But from all accounts, it was an eccentric mix of young intellectuals, fanatical military advisers, intelligence agents and law enforcement agencies, some of whom proved to be deadly enemies. Talbot’s masterpiece reveals an administration at war with itself in which the new young president was forced to fight battles on several fronts, each one testing his patience, wisdom and foresight.
The election of John F. Kennedy sparked hope in the minds of thousands of Americans. Social upheaval and the resolution of conflict without weapons at war were attractive to many voters. Racial conflict marred with segregation, horrific violence, communist paranoia, religious division and memories of World War II helped fuel a decade that is one of the most violent in the history of this country. Talbot takes us on a journey investigating what really happened during those times and how dangerously close Kennedy came to losing control of his own government and being provoked into launching nuclear weapons at the Soviet Union. He also faced the threat of losing control of the Senate, at the time filled with conservative Republicans determined to protect supremacist views and the power hold of the conservative right. In this torrid environment, two brothers bonded together walking a tight line in the process.
I’ve heard more than one person that things were never the same after Dallas. The official story to this day is the conclusion reached by the Warren Commission. However, over the past 50 years, pubic faith in the report has decreased exponentially. An increase in assassination books and documentaries has caused many to take another look at what is often called the crime of the century. Following JFK’s murder, Talbot continues along the trail following the life of the night watchman himself, Bobby. His descent into depression, resurgence to public service and entry in the presidential race is one of the most fascinating political stories in the history of this nation. But his assassination in 1968, served as a sense of complete loss to those still mourning JFK and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s deaths while clinging to a shred of faith in state of the country. There are many dark moments in the book and through Talbot we painfully relive each one. But what results in the end, is an invaluable account of an era that helped defined the modern day United States of America.
When we think of the Kennedys, we recall images of Jack, Bobby and Teddy as they stood giving speeches and leading campaigns. Next to them were their sisters who have also made their mark. The union between Joseph Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald, resulted in nine children, some of whom never lived past 50 years of age, resulting in talk of the Kennedy “curse”. Joe and Rose would lose three sons and a daughter to violent deaths. Joe Jr., would be the first to perish in World War II, followed by Kathleen, Jack and finally Bobby. But there was one sister that often gets neglected and is very rarely spoken of. She is said to have been the most beautiful of all of the sisters and have the most vibrant personality. This is the story of Rosemary, the oldest daughter of Joseph, Sr. and Rose Kennedy. Diagnosed as being mentally disabled at a young age, she spent the early part of her life moving from school to school as her parents desperately searched for a place to provide proper care. And following a botched lobotomy in the 1940s, she remained institutionalized for the rest of her life until the age of 86, when she died on January 7, 2005.
Kate Clifford Larson’s biography of the hidden daughter is nothing short of outstanding. Thoroughly researched and written in an engaging style, the books starts off strong and keeps up the pace all the way through. In a time where mental health was still not completely understood and shunned, we see the family struggle to deal with Rosemary who struggles herself to keep up with her siblings. The author painstakingly recreates the family atmosphere at the time and through her we can see the effects of Rosemary’s condition on her family and the shame and guilt that plagued both parents permanently. Rosemary’s story shows a different side to the family history and the dark history of the treatment of mental illness in the United States. And although she most likely was unaware, Rosemary’s condition would be the catalyst for Jack and Eunice to step up the effort to help those afflicted by mental illness. The Kennedy Foundation, in partnership with other organizations, created the Special Olympics, which continues to this day. For a good read about a hidden daughter, family success, tragedy and their mark on America, this is a good read.
The assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) on June 5, 1968 shattered dreams of second Kennedy administration and a new direction for America. His death brought back memories of Dallas in November, 1963 and the violent manner in which he died was similar to the deaths of his brother John, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. During his campaign, his safety was always of the utmost concern. Kennedy never gave into the fear that gripped those around him and believed himself to be the candidate of the people. From his days as a young attorney general to the candidate that had his eyes on the oval office, Kennedy had embarked on an odyssey which he never completed. That journey and transformation is reviewed here in this first hand account of the late Senator’s presidential campaign presented to us by the late David Halberstam (1934-2007). Halberstam was a noted journalist and historian and followed Kennedy on the campaign trial.
For many years following JFK’s death, Robert of RFK for short, had lived in his brother’s shadow. Finding himself at a loss for words and thoughts after Dallas, it would take several years for the feisty ninth child of Joe and Rose Kennedy to regain his composure and throw his weight into the 1968 election for the presidency. During this time, Kennedy began to evolve both as a candidate and as a human being. His speeches are covered in the book as well as the non-stop efforts of RFK and his staff as they move from city to city in their efforts to recruit potential voters. Through Halberstam’s words, we are able to see the incredible transformation that occurs and the potential in the hands of Kennedy as he becomes the man of the people similar to his late older brother.
The true tragedies behind Kennedy’s death are the widow and ten children he left behind and the ended of a dream that could have possibly changed the course of history for the United States. Lyndon Johnson had removed himself from the election and Kennedy became the overwhelming democratic favorite after winning the California primary. The next stop was Chicago, the state that proved to be critical for Jack’s successful election in 1960. Fate however, changed of all of this and ended the journey Kennedy was on to reinvent himself as not only a candidate for president but one of the greatest figures in American history. In the aftermath of his death and even today, there are many what if questions that remain. We can only guess as to what he would think to have seen the election of Barack Obama and strides that minorities have taken in the United States. Poverty, discrimination, corruption and pollution would still enrage him and he would be at the front of all causes to remedy each one.
Kennedy once said that tragedy was a tool for the living to learn from, not by which to live. His prophetic words still have yet to be learned not only in America but across the world. The tragedy of his death and the deaths of others committed to social reform, equality and prosperity for all people, remind us that there are many afflictions that continue to plague society and those among us committed to wrongdoing and inducing heartache. But it takes those with hearts and minds as strong as Kennedy to stand up and demand reform. In his speeches, actions and writings, we can study the mind of one of America’s fallen angels, the night watchman who believed in getting things done by any means necessary. And by honoring his memory and following his lead we bring out the best in ourselves.