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Oral History

Milton Gwirtzman Oral History (08/2009), Speechwriter, Advisor to Edward and Robert Kennedy

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

Heininger

This is a follow-up interview with Milton Gwirtzman on August 5, 2009. I’ve got a couple of questions I want to follow up on from the first interview. There are just a couple of things as we were going through the transcript that we wanted to query about. You had said at one point that in 1962 there was some thought that [Edward] Kennedy might run for office from Wyoming?

Gwirtzman

He had thought about running, going out and establishing a base in a western state.

Heininger

Really?

Gwirtzman

He knew the people in Wyoming best.

Heininger

Why in Wyoming?

Gwirtzman

Well, because he had been out there campaigning for his brother. He had been in charge of those states, he’d met the people, he liked them—He was newly married. As far as I know, it didn’t have to do with the desire to get away from anything. That had happened before I met him, so I can’t tell you. I never had any discussion with him, but you can see how… . There are at least 200 people who live on the island of Manhattan who would be fine Senators if they came from some small state, but they don’t.

Heininger

That’s right, but I still say if you wanted to go to college these days, move to North Dakota. Geographic diversity. 

Another small point: When were [Frank] Morrissey and Ted on the island of Capri?

Gwirtzman

The date? It would have been in the summer of either 1961 or maybe ’62. It was in a newspaper article from an Italian paper that reported on it.

Heininger

Would it have been during the—

Gwirtzman

You’d have to get that newspaper article.

Heininger

But potentially ’61 or ’62. Would it have been in ’62, during the campaign?

Gwirtzman

No.

Heininger

So it probably would have been ’61.

Gwirtzman

It would have been before, because Ted went to a number of European countries to establish credentials for his race for the Senate, and Morrissey may have been with him. But it also might have been a special trip to Rome, to perhaps see the Pope or at least see Count [Enrico] Galeazzi, who was a great friend of his father’s. And for that, Morrissey definitely would have gone with him.

Heininger

But probably not during Jack’s [John F. Kennedy] campaign and probably not during his own campaign, so ’61 is the most likely date.

Gwirtzman

It was ’61, but the article exists. If I can find it, I’ll get it to you.

Heininger

Well, we just wanted an approximate date, because it helps. Another thing was that you said you worked with Dave Burke, not on legislative policy but personal things. What were some of those?

Gwirtzman

He was first the legislative assistant and then the administrative assistant, and that had to do with running the office. Personal things were things that meant the rest of Senator Kennedy’s life insofar as relations with his family, with—Well, specifically, we were both with him when he was in Hyannis Port and had to decide whether he’d go to Chicago and make himself available for the nomination in 1968. That’s a political thing, but it’s also a personal thing.

Heininger

So your point was that you really were not working on legislative policy with Dave, you were working on these other things.

Gwirtzman

Yes.

Heininger

OK, well, I’ll get to some of that.

Gwirtzman

Yes. Chappaquiddick was another one. The Senator relied on Dave for far more things than he did on me, but Dave and I got along very well and we consulted with each other a good deal. Even in 1969 or ’70, when I was up in Vermont writing a book on Robert Kennedy, David arranged for the telephone company to lay miles of wires to get to the place, because the place I rented did not have long-distance and he just wanted to have me available. He knew I was going to be up there for two or three months. And we had conversations that you have with someone you’re working with very closely but did not concern the legislative matters, it concerned everything else.

Heininger

Got it. Now, let’s go through some of the issues that you raised after our first interview. Tell us about Cardinal [Richard] Cushing’s open support for Ted in 1962 and his reasons for it.

Gwirtzman

Well, the reasons for it were his closeness to the Kennedy family, going way back to when he was a bishop and before he was a cardinal, and the great generosity that the family has shown toward the Archdiocese in a number of things, in the creation of some religious and some health facilities for the Archdiocese. The family had one person assigned entirely to charities, named Norman Knight. He dealt with people from the Archdiocese all the time. So that was the background, and then Cardinal Cushing’s closeness to President Kennedy, shown by the fact that he officiated at his funeral, and the link of Frank Morrissey. Frank Morrissey was the link between Cardinal Cushing and Ted’s father. He was one of the few—and especially after Ted’s father had a stroke and wasn’t active at all. Morrissey and only Morrissey would come and visit him every week. Before he went, he would visit the Cardinal.

Heininger

Oh, really?

Gwirtzman

He would say the Cardinal told him this and this, and he said, God love you. So he was that link. But the open advocacy that I saw took place at the novitiate of Saint Stanislaus in western Massachusetts, near Tanglewood, near Lenox. It was a novitiate on a beautiful hill, and there was a service there to celebrate the fact that these novices were going to become priests. The Senator was there and he was running—That was a stop he’d made—and Cardinal Cushing was there. I don’t remember whether the Senator spoke or not, but the Cardinal officiated the mass and the other services connected with the novices becoming priests. And at the end, a number of people came up to kiss his ring and he said, Don’t kiss me; kiss Kennedy. Very openly.

Heininger

Was it unusual for the Catholic Church to take sides in elections?

Gwirtzman

Yes, unless there was an issue. Sometimes there was an issue involved, someone—I mean, the power of the church in Boston politics goes way back, and there are stories about it. One candidate for Governor, I forget who, lost because the official organ of the Archdiocese of Boston, just before the election, had as a banner headline that it is a sin to vote for anyone who committed adultery. I don’t remember who the candidates were, but it was very definitely directed at one of the major candidates, and he got beat. I’m sure that before that, people in the Archdiocese were consulted before people were nominated.

Heininger

Oh, really?

Gwirtzman

Yes, because they wanted to have someone who was acceptable to the church. This is when the church had become an Irish-run organization and was very much involved in politics. I am not an expert on this, but I refer you to The Last Hurrah, which was written by someone who is an expert. You can see there that the church was very much involved in campaigns and the workings of the mayor’s office in Boston. So at first it didn’t involve an issue because Eddie McCormack was just as faithful a Catholic as Ted was.

Heininger

Right.

Gwirtzman

And it did not involve any official announcement. It involved the Cardinal personally, who was voluble, with his own personal feelings and how he expressed them. He made no secret of the fact, as I saw at the novitiate, that he wanted Kennedy to be his Senator.

Heininger

Do you think it made a difference in the election?

Gwirtzman

No.

Heininger

No. Because both of them were good Catholics.

Gwirtzman

Yes, both of them were good Catholics. And by this time, the church did not have the influence it had earlier. You’re already in the 1960s, when the change is taking place.

Heininger

When was the height of its influence?

Gwirtzman

Well, probably with Cardinal [William] O’Connell, who was just before Cushing, which would have been in the ’20s and the ’30s, and certainly prior to the time that Cardinal [Francis] Spellman became the Archbishop of New York and, of course, had enormous influence in New York politics.

Heininger

Yes.

Gwirtzman

But I think O’Connell was before him.

Heininger

Tell us about Kennedy’s plane crash and your visit to him in Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.

Gwirtzman

The Democratic Party was having its convention in June of 1964 and he and Birch Bayh were going up there. Birch was going to be the keynote speaker and Ted was going to accept the nomination for his first full term. After that, I had arranged for him to spend some time, actually a weekend, in the Adirondacks with the family of the woman who was working for him, whose name was Diana Woodruff. Her father was a physician in the area, and they had what in the Adirondacks is called a camp, which is a piece of land on an island that was only accessible by boat, and a lean-to. Because this was public land, under the Constitution, the Adirondacks were to be forever wild as forest land. It didn’t allow any construction. So people had the lean-tos and then elaborate stoves and furnishings underneath them. It was a very lovely place to go. He was supposed to go there. 

I was actually on my way up to the Adirondacks to meet him when he came in the next day, and I heard about this plane crash. So instead of going there, I went to Northampton, to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital, where he had been taken after the crash. This was probably ten or twelve hours after the crash that he had been in and then further examined and everything. But it was still pretty—He was pretty rough. It was a small hospital; they didn’t have a lot of rules, so I went in to see him. He was not in danger of losing his life or anything, but they had to make a decision on whether to operate on his back, because two or three vertebrae had been crushed. The doctors were going to make a recommendation to him on that. His family, Joan [Bennett Kennedy] and others, were already there. I think Eddie Martin and some other people were there. But he was resting and I went in to see him. I think I said something like, You have to start working on a book, because we knew he was going to be laid up for a while and we knew that he didn’t like to be.

Heininger

Idle.

Gwirtzman

Not be busy, idle. We didn’t know what kind of book, but I thought, This is a situation where it looks like there’s going to be a book. And it turned out there was. There was a book called The Fruitful Bough, which was a book of essays about his father. He contacted people who had been friendly with his father, who had worked with his father, and received a large number of very interesting essays. People like J. Edgar Hoover and Justice [William O.] Douglas, and a number of people who had been friends with his father in Hollywood and then in New York and in Florida, when he went down there. It was privately printed so that his grandchildren could know more about him. So that’s the book that came out. It took about six months, but he was in the hospital for what, five months? So we had that banter when I visited. You could see that he was still a little spacey, maybe because of what they had given him. I’m sure he was in pain. But he wasn’t at all mopey, he was looking forward. This was just the day after the crash. I would then see him afterward from time to time. 

He was transferred to a hospital in Boston and he was able to set up a routine. Every night, they’d bring him dinner from Locke-Ober’s, which was the best restaurant in Boston. This is when he was in the Stryker frame, which was a frame that people with a broken back lie in so they don’t get bedsores, because it doesn’t touch the body. So he got into that routine. I didn’t talk to him about the decision of whether or not to have an operation. His brother Jack had an operation on his back, so he knew the risks of an operation. His brother had been given the last rites of the church when he had his operation. I think he was inclined not to, if he could do without it, and in fact that was the decision. They would let the back heal to the extent that it did by itself, without trying surgery. And ever since then, I mean for a long time, he was in a back brace. From time to time, even later in his life, he had to be in a brace, and he was always in some pain at some points of the day to the end of his life. But that didn’t prevent him from being able to be very active and vigorous and play tennis and move around, on and off of planes. Given the experience his brother had, it probably was the right decision to make medically. And it showed great courage for him to do all he did, while in that pain.

Heininger

Where was he sitting in the plane?

Gwirtzman

He was in the backseat. The pilot and Eddie Moss were in the front seat. They were both killed.

Heininger

So that’s why Eddie Moss was killed, because he was in the front seat.

Gwirtzman

He was, and then probably, behind that, either it was a four-seater, with four across, or maybe it was two and two; therefore, it would be a four-seater. But it was just Birch Bayh, Marvella Bayh, and Ted. I’m not sure where he was sitting in that group, but he was injured and Birch Bayh was not.

Heininger

And his wife was not?

Gwirtzman

His wife was more than him. She was cut up but had no bones broken.

Heininger

Tell me a little bit more about working on The Fruitful Bough. Were you the one who coordinated getting the essays and things, or did he do it himself?

Gwirtzman

No. I’ll show it to you. [walks away to retrieve book] I must have loaned it out to someone.

Heininger

Do you have a copy of the one for his mother?

Gwirtzman

Yes, that’s this one. No, my job was to take the raw essays that came in and to edit them so that they’d fit into a book, and to help some of the people who were not great writers to express themselves better. Ted decided whose essay would appear in full and whose essay would be edited down.

Heininger

Ted did, or Ted with somebody else?

Gwirtzman

No, he did it, because that was a decision that involved more than just, is the essay interesting? I mean, if the Duchess of Devonshire, in England, who was already 90 years old, undertook to write something, we were not going to cut hers.

Heininger

Probably not.

Gwirtzman

But with someone like the man who was the maître d’ at La Caravelle, which was a restaurant that Joe Kennedy patronized in New York, and he was French. His English was fine for being a maître d’ and the owner of a restaurant, but not that good for—We had to work a lot on his. I got some good meals in New York out of it. Nobody touched any of the things that Joe Kennedy’s children wrote about him. But there was a good deal of editing. And then, of course, a number of people had to be introduced, in a little section before their essays, telling who they were. Usually the ideas there came from him. In some cases, I would write them up, but he knew what he wanted to say about his brother Bobby and about everybody else in there. 

So first of all, it was a way for him to have a project. It wasn’t the only project he had. He had professors coming in and briefing him on issues and things, but this was a specific project that he was especially proud of, because he was doing something for his father, and he was getting to know some of his father’s friends better through that. And, of course, they were all flattered to be asked to do this.

So I would say I was the editor of the essays that came in. But Angelique Voutselas Lee, who was his personal secretary at the time, carried on the correspondence with these people, like where is your essay, we’ve got to go to the printer in two weeks. Things like that.

Heininger

Typical publication problems. Did you perform the same role on his book?

Gwirtzman

Yes, I think so; not the administrative but the editing role. That came about because after Rose Kennedy died—This is her book, Her Grace Above Gold, which is a quote from the Bible, and is a book about Rose Kennedy. It came about because after she died, her children and grandchildren were sitting around and they were telling stories about her, as is often done when a family gathers after the death of a loved one. And because the stories were so good and they liked telling the stories so much, somebody got the idea, it might have been the Senator, of why don’t we make a book and everybody write their own stories? So that book is much more by members of the family than others. Joe Kennedy’s book has more of the others in it, because he had a wider life in public service.

Heininger

And again, privately printed.

Gwirtzman

Yes.

Heininger

By the Kennedy Foundation. Was the one about his father also done by the Kennedy Foundation?

Gwirtzman

No.

Heininger

Who printed it, do you remember?

Gwirtzman

I tried to get the same people and it might have been the same press. I’ve got that book around and I’ll give it to you before you leave.

Heininger

OK, that’s just—

Gwirtzman

You can take a look at it.

Heininger

I haven’t even seen a copy of this. It’s not easy to find.

Gwirtzman

Well, it wasn’t—

Heininger

Because it wasn’t meant for outsiders.

Gwirtzman

That’s right.

Heininger

Yes, it was just meant for family. OK, good. Tell me about Steve Smith’s role in the 1962 campaign.

Gwirtzman

He was the campaign manager, which meant that, within any campaign that works the way it should, the candidate can go out and spend all day campaigning because he knows he has someone who is capable and who he can trust with all the details of the campaign, including hiring the staff, overseeing the staff, taking care of any problems, making sure everybody is doing their job. And in Steve’s case, since he was the brother-in-law, being the person who people went to if they wanted to reach the candidate. Similarly, if people had to be fired, then he’d do that. He was the perfect campaign manager in Ted’s campaign and also in Robert Kennedy’s Senate campaign in 1964.

Heininger

We’ve talked to a lot of people and we know about his campaign role.

Gwirtzman

Steve?

Heininger

Yes, Steve’s campaign role. We know that Kennedy considered him like a brother, but in many ways, we don’t know a whole lot more about him. We don’t get the stories about him. What can you tell us about him?

Gwirtzman

I once tried to write an article about Steve Smith, but he wouldn’t cooperate with me. He didn’t want publicity.

Heininger

But you had many dealings with him.

Gwirtzman

Oh, yes, I know. I probably had more dealings with Steve Smith than I did with Ted Kennedy. [laughs]

Heininger

Well, talk about it, because it’s a piece that we’re missing.

Gwirtzman

I don’t know anything about his early life, except that his family owned tugboats in the New York Harbor, and that’s where their money, such as it was, came from. I think he went to Georgetown, and I think that’s where he met Jean [Kennedy Smith]. There’s some story about how Jean—They met through one of the other sisters, I believe. And then he went to work in Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises, which was the organization that ran the family fortune. He invested it and distributed it among the various family members. Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises was located at 230 Park Avenue in New York City, which then became the Pan Am Building and is now the Met Life Building. It was an office consisting of a number of accountants, because Kennedy Enterprises was so large it was almost continually audited by the IRS [Internal Revenue Service]. The IRS had a team assigned permanently to it.

Heininger

Really?

Gwirtzman

Yes. And since a lot of their work at the time had to do with oil—Steve had tried to make a career as an oil wildcatter in Texas.

Heininger

That’s what he started as.

Gwirtzman

And so he knew some things about oil, and they had investments in oil. And there were people there like Henry Kravis, who later became one of the K’s in KKR [Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts & Co.].

Heininger

Oh, my.

Gwirtzman

Who at that time was an oilman, and Steve dealt with those people. Steve was in charge of what the family money was invested in, so that the other men in the family could go out and serve the public. He became a very good administrator. The time came when they started running for office. Steve played a role in Jack Kennedy’s campaigns, but not the critical role he played in Ted and Bobby’s campaigns. But he did get some political experience from that, and the first major campaign he directed was Ted’s. There was an office on Tremont Street, which is a main street in downtown Boston. There were a lot of people working in it, doing the various campaign jobs, and he had to coordinate all of them. 

I’ll give you a couple examples. He was a great believer, as they all were, in polls, and they had Joe Napolitan, who had been a partner of Larry O’Brien’s in Springfield, Massachusetts, doing their polling. One day, in the middle of the general election campaign, they got a poll and it showed that the Polish vote for Kennedy had suddenly dropped by 15 percent. Steve called Joe Alecks, Ted’s chief representative in the Polish community, and said, What’s going on in the Polish community? And Alecks told him that everything was going fine. As it turned out, he was right. There was a glitch in the poll or in the people who were polled, the Polish segment. If you’re doing a poll of 500 people, the Polish segment would be fairly small in Massachusetts. Maybe they just got a couple of people who, for some reason of their own, distorted the poll. There was nothing wrong in the Polish community. The Polish community came through beautifully for Ted. But Steve had it—I mean, being on the alert to this, if there was a problem, that problem was reported to Steve, and Steve literally would call the person who was responsible for that. 

Also, in state campaigns in Massachusetts, and many other states, people come in and want things in return for money. They’ll get their clique of voters to vote or work or whatever, and these are usually two-bit politicians. I did not observe it, but John Culver tells me that once this guy from one of the towns north of Boston came in and tried to, as we say, hold up the campaign for a certain amount of money, and Steve let him have it with such vituperation that it scared the guy so much that he went running out of there. Steve could be very direct. I didn’t want to use that sort of language in this interview, but he made it very clear to him that if he did not get his person out of Steve’s office, that he would eject him personally. Steve, although he was slim, was quite strong. He could balance himself with one arm in a one-arm handstand.

Heininger

Wow.

Gwirtzman

So he was in very good shape.

Heininger

That’s impressive.

Gwirtzman

But that was an easy campaign for Steve because he had very good people, he had a very good candidate, and he just had to do the diplomacy, like between Joey Gargan, who was Ted’s cousin, and Gerry [Gerald] Doherty, who was his chief—the state representative in Kennedy’s campaign. They both wanted to be the ones who were in charge of Boston, and Steve had to negotiate with them on how Boston was going to be handled. 

[BREAK]

Heininger

This is a resumption of the interview with Milton Gwirtzman on August 5, 2009.

Gwirtzman

So that was the diplomatic function that he had. It made it possible for Ted to campaign and not have to show favoritism between his cousins and his chief representative, and not have to make that decision. Steve made the decision. So he played a very critical role.

Heininger

What was he like as a person?

Gwirtzman

He was lean and he was tough. He had a sense of humor and he was very—There’s a difference between people who are successful in Boston and the people who were successful in New York. He was very New York. And that made him—that and the fact that he was the Senator’s brother-in-law—gave him necessary cachet in the Boston campaign. There’s always an advantage to superimpose someone upon an ongoing political system in any campaign.

Heininger

Right.

Gwirtzman

Because at the end of the campaign, that person will leave, and so there hasn’t been any disruption in the power relationships among the people who stay. He did that in Boston and he also was able to operate in New York, because he was very much a part of the financial, Wall Street, group and Manhattan society. He had made a lot of contacts over the years because of the fact that he was responsible for investing a very large part of the Kennedy family fortune, such as it was at the time. It was during this period that he was in charge that they made the very important transition financially, from being dependent on domestic oil to more international, broader relationships. And they did that with the help of a guy who was Jackie’s [Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] friend and head of Lazard Frères named André Meyer.

[Robert] McNamara helped somewhat, and Benno Schmidt [Sr.], who helped Robert Kennedy with Bedford-Stuyvesant, was also involved. They were three people with much more experience in important finance than Steve had. They analyzed the family holdings and made suggestions as to how they could be better diversified. They went into a lot of real estate, in addition to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago they already owned. They went into a lot of other real estate and that turned out to be very good at the time. We’re talking now about the ’60s and ’70s.

Heininger

You said he was lean and strong and mean, and had a good sense of humor.

Gwirtzman

I don’t mean mean-tempered, although he could be very direct.

Heininger

Very direct.

Gwirtzman

Yes. I mean, he had that Irish combativeness in him.

Heininger

A combativeness, but did he have the storytelling in him?

Gwirtzman

Imitation. He was very good. He could imitate people very well. He did an imitation of me that I just heard about. It was hilarious. He’d never imitate someone in front of them, but he imitated a lot of people in front of me, so I know he’s good at that. He was very close friends with Arthur Schlesinger. They lived close to each other in Manhattan. You would think that someone with his background, which was not intellectual, wouldn’t get along with Arthur, but they were very close.

Heininger

Was he a reader?

Gwirtzman

No. I would like to talk about Steve but I would have to think about it more. I don’t want to just do it off the cuff, especially since you don’t have anything about him. But in terms of his importance to Edward Kennedy, that was not just during the 1962 campaign.

Heininger

No, I know.

Gwirtzman

That continued.

Heininger

I know, and it’s why he—It’s almost as if he’s a cipher. People talk about his importance and they don’t talk about him. They talk about what he may have done, but we don’t have a sense of him as a person, and that’s—Given how important he was to Kennedy and how he called him like a brother, we really need more on who he was and what kind of person he was, and we don’t have that.

Gwirtzman

Yes, well, I’ll give you what I can, but I think of the other people who you would talk to. Well, the sisters would know that, but I don’t know—

Heininger

They won’t talk about him.

Gwirtzman

—to the extent. They wouldn’t talk to you about it?

Heininger

No.

Gwirtzman

David Burke and Doherty, and the people who have been chiefs of staff for Kennedy, at least up until the time Steve died. He was a chain smoker and he got lung cancer. The operation was not successful and he believed it was botched, Steve did. After that, he declined very quickly. But that was in about the mid to early ’90s. So people who had been chief of staff for Kennedy through that time would have had a lot of relations with him. Larry [Horowitz], [Nick] Littlefield, but otherwise, you’d really have to go to New York, his social setting. Unless you wanted to—I’ll tell you, if you wanted to talk to people who worked in that office, Stacy Dutton, who took his place, Nancy Dutton’s daughter. Do you know Nancy?

Heininger

I know the name.

Gwirtzman

Well, you know Fred Dutton.

Heininger

Yes, Fred; that’s why.

Gwirtzman

Nancy was Fred’s wife and Stacy, who went to business school and is very successful in finance, became the financial person. I wish I had known you were going to ask about Steve. Every campaign started in Steve’s office, because the campaign had to rent a lot of space very quickly. A campaign runs for a short time, and Steve had a way of always being able to rent space in a building that was just about to be torn down, because you could get a lot of space for a little money in those things, also spaces that were in a convenient location. So when someone suddenly decided to run for office, like Bobby, or to start a campaign, like Bobby did with Sam Silverman and his own campaign, they’d all start in Steve’s own office. Then people would be assigned to do things, and one of the things would be for someone to go and find the space. And, of course, he had people in the real estate business, and could find space very quickly. We’d end up in some hotel that was about to be condemned, but you needed a big space right away to run a campaign, and that’s where the campaign started.

There were a couple of people in New York who knew Steve quite well. I’ll have to get you those names. They spent a lot of time with Steve. There’s nobody else, I don’t think. If you haven’t been able to get it from Littlefield or Larry, Eddie’s gone, because those are the people that Steve would have dealt with in terms of Teddy’s office operation. Of course, he would see Teddy all the time, when Teddy went to New York or they were on the Cape. Steve didn’t come down to Washington much.

Heininger

Was he a sailor like Ted?

Gwirtzman

No. He had—They rented a place on the Cape a couple of times. They had their own place in Southampton or one of those places. And then they had a place in Westchester for a while, which he sold to Lew Kaden of Citicorp. But he didn’t—No, he wasn’t a part of it.

Heininger

Was he part of the touch football?

Gwirtzman

He might have been, early. I wouldn’t have seen that. He and Bobby were extremely close. In fact, Bobby’s victory statement, when he was first elected to the Senate, is mostly about Steve Smith, that he absolutely could not have done it without Steve. Of course, that was because it was in New York and he was not that familiar with New York. He trusted Steve, who was a New Yorker in his pores, and that he would know who you could trust, and who was a snake, how much you could pay for what. 

As a campaign was ending (and not all of them ended in a win), you would have a lot of people who were owed money for various services to the campaign. Steve was always very concerned that the little people got paid. He wasn’t as concerned about the people who charged hundreds of thousands of dollars for television services, but rather the people who brought the pizzas to the headquarters. He was always very concerned about the little people, and that, I think, comes from his family background, generations of being tugboat operators in New York Harbor. 

He was a delightful guy. I loved him very much, and we did a lot of interesting things together for the Senator and for Bobby. He was also able to deal with different people who hated each other, and he would be able to deal with them all. There was a guy named Paul Corbin, who was a special friend of Bobby’s, who offended everybody, but Bobby owed him a great debt for what he had done for him in Wisconsin. Steve was the one who kept Corbin both on a short leash and happy. I had one tangle with Corbin, but I’m sure that there were other people like Corbin who Steve had to keep happy.

Heininger

So he had financial skills, he had campaign skills, he had people skills.

Gwirtzman

Yes, he did, but his campaign skills—

Heininger

Were more organizational?

Gwirtzman

They didn’t work as well once Ted was running, because he had not kept up with the way campaigns changed over the years. He was the first one to say so. He did not want to be Ted’s manager when Ted ran in 1980 because he told him he hadn’t been involved with this sort of thing since ’64. Even in ’68—He was around in ’68, but that campaign went by so fast, less than three months. He didn’t want to do it in ’68, but Bobby wanted him to do it, just like they wanted Larry O’Brien to come in. Bobby relied on these older people who had been successful for his brother in the past. 

Steve had to go into the 1980 campaign, and here were a bunch of people, like Carl Wagner and Rick Stearns and others, who had been very successful and knew the whole new group that was becoming important in politics: younger people, younger organizations, different organizations, ethnic organizations, black organizations, gay organizations. Steve didn’t know about that, and so he couldn’t really control the 1980 organization like he did the others. It was just too big for him, and other people took over, people like Carl Wagner came out of the labor movement. He knew all those folks and that was very important. And things that in a national campaign are very important.

Heininger

But it was interesting that he recognized, before he even started, that he really didn’t want to undertake it because he said this is a different world for me and I don’t want to be—

Gwirtzman

Yes. Steve said, It’s different and I’ve lost track of all these things.

Heininger

Yes.

Gwirtzman

I haven’t stayed in it, whereas these guys have. There were a number of people who had come to prominence working for [George] McGovern, in that McGovern revolution, when they went into the caucuses and brought in thousands of new voters. The new organizers supported Kennedy over [Jimmy] Carter, but they wanted to do it their way.

Heininger

And the campaigns had changed since the late ’60s.

Gwirtzman

Yes, campaigns had changed, and so they went right around Steve. So Steve, even if he had the title, it was just in name only.

Heininger

Would you term him the family consigliere?

Gwirtzman

No. The consigliere is the wise guy who just gives advice. Steve was much more; he did more than just give advice. He was the money person, the money manager certainly, but when all the questions arose after Bobby was killed, about his children and who should—There was a need there for a male figure. Ted did some, but he had a lot of other things to do. The sons, especially—Different people were trying to help them and some decisions had to be made. For example, should young Joe [Joseph Patrick Kennedy II] go off and spend the summer in Spain with Jack Kennedy’s good friend from prep school who was single, unmarried, gay, and everybody knew it. But Joe wanted to go to Spain, spend the summer in Spain with him. This guy was willing—paying his own way, because he just loved the Kennedy family—to take him, and he did and it worked out very well. Steve probably got involved in that stuff. He himself had—I think he had adopted his children. 

So he wouldn’t come under the designation of consigliere. Money manager and confidant within the family, yes, because he knew the situation in all those families. I mean, whether a member of the family was living beyond her means, he knew about that. 

Heininger

Well, you made an interesting point about Ted’s relationship with nieces and nephews, in particular with Ethel’s kids, and there were so many of them, and the need for a male figure. Why does he end up so close to Jack’s kids?

Gwirtzman

Who, why does who?

Heininger

Ted.

Gwirtzman

Ted? End up so close to Jack’s kids rather than Ethel’s?

Heininger

Well, and some of Ethel’s kids. There were so many of Ethel’s kids, I mean 11 of them. That was a lot.

Gwirtzman

How many can you be that close to? Ted was especially close to Joe Jr. And you also have your own. 

Heininger

Yes, there were a lot.

Gwirtzman

I don’t know. I don’t know if he had special favorites among the kids. Now, obviously, he’s very close to Caroline [Kennedy], but you’re talking about a time when they were all growing up—many were not yet twelve years old.

Heininger

Yes.

Gwirtzman

That’s something that Bill vanden Heuvel would know more about than I would. I don’t know if you interviewed him, but he was in New York at that time. For example, Kathleen [Kennedy Townsend] was going to the Putney School in Vermont and Bill tried to, in a very gentle way, keep an eye on her and have a special relationship with her. That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about. But probably a lot of people, maybe George Stevens, also tried to do these things, because there were a lot of kids and they all needed some sort of help.

Heininger

Was Ted close to Jackie?

Gwirtzman

Was he close to Jackie? Compared with whom?

Heininger

Compared with Ethel?

Gwirtzman

Was Ted closer to Jackie than Ethel, I don’t know. Bobby was close to Jackie. They both loved the same person.

Heininger

But then Bobby died. What I’m trying to figure out is that Ted has three kids of his own, he has a flourishing career, he has—There are Presidential aspirations. He’s a national, international celebrity and he feels a great sense of responsibility toward the nieces and nephews of his brothers who have been assassinated. How do you juggle all that? 

Gwirtzman

You have to have a special talent and a special love of family to do that.

Heininger

What did you see at that time?

Gwirtzman

I wasn’t—They didn’t ask me about these things, but I would speculate that, with almost all of them, he was there when a problem came up. Not on a day-to-day basis, because you’re right, nobody can do all that stuff on a day-to-day basis. But if someone had a problem, Ted might help them talk through or solve it, like when Joe Jr. had his own auto accident and a girl was badly injured. That’s when he would be there, or when there was a major occasion, like a wedding, he would be a father figure.

Heininger

He gave a bunch of them away, didn’t he?

Gwirtzman

Yes, but that’s just a ceremony.

I don’t think anybody outside the family was with them during that period when John [Kennedy Jr.] was missing, but if someone who was there were willing to talk about it, that was when, I would think—But then you’re asking about how much did he do there and who took over. In that sort of thing, somebody has to take over, because you’re dealing with the Coast Guard and dealing with the press. It’s not just a private matter. And the problem with the Kennedys is that they couldn’t have private lives without public lives.

Heininger

That’s right.

Gwirtzman

You see?

Heininger

Yes.

Gwirtzman

Sure, his office—and Melody [Miller] could tell you about this, if you talk to her. His office was able to handle the press aspects of a lot of things, but somebody—The press office doesn’t go off on its own. Someone has to tell the press secretary what to say, and what they would say is based on what they think they should say when they consider it as a group.

I do remember Steve when David [Kennedy] had his drug problems. A book was written by two guys from California who had been with Rolling Stone or one of those magazines, and they quoted—You know, there were all sorts of quotes from David that were very derogatory toward himself and toward the family. And Steve said, That’s not David talking, that’s the drugs talking. That was the family’s conclusion. David was just too far strung out, and he finally did himself in and he killed himself with the drugs. Well, who might have tried to rehabilitate David, I have no idea, but those are the sort of things. I mean, when they became crises, then Ted would have to get involved in it. It would have been nice if there had been someone to deal with those kids day-to-day, but I’m not sure there was.

Heininger

Let’s talk about Bobby’s eulogy.

Gwirtzman

OK. Ted was in San Francisco when he heard that his brother had been shot, and he came down to Los Angeles. By the time he got to Los Angeles, the specialist who had been flown in from Boston was saying, and I heard him say, 8 to 18 hours, which was how long it would physically take before everything would shut down because of the trauma of the brain injury. In other words, some time in that period he would die. So that’s about when Ted got there. At the hospital—There’s a wonderful picture of Steve in the Los Angeles Times carrying his suit bag, going into the hospital. Now, in whatever suite of rooms that had been assigned to Robert Kennedy, there was an outside room where people like me would be just waiting. Remember, this was—We had had this win in California and then he was shot, so there were enormous grief and trauma at the time.

Heininger

Yes.

Gwirtzman

There was a surreal aspect to it. Mrs. Martin Luther [Coretta] King felt that she had to be there, because the same thing had happened to her husband five or six months ago. And she really felt that she had to be there.

Heininger

More recently than that, it was only two months.

Gwirtzman

Two months.

Heininger

Yes.

Gwirtzman

Ethel had never met her. Ethel was in no shape to receive anybody, so how do you deal with Mrs. King? And it’s not as if someone’s great aunt is coming in. Mrs. King had just had her own tragedy. That’s the sort of thing that people like me were thinking about: What do you say to Mrs. King? But inside, where he was dying, it was just the family, and that’s where Ted was. I cannot remember seeing him at all in Los Angeles or on the flight back from Los Angeles to New York. I can remember Ethel sitting in the back of the plane just completely emotionally wrought, crying uncontrollably, and people trying to comfort her. I don’t remember seeing Ted at all.

So we get to the hotel and Ted’s in the room with John Tunney and they’re trying to decide about the eulogies. Adam Walinsky had given them some of Bobby’s sayings, some of his speeches, to include. Ted wanted to include some material from Bobby’s speeches. Tunney and Teddy felt very strongly that Ted should say some things of his own. Tunney was, I would have to say, Ted’s best friend. Ted had not slept in three days. You could just look at his eyes; they were puffy and red, and he was sort of reacting. The two of them instructed me to write something about love and use some of RFK’s quotes. Ted and Tunney felt very deeply that they wanted the eulogy to be about love, and the love that Ted had for his brother and the love that his brother had for people. Love would be the theme.

So I went back to my room and I wrote something. I wouldn’t say it was suffused with love, because there were some other things that I thought should be in there. I had just read a column by Tom Wicker, in the New York Times, that John Kennedy would not have been so beloved a figure had he not been assassinated. It wasn’t a criticism, it just said this is the way we always put our assassinated heroes up on a bigger pedestal than the ones who died natural deaths. [Abraham] Lincoln.

Heininger

Lincoln, not [James A.] Garfield.

Gwirtzman

Well, not Garfield, no.

Heininger

Not so much [William] McKinley either.

Gwirtzman

Anyway, Wicker had written this, and that’s why I used the words Let us not make of him something more in death, than he was in life, and that he should be known just as a simple man who put three things together, which I thought encompassed his life: that he saw wrong and tried to right it, which was his career as a prosecutor and then Attorney General; that he saw suffering and tried to heal it, which referred to his interest in the Indians and the people in Mississippi, the people in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and poor people in general; and that he saw war and tried to stop it, which was his opposition to the war in Vietnam. But then I said, Those of us who loved him— and that’s where I used their theme—and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will somehow come to pass for all the world. And so Ted read that. He read it beautifully, but his voice cracked right at the end, when he said the things I just said.

So they gave me the theme, and of course I had been involved with them for a long time. It worked, and I sent it to Pierre Salinger, who had stepped in to help Frank Mankiewicz with the press. Pierre was an old newspaper man. Frank had written his announcement that he was going to give, that Robert Kennedy had died, and Pierre read it and he said, Add that he was 42 years old, which was the newspaperman in Pierre, but it really said so much, in that here he was— 

Heininger

Cut down in the prime of life.

Gwirtzman

There were all these touches all the way through. So I sent it to Pierre. I think I got two hours’ sleep, and the phone rang and Pierre said, This is beautiful. And it went through and nobody did touch it, because nobody was in a mood to do so. This wasn’t one of these things where people bloodlessly edit something. It’s not like a policy paper. I was just trying to express, for someone who was in such shock and grief he was not in a position to compose something himself, what he would have said had he been in the position to compose something. Ted had just lost his greatest friend, the closest brother he had ever had; he had had no sleep. He was really in very difficult shape. You try to help someone like that. He had to appear before the whole world on live TV. Sure, he could have said, I’m not going to say anything at this funeral, but that’s not the way the family operated. He wanted to say something.

Heininger

Did you write the whole thing?

Gwirtzman

Yes.

Heininger

Did he make any changes?

Gwirtzman

No.

Heininger

You must be pretty proud of that; it’s a beautiful eulogy.

Gwirtzman

I think it’s the best piece of writing I have ever done. And it came out of my own feelings for Ted.

Heininger

Tell us about Kennedy in the days before the Democratic Convention in 1968. What kind of shape was he in at that point?

Gwirtzman

Better. Bobby died on the 8th of June and the convention was in August. He just went to the Cape and stayed there. He hadn’t made any appearance in the Senate. There was a movement that he had nothing to do with to run him for President, but he just didn’t want to be involved with politics at all. He later said that politics stopped being fun for him in 1968.

Heininger

I can imagine, yes.

Gwirtzman

So he was just there and all of a sudden there was this movement among prominent Democrats, and it had to do with the mayor of Chicago, Mayor [Richard J.] Daley.

Heininger

It was more than Daley, though.

Gwirtzman

Oh, yes, it was more than Daley.

Heininger

Did it originate with Daley?

Gwirtzman

No, I don’t think so.

Heininger

I can’t remember who or where or how it came about.

Gwirtzman

Well, it originated with polls. All these things originate with the goddamned polls.

Heininger

Yes, I guess.

Gwirtzman

They’ll say, who do you want? It did not originate with Kennedy or anyone connected with Kennedy. He just wanted to be as far away from it as possible. But it was going and there was—It originated before the pitched battle in Chicago between the kids and the police. The only speech he made was in Worcester in July.

Heininger

It was in July, wasn’t it? Yes.

Gwirtzman

First of all, on July 26 he said he would run for Vice President, he would not accept the Vice Presidency. And then he made a speech in Worcester in which he said, I pick up a fallen standard.

Heininger

Which just fueled speculation.

Gwirtzman

Well, it wasn’t supposed to. It was just supposed to say, I’m ready to go back into public life.

Heininger

Pick up the causes.

Gwirtzman

It didn’t say I want to be President, run for President now. It said I pick up a fallen standard, warmed by my brothers’ love and things, and I can go on in public life. Most of it was a criticism of George Wallace. It must have been—It was a later speech. But anyway, the fallen standard speech persuaded Mayor Daley that Kennedy might after all be available, and if so, Mayor Daley would have been critical. The support of the Illinois delegation would have been critical.

Heininger

It was, yes.

Gwirtzman

So I was involved in the discussions because I was in Hyannis Port that weekend when the convention started, and there were all these disruptions going on. Some people in Chicago got word to Kennedy that perhaps he could come and help to keep things quiet, that his presence there would be a healing thing.

Heininger

More likely it would just fuel things.

Gwirtzman

Well, that’s right.

Heininger

Fuel the fires.

Gwirtzman

He got that advice, and I forget who it was from. Burke Marshall, on the other hand, said don’t go because your presence in Chicago will make things worse. Ted got a call from a couple of people who were there, who were saying stay away, this place is about to erupt. Stay away! So he stayed away. But he did send Steve there. I don’t know what conversation they had before Steve left, but I guess he wanted to know—And this is the other part of him, coming again from his father. If there’s a convention and they’re ready to nominate you for President, you want to know about it. In other words, he didn’t want to have anything to do with the politics of it, but if they were going to make him their nominee for President, I don’t think he would have turned it down.

Heininger

Interesting.

Gwirtzman

Whenever anyone called him, he said no, I don’t want anything to do with it. But why would he have sent Steve Smith to deliver this, to go to the Standard Hotel and meet with people, if he were absolutely not interested?

Heininger

It is a double message; that’s for sure.

Gwirtzman

But the fact that Steve went there and was discovered there. He went to stay at the Standard Club, which was a Jewish club, hoping that no one would—

Heininger

Notice the Irish Catholic amongst them.

Gwirtzman

Yes. That was an indicator; that was a signal to a number of people who, for their own reasons or for reasons of a lot of the party, thought that Ted would be the only person who could win against [Richard M.] Nixon.

Heininger

Do you think he could have?

Gwirtzman

No. Is this before Chappaquiddick?

Heininger

This was before Chappaquiddick.

Gwirtzman

No, I don’t think he was in shape to run, to go through a national campaign. It was before Chappaquiddick, but there were enough other things. First of all, you’ve got to want it. He’s not going to—It’s the same as in 1980, when he thought he could win the nomination easily, and he had said, My father—

Heininger

Fire in the belly.

Gwirtzman

No. My father always said if there’s a piece of cake on the table that’s just standing there, take it. And he had, in 1980, all these polls showing him two-to-one over Carter, and time and time again. You really have to read Time and Newsweek and the newspapers and the television of that period to see the enormous pressure. How can you not do this; you’re the man. This other guy isn’t that good; he’s unpopular. He’s got the country going in the wrong direction.

Heininger

Would you say that was stronger in ’80 or stronger in ’68?

Gwirtzman

Oh, ’80. Sixty-eight was a quick flash that occurred only because the—President [Lyndon] Johnson had withdrawn and Robert Kennedy had died.

Heininger

[Eugene] McCarthy had pulled out.

Gwirtzman

McCarthy, well, he had—

Heininger

But there was no real presumptive nominee until it got to the convention. I mean, so if anything, if the cake was going to be on the table, the much more likely place for it to have been would have been in ’68. Who better to raise the fallen standard?

Gwirtzman

Well, yes, the cake might be on the table, but if you have an upset stomach, you’re not going to go for it.

Heininger

That’s what I’m saying.

Gwirtzman

He was not physically or mentally prepared to run for President in a tough race in 1968. He wasn’t ready in 1980 but that was for different reasons. But in ’68, he was absolutely not ready. He had just been through such trauma.

Heininger

Well, I’m separating his readiness from the politics of the time.

Gwirtzman

Yes, but the politics at the time can say—every one of the polls predicting you’re going to be nominated—but you still would have to run to be elected. Even if you could be given the nomination, like Adlai Stevenson [Jr.] was in 1952, or like in 1924, they brought in John W. Davis because the party was so hopelessly split between wets and dries. You still have to go out and campaign in a country that, in itself, in 1968, was pretty badly split.

Heininger

Exploding.

Gwirtzman

Nineteen eighty was a whole different situation. I don’t remember seeing what the polls were saying in 1968. There weren’t any taken, because you’re only talking about a small time period. But there were politicians who did feel that Kennedy at the top of the ticket, at least the idea of Kennedy, but not the real Kennedy, who—It’s the difference between the Kennedy who was running two-to-one ahead of Carter and the Kennedy who appeared with Roger Mudd. One is the real person at that time and the other is the image.

Heininger

Well, I would say if anything else, in ’68, it was the name Kennedy, rather than the first name that went in front of it.

Gwirtzman

Yes, but the name has to be attached to a real person, and you have three months for the voters to look at that real person, and you get somebody who just stumbled out of a hospital where his brother had been assassinated, second brother to be assassinated. And was legitimately worried about what would happen to him.

Heininger

How worried was he?

Gwirtzman

Well, that was one of the things, I’m sure, that entered his mind when he had to consider whether to accept the Vice Presidency, because even though he issued a statement saying he would not accept it, after [Hubert] Humphrey was nominated, it was nevertheless offered to him. It was offered to him several times by Humphrey. Finally, Humphrey—and this is in Humphrey’s book—said, well at least tell me who you would choose, as between [Edmund] Muskie and Oklahoma’s Fred Harris. Who would you pick between Muskie and Fred Harris? I was there when he told Humphrey on the telephone, Well, I know they’re both fine men. I know Muskie better. That was his way of saying he would pick Muskie; I just know him better, I don’t know Fred. They talked in terms of Ed and Fred. Ted said, With Ed, I know him very well, I’ve worked with him, I have a great deal of respect for him. I don’t know Fred as well. But that was after several entreaties by Humphrey of come on now, please do it for me, please run with me. He turned that down. I don’t think he could have conducted—He was not in shape, mentally, to conduct—a Presidential campaign, to be a candidate on a ticket in a Presidential campaign. His brother’s assassination was certainly part of it. His relationship with his wife was part of it.

Heininger

At that point, had his relationship with Joan deteriorated?

Gwirtzman

Yes.

Heininger

Was he concerned at that point with subjecting her to public scrutiny?

Gwirtzman

Well, there was always—You don’t think the Nixon people would not have come up with some indiscretions on his part?

Heininger

Well, yes, but—

Gwirtzman

They would have. Look what they did in 1972. They had a naked lady on a horse in front of the hotel in Florida where Muskie was checking in to do a campaign event.

Heininger

It was not a nice campaign, shall we say.

Gwirtzman

And it was run by the same—’68 would have been run by the same people, John Mitchell and the others. Edgar Hoover was alive at the time, and he had stuff that he could have distributed. I disagree that he could have run in ’68. He said he didn’t want to, but if he had wanted to, he would have gone to Chicago, even though people were saying that his appearance in Chicago, with all the tensions there—They couldn’t guarantee what would happen if he came to Chicago. They couldn’t guarantee that if he would come there everybody would stop fighting with one another, calm down, and suddenly say the messiah has arrived.

Heininger

Were there discussions with him about that? Did you have discussions with him?

Gwirtzman

In this, I did discuss whether or not he should go to Chicago, and some of the people in Chicago said—Daley did say he had to announce for someone, as leader of the Illinois delegation. Daley told Steve, I will help you, but I can’t do it unless he says you’re willing to take it, and Ted wouldn’t do that. And when people called him and said it’s yours for the asking. . . .

Heininger

But would it really have been his?

Gwirtzman

Oh, the nomination? I don’t know. Daley had all the Robert Kennedy delegates there who would have voted for him. It wasn’t a majority, but eventually they could have cobbled something together.

Heininger

Did he ask your advice on it?

Gwirtzman

Not directly, no. Although both David and I were acting under a directive that he was not interested. He didn’t say, is there something—He told us, I don’t want to get involved in it. So you conducted yourself accordingly. I was at his side. Everyone else had gone somewhere and I was at his house, and a call came in for him from Moscow and it was Sarge [Shriver]. Sarge said, What the hell is going on? So I tried to brief him on what was going on. He was thinking of putting his name into the mix, at least for Vice President, but he obviously didn’t want to do that if Ted was interested in the Presidential nomination. Here he was in Moscow and he starts to hear, getting calls from people. But that’s how confused and informal the whole thing was.

Heininger

So Ted didn’t talk with you about it, he just basically told you and Dave, operate as if I’m not doing this.

Gwirtzman

Yes. I prepared this paper. Part of it is June 12, now that’s eight days after Bobby was killed. The Vice Presidency, political questions to be resolved. This is obviously for a meeting that Ted was going to have with some people. Whether to be available for the Vice Presidency. If the decision is no, how to make it known; public statement, private notification of Humphrey so he can say he does not want to make the request. Senate. When and how to resume Senate activity, show up on the floor, show up at committees, subcommittees. Whether to write articles or a column. Whether and when to make any nonpolitical speeches prior to the convention.

And that was that, he did do that. They did two things in the Humphrey campaign. He and his mother did a television thing in which they thanked people, and then he did go and make the speech, the fallen standard speech. I had something that Charlie Bartlett had suggested, about a Kennedy anti-Vietnam amendment accepted by Humphrey on the floor, and Humphrey used that as excuse for changing his position. That was pretty interesting because, in the end, Johnson tried to delay and delay, to keep Humphrey from changing it. Finally, Humphrey made a speech in Salt Lake City in late October, saying that he was for stopping the bombing and starting negotiations. His polls started rising after that, and had it gone another week, he probably could have won, because that freed him. He was just afraid to do it because Lyndon Johnson, up to that time—But it’s interesting that Charlie Bartlett, as early as June, was suggesting that he sponsor some sort of resolution in the Senate that Humphrey could use as an excuse for breaking with Johnson.

Heininger

This was a memo from Charlie Bartlett, or were these your notes?

Gwirtzman

No, this is a memo that I prepared as an agenda for this meeting. This is something Charlie Bartlett must have said and I wrote it down because it sounded—

Heininger

Oh, I see; it’s a note from a meeting.

Gwirtzman

It was never done, because he didn’t go to the Senate during that period. Whether to attend the convention, whether to participate in the convention, whether to chair the Massachusetts delegation. Whether and when to appear on the floor, whether and when to address the convention. Whether and when the family should have a reception for delegates at the convention. I mean, this is when you’re just thinking of options. You’re thinking like a lawyer, trying to think of all the possibilities. But that shows how naïve we were about what was going to happen in Chicago, because all of these things—If he had done any of these things, it would have been just because—Nobody knows that he could have gotten it, but the idea of the family having a reception for the delegates when the delegates were getting beaten by the police—How absurd!

Post convention. How to participate in the Presidential campaign. If travel, what kind of security. Running a campaign for Democratic candidates. So this is the sort of thing that you talk about, but it’s not reality as it’s developing at the time and in the two months between this and the fall election. Probably, going back, he probably should not have made the fallen standard speech, because that’s what gave people an excuse to try to get him more involved. I think he was absolutely right to stay away from a campaign, because he was in no shape to handle it.

Heininger

Was he doing a lot of sailing on the Cape?

Gwirtzman

Oh, yes, and a lot of walking on the beach. Yes, the issue of the nomination, he said the decision was final, firm, and not subject to additional consideration. But even that statement didn’t stop them from trying to draw him in, because the worse the situation got in Chicago, the more people thought maybe Kennedy’s the answer, the only answer to try to stop this thing. So they weren’t doing it for him, they were doing it to try to deal with the situation that they had now, a very unusual one.

Heininger

Yes, very.

Gwirtzman

And then he did appear. In the campaign, he appeared with Humphrey in Boston at a street rally halfway to Election Day and they were booed. Humphrey was heckled, even with Kennedy with him, in the fall campaign in 1968.

Heininger

Boy, it was a tough time. So Kennedy goes back to the Senate.

Gwirtzman

He goes back to the Senate.

Heininger

Do you have any recollections about his becoming Whip, and then later his fight with Bob Byrd?

Gwirtzman

The Whip fight, yes. Actually, he’s talked about that in his own interviews. At that point, after Bobby’s death, I got involved in writing this book. I didn’t spend as much time in his office, so I can’t really say whose idea it was for him to run for Whip, but it was clear that he was in a position to gain more authority in the Senate. It was just a matter of how to do it. He didn’t have enough seniority at that point to be head of a committee. He was only head of a subcommittee.

Heininger

Not yet. He didn’t become head of the subcommittee until ’71.

Gwirtzman

Which one, the immigration?

Heininger

Well, let’s see. When did he assume immigration?

Gwirtzman

It might have been health.

Heininger

Yes, health in ’71 and—Maybe that was by ’69.

Gwirtzman

He didn’t have a position of power.

Heininger

No.

Gwirtzman

But he was in a position as a national figure to get one, if that’s the way he wanted to go. I was not involved in any of the discussions or his thought processes or the advice he received that ended up in saying, Going for the Whip position is the way to try to build your power base. It’s possible part of that might have come from the labor unions or the liberals, saying, Here’s a way for us to cut down Russell Long, put Kennedy in his place. And he jumped at that. That was an internal Senate thing that he could go around and talk to people about. [Wayne] Owens was the one who did most with him on that. Wayne Owens, who was later a Congressman from Utah, and Paul Kirk, they were the ones.

Heininger

Let’s switch to something completely different, and that’s the founding of the Kennedy Library.

Gwirtzman

The founding of the Kennedy Library. John Kennedy had thought about having a library. By that time, there were a number of Presidential libraries and it was becoming a tradition. So in 1962, he went up to Cambridge. He assumed that it should have something to do with Harvard. He picked a site for it, which was across the Charles River from Harvard, in what’s now near the Harvard Business School. But at the same time he looked at another site on the Cambridge side of the river, but it was occupied by maintenance yards for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. It wasn’t available; they could say they have something there. But he liked that possible site.

When he died, one of the things that was done is that $20 million was raised around the world; kids, anyone who wanted to make a gesture by giving money, gave to this. Ted and Helen Keyes and some other people went to various countries to accept the memorial funds.

Heininger

Who coordinated that effort?

Gwirtzman

Probably Helen Keyes. But the travel was his office coordinating. I know he went to Germany and he went to Italy. So they had this pot of money. Bobby is the key to making all these decisions, that they want to have more—and of course, they had Ken [John Kenneth] Galbraith.

Heininger

Who wanted to have something to do with it?

Gwirtzman

Well, not who wanted to have something to do with it, who were helping the family devise an appropriate memorial. Because remember, at that point cities were naming streets and schools were being named and everybody wanted to name something after him. New York City renamed an airport. Poor Idlewild, whoever he was.

Heininger

And our space center had its name changed.

Gwirtzman

Yes. People wanted the Kennedys’ support behind their proposals. And the family did not want to discourage them. So they said, The only official memorial that we recognize will be the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. That was their stance in order to fob off showing preferences between all these others. Then there was this idea that it should be a living memorial; this is the professors—Galbraith, Dick Neustadt, Arthur, [McGeorge] Bundy—that they don’t want just bricks and mortar. I mean, you want something that will live; you want to have a living memorial to President Kennedy. So what’s it going to be? 

Well, here’s where Harvard politics came in. There was a group of people at the Harvard Law School, like Adam Yarmolinsky and some others, who were not happy with the way they were being treated there, and they made common cause with some professors in the government department to create a new school. They said, We can create this new school and we can name it after John Kennedy and we can raise all sorts of money. So at the same time that half of the $20 million was being allocated to build the library, the other half was allocated to endow what was later called the Institute of Politics. Its job would be to try to bring together the academic world and the world of public affairs, like John Kennedy did when he was a Senator, when he was President, to bring all these professors who had great cachet in the academic community. So this new politics place was created, and the first chairman was Lord [David] Harlech, who was John Kennedy’s friend from England, and the first director was Richard Neustadt. 

Meanwhile, these other people were going around trying to raise money from foundations, like the Ford Foundation, which Bundy had become the head of—maybe not yet, but anyway—to get Harvard to make a deal with the Kennedy family, whereby this new school, which these professors were trying to get the money to, and which would cost a lot more than $10 million, according to the school documents—would be named after John Kennedy. No school at Harvard had ever been named after an individual. This was supposed to be such a great honor. In return for the $10 million, they would name the school. Bobby saw through this right away and he said, Look, you get the best of both worlds; you get John Kennedy’s name and you get our $10 million. He could see what they were trying to do, but there was no other place to go. The Institute of Politics had to be under some academic aegis in order to function. So it became an independent part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, which went on to have its own checkered career at the start. 

You had some good things there. Some of the good things are that it’s very international now. Half the students are from other countries, and they go back and with that pedigree, they go off in their governments and do really significant things in foreign governments. Here, it’s sometimes to the degree that people who later become prominent in government, it does give them training in the administrative skills, budget making and those other practical skills that would be good to have. There are a number of members of Congress who went there. 

The negative things were that they had a dean who went around trying to raise money by selling professorships. There were oil people in Texas who were told they could be called senior adjunct at the Kennedy School in return for X hundred barrels or X million dollars. But that’s academia for you.

I’ve been on the board of the Institute since it was founded. It’s a great thing for undergraduates. They get a chance to meet people in politics; they’re inspired by politics. A number of people who hold public office, including [Charles M.] Trey Grayson [III], who may be the next Senator from Kentucky, started their political careers on the student board of the Institute of Politics.

Heininger

What’s the relationship between the Institute now and the Kennedy School of Government?

Gwirtzman

The Institute is independent.

Heininger

But within the Kennedy School?

Gwirtzman

Within the Kennedy School. It’s located in the complex of the Kennedy School. Once again, Harvard wanted to go back and take Kennedy’s name off of the School of Government, on the grounds that it would be administratively more simple if every school were just called by its trade name, the law school or the business school or the school of government. So the first time they did that, the Cambridge City Council responded by changing the name of the street that it was on to John F. Kennedy Street. They were upset. They said if Harvard’s going to take his name off of the school, we’ll put it on the street. Now the university wants to call it—having taken a page from the airport in Washington—the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, like Reagan National Airport.

Heininger

Yes, right. Well, the school of government had been in existence before that. When was the name changed?

Gwirtzman

No. There was never a school of government at Harvard. There was the Littauer School of Public Administration, but not a school of government. Former president Derek Bok felt that Harvard should offer more training for government service, so he went along with this idea of having a new school with professorships and degrees and everything, a graduate school. They built it in the place where the MBTA [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] car barns were because the car barns moved out to a more permanent location; it was a temporary car barn place. It was built and exists now on a piece of land that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts donated. The Commonwealth gave part of itself in memory of President Kennedy.

So the Institute has its own budget; it’s governed by appointed people. The appointments come from Harvard but they’re basically made by Senator Kennedy; appointments to the senior advisory board and the director of the Institute. Each director had been—There’s a tradition now that the director is someone who has to have held public office. After the first three directors, who were all academics, we had the former Governor of Pennsylvania, now the former Mayor of Nashville. Former Congressman Dan Glickman was also the director. Senator Jeanne Shaheen was director. All these are people who themselves have been elected to public office at some point in their career. That helps make the distinction between the school, which is academic, and the Institute, which does not grant any degrees and is more closely involved in politics. Well, the most popular thing they do is run the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, where people in the news come to speak. Before the New Hampshire Presidential primaries. All the candidates spoke at the Kennedy Forum so they could get television coverage in New Hampshire.

Heininger

And it’s right next door.

Gwirtzman

A lot of people from the U.S. and other countries go there and speak; it’s a major public forum. But the Institute also has fellows, people who have been active in government and media, who go up and give a course, a noncredit course, open to all the students. Peggy Noonan is going to be there next fall. The woman who has just been in charge of coaching [Sonia] Sotomayor for her confirmation hearing is going to be there.

Heininger

Stephanie Cutter.

Gwirtzman

Stephanie Cutter, yes. She did not get a job at the White House and they needed something for her to do for a while. These are four-month fellowships. Those sorts of people who had government experience, who want to go up and mingle with students and get reinspired by academia. Those are some of the things the Institute does, separate and apart from the school of government.

Heininger

What’s Ted’s role in it? That he appoints the advisory board?

Gwirtzman

No, well, the board officially is appointed by the Harvard Corporation, but he decides who is going to be on the board.

Heininger

All right.

Gwirtzman

He’s never been chairman of the board but he decides who’s going to be chairman of the board. And he comes to every meeting, no matter how busy he is.

Heininger

Every board meeting?

Gwirtzman

Every board meeting. He’s made it a special thing, because he feels something happened to John Kennedy when he was an undergraduate at Harvard that spurred him to be active in public affairs, that he might not have run for office otherwise. He does feel that the courses he took had something to do with that; writing his thesis on why England slept during the ’30s, other academic things. And I think he had a special relationship with Harvard, as a place where he could, as a Senator, draw on the knowledge of the faculty. His father had a more complicated relationship with Harvard. Although he too was a graduate, he ended up not giving any money to Harvard for the last half of his life. But all in all, Harvard played a very important role in the life and the progress of the Kennedy family, from when Joe’s father was a saloon keeper to the top of the world.

Heininger

Has he managed to attend the meetings, the board meetings, even this past year while he’s been ill?

Gwirtzman

He listens to them and participates by speaker phone.

Heininger

Speaker phone. What has been his involvement through the years with the Kennedy Library?

Gwirtzman

The Kennedy Library got the other $10 million, but they couldn’t build it where they wanted to, in the car barns, because the people of one part of Cambridge—Speaker [Thomas] Tip O’Neill used to call them the Brattle Street crowd. The Brattle Street crowd didn’t want more tourists in Harvard Square. They were afraid that if the Kennedy Library were there, Harvard Square would be inundated by tourists and, being property owners near Harvard Square, that their property would lose value and cachet. Well, the tourists still come and the property still has cachet.

Heininger

Yes, it does.

Gwirtzman

I mean, Henry Gates lives there.

Heininger

Yes, he does, doesn’t he?

Gwirtzman

So the library, instead, was built at Columbia Point in Dorchester. The architect was I. M. Pei and he and Ivan Chermayeff put in the state-of-the-art exhibits, including one of the first computerized exhibits. Ted has been active. Once the building was built, it was turned over to the Federal Government and run by the National Archives, like every other Presidential library.

Heininger

Yes.

Gwirtzman

So he can’t be as directly involved in its day-to-day operation. However, I’m quite sure that the Archives have been sure to get his approval for whoever may be named the chief librarian there. It’s also used for nonpolitical fundraising and events of interest to members of the Kennedy family. For instance, Patrick [Kennedy] represents a district in Rhode Island, and Rhode Island has a lot of Portuguese immigrants. When a delegation from Portugal visited, Patrick had a reception for them over at the Kennedy Library. So Ted hasn’t been as intimately involved, but just because of the governmental nature of the institution, he kept up an interest in it.

Heininger

Have you had a role with the Kennedy Library?

Gwirtzman

I helped plan it. I helped select the exhibits. My name is on the plaque that is in the Steve Smith Auditorium, with the names of people who they thank for doing that. I have used it for my own research. When I researched Joseph Kennedy’s papers, I did it at the Kennedy Library. But I haven’t had any official role there.

Heininger

Tell us, where are Joseph Kennedy’s papers? They’re in the library?

Gwirtzman

Joseph Kennedy’s papers are in the library. There are two types of papers. His papers for when he was Ambassador to England and when he had official positions with the United States Government are in the library and open to the public. These are official State Department documents.

Heininger

Right.

Gwirtzman

His personal papers have been in the library but as of now, in 2009, have not yet been cataloged because his estate has not made a gift over to the federal government. You have to do that before the government will catalog it, and it has to be cataloged before it can be opened to the public.

Heininger

The release just hasn’t been signed?

Gwirtzman

No.

Heininger

Is there a reason?

Gwirtzman

I don’t know. The last thing that was done is that there was a group of scholars who were asked to go through those papers and make a recommendation about them. Doris Kearns [Goodwin] was in the group; all eminent scholars. As far as I know, nothing yet has been done, but that’s all separate and apart from John Kennedy’s papers—

Heininger

Right.

Gwirtzman

—which went through that process when Burke Marshall was head of the group. If you are asked to give your papers over to any Presidential library, you have control over what you give and when it can be made public, because you’re the grantor. Those are the conditions that you can place on it. So Joe Kennedy’s personal papers are there in courtesy storage, pending a decision on what to give over.

Heininger

Joseph Kennedy’s papers?

Gwirtzman

Joseph Kennedy’s papers, yes.

Heininger

What about Ted’s papers? 

Gwirtzman

It’s the same with Ted’s papers.

Heininger

Yes, I thought his were there. But again, they’re still pending.

Gwirtzman

They haven’t been catalogued. There are hundreds of boxes.

Heininger

Yes, I know.

Gwirtzman

They don’t belong to the government, so the government can’t catalog them and nobody else can afford to spend the money. He has 48 years of papers from a busy Senate office. 

Heininger

Voluminous.

Gwirtzman

A number of scholars have asked to look at Robert Kennedy’s papers, Ted Kennedy’s papers, Joe Kennedy’s papers. Right now, a scholar from New York University who is writing a biography of Joe Kennedy has access to those papers. You get access by going to the administrators of his estate, who are his children.

Heininger

And are Bobby’s papers there too?

Gwirtzman

Yes.

Heininger

Have they been deeded over?

Gwirtzman

I don’t know, I think so. I was allowed to use them when Bill vanden Heuvel and I wrote our book, which was 35 years ago, and other people have been allowed to use them. He doesn’t have as many papers. We’re not talking now about the Justice Department papers.

Heininger

No, we’re talking about the personal papers.

Gwirtzman

The personal papers. He didn’t have a lot of those; he was too busy with his family and preferred to talk on the phone. And he only had a Senate office for four years.

Heininger

He did, but not as long.

Gwirtzman

He had a Senate office for four years, but still, nothing like the mountain of papers Ted accumulated. They’re going to have to build a whole new building.

Heininger

Yes, there’s a lot. 

Park Agency. You said, in your first interview, that after you returned from Europe, you were no longer employed by the Park Agency, except to do specific things, like the Kennedy Library. What else?

Gwirtzman

Well, I did go through Joe Kennedy’s papers, because none of his children knew what was in them. I went through them and I prepared an index as to what was in them and gave it to them.

Heininger

You’re not going to do that for Ted’s, are you?

Gwirtzman

Are you kidding?

Heininger

You’d spend more than the rest of your life doing that.

Gwirtzman

Yes. That was one of the things, and I think in connection with a book on Rose, we went into her papers.

Heininger

So her papers are there too?

Gwirtzman

Yes.

Heininger

And have they been deeded?

Gwirtzman

I think they have, because I know that the woman who was an employee of the library has cataloged them, Megan Desnoyers. So I think hers have.

Heininger

Any other specific projects?

Gwirtzman

From when I got back from Europe?

Heininger

Well, just in the time period after you—

Gwirtzman

I wasn’t employed by Park Agency; it was a client. I had a law firm and they were a client.

Heininger

I’m assuming that you went from a position where you’d have a retainer from them, as the law firm, in your law firm, to then simply doing special projects that you were employed for.

Gwirtzman

Yes, that’s right. Did I do any other special projects for Steve Smith? Paid for by Park Agency? I think so, such as some books and a review of the papers. All the other things I’ve done, I’ve done pro bono. There might have been something for Eunice [Kennedy Shriver]. Oh yes, there was a book on Sarge that was written by an Atlantic Magazine reporter, an authorized book. It was just about to be published and they asked if I would take a look at this book and tell them if there were any things in there that they should be aware of, that might be a problem, which I did. That was maybe six years ago. I think I needed some time for that and I think I had sent them a bill, but I can’t think of anything else.

Heininger

And so did you move from the retainer situation with them because Ted’s staff was growing, or were there other reasons too?

Gwirtzman

Well, I was never on Ted’s staff officially.

Heininger

But you were at the very beginning, that first year after he came in?

Gwirtzman

I don’t think so. You mean getting paid by the U.S. Government?

Heininger

Yes.

Gwirtzman

No, because if so, I would have had five years in the government and be eligible for their health insurance.

Heininger

Oh, so you didn’t make the formal transition from Ben Smith’s staff. 

Gwirtzman

No.

Heininger

You didn’t, OK.

Gwirtzman

No, I mean in that month that Ben then became a Senator in January 1961—

Heininger

And then Ted was sworn in early after the campaign.

Gwirtzman

Yes. And I went off staff.

Heininger

What other special projects did you do for the Park Agency?

Gwirtzman

For a number of years, I was Ted’s speechwriter and counsel, and I billed Park Agency to get a retainer for that. If you’re interested, Theo Lippman of the Baltimore Sun, in his book on Kennedy, asked me this question in an interview and I didn’t really have all the facts and figures, and then I wrote him a letter that detailed the whole thing. If you want it, you can have it.

Heininger

Well, remember, oral history is your recollections and we’re just—Where do your documents go?

Gwirtzman

No, that’s our agreement.

Heininger

OK, we talked about the books. 

Carter and Kennedy. We’ve heard from a lot of the policy folks about the relationship. We’ve heard from a lot of people about their disputes over health care and the soul of the Democratic Party. You’ve had some experience working for Carter. What is your take on what their relationship was, from a personal standpoint? Did they truly dislike each other? Did they really have no chemistry? Did they respect each other?

Gwirtzman

I don’t want to speak for Carter.

Heininger

Well, just from what you observed.

Gwirtzman

I did not work for him. I worked under Stu Eizenstat.

Heininger

Just what your sense was of the relationship.

Gwirtzman

They had respect for each other as politicians. You had to respect the way Carter had come up from being a State Senator and run a very good campaign in 1976. In early 1976, Kennedy had a lot of very good things to say about Carter. But Carter had a core group from Georgia that was quite leery of Kennedy. Now, whether they reflected Carter’s leeriness or whether it reflected Carter’s attitude or not, I don’t know. But remember that this was a time when Kennedy was very popular, in 1976. A lot of time had passed since Chappaquiddick. He could have run himself that year but decided not to, basically for family considerations, so he was a 500-pound elephant in the room. The Carter people had to defer to him because they were trying to go from a southern base into a northern base, where Kennedy was much more popular than in their own state. 

I don’t remember the extent to which they campaigned with each other in 1976, but the relations in 1976 were fine. They were a little formal. I was an obvious Kennedy person. They needed new people, but like any group, they didn’t want to bring somebody right into the middle, and so I was—My relationship with them was really through Stu Eizenstat, who was from Georgia and who I worked for in the Carter organizations. I traveled with Carter, but I traveled with Carter as a representative of the issues group, which was run by Stu, and I reported back to that issues group. I would only get involved occasionally in some other stuff, just because I was on the plane and they needed someone to do things, and sometimes I saw things and made recommendations. Like, I didn’t think, when he was in Philadelphia he should get too close to a statue of General [William Tecumseh] Sheridan, because General Sheridan had been one of the people who had gone through Georgia, pillaging.

Heininger

Oh, yes, he did, ride with Sherman.

Gwirtzman

Things like that. I think once or twice I was quoted in the Times for the political stuff, saying that we really took [Gerald] Ford in that debate, something that I probably shouldn’t have said to a reporter. But I was not part of the Carter inner circle by any means. I was working with Stu. 

Heininger

OK, so then the next thing would be on recommendations for jobs. Ted made a number of recommendations for jobs, some of which were accepted and some of which weren’t. But again, it was formal, as you have a Senator who has a major influence in the Democratic Party. That’s how they treated Kennedy, not as one of their own. How did he feel? 

Gwirtzman

Well, I didn’t talk to him about that at that point. I did talk to Paul Sarbanes, who reacted—I think Ted would have reacted the same way. Within three months of Carter’s inauguration, Paul Sarbanes was talking about that crowd in the White House. In other words, a Senator feeling that there was a clique in the White House and they did things their way and they didn’t really respond to him that much. 

Now, Kennedy would have been a little different in that he was more important politically; they’d have to look more formal dealing with him, but they didn’t quite know how to do it. Tip O’Neill, who you’d think they would be very deferential to, was very tough on them. He called Hamilton Jordan Hannibal Jerkin because their Congressional relations were not close—and this was with the Speaker of the House, the most important person. And all of that was before you got to issues like health care. Of course, all of it was How well is he doing? and you can see that happening now. I mean, Congress will respond a little differently to our current President if they see that he has dropped eight points in a poll, than they would before.

Heininger

Well, yes, that’s kind of a given.

Gwirtzman

Yes, that’s all again—but there was certainly no idea of Oh, I’m going to take this guy on, any more than. . . . Now he has a very interesting situation with Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, who, if the President does not do well, will come under a lot of pressure to jump ship, but that just hasn’t happened. I hope it doesn’t happen. But because she ran such a strong race, she still is greeted like a candidate and draws crowds even though she is Secretary of State. Not because she’s not loyal—She has good relations with [Barack] Obama—but even though she’s one of his appointees, she still has a separate power base within the media and within the party because she ran herself. So did Kennedy, and that’s how Carter and Carter’s people looked at him. Now, when you got as far as the 1978 midterm convention, which took place in Memphis and where Kennedy was quite critical of how things—And when Jordan turned to Jody [Powell] and said, He’s running, the sense of rivalry would have gone a long way by then, but it didn’t start that way.

Heininger

Did you ever get a sense about whether they—I mean, their personalities are quite a bit different, but you can say that about Kennedy and all the Presidents he’s served under, quite a bit different from his brother. Did you get a sense that there was antipathy between them or that they just didn’t along or they didn’t get each other, except recognition?

Gwirtzman

Well, remember all of the personal notes that Kennedy dictated after he got back from the White House, from visits with Carter.

Heininger

Yes, but we’re interested in your take on it, what your observations were.

Gwirtzman

Well, I didn’t have a take on it. I wasn’t that close to him at this point. First of all, I was living in Boston, so I wasn’t here that much. I can’t remember talking to him about Carter or about whether he should run against Carter until later on. I wrote him some memos. What happened was poll driven. It was driven by a whole series of articles and polls saying Kennedy is so much more popular than Carter, that the Democratic Party would be crazy if they. . . . Kennedy can have the nomination for the asking, said Mary McGrory. There was that idea that Carter was doing so poorly that Kennedy was the logical choice. That went on for an entire year and a half, beginning in the fall of 1978. Now, that can’t not have an influence on his own feelings. It was in connection with his statement to me about his father and the piece of cake on the table. That was his gut explanation of why he ran in 1980.

Heininger

You said in the first interview that you recommended on each occasion that he not run. That was your advice.

Gwirtzman

Yes.

Heininger

Why?

Gwirtzman

Well, you have to take each occasion separately. In 1968, he was just not ready.

Heininger

He couldn’t do it, yes.

Gwirtzman

Even if it hadn’t been for the trauma and emotion, He just wasn’t ready. In 1972—

Heininger

Was that just too close to Chappaquiddick at that point?

Gwirtzman

When you said I recommended to him at each time, is that from my interview or from—?

Heininger

From the interview. You said you wrote him millions of memos, mostly having to do with running or not running.

Gwirtzman

Yes, I did.

Heininger

How did you get those memos to him?

Gwirtzman

I gave them to Angelique, his personal secretary.

Heininger

Did you get responses to them?

Gwirtzman

Sometimes.

Heininger

Did he solicit any of them from you?

Gwirtzman

No, but it was quite clear that he put some value on them. And I wasn’t the only one who sent memos. John Bartlow Martin, who was the—It turned out that when I went through the papers, he was sending memos to both Bobby in 1968, telling him to run, and to Teddy in 1980, telling him to run. There were a lot of people who undertook it upon themselves and they felt that this is what we do. I think I probably thought Nixon was too strong for ’72.

Heininger

If you look at the outcome of the election, that’s probably a good assumption, if you look at it ten years later.

Gwirtzman

I don’t know that I’d send him memos each time saying don’t run. If I said that, I’d have to—I’m trying to justify that, but I don’t see anything in here. I know that both he and I sent memos to Bobby saying he shouldn’t run. But look at these polls: 1979, Gallop poll among Democrats, month by month, Carter against Kennedy and the spread between the two of them. In other words, what was Kennedy’s margin over Carter? February, 4 percent; April, 27 percent; June, 42 percent. In June, 68 percent of the Democrats wanted Kennedy and 26 percent wanted Carter. Talk about a piece of cake being there for the taking. July, 36 percent spread; August, 37; September, 32; October, 30. October, 60 percent of the Democrats wanted Kennedy, 30 percent for Carter. I’ve never seen numbers like this against an incumbent President, compared with someone else in their party. Those polls generated all the articles and all the television and everything, saying Kennedy’s going to be it, and then blowing him up as very important.

In the meantime, he’s got a personal situation with his wife, he’s got all these other things going on, and he was not preparing to run. That’s why, after this, after 1980, his staffers said we’ll prepare and then you make your decision. But in 1980, it took him so long to make his decision that by the time he made it, he hadn’t done anything else, including asking himself why he wanted to run, which is where Roger Mudd got him.

Heininger

Do you think he was really ambivalent?

Gwirtzman

Yes, of course he was. Would you not run with these sorts of numbers in your favor? In other words, I don’t know whether I’m capable of doing the job or whether, if they find out about this or that, what will happen to me or whether I’m going to get shot. They say if I’m going to campaign, they’ve got to give me—

Heininger

Body armor.

Gwirtzman

Yes. But yet, look at these numbers and remember what dad said. I mean, certainly, the cake is out on the table. I could not have written him a memo in 1980 saying, don’t run. So if I said every time, I take it back.

Heininger

The cake ostensibly was on the table. The way the election worked out, I question whether he even could have won it, given where the country was and given the economy, given the hostages. It sure wasn’t a lot closer; that’s an understatement.

Gwirtzman

It changed a lot.

Heininger

The hostages changed everything.

Gwirtzman

The timing of the hostage crisis. What happened, when it happened, all of it. 

Heininger

OK.

Gwirtzman

How could anybody with any political sense say to a guy who is running two-to-one against an incumbent President, don’t bother?

Heininger

Because I think what we’ve all discovered, particularly in recent elections, is that if you don’t have the fire in your belly, if you don’t want it more than anything else in the whole wide world—and that includes your family, your kids, your wife, your everything else—you can’t win. And the ones who have won have been the ones who had the biggest fire in their belly. But then again, if you compare Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin, as Tina Fey did last fall, fire in the belly is sometimes not sufficient, is it? [laughter]

Gwirtzman

No. So I don’t know. The ones later on, ’84, I mean [Ronald] Reagan, you don’t beat Reagan.

Heininger

Midterm, no.

Gwirtzman

The interesting thing about ’84 was that despite having to run against Reagan, Ted was really ready to go, and they started to do all of the things you had to do to get ready to run. He was talked out of running in 1984. He would have announced right after the 1982 Congressional elections, but his children talked him out of it. His children became the—And this too, and then in the briefing I prepared for his interview, he wrote a six-page summary of the discussions he had had over a period of six months with his children, about running. He was never specific about what they said, but he just says, They were very adamant against my running. I could see, when I told them I wasn’t going to run, Patrick, especially, was just a changed kid. I would interpret that as them saying, not that you won’t have as much time to spend with us, but if you run you’re going to get killed and we won’t have a father. And Ted Kennedy, being Ted Kennedy, could not turn away from that. This is not just my observation. John Culver had a lot of talks with him at that time and said he was really raring to go. He was all ready to go, but this is what turned him around. And he himself says that’s what turned him around.

Heininger

What have you observed about his relationship with his kids?

Gwirtzman

Well, it’s different, and if you want to, you should take a look at his six-page summary. This is what I’m talking about. If you want to see about his relationship with the kids, read that. [Quiet as JH reads]

Heininger

So Teddy [Edward Kennedy, Jr.] was the first person to—In the first conversation, he’s relating in this memo, Teddy was the one who did most of the talking.

Gwirtzman

Yes, but remember at that point, how old is Patrick?

Heininger

He’s about 15, 17, something like that.

Gwirtzman

Patrick is 15?

Heininger

Well, let’s see. He would have been—He was elected to the Rhode Island House in, I think ’87, when he was 21, so he was still in high school. Maybe about 17. What is very clearly underlying all of this, what lay unspoken, was that the kids didn’t want to run the risk of him being killed.

Gwirtzman

Yes, that’s what was interesting.

Heininger

They don’t say it. No argument from the children, in how he writes it up, is expressed in terms of, We’re afraid if you run, you might be killed. But you know what, that’s what’s under it.

Gwirtzman

Yes.

Heininger

At least that’s what it appears to me from this document. It had to be tough on all of them, including him. 

Well, I’ve got one other question for you and then I have to do another interview this afternoon.

Gwirtzman

Who are you going to see?

Heininger

Pat Leahy.

Gwirtzman

Oh?

Heininger

In know, in the midst of the confirmation hearings, but that’s when he wanted to do it. 

Tell me about what your own career ambitions and plans and hopes have been, when you started off, and how did Kennedy figure into that and how then ultimately did it work out?

Gwirtzman

Well, it figured a great deal in it. The time was pre-women’s lib, pre-affirmative action, everything. I was of this generation that was small enough that everybody succeeded, especially if you got into a place like Harvard. They assume you will succeed, but then it was even much more. . . . And I could get into Harvard because I had no competition from women or blacks or minorities.

My big career decision was whether I was going to be a law firm lawyer or a public lawyer, like you have in Washington, who goes in and out of the government. I wanted to do the latter. It was much more stimulating and a better use of my talents. That meant coming to Washington at a very early age, getting very—for someone my age—important jobs, like in the Senate, which led to John Kennedy’s Presidential campaign. 

When you look back, you can always see the route you took or the decisions you made or the people who helped you or what were the critical things that led you up to where you are, or down. Mine really came out of coming to Washington very early, because it was because of my Senate experience in 1959–60 that I got the job. Remember, I was not in the Kennedy group to begin with. I was actually working for one of his rivals, Stuart Symington, but I got into the Kennedy group because I was working for Ben Smith and because Ted Kennedy needed someone who was doing what I was doing in order to run for the Senate. That was the critical thing, and so everything else came from there, because I helped him get elected to the Senate and I helped him afterward. 

I got to get some degree of confidence in me by members of his family, to give me a lot of other work. They were helpful to me in other parts of my life, so I think it was absolutely critical. And it works the other way too, because I was seen as a Kennedy person in other things I did. In politics, I was more excluded, say to Muskie in 1972—I mean, there were some people in the Muskie group who very much wanted me to help, but I didn’t go to the key staff meetings because I was considered by them to be a Kennedy person, and therefore maybe a spy, by the more paranoid Muskie people.

Heininger

Yes.

Gwirtzman

I recommended someone who typed 180 words a minute, who was going to turn out to be one of Jody’s—This was the Carter campaign—best people, and who had worked with him all her life. Still she was considered, by Bob Strauss, to be a spy, because she had worked for [Harold] Barefoot Sanders, a Kennedy supporter in Texas.

Heininger

This is a resumption of the interview with Milton Gwirtzman on August 5.

Gwirtzman

So, in other words, it worked both ways.

Heininger

Yes. It was a liability and then you were so closely identified.

Gwirtzman

Yes, but much more an asset. Whatever I have been able to do of any significance to the country or in public life, I’ve done because of my relationship with the Kennedy family, and specifically with Ted Kennedy. And it’s allowed me to play the role of being a lawyer and confidant, and participant in important public issues, which has given me a fuller career than had I gone the other way, which was just to be a lawyer.

Heininger

How do you see Ted, as being different from his brothers or similar to his brothers?

Gwirtzman

Different, because he’s more of a people person and less of an intellectual. Similar in the tremendous energy they had, as well as the basic values of someone who, having been brought up with a good deal of material riches, feels an obligation to do something for other people. But in the same sense, somewhat a noblesse oblige sense, that people like that are to take a leadership position.

Heininger

Good line to end on, thank you.

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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