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Oral History

Edward W. Brooke Oral History, Senator, Massachusetts

Copyright 2016 the Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Knott

Well, thank you again, Senator Brooke. We really appreciate you inviting us to your beautiful home, which you’re moving out of in a few weeks. You’ve got plenty to do. So we know you’re busy and we appreciate you giving us this time. I think the best place to start would be to simply ask you to tell us a little bit about how you came into politics and how you first met Senator Kennedy. If you could give us a little bit on your background, I think that would be helpful, just for the record.

Brooke

Well, I was born in Washington, D.C., where there was no vote at all. Washington was governed by a commission appointed by the President of the United States. We had no mayor and no elected officials. I had never voted until I took up residency in Massachusetts. I ran on both tickets for state representative and won the Republican nomination but lost the Democratic to two incumbent Democrats. That’s how I became a Republican and got involved in politics. Politics was never within my scope. I always thought I was going to be a brain surgeon, but I got into politics, enjoyed meeting people, enjoyed the interfacing, enjoyed the give and take of politics, and began to understand how powerful it could be if used correctly and rightly. So that, briefly, was my entry into politics. 

Of course the Kennedy family was well known in those days. The first Kennedy I really met was the President, Jack Kennedy. He and I were privileged to receive two of the outstanding young men of Greater Boston awards by the Junior Chamber of Commerce at the time. I met him and we talked. He was in the Congress then. He said to me, You know, Ed, you ought to be a Democrat. And I said, Jack, you ought to be a Republican. [laughs]

In our conversation we talked about political offices, and he said the only two real political offices were the United States Senate and the President. Of course he had both. I fell a little bit short of that, and understandably so. I didn’t have Joseph Kennedy as my father, one of the reasons, and I didn’t have the Kennedy name, for another reason. Then I began to meet more of the Kennedys, most of the daughters, because Bobby [Kennedy] didn’t live much in Massachusetts. They’d go to Hyannis Port. I think Bobby was more in New York, and later ran for United States Senator from New York and was elected. 

Teddy was the young brother. I don’t recall meeting him on the political trail back then. He may have been campaigning for his brother, but he was appointed assistant district attorney under a very well known district attorney, and served for a time. When I was a member of the Boston Finance Commission and chaired that commission, Teddy was in the Office of the District Attorney, so our paths never really crossed. As I campaigned through the state for political office—because I ran, also unsuccessfully, for secretary of state—Teddy still was not on my radar, and I’m sure I wasn’t on his. When I ran for Attorney General, it was a little different, because Teddy was then being challenged by George Lodge, Henry Cabot Lodge’s son, and I was, of course, running for attorney general against Elliot Richardson at that time. That was probably the most difficult political fight, certainly within the Republican Party, that I had.

Knott

I can imagine.

Brooke

Well, Elliot had a lot of things going for him. He had been an Assistant Secretary here in Washington. He was U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts, editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review, and on and on and on, and besides, he had money. Elliot had great credentials, impeccable credentials, no question about it. It was a tough, uphill fight. I was an unknown and the media said, Well, Brooke is a Protestant in a Catholic state. He’s a Republican in a Democratic state. He’s a black in a white state, and he’s poor. I had to plead guilty to all indictments. [laughs] I said, Now having said all that, just vote for me. Apparently, some of them did, and I went on to win the big battle. 

After the convention, and I got endorsed by the convention—Elliot lacked only one vote on the first ballot. That shows you how important one vote is. I’ve heard about it, but never known anybody who had come so close. Everybody thought he had won, and I’m sure Elliot did. He challenged me in the primary, so I had a primary battle with him before I went on to run against the Democratic candidate. Then of course, when I ran for the United States Senate when Senator [Leverett] Saltonstall stepped down, former Governor [Endicott] Peabody emerged as the Democratic candidate, having run against John Collins and a bunch of others.

Among those candidates was John Kenneth Galbraith, the distinguished economics professor at Harvard, whom I knew—Ted had sort of sponsored him to run for the Democratic nomination for Senate. He withdrew after a while and I went on and ran against a district attorney of Middlesex County, John Droney, for my reelection. So that’s my political. As for Teddy, as I said, I did know him. He was a young, certainly attractive, really handsome young man. He was rich. He came from a powerful political family and he had already begun, in the Senate, to build some power in his own right. We did not really interface that much and I don’t have much of a recollection of Teddy from the district attorney until I actually came to the United States Senate at the end of 1966, and then being sworn in at the beginning of 1967.

Knott

Do you recall if he actively campaigned for Peabody when Peabody was running against you in ’66?

Brooke

Yes, he campaigned for Peabody.

Knott

Nothing out of the ordinary though, just the usual.

Brooke

I have no complaints about that. I was a Republican and they were Democrats. He had to campaign for Peabody. Senator Saltonstall and Jack Kennedy had a very good working relationship in the Senate. During their campaigns they went through the motions, but they never really opposed each other politically. They got along well and they persevered and survived many campaigns.

Jack Kennedy—actually when he left Massachusetts for the White House, Teddy really became the only Kennedy who had any political power in Massachusetts because he had Jack’s seat in the Senate. On the night of the 1962 election, President Kennedy is said to have called and asked, What’s going on, what’s happening? The response: Teddy looks good; he’s comfortably ahead in his race against George Lodge. But the big news is Ed Brooke. Looks like he’s going to be elected attorney general of Massachusetts. And the President is reported to have said, Well, that’s the most important news to come out of this election or the country, or words to that effect. Later, I was invited to the White House and had sessions with him. So I would say not a good friend, but I knew him and he knew me, dating back to the time when we had our initial conversations.

Ted and I became associates. He and Joan [Bennett Kennedy] invited my wife, Remigia [Brooke], and me for lunch at their home. I remember they had quiche Lorraine and a green salad, and they had a nice fresh fruit desert. They had chrysanthemums and yellow roses in the room. So it was very nice, just the four of us, and we talked generally about the next day, when he would walk down the aisle with me. I knew Joan better than I knew Ted because I’d see Joan on the campaign trail. Ted and I rarely were on platforms together, and when we were, he seemed uncomfortable. Why? I don’t know. 

Joan was a lovely girl and everybody liked her. My former wife, Remigia, liked her. I don’t know anybody up there who didn’t like Joan. She was a very sweet person, and she would be on the trail for him, and subsequently, Jackie [Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] was on the campaign for her husband, and of course I got to know her better, because sometimes it depended upon which event they thought was most important and more politically significant, and the wife would take over another assignment. I would say I had no relationship with Ted until I actually came to the Senate in 1967, starting with that luncheon in Georgetown, where he lived.

Knott

And you said he walked—there’s a tradition where he would walk you in the first day?

Brooke

The tradition is that the other Senator from your state will walk you down the aisle to be sworn in, and everybody stands up and applauds. That’s good coming in. The question is going out. 

It was done very ceremoniously in the tradition of the Senate. Of course Ted had told me what to expect. Interestingly enough, Christian Herter, who was the Governor of Massachusetts, Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and just about everything else, was one of my political heroes, Secretary of State for [Dwight D.] Eisenhower. He and I were very close. Secretary Herter had arranged a dinner party for me at his club—the Cosmos Club here in Washington—to meet senior members of the Senate. I can’t give you all the names, but they were chairmen of the various committees, Democrats and Republicans. Strangely enough, Teddy was not one of them. I don’t know why he was not. You would have thought that he would have been. My recollection was that he was not there then. Maybe he had a commitment. I just don’t remember, my recollection is not that good. But that was a very interesting dinner meeting. 

I think Herter had wanted to make my transition or my entry into the Senate comfortable. Because this was then and you must remember—they had had no black in the Senate since the days of Reconstruction. Even in the days of Reconstruction, it was painful, because they were challenged and they were not elected by a popular vote. No Senator was at that time.

Knott

You were the first?

Brooke

The first by popular vote. My two predecessors were elected by carpetbagger legislatures and the first one only served a year, and that was a rough, rough year. They paid him, but I don’t think they let him do anything. The other one did serve a full term. I don’t know whether he stood for reelection. At any rate, he did serve the one term. Those were the days of Reconstruction, where they were putting in Governors and just about everybody else. Interestingly enough, no attorneys general. So when I ran for attorney general, I was running for an office never held by a black in this country.

Knott

So you were the first in that as well. Let me ask you a question sort of off the Kennedy path here. Was there a lot of pressure on you during the ’60s and ’70s, being one of the highest elected African American officials in the country, to become more than just a Senator from Massachusetts, but a spokesman, in a sense, for African Americans?

Brooke

Not only African Americans, it was all minorities. Indians, Hispanics, you name them.

Knott

How did you balance that? That would be a tough thing to balance. 

Brooke

It was a heavy load. When they came to Washington they wanted to see their Senator. But they had no representation. Now, we had some outstanding Senators there who fostered their interests and did what they could. In the African American community, I was looked upon with great expectations and yet it had to be understood that I was being elected in a state with about a two percent black population. 

I had to have balance. I could not just be the civil rights Senator. I had to exert my energy to the control of nuclear weapons. I had to concern myself with the horrible war in Vietnam, which was raging at the time that I was running and during my early years in the Senate. That was the number one issue, as you remember. I had to work on issues facing the economy, jobs, and healthcare. All of these issues were issues that my constituency was concerned about. So, though they had no objection to my civil rights record or what I would do on civil rights, because they expected that of me, on the other hand, they wanted me to be the Senator for all the people and I had to live up to that promise to my constituency. It was walking that fine line.

Knott

That’s a tough line to walk.

Brooke

And add to that, sharing power with a Kennedy. I know you’re going to get to that question. If I’m going ahead, professor—

Knott

No, no, no. You’re right on track. This is great.

Brooke

Sharing power with a Kennedy is not an easy thing. This is not intended to be, nor is it any criticism of him, because it’s not just Teddy I’m talking about, it’s the Kennedys. I’m sharing power with the Kennedys and with a newspaper that—everything they did was right—the Boston Globe. Brooke, how he got here, they don’t know and they really don’t care that much about it. I could do the most important thing and it would be nothing; they could sneeze and it would be headlines. Now that’s a gross exaggeration, but that’s about the way it was seen at the time.

Knott

Did that irritate you at all?

Brooke

Yes, I was concerned about it. I’d be less than human if I wasn’t. But I couldn’t afford to let that deter me or postpone what I had to do and what I wanted to do. I always enjoyed my independence. I was offered, by Governor Herter and by Governor [John A.] Volpe, judicial appointments. I said, I’m too young to sit and rock. I want to be where the action is. I want to be my own man. 

The only appointed office that I have ever accepted was the chairmanship of the Boston Finance Commission, and nobody else wanted that, and Volpe couldn’t understand why I did. Volpe thought he was getting off easily—but the Commission had subpoena power. I knew what was going on. The corruption was rampant in Boston, as it was throughout the Commonwealth. So I went in and took the job. It paid only $5,000 a year. I went in, did my thing, worked at it, and we had good results. I was working with some very ardent Democrats at the time. They didn’t want my intervention at all. The Commission had been moribund for years. It was called a watchdog, but it wasn’t watching very much. 

So anyway, to get back on track—yes, the expectations were great from around the country, and it put a lot of pressure, a lot of additional work on my staff. I don’t think anybody who is going to lead can do it without a strong staff. To me, staff was everything. No one ever worked with me that I didn’t sit down and interview. Sometimes they would narrow it down to maybe five or six and I’d interview them. I wanted to see not only that they had the PhD or the masters or any of those things, or how qualified they were, but if they had that commitment. I could look into their eyes and see that. I could also see that they believed and they wanted it, and that they were there for the right reasons. And so I was blessed to have an outstanding staff of young people who had extraordinary talents and dedication to the cause of good government. 

I didn’t have to say stay until 6:00 or 7:00. If they worked 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM, they did it on their own. My staff was my extended family. After I had my marital problems, they really became even closer to me. To this day we have that kind of a relationship. They were my salvation.

Knott

Was there a division of labor between you and Senator Kennedy? Did you ever sit down with him and he’d say, Look, Senator Brooke, why don’t you handle this, we’ll take this?

Brooke

Professor, perhaps you would think that that would be inevitable. In our case it wasn’t. There was an age gap. I was 48 at the time, he was 35, about 13 years between us. So that’s somewhat of a difference. Obviously we were from different parties, but that wasn’t of course the only difference. We voted together on a lot of issues. We co-sponsored a lot of legislation, but not because we sat down and discussed anything—I didn’t know whether he was going to co-sponsor and he didn’t know whether I was going to. We did not do that. This is very interesting. I served only 12 years, and of course, he’s served more than 40 years. In those 12 years I don’t think—and your researchers maybe can look this up—there was ever a bill that we sponsored together. The staffs were never that close.

Knott

I was going to ask, was there some tension between the staffs?

Brooke

Well, there’s a little bit of rivalry between staffs, sometimes much more than between the Senators themselves, and they get to be, This is my turf, and so forth. Of course Ted was on the Judiciary Committee, and a lot of these issues were under Judiciary. Initially, I was on the Banking and Currency Committee, which is now the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and on the Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee. The reason I was on Space, incidentally, was because they thought that coming from Massachusetts and MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] and Harvard, the Route 128 technology corridor, that I was an expert on it. 

I knew nothing about space at all, and I’m like the teacher who goes home and prepares and reads for the next day’s assignment. Senator [Clinton P.] Anderson, who was getting along in years at the time, said no, no, no. Of course, we had that casualty where we lost those lives—January 27, 1967 [Apollo I]—do you remember? He said, Senator, you do the interrogation. You know more about this than anybody. [laughter] And I said we’re in trouble if I knew more than anybody here. Anyway, I did the interrogation of [James] Webb, head of NASA, and all. So I fell into doing a lot of those kinds of things. 

When I became a member of the Appropriations Committee, I began to get a little power because a lot of these issues were tacked onto appropriations bills. Ted’s position on abortion issues was very difficult for him there. He’s a Roman Catholic, brought up a Roman Catholic, and though he’s considered perhaps the most liberal member of the Senate, it was a difficult position for all Catholics at that time, as it was for all of us.

I did not favor abortion. I favored the fact that a woman ought to have a right to choose, and at that time, I said, Here we are, 99 men and one woman in this august body, and we’re deciding what a woman ought to do with her own body. Something’s wrong with this equation. That’s the way I felt, and so I was always pro choice. Teddy had to be very careful—it was a delicate issue for him. I respected it and understood that, so that was never a problem. We did have some problem with the Nigerian War.

Knott

Yes, right.

Brooke

The Igbo, as you will remember. 

Knott

And Biafra.

Brooke

Kennedy and [Henry A.] Kissinger. Well, the Igbos were the highly educated. They were the wealthy people, they were the elitist. When civil war broke out between the Igbos and the Hausas, and the other tribe I can’t remember, I had to go to Africa, as your researcher found out, and went to many countries, Nigeria being one of them. I got to know, very closely, General [Yakubu] Gowon, who had come into power in a coup himself. We had a sizeable investment over there in oil, of course. We were very much interested in that. The question was on relief to the starving Biafrans and all that sort of thing. 

I wrote a letter to President [Richard M.] Nixon and then I asked for a meeting, which he always gave me. I went and said, Mr. President, we should not intervene here. This is the wrong approach for us. We should be for relief, but that relief should come through the United Nations and through the OAU, the Organization of African Unity. We don’t want to look like we usually do. Paternalism is a bad thing. This is a civil war. They’re going to have to resolve this themselves, and we stand ready to do what we can humanely. But don’t send guns and weapons and things over there to the Nigerians, and certainly don’t send it to the Biafrans.

For once Nixon took my advice over Kissinger’s advice. I think it was only once, as I remember. Teddy, of course, was tied in with the Biafrans and all the rest of it, and they wanted us to give immediate relief to the Biafrans. They used women and children as the argument, but that would have been seen as really supporting the Biafrans, and it would not have worked. I think history has proved us right on that because though they still have some instability, it wasn’t exploding. 

What I definitely feared was this would have its rippling effect through the whole continent of Africa. So I just didn’t want that to happen, and I really—I didn’t get down on my knees with Nixon, but I said, This is something I feel very passionate about. I’m sure it’s right. We should not be in that country at this time. He finally agreed and said, I’ll take it under consideration. I said, No, do more than take it under consideration. Just tell me this is what you’re going to do. 

Again, there was no confrontation between Teddy Kennedy and me on this subject at all. I don’t remember. He made speeches on the floor on behalf of Biafrans and whatnot, and I made speeches on the floor of what I thought our position should be, but that’s as far as it went. Did we talk about issues? No. I don’t remember that I ever visited his office. I don’t recall that he ever visited mine. I don’t think we broke bread together after that luncheon in 1967 at any time.

Knott

I have to say this surprises me to hear this.

Brooke

I know. My mind might be—the years that I was there were the early years of Ted Kennedy. There are two Ted Kennedys, in my opinion, and there’s probably two of all of us. He was young, and as I said, attractive. He had power and the glamour, and the whole nine yards. It was hard for him. At some times, here I was with practically nothing in comparison. I even had sympathy for him. I felt for him, and yet I never actually got to the stage—I won’t say he was unapproachable, but it was not easy to get to him. 

He had certain friends: [John V.] Tunney out of California, [John C.] Culver, you know, the young Turks, et cetera, and they were living the life of intrigue, and [Christopher] Dodd. Of course, when I was there, the father was there. But Ted had his own agenda and I thought he was immature and inarticulate. He lacked self-confidence, I thought. He was living under—I won’t call it the yoke, but he was living under the pressure of his own family, and great expectations of him as the youngest one of the clan. I knew it was a lot on his shoulders to bear, and I don’t think he was up to bearing it in the early years. I think since that time he has matured. He’s learned to reach across the aisle and understand it, and work with people like Orrin Hatch and others that he’s worked with on things, and to not be as partisan as he was before. 

Now when you come up under Tip [Thomas] O’Neill and in that era, that’s what it was, strong partisanship. The Senate itself is divided. We have separate dining rooms. There is not much room for interchange. You have your own little fiefdoms and your own power. 

There were some like Phil Hart, who was sort of a balancing, consensus-builder. Phil would work with [Jacob K.] Javits and with me and other Republicans to get legislation passed that we both thought was in the best interest of the country. I never had that kind of relationship with Teddy. 

Since I’ve been gone, I have observed him and watched him, and we’ve still kept up an amiable relationship. When my mother died at age 100 in 1992, he wrote me the nicest letter, and when his mother died at 104 some years later, I wrote him. So, we’ve kept that kind of a relationship. But see, now it’s almost a different Ted Kennedy.

Knott

Well, we’ve heard this from others as well, this change. 

Brooke

There’s been a change, and it’s been a change for good. As I say, and I’m going to let you read what I said. I said that when he found out or made his own determination that he wasn’t going to be President, then I think he decided that he was going to be the best United States Senator he could be, period, and he has, period. There’s no question in my mind that he’s the champion of all social causes. I often say thank God he’s there. When I was there with him, I couldn’t have said that. It was nice to have him, but you know, I still feel so strongly about the Senate. When they do right and when they do wrong, as in my opinion they did recently on the war in Iraq.

Knott

They did wrong?

Brooke

No. I’m talking about the war, when we erroneously invaded Iraq and the Democrats and Republican moderates failed to stand up and debate it. I guess they were scared of being called unpatriotic. But that failure has hurt America immensely. I fear Presidential power, Presidential control. It was never intended to be that way. That’s why you have the balance between the three branches of government. I’m going off. You ask your questions.

Knott

You had a relatively brief period where you overlapped with Senator Robert Kennedy, and then of course he ran for President.

Brooke

Very brief.

Knott

Any recollections of that time, of his run for President? Any recollections of Ted Kennedy’s reaction to all of that?

Brooke

No. You see, I wasn’t close enough to know that. Interestingly enough, my office and Ted Kennedy’s were next door to each other at one time. I also had an office next door to Bobby Kennedy in the—

Knott

Dirksen building. 

Brooke

The Dirksen building. It wasn’t Dirksen when it started; they’ve changed names. Anyway, he had an office right next to mine and he’d come to the Senate building with his bushy dog, his big dog, and his convertible. You always knew when he was coming. We said hello, but I never knew him—I knew Bobby less than I knew Ted. The only one I can say I knew relatively well was the grandson.

Knott

Before we put the recorder on, you talked a little bit about Chappaquiddick and how you heard about that news. Would you mind recounting that story again for us on tape?

Brooke

The date you have; the morning after the tragic accident occurred, I woke to the sound of reporters outside of my home in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. I went down and met with the reporters and heard about what had happened, that a young lady had drowned and that Senator Kennedy had been in a tragic accident, and that he had been injured, and that they had been traveling somewhere from a party that they had had on Chappaquiddick. 

Well, I said really I know nothing about this tragic event at all. Obviously, I didn’t go to the party, nor was I invited, and this is the first I’ve heard of it, so I cannot give you a comment because I just don’t know what the facts are and what’s going to follow. After that, I began to get voluminous mail, 50 percent of which criticized me for not leading Ted’s defense, and 50 percent—it actually was 50 percent, because we kept all the mail and sifted through it very closely and read it—attacked me for not calling for his impeachment. Of course, I could do neither of the two because I just didn’t know. I didn’t know any more than anybody else in the country really knew about it at all, other than what I read later, in the newspapers, and what I heard on the radio and saw on the television screens. 

It was a tragic event that has followed him. To have to live with that in addition to all the great, great tragedies of his family. He’s always amazed me where he has found the strength and the courage to carry on. A lesser man could not have operated as Ted did, with all that has gone on in his life, and to some extent, it’s still going on. That’s the tragic thing. Now he’s not just the titular head, he’s the de facto head of the family, and I’m sure they come to him for just about everything you can imagine. I have some of it, but much, much less than he has to bear. Again, I have the deepest sympathy for him for that, but he’s a stronger man than he was then. Sometimes God gives us only that which we can bear, and he’s bearing that.

Knott

Do you recall, did you ever have a conversation with him about this?

Brooke

No. I don’t know that I’ve ever raised Chappaquiddick with him. We didn’t converse that frequently. We’d come and go. He’d come on the floor. You know how the Senate operates. The bell rings, you rush over, you cast your vote, you go back to doing what you were doing, either sitting on some committee or back to your office and work. It’s a hectic job. It’s a very demanding job. It occupies 24 hours, seven days a week. If you’re not in the Senate, it doesn’t mean you’re not working. It doesn’t mean you’re not thinking, because you always are. You’re constantly being sought after by lobbyists and others, people—get my son in college or get my daughter out of jail. It’s just one thing after another. Now with the wars and the period that he’s been there—

I was there for some hectic periods, the Vietnam War, the Poor People’s March, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, all those are things I witnessed. But look what has happened since that time and look what’s happening today, and he’s still there, and he’s still bearing it. So I say a lesser man couldn’t do it.

Knott

He was the Majority Whip for a time. I realize this is in the other party. He ends up losing that position to Robert Byrd. Did you pick up any of that, what was going on there? Was Chappaquiddick a factor in that?

Brooke

Interesting that you should ask that, professor. When I was there, if Teddy’s name was on a bill, it was almost the kiss of death. I don’t think that he was hated and I can’t say he was feared. He didn’t have that much power at the time other than the power that he derived from his brother and his family. It was difficult for him to be a legislator because he couldn’t get the cooperation, even with factions within his own party. First of all, he was a liberal, and the Democratic Party, particularly the Southern Democratic Party, was so opposed to anything Teddy did. So that’s where the kiss of death statement came up, that if you want something done, you don’t associate with Kennedy. 

Now I’m not saying we avoided him, we did not. But there were people who did. There were Senators who did on both sides of the aisle. He was not revered, to put it mildly, by his colleagues. There were some who saw in him the next President, but some folks had personal antagonistic reasons to oppose him. But through it all Ted was very affable and jovial. He loved partying. He was living the life that you could expect of a young man with all these wonderful attributes. He wasn’t a saint, and I can understand why he wasn’t a saint. He didn’t have the qualifications for sainthood, but none of the rest of us did either.

Knott

Not too many of us do.

Brooke

I don’t know any down there who did, including yours truly. He couldn’t get much done then.

Knott

But on the whole, you and he were eye to eye on the biggest issues of that time.

Brooke

Oh yes.

Knott

Vietnam, [G. Harrold] Carswell, [Clement F.] Haynsworth, all of that.

Brooke

Again, you see, Haynsworth, Carswell, as your researchers found out, I was not on Judiciary, and that’s strictly a Judiciary matter. Under the Senate Committee system, Senators are very jealous of their turf. If it’s a Judiciary decision, we can take care of it, not you. You may be on something else, but you’re not on Judiciary, and that’s right because the Judiciary holds the hearings and they get the information, and they’re prepared to handle it. But there come times when the Judiciary Committee—and there were times when I was there because I think [James O.] Eastland was the chairman of the committee when I was there, initially anyway. Yes, he was. 

You had to go end run; you couldn’t get to the committee. He controlled the committee and he controlled the agenda and he controlled what the outcome was going to be, he was that powerful. And that’s what that system has established. When these nominations came up, I had no recourse other than to take the floor. That was my right, regardless of what the Judiciary did or didn’t do. That I did, and I worked closely with Birch Bayh, whom I always admired and who was on Judiciary on these nominations. 

I always wanted to be fair. I always felt that so far as our power, our constitutional power of confirmation, our power of advise and consent. So far as Cabinet members were concerned, it was very difficult for me to oppose confirmation of a Cabinet member. I opposed some, but not many, because to me, that’s just an extension of the Presidency. He’s going to do what the President wants him to do, so when he talks, he’s saying what the White House has told him to say. That’s an extension of the Presidency, the executive branch. 

When you get to the judicial branch, that’s a different matter. You’re talking about, first of all, people who are going to be there for life—very important. You have got to go deep into the record, into the history, into their minds, their thinking, their actions, their previous actions, and their writings and all those things, before you make a reasonable and intelligent vote. I followed that. Pretty much that was how I felt about it. So if you looked at my record, you would find that I might have voted yes on the Cabinet member nominee that I really would never want to vote for anything, but it was the President’s man, that was OK. 

But not in the Judiciary. And though I wasn’t on the Judiciary Committee, I scrutinized very closely what they were doing so far as confirmation of judicial appointments, and I did that particularly in these two occasions, which came up after the [Abe] Fortas tragedy and all that was going on. Some of these came up, obviously, under my party’s President, Richard Nixon. I ran into this constantly with my party’s President. 

I did my homework. My staff did its customarily high-quality research. We discussed it; we talked on every little issue. We’d review a letter or a speech. We’d have a meeting on one of these speeches and say well now, he said this, what does he mean? That was the kind of detail we got into. You know, so I could go to the floor, and most of the time when I was—I thought all the time I was talking about it. I never had a note or anything. I felt so strongly. I just stood up and talked. Sometimes the gallery would be empty, and maybe one person up there and nobody sitting and listening. We didn’t have all the technology we have now.

Knott

No C-SPAN [Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network].

Brooke

No C-SPAN, but I made my point and got heard eventually. I was one of the original founders of the so-called Wednesday Club, a group of moderate Republicans. I would never call myself an extreme liberal. I reject both the extreme left and the extreme right. I’m basically a centrist in my thinking, and I think that’s where the country mostly is, and I think that’s where the country mostly should be. Not because I’m there. I listened to both sides and I voted accordingly.

Knott

Did President Nixon work hard on you to try to get you to come around on any of those?

Brooke

President Nixon was always bewildered, somewhat amazed, could not understand how in the world I could ever have gotten elected in Massachusetts, and [Lyndon] Johnson was even worse. I had a conversation, sitting there with Lyndon Baines Johnson after I had come back from Vietnam, and he thought I was a convert. We were talking. He asked me to come and it was supposed to be a 15-minute meeting. Ninety minutes later, President Johnson was still talking and I was listening, and he was saying, Senator, talking about the Eastern Establishment now, they will vote for you, but they won’t even accept their own President. He had that complex.

Knott

Inferiority complex. 

Brooke

It was so clear to me. Now he wouldn’t say, Because you were African American, but obviously, that’s what he was saying, that here, the Eastern Establishment, you know, the Cabots, the Lodges, the Saltonstalls, and others, the Chafees—they wouldn’t accept him, the President, but they’d accept me.

I had a meeting with Nixon. Nixon almost used the identical words of Johnson, because he was never accepted, or never felt he was accepted, and he had that inferiority complex. Now here are the most powerful men on earth. 

Knott

Strange, huh?

Brooke

That’s how they felt about it. When I went in on my—I guess Carswell and Haynsworth, he said to me, Oh, Ed, we’re going to win this one. It must have been the Carswell because Haynsworth came first, right?

Knott

Right.

Brooke

He said, This time, we’re going to win. I said, Mr. President, one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been here is how to count. You don’t have the votes. He’s going to be rejected, Mr. President.

Knott

I’ll bet he enjoyed hearing that. 

Brooke

Again, not on Judiciary, but the President himself called me on [William H.] Rehnquist and asked me if I had time that day to meet with this young man that he was going to send over, and his name was Rehnquist. I said, Of course, Mr. President. Give me a little time. I’d like to find out a little bit about him before he comes. And he said, You take it if you need the time. I said fine. Now see, that’s a Judiciary Committee matter. They assign somebody from the White House to escort the nominee from Senator to Senator. Normally, I would not be in on that flow, but I think he thought I was such a thorn by that time that he ought to get me out of the way before. I talked with Rehnquist but opposed his confirmation.

Knott

Was that a tougher call for you than Haynsworth and Carswell, or were they pretty much the same?

Brooke

I didn’t see a great bit of difference. I’ve listened to some rhetoric of—I don’t like to use southern because it’s not just north, south, east, or west with me. I was in the Army, stationed at the time in Fort Benning, Georgia, and I listened to Strom Thurmond running for Governor of South Carolina, and the things that he said. I always wondered, were they saying this out of political expediency to get elected, or did he really believe this? Did they believe it? That to me is a big difference. 

I can respect a person if they believe something, though I disagree with them 2,000 percent. If they believe it and they stand up for it, I can have more respect for that person than the person for political expediency who is going to be out there voting and talking racism. The Senate had prayer breakfasts that met once a week; I guess it was every week. Many, but not all, were southern Democrats. They’d meet and talk Christianity and the Ten Commandments and all those wonderful things. Yet they would go on the floor and by their words and their deeds, they did everything that is opposed to Christianity. I left the Senate prayer breakfasts out of disdain for the hypocrisy. I said, This is hypocrisy. That’s another thing I don’t like, hypocrisy. I said, I just cannot in good conscience come to these meetings anymore. 

Knott

You had your own race for re-election in ’72. President Nixon is running for re-election. You are a Republican in Massachusetts, a solidly liberal Democratic state. I’m assuming you endorsed President Nixon for re-election.

Brooke

Yes. I traveled through the country and got some good concessions with him on housing, on nuclear weapons. I was interested in MIRV [multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle] technology and he sided with me on my amendment on MIRV. We stopped—we did not let the genie out of the bottle; failure would have been a horror, horror story. 

We did research; there was a lot of it. I spent a lot of time on nuclear weaponry and the Soviet Union. Surprisingly, when I talked with him about it on the plane, he said he was going to go that route. I also got Nixon into the China situation. When I was running for the Senate, I talked about the existence of then 850 million people on earth that we knew absolutely nothing about. I said, This is dangerous. We should know them. We should start somewhere, send educators over there, send not just ambassadors but send musicians, send whatever you need to do to begin to break down this barrier that exists between China and the United States. 

I didn’t immediately call for recognition. It was called Red China while Mao Zedong was in power. I kept that up. I spoke almost weekly on the floor on China, and one day I got a call from the White House. The President wanted me to come and see him, and when he did, you go. So I went. 

Just he and Henry Kissinger were seated in the Oval Room, and after we went through the pleasantries, et cetera, he said, Ed, Henry and I want you to know that your words have not been overlooked. We’ve heard what you’ve been saying up there. We understand what you’ve been saying and we’re going to do something about it. It was shocking to me and I said, Yes, Mr. President, and what would that be? He said, Well, we’re going to send a ping-pong team to China. 

After recovering, I said, Did you say ping-pong team, Mr. President? He just laughed and he said, Yes, ping-pong, but don’t overlook the importance of this. This is a big, big, first step. I said, Well Mr. President, that’s not exactly what I had in mind, but if that’s what you think will start something— He said, Oh, I’m convinced, and Henry is too, and you’re going to be very pleased with this, and this is for your ears only. We’re going to do it. And I said, Well, when are you going to do it? And he told me. He said, But this is all top, top secret. He did it. He sent a ping-pong team to China. 

Nixon loved foreign policy. He was at his best. He was an internationalist, he loved it, he knew it, was a student of it. He didn’t care as much about domestic policy. Nixon was neither a liberal nor a conservative. He was a pragmatic politician, and that’s what it was and of course, as it turned out, a very foolish man. He had his election won hands down. There was no need to go into anybody’s headquarters and if he didn’t do that, the follow-up. Instead of general denial, he should have just come out and said, Look, this was what happened. I didn’t plan it or sanction it. I didn’t know. It was wrong. I take full responsibility. I’m the President. What my staff does, good or bad, I take the responsibility. I could have written that speech for him. Foolish. 

Put that aside; when it came to China and the Soviet Union and nuclear weaponry and whatnot, Nixon was brilliant. I thought—to get back to your question—this is important to me, it’s important to the country, it’s important to the world. Nixon was in the right place at the right time. Hubert Humphrey could never have done it, and I loved Hubert. We were very close in the Senate. He was my fraternity brother. He was made a member of my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. But being a liberal Democrat, he could not have taken an initiative to China. Nixon, on the other hand, had the credentials with the conservatives, so he could do it. That’s the reason, the difference, and that’s what happened.

Knott

Your endorsement of him in ’72 was not a problem for you politically in Massachusetts?

Brooke

Well, some.

Knott

I think you won that race rather handily.

Brooke

That’s the race that I think Ted was trying to get Galbraith in, and I ran against the Middlesex District Attorney, John Droney. You’re right. I didn’t have to spend any money. I knew John. I liked John, and I think it was a mutual fondness. I didn’t talk about my opponents at any time in any race. I just said what I wanted to do. I had no problem with that election, as you said. I think I won it by a pretty big plurality, 600 and some thousand votes, something like that. More important than the political problems I could have had, I would have personal problems if I could not make myself believe that I’m endorsing a campaign for somebody in whom I don’t believe, you know, and who is not going to do the right thing. 

Now my problem with him was mostly the southern strategy and again, pragmatic for him. He wanted to win and he knew he needed the South to win, and he could not do all the things that I would have had him do. That was the problem, the southern strategy. He kept telling me that he was abandoning that, if in fact he ever had it. He never wanted to say he had a southern strategy, but he did. There’s no question about that. I had to balance that, and that’s what politics is. It’s about Can you balance and still not compromise your basic principles? That’s a hard thing to do, but it can be done. I ran into situations many, many times when I was called upon to do that.

Knott

Now you mentioned in passing that Senator Kennedy tried to get John Kenneth Galbraith to run against you in ’72? 

Brooke

Yes. I think that was the election he tried to get Kenneth to run. [laughter]

Knott

What did you think of that?

Brooke

Well, I had looked forward to that campaign. I knew John Kenneth pretty well, and I could see us debating.

Knott

It would have been a big issue-oriented campaign.

Brooke

If I had to have a candidate—I don’t want to sound—what’s the word I’m looking for? Knott

Condescending?

Brooke

Not condescending. When you get to 86, you don’t remember many things. Anyway, I was going to say that by that time, I had built such a strong organization in Massachusetts, starting with the attorney general. We carried every city and town, with the exception of two borderline towns. You’re from Massachusetts?

Knott

Yes, I grew up in Worcester.

Brooke

I’m talking about Boston. I’m talking about New Bedford. I’m talking about Lawrence and all those places. Then, when I came back for re-election, I started up there and said, What happened to you up here? What did I do wrong? We had such a strong organization. That’s when our polls showed us as being ahead of Teddy Kennedy in popularity and all that stuff. We had that kind of staff and that kind of support. So I could afford to leave the state and do some campaigning, unlike Henry Cabot Lodge, who started the Kennedy dynasty, and I’ll tell you why. 

After the war, Cabot had gone over to Europe to talk to Eisenhower and try to get him to run as a Republican. When he decided that it was going to be, Cabot became his campaign manager. He was Eisenhower’s campaign manager, and all that that means, across the country. Cabot doesn’t like to work hard, but he was the campaign manager. He was running then, but his seat was up at that time, and he was running against a young fellow by the name of John F. Kennedy, who was not well known—in Massachusetts, yes, but not across the country, not that well known. Cabot spent more time out of the state. He never believed that Kennedy could ever beat him. He, like Saltonstall, had the support of Irish voters, all the time they were for him. 

He underestimated not so much John F. Kennedy, but the Kennedy family; the mother, the sisters, they had teas all over the state. It was a badge of honor to attend some of these teas. My wife even went to one. Cabot Lodge joked about it always. She says she went to count the house but, you know, to be invited and sit there and listen to a mother. Not only Irish, I mean, Italians, African Americans, everybody came. 

They had this aura that you don’t find elsewhere. I don’t think any other state has developed this type of a family, anywhere in the country. And Cabot Lodge, instead of stepping up and realizing that he had a fight on his hands, sort of abdicated his responsibility to the campaign, and thus started the Kennedy dynasty. He took that seat, and then old Joe [Kennedy]—that was it, because the father had wanted another brother, of course, and you know the history of that. He wanted the other brother, who was killed, to be the politician. 

John Kennedy was never intended to be the politician, and I don’t think any other boys, but he—Joseph Kennedy loved power, political power. He had the money and the contacts, and he wanted his son to be President, which is understandable. That’s what he wanted.

Knott

To switch gears just a bit—in the mid ’70s, when the whole Watergate scandal begins to pick up steam and there’s a serious effort to impeach President Nixon, some of President Nixon’s defenders have argued that they saw this sort of hidden hand of Ted Kennedy, that people like Archibald Cox were Kennedy people and some of the investigators on the Hill, like John Doar, were Kennedy people. What is your take on that? Was there a partisan element to that effort to get rid of Richard Nixon, or was that a legitimate effort designed to check an imperial President?

Brooke

Well, I’m not privy to that information, so I can’t give you a definitive response to that. I think it would have happened without that at all. Now there may have been some, and I suspect that there would be some, just by nature, things that could have happened, but as I said, I’m not privy. I can’t give you the answer, but I think it was doomed after that. I mean, it was downhill.

You must remember you had [Spiro] Agnew to deal with. Agnew was coming up there, talking to us, meeting with the moderate Republicans. Agnew was not a nice man, to tell you the truth. He was not a nice man. He stood there, barefaced lies he was telling us and whatnot, and Nixon just thought that he had too much power, that this would never happen. Whenever someone got in his way—like Archibald Cox, who, incidentally, was one of my assistant attorneys general in the case involving the constitutionality of the voting rights law. I retained him and appointed him assistant attorney general to argue the case before the Supreme Court. 

I wanted to argue it myself, but I knew better. He had the better legal brain than I had and better contact with the Supreme Court, and he would be a perfect one, and he was. He was a fine man, and he was a liberal. I don’t know that he was—I think he was a Republican, to tell you—yes, I think he was a Republican, not that I didn’t appoint Democrats, because I did, but I think his politics were Republican such as they were, but he was fine. Whether Kennedy helped him on that—I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t. I would be really surprised if that really made a difference. Too far gone, too much harm had been done by Nixon himself.

Knott

Did Nixon appeal directly to you at times for any sort of—?

Brooke

I was invited to a meeting upstairs in the White House, together with some other Republican Senators. My recollection is that Strom Thurmond and Gordon Allen, and maybe Howard Baker, and the journalist, the commentator, the conservative?

Knott

Pat Buchanan?

Brooke

No, no, no. Before. Older than that. His brother served in the Senate, from New York.

Knott

Oh, [James] Buckley?

Brooke

Yes, you’re right. See that’s the young mind and the better mind. 

Knott

I appreciate your calling me young.

Brooke

And the better mind.

Knott

I don’t know about that.

Brooke

So we were meeting up there and he supposedly called to get our advice and counsel on what he should do next. Most of the conversation, most of the comments made by the Senators was, Mr. President, you’re doing right, just stay the course. Those same words, we’re getting them now. Stay the course, they have nothing, you did nothing wrong. But when they got to me, I said, Mr. President, I think you have lost the confidence and respect of the American people. I think if you continue on, you’re going to get impeached, and I think you should not subject yourself, the party, your family, and most importantly the country, to an impeachment process. So for the good of the country and for the good of the American people and your family and yourself, I think you should step down.

I’m looking right at him like I’m looking at you. He said, Oh Ed, that’s taking the easy way out. I said, Mr. President, I know what you did to get here. To give up the position of the most powerful man on earth is not taking the easy way out. I think it’s the best way out. Well, you can imagine what the other Senators said, Oh, Ed is wrong. This is absolutely— Senator Buckley said, Mr. President, I agree with Ed. I think you have lost the respect of the American people, and I do think it’s time. I don’t want to give you a direct quote, but to that effect. We’ve called him on this, to get his recollection of this, so that we’re absolutely, at least—but I’m as positive about this conversation as I am about anything else. 

That night I left and went back to Watergate. I was living in another apartment on the seventh floor. Rose Mary Woods lived down the hall. There was a knock on my door. I said nothing to the press at that time. I hadn’t talked to the press, but somewhere there was a leak. And she came and castigated me in language that I had never even heard. I said, Rosemary, this was not mean spirited. It is not my intention to destroy the President. He asked for advice and I gave him the advice that I would have given myself, and I think it’s the right advice. That part is, I think, in the book. I think I recounted that, but that was the story on Watergate. 

Then I came out on, I think either Meet the Press or Face the Nation after that, and I was the first Republican to call for his resignation. Then I introduced a resolution for President [Gerald] Ford, who incidentally, on the news this morning, is in the hospital, having real serious problems. He’s 94 and a nice man. Well, I introduced a resolution for President Ford to give President Nixon immunity if he would step down. I didn’t owe Nixon anything, but the specter of an American President being tried for this kind of a crime, which was such a stupid thing, I mean, if you look back upon it. I said, We can’t put the country through this, so let him go quietly and give him immunity from trial. But before that happened, things were unraveling so quickly, he was out of there. So Ford didn’t do that, and Ford did not make it a condition. 

He finally pardoned him, as you know. Not finally. He did it pretty quickly, and he did not make it a condition at all. Had he not done it the other way, he would have been re-elected—or elected, because he never was elected—but he would have won. It was close but he could have won. But you see, it looked as though he was sanctioning Nixon and at that time, the Nixon haters were so numerous that it wasn’t a very good political position to be in. A loyal man, but I guess that came out of his goodness. He knew the President and he knew Mrs. [Patricia] Nixon, who was a wonderful woman. My mother and Mrs. Nixon were very close. They had the Senate Wives Club and whatnot, things that she cherished until her death. So it was a very touching period.

Knott

Did Nixon stay in touch with you at all in any of his post-Presidential years?

Brooke

No. After that, I didn’t see him for some time. I don’t know whether he ever forgave me for calling for his resignation or not supporting him at that time. As I said, Nixon was amazed. He couldn’t understand why I was there, but all the appointment of regional directors, all the judges up there. You had Republicans in New Hampshire, all the federal. He gave everything. I rarely asked him to do anything that he didn’t do. I mean China—except on the southern strategy, which I think was out of his hands. I don’t even know that he focused that much on that. Wasn’t a big issue for him. But your question was specifically—

Knott

Well, if you had any contact with Nixon in the post-Presidential years.

Brooke

I saw him at a luncheon, a sponsored luncheon in New York in one of the clubs up there. It could have been Foreign Relations Council or something, I don’t remember, but it was a big luncheon anyway. Nixon was there and was sort of the guest speaker. We were seated at the same table, interestingly, but he never looked at me. When he was speaking, he never got eye contact. I always look at people when I talk to them. I was sitting very close; the podium was right over there. When he came back to the table, he wrote me a note and said, Congratulations on the birth of your son, Edward. Good staff work. He said, Give this to him because it may be valuable or something important historically one day. So it was my son, Edward. Before I could even say anything to him—he still had Secret Service—he was out of there and I never saw him again. 

I did not attend the funeral. Bob Dole did the crying at the funeral. I didn’t do that. But I liked Mrs. Nixon and I knew the children, Julie and Tricia, when I campaigned on the plane, Air Force One, with them.

Knott

In the mid ’70s in Boston, of course, is when the whole busing issue explodes. To what extent were you and Senator Kennedy drawn into that? Was this an issue where you took a stand with the people of Massachusetts and Boston who were not particularly happy with busing? I guess I’m trying to get a sense of how you dealt with that very touchy issue, you and Senator Kennedy, if you can recall that.

Brooke

Well it was very touchy, as you say. I was attorney general initially, when that was going on, and I gave a ruling. Opinions of the attorney general—I won’t say they’re law, but usually they’re followed as law and they’re kept in volumes, opinions of the attorney general. I was asked by [Owen] Kiernan, I think his name was, the commissioner of education, for an opinion as to the legality of keeping children out of school to protest the busing situation. I gave the opinion according to the law, as I saw it, and still believe it is. You can’t do that. The law provides that you can’t do that, you can’t keep your children out of school for that reason. And so the black community was up in arms with me, against me on that opinion. 

You remember the lady’s name, Louise Day Hicks. So they said I was siding with, of all people, Louise Day Hicks, who was my nemesis. She had wanted me to come in and join—political stuff, not a nice lady, as political expedience would say. So that went on and on and on to where the courageous judge came down with a decision.

Knott

Judge [Wendell Arthur] Garrity?

Brooke

Garrity. I knew Garrity before he was even on the bench, and he did a splendid job. I was for busing for the right reasons. The Boston school system was definitely, clearly, a case of forced segregation and discrimination, no doubt about it. It wasn’t just that the numbers were there that lived there, which they did. I mean you had the Irish living in South Boston and Charlestown, and then you had the Italians living in the North End, and the Greeks living here and the Jews living here and the blacks living there. This was more than that, and I think they all finally had to agree to that, and I was very disappointed that she took this and ran with it, and that of all places, Boston, Massachusetts got the worst of it all. 

Here, Ted Kennedy is one of the Senators and Ed Brooke, a black, is the other Senator. So yes, it was horrible. I don’t recall that Ted and I, even at that time, sat down and talked about this issue. I think he said what he had to say. He had to be—again, his balance—because he came from this group and he was their hero, he was their leader. I lost politically on it, but I felt that again I was right on that issue and stayed with it. I didn’t think it was the panacea. I didn’t think all these things. In fact, we were worse. We were going back beyond the decision. Now you’ve got these schools that are right back where they started from, if not worse, and now you’re got the immigration issue coming in. 

I don’t know if you’ve been back to Massachusetts. The Hispanics are a big, big factor up there, and they’re just being scattered into the citizens’ towns as well as into the cities. Man has not learned yet to live together with his fellow man and I still think [Leo] Tolstoy was right when he said man’s greatest enemy is not what he denies his fellow man, but what he keeps him from even wanting, and that’s what’s happening now. He doesn’t even want it. He doesn’t know. That’s the crime in all this stuff today, they don’t know. That’s getting another lecture.

Knott

You think it hurt you in ’78, the busing?

Brooke

Well, not only the busing, but Vietnam. My position on Vietnam was never quite understood because of one statement I made. I went over there twice, as a matter of fact. I talked to General [William] Westmoreland and all that sort of thing. Lodge was our Ambassador at the time. But my position on abortion, the Panama Canal—I got a lot of flak on that. [Jimmy] Carter was the President at the time, and I took some time, again, taking time, looking at all the pros and cons of this and what would happen, and follow through, and how to use it in a compensation. I came out in favor of the bill and I got a lot of flak. So I had a combination, plus the personal, the divorce, which was really harmful because I couldn’t say anything. It was my wife and my two daughters, and the Globe had gotten a hold of them, and they saw the headlines. My oldest daughter got involved with the guy from—what’s the name of that scurrilous paper at the time?

Knott

Based in Massachusetts?

Brooke

In Massachusetts, yes.

Knott

A newspaper up there? Not the Boston Herald?

Brooke

No, no, in just Massachusetts. The National Enquirer. Anyway, I think I’ve got it in the book. That was damaging, and I got advice against going on television—I wanted to go on television and say what this was, and it was painful, tragic. This had been a marriage coming out of the war, when war brides weren’t uncommon. Unfortunately, it was doomed from the beginning and so we were never really married. We went through the motions, that type of thing. We tried to conceal it and she did her best, but it just couldn’t work. Then there was a lot of greed and that sort of thing, and the Globe just pounced on the news. That hurt more, I think. But it was a combination of factors because my base was the Republican Party and they put up a candidate to run against me, Avi Nelson, the son of a Rabbi, I think, who was very well known because of his radio and TV shows.

Knott

Talk radio.

Brooke

That type of thing. So he was just known, and then a lot of money poured in for him, and he ran against me in the primary, and he exploited me as not a Republican and not even a Democrat, left of the Democrats, I guess, whatever. By the time you add all those things up, it was not a winnable situation. 

I never did say a thing about her or about the girls. I tried to explain some of the things they said. They looked into my finances and said I’d put my mother in-law on Medicaid or something. I didn’t even know she was on it, to tell you the truth. Why would I do it anyway? It didn’t make any sense. And that I voted for some legislation for increasing Medicaid because of her, as though I wouldn’t have voted for it. It just went on and on, and there were too many things, professor, and that’s the way it ended up. Nobody wanted to touch it. They didn’t know how to deal with it. I’m sure Teddy—nobody wanted to touch it one way or the other, and that was the end of my Senate career.

Knott

Do you recall hearing from Senator Kennedy at this time at all? Any goodbye or best wishes?

Brooke

No. Ted’s called me on a couple of occasions. He was coming to St. Maarten with his wife, where we have a home. He put his boat someplace, asked where best it could go, which was a surprise, but I haven’t heard much from him. Now, I don’t want to say—I didn’t do anything either. I didn’t call him, but I didn’t ask for him. I didn’t want it to go down like that. I think Adlai Stevenson, III, who was Chairman of the Ethics Committee—and they held his report until I had practically lost the election. They came out with it.

Knott

It cleared you.

Brooke

Yes. So what’s new?

Knott

Do you miss the Senate?

Brooke

Yes. I miss it in the sense that I get very frustrated when the question of 30 days being given to [Hans] Blix, is his name, from the UN [United Nations], who was going over looking for the weapons of mass destruction. First, they had been in and they found none and then when they came out, they said well, you didn’t do your job. So, the President and Colin Powell had all the stuff, when they went to the UN, the stuff about where it was. So they said, Well, if you insist, give us 30 more days to go in and look again at the places where you think it is. We’ve been there, but we’ll go back and do it. They wouldn’t even give him 30 days to go back and look at this. 

I think they had made their decision before and there was no turning back, and I think they went in without a plan. They had no idea of an exit strategy. They had learned nothing from Vietnam. They knew very little about the Iraqi people. They underestimated what would happen for them when you got Saddam Hussein. All of this—and Hussein, at least the factions were together. We had more to fear from North Korea and Iran and other places around the world than we did Iraq. I thought it was a decision based on other factors, which I’ll leave for your own knowledge, and I thought it was wrong. 

I expected that there would be a heated debate because that power was granted to the Congress, the Senate particularly, the Declaration of War. And there was nothing, nothing. I said where’s Patrick Leahy, where’s Ted, where’s John Kerry, who wants to be President? Where are all these people? They weren’t there, and that was disappointing to me and still is disappointing to me. I feel very strongly that if we could have had a debate and they’d exercised that Congressional power, opposed to Presidential power, that we may have avoided the invasion of Iraq and all the consequences. Now, years later, we’re still there and we still don’t know how to get out of there. 

There was never proof of the weapons of the mass destruction. There was also never proof of a connection between or tie-in between Al Qaeda and Iraq, and when I saw those Iraqi kids and those children dying, do they have a better life? Have we been the savior of Iraq? No. And we are getting more and more hatred out there, everywhere we go. I don’t like to see that. I think there’s a better way to do this. I can’t say diplomacy settles all things, but when you talk—today they’re saying $250 billion in Iraq. Do you know what $250 billion would do feeding and building schools, not just at home—we need them here with all the crime we’ve got—but in these other countries around the world? Think about that. 

We were warned and warned and warned about global warming. Did they do anything about it? Absolutely not. They still are polluting the air. They still are polluting the water and nobody’s doing anything about it. That frustrates me. Could I have saved things had I been there? I don’t know, maybe a lonely voice in the wilderness, but at least there would have been a voice. Maybe not a good voice, a strong voice or a winning voice, but it would have been a voice.

Knott

Do you think it’s a less civil place up there? We keeping hearing this, that there’s a decline of civility in the Senate since the days that you were there.

Brooke

I’m not there. Those that I know and I keep hearing from, and some have left since I was there, they said it is not a civil place to be. It’s not a happy place, not a pleasant place. We had our battles. I used to fight. I don’t scream, it’s not my nature, but I was constantly at war with Jesse Helms, but it was done civilly. When I got sick, he offered right away to take me home, you know. We called each other the distinguished Senator from such and such a place. Opposite sides of the issues but at least, it was kind—today, it almost comes to fisticuffs. It looks like—I won’t call it a banana republic, because that’s not a nice thing to say, because I don’t know that much about the banana republics, but I do know, I see on the television screen, these fights in their legislative bodies. We’ve almost had it in the House over here.

Knott

Right. Lots of people have said that the Senate is becoming more like the House.

Brooke

I’ve seen it in the House, I’ve seen that on the screen, but the Senate was supposed to be a different place. You respected the opinion of others and you were objective in your voting and all that stuff. I don’t see that, and that worries me. That’s such an important part of the government. That’s the legislative branch of the government. Am I frustrated? Yes. I’ve talked to other Senators. Some of them are sick and some of them are over the hill now, and they feel that way. And those who stayed after, some said to me, You don’t want to be here now. You’re so lucky you’re not here now. It’s not a good place to go to work. That hurts me when I hear that.

Knott

I’m sure it does.

Brooke

I loved going to work there. I loved those 12 years. I thought we were making a difference. I don’t see that as clearly today and I think what I see is some are there for the wrong reasons. They don’t want to save the country, save the world. They don’t have the sensitivity. They don’t have the feeling for people. It’s greed, it’s indifference. They don’t care. Just get what I want, that’s it, what best serves me, and they want to be reelected at any cost. The next election, never the next generation. That’s the danger I see in this country.

Knott

We are done.

Brooke

Well it’s five minutes to 12:00. You did very well. I want you to look at these papers. I don’t know if I can duplicate them. I can give them to you and you can send them back to me.

Knott

We can do that or you can send them to us later at a time that you’re more comfortable with.

Brooke

I’m just going to send you what I’ve written in the book.

This is one of the many interviews that comprise the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History. For more information about the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History, including links to all interviews, please click here.

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