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Oral History

Martin Nolan Oral History, Reporter, The Boston Globe

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

Knott

Thank you again for agreeing to do this.

Nolan

My pleasure.

Knott

I think what we’ll do is we’ll just move chronologically. I think that’s probably the best way. Could you give us some sense of your first interactions with Edward Kennedy when you first came to cover him or know him perhaps?

Nolan

Well, I started at the Boston Globe in June of 1961 and it was either later that year or early the following year when his campaign was heating up. I do remember it very vividly because it was in the lobby of the Parker House, where many political events have taken place. I think I was there to cover something else and he was doing something else, but I just said hello to him. I was covering some local city thing or something. 

I asked him if he was looking forward to debating Eddie McCormack. He said, Oh yes, I’m eager. I want to have debates. That was just unusual because usually the presumed frontrunner is ducking it, but there weren’t any handlers around him so he professed to be very interested, and that’s all I recall. 

I, along with many others, covered this race in 1962. I was covering the State House so that was a lot of politics involved there. It was a phenomenal race, I mean, just the dynastic aspect. Scholars could do wonders with this. It just was stunning. I’m not exaggerating it. In the Democratic primary you had the nephew of the Speaker of the House and the brother of the President. If that’s not enough for you, on the other side we had George Cabot Lodge of the Lodge dynasty against good old Larry Curtis, Laurence Curtis with a u, who was always being redistricted. He was a more conservative guy and he was going to beat Lodge in the primary. He lost his leg in World War I and Tip [Thomas Philip] O’Neill used to say the closer he got to the election the more that leg would drag. A bald guy, a very charming guy of the old school—he against George Cabot Lodge. 

Just to give you an example: I sometimes give friends of mine a political tour of Boston and its environs. The Education of Henry Adams opens at his birth in a place on Hancock Avenue that was demolished to expand the State House early in the 20th century. He said, in 1838 or whenever he was born, Henry Adams was born and christened Henry Adams. He was of the Adams dynasty and he said if he had been named Israel Cohen and circumcised with a High Priest in the Temple of Jerusalem, he could not be more distinctly branded, because he had been baptized by his uncle, the Unitarian Minister at King’s Chapel, or something like that. He said he would be branded and handicapped for all the coming races. You know, Adams was very ill about how the newer stock was taking over. 

On that very site today, if you walk in you see on the left a statue of old [Henry] Cabot Lodge, the whiskered gentleman who defeated the League of Nations, and right in front of that is [John F.] Jack Kennedy. That dynastic thing again—the issue of immigration goes back to that. The old Cabot Lodge was the first popularly-elected Senator from Massachusetts and he defeated John F. Fitzgerald. How many more coincidences could you have? The big issue was immigration. Lodge, who is still revered, was the author of the Chinese Exclusion Act. In California they still remember it. You think the bozos today, the Rush Limbaughs, or whoever they are, are fierce—remember old distinguished Cabot Lodge, and Theodore Roosevelt. I don’t like the word progressives. The progressives have a lot of bias in them against immigrants, against Catholics, against Jews, against labor. Why liberals gave up the name liberals to take progressive is beyond me, because those were the progressives. 

Anyway, that is a real factor. And the immigration issue is so important to Edward M. Kennedy. I think, boy, that goes back in his DNA doesn’t it? Think of it. Honey Fitz really fought to liberalize immigration and Lodge beat him not only at the polls but in the Congress. So that is a big deal and somebody should do a whole thing on that. The history of American immigration is a great story. Not today—today it’s so phony and media-invented. There’s no crisis, there’s no nothing. 

Here’s the relationship to Senator Kennedy. People say, on border security, These people are all coming in and they’re taking jobs away from Americans, which isn’t quite true. But if you really want to stop it, do this: raise the minimum wage, something Ted Kennedy has tried to do since 1962. Every time you say, We’re going to raise it 20 cents, the Republicans say, You’re going to wreck the economy. It’s terrible. You’re going to drive small business out of— and it never ends that way. So there are two issues that are intertwined. You raise the minimum wage. Americans will take those jobs, but not for cheap money. Anyway, those are two current events. There are so many events that he’s involved in.

In 1962, at the famous Eddie/Teddy debate at South Boston High School, I was assigned the outside job. I wasn’t a big-shot then; I was a young fellow. The next day, the city editor wanted me to do one of those follow-up stories in a way that is cliché-ridden and difficult. What are you going to say in a straight news story on debates, you know? Since the first Kennedy–[Richard] Nixon debate, Russell Baker, who covered it in the New York Times said, I realize now, we’re kind of irrelevant. People have already seen it; they don’t need you to tell them what happened. Russ wrote about that in his second book, Good Times

My job was to get pros to assess it. Now, in those days it was so different. There weren’t spin doctors, there weren’t handlers. You had no political consultants advertising for free in the news pages, which is what we have now. You had to get people and you had to get them to speak on background. I hadn’t been in the business too long but I had learned something, that people trust you to take care of their quotes correctly and provide a reasonable veil of anonymity. You can get stuff done, and it was a wonderful education because, as it turned out, those guys were anxious to talk about it because they were friends with one or the other. I got wonderful critiques from the President of the State Senate, the President of the Boston City Council, and I protected their identity. 

Some people may have been able to define it but it was a great education for me. What the summation was of that story—I haven’t got it, but if you’re going to do an oral history you ought to have an audio of it. It’s a fabulous show because Edward J. McCormack, Jr., a graduate of the Naval Academy of Annapolis, was a very cultured, refined guy and far more liberal than Ted Kennedy. Far more liberal. He was the liberal. Big civil libertarian, ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union], and he came on like a guy with a longshoreman’s hook in his hand. He went after him. 

Teddy had this image of, I don’t know, a very Catholic image like Saint Sebastian with the arrows going into him. He just didn’t say anything, turned the other cheek and thereby won the debate. McCormack’s friends told me, Eddie stepped out of character. You don’t want to do that. It’s not worth it to step out of character. That’s not him. He thought he had to do it. One guy who was very close to him and very fond of him said, I’m sorry that he did that because if you’re going to lose, lose with some dignity. He should know better. 

As the time goes on, McCormack is the candidate for the Democrats in 1966 as  Governor, the Governor’s race, and Teddy and Bobby [Kennedy] went up to campaign for him. I covered that race. When Eddie McCormack dies and his funeral is in South Boston, the eulogist was Edward M. Kennedy.

Knott

Really?

Nolan

Yes, and somebody has a videotape of that, because somebody lent me a copy. Maybe the McCormack family? It’s a wonderful speech. Teddy, you know, that’s his moonlighting job as a eulogist. I don’t know how many funerals I’ve been to that he—I’m ready for the quote from Pilgrim’s Progress. I kind of know it. But he’s wonderful at it and this was particularly touching. I saw Eddie McCormack after the campaign and I covered him day to day, and he said, Marty, your paper used a lot of colorful language, but you didn’t screw me. You didn’t screw us. You treated us fairly and I want to thank you. Oh, like this is like a rare event? Good, I mean, I spelled it right, too. I was naive enough not to know there are all kinds of games going on in journalism. 

Anyway, Kennedy goes on to debate Cabot Lodge, and the Independent candidate, yet another famous name, H. Stuart Hughes, grandson of the former Governor of New York, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and former Republican nominee for President in 1916, Charles Evans Hughes, another bewhiskered gent. Hughes was fascinating. He was the original peace candidate. He was the Ned Lamont of his time and a Harvard professor. 

They had a few debates before the primary. They’d have these little debates—five of them would show up, Curtis and Eddie and Teddy, because there was no television then to speak of. I remember going all the way up to Marblehead to the Town Hall with the great Spirit of ’76. There’s a great picture in the Globe. They’re all sitting there waiting their turn to speak. Hughes was the peace candidate and his candidacy was doing OK until the Cuban Missile Crisis, and then he kind of dropped to about 3 percent. That was, of course, a big boost for Kennedy anyway. But he had not lost an election in Massachusetts since—Think of that. That was the other thing. I should think someone should just have a record of the defeated as a group. The Silence of the Lambs, or whatever you want to call them, all these guys that he’s beaten.

At every turn—every Kennedy gets this—the intellectuals are against them. In this Cambridge zip code, all the professors were for Eddie McCormack. They just don’t like—well, Jack Kennedy said of the ADA, the Americans for Democratic Action, I’m not comfortable with those people. Teddy inherited that hostility toward the Brattle Street crowd, except for Ken [John Kenneth] Galbraith and Arthur Schlesinger, who were close to Jack. Then there were a couple of others on their own who made a difference, Sam Beer, and Robert C. Wood, a great figure in American history. He invented the word suburbia. He wrote a book about it. He was Director of the MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] Joint Center for Housing studies, Harvard/MIT. He later became Secretary of HUD [Housing and Urban Development]. He and Sam Beer and a Harvard Law professor named Charles Haar; I think he was involved in that too. They had a big issue of strengthening the Democratic Party in the model of John Bailey of Connecticut. That was their thing and they thought Teddy would be better at it, and he sort of agreed to it. I don’t think he was very interested in the subject.

Knott

Strengthening the Massachusetts Democratic Party?

Nolan

Right, and regularizing it, because the Kennedys always kept their distance. In 1952, Jack didn’t rely on the Democratic Party. He had 351 cities and towns, 351 campaign secretaries, they were called, and Teddy had the same model, which said, Oh no, I’m not going to trust these guys, the party officials.

There was a big battle in 1956 between the McCormack and Kennedy factions. The chairman was named [William] Onions Burke, Onions, because he had an onion farm out in Hatfield or Hadley, or somewhere up in the boonies near Amherst, against Pat [Patrick J.] Lynch of Somerville. Anyway, that was Kennedy’s thing and he just hated the issue. A lot of people were interested in the issue. You’re going to change the face of the Democratic Party. You’re going to regularize it, make the patronage go through. Gerard Doherty, whom I trust you’re talking to—Lots of luck understanding him. I’ve known him for 40 years and I can’t make heads or tails.

Knott

It was an experience.

Nolan

Yes. I said, Why don’t you translate that back from the original Russian? You know, he studied Russian and I said, It’s always a fable from [Aleksandr] Pushkin with you, Gerard. Anyway, he sort of became the patronage dispenser. He’s supposed to get involved and he doesn’t want to get involved and, curiously enough, after 1964 Bobby’s facing the same problem in New York, all the bad old bosses and all that. Now, who are you going to replace them with? With some new bad old bosses. He would go nuts on this and I had a terrible time with him over something very similar. I think it was ’66.

Knott

I’m sorry, ‘he’ being Ted Kennedy?

Nolan

Ted Kennedy and I got into it terrible. I said, What are you going to do with this? Are you going to have a slate? Are you going to endorse somebody or what? I don’t think it’s that big a story. He’s just fidgety about it. He said, Oh, all right, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, but say, ‘Sources inside the Senator’s office.’ I said, You don’t want background on this? Who’s getting hurt on this? Is this national security? What is this? 

He’s getting testy and I’m getting testy and then he said, No, I’m not going to speak on-the-record on this, and I closed my notebook and said, Well, Senator, there will be no comment? He said, Yes. No comment. I said, You know, Ted Williams used to say, ‘A base on balls is a hell of a play; it gets you to first base.’ I can do a lot with ‘No comment’ and I’ll see you later. I open the door. He said, Come back here you son-of-a-bitch! I said, Let’s negotiate here. In a way he didn’t like it but then it turned out that it was better for him. 

I had a rule when I was a boss of reporters: You can use background and off-the-record, that sort of thing, for information, not for characterization. You don’t say, John Kerry looks French. That is my most recent example of real cowardice. You don’t slander a guy with a source close to camp. No deal, no deal. Your source better not be too colorful or we’re going to fire you and hire him. Information, yes. At last Kennedy said something, and I said, Come on, you’re a United States Senator. If you don’t want to say something on this, I’m going to go with ‘No comment.’ It was quite a testy thing.

Knott

Had you seen that before? Had you reached the point, by ’66, where you could have a fairly frank exchange with him?

Nolan

Yes. I didn’t look through my clips or anything but I think I went on a bunch of—was he campaigning for people then? I know in ’66, ’68, ’70, ’72, right in there, he went around for Senatorial and Congressional candidates. I went on some of those trips to his buddies: Lud [Thomas William] Ashley in Toledo; Hugh Carey in Brooklyn; Pete Williams in New Jersey. I remember going on a lot of those trips and it’s just him, one other guy, and me.

Knott

So you got to know them pretty well.

Nolan

Sure, and we talked about things. Of course he was a great source. He was a great source in the Senate if things are going on. That’s the rule: you’re just having a conversation. Until I take my notebook out, you’re safe. But I’d sometimes say, I’d like to get a little bit of that on the record. 

He had a terrible problem with the English language. I used to say he was a third-base coach; you had to do it by semaphores, you know. You had to pull your ear if he’s going to take two and head to right. I finally said to him once, Look, we need something. I’ll bring the verbs, OK? I’ll help you out. For a guy who can be articulate—and then there’s the other thing. Any politician at any level has this, including the current President. In a press conference you’d think, well, he got through that sentence. Part of it’s OK. They can do it but it’s an effort and they’d rather speak in code. You know, the other guy down there with that problem. Everybody’s, Oh yes, ‘the other guy down there with that problem.’ And everybody knows. They really do. That’s the great thing. 

I knew all those great guys. What a great staff. I was just talking to Jimmy King yesterday, the great Jimmy King of Ludlow. Paul Kirk, David Burke—what a fantastic staff. They understood the code and they spoke in the code. They were able to say, No comment, in three languages, do you know what I mean? It was great.

Knott

Can I ask you another question about ’62?

Nolan

Sure, ’62.

Knott

Did you pick up anything regarding President Kennedy’s attitude about his youngest brother running for this seat? We’ve heard stories that Kenny O’Donnell, people like that, were dead set against EMK running for that Senate seat. Were you picking any of this up?

Nolan

I don’t know if you talked to Bob Healy, but he had the famous story about cheating on the Spanish exam at Harvard. Bob Healy got it from John F. Kennedy.

Knott

So they decided to preempt that, essentially?

Nolan

Yes. I remember reading it and I was aware of some negotiation going on. It wasn’t my story; it wasn’t my business. I said, It plays a little light. I would have had it higher up. I might have had it above the fold, but other than that, the story was fine. He knew he had to get it out. A big scandal. I got to know in Washington, Kenny O’Donnell and Larry O’Brien and again, they wouldn’t say it exactly, even Kenny after a few cocktails at Paul Young’s restaurant. 

They were more exercised about Francis X. Morrissey. You’re aware of that case and we’ll get to that case. They were more concerned about Francis X. Morrissey than they were with Jack Kennedy because Francis X. Morrissey was the Ambassador’s loyal-to-a-fault guy. The Teddy thing—I don’t have the sense—I never got that from Bobby either and I tried that with Bobby. I don’t think the President was opposed to Teddy running. That’s my sense, and I had a long conversation with Bobby when I got to know Bobby. As I say, Kenny, [Theodore]Ted Sorensen, Larry O’Brien, all those guys—Morrissey was a bigger problem to them than Teddy running for the Senate. 

Why did they appoint Ben Smith? The President appointed Benjamin A. Smith, II, the Mayor of Gloucester, JFK’s classmate at Harvard, to be the seat warmer. He persuaded Governor Foster Furcolo, with whom he did not really get along. I think Furcolo wanted to appoint himself. Why would it be somebody like Smith, who clearly had no ambitions and kind of made it clear that he had no ambitions? I think the President was—well, he appointed his other brother Attorney General. It’s not exactly—it’s not nepotism if it works out well. That’s my guess, but I’m not sure.

Knott

Can you compare the three brothers for us? John F. Kennedy said Ted Kennedy was the best politician or the most natural politician.

Nolan

Yes, and the Ambassador, the old man, said the same thing. The affability of an Irish cop, which got to be a cliché, but it’s true. He had a much more outgoing sense. For Jack and Bobby, shaking hands was like, Eeech. They had a little Howard Hughes in them, I mean, they think they’re going to catch germs or something, and the touchiness stuff, there’s none of that.

For a politician it’s like a football game when they embrace or hug. Not Jack and not Bobby. Now, I didn’t know Jack that well. I met him a couple of times before he was President and as President, but I got to know Bobby very well and I think he was even more shy, truly shy, than Jack and just didn’t like that physical stuff, except when adoring crowds are ripping off your cufflinks. Then it’s pretty cool. Teddy is outgoing and he’s robust. In his career, he had forgotten how to do that until he got a scare in 1994 and since then there’s not a candidate for state representative who’s around as much as he is. He’s everywhere. 

You can’t fake it. I asked Al [Albert] Gore, Jr. that once. I said to him, How do you really do it? I see you going through all that. Do you really enjoy shaking all those hands? He said, Well, some things you have to do. That’s not the way Teddy thinks. It’s not a chore for him. He’s really interested. The things he goes to, the neighborhood health centers—he’s really interested. He’s not faking any of it. He’s been blessed by his choice of issues. He’s got all the issues, but the ones he’s really interested in—He’s really interested in healthcare. You can’t get enough of that. You can’t learn enough about that. It’s not like a set, easy thing. Oh yes, I’ve got the three-point program for that. He knows it’s complicated. So, whatever he gets into—immigration—his committee choices will tell you that. 

So there’s a difference. Intellectually? I can remember Bobby walking across in front of the Capitol once. He’s got this book that later came in the news this year, in 2006, and I said, What have you got? What are you reading? Albert Camus, L’Etranger. I said, Ah. He said, Have you ever read Camus? I said, I have. Actually, I read it in French. He said, What do you think? I said, He’s a miserable son-of-a-bitch is what I say. Try The Myth of Sisyphus. Try that. You’d like this first sentence: ‘There’s only one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.’ I said, If you want to go that route, go ahead. 

Bobby was more of a repartee guy. He said, Oh, you’re a Philistine at heart, Nolan. I could do that with Bobby in a way that I couldn’t with Teddy. Bobby kind of adopted me because I was from Massachusetts and he just liked to talk. Teddy couldn’t afford to do that. He can’t get too close. He knows the rules, the rules promulgated by the guy it began with, Henry Adams. When he was working for a Boston newspaper in the 1850s he was crossing Lafayette Park and he sees the great Senator Charles Sumner. He said Sumner cut him dead, wouldn’t look at him. Adams writes about it many years later. Adams learned a lesson as true as the principle that arsenic poisons: A friend in power is a friend lost. I always tell that to every journalism class I talk to. I say, They’re not your friends. You can have a friendly conversation with them but don’t become their friends, because ‘A friend in power is a friend lost,’ and it compromises you and him.

Knott

Are journalists tempted to want that?

Nolan

Teddy found it to his sorrow when he chatted up the news weeklies. What they do is they have a raw file of every cocktailing event, and every drop, and they flatter you. The Kennedys love pictures. They always thought that pictures were worth a thousand words. Jacques Lowe. And of course Jacqueline Bouvier [Kennedy] was a photographer herself. So the news magazines always put these wonderful pictures in but then the copy always had zingers in it, you know, biased stuff, stuff that was sort of semi-background, off-the-record. I never trusted them and I’m afraid Teddy did, to his regret.

Knott

Could you ever picture Edward Kennedy reading Camus?

Nolan

No. Jack’s taste was much more into history. Jack read biographies of Marlborough, and English history. Curiously, Jack’s reading tastes were very much like Richard Nixon’s. Think of that. Bobby’s were wild. I don’t know what books Teddy reads. I’m sure he does some, you know, a couple throughout. I imagine he read Doris Kearns Goodwin on his family, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, because Dick Goodwin and Doris are friends. He could well profit, I mean, I think her stuff is wonderful. I was just re-reading No Ordinary Time, about Franklin and Eleanor [Roosevelt] and I thought that was terrific. I would think he would read something like that, or David McCullough. 

But that’s fine. It’s just not his thing, not like Bobby, or Pat [Daniel Patrick] Moynihan. It’s just a different approach but it doesn’t mean he can’t read. He’s articulate enough. He does learn by getting out, because he’s not afraid of people; he’s not uncomfortable with all kinds of people. Therefore he can learn, whereas I think both Jack and Bobby would not enjoy going out to neighborhood health centers every Tuesday and Thursday.

Knott

Did you observe the dynamic between Bobby Kennedy and Edward Kennedy in that brief period where they were Senators?

Nolan

Oh, yes.

Knott

Could you talk a little bit about that?

Nolan

No one had a more wonderful time in that period than I because I covered Bobby’s thing. I did a couple of stories when he ran against Kenneth B. Keating in 1964. The guys were easy to talk to. I got to know his whole staff very well: Joe Dolan, Adam Walinsky, Peter Edelman, the speechwriters. Jeff Greenfield. I got to know everybody on the staff and after a while I just sort of had carte blanche, you know, because we just would trade things. 

When Bobby would feel comfortable, he would tell you some of the funniest stories. I’ll just give you one. This is in ’66, ’67. He said, Do know how to tell when Lyndon Johnson’s lying? I said, No, tell me how you know when Lyndon Johnson is lying. He said, When he raises his eyebrows, he isn’t lying. When he wiggles his ears he isn’t lying. When he moves his lips he’s lying. Coming out of nowhere. He had just heard it and he was passing it to me. 

What a wonderful time I had, because as the ’68 election came up with Nelson Rockefeller, Nixon, George Romney, and on the other side, Gene McCarthy, whom they treated lightly. I thought McCarthy was a heck of a story, so I covered him. I remember talking to Bobby afterwards and Bobby is just fuming because McCarthy is doing so well. I said, Hey, you had your chance. Al [Allard K.] Lowenstein was in here how many times asking you to run? Bobby says, dead serious, he said, You know, Gene’s not a nice man. I said, Oh really? He said, and he’s deadly serious, You know, he’s not all Irish. He’s half German. I said, Oh, that’s what makes him so mean. And he is utterly serious and I said, Well then, what’s your excuse? He started to get mad and then he started to laugh and laugh like hell. He said, Get the hell out of here, and he’s laughing all the way. 

He could take that, you see, because I was like his—he always would ask me about Massachusetts politics. He never gossiped about Ted. He just wanted to have information and he was not afraid to give you his views on-the-record too. Gene, as it turned out, liked Teddy and didn’t like Bobby. He liked Tip O’Neill, loved Teddy, hated Bobby. Isn’t that interesting?

Knott

Yes.

Nolan

He was the good brother. In fact, I happened to be in Teddy’s office once and who shows up but the Senator from Minnesota, McCarthy. I said, This is interesting, and Teddy said, Don’t talk to that guy, Gene. You know better. And McCarthy said, Well, I can talk to him. It was a fascinating time because of the whole dynasty thing—why Bobby didn’t run and then he decides to run after McCarthy’s early success. There are still people to this day not talking to each other because of it.

Knott

Right.

Nolan

The West Side of Manhattan, Beverly Hills, places like that.

Knott

We heard that at one point Bobby Kennedy sent Ted Kennedy to McCarthy to see if he could get him to pull out.

Nolan

Yes, in Wisconsin. It was very awkward, badly done, a botched mission. I wasn’t there and I’m just as glad I wasn’t there.

Knott

Do you think Ted Kennedy was opposed to his brother running in ’68? We’re getting sort of mixed signals on that.

Nolan

I think so. Teddy was always more of a regular Democrat.

Knott

So, you don’t challenge a President of your own?

Nolan

Well in 1980 he thought otherwise, but I think he just thought—Bobby was under the influence of all the Manhattan reformers who hated Tammany Hall. Massachusetts is not organized enough to have a Tammany Hall, but if so—Teddy liked politicians and Bobby didn’t. Of course, he exempted himself. Do you know what I mean?

Knott

I do.

Nolan

And Jack was above the fray and it was a different world, the ’50s as opposed to the late ’60s. I’m pretty sure he thought it was a bad idea. He just had a sense of doom about it. For one thing, you couldn’t get the nomination. There are only so many primaries and then what? In fact, my belief has always been—I was not in California when Bobby was killed. I was in New York preparing a story for the day after the California primary. It never ran, but my reporting was that Bobby didn’t have much of a chance to win New York.

Knott

Really?

Nolan

Right, because he had alienated all of the old bosses, the old bosses in Albany and Syracuse and Buffalo. They still had clout in a primary and they were either going to go for [Hubert] Humphrey or McCarthy. And Bobby was planning to—instead of campaigning in New York after California, he was going to go on a European tour to show how popular he was. How’s that? I never printed it because of the terribly tragic day. 

I went to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. I’ll never forget this one. I went in the side door and Teddy’s there. I think he’s kind of rehearsing his eulogy. It was late. He was there, and—it’s part of the story—you go and see the mourners coming in. It was an Irish wake. I’m trying to ask him if he feels that he has to run now. It was not the best time. I tried to couch it in a way—and the answer—he was not very articulate at the time and it was pretty much, No way. He said, They’re going to try to make me do something. It was something like that. I couldn’t quite use it and it wasn’t appropriate at the time, at his brother’s funeral. 

I remember him being very determined that there was going to be a lot of pressure on him, and there was pressure on him. There was pressure on him in ’68 at the convention. McCarthy was ready to turn his delegates over to Teddy. He told me that many times. He said, I wouldn’t have done it for Bobby. There was pressure on him in ’72. He had told me—some big flap had been made in Newsweek and then again in the UPI [United Press International]—he carefully said he would run as [George] McGovern’s Vice President. Under this very odd, philosophical notion, he said, If I thought it would make a difference, I would do it. So I’m writing this down. We’re on a plane somewhere or a helicopter or something. I thought, OK, that’s a pretty good story. Why’s he saying that? Well, if he thought it really would help the government. As it turns out, it was all foo-fra and then he pulls back and doesn’t want to do it. 

At the convention in ’72, which is Miami Beach, he’s going to come and give the nominating speech for McGovern but they haven’t finished balloting for Vice President yet, and it’s about two o’clock in the morning. It was a botched convention. I’m going on to the airport with Dick Drayne, his press secretary, and Eddie Martin, his guy. I said, I want to go, and they said it was all right. No cable television, no cell phones, no nothing. He comes out and he’s with his buddy, Mr. George Steinbrenner, whom I met and who is a very nice fellow. Then he gets in the car and I’m sitting up front and I said, You know, they haven’t finished nominating for Vice President. You may still be it. He said, What? He explodes, What? What are they doing? They had no phone. So we drive into the town and he’s just, Grrrrrrr. Steinbrenner starts chatting and trying to break the ice. But he was furious at the—I mean, how could they botch up a thing like that? They were nominating Roger Mudd, and I don’t know who else, everything. So he was pressured then too.

By ’76—I think he dropped out really early and said, I’m not going to run in ’76. He said that, I think, in November of ’74. It was after Watergate. I was on my first vacation in about two years. I was on Nantucket and, again, why did I let them know where I was? I had to get from Nantucket up to Boston. They wanted me to do it. I said, Why don’t you get somebody else? No, no, you’ve got to do it. All right, but it’s going to be a cut-and-dried story. 

So, that was ’72, and he didn’t run in ’76. I don’t know why he ran in 1980. The most important thing, as I told him many times—I said, Senator—I never called him anything other than that, Senator. I’m not his peer. I’m not his colleague. I said, Senator, I don’t know exactly what you’re going to do but there’s only thing I’m sure of. He said, What’s that? I said, I don’t want to read it in the New York Times first or the Washington Post or anywhere else. I want to read it in the Boston Globe first and it’s in your best interest to make sure that’s the case. There were all these staff hints in the press and all that. 

The Times, at the time, was Kennedy-centric. On every Kennedy story they were going nuts. He had stopped to eat ice cream. I wrote a piece just to dump on it and they said, What are you—? I said, Oh, for Christ’s sake, he stopped to eat ice cream. So I write a piece that quoted Wallace Stevens: Call the roller of big cigars, the muscular one, and bid him whip in kitchen cups concupiscent curds. And Let be be finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. A few people here in the English departments liked it. Gene McCarthy liked it.

Knott

I’m sure he did.

Nolan

But I did it, and Kennedy liked it. He thought it was funny. I did the whole thing. I said, You want me to write this down? I’m going to write it my way. And they were, you know, You’re the expert. 

Finally the day came and the TV crews are outside his office. This is 1979. Dick Drayne knew and he said, Marty, no one’s going to get any on-the-record stuff before you. It’s going to be kind of late. Can you be here at 4:00? I said, I’ll be there. Now, it’s an important story and I’m there at like 3:15. I want to see who’s getting in and who’s getting out. As Mr. Dooley, Finley Peter Dunne said, Trust everyone, but cut the cards. Sure enough, I saw Ted Sorensen and people like that going in. He was very calm, very relaxed. He spoke in very clear sentences. It just took about ten minutes, what he wanted to do. I never saw him more focused. I said, Well, thank you very much. It was getting late in the afternoon. He said, Marty, what do you think?

Knott

He asked you what you thought?

Nolan

Yes. I said, Senator, a lot of your fancy colleagues in journalism are great at giving advice. I don’t have any advice. All I know is it’s pretty tough to take on an incumbent President. [Ronald] Reagan did it to [Gerald] Ford and it didn’t help Ford in November. You know, if you win you win, if you lose you lose, but it’s pretty tough. It is kind of unprecedented, I mean, to be successful but I guess he felt he had to do it. 

When he announced at Faneuil Hall—again, I got there early. I like to see who’s coming and going. I got a seat, and it turns out it was like in the third row and was sort of the family row. Bobby Fitzgerald, who’s a Kennedy cousin—I said, Oh geez, Bobby. I didn’t know it was the family. He said, Marty, nobody’s going to move you. Stay right there. So I had a great seat. I had a question for him and I never got to ask it because, well, he didn’t call on me, that’s why.

That’s not usually the case. I’ve thought of it often. I wish I had made a bigger fuss, you know. Instead, he called on guys he liked more than he liked me. He respected me but he liked the other guys who asked him softball questions, let’s face it. My question was, Senator, on the stage behind you is the bust of a one-term President from Massachusetts and another one-term President from Massachusetts, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and a huge painting of a great Massachusetts Senator who never became President. My question is, if there’s one issue that you would choose that would be worth being defeated for, what would that issue be? I think somebody like Dave Burke or Paul Kirk later asked me, Why didn’t you ask a question? I said, He didn’t call on me, but here’s what I would have said. But I meant it, I really did. It’s just one of those things. 

He’s running. I remember telling Richard Reeves, who was writing for New York Magazine—all the buildup in the New York Magazine—they were just going nuts. Kennedy’s going to run, Kennedy’s going to run. Reeves asked me and I said, Dick, I’m not a gossip. I’ll tell you on the record what I think. Everyone thinks that if Teddy Kennedy runs it’s going to be fun. It’s not going to be fun; it’s going to be ugly. I don’t know anybody who is looking forward to it. All the sycophants are going to get aboard the bandwagon and it’s going to be pretty ugly. And it was.

Knott

The ugliness that you had in mind was partly Chappaquiddick, I assume? You assumed that that was going to be—

Nolan

The ugliness wasn’t just that. It was anti-Kennedy whatever. If he had never been to Chappaquiddick—Chappaquiddick, obviously. I mean, his chances for the Presidency ended in 1969. There was no question; that’s the way it goes. Some people say he got away with it. Well, he didn’t get away with it because it ruined his Presidential prospects. It put a stop to his rise in politics. Not just that, but the whole anti-Jack, anti-Bobby, all the demons out there that resent the rich Kennedys, the glamorous Kennedys. 

People started to use Chappaquiddick as a metaphor. Jack Newfield wrote a very funny thing about John Lindsay’s candidacy for Presidency saying, John Lindsay’s Chappaquiddick is New York City. So we all started to use that and with that in mind I said, Ted Kennedy’s real Chappaquiddick is his liberalism. He’s too liberal for the country, for the party. And [Jimmy] Carter proved that. Carter very carefully, very shrewdly, told some politicians, I’m going to whip his ass, and he knew that would get out because—the pious preacher saying something like that? He knew it would get out and it did. 

Teddy made a comeback in New York and he made a comeback in the western states. Much like Jack, he would keep an eye on people. He’d see me in New York or something and he’d say, I didn’t see you in Cleveland. He started keeping track of where I went and where Jack Germond went, and where Tom Oliphant and Jules Witcover went. Tom Oliphant and Jules Witcover went to Ohio and South Dakota and Germond and I went to New York, or we’d go to California. 

The late Phillip Burton, the Congressman from California—two Ls in Phillip; he was very sensitive about that. I was going to have lunch with him after a Kennedy rally in downtown San Francisco and he said, Jesus. Teddy wants me to ride to the airport with him. Call me later this afternoon. I said, Sure. So I went over to see Phil in his office and he said, Well, I got the lowdown from Kennedy about you. I said, About me? What do I have to do with anything? He said, He saw you at the Hotel Benson, where you and Germond had undoubtedly finished a big salmon dinner in Oregon. He saw you in Manhattan. He didn’t see you in Cleveland, didn’t see you in Topeka, didn’t see you in all these— It was a little game. It’s their entertainment.

Reporters are always stunned at how much politicians gossip about them. I’ve never listened to the Nixon tapes and apparently I’m on the Nixon tapes a lot. They say, Do you want to hear it? I said, I don’t want to hear what Nixon said about me. But they do, you know the famous overheard thing of [Richard] Cheney and [George W.] Bush talking about the great Adam Clymer. So they do. I can understand. It’s sort of a release. It’s sort of a fun thing. He would kind of catalogue it and then when he had an impressive list, then he’d come and rip me for it, which is pleasant in a way. 

Phil Burton was a tough guy and he thought I was pretty funny. Kennedy liked Phillip and his brother John. They were old-fashioned liberals. They were real. John’s still around—the former State Senate President. As he often said before the State Senate in California, Well, as the only recovering drug addict and recovering alcoholic here, I want to say this about that bill. I always thought the Burtons and the Kennedys had a lot in common. They’re very different but united in many ways. So that pressure was always there and it has not existed since 1980.

Knott

Can I take you back to the period after Bobby’s assassination? Maybe you could tell us a little bit about what you might have observed of Senator Ted Kennedy during that period, in the immediate aftermath, leading up to Chappaquiddick. You mentioned this intense pressure he’s under, briefly, to pick up the fallen mantle or perhaps even go to the convention and see if he could—

Nolan

Well, in the first few months of ’69, we’re all just staggering around, you know. I mean, Nixon’s elected. I think Kennedy’s on his best behavior politically and otherwise. The whole Chappaquiddick thing—he’s mourning for his brother, of course, and the whole Chappaquiddick episode had a lot of Bobby’s ghost hovering over it. It was to reward all the Boiler Room girls, all of whom I knew. Two of them are lawyers here in Boston, and one’s a famous literary agent, Esther Newberg, and Mary Jo Kopechne, who was a receptionist in Bobby’s office. 

It was all just to reward them, to have a good time, but it was not some bacchanal. I just know it wasn’t. There might have been bacchanals but this wasn’t one of them, not when I looked at the cast of characters, not when I looked at Jack Crimmins and [Charles] Tretter and those guys, no. When all the stuff came out, I was not writing it at the time. I wasn’t covering it. It was not a Washington story really. Thank God I didn’t have to go up to the Fall River DA’s office. We had plenty of people covering that. 

But I did write something that engendered an enormous amount of mail. It was in a column called Political Circuit; I was filling in for somebody. It was like an op-ed column, and it was a defense of Mary Jo Kopechne. I said that, People have got the wrong idea. They printed her confirmation picture as though she’s some sort of glamour girl. She was not a glamour girl. She was a self-described Novena Catholic. She and Bobby and I would sometimes talk about Catholicism, which, despite the efforts of the nuns and the Jesuits, I was not a fanatic about the subject. 

I remember Bobby said something—we were talking about hell or heaven or purgatory. I said, Purgatory, I guess we’re going to spend a lot of centuries— or something like that. Mary Jo Kopechne and another guy and Bobby were talking and then Bobby left the room laughing and guaranteeing the third participating in the discussion a very lengthy stay in Purgatory. She ran up and she said, I just love that man. 

I said, That kind of love is pouring into Hyannis Port now, but it should pour into the Kopechne family, too, because when she’s vindicated, there won’t be any bands cheering. There won’t be any lawyers with leather briefcases to argue her case, but then she has no case because she is innocent. I wrote it and we printed it. Politicians around here—I think I saved the letters—who despised me, who I never got along with—really tough punks from Dorchester—They wrote me these beautiful essays: It was a beautiful thing, and all that. So, this was a big cause célèbre. 

Teddy’s now back, limping along on his cane, and he’s the Whip. He’s still got the Whip’s job. Drayne says, He wants to see you. I thought, I’m going to hear about this. Well, fuck him, or words to that effect. If he wants to argue about it—you know, he’s going to say, Why— because people interpreted it as a slam on him for defending her. I go up, and he’s still got his cane, in this wonderful little office, a little office under the dome of the Capitol. I said, How are you, Senator? Welcome back to Washington. He comes around the table and I said, What’s going on? He’s hobbling and he just puts his head on my shoulder and sobs.

Knott

Really?

Nolan

That’s all, and I didn’t ask and I didn’t—I let it go for a while and said, What about the appropriations bill? or something. There were no words needed. He knew I knew and there was never another word said about it; there didn’t have to be. As I say, he’s not my friend but there’s a lot of respect there, I hope. Never another word about it. I just thought, well, if people wonder if  politicians are human, they sure as hell are. His colleagues in the Senate were not as forgiving. The story of his forthcoming defeat for the Whip’s job was first printed in the Boston Globe by me.

Knott

You saw this coming.

Nolan

I did. I also found in my treasures a Bev Nap from a saloon somewhere, where I had predicted the earlier win when he beat Russell Long. I had exactly two abstentions, two guys who I thought were going to be sick or didn’t end up showing up for it. I knew the politics of this very well. I was talking to one Senator once who I thought was a Kennedy guy and he wasn’t. He said, Bobby Byrd’s going to run against Kennedy. And I said, Well, do you think this is a problem? And he said yes. I said, Really? Why? Who are you voting for? Bobby Byrd. I don’t know the propriety—most of these people are dead. Thomas J. McIntyre, a Democrat from New Hampshire. 

We were on a plane together. We just happened to be sitting next to each other on a plane, and I knew Tom very well. I covered his first Senate election, when he was Mayor of Laconia, so it’s one of those things. He was just talking and of course it was off-the-record but the information was not. The story runs on a Saturday, or a weekend. My phone is ringing and it’s the Junior Senator of Massachusetts or the Senior Senator, he was then. He’s saying, My God, Byrd’s coming around. Yes, he just told me that. He’s going down the list of Senators and saying, He’s all right, he’s all right… It’s not my job to—he’s not even asking me; he’s just telling me. Do you think Scoop and Maggie are all right, huh? Senator [Henry] Jackson and Senator [Warren Grant] Magnuson in Washington. Teddy fought the SST [Supersonic Transport] and it cost a lot of jobs for Boeing, and actions have consequences. He said, They’re all right, and I knew they weren’t, because I followed the story very closely. And, boom.

Knott

Was Chappaquiddick part of this?

Nolan

Yes. It was an accumulation. I always say his liberal views. He fought the SST. Scoop and Maggie are of the old school. Hey—jobs. Don’t give me no hairy-fairy stuff about the big plane. You don’t like the big plane? The big plane is going to hire a lot of people in my state. All politics is local. Tip O’Neill said that and he wasn’t being quaint, you know. 

If I went back to it, I probably knew because I knew those guys pretty well. Washington was a smaller place. There must have been a dozen print reporters that Senators saw all the time, not 3,000 TV cameras the way it is now. I had it pretty well wired, as I had previously when he ran against Russell Long. I called it right and I knew he had a good chance, and he did, because [Michael] Mansfield is very fond of him.

Knott

Why did he even challenge Russell Long? Senator Kennedy doesn’t strike me as somebody who would be interested in that Whip position, which is kind of—not to belittle it, but why did he want it? Do you have any sense? It’s kind of a nuts-and-vote-counting position, isn’t it?

Nolan

I think he knew—but he did that well before Chappaquiddick. I think he knew he was going to be a better Senator than a President. He was facing the same dilemma that Senator Hillary Clinton is facing today. You can be a great Senator the rest of your life or be such a radioactive candidate that, even if you get elected, what’s going to be possible? He knew that from the experience that he had with his brothers. They both got killed. He knew that being a Senate leader was—he was a man of the Senate. He liked it. Neither Jack nor Bobby particularly liked the Senate. That’s a big crucial difference there, isn’t it? Bobby used to go through a list of people. He would exclude them from his living room, his colleagues.

Knott

Senators?

Nolan

Yes, and he said, If that Birch Bayh grabs my shoulder one more time, I’m going to knock him right on his ass. Things like that, you know. Teddy was so good. John Stennis, Ku Klux Klan—the guy was from the 19th century. Kennedy worked at him. He was taking me through the Armed Services Committee and he said, Senator, that’s Marty Nolan. Good to see you. He said, Senator Stennis is going to come around on that military care package. He’s going to be a hero back there in his city. He’s going to do that, right? And Stennis said, That’s going to cost us too much money. But he did that. 

Every once in a while I would just check up on things when I’d see a guy support a Kennedy initiative. A guy from New Hampshire, Judd Gregg—he’s not a dumb guy but he’s from New Hampshire so he’s afflicted with terminal stinginess. I said, I see you signed on to— whatever the education bill was—and I said, You and the distinguished Senator from Massachusetts. He said, Teddy said there’d be no unfunded mandates, that there would be no mandates in any state. He said no mandates and I told him I’d support it. He knows what will draw them in. 

Orrin Hatch loved him, still does. He just had a way. He would find common ground. He’s the greatest legislator, the greatest Senator by far. All those guys his brother put on the walls of the Senate reception room in the 1950s—Profiles in Courage. I read about [Daniel] Webster, [Henry] Clay and [John C.] Calhoun. I don’t think Bobby would let them into his living room. I mean, just all around, Ted’s skill is unsurpassed.

Knott

He’s taking a lot of heat for that now from some people in his own party, right, for being perhaps too quick to deal with folks on the other side of the aisle?

Nolan

Well, this is the crisis of the Democratic Party right now. I wonder if these netroots have any roots in reality. We’ll find out, won’t we? Some of these netroot people are supposed to be smart. They should learn one thing: George W. Bush is not a candidate for reelection. They’ve got to find something else to do. They’re just so fixed on it. There’s more irrationality now on the left. I would like to get Teddy to—I always thought that some time I’d just sit down and talk to him like in the old days, and he would probably have very interesting things to say about the state of the Democratic Party, and would say it. I’m talking about today, but let’s get back. 

The Whip thing was a serious blow, losing it. When he did win the Whip job the first time, I think he paid a midnight visit to Arlington National Cemetery. Late at night.

Knott

By himself?

Nolan

Maybe there was somebody with him. Just to say to his brothers, Hey, that didn’t surprise me. You see, he had to prove himself on a different turf and he had different skills. He loved the Senate; he still does. I only see him about every couple of years now. There’s a website now that tells you seniority. He’s now in the top five of all time. He professes not to know, and I’m sure he doesn’t. He’s not faking it. He says, [Daniel] Inouye? Who’s ahead of me? He says, I didn’t know that, and he doesn’t. It doesn’t interest him. But it interests me to think he’s probably third now.

Knott

It was Byrd, Inouye, [Strom] Thurmond while he was alive, and Kennedy.

Nolan

So that’s the top five, and he can surpass them. I must say I was very shocked in ’94 when he was having a hard time, and I had an on-the-record interview at his Marlborough Street apartment—Vicki [Reggie Kennedy] was there and she didn’t like any of my questions about his drinking problems and things like that. I said, So is this your final term? Oh no, I’m not committing to that. I said, Strom Thurmond, here we come, and he said, Oh, you’re not going to put that in the story, are you? But he knew I had to have it. I had a tape. He didn’t like it but he’d do it.

Back then—that’s the key, I think—he wanted the Whip’s job so he could rise to do something. He had a lot of respect for Mike Mansfield. Who didn’t? Jim Baker, Reagan’s Chief of Staff and the former Secretary of the Treasury—I asked him once about Mansfield. I asked why Reagan kept him on in Tokyo, and he said, Well, we called him up and asked him if he wanted to stay. That was the easiest no-brainer we ever had. Mike Mansfield is great out there, a great man. 

Teddy had enormous respect for him, his rectitude. Mansfield always kept a close eye on Montana. He’d spend the first couple of hours every morning dealing with Montana. He knew everybody in Montana but he just did it, he was a very local-oriented guy. Kennedy had enormous respect for him. He was like a role model. He was like a father figure to him. I think that was what he had in mind: he’d like to succeed him. And that’s a very worthy goal. It’s OK that he’s not a leader, you know. 

I think he was rooting for Chris Dodd when [Thomas] Daschle won that contest. He is very close to Chris but he has a way of working with whatever leadership there is in either party. He and Howard Baker got along. Baker is a very practical man. He just knows his role. You could ask George Mitchell, Harry Reid, any of these people, if they’ve ever felt like he’s another presence or another center of power. No, no. He knows how to work together. You see, he’s not a maverick guy.

Knott

So it was never a problem for him being a Kennedy? There was never resentment on the part of other Senators?

Nolan

No. He made it so easy for them. You can’t fake that. You cannot fake that political ability, to be interested in other people. The ones who do fake it—look at who the Democratic Party keeps nominating for President lately. They have a sense of entitlement. He doesn’t have that. Maybe that’s the key, the sense of entitlement that so many politicians so readily grasp. I, as a voter, have seen so many Presidential nominees saying, Aren’t you lucky to be able to vote for me? Hillary would be the third Democrat in a row on that score. Teddy doesn’t have that, and he has every right to be entitled. He doesn’t have that, Aren’t you lucky to be able to able to vote for me? He doesn’t regard himself as above. 

He was very fond of Pat Moynihan, too. Pat was a regular Democrat. Pat met the former Ms. Elizabeth Brennan of Massachusetts at the Samuel J. Tilden Regular Democratic Club of the 79th Assembly District, or something. He was a regular Democrat. I remember when Pat got elected to the Senate, Teddy said, You know, Liz [Brennan] Moynihan was a volunteer for Robert Kennedy in 1964. He and Chris Dodd were very fond of Pat because he was a good storyteller. Again, Teddy had every reason to have a sense of entitlement, but he’s a down-to-earth guy. He’s a brilliant Senator. There’s no other way to describe it—Effective, gosh.

Knott

Any other Republicans? You mentioned Hatch and I think Howard Baker. Any other Republicans?

Nolan

One guy I got to know slightly, Gordon Smith of Oregon. He was, I believe, a Mormon from some fortune up there. He’s way up in Pendleton, Oregon. He’s up in the northeast corner of the state. It’s more like Idaho. He likes the guy. He’s impressed with him and Smith has become pretty reasonable. What Kennedy does is he doesn’t co-opt them but he sure cooperates. He likes to talk to them and he likes to talk.

Knott

We heard this. I think that Smith’s son committed suicide and Kennedy was very good, right there, the first guy to come offer help.

Nolan

Absolutely. He knows what real trouble is—his family, the plane crashes, injuries. He’s a wonder. And now, getting his roots back in Massachusetts—The ’94 campaign was the best thing that happened to him, that and his remarriage. After he lost the Whip’s job, I imagine he was hurting for a while. Nixon was in war in Vietnam. There was nothing he could run with. And then the whole McGovern business, [Edmund] Muskie, McGovern, his colleagues running, and I’m sure he must have thought and had every reason to think that Muskie, McGovern, and whoever else was running that year were like pygmies. He was Gulliver tied up with the Lilliputians, you know? Chappaquiddick and all that.

Knott

We heard reports from ’72 that when McGovern tapped [Robert Sargent] Shriver, that Kennedy was not particularly pleased. Can you give us some insight on that?

Nolan

Well first, poor Sarge was like the ninth guy. It was so embarrassing. What’s the best way to put it? I knew Steve Smith very well. I did not know Peter Lawford, and that’s OK, except when he danced with June Allyson. Let’s put it this way: In the Kennedy dynasty, if you’re an in-law, you’re staff. Steve Smith picked up after them. He did all the bills. I don’t know how many times I took the shuttle between LaGuardia and Washington National with Bobby and other people. Flight attendants would be wheeling the credit card thing down the aisle to pay your fare. And Bobby looked up, Can you send me a bill? Steve ran the Park Agency and he just took care of all the bills. 

And Sarge married Eunice [Kennedy Shriver], who was a formidable member of the family. Poor Sarge. This is a true story. Sarge ran for President himself in 1976 and I’m on Meet the Press with him with [Tom] Brokaw or Germond, somebody like that, and I’m thinking he’s got to decide: Is he running as a Kennedy or is he running as an independent? I’ve just gone through my notes and I thought, Please don’t tell us that you’re the only businessman running. What a crock. Sure enough, I’m the fourth guy on the list. He talks to [Larry] Spivak and Brokaw, and I said, You just told Mr. Brokaw that you’re the only businessman in the race, that you’re the only one who has held executive positions. Does it make a difference if you become a businessman because you married the boss’ daughter, and in your only government job, you’re appointed by your brother in-law? What does that make you? 

Then Sarge, a life of privilege—behind his makeup the color is draining from his face and he starts talking about Joe Kennedy, whose name I didn’t mention, and, You’re from Boston. You don’t understand. He started telling me how big the Merchandise Mart is in Chicago. A couple of days later I see Kennedy in the hallway and he said, I saw you and Sarge on Meet the Press. I said, Oh yes, what did you think? I’m not saying. He liked it. 

Poor Sarge. Eddie Jesser, a local consultant here who worked here when Sarge was running in the Massachusetts primary, not long after the New Hampshire primary—A lot of people gathered in the Parker House Restaurant there. Eddie comes up to me and he says, Marty, I just want to tell you one thing. I said, What’s that? He said, There’s no C in Shriver. I said, Ooh, and of course, I thought that was funny. He didn’t think it was funny. Bobby Shriver was there and he came over and he wanted to talk to me. I thought, Oh, boy. He said, I think you did my father a favor. It was a very stand-up thing. He said, It was good for him. 

Meet the Press has its 40th anniversary at the wonderful old Pension Building in Washington, now the National Building Museum. It’s raining and raining, so I took the subway and I come up and dash out. We go to the back entrance and there’s Sarge. Somebody lets him off and he’s there, and there’s a cop saying, You’ve got to go around. This entrance is closed. He says, I’m Sargent Shriver. And he says to me, Are you a police officer? I said, Sarge, it’s Marty Nolan. Let’s stay under the eaves here and then we can make a dash for it. The last guy he wanted to see, I’m sure, at the 40th anniversary of Meet the Press. So, if you’re an in-law, you’re staff.

Knott

Let’s take a little break.

Nolan

I’d be happy to start with Francis X. Morrissey, because that story burst upon the scene approximately a month after I had arrived in Washington. Is this great or what? Jim Doyle and I are covering the biggest story in town and we’re brand new, and knowledge is power. By the end of a few weeks, I’ve got Everett Dirksen coming up to me and asking me questions, and Senator Allen Ellender of Louisiana is cooking gumbo for me in his little hideaway office under the Capitol dome. I mean, is America a great country or what? 

It’s a great story. Francis X. Morrissey, a Boston Municipal Court Judge, was a very faithful retainer for Ambassador Kennedy. There’s a footnote in Ted Sorensen’s book on John F. Kennedy about a controversy and he compares it to another—a possible appointment to the Federal Bench not made, or something. Papa Joe wanted Jack to give Francis X. a job in Federal Court. Well, as it turned out—

Knott

Jack wouldn’t do it.

Nolan

Jack wouldn’t do it. Jack found a way to resist it. And Bobby wouldn’t do it. Bobby was great. Bobby enjoyed teasing Teddy on this one because Teddy’s the youngest and he’s going to do Daddy’s bidding on this. Bobby was with the majority of his colleagues on Francis X. Morrissey. Teddy offers him up and his biography does not jibe with the facts, you know—his résumé. Southern Law School turns out to be a place on the back of a matchbook cover or something like that, some place in Georgia and he never had been to Georgia. He said he attended Boston College Law School, and Boston College Law School had no records of Francis X. Morrissey—all these things. It’s really a row because here’s Ted Kennedy fighting for this guy and Bobby’s silent. And it’s a huge story because in the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings all these Republicans, Dirksen and these guys are saying, What the hell is this about Judge Morrissey? 

What Morrissey did—they sent all of his buddies up there first. My job was so simple. Bob Healy said, You make sure every good word about Frank Morrissey is in the Globe. I recorded faithfully the words of Cardinal Richard Cushing, Speaker John W. McCormack, whoever else, various Knights of Columbus inductees—all the good words, but it still didn’t jibe with the facts. So the Justice Department is on the hook. 

The Attorney General is Nicholas de Belleville Katzenbach. Late one night, his flacks, his PIOs [Public Information Officers], called Healy, Doyle, and me to his office, the Attorney General’s office, at eight or nine o’clock at night. The Attorney General wants to see us. He must have something. He didn’t have anything; he just wanted to lecture us. Fine, I mean, I’ve been lectured by some members of the Boston School Committee; it’s the same thing. They’re all the same, no matter how impressive the office is. 

He goes on and on. Finally, I said, He says he was at this school and this school doesn’t exist. He said he registered at this one and they said they never heard of him. And he said he was at the school while he was running for State Representative from Charlestown in the 1930s. I think Nick has had a few pops around this time and he said, I don’t think we should be talking about standards of Boston politics in the 1930s. I said, No sir, General, I don’t either. I thought we should be talking about the standards for the Federal Judiciary in the 1960s. That’s why we’re here. He said, You impudent young man! 

He gets up from his big desk, and I said, Well hey, I grew up in Roxbury—no problem. I got up, and these guys have panic in their faces. Doyle and Healy were my seconds. You know, you can—you want to? No problem. He’s a big guy, but I took boxing lessons at age nine. They said, Oh, no, no, no. OK. Then he kind of feels a little embarrassed and gives us some meaningless scrap of information that we got into the paper. Sure enough, a couple days later I see Bobby Kennedy and he says, I hear you and Nicky had a little dust-up the other night. I never told anybody because it’s just kind of unseemly, isn’t it? I said, Boy, America’s a great country. Katzenbach was such a—

Oh yes, there was a farewell party for Larry O’Brien at the Sheraton Carlton, and I’m heading in and there’s the Attorney General. He’s still mad. He says, You people are crucifying a good and honest man. I say, Oh, Jesus. Larry O’Brien gets there and he says, What are you two guys fighting about? What is this? Nick, you know my friend Marty? He says, Yes, I know him. Geez, America’s a great country. Nick later took the job of Under Secretary of State and joined the [Lyndon] Johnson faction. I think Bobby was really disappointed with him. 

So the time has come. We had three morning editions and five evening editions. Round-the-clock news didn’t scare me. I’m looking at the clock and I’m looking at [Thomas] Kuchel, the Assistant Minority Leader, and Dirksen. The Senate’s full and Teddy’s going to come and he’s going to withdraw the name. I’ve got about 20 minutes to get this done, so I’m ready to scramble. He stands up and he’s talking about Morrissey’s childhood, and he chokes up. He was choked up. I remember Dirksen and Kuchel looking up—and I think the dancing Senator from California, [George] Murphy, you know—and he was talking about his father making wooden shoes. What’s with this? But they took it seriously and that was the end. I remember seeing Bobby later that day and I said, Hey, the nomination was withdrawn. He wipes his brow and says, Whew. 

That very day—Bob Healy always taught us, if you tag a guy, make sure you show up if he’s got a beef about the coverage or something like that. Later that afternoon we went over to Senator Ted Kennedy’s office and used the side door that’s usually—the legislative assistants are there. If you want to see them directly, you don’t have to go through their front office. It turns out he’s convening with them. David Burke was there, his Chief of Staff, I think, or his top Legislative Aide. He’s there and I said, Oops, I was just coming to see Dave. Hi, Senator. Grrrr. He’s very touchy because we’ve got the black hats on now. I said, We can come back some other time. Burke, a feisty guy from a Brookline firefighters’ family, takes off his PT-109 tie clasp and says, Yes, you can leave now, and he takes it and he throws it at me. I said, Thanks. I still have it, a PT-109 tie clasp hurled by an angry Senate staffer.

Time goes on and the Boston Globe is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for meritorious and disinterested public service, the first Pulitzer Prize award to the newspaper. I loved Frank Morrissey. I got a new stereo and new living room rug and all that stuff out of it, and I got a wonderful note from Ted Kennedy. It said, Congratulations on your boost. You couldn’t have done it without me.

Knott

Did you have any interactions with Morrissey yourself?

Nolan

They kept him under wraps, which is wise. Many years later, in the 1980s, I’m in the reading room of the Boston Athenaeum, a wonderful old private library on Beacon Street, and I’m looking at some book. He said, Hello, Marty, and I said, Oh, Judge. He said, How are you doing? I said, Fine. I hadn’t talked to him for years and he said, Don’t forget that Pulitzer. You guys wouldn’t have won it without me. Funny little guy. 

I saw him at Bobby Kennedy’s funeral. We’re all getting aboard the funeral train. I happened to be standing with Kenny O’Donnell, Larry O’Brien and Ted Sorensen. We’re all herded together waiting to get on the train. Along come the cops and push us aside. Along come the Archbishops and the Bishops and the Clergy, [Cardinal Francis] Spellman and Cushing and all of them, and Frank Morrissey. Sorensen says, Ah, Morrissey with the clergy. Some things you can just never forget. They all just rolled their eyes and said, Ah yes, there he goes again. They considered him sort of—not exactly a spy of the Ambassador, but certainly a strong emissary for his beliefs, values and so forth, and it was a different attitude. So that’s a key episode. It was bigger for the Boston Globe than it was for Kennedy but it was a big deal. You get established and it was a story that just falls on your lap. He took it well and life goes on.

Knott

His father had already suffered the stroke by this time. He certainly could not have been lobbying his son.

Nolan

When did his father have the stroke?

Knott

The father had the stroke in ’61, during President Kennedy’s first year. Why did Teddy go ahead with this?

Nolan

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was sort of a campaign promise for when he was gearing up to run for the Senate seat. Do the right thing by my Frank. The father’s loyalty to his aides has everything to do with the Senator, the subject’s name here. He was born on Washington ’s birthday, 200 years after the first George Washington, and Jack Kennedy says to his dad, Hey, maybe he ought to be George Washington Kennedy. Oh, no, he was going to be Edward Moore Kennedy because Edward Moore was his guy. The Ambassador—he’s having David Nasaw do a book on the Ambassador—Senator Kennedy.

Knott

Oh, is that right?

Nolan

Yes, I read that. He did a wonderful biography of [William Randolph] Hearst and the same principle. The family said, OK, you said we were hiding the papers; here are the papers.

Knott

Really?

Nolan

I love the book on Hearst and I had read a lot of stuff on Hearst. Now David Nasaw—they’re giving him all the papers, so that ought to be a great book. 

Ireland, should we do that?

Knott

Please, yes.

Nolan

He called it Britain’s Vietnam, Northern Ireland. He got the Brits and all their knickers in a twist on that. I guess that’s really not long after Bloody Sunday. There’s something very important in Ireland that we don’t talk about here, called The Four Horsemen. The most prominent Irish-American politicians got together in the late ’70s. Hugh Carey had been elected Governor of New York. Edward M. Kennedy, Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr., Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Hugh L. Carey, much against a lot of their constituency, said, Stop giving money to the IRA [Irish Republican Army] and to the NORAID [Irish Northern Aid Committee] and to these so-called charitable groups that are helping the IRA. Stop it. We’re going to work for peace. 

Boy, they got death threats and everything. They had police protection. They were four remarkable people. I was in Derry not long ago, you know, the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and they still talk about them. There’s a Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. chair and Carey this and Moynihan that, and Kennedy that. Boy, they’re still heroes, and really legitimately so. I mean, George Mitchell did a lot of good work, but they paved the way by putting it on the agenda, so much so that—George Shultz told me this story once—that Tip O’Neill would use his little sit downs with Reagan to say, Hey, tell your buddy [Margaret] Thatcher, that we need peace over there. And of course Reagan’s a guy from Tipperary, very sentimental. A couple of Brits said she hated to hear that from him, but it worked. She didn’t obstruct as much as she would have. 

Getting the Tories out of there—it took Tony Blair to really do it. Now, Ireland is one of the most spectacular economies in the world. I’ve been to Belfast when there were British tanks and barbed wire and all that. It’s all gone. Belfast has got condos and prosperity and it’s safe. It’s great. That’s a very big thing with Senator Kennedy and the others he worked with, and you can see how he worked well. He just knew. I don’t know whose idea it was but they all were gung-ho.

Knott

Is he interested in his Irishness, in his Irish roots? Some Irish politicians wear it on their sleeves. I don’t get that impression with him, but I’m trying to determine.

Nolan

You know what it is? He doesn’t have to, no more than I do, you know what I mean?

Knott

OK, yes.

Nolan

The guys who make a do of it are ones who are insecure about it. He didn’t have to; neither did any of those other three. Tip O’Neill kept a picture of his ancestral home in Donegal. He kept it right behind him. You know, Margaret Thatcher sat there and she said, Oh, that’s a pretty place. It’s Donegal, where my people are from. I think Jack was very sentimental about it. They have a whole exhibit at the Kennedy Library. I think it’s real. You don’t have to fake it.

Hugh L. Carey is still with us. A great, great pal of Kennedy, a wonderful guy, an excellent Governor. He was a better Governor than he was a politician. Kennedy really went to bat for him many a time because they were always redistricting him. He represented Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and the Republicans always were like, That belongs to us, and they stretched five miles of expressway between part of his district. They kept on redistricting him and Kennedy went there several times. 

An incident I well remember—again, I’m the only guy with him, or at the time there was a cop. After ’68, every time we went to New York City, no matter who the mayor was, he had a police detective with him at all times. It was protection. He’s going to some event with Carey and they’re changing into their tuxes at his mother’s apartment on Central Park South right near the Plaza Hotel. Kennedy and Carey are putting on their studs and all that, and Kennedy said, How’s your brother Ed? Hugh Carey has older brothers who are big in the business and were more conservative than he was, and they were giving Hugh the business about being too liberal. Oh, Ted, he says, well, you know, sometimes it’s tough. You’ve got these older brothers. You’re the ninth of nine and I’m only the fourth of four. I said, Fifth of five, and the cop named Foley says, Sixth of six. How funny is this? 

Rose Kennedy once said of her youngest son that he had the tact of a ninth-born child. Let me assure you, his tactfulness is also toughness. You can’t do everything by diplomacy; you have to fight for yourself too, and I think there’s a lot of that. The runt of the litter really has to struggle, and positioning is pretty important in that crowd. That’s why he and Carey got along so well, I think. He’s a great guy. He’s in New York and he’d be very interested, I’m sure. I’m sure he’s in his 80s but a pretty sharp guy. Kennedy can get in touch with him. I sent him a letter once long ago, something I found in my file. My papers are going to Boston University. I found something that I thought I’d mail off to him. I never heard from him but that’s all right. He’s older or whatever. But somebody will find his number.

Knott

Sure. Could you talk a little bit about Kennedy’s relationship with his Senatorial colleagues from Massachusetts, starting with Senator [Edward, III] Brooke?

Nolan

Oh, I can. I think very much in the model of Jack Kennedy and Leverett Saltonstall. Any political scientist can tell you that sometimes it’s easier to have the two Senators be from different parties, because there’s not a sibling rivalry there. It’s a different setup. It was a great relationship. Brooke was a terrific guy. I thought he was a very good Senator. He was on the Banking and Currency Committee, which meant housing, which meant—there’s nothing more important in Massachusetts than housing. 

Teddy took care of other, you know, labor and welfare issues. Brooke might as well have been a—he’s a very liberal Republican. They would go to events together just because the roll call—or if the Senator was working late—I’ve seen them both arrive at a couple of events, arrive together and leave together. They’d take the same car. I think it was pretty good. Then Brooke got into trouble in 1978 and was defeated by Paul Tsongas. Tsongas was by then so much junior to Teddy that there was no question. 

It was the same with [John] Kerry, you see. He came right out for Kerry. I don’t know what he really thinks of Kerry. I don’t know what Kerry thinks of anything, either. I suspect his fondness for Tsongas was pretty strong, you know, a city kid from Lowell. And all those issues of economic revival in cities like Lowell were pretty important. I would say, compared to Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh, you know, people I can think of—it’s delicate. 

I mentioned Gordon Smith. Gordon Smith had been defeated by Ron Wyden for [Robert] Packwood’s seat, and they had a fierce contest. Smith ran the next time and he and Wyden get along just fine. Look at my state, with Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. They get along just fine. Different ideologies—so what? It works out. It’s been fine. I think he liked having Brooke there because it was like an avenue to having bipartisan support for a lot of things. Brooke was a very sharp politician, given the lay of the land.

Knott

You referred a couple of times today to the 1994 election and the scare Kennedy had. Could you talk a little bit more about ’94 and the race against [Mitt] Romney?

Nolan

Well, I was happy to see—I had been the editorial page editor for ten years. I left Washington in early ’81 and then I did the job of being the editorial page editor for ten years. The easiest and most enjoyable editorials to write were those endorsing Ted Kennedy for reelection. I always had some fun with those. But the ’94 thing—

Knott

Was he really in trouble from the start?

Nolan

He was really in trouble and he had really not paid attention. I’m pretty clear on that. I talked to a lot of guys who used to hear from him, who didn’t. Romney was the definition of an empty suit. He had no roots here. He had a nice chin and profile, and he had a nice name. His father was a very good man. 

We had Joe Kennedy, who was a Congressman, and his brother Michael was sort of running the campaign. I’m back as just sort of a reporter. I had been the big boss, and I liked being a reporter again because I could do the story and I knew a lot of people. I knew they were in trouble and Michael was unaware of it. He had an office there on the waterfront. It was a big scare. 

I’ll never forget the Romney–Kennedy debate at Faneuil Hall. Once again, I get there early. Get there early and you see what happens. Romney comes in with about two consultants, in a half-hour looks at the thing, OK, this is the microphone, da-da-da. Kennedy’s people get there very early in the morning and they have two podiums. They’re both like condominiums, you know? They’re this big, to hide the impressive girth of the incumbent. I mean, it’s about the size of this table—and you can see his head. He puts one there, and puts another one over there for Romney. Romney’s got no choice and he hadn’t thought about it. Then I looked at guys I haven’t seen for years doing things, all the union guys with their signs and all that. Oh, isn’t this rich. I just checked in on this. Romney comes out, Oh fine, fine, fine. They just took over the whole thing. 

Then I saw the gathering of the clan. About a half-hour before the thing, I went over to Faneuil Hall to have a cup of coffee, and there, having a cup of coffee were Jim King, David Burke, Paul Kirk, Eddie Martin, and I thought, My God, all this talent. You guys must be charging a real hefty fee for all this experience. They looked, Grrr. I said, Wow, this is something. They all turned out and they were doing the same jobs they had done in 1962. Paul Kirk is making millions as a lawyer and he’s doing the work of a 22-year-old advance man. It was just a great lesson. I looked at Paul and he said, Our guy’s in trouble, and we’re here, and they looked all very worried. They were not going to try to disguise it from me.

Knott

Were they partly worried about how their man would perform at that debate?

Nolan

I think they were worried more by apathy than antipathy. Oh, Kennedy is taking us for granted. Well, take a look at this guy. Ninety-four was not a very good year for Democrats. The attitude was—I mean, it was a national race. All the experts are saying, This [Newton] Gingrich fellow, he took over the Republicans but he has to win 32 seats and he’ll never win 32 seats; that’s impossible. He won 52 seats, including knocking off Joe Early here in Worcester. There was a tide running and it was not running Kennedy’s way. I’m sure anything could have happened, but it’s like he got a dash of cold water. I’d better straighten up. I don’t keep track of his married life, but when did he get married?

Knott

Vicki was ’92, I believe.

Nolan

That’s a big help. I think he was just—he had a new family and all that but he had not been around. I talked to guys, saw a lot of guys. I talked to a guy from Malden and said, How do you think Kennedy’s doing? Have you seen Kennedy in your neighborhood? Dorchester—da da, you know? No, no. Geez. And then they started to get worried about it. You weren’t going to lose hardcore Democrats, but Middlesex County, you know, people who always want to be bipartisan. So it was not an easy—

Knott

Was Palm Beach and the Willie Smith thing a factor?

Nolan

Very much, of course. I think I wrote something about it. I said it’s like a Stations of the Cross, Via Dolorosa—bad datelines, you know: Chappaquiddick, Palm Beach, and now, according to some people, Washington, D.C. and his performance. He had real trouble. 

And Michael was in over his head. Poor Michael, he got killed in a skiing accident later, but he wasn’t—he shouldn’t have been doing that. It’s a hard thing. The Corleones and the Kennedys have the same rule: Don’t go outside the family. He wasn’t competent. He needed Robert Duvall to come in. 

Teddy did turn it around. He discovered his legs in about the last month of that, and then he was a dervish, he was everywhere, like he was scrambling for his life. Then he found out that he still loved it and he hasn’t stopped. Twelve years later, he’s doing the same thing and it’s wonderful. He’s energized by it and it makes him younger. So it was a good scare because he never had a serious opponent. He had the Silence of the Lambs. I can name his opponents: Edward J. McCormack, Jr., George Cabot Lodge—this is a trivia question. Nineteen-sixty-four—this was a landslide. He’s flat on his back and it was the Mayor of Newton, Howard Whitmore. How’s that?

Knott

Well you got me on that one.

Nolan

Seventy is Michael Robertson, the selectman from some town that’s—you could fit the population in that apartment building, I think.

Knott

I thought ’70 was [Josiah] Spaulding, wasn’t it?

Nolan

Oh, Robertson was ’76, thank you. Josiah Spaulding. And then this poor guy, I think he had a primary opponent somewhere to the busing thing. I think that might have been Robert Emmet Dinsmore who was his primary opponent in 1976. Well this should part of the record, shouldn’t it?

Knott

Yes.

Nolan

1982, where am I? Ray Shamie. 1988?

Knott

Did Shamie run again?

Nolan

No, Joe Malone.

Knott

Joe Malone, that’s right.

Nolan

He did well for himself by running a gentlemanly campaign, and then Mitt Romney in ’94, and I’m lost on the last one.

Knott

Jack E. Robinson, or something like that?

Nolan

Jack E. Robinson, yes. As they would say at the State House, he’s a dahlin’, that one. The Honey Fitz stuff, talk about history. He loves the stories about Honey Fitz. Ken Gloss, who owns the Brattle Book Shop, whenever he gets some old stuff of Honey Fitz, he saves it for Kennedy and then he saves them for me. I’ve got speeches. There was a wonderful thing I used a couple of times when Kennedy was having a hard time. He said, The proudest boast of every Bostonian is that of liberal. John F. Fitzgerald, 1911, or something like that. They weren’t afraid to be liberals. Doris’ book is fabulous—the story of Toodles Ryan. The great lovers in history, from Cleopatra to Toodles, you know. What else do we have here?

Knott

Well, I want to ask one more sort of sensitive question.

Nolan

How am I doing? Tip O’Neill used to tell guys he knew who were always being brought before a grand jury, you know, a lot of guys from New Jersey, ABSCAM and all this—He said, Just as a practical matter, tell the truth; it’s the easiest thing to remember. Tip had more sayings. Long before Don Corleone, he said, Hug your friends close; hug your enemies closer. I heard that from Tip long before I ever heard of Mario Puzo and The Godfather.

Knott

Actually, let me stop for a second here. Could you talk a little bit about Tip O’Neill and the Kennedys, and particularly Ted Kennedy. Not always sweetness and light?

Nolan

Not always sweetness and light. Tip was a poor kid who grew up in North Cambridge not far from here on Russell Street. He remembered cutting the lawns at Harvard Yard for 17 cents an hour during Prohibition and seeing all these people swilling champagne, even though it was illegal, because they were privileged and all that. He had a deep, abiding feel for that. He got over it but he did have that sense of being treated like household help by Jack. But he had a nice relationship with Jack. He’s like all those guys. 

He was split between Teddy and Eddie in 1962, only he was closer to John McCormack than the others. Eddie Boland was a Kennedy guy. Tip said, Massachusetts is like tonic. If you can’t get Coca-Cola, you take Pepsi-Cola and that’s it. The Kennedys are Coca-Cola, and poor Eddie’s Pepsi-Cola. But he tried to be loyal to Uncle John and I don’t think he took a stand in that. Then when Kennedy got in there, he liked him all right but he wasn’t sure. It took him a while to warm up. Tip was a very cautious guy, but after a while, gung-ho all the way. 

Of course, the more trouble—this is very much in your line of inquiry. St. Patrick’s Day 1970, after Chappaquiddick—David Broder was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard and I was here and I said, David, do you want to go to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Southie? Geez, I’d love it. I said, I know it well from my youth. We’ll get a good spot up on Thomas Circle in Dorchester so you can see them coming around. So we’re there and Kennedy comes marching on foot. He’s in disrepute because of Chappaquiddick, and the little old ladies are coming up and throwing flowers at him, hugging him, kissing him. Jim King was about the size of an NFL [National Football League] linebacker and he’s peeling them off. Kennedy comes over to Broder and me and says, In Southie, they love you when you’re down. I later saw Jim and I said, Was it like that the whole time? He said, It was like that the whole time. You show up and you’re down and you’re humanized, and—it’s sort of an Irish thing. The Irish don’t love you if you’re up. If you’re down, they’re going to be a little more compassionate, and I think Tip was that way. 

I remember Tip and I were arguing on national television, Face the Nation or something like that. He had Kennedy running in some year and Kennedy said he wasn’t and I said, Hey, he’s saying he’s not, and he said, Well, you and I have had this conversation many times. I felt like saying, Yes, and you’re wrong all the time, but he kept on trying to push Teddy to run when he didn’t run. I don’t know, as late as ’84, maybe. The Ireland thing is a great bond. Those guys, that’s important to them. I think there was a very good relationship, I really do. They’re not social friends. His social friends are like John Tunney.

Knott

John Culver?

Nolan

John Culver, oh very much. John worked for him. Chris Dodd. He’s had friendly relations with Jim Eastland. He was good at that. We diverted from something.

Knott

Well, I was going to ask you a somewhat sensitive question about whether you ever saw alcohol as a factor in terms of affecting Senator Kennedy’s performance.

Nolan

As we say, compared to whom? There are a lot of topers in that distinguished and honorable body. There were a lot of guys drunker than he was, not that that’s an excuse. He’d say, Let’s have a pop. He was always ready to have a pop. He’d have this Christmas party at his house. I was married, then I got divorced in ’73. I thought, Oh good, now I don’t have to go to any more Kennedy parties, because they always send the invitation to the house. Out in Hickory Hill. All the celebrities. My first wife loved it. So I didn’t have to go any more. I didn’t want to go. But I’d be out on the trail with him a couple of times and, hey, what are you going to do? You’re going to have a drink afterwards, everybody does that.

I think it got to be a more serious problem in the ’90s. In 1994, when he was still having a bit of a struggle against Romney, I interviewed him. The tape was running and I printed it in the paper verbatim. I said, I want to ask you about one serious problem. He said, It’s about the weight, isn’t it? I said, No, it isn’t. It’s about the booze; it’s about the drinking. Do you consider yourself—do you have a problem with alcohol? He said, Oh no, I’m a social drinker. OK. We went through it all and he went into whatever sources of denial. I just thought we ought to have it on the record. He’s got other problems and we all have problems. Obviously the remarriage is a big, big factor.

Knott

There is a kind of pre-Vicki, post-Vicki with Ted Kennedy. Is that accurate?

Nolan

Well, you know, brother Jack’s favorite figure is Prince Hal becoming Henry V. Well, there were plenty of Falstaffs. Sweet Jack Falstaff. Kind Jack Falstaff. When Prince Hal vanishes, Jack Falstaff, what does he say? I’ve abused your company. I’ve had these abusements, but now we’re made of sterner stuff. There was that. He had a fairly prolonged adolescence, shall we say? Let’s see, that would have been in the 1970s, 1980s. It kind of diminished toward the end of the ’80s, but he was young and he was single a lot of the time. Even if he weren’t, you know, he didn’t have much of a marriage. If you look at his father and his grandfather, there’s not a heroic record of fidelity there, but I don’t know what that has to do with anything. 

Calvin Coolidge was a man of extreme virtues, you know. A lot of people want George W. Bush to go back drinking again. It’s the old joke. I think I heard the same thing about Pat Moynihan. He drinks. Some snotty Congressman said this to me once and I said, Really? Imagine that. Well, I’m in mind of what [Abraham] Lincoln said when they told him that Ulysses S. Grant was a bit of a toper. He said, Find out what he’s drinking and I’ll send a case of it to all my other generals. That’s it. So if Ted Kennedy drinks, let’s bottle it and send it to the Republican caucus and some of the bozos in the Democratic one.

Knott

How important is his Catholic faith to the Senator, if you had to guess? I know I’m pushing you here.

Nolan

For some reason, I spent more time going to church with Bobby, but that was just the circumstances of it. I remember it because he never had any money with him. He’d always have to borrow a dollar when the collection plate came. Don’t you love that? I went to church with Nelson Rockefeller a couple of times in Harlem. He had a fifty; he was ready. Bobby had nothing. He said, You got a buck? We were driving down somewhere in Brooklyn. Bill Barry is the driver and he said, Well, yes, I think there’s a 5:30 Mass at St. Vincent’s. Bobby says, God’s going to forgive you and me, Marty, but he’s not going to forgive Bill Barry. He’s not going to get us to Mass. It was very important. To me it wasn’t, but it was—and I think when he got the annulment from Joan it was a big deal. Every sodality member in eastern Massachusetts was chattering about that, so I presume it is, but I don’t know.

Knott

You haven’t had any conversations with him like you might have had with Bobby?

Nolan

No. I just think it is just the old-fashioned thing. Sure, you go to Mass on Sunday. Actually, President Kennedy once gave a speech at the 100th anniversary of Boston College and it was about the Pope’s Encyclical in 1963, and Teddy was there. The three of them were pretty much alike on that. They think the faith is the real deal and they have it. I don’t think it’s fake. There are plenty of Catholics who would hit the rail and steal the other six days. There are plenty of them around here. I’ve never discussed it because— I just never have.

Knott

OK. Can I ask you to talk a little bit about the busing crisis in the ’70s? I know the Globe was very much in the thick of it. I remember seeing protesters myself out in front of the Globe. Certainly Senator Kennedy took a lot of heat and was roughed up in Government Center, and it was a pretty ugly scene.

Nolan

I think that scene is what led J. Anthony Lukas to write Common Ground. He said, How could this happen in the cradle of liberty?

Knott

Did he lose his base in Southie and Charlestown? I mean, I assume he did for a time because of this issue.

Nolan

Sure he did, yes. Wendell Arthur Garrity was his guy, that’s why. Rest his soul, but Judge Garrity was just terrible—he made a million bad moves. I remember talking to him afterwards. I said, Well, Arthur, what do you think? Any regrets? He said, Well, we could have delayed it a year. I said, Yes, you could have, or you could have integrated the whole city and not just the two poorest neighborhoods, one poor-white— There are a million things. 

You know who was very good on it, and I know Teddy talked to him a lot during this, is Eddie McCormack. He was appointed a master and he came up with a very good plan. Instead, Garrity listened to a couple of sociologists from Connecticut and it was just a disaster. You could have done it grade-by-grade, any number of ways. It was true out-of-touchness, and the Globe was a suburban newspaper. The Globe had no touch with the people in the city—none. I know that. I was in Washington and I knew more about the city than nearly all the editors. Here we are, people from Cambridge, Belmont, Lincoln, Weston, Wellesley, saying, You rascals behave now, because we want your kids— Ed Logue, who was the head of the Redevelopment Authority here, said, How tragic is it that the poorest kids have to take a bus from Fields Corner in Dorchester to go to Brighton, and they go by four or five schools in Brookline that are among the best in the nation but they can’t get off the bus and go to school there? 

All these people lecturing racist people in South Boston. They don’t send their kids to integrated schools. It was just the height of hypocrisy. Everything was just wrong on both sides. There was no excuse for any of the behavior. But the attitude—Wendell Arthur Garrity lived in Wellesley. The education guru with the Globe lived in Brookline. The editor lived in Lincoln. Another editor lived in Hingham. They had nobody. When I was appointed editorial page editor in 1980 by my boss, William O. Taylor, I said, I’ll tell you this, Bill, I’m going to live in the city. He said, Wow! That alone is good enough. I lived in an apartment a few months in Beacon Hill, then I bought a condo in Dorchester, then I moved to South Boston and I took a lot of crap. It didn’t bother me. That’s fine.

Knott

You took a lot of crap from whom? From your neighbors?

Nolan

The people in Southie, yes, sure.

Knott

Any violent crap, any vandalism?

Nolan

No, not vandalism, just remarks. [William] Bulger would have his Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast and I showed up a couple of times. You only get it in Southie. I used to go to this when Johnny Powers was the host here. I’d go when Leo Sullivan was here. I’m going to show up. Bulger calls me up with some Irish joke when I got off. It made fun of him. This guy Andy Donovan, a big guy who worked for the registries, said, I don’t know you, pal, but I’ll say one thing, you brought your balls here in a wheelbarrow. I thought, Ah, the ultimate compliment of a Southie. It’s not brains; it’s testosterone by the bushel-load. 

Teddy was way out of touch with that, and once the busing started, it was over. It lasted quite a long while. Can you imagine that Ronald Reagan carried several housing projects? There were housing projects that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush carried until they were finally desegregated. Can you imagine that? Whole precincts. I love precincts. I love real numbers. I hate polls and I love real numbers. I used to just print that all the time and say, Here, how about that? Here we have people living in public housing and they voted for Reagan. There were only about three towns in Massachusetts that voted for Reagan, but, Here we have Ward 6, Precinct 4, Old Colony Projects. That came down with the decision in ’73, ’74, and it lasted.

Knott

Yes.

Nolan

I was in San Diego, covering Richard Nixon, and Kevin White was there, and his guy there, Ira Jackson. Kevin, God, he made Kennedy sound like Noel Coward, you know? I mean, he was inarticulate beyond belief. I say to Ira, Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to have the questions typed out and we’re going to type out his answers. We’re going to have this done right. OK, what questions do you have? I said, Oh, you’re going to type the questions, too, because I’m covering Nixon and Watergate, and I know something about it but not enough. Now that’s when you have to trust somebody, and sure enough, we had the story and the Herald didn’t. 

Kevin White knew it was trouble. Why Kevin White was kiboshed for this Vice Presidential nomination? Another mystery I have failed utterly to unearth. I’ve gotten six different stories from Ken Galbraith, [Father] Bob Drinan, Kevin White, George McGovern, Ted Kennedy. It’s a mystery. You need all the conspiracy theorists you can find for that. I gave up, couldn’t figure it out. Gary Hart. I thought it was a good story but I could never get my mitts on it. Some day the story will be told but it hasn’t yet.

Knott

The rap against the Globe then and perhaps now was that, as a newspaper, you were too tight with the Kennedys. Can you comment on that?

Nolan

Well, you wouldn’t think so during the Francis X. Morrissey story and a few other times.

Knott

You must have heard this.

Nolan

It just is a presumption, an automatic presumption. Nixon had the presumption, you know. It’s a presumption but there’s nothing to really back it up. I don’t see any puff pieces or anything like that. He got his puff pieces from the magazines. The Kennedys had Life, Look, Saturday Evening Post and then later Newsweek. I don’t think Teddy had a whole lot of puff pieces in the Globe, as such. I would think if you matched coverage of him and Ed Brooke, Paul Tsongas—you name it, it’s the same amount. 

It’s just an automatic presumption, I think, because Tom Winship and Bob Healy were both close to Jack Kennedy. I’ve heard that and I said, It’s a very interesting theory. If you give me an example or two, I can address it. Surely you have a lot. What have you got? Tell me the story we didn’t run, the cover-up, tell me anything. It’s just an automatic response—that’s life. We’re a big institution. People want to take shots at you. They have no proof, no nothing. 

It’s sort of like being called anti-Semitic or something like that. It just is, Oh, you must be. At a meeting, somebody who was a Jewish community relations guy said, I know you’re anti-Semitic. I just stopped the meeting right there. I said, Gentleman, come right up here. You must have a good story to tell. Tell me all about it. He said, I know for a fact you’re anti-Semitic. I was a shabbos goy on my avenue. I mean, I grew up with Jewish people. It’s just not the case. I said, Come right up here, and then I won the crowd over. There were about 900 people there. I said to the loudmouth, Come on, I have nothing more to say until you explain this theory, and you must have something to say. Come on up. The guy running it is thinking, am I going too far? Good. Let’s think that. I’ll have you back on your heels, big guy. It worked out he just stormed—and he just ran off. That day I must have shaken about 150 hands afterwards.

Knott

Where was this?

Nolan

The first meeting I had as the editorial page editor with the Jewish Community Relations Council, something like that. This guy just stands up and says, I know for a fact you’re anti-Semitic.

Knott

Was there some particular—I’m getting off track here. Was there some reason why that meeting was held?

Nolan

Oh yes, they were very interested in the Globe’s editorials on the Middle East. I spent a lot of time. Talk about images, I said, There may be some white Protestants living in Boston but I don’t ever hear from them because they don’t have any beefs. The Catholic Church, the black community, the Jewish community, the Hispanics. You think of Boston as Beacon Hill and The Late George Apley. Boy, those white Protestants, I like them. They’re silent. My phone isn’t ringing off the hook. Soft on Kennedy? There’s not a shred of evidence. I mean, there really isn’t. I’ve asked this of people. I’d love to see it. When you publish every day, you’re going to make mistakes, and I’m always interested in hearing about mistakes.

Knott

Well, do you think it possibly goes back to—you referred to this—you said Bob Healy was close to President Kennedy—putting the Harvard scandal below the fold, things like that? But that’s fairly common, I mean, that bargaining goes on.

Nolan

It was a pretty good story and I would have put it above the fold. It ran below the fold, and what’s the big deal about that? It could have been [Fidel] Castro had been threatening World War III or something. I don’t know what was going on at that moment. It’s just one of these things that people assume. It’s just ridiculous. I know that Nixon did. Nixon hated me before he even met me.

Knott

You did meet Nixon, I assume?

Nolan

Oh, yes, yes.

Knott

Was he overtly hostile to you?

Nolan

No, he was just such an awkward, difficult guy. Boy, you had to be up on your sports to have any small talk with him. I met the director of the Nixon Library. I’m always interested in helping any project. My papers are going to Boston University, so I was going through some stuff and I found some notes I had taken. I was going to do a story on the human side of Nixon. Pretty sparse material, as you might imagine, but I found some of things of his, little chit-chat things that didn’t quite make the paper, and I put them together and sent it to the guy. 

I had a wonderful interview with Ronald Reagan for about a half-hour on his movie career, when he was not talking about it. I really prepared, and [Sander] Sandy Vanocur said, When are you going to give that to the Reagan Library? So I did, sure. I think it’s an obligation you have.

Knott

Definitely.

Nolan

People want to research it because he really—Reagan loved the subject. Lyn [Franklin] Nofziger had been bounced off the plane. Nofziger never let him talk about the movies, and there was a power struggle. I said, Here’s my chance. I get my ten-minute interview and I don’t care what he thinks about the Panama Canal Treaty or the SALT [Strategic Arms Limitation Talks] Treaty. He doesn’t care either. Let’s talk about Rhonda Fleming and Jack Warner. By God it worked. Reagan was always happy to see me. He said, My friend from Boston. He wasn’t good with names. Seen any good movies lately? It was great. For a guy who was such a conservative guy, he always treated me very nicely. 

Knott

He was different from Nixon in that regard?

Nolan

Oh, yes. Self-assured, nothing to prove. He’d had a life before, and that’s the kind of politicians you generally like. Kennedy, of course, is not that way. He was Assistant DA for about a year-and-a-half, I guess, but it’s not always proof. People like a guy like that. I think [Mario] Cuomo was popular because of that. He had had a life before he came into politics. 

Kennedy and the Globe? I don’t know. People can look up anything they want. I’m unaware of giving him any better or worse treatment than anyone else. In fact, you always try harder to deal with your foes. I bent over backwards with Nixon because I knew there was a sense of hostility. Gerry Warren, who was Ron Ziegler’s deputy, said to me as he was leaving the White House, Believe it or not, Marty, some of us read the papers and you’ve treated us very fairly. I know a couple of the commentaries or analyses you had were kind of tough on the old man, but geez, you certainly covered the domestic stuff we tried to do, which I did. We did housing and stuff like that, transportation. Nixon was the last liberal President. So, you’re fair. Why not? Enemies, eh, they’re not worth having. Life’s too short.

Knott

How would you explain to somebody reading this transcript, hopefully 100 years from now or so—that’s our goal here, to create an historical record that will last. How would you explain the hold of the Kennedys, particularly on the people in Massachusetts, that would allow somebody like Senator Kennedy to have a 44-year career in the United States Senate, as we speak today? 

Nolan

In Massachusetts we do indeed revere the past. There’s nothing wrong with that. In the 1970s, during the great energy crisis, a guy I knew, Fred Dutton, was the lobbyist for the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He had been another guy doing well by doing good. He came to work for Jack Kennedy in the White House as Assistant Secretary of State and worked for Bobby Kennedy and McGovern and all this. He landed on his Guccis with this job. He says, Look, there’s this Minister of Petroleum, Sheikh [Zaki] Yamani. Do you remember Sheikh Yamani? He says, He’s coming to town and I’d like him just to get a flavor. Would you like to get an exclusive? Yes, geez, he was the biggest guy going. 

He takes me to lunch at the Watergate Hotel, just the two of us, wonderful, because I kind of knew the subject. Oil is very important for furnaces in New England. He’s talking about OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] and stuff like that. He’s giving me a big Churchill Havana cigar, sitting there like he’s got all day, and he said, You know, Mr. Nolan, we have oil running under the sands of Saudi Arabia. We have a lot of oil, but it is a finite resource. We all know that, he says. But we have Mecca and Medina and we will never run out of Mecca and Medina. I probably put it in at the bottom, if I put it in at all, because it didn’t relate to the price of oil. 

But that’s what we have in Boston, Massachusetts. Yes, we’ve got hospitals and universities and all that, but we have history, and you never run out of history. That is the great contribution Jack Kennedy made with Profiles in Courage. He knew that the history he learned just by walking around—I used to take the Harvard fellows on a tour, my little walking political tour. You don’t have to go far; it’s all around the State House. I would show them the statue of William Lloyd Garrison, the liberator. Jack Kennedy had remembered the statue and sent a guy to take the—in his last speech in America he said he wanted to have this before he went on to see Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna. I was covering it at the Commonwealth Armory. It was a great time and he said, I take with me an inscription on a statue of a distinguished and vigorous New Englander, William Lloyd Garrison: ‘I am in earnest….I will not retreat a single inch and I will be heard.’ 

Another time, Kennedy was walking along—He’s got this apartment over there on Bowdoin Street. This is where Jack Kennedy’s mattress was, I mean, that’s his voting address. Right there at about Spruce Street, James Michael Curley, for the 300th anniversary of the founding of Boston, has this wonderful relief. It’s an Italian sculptor and a Yankee architect and an Irish mayor, and the words are from John Winthrop: For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. 

Reagan took it, as you know. In fact, we were flying in over Dorchester Bay. The Reagan people are smart. You have the local guy go in with the candidate. He said, Now what is that? I said, Well that’s actually Dorchester Bay, but that’s where the Arbella lay anchored when John Winthrop, you know, the guy with the ‘city on a hill’? Kennedy used that in his speech to the Massachusetts Legislature long before you got it. He said, No kidding, really? I said, January 9, 1961, Governor, ‘For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.’ Kennedy took that and thought that sentiment should be spread to the Massachusetts Legislature. What he meant was, please don’t steal, or don’t steal as much as you have been doing, and they all thought, Ah, isn’t it great that Jack Kennedy was elected? The message went over their heads. 

You see all that sense of history just living, going back to Honey Fitz and Curley, and these people all had it. He is the essence of a Boston politician. They’re all rooted and it’s a phenomenal thing to have this. We have the myth, Damon and Pythias. There was not a third guy in there, right? Just think of what Edith Hamilton could have done with this, you know? You’ve got one martyred guy and then another martyred guy, and then the third guy turns out to be the greatest United States Senator in history by a measuring of accomplishment, involvement, whatever—what Adam Clymer’s book said. It’s pretty much every issue except the environment, which is not a New England issue, in a way. But there’s no issue that it does not affect. I mean, civil rights, labor law, education, health—what are we missing? Foreign policy? Vietnam.

What a remarkable thing. There’s nothing like it in American history certainly and I’m unaware of another family like that—the primogeniture. One guy dies in the war, the other guy is kind of diffident and not too keen on running, but he runs. He gets killed and then the brother, not too keen on politics, but he runs and he gets killed, and then the guy who’s really good at politics survives. They did a TV series—I’m going to write to John Shattuck at the Kennedy Library and say, Get the tapes of this damn thing and sell the disc. They did a wonderful video, Profiles in Courage

Knott

This was fairly recent?

Nolan

No, no, ’64 or ’65. It ran for about a season-and-a-half and it got great critical reviews but not too many eyeballs. I remember Lee Tracy was Robert A. Taft. How’s that, huh? I mean, good actors, and I thought, you know, get that and sell it at the debut. I’m going to write John a letter on that because I’m very fond of the Kennedy Library. I’m a member and all that stuff. This project is going to be something different from what’s at the Kennedy Library? 

Knott

Right.

Nolan

Well, don’t forget this. You haven’t asked about the relationship between Harvard University and the Kennedy family. Oh-ho-ho! We missed that one.

Knott

Let’s go for that. That, along with the Kennedy Library.

Nolan

Yes, sir. Well, that one is a pip. I was really involved in all of them. This is good. April, 1963, I forget the exact date—President Kennedy has done a favor for Tip O’Neill, an alumnus of Boston College. BC is still kind of a commuter—I don’t think there’s a dormitory there yet. It’s still a commuter school but he’s going to go. They give a degree to Nathan Pusey, the President of Harvard, and they give one to Barbara Ward Jackson, someone worthy like that, and to President Kennedy, and he gives a speech. 

I’m the fourth guy on the story but I’m with a terrific photographer, Ollie Noonan, Jr., brave as can be, who got killed in Vietnam. We’re driving along Storrow Drive and all of a sudden everything stops. Jack gets out, and he’s got Edward B. Hanify, the lawyer, there with him. He starts pointing around near the business school. Ollie, I said, what the hell’s up? Ollie just charges up—a couple of Secret Service guys push him back but he gets the picture. It’s a great picture. Kennedy’s pointing to the Charles River on one side or the other. I said, It’s got to be the library. Pretty much, he was scouting locations. Well, before the year is out, he’s dead and then Teddy is sort of in charge of finding a place. 

Well, I said, a train yard site would be really good—they called it Bennett Street Yards, where the Kennedy School of Government is now—but we’ve got to store the trains somewhere. Well, let’s store them in Dorchester. People in Dorchester said, Yeah, thanks. All the money is coming in, by the way. They’re swimming in money, and what the Kennedys need is what? More money? Nickels and dimes from schoolchildren and all that, to build the library, the same way they did the Statue of Liberty. Everybody—they’re having collections for their martyred President and they’re sending them in. 

They have all this money, so what are we going to do? Well, Harvard says, We’ll take the money but we don’t want the library, and that’s a fact, Jack. The Brattle Street neighbors decide, Oh no, no, no. We don’t want all those Americans coming here, you know, school children coming tromping through our neighborhood. Oh, no, no, no, it just won’t do. Several of these people are still around. Senator Kennedy was not too pleased. One of the opponents had indeed worked for him. This fellow’s wife was one of the leaders of the opposition.

Knott

Dun Gifford?

Nolan

Dun Gifford, yes, and Pebble Gifford, yes. Teddy was just fuming at the whole thing. I remember he asked me out of the blue, Why don’t you ask Tip if Pebble Gifford’s going to run against him? I said, You ask him first and tell me what he says. He was still trying to make mischief. The ultimate was—Tommy O’Neill told me this story—they drive out to the library, to the other end of the Red Line. They’re going to make part of it a park, a very nice park. The other part, they’re going to put a hotel there and some retail. Now they call for bidders. 

Tommy O’Neill, who was Lieutenant Governor at the time, I think, is the head of the committee. He says, You’re not going to believe the developers. The first guy in the door is Dun Gifford. Can you believe this? I said, It’s called chutzpah, Tommy. Every story has a happy ending. Instead of being near Harvard’s precious real estate—I mean, it really is true. Nimbyism. It is the American disease. Jean-Paul Sartre defined it for us: L’enfer c’est les autres—hell is other people. And that’s the way they look at it. We’ve got our nice thing here, nobody else come aboard. We’re aboard the ship, nobody else. Don’t extend the ladder to any of the riff-raff. 

Robert C. Wood, who we were talking about earlier, is President of the University of Massachusetts. He told me this. He invited Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, on a bright, clear day, to come to Columbia Point, and said, God, wouldn’t Jack like this site? We’ll put his boat right here, and all this stuff, and he sold it. 

It took forever though. The dedication was 1979. I remember once during the ’70s I was at a Bruins hockey game and I ran into Steve Smith and Jack Fallon. I just had done something about the library and I said, How’s that library coming? We’re going to have the Spiro T. Agnew Library before we have this one, and Steve Smith, with that clever Kennedy repartee, took his beer and poured it on my shoes. Steve Smith’s witty repartee. I just said, Uh, a little kind of rib, you know? You have to humanize people and you do it the best way you can. Some of them like it; some of them don’t. 

It took until 1979, but it’s a beautiful site and it was a great—I actually won an award for that story. I said, All I did was write it. I didn’t talk about anything. It’s when bullets are flying that you win a story. But I got there early, got all the preparations and it was a wonderful day, and it was kind of close to the Boston Globe. It was a great event and Joe Kennedy gave the speech, and Carter. It was a happy ending. Look at the University of Massachusetts Boston, which is more in the Kennedy tradition than any of these ivy-covered walls here. It’s been a great thing, I mean that whole place—B.C. High—it’s great and it’s a wonderful neighborhood. They’re going to try to put a minor league ball field there or something like that.

Knott

Oh, they are?

Nolan

Yes. So it was a happy ending. But I think Harvard—it was the same thing later on with Tip O’Neill. I mean, how academic institutions can cave in to any—I don’t know. I was shocked when Harvard’s faculty said, We can’t give this terrible Ronald Reagan an honorary degree for our anniversary. That’s terrible. Oh, he’s awful. So I went back and looked up the history. Well, guess what? Harvard has hated most of the Presidents who come here. Andrew Jackson, they booed him; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they hissed him. 

I said, These clowns are in a great tradition, but fortunately we have a solution. What you do is, to show the universality of Harvard, you have a bipartisan thing. You give Ronald Reagan a degree and you give Tip O’Neill a degree the same day. I wrote that up two or three times, and I run into Derek Bok, whom I’m very fond of, now the Acting President of Harvard. He says, I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but I really don’t have much to do with the awarding of honorary degrees. The idea is good, I know, but you don’t know what I have to deal with. I said, Derek, I do believe the first part of that. I do find it hard to believe. 

Sure enough, it was just a cowardly, terrible action, and the same thing with Stanford running Reagan off. They couldn’t get Stanford for the Reagan Library. The [Herbert] Hoover Institution is there, come on—the intolerance, political correctness, craziness. I’m sure Kennedy doesn’t understand that. I don’t. It’s falling of its own weight now, after 9/11. Well, of course it is the Kennedy School of Government. You know the story of [Alfred] Al Velucci, the City Councilor? When the Kennedy School was raising money in Texas, they were trying to downplay the Kennedy name. The Texas oil business was doing pretty well and the School of Government at Harvard was kind of downplaying the Kennedy name. Al Velucci is a thorn in John Harvard’s side. He put a bill through the Cambridge City Council, in which they renamed Boylston Street, for a few blocks, John F. Kennedy Street.

Knott

Right.

Nolan

So on their stationery, whenever they send it out—you’ve got to like that, you know. A true demagogue, I’m sure. Poor Al was a character. He wanted Harvard to sign a Lateran Treaty with Cambridge being like the Vatican. At other times, he thought Harvard Yard made a nice parking lot, you know, things like that. Harvard—they named it after Jack. 

Ted Kennedy was very interested in that when I was a fellow at the Institute of Politics way back in the ’70s. He had a lunch at his house and the senior members of the committee were there. Senator Kennedy, Mrs. Katharine Graham, guys like that, Elliot Richardson, big, and a couple of guys like me. I’m just there to say, Sure, it’s swell. John F. Kennedy, Jr. got very involved with it. Caroline [Kennedy Schlossberg] got very involved in the Kennedy Library. She was always thanking me for the editorials. Oh my God, this is a slam dunk for us. Anything the Kennedy Library wants. I think it’s a great site now.

Knott

That was my first job out of college. I worked from ’79 to ’85 at the Kennedy Library. I was there at the dedication.

Nolan

It was a great day.

Knott

A great day.

Nolan

Beautiful October, fantastic.

Knott

Yes, and of course it was high drama because Carter was there.

Nolan

Attempted to paste a smooch on Jackie if she was up for it. I saw more guys I hadn’t seen for so long.

Knott

Oh, sure.

Nolan

It was terrific and it’s a wonderful place. I took a group from California in 2004. It happened to be Veterans’ Day and I took them to see Mitt Romney and [Robert] Travaglini and [Salvatore] DiMasi and all that, and I said, We’ve got a good thing to do. Let’s take the subway and then go see the JFK Library. They loved it. It was a wonderful day.

Knott

Why did you decide to go out West? You seem so rooted here.

Nolan

I am.

Knott

You went to the exact opposite coast.

Nolan

Because I’d done everything here. They always wanted a story about Boston and the history and I always said, Get somebody else who can read and walk around. Actually, it was an academic thing. I was invited to become a fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Knott

How did that happen?

Nolan

Well, I’m always trying to find out about things and I asked Marty Anderson, who had been a speechwriter for both Nixon and Reagan, and George Shultz, and George said, You’re welcome here. I said, Mr. Secretary, why am I here? I’m not getting it. He said, I saw your name on a list. I had really covered the labor stuff and the many, you know—the Philadelphia Plan—the many good things that the Nixon Administration did. He said, I saw your name on the list and I thought it would be good. I hope you’ll enjoy it. Then he introduced me to two Nobel Prize winners, you know? Pretty cool. 

Lamar Alexander was running that year. It was the early ’90s, and Lamar had worked for Nixon, and Shultz is bringing him too. He says, Well, you know this fellow here. He says, What are you doing here? I said, I have the same question. Anyway, they were perfect gentlemen, everything was nice, and I’m out there in the swimming pool in January and I said to my wife, What’s the catch here? They’ve got earthquakes but hell, blizzards and hurricanes kill more people than earthquakes. 

When you’re at a big job, you hang around. You’re like Banquo’s ghost, you know? I didn’t want an office. I used to go into the sports department and type there, and the publisher went nuts. He said, You should have an office, and I said, I don’t need an office. I had an office. I don’t want an office. I had an office—they gave me an office downtown too. He was really trying to—he had no problem with me. He wanted to endorse Bill Weld for Governor and I wanted to endorse the other guy, so he was feeling guilty. I said, They’d be sort of glad to get rid of me. Let’s do something different. I had a couple of children in California. Now I have grandchildren on both coasts, four in California and two in North Reading. It was a very fresh thing to do and it was great. Then I just decided I love it here. I’m very homesick. I’m still a member of the Athenaeum. I’m still a member of a lot of things around town.

Knott

Are you still a Red Sox fan?

Nolan

Alas, yes.

Knott

Terrible year.

Nolan

Five games. Unfortunately, every pitch was on national television. I had people coming up to me in the streets, even guys I knew who were Yankee fans, in San Francisco saying, Geez, I’m sorry. It was like a funeral, you know. It was pretty grim.

Knott

Can I hit you with one last question about Ted Kennedy?

Nolan

Yes, sir.

Knott

He is in his 44th year as a Senator. He could certainly—he doesn’t have to do this. He grew up in a fairly privileged environment. Why does he stick with this, put up with all of the tragedies that he’s had to put up with? I can see a lot of people fleeing and seeking an alternative career to public service.

Nolan

He loves yachting; he could do it full-time. There are two books out now on the philosophy and the theology behind President Kennedy’s inaugural speech, Ask not… So much of it is from the Old Testament, so it’s deeply religious. People are always saying we’ve got to get religion out of politics. Were you around in 1961? Here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own. It’s all from Ecclesiastes and Saint Paul. The mother was far more influential than we think. Pious, praying, away a lot shopping for dresses in Paris, but she must have trained him to something. They said, From those to whom much is given, much is required. That is not an idle sentiment. They mean that. 

They mean it, and the reason they get along so well with the Saltonstalls and the Lodges and people like that—they’re the same thing. It’s a blend of Catholic belief and theology with old-fashioned Yankee rectitude. Think of it that way, as I do. Why did Cabot Lodge—my God, he and Kennedy were going great guns. Cabot gets some of the worst jobs in the world— Ambassador of Vietnam—because as a public servant, you know, that same thing. 

They admired—think of all the politicians they knew, Christian Herter and Leverett Saltonstall, these old, old Yankee families who had that belief—Elliot Richardson. There’s a great unity there of the old Massachusetts culture with the immigrant stock and the shared belief leavened with the strong, truly Catholic religious belief. Think of that. Maybe that’s why he had his occasional pop, or when he was a young man, you know, did not take his marriage vows too seriously. Big deal. It’s a great story. 

Look at the Rockefeller family. Jay Rockefeller’s in it, Nelson. I knew Nelson Rockefeller very well. The same thing. It’s a great thing. It’s a wonderful thing. I don’t mind rich people in politics. It didn’t make any difference. It’s the satisfaction of giving back. Look at the foundation, the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. It’s for really handicapped people and all that. It’s not a glamorous one, you know, and I’m sure there are other causes. I guess that’s the motivation. He’s given so many eulogies that he must be aware that when he gets to the pearly gates, he wants Saint Peter to say, No, I haven’t heard of you before, or something. I don’t know. It’s deep within people’s souls and I never do more than scratch the surface myself. I don’t know, but I think those strains of thought and belief are pretty important.

Knott

Well, great. Thank you very much, this has been terrific.

Nolan

Well thank you. We wrapped it up

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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