Oral History

Robert Shrum Oral History (7/6/2009)

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

Heininger

This is an interview with Bob Shrum on July 6, 2009, in Massachusetts. Why don’t we start at the very beginning? When did you first meet [Edward M.] Kennedy, and what were your initial impressions of him?

Shrum

Well, my initial impressions of him were formed before I met him. He was not your average new Senator when I was a kid at Georgetown, and everybody knew who he was. There were images that struck everyone in that time–he and Robert Kennedy and Jackie [Bouvier Kennedy] walking in his brother’s funeral procession; then later when I was at Harvard his eulogy for Bobby at St. Patrick’s.

I first met him in 1972, when he came campaigning with us, with [George] McGovern, in Minnesota in early September, maybe the first trip, September 10 to 12, so a very early trip, and we drew these huge crowds. I remember one moment, which I think is in the archive manuscript of my book, which is about twice as long as the published book. In Minneapolis, the Governor of Minnesota, Wendell Anderson, was introducing Teddy to introduce McGovern, and he said something like, “Now I want to present the man who will be back to Minnesota in 1976 as the Democratic nominee and the next Democratic President of the United States, Ted Kennedy.” People didn’t know what to do, but they all cheered because it was Kennedy’s name, and Kennedy got up and he said, “Wendell Anderson is right. I will be back in Minnesota in 1976, campaigning for the reelection of a great Democratic President, George McGovern.” And you could just see it written on Anderson’s face: What did I just do?

Heininger

Yes, right.

Shrum

I didn’t know Kennedy well, but I chatted with him a few times on the plane. After the McGovern campaign, with McGovern’s help and with Kennedy’s, I became a Kennedy Fellow at Harvard. I was young; I had just turned 30 when I started.

I saw him during the ‘74–I went to some dinner at Anthony’s Pier 4 he was doing for [Michael] Dukakis. I haven’t thought of this in many years. Jim King or somebody else came over and got me and said, “He would like to see you.” So I just went up and chatted with him for a little while.

I saw him again in '75, because I came up for the weekend with the Shrivers [Robert Sargent and Eunice Kennedy], to stay in Hyannis Port, and everybody got together every night at 7:30 or 7:00, had a drink, and then we’d have dinner. That’s when I met Rose Kennedy, who elicited the details of my life from me, what my father had done–he was a tool and die maker in California– where did you go to law school, all this stuff. And it was a little embarrassing, because the one thing about that family is everybody kids everybody else, and so she’s suddenly saying, “Teddy, Teddy, come over here. Do you know how well Bob Shrum has done, and he didn’t have any of the advantages that your father and I gave you.” [laughter] And you know, you’d like to just disappear.

Heininger

Thanks, Mom.

Shrum

I saw him a few times in Hyannis Port. I can’t tell you exactly how many. I went up there a number of times with the Shrivers. Teddy and I weren’t by any means close. He did rescue me when we were dragging. Dragging is a thing you do off the back of a boat, and this I think was Ethel [Kennedy]’s boat. It was somebody’s boat. You drag on an inner tube and then you have to swim back and get to the ladder. I’m not a very good swimmer, so I think some of the Robert Kennedys thought it was funny that I couldn’t swim and didn’t realize that I was having genuine difficulty, but Teddy did. He was suddenly down on the ladder and this huge hand just grabs me and pulls me up onto the ladder.

In 1979, Dick Goodwin said to me, “You ought to go to work for Teddy in the Presidential campaign.” There’s the discussion I describe in my book, that I was not at–it was recounted to me afterwards–where Steve Smith, who later became a very good friend of mine, is saying: “How can we trust him where he quit [Jimmy] Carter?” Dick is arguing with him. Finally Dick gives him a check for $10,000 and says: “I’ll keep half, you keep half. If something like this happens, I’ll give you my half and you can cash it.” Dick later told me the story–and that he didn’t have $10,000 in the bank. I’ve been told Teddy’s view basically was, “Look, we’re running against the guy. Why would we object to somebody who early on thought he had a lot of problems?”

Heininger

I want to go back to the '60s, because you were well aware of all three brothers. Did you have any sense–people tend to form impressions of what these guys were like. When you compared the three brothers, did you have any sense as to where he fit in at that point?

Shrum

Robert Kennedy was so clearly the person that Kennedy folks looked to after the President’s death. No, I don’t think I did. Some of the stuff Teddy was doing, which nobody talks much about now–I’d heard of–refugees back in the '60s when no one was doing it.

Heininger

That’s right.

Shrum

I knew about it and I thought it was admirable. I was in law school. It was actually the June I graduated from law school that RFK was killed. So you quickly began to form a sense of Teddy. We all wanted him to run for President. Bill Daley told me this wonderful story about coming home, which I have in the book, and finding all these Kennedy signs in the basement and saying to his Dad, “But I thought we were for [Hubert] Humphrey.” The mayor said, “We were, but we’re going to be for Teddy.” And then he said that the last brother wouldn’t run. I think that he probably would have been nominated in '68 if he had agreed that he would do it.

Heininger

But that’s interesting that you were aware of his work at that point, because not that many people were.

Shrum

But I’m–

Heininger

A wonk, a policy wonk.

Shrum

I’m not a policy wonk. I’m a political wonk. I care about policy a little. Obviously, when he had the plane crash I was aware of that, but the thing that was so fascinating about him in that period was that you sensed, if you followed politics at all, that he had come to the Senate and decided he was going to be a workhorse. He was really going to focus in on these issues. He wasn’t going to try to hog the limelight. All he had to do was open his door and whisper “press conference” and 30 reporters would have been in the room. So I knew that, but I don’t pretend that I knew it in depth.

Heininger

But still, those impressions are somewhat different from what we’ve seen for a lot of other people, because he was in some ways very much in the shadow of both of his brothers, and then things obviously changed after '68. I’ve encountered few people who really were aware of the fact that he was doing a lot of work and that the workhorse tendencies started–

Shrum

I remember seeing pictures of him in Vietnam with refugees. This is before I ever knew him.

Heininger

It’s just that people don’t remember that.

Shrum

People are probably so focused on Presidential politics, especially in that period.

Heininger

So Goodwin brings you in.

Shrum

I get on a plane and the deal was I’m going to be on the plane for a week and off the plane for a week, and on the plane and off and we’re going to alternate, because I think there’s still some uneasiness, especially on Steve’s part. So the end of the first week is coming and I got along with the Senator almost instantly. I don’t want to compliment myself, but I have a sense of humor a little like his. There’s a sort of ruefulness, and you know you can’t take everything that’s happening around you too seriously all the time.

Carey Parker and I were on the plane together and he liked–I think a lot–what we were producing. So at the end of the first week I said, “I’m leaving. I’ll see you in a week.” He said, “Where the hell are you going?” I said, “Well, the deal is I’m going to do one week on and one week off, and then I’ll be back in a week.” And he said, “I’m the candidate and you’re not leaving, and I don’t know who else is coming, but he’s not coming.” So I just stayed on the plane.

Heininger

All right, so what month did you join the campaign?

Shrum

Late October, some point in October. One of my wacky ideas, although maybe it wasn’t so wacky, is I had heard from some people I knew in the press that the [Roger] Mudd interview was not very good. In those days there was an equal-time rule, and I think they were broadcasting it the night before or two days before he announced for President. I said, “Why don’t we announce tomorrow? Why don’t we just call a press conference, announce tomorrow, and just have a kickoff at Faneuil Hall?” And I think Steve in particular thought, He is kind of a loose cannon.

Look, the biggest problem with that campaign in the beginning was that he had such a lead in the polls, and that we were being consciously very cautious about everything that we said. Edward Kennedy is the worst person I’ve ever met in American politics at saying nothing. He just isn’t good at it. He knows it’s BS [bullshit], he knows they know it’s BS, and he just doesn’t like it. So he never found his sea legs in terms of what he was going to say until after Iowa.

Heininger

Were you all in agreement that that was the approach to take?

Shrum

First of all, when he was at 62 percent or whatever it was against Carter, people weren’t running around saying, “Gee, we’ve got to do something to shake this up.” But the Ayatollah [Ruhollah Khomeini] did something to shake it up. I think you can make the case that the Mudd interview–it was talked about inside the beltway, but in terms of the polling and what you saw in Iowa, it didn’t have great impact. What had great impact was the seizure of the hostages and Carter’s capacity to convert a vote for him into a vote to stand up for the hostages. That was happening to us by mid-December.

Teddy and I got out of the cautious box one day–Carey wasn’t with us. It wasn’t a sharp departure, but we did a little speech in which he talked more about antitrust, more about corporate abuses. It had a sharper edge in terms of issues like healthcare.

Heininger

Which he’d not been talking about earlier?

Shrum

He talked about healthcare from the beginning, but everything had a sharper edge in this speech.

Heininger

So this was just more where Kennedy was.

Shrum

I think some people in the headquarters–their reaction was it was me and how I couldn’t be trusted without adult supervision. I think his reaction was–well, I know his reaction. He said, “I said what I wanted to say.” And we were actually engaged suddenly in a whole discussion about coming out for wage and price controls. Steve Breyer was talking to all the economists, putting all the paper together. I don’t have it any more. I sent it up to the library. I have copies of it. That was something that we were thinking about doing in January. When he did it at Georgetown, it didn’t come out of a clear blue sky in terms of the thought process that had gone into it.

We went down to Palm Beach to prepare for the debate with Carter, and soon Carter announced that he couldn’t spare a moment for politics, so he wasn’t going to debate. So we had a nice few days in Palm Beach, talked about what we were going to do. My parents lived in Deerfield Beach and the Senator said, “Would you like to have them over for dinner with my mother and me?” And I said yes, and I called them and my mother said she didn’t know if she could come because she didn’t have time to get her hair done, and my father basically said, “We’re going.” She had broken her leg about six or eight months earlier and was just on the mend. I remember these two advance people just helped carry her into the house because she couldn’t get up the steps. She and Rose Kennedy had a wonderful talk about the rosary and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all of that. It was a really nice thing to do for my parents. Then we flew off to Iowa.

There are so many stories–the Birch Bayh story and flying through the freezing rain–somebody must have told you the Birch Bayh story.

Heininger

Yes. I’m going to want to get to those. Go back to when you first enter the campaign in October. Did you have a sense that this was a well-ordered, well-organized campaign that had a clear message and knew where it was going?

Shrum

I can’t claim total prescience, but I think I came to the conclusion very early on that something he said later was true, that he’d spent too much time thinking about whether to run for President and not enough time thinking about how to run for President. So you have Paul Kirk, who is wonderful, Steve Smith who is wonderful, all these people with many different centers of power, and Carl Wagner. We didn’t even have a media consultant picked. And of course we ended up initially with Charlie Guggenheim, which is probably where we started, and which would have been natural–he worked for Robert Kennedy– although Charlie at that point was losing his interest in doing political media much and was on his way to becoming one of the great documentary filmmakers in history.

Carey and I are writing and rewriting the announcement just before it’s given. You’re always tweaking things at the last minute, but we were trying to make sure it seemed like it had more content. Kennedy always laughed about the well-oiled Kennedy machine. So no, I didn’t think it was superbly well organized.

Heininger

Well, compare it to other campaigns. You’ve worked on so many, but go back to the McGovern campaign. How did it stack up in terms of organization in the McGovern campaign, and then compare it to the [Barack] Obama campaign, which is in a very different era, I know.

Shrum

The McGovern campaign, which I came to in June of '72, Gary [Hart] was in charge. There was multipolarity there. Hart was the campaign manager, but Frank Mankiewicz, who talked to the press all the time, was also very involved in message. Fred Dutton was very involved in that process. There were some big mistakes that were made. There was no process for selecting a Vice President. My only defense for that is there never had been up to then–[Adlai] Stevenson just picked up the phone and called John Sparkman in 1952 and said, “Would you like to run with me?” [Dwight D.] Eisenhower pretty much did the same thing with [Richard M.] Nixon. We hadn’t thought it through and hadn’t run any of the traps, and I think McGovern, until too late, still hoped he could persuade Teddy to do it. And then we went through that whole circus in Miami, which I think hurt McGovern tremendously, followed by the circus that really hurt him, which was about Tom Eagleton’s electroshock therapy.

Comparisons? Look, I think the Kennedy campaign had a tremendous resilience. What happened to us in Iowa, which would have knocked apart anybody else, actually brought us together and we regrouped, and I think on the whole from there on ran a very effective campaign, under the circumstances. So it’s really two different campaigns. The one thing that’s interesting is I have never talked to anybody who was part of it who was not proud to have been part of it, even when people stopped being paid after Iowa and just figured out how to keep working somehow or other.

Look at the Obama campaign: this is a different era. There’s been a lot of learning that’s gone on, about, for example, consistency of message, the role of Iowa, how you set yourself up in Iowa in November, at the JJ [Thomas Jefferson-Andrew Jackson] dinner. The knock-on effects of Iowa on New Hampshire are much greater now than they were then, because there’s no time between the two contests. I think the Obama campaign was superb, but all campaigns that win look great.

Heininger

True.

Shrum

But it was great. I also think you need room for spontaneity in campaigns. John Kennedy might not have been elected President if a young lawyer named Harris Wofford couldn’t get a suggestion to him that he call Mrs. [Coretta Scott] King when her husband was in jail. In a lot of modern campaigns there would be so many filters it would be hard for somebody halfway down the feeding chain to get that suggestion through. So the balance of how you get input and at the same time achieve message discipline is delicate.

The interesting thing was the Kennedy campaign did have a strategic message decision up through Iowa. It was basically a message of caution. Then it had a strategic message, discipline all the way to the convention, and it was basically, we’re going to go out there and say what he wants to say and fight for the progressive values of the Democratic Party.

Heininger

Did you agree with the strategic message up to Iowa, or did you think he was being too cautious?

Shrum

I was probably one of the people who was worried that we were being too cautious, especially after the Ayatollah seized the hostages and then Kennedy made the remark, which was entirely true, about letting the [Mohammed Reza] Shah [Pahlavi] into the country and that he’d stolen–I think if he hadn’t said “umpteen,” it might not have gotten so much attention.

Heininger

That was true.

Shrum

It was true, he’d stolen umpteen millions of dollars. After that, I thought there was a need to be bolder, and that’s why–it wasn’t because of me, although I was one of the people pushing for it. You did have Steve Breyer out there. We were talking and investigating gas rationing and wage and price controls, and just a whole series of different economic policies.

One thing that’s clear to me in retrospect is given the economic situation the country was in in 1980, there were only two things you could do. One was what [Ronald] Reagan did–a brutal, punishing recession with interest rates that reached 18, 19 percent, really painful unemployment that went on and on and on. Or you could have had a much more activist government that was intervening in price and wage decisions and in how we were distributing oil resources. And in that sense, Carter was never in that debate, I mean he was always just, “Things are tough, we have to hold on, let’s keep going.” It was Reagan and Kennedy who in essence were saying to the country, “We can do better than this,” or “Are you better off?” or some variant of that. I don’t want to arrogate to myself the wisdom that I thought we were strategically too cautious, but there were people inside the campaign who thought I was in favor of being strategically too reckless.

Heininger

Who was making the decisions, or what was the decision-making process?

Shrum

The decision-making process before Iowa was pretty static in my view. We’d begun with a game plan, we executed the game plan, events changed. I think Senator Kennedy would say this. I don’t think we changed with the events as quickly as we should have. We were on the road, but we had Steve and Paul back in the headquarters, so we’d end up on the phone talking about that. I mean, when Kennedy made the Shah statement, we had all gone out to dinner in San Francisco because we just had this one interview with Rollin Post from the local PBS [Public Broadcasting Service] station, I think it was, and everybody said, “What can happen there?” So we got back and the junior press people were there saying, “Uh oh.” We didn’t have cell phones in those days. The junior press people were, “Oh, this could be a problem.”

Carey and I wrote a statement very fast: support for the hostages is not the same as support for the Shah. I thought we needed to issue it before we left San Francisco and go out and say it. There were people in the headquarters who believed that it would only garner more attention and be more of a problem, so the decision was we would talk about it when we landed in Reno. By the time we landed in Reno and the day’s news cycle was set, Bob Strauss had been out there, Jody Powell had been out there, saying, “Kennedy is unpatriotic.” They didn’t say it quite that way, but that was the argument and that hurt us.

The day of Iowa, he had a group of people out to his house at lunch. Carl had poor Rick Stearns brief Kennedy on how we could win the Iowa caucuses, because we had so many identified ones on the one, two, three, four system, and this was the past turnout pattern, all this stuff. Most people left and he said to me, “Why don’t you stay for a few minutes.” So we’re standing there and he said, “Let me tell you something, this thing is going down.” [laughter] And he just waved his hand. He knew what was happening, and after Iowa there was a push from a number of people who really cared deeply about him that he just had to get out of the race.

There was a push back. I said at one point: “Look, if you do this, and we don’t keep going now, because there are real things at stake, people are just going to say that when the going got tough you walked away.” It was not an easy thing for me to say, but I said it. He took a vote at one point–there were eight of us in the room–I think he said, “It’s four to four and I’m staying in the race.” It was clear to me that he had never in his own head thought he was going to get out at that point.

But the press–people like Walter Isaacson were saying to me, “Please give me a hint. Time Magazine has to go to press; I’m going to be embarrassed, is he going to stay in?” Actually, the tension of that decision and all the attention that was paid to it meant that when he did speak at Georgetown, he got a lot of focus. We got a lot of coverage.

Heininger

You’ve known him for a very long time. Do you think he really, in the pit of his stomach, wanted to be President?

Shrum

Absolutely. I think one of the biggest clich?s of all is that he didn’t want to be President. I think he very much wanted to be President. I think he would have been an excellent President. I think he didn’t run in '84 partly because the kids didn’t want him to, and partly because he had the sense, as he campaigned around the country, that people were mad at Reagan in terms of the economic policies but they didn’t dislike him, they actually kind of liked him. In '85, I just think he thought he was tired of having everybody see everything he did in the Senate through the prism of Presidential politics.

I thought it was psychobabble at the time to say he didn’t want to be President. People forget he’d already been a very effective Senator before he ran in 1980. I don’t know that he foresaw quite the role as Senate giant that he could have, and he developed part of it while everybody was still speculating that he was running for President in the early '80s. I don’t know that he foresaw that, but it was certainly the case that as the '80s wore on, he didn’t want–for example, we went to South Africa, and all of the coverage was and the charges in the South African press were he was just there to court the black vote for the next Presidential election. They made the mistake of saying he was not a very significant Senator–I think one of the government officials in the Johannesburg papers. We went back to D.C. and he sponsored sanctions and they soon were law, so they found out that he actually could be pretty effective.

Heininger

When he entered the Senate, at the very beginning the family ambitions had been transferred to Jack and Jack was President, and then Jack dies and then Bobby decides to run. Did you get a sense from those early years–you came to know him much better later–that he had ever felt that the ambitions would eventually be transferred to him, that he was supposed to be following along? I’m not explaining it well.

Shrum

I think he always thought, from what he said to me, that he had and that everybody in his family had an obligation to give something back. They were brought up with that belief, and I think if any of them had suggested that they wanted to enter the business world, his father would have said: “This is ridiculous. I’ve made all this money; I don’t want you to make money. I want you to make a difference.”

I think there’s probably too mechanistic a view of this transfer of role. After Joe [Kennedy Jr.] was gone, the three brothers were much more an organic whole. He’s told me stories about when JFK came back from the war and he was in the downstairs bedroom on the first floor in Hyannis Port because he was really sick; going upstairs was difficult. He and Teddy, who was then 12, took turns reading John Brown’s Body to each other. When JFK had his operation in the '50s and almost died and was down in Palm Beach, the two of them had an oil painting contest. They would paint oils and then they would ask anybody in the family who was there, without telling them who had painted it, to judge who had produced the better painting. Sometimes JFK won, sometimes Teddy won. Teddy’s actually a very good artist.

Heininger

I know he is.

Shrum

When he told me this story–I’m sorry, this is too stream-of-consciousness.

Heininger

No, that’s fine.

Shrum

He told me this story in the early '80s and I said, “Where are those paintings? They’re invaluable.” And he said, “Oh, I think they’re just in a closet at Palm Beach. I’ll ask my mother.” He doesn’t ever say Mom. She told him that she’d long since thrown them out when she was cleaning up the house. [laughter]

Heininger

Oh, future Presidential memorabilia out the–ah, it’s just junk.

Shrum

They were brothers, obviously, but I think that they were also brothers in spirit. When Teddy said in Worcester in '68, “I now pick up the fallen standard,” that’s an explicit acknowledgement of what’s happening to his role, but he was already fighting some of those fights before that. Robert Kennedy was–who knows how history would have been? I think it would have been better. I think it would have been a lot better if Dallas hadn’t happened, but you don’t know how exactly it would have unrolled and what events would have been. Robert Kennedy obviously, as Attorney General, was having a huge impact on civil rights before he ever ran for President. So I tend to think that there’s a kind of mechanistic view that was probably started, to some extent, by Richard Whelan, that the father said, “You, and then you, and then you.”

I didn’t know John Kennedy and I didn’t know Robert Kennedy. I met each of them very briefly, but I don’t think Teddy, for example, was someone who didn’t like public life or was pushed into it against his will or didn’t have a set of convictions about what his service ought to be about–a long-winded answer to a short question.

Heininger

But from what you’re saying, it sounds like the real common denominator was less, “One of us needs to be President, and if somebody dies, well, then it’s the next one’s turn,” than the common denominator was the requirement placed on all of them to serve and to make the world a better place, and to find an arena in which to do that.

Shrum

Take Eunice. Eunice changed the way the world thinks about mental retardation.

Heininger

Yes, she did.

Shrum

Teddy told me this story about when she wanted that first bill passed. She just went and sat in the President’s outer office until he agreed to put all his weight behind it to push it through. Before that, mentally retarded people were chained to radiators. So yes, I think it was a pretty big obligation.

Heininger

Why then could he not clearly answer Roger Mudd’s question about why he wanted to be President?

Shrum

I think he was being asked before he was announcing for President, and I don’t think he was going to announce on Roger Mudd’s show. I think he was trying to duck the question.

Heininger

So caught unaware?

Shrum

I assume you guys have interviewed Mudd–I have been told and my belief is that Mudd basically said that he wanted to come up to the Cape and spend time with the family and see Teddy with the nephews and nieces and sit down and talk about what the Cape meant to him and his family, and so he was initially caught unaware. Actually, the “why do you want to be President” question was asked, as you probably know, in the second interview. And I think Kennedy went into that second interview thinking he was going to redo the questions he had been asked in the first interview, and instead, there was a new set of questions.

I had two reactions to it. One, he’s trying not to announce for President on whatever the show was called, on the Mudd interview, several weeks before he’s actually announcing for President. I guess today people like doing that. You know, Arnold [Schwarzenegger] can go on the Tonight Show and announce. Secondly, I must say I think that there’s a tremendous exaggeration of reaction to his answers in that interview.

Heininger

It was pretty strong.

Shrum

Were they ideal answers? No. Have I heard Ronald Reagan answer questions like that? Yes. I also think Teddy–and this is something you and I haven’t talked about–you want to talk about the succession of running for President. He not only had to run against Carter, he had to run against idealized images of his brothers. People had a certain conception of what JFK was, a certain conception of what RFK was, and the truth was that they both went “ah” and sometimes spoke in broken sentences, but that was not the memory that people had.

Heininger

Because the people remembered the rhetoric.

Shrum

Right.

Heininger

Rhetoric is speeches that are given.

Shrum

Right.

Heininger

So you never got a sense that he was ambivalent about it?

Shrum

I did not. You may have found other people who did. I didn’t get any sense that he was ambivalent, and quite the contrary. As I say, after Iowa, he was–

Heininger

After Iowa he was firmly committed to carry it to the end.

Shrum

Those who might have thought he was ambivalent discovered that he was not.

Heininger

Tell me about each of the key people in the campaign. How well did you work with Carey?

Shrum

Extraordinarily well.

Heininger

Is there anyone who doesn’t love Carey?

Shrum

No.

Heininger

No, I didn’t think so.

Shrum

I love him and to this day we still talk on the phone, not constantly or all the time, but we make sure we stay in touch. Everywhere we went–he had two little girls at that point who are now grown up–we would try to buy a couple of toys in each city that he could take back to them. Larry [Laurence H.] Horowitz was on the plane as the doctor. He was a hell of a lot more than a doctor, although he is and he worked on the Health Subcommittee. He was I’d say one of the most important influences, and his influence grew through that campaign.

Heininger

Why?

Shrum

We ended up in a place where a number of people had a voice and then he would decide, and Larry had a pretty clear voice. I didn’t always agree with him, but he had a very clear voice. REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXTREDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT

Heininger

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Shrum

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Heininger

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Shrum

Steve was the other brother, the fourth, after Joe, and there was an enormous amount of trust, but there was also–he was quite willing to speak very candidly, and Kennedy was quite willing to tell him he thought he was wrong and make a different decision. I think there was great trust in Paul’s judgment. For the most part, I got along with them; Steve and I became good friends. We didn’t agree on some things, but we became friends. We were sitting in David Sawyer’s office waiting to make some spots for the New York primary, because I’d come off the road to do it, when Al [Allard K.] Lowenstein was shot. We were waiting for Al to show up because he wanted to be in on making the spots. We used to go across the street, on 55th Street, to whatever the great French restaurant was, for lunch, while we were making spots. Steve would say, “Come on, let’s go to lunch.”

Heininger

Is that where 21 was?

Shrum

No, no, 21’s on 52nd I think. It was a big, established place, La C?te Basque. Listen, Steve and I could have disagreements. After Super Tuesday and when we’re in Teddy’s house and we’re meeting again, and I had this idea that Kennedy should call Carter and ask for a meeting and that he should go in, and once he’s in, challenge the President to a debate. [laughter] Steve thought at that point that maybe we ought to find a way to fold our tent, and Kennedy was not going to do that. He was going to call Carter and go there and challenge him to debate, and Steve got me in a corner of the living room and said, “You’re going to ruin him.” But it didn’t affect–there were just moments of tension and passion in campaigns and it didn’t affect our relationship.

My view was that Kennedy either had to get a debate with Carter or he had to get to the convention and be able to talk to the country. Otherwise, the image that was going to be left was a series of highlights–or lowlights–like the Mudd interview and the Iowa loss. We were doing better and better as the primaries went on. Actually we peaked in New York, came down a little, then we peaked again, but the country as a whole had never really seen Kennedy in an unmediated way and I thought he needed the chance to do that. I thought also that if Carter lost–and I did not believe Carter could win. I just thought it wasn’t going to happen. I’d actually written a column for New Times, the magazine I used to work for in the '70s, in early '77, saying (a) Reagan’s going to be the Republican nominee and (b) Democrats better stop kidding themselves.

Heininger

In '77?

Shrum

Seventy-seven. I had lunch with John–

Heininger

Prescient.

Shrum

I had lunch with John Sears and I listened to his arguments, and my reaction was Yes, he’s going to be the nominee and people better take this guy seriously. One of the problems with Reagan was Democrats never took him seriously. In 1966, [Edmund] Pat Brown thought he was going to be a pushover in California. I didn’t think Carter could win.

Heininger

But did you think that Kennedy could beat Reagan?

Shrum

I thought Kennedy had a real chance to beat Reagan. The country was going to change.

Heininger

That’s why you say there were two directions.

Shrum

See, I don’t think '80 was an ideological election. I think it had an ideological result.

Heininger

It definitely had that.

Shrum

On some issues there was a great demand for more government, not less government. Healthcare was in fact a very popular position, and the whole call for reform of the healthcare system was probably more radical than people call for now. But the one thing people were going to do is they were going to move away from what they had. This is why I’ve always thought that if [Gerald] Ford had been reelected in '76, the country probably would have held an election in 1980, where the result was an ideological shift to the left, because you would have had the oil crisis, the economic problems. I don’t know what they would have done about the hostages.

Heininger

And it would have been on a Republican watch.

Shrum

It would have been on the Republican watch. Look, I’ve said before that Carter’s been a terrific ex-President and it would have been better if we could have skipped the intermediate step. I just think he was not up to the times.

Heininger

The wrong person at the wrong time.

Shrum

Yes. He might have been fine at a different time. So I didn’t think he was going to win and yes, I thought Kennedy had–if you look at the '80 speech and the way he takes Reagan on, it’s done in a way that the country could relate to, the convention could relate to. It’s done with a sense of humor; it’s not done with a sledgehammer. In October or September, after Reagan began his campaign at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, Carter was out there trying to say the guy’s a bigot or intolerant or something. I had a meeting with Pat Caddell, who said they would like Kennedy to go out and accuse Reagan of being biased against Catholics because he’d accepted the support of, I think his name was James Robison, a minister in Dallas. And I said, “Pat, if you want, I’ll ask but (a) it’s not going to happen, he would never do it, and (b) I would be totally opposed to him doing it.”

Heininger

Why did you think Reagan would be the nominee?

Shrum

Well, two things. First of all, the Republicans always nominate by primogeniture. They always nominate the next person in line. He was the next person in line and the only objection to him, which you heard from everybody, is he was too old. Well, he didn’t look old, and if you compared him as a campaigner to Bob Dole or George H.W. Bush or Howard Baker, he was the best campaigner, and he reflected the rising soul of the Republican Party. He expressed it.

I said that he was a formidable candidate if he was nominated, which I thought he would be. Would I have predicted that he would win? In '77 things weren’t quite where they’d gotten in '80, and by then the Republican Party probably had even more room to nominate him by '80 because they could say he gets to run against Carter. The contest was over in the Republican Party from New Hampshire on, from “I paid for that microphone.” It was over; it was just played out over several months.

Heininger

Let’s go back to the consolation players in the Kennedy campaign. You’ve been an observer of these relationships for a very long time. What was the relationship between Carey and him? What explains that relationship?

Shrum

I think there’s enormous respect in both directions, total loyalty from Carey to Kennedy. Carey’s one of the most secure people I ever met in my life. If I had shown up in another world or with somebody else, people might have seen that as a threat. He liked it and welcomed it, and we got along very well. You know Carey’s background: second in his class at Harvard Law School, a PhD from Rockefeller University, a Rhodes Scholar, clerks for Potter Stewart. A very smart guy but very decent and very low key. If you get him to talk it’s a miracle.

Heininger

I did.

Shrum

Good.

Heininger

Eight interviews, I think it was, but Kennedy wanted it, so–

Shrum

I’ll bet he didn’t.

Heininger

No, he didn’t, but he did it. All right, what explains Kennedy’s relationship with Larry Horowitz?

Shrum

Well, Larry is very smart: he crossed the world between healthcare as a profession and healthcare as policy. He’s been through some pretty tough times with Teddy. He’s always been–when Marylouise [Oates Shrum]’s sister got breast cancer 13 years ago, we called Teddy, who was like, “Well, we’ve got to talk right away to Larry Horowitz and Phil Schein,” who had also worked for him. We did develop camaraderie on that plane: Larry and Carey–and I got nicknamed “Shrummie,” which had been my father’s nickname, but it had never been mine before–and Teddy. So everybody ended in a “Y.” Larry has very good judgment. You could satirize him. Things happen and you don’t know quite what to say when some of them happen, and Larry had this line–he would say it and we would all laugh, “This is beyond belief.”

But I think the other thing Kennedy values–he values people who tell him what they think. As he said to me once about someone who was working for him, “I don’t need to hire somebody to agree with me all the time. I can agree with me all the time.” Carey could be quietly, respectfully persistent about arguing a case. Larry probably a little less respectful, and me probably a little more irreverent, but those are qualities that I think he cares about. Greg Craig, someone for whom he has enormous affection and respect, has that same gift.

Heininger

I look at the people that we understand are really closest to him or that he’s been closest to and has worked most closely with, and there are certain personalities that could not be more diametrically opposed. You could not get 180 degrees different between Carey and Larry Horowitz.

Shrum

Oh, that’s because you’ve only seen one side of Carey. Carey could be pretty funny and–

Heininger

I’m not talking about the funny. I’m just talking about the–Carey, you’re right, Carey is very secure. Larry is Larry.

Shrum

Carey and Larry got along incredibly well.

Heininger

Really?

Shrum

In the early '80s the three of us got along incredibly well. Nobody wanted to be chief of staff, and then the Rick Burke thing happened and Larry was going to be chief of staff.

Heininger

Did Steve Smith get along with all of you equally well?

Shrum

He got along very well with Carey. He and I would have arguments but we got along very well. Yes. We would have arguments, and I had arguments with Paul Kirk. It wasn’t all, Gee, we’re all looking at the same hymn book and singing in the same key all the time. I don’t think Teddy would have liked that either. It’s an interesting question and I never thought about it before. Carey has a sense of humor and Larry has a sense of humor. Kennedy really likes that. They’re both very smart. He likes that. They’re both candid and will tell him what they think. He values that. The other differences may be superficial. Larry is Larry, you’re right. There’s no one quite like him.

Heininger

You’re picking out the similarities that I would tend to agree with you on. Yes, he is going to respond. Humorless people are just not going to be Kennedy’s cup of tea. He can deal with them, but they’re not–Will he get much more enjoyment out of being with somebody who has got a sense of humor? Of course. And someone who is very smart and someone who is going to say what he or she thinks.

Shrum

When he was hiring [Thomas] Rollins–

Heininger

But then the personalities are really different.

Shrum

But that’s probably because the qualities he most prizes or relates to don’t come with one personality.

Heininger

Yes, you’re right, you’re right.

Shrum

He’s adaptable. I don’t think there’s a typology in terms of personality. I just think there are certain traits that he values.

Heininger

OK, let’s look at the four people that I know of who have been really the most important, chiefs of staff for the Labor Committee. Larry, Tom Rollins, Nick [Bancroft Jr.] Littlefield, and Michael Myers. You talk about a personality span that is just radically different. All of them have been very effective and they’re very different people.

Shrum

You got me. I mean, all I can do is tell you Tom was a very close friend of mine before he ever came to work. Carey had met him and he had the idea. He said, “Why don’t we get your friend, Tom Rollins?” I remember saying to Kennedy, “He doesn’t know a lot about these issues,” and Kennedy’s response to me was, “It’s easy for a smart person to learn the issues. It’s really hard to teach a person who isn’t smart to be smart.”

Heininger

He also didn’t have any Hill experience.

Shrum

None.

Heininger

I look at that hire and go, This is, from my perspective, so completely out of the ordinary. I couldn’t believe it.

Shrum

But it worked out very well.

Heininger

Yes, I know it did, but it still was really out of the ordinary.

Shrum

He had been Larry Tribe’s research assistant at Harvard. He’d done some writing.

Heininger

Right. He had the credentials. He came with the right people recommending him.

Shrum

If I had thought that he would do a bad job, I would have more than said he doesn’t have the knowledge and the experience. I would have really said, “This is a bad idea.” I didn’t think it was a bad idea at all.

Heininger

So Carey was actually the one who initiated it.

Shrum

He was the first person who mentioned it to me.

Heininger

Wow, really? So you weren’t even the one who initiated it.

Shrum

No.

Heininger

Carey was.

Shrum

Yes. Carey said it to me, he said, “What about your friend, Tom Rollins?”

Heininger

That’s interesting.

Shrum

Hill experience–what was Larry’s Hill experience when he came to the committee?

Heininger

He came in a much more traditional fashion.

Shrum

I understand.

Heininger

He came as a fellow, the get your feet wet; then consultant; then became chief of staff of the committee; then he became Kennedy’s chief of staff.

Shrum

The only contrary example I might give you is Carey. Carey came and within a year was probably one of the three or four most significant staff people on the Hill.

Heininger

Yes, but he came in as a legislative assistant.

Shrum

And within a year was one of the most influential staff people on the Hill.

Heininger

But people just don’t get hired into minority staff director positions with no Hill experience and no policy experience. I’ve just never heard of anybody hired like that. I’m sure there have been, but I just never heard of any, and then as successful as he was. I know why, but it’s just unusual. So I go back and I look at all these personalities and go–when you’re trying to illuminate what makes a person tick, you look at the people around them and say, “What is it about these people that resonates with somebody like Kennedy?” You’ve identified a bunch of the things, a sense of humor.

Shrum

Well, fundamentally for me, for Carey, for Larry, I think for Tom, for Ranny Cooper, for all sorts of people, the fundamental identification with what the guy stands for and what he fights for and what he means in the politics of the country.

Heininger

But Bob, he’s had lots and lots and lots of staffers for whom the views have resonated. Who is it he becomes close to and why? Because there is in fact an inner circle of those of you who have–

Shrum

I think going through the '80 campaign together with him was a crucible.

Heininger

Ranny didn’t.

Shrum

But she came shortly afterwards.

Heininger

She did. And Greg didn’t.

Shrum

That’s true, but Greg went through the crucible of South Africa. We’ve had several crucibles. Greg was my idea. I don’t know who else takes credit for it, but it was initially my idea.

Heininger

Where did you know him from?

Shrum

I’d first met him when I worked for [Edmund] Muskie.

Heininger

Really, that far?

Shrum

Yes.

Heininger

So post- [John] Hinckley trial.

Shrum

Oh no, pre-Hinckley trial, long before Hinckley.

Heininger

Muskie way back when.

Shrum

In 1972. Teddy was the last person I ever had a Hill job for. In 1982, Greg came up to see me during the Hinckley trial and basically told me that it was possible that there would be testimony in the next several days that Hinckley had sat in Kennedy’s outer office for several days. Kennedy usually would go out and greet people out there but just for those several days he hadn’t, and that we should know what might come out in court, because that would then tell every nut case in the world that they could bring weapons pretty easily into the Senate Office Building. I went and told Larry and the next day metal detectors starting going up. So I had known Greg a very long time.

The '80 campaign is one thing. Going through a big fight with him that he really cares about. This is a more traditional route, but my sister-in-law Jane [Oates], who is now the Assistant Secretary of Labor, came down to work for a summer for Nick, on the committee, ended up working full-time for the committee, and then ended up running the floor for Kennedy on most legislation. She’s very competent and very smart, but they had a bantering relationship. Somehow or other, I think you–well, you’re pushing me and I don’t–you have to be able to fit into a place naturally, where you feel like you’re part of a band of brothers. I don’t quite know how to say it.

Heininger

Think of how many people who have come through, who have worked for him.

Shrum

He is close to a lot of them, though.

Heininger

Yes, but there are tiers of circles, and there are many, many, many people on the Kennedy network and many people that he calls upon, but there’s really an inner circle. You’re well aware of that, that there is an inner circle of people that he continues to rely upon and he’s continued to remain close to. I’m trying to figure out why those people are there. What is it about this group of people?

Shrum

Carey, because he always stayed, I guess.

Heininger

But Carey, even if he hadn’t stayed, don’t you think he would have stayed close to him?

Shrum

Yes. I do think, and I know there are exceptions to this, I do think going through the '80 campaign with him was a real–

Heininger

But not everybody who went through the '80 campaign has managed to have that relationship with him.

Shrum

I think he probably decides who he resonates with. He asked me at the end of the campaign–we traveled around campaigning for Carter, which was a bleak experience. We were some place in Michigan, I think it was, and David Broder was in the back of the room and he said, “I want you to give the same support you gave me. I want you to now give it to Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale.” And all these auto workers sat there like this. And he said, “Now I’m going to say the line again and then you’re going to stand up and applaud.” And then Broder said to me, “I think this election’s over.” [laughter]

So I don’t know. I don’t know how much more I could say about it. You fit in, you resonate, you have enormous respect for him, but you’re not afraid of him and you have candor and you’re good company. It’s a phrase of his, “Is somebody good company?” There’s never anything I’ve ever done for him that he hasn’t called me, written a note. I got a note a month and a half, two months ago, and it obviously took him some effort to write it.

Heininger

I ask because we have interviewed a huge number of people, all of whom have a connection to Kennedy.

Shrum

Well, Kirk is very close to him. Paul is really, really close and always has been, been his lawyer as well as a political advisor, and that goes back to the very first years in the Senate.

Heininger

What does it take to be a friend of his?

Shrum

I don’t know. For me, being a friend has been a great privilege and is a great privilege, and I think he’s enjoyed me as a friend and I’ve enjoyed him as a friend, but I couldn’t tell you what the constituent elements–

Heininger

Does it go beyond work and professional issues?

Shrum

Oh, sure. We go sailing and he laughs. My wife is allowed to crew. I am a permanent passenger. [laughter] Very early on, I pulled the wrong string or rope or whatever it is.

Heininger

They’re called lines, Bob, they’re lines. So Marylouise is allowed.

Shrum

She’s allowed to crew. The summer before last we went down there a number of times to go sailing, and once we decided we’d do a sailing marathon. Vicki [Reggie Kennedy] and Marylouise started like at 11:00 in the morning and did the girls’ sail, and then we all got lunch and went on the boat and did a big sail, and then we came back and relaxed and had dinner, and then we did a nighttime sail. We didn’t spend all that time talking about politics.

The other thing, by the way–I don’t know if you’ve discovered this in all of this. He is extraordinarily well read. He called me when he was recuperating–he was in Palm Beach and I was actually coming down, in ‘84, and he’d had some intestinal thing. He called me and said, “Do you think you could pick up a copy of the Letters of Eudora Welty and bring it down to me?” Now that wouldn’t have fit with some of the stereotypes about him that were out there.

And you’d tell stories. There’s one this year–when I was in Florida visiting him and Larry and I were there, in late February, and we went sailing; he’d gone sailing in the morning and this day we were going to go sailing in the afternoon too, but you couldn’t bring the boat into the little protected inlet by the house because the tide had gone out. So we had to get on a dinghy to go out to the boat. He’s already in the boat, and Larry climbs on the boat, and then I decide to get on the boat and–I don’t enter boats from dinghies. I’ve done it, but I don’t know what I’m doing. I had always gotten away with this before.

Heininger

You need a dock, right?

Shrum

Well, a dock, or if I’ve done it from dinghies, I always did the same thing and I never had this problem before. I had my foot on the dinghy, and I put my other foot on the edge of the boat and started pulling myself up, and the sailboat just started drifting away.

Heininger

And you’re doing the splits.

Shrum

I used my arms and I pulled myself onto that boat, and he spent the next two days laughing about the story, because he said he’d never seen anybody pull it off before. Once the boat starts to go, you’re in the drink.

Heininger

You’re in the drink. [laughter] You must have strong arms.

Shrum

They don’t look it, but yes, especially to pull this bulk. We’ve had a lot of laughs over the years and been involved in a lot of adventures. Last summer, all the work getting ready for the convention, and this fall, when he’s going to get the honorary degree at Harvard. But you do that and then you sit around for a while and you talk and you laugh or you have dinner. I wasn’t going to go to the convention because I had done my deal over the years. Then I went with him and told the TV people, who wanted me to stay around, that I was going back with him. We landed in Hyannis on Tuesday about 5:00 and he said call Marylouise, and we just had a group of people, it might have been ten, eight, and had this kind of celebratory spaghetti dinner. What do people do when they’re friends? Anyway, I’m just talking and probably not illuminating anything.

Heininger

No, no you are. Have you had that kind of relationship with other candidates you’ve worked for?

Shrum

Senator McGovern has been, over the years, a very good friend of mine, though I haven’t seen him often in recent years. I would say a number of the people I’ve worked for, I would think of as friends and I think they would think of me as a friend. I don’t think I’ve had any other relationship quite like this. It’s defined my political life in a lot of ways, and my personal life, come to think of it. [laughter]

Heininger

So tell me how you met your wife.

Shrum

I met my wife because of the Kennedy campaign. We were headed for L.A. because he was going to give a speech to Public Counsel, the public interest law group, in November of '79 and Charlie Palmer was working for Peter Edelman, who was doing the issues research. Charlie was Marylouise’s first husband, and so he was on the trip because he’d been head of Public Counsel before he’d come to work for Kennedy. Doris [Kearns] Goodwin and I were planning on going out to dinner and Charlie said, “You’ve got to come meet my wife. I really want you to meet my wife.” He literally did say, “You’re going to love her.”

Nothing happened and they split up and got divorced, and I saw her when they were separated, but just as a friend, and we were friends for several years, and then we got involved with each other. But yes, I met her because of the Kennedy campaign. It’s amazing that I had not met her, because she’d been so active. She’d been the youngest national correspondent at UPI [United Press International] ever, she’d been one of the people who deeply–well, she had been [Eugene] McCarthy’s deputy national press secretary when she was a kid, in 1968. She and Sy Hersh were running the press operation. She’d been one of the people who had run the Vietnam Moratorium.

Sarge had actually talked to me about her at one point, and I didn’t piece this together with him until years later, because he was starting the Kennedy Institute on Bioethics at Georgetown and he said, “There’s this really brilliant woman who is just getting her divinity degree at Yale, and I think she could run it.” Well, it turned out he was talking about Marylouise, but she was married and she went out to L.A. with Charlie and they had Michael. And then in 1986 there I was involved with Marylouise. I was a little commitment-phobic, but totally enchanted with her.

Teddy invited me out to dinner one night and I thought there were going to be a bunch of people around and it was just the two of us. We had a long dinner and then we went in the living room and we had a scotch and he suddenly looked at me and said, “I think you ought to marry Marylouise.” [laughter] He said, “You give me a lot of advice; I’m giving you some advice.” He said, “You know, you really love her, and it doesn’t come along often, and I just hope I find something like that someday,” which he did. Some people found it startling that he was my marriage counselor, but he was, and he was right.

Heininger

Did it cure your commitment phobia then?

Shrum

We got engaged. It wasn’t a direct cause and effect, because I was thinking about it, but we got engaged soon after.

Heininger

So he gave you the nudge.

Shrum

He gave me a nudge. I don’t know, I think we would have gotten there anyway, but it was sweet and funny and nice all at the same time.

Heininger

Tell me about his relationship with Joan [Bennett Kennedy] and Joan as a campaigner in '80.

Shrum

I think Joan tried very hard in '80, and it wasn’t her fault that no matter what she said–Larry and I came to the conclusion that no matter what she said, it hurt to have her out there, because people would say things like, “He’s making that poor woman go out and campaign.” She wanted to go out and campaign. She really wanted to be out there. It just didn’t work. I think they tried, but in the end–if I were to be candid, I think they were very ill-matched. I think she tried and I think he tried. I came down to Hyannis Port with him at one point during the '80 campaign, at some point in the primaries, and by then we didn’t have much money, so not many people could go along.

I have two vivid memories of that. One was it was maybe late March, early April, and he decided that he and I were going to go swimming in the morning. It was easier for the Secret Service guys in the rubber body suits than it was for us. As I was sitting afterwards with him and Joan in their sitting room having coffee, a really nice, sweet discussion, but the marriage just didn’t work. I don’t know the details of it, I just don’t, but it just didn’t work.

Heininger

Well, you’ve obviously seen more of Vicki.

Shrum

Oh, Vicki is a close friend.

Heininger

What’s different about Vicki that makes him a better match with her?

Shrum

I don’t know if I want to go there.

Heininger

You can, because you can always take it out.

Shrum

She loves politics.

Heininger

Yes, she does.

Shrum

She’s really smart about it. She’s really strategic so they’re both in the game and they both love it. I think Joan tried but never loved it. Teddy and Vicki clicked. He was over at our house, I think it was in '90, having dinner, it might have been early '91, in Georgetown. It was not long before he and Vicki got married, but anyway, he called me and said, “I have to leave about 9:00 because I have to meet somebody after she puts the kids to bed.” It was Vicki. Marylouise said to me at the time, “He may be serious about this.” You know the story about–

[BREAK]

R. Shrum, July 6, 2009 2

? 2020 The Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate

Heininger

This is resuming the interview with Bob Shrum. I just have one other question–we’ll get back to Vicki later–about the '80 campaign. What role did his sisters play in the '80 campaign?

Shrum

They campaigned a lot. Eunice got hit over the head by an anti-abortion protester with a sign in Iowa.

Heininger

How ironic.

Shrum

I thought, They’re hitting the wrong person. Jean [Kennedy Smith] was always there, Pat [Kennedy] Lawford. We had a big reception at Pat’s place. You know Miles Rubin, and I’m sure you’ve found this out, this whole art deal, where these artists contributed.

Heininger

The one way they could–there was a way around the campaign finance thing by doing a lithograph.

Shrum

They could do lithographs and they were, at that time, although the rule has now been changed they were arguably worth–I think we did win this argument–the paper they were printed on. So there’s one of them in there.

Heininger

Oh, you’ve got one?

Shrum

I have a bunch of them, but I’ve got one here. There were [Andy] Warhols. I’ve got a Warhol sitting in L.A. Miles Rubin had come up with this idea and he and Steve went to the banks and got it done. But we had a thank-you reception for the artists at Pat Lawford’s, and her house had a circular internal staircase, and when we came in, Robert Rauschenberg looked at Teddy and said, “Teddy!” and slipped and fell down the staircase. Fortunately, we had Stuart Singer, who was the other doctor who traveled with us, who just bandaged him up. But the sisters were there and they were very much a part of it.

Jean didn’t see her role as giving policy advice. She saw her role as going out and helping out, persuading people. Eunice was–she’s a friend of mine. Actually, she and Sarge were friends of mine before I was friends with Teddy. She would come to Carey or me and say, “I have an idea.” And she might say it to her brother, but if we said, “Really, that wouldn’t work,” she would think twice before she did that.

Heininger

All right, so the campaign’s over. Kennedy asks you to stay as press secretary. Tell me about those years. What was it like being press secretary with the failed Presidential candidate, in a Reagan era, with lots of expectations placed on him? What was your role as the press secretary for him?

Shrum

I used to laugh about it, but part of my role was to say no to the press.

Heininger

Isn’t that the role of most press secretaries?

Shrum

Most press secretaries pursue interview opportunities. We were pushing them away. He was widely deemed to be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 1984. And we wanted to pick the best opportunities for press.

Heininger

Is that why you stayed with him?

Shrum

No. I thought it would be great. Yes, I wanted him to run for President and I wanted him to win. I really loved the guy by the end of that campaign, admired him and admired what he stood for. We also had crazy calls about women who claim that they had just been with him or spent the weekend with him. There was one, I remember, and the story was that he had spent the weekend with her in Maine, and he’d been in Florida, hadn’t seen her in 15 years. There were a lot more stories than there was truth, and so there was that part, but there was a big political piece of it too, because we were in a kind of run-up to what people assumed was going to be another run at the Presidency. Harold Hughes was all ready to go in Iowa and Jack English was all ready to organize things. Pieces were in place. Ranny, Bill Carrick, a lot of things were happening. Ranny was later, actually, but Bill Carrick, Harold Ickes.

I was writing speeches and doing the press. One of the advantages I probably had as press secretary was that people assumed that if I said something, I actually could speak for him. I think that’s one of the advantages [Robert] Gibbs has with Obama. I mean the worst thing that can happen is for you to get to the Scott McClellan place, where the press decides you don’t actually speak for the principal. One day somebody brought me an invitation from Jerry Falwell from the mail, said, “What do we do with this?”

Heininger

Yes, let’s talk about Liberty Baptist College.

Shrum

Well, including a Moral Majority membership card. So I leaked it to the New York Times and they ran a funny little item about it.

Heininger

Before or after you told Kennedy about it?

Shrum

Oh, I think I told Kennedy about it.

Heininger

But this is before there was any discussion about accepting it.

Shrum

No, no. Initially, this was just a letter saying, “I know you share my deep moral concerns, and here’s your Moral Majority membership,” and I thought it was funny. I mentioned it to him and gave it to the New York Times. In reaction to that, Cal Thomas calls and says, “We’d like to invite him to speak at Liberty Baptist.” I said to Kennedy, “We’ve got to do this. This is great.” He was all for it. You’d have to check with Cal, but he has told me since then that he’d gotten into a little trouble, that Falwell wasn’t necessarily thinking Kennedy was going to show up. And actually one of the interesting things about the speech is how it deals with the abortion issue, a number of months before [Mario] Cuomo went to Notre Dame to make what I think is fundamentally the same argument.

It was a lot of fun to work on that speech. I was pulling documents from Vatican II, looking at the Pope’s opening remarks about people who fear the modern and are just prophets of gloom and doom. Kennedy really liked doing it.

Heininger

Because this was an important and an unusual speech too, let’s get into a little more of the discussion about what does it mean to write a speech for Kennedy. When he accepted this invitation, at a place where, shall we say, the views were not going to be consonant with his own, how did he decide what it was he wanted to say?

Shrum

Well, some of it was obvious; he was going to talk about tolerance. I think the title of the speech was “Tolerance and Truth in America”; he was going to talk about different conceptions of the truth and about a pluralistic society. We talked about it and he was also clearly determined to talk about the abortion issue.

Heininger

So you would just sit down and you would talk to him about what do you want to say in this speech?

Shrum

That’s not true with every speech.

Heininger

But let’s talk this speech.

Shrum

He had views about what he thought and we had to clearly discuss the abortion issue. With a lot of speeches–you’d probably never get Carey to say this, but Carey, for a very long time, knew how Kennedy talked and thought.

Heininger

Right.

Shrum

If it wasn’t an important speech in the sense that it wasn’t a big deal, you just write the draft and give it to him. We had a discussion before I sat down to write this, and it was clear I was going to write it because I wrote a lot of stuff, but beyond that, I may have more books about Popes than Presidents, so I’m fascinated with religion. I’m not very religious, but I’m fascinated with it. So I did a draft and then we worked on the draft. I don’t remember that it was an agonizing process at all.

Heininger

OK Bob, there’s more to it than this.

Shrum

No, there isn’t.

Heininger

There is. I take your point, having written speeches myself. Yes, a good speechwriter has to be somebody who has been with someone long enough that they know how someone thinks and how they’re going to express things, and they can write in that voice. But when you get to a big speech like this, I’m assuming there has to be some discussion, and you’re saying there was some discussion, about what did he want to say, what message did he want to convey.

Shrum

I think he began with, “What the hell are we going to say?”

Heininger

So tolerance was an issue.

Shrum

You wanted to make an argument for pluralism and for people respecting each other and for the notion that the moral majority–no group should arrogate to themselves the name “moral majority,” but find a way to say it so that they would at least listen to it.

Heininger

And so all this resonated with Kennedy.

Shrum

He and I were on the same wavelength about this. Carey would have been on the same–we were all on–the same wavelength about it.

Heininger

OK, so then you sit down to write a speech. How do you go about writing the speech?

Shrum

Well, some are different from others. This one, I actually did a fair amount of reading and I had books piled up. I had a book by somebody named [Giancarlo] Zizola, which was about Pope John XXIII [Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli] and the Vatican Council. I very vaguely remembered what the Pope had said at the opening of the council, which actually sounded a lot like a rebuke to what the religious right was saying in America. In the modern world there are prophets of gloom and doom who think the modern world is corrupt and irredeemable–the exact quotes are in the speech. I looked at some of John Courtney Murray’s essays and I obviously reread the Houston Ministerial Association speech, and just had a pile of books and a yellow pad and a little conference table.

Heininger

All right, for you this is just what you do because you know how to do it. What made you go to all those different sources? Where do you know what to draw from? Explain your art.

Shrum

That’s very hard.

Heininger

I know it is.

Shrum

If you’re asking how do you know sources–I’d loved politics as long as I can remember, from being a really little kid. I loved history. I read everything I could ever get my hands on. I’m blessed with a pretty good memory, so I could remember things. I mean I could see it–John XXIII is not necessarily the first thing you would think of when you thought about going to Liberty Baptist.

Heininger

Well no, Jerry Falwell, Pope John XXIII is not a connection I’d normally make, no.

Shrum

But if you could remember somewhere in the back of your head, in your mental file cabinet what’s there and how you think about the information. I think speeches–first of all, you have to hear the words when you’re writing them, and that doesn’t mean you’re pronouncing them out loud, although I suppose people do that. But you have to hear them when you’re writing them and you have to hear them in the voice of the person who’s giving them. Al Gore’s voice is quite different from Ted Kennedy’s voice, so Gore’s convention speech, which arguably is the most successful acceptance speech in history, gained about double-digit points, in a span of about 45 minutes, the speech and the kiss. It’s written much more in a language that reflects the way he talks, although it was intentionally written to make him talk faster. And we made him talk faster because when he talked faster, he didn’t sound like he was lecturing.

Heininger

Yes, yes.

Shrum

But you have to hear the voice in your head. You really do have to have a sense–I mean the idea that you’re going to give somebody what they believe is ridiculous. You have to have a sense of what they believe. You may have a disagreement with him and go and push him. Adam Walinsky pushed Robert Kennedy on Vietnam.

And then I have this theory, which I’ve written about, that I think a good speech is like–especially a good political speech to a convention or something like that–a symphony. It rises and falls.

Heininger

There’s cadence to it.

Shrum

But even in terms of applause, it’s not all one rah, rah, rah, rah, rah. The person who understands this, by the way, appears to me to be Obama, either instinctively or intellectually understands this. And how do you do it?

Heininger

Is it intuitive or can it be learned?

Shrum

Some of it can be learned, because there are an awful lot of speechwriters around.

Heininger

But there aren’t that many gifted speechwriters around.

Shrum

Is it intuitive? I think to some extent it’s intuitive, and then to some extent it’s acquired. My parents moved to California when I was eight, and everybody else was going to the beach and diving into waves, and as the anecdote I told you earlier might suggest, I am not athletically gifted, and so I was diving into books. Then when I got to high school I discovered speech and debate. When I was at Georgetown I was picked as the best college debater in the country. I spent enormous amounts of time with words and speaking, and I loved to write as well. I mean, I have upstairs here–this is slightly embarrassing, but my wife found it and framed it–an essay that I wrote when I was 16, about what I wanted to be, what I wanted my life to be about. It’s a 16-year-old’s piece of work, but it has a certain sense of cadence and symmetry.

Heininger

Did you always write? Did you write from the time you were young?

Shrum

I read a lot. Yes, I wrote poetry that no one has ever seen and no one ever will. I always wrote.

Heininger

Did you write stories?

Shrum

I did not write stories.

Heininger

I’m a firm believer that–

Shrum

Oh, and I went to a Jesuit high school, where they made you write at least a ten-page essay at least once a week.

Heininger

But I think writers kind of fall into two kinds of categories. There are the creative writers who write stream of consciousness stories, poetry, et cetera, who have more difficulty adjusting to the other form, which is writing essays, research, speeches, nonfiction, where there is a structure to it that you very often don’t get in creative writing. I found this in teaching my students and I could immediately identify. I finally called one in at one point and said, “Are you a creative writer by any chance?” He said, “Yes, I published a couple books of poetry.” Well, no wonder you can’t write a decision memo. But there’s a different style to it.

Shrum

I think I would generally agree with your division, although I think writing poetry or trying to write poetry is probably a pretty good preparation for–

Heininger

For speechwriting.

Shrum

Carey and I wrote the Kennedy-[Mark] Hatfield freeze book in about two weeks, but I had never written a book for myself, and when I sat down to write one, I did organize. I had a bunch of file cards and all the files and papers that I’d had over the years and I organized them, but then I just wrote through it as a narrative.

Heininger

How much direction were you given by Kennedy?

Shrum

None.

Heininger

None. You just knew what he was going to want to say and Hatfield was going to want to say.

Shrum

Oh, on Kennedy and Hatfield. I thought you meant on my book–

Heininger

No, first on the Kennedy-Hatfield.

Shrum

We were in the middle of the debate. We knew what the nuclear freeze was all about and what the arguments were and everything else. What we were trying to do was write a paperback book with which we could raise some money to fund the nuclear freeze movement, which we did. Carey would write one chapter, I’d write another chapter, and we’d look at them and just put them together.

Heininger

But then when you wrote your own book–

Shrum

When I wrote my own book, I sat upstairs here for the most part, although I did some of it at NYU [New York University]. I looked out at the ocean and I had all of the papers organized. I probably spent two months making notes on file cards, things I remember. Every time I remembered something, I’d go see if I could find a relevant memo or document, and then all those file cards got organized, all the documents got organized, and then I just wrote my way through it. My only problem with my editor, who was a wonderful person named Alice Mayhew, was that she said I had to cut about–the book was almost twice as long in its original form as it was published, and it was still 550 pages published.

Heininger

Good editors know where to cut.

Shrum

But she told me to cut.

Heininger

They know where to tell you to cut.

Shrum

She was very nice. She said “Look, I’m not going to bother with a lot of line editing on this book, since you’re in good shape. We just have to shorten it.”

Heininger

OK, then writing a speech. I would agree with you that I think poetry is a good preparation for speechwriting because–

Shrum

And reading a lot of poetry is.

Heininger

Yes. But then in the process of writing a major speech, you have to put yourself into that person’s head and how they talk.

Shrum

But I think that’s where your phrase intuition or instinct or something like that–I think if you had to sit there and say, “I’m now going to put myself into X’s head and think about how they talk as I write this–” I don’t think that would work.

Heininger

No. You either have it or you don’t.

Shrum

Either you know him and you’re in–that’s why I think Nixon’s system for speechwriting was so bad in the White House. He basically corporatized it, and most of the speechwriters never had any real contact with the President, and if you don’t have real contact with the person, you might produce a perfectly coherent document, but it’s not authentic.

Heininger

In one of the speeches you did, I’m trying to remember which it was. It may have been the convention speech for Obama. It was in your book where the [Alfred Lord] Tennyson lines–

Shrum

Yes, that’s at the end of the Kennedy speech in '80.

Heininger

The '80 speech. How did you know which words to cut out? Because you drew from parts of those lines, but not all of them. See, the real art is in that.

Shrum

I would not have wanted him to say, “We are not that strength which we were in olden days,” so I just dot, dot, dot.

Heininger

And that’s for political reasons you did that.

Shrum

With the ellipses, those particular lines seemed to perfectly express the mood he wanted to convey and the mood I think that a lot of people who had been for him felt, which wasn’t a celebration–he’d lost–but there was a sense of defiance and commitment and you’re going to keep going.

“I am part of all that I have met. Though much is taken, much abides. That which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, made strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” And then you yield immediately, “For me, a few hours ago this campaign came to an end.”

Heininger

You make it sound so easy, but I don’t think it is.

Shrum

It isn’t. I don’t mean to make it sound easy. I also don’t think it’s learned out of a manual.

Heininger

No, I would agree.

Shrum

I have a student who is my research assistant, Michael Flynn. I hired him because he was in my freshman honors seminar at NYU and when he turned in his first paper I thought, This guy is either a natural-born writer or he’s plagiarized this, and I quickly determined that he had not plagiarized it. Larry Horowitz is really, really, really smart, and I don’t think it would be insulting to him to say that he really can’t write a very good speech. My guess is that Rahm Emanuel can’t write a very good speech and he’s very smart.

Heininger

Right. So what is it that makes you able to?

Shrum

I don’t know, and I’ve always thought, it’s a fashion that’s sort of past, but it used to be people would say–and I had to combat this because I went on to other roles, but people would say, “Oh, he’s a speechwriter.” As if to say he can’t do media, he can’t do strategy, he can’t do this or that thing. That’s the box he fits in or she fits in. I think we’re kind of past that now. I don’t know how to say it; either you can do it or you can’t do it.

Heininger

For Kennedy’s major speeches, how would the process go? In a case like this, where you would talk with Kennedy, which I understand you would–

Shrum

It was different sometimes. The Georgetown speech Carey and I did mostly at his house. Al Lowenstein showed up for a while and then went to bed. Arthur Schlesinger sent in some valuable stuff. The Liberty Baptist speech–we had a conversation and then I pretty much just went and wrote it.

Heininger

How did that many people make contributions when you end up with a unified whole?

Shrum

Arthur and Lowenstein both had much more interest in the language on foreign policy in the Georgetown speech.

Heininger

OK, so certain aspects that they’re contributing to.

Shrum

Right.

Heininger

Substantive.

Shrum

But rhetoric. Arthur had been a speechwriter for Adlai Stevenson in 1952. I did the first draft of the convention speech basically sitting in the office the Thursday, Friday, Saturday before the convention. I wasn’t quite finished when he left, so I said I’ll take the shuttle up in a few hours. And then Carey and I did some more work on it.

There’s a funny story. [Theodore] Sorensen and Schlesinger–Kennedy and I almost had an argument, we did have an argument, because he was nervous and he said, “Well, I just don’t know whether this is going to work.” I was very frustrated and I threw my briefcase at the floor. Carey and I were sharing a room in the suite with him and Joan, because we had no money and he couldn’t spend his own money; it would have been illegal. So I’m in the bedroom and John Douglas comes in and he says, “I think we’re going to get this back on track.” But first he said, “I think you should maybe say you’re sorry.” [laughter] So I said I’d do it and Kennedy said something like that was a little impertinent or a little fresh and he laughed. Then Arthur actually suggested a few lines for the beginning of the speech and so did Sorensen, or as Teddy White put it after he talked to them, “They combed through the speech.” There actually wasn’t much, but the material they gave us was useful. I did not know until Arthur’s journals came out last year that he hated the speech.

Heininger

Why?

Shrum

He thought it was a disaster. He’s honest enough. I mean Arthur was a friend of mine. He’s honest enough that the day after he said, “I think I was wrong.” So it’s always different. There was a speech in South Africa that was never given, that Adam Clymer writes about. He has, I think, some big excerpts that Kennedy and I talked a lot about before we went, because it really had special meaning for him. I wrote a draft and then Greg looked at the draft and then we played with the draft. I don’t know. I’m not sure I’m being very helpful here.

Heininger

Well, I think it’s a very difficult thing to articulate.

Shrum

How long are we going to go each day, by the way?

Heininger

It depends on how long you want to go.

Shrum

I think three or four hours would be a nice time to stop.

Heininger

Yes, I would agree.

Shrum

And then I’d be happy to do it again tomorrow.

Heininger

I would agree with you. So why don’t we plan to go to 4:00.

Shrum

To 4:15?

Heininger

To 4:15 would be fine. All right, a little bit more on the speechwriting. Is Kennedy somebody who edits his own speeches? Does he read it and make big substantive changes or directional changes?

Shrum

He’s capable of just rejecting it and saying, “This isn’t what I want to say.”

Heininger

Or does he do wording changes? “I want things to go this way.”

Shrum

He does do wording changes. He doesn’t do them for the sake of doing them and he doesn’t necessarily do a lot of them. Carey and I, I think, reached the point a long time ago where we sort of know what he wants to say and he knows–

Heininger

And how to say it.

Shrum

And how to say it. When we were on the plane coming back from the Democratic Convention in Denver, I’d had to cut the speech last summer in half, because he was sick during the day. In fact, I called Ranny and I said, “Ranny, there’s a new version coming, load it into the TelePrompTer.” She said, “Has the Senator seen it?” And I said, “Ranny, the Senator hasn’t seen anything, just load it into the TelePrompTer.” He had seen and worked on the original speech, which was twice as long. I was very careful, I didn’t change words; I just cut things. So he came out onto the podium –I don’t cry normally, but I cried when he came out–it was for me a very moving moment and, I think, for a lot of people. We’re on the plane coming back the next day and he says, “Let me see the parts you cut out.” So he says, “You cut out some of the parts I really liked.” We laughed. And then he looked at me and said, “You know, this wasn’t easy. But after 30 years, I think we’ve got the hang of it.” So he’s not picky. He’ll say to you, “Do you think this will work?”

I remember in '85, when Larry called me and I was no longer working in the office. I had my consulting firm. Larry called me and said, “He’d like to see you up at the Cape tomorrow.” [laughter] I said sure and I hung up and told my partner, “Kennedy’s not running in '88.”

I’ll tell you two stories. This is the story about that. I arrived and I walked in and he and Larry were there. He said, “Let’s sit down and talk. I’ve decided I don’t want to run.” I said, “Look, can I make an argument?” He said sure and I said, “You get to run against Bush. That’s the best opportunity you could ever have.” And he said, “I know, I just don’t want to do it.” I said, “Well, the one thing we’ve got to do is we can’t do this every four years, and you need to say in the statement or the speech, whatever we’re going to do, that you recognize that this means you will never run for President, will never be President. He said, "Put it in.” I went into that bedroom I told you about earlier, where JFK had recovered after the war and where I had stayed a number of times when I was there, and just sat down and wrote based on what he had just told me and my own sense of how it should be said. I just wrote a statement and put a line in it: “The Presidency is not my life; public service is.”

The earlier one was '82, when on election night, having won in Massachusetts, he had a speech that leaned pretty far forward into a Presidential run. He said, “I don’t want to give this. I want a different kind of speech. I want a speech about Massachusetts.” So I wrote a different kind of speech and I thought to myself, He’s been down in Hyannis Port with the kids today and they’ve been on a boat, and I think he’s not running for President.

I go back to Washington several weeks later, I don’t remember the exact time frame. He’s back in D.C. and I go in and Larry’s standing there. He had called Larry up to the Cape; it was toward the end of November. I remember this because of an inscription I have on a speech. He and Larry came back from the Cape and they said come on into the office. So I went in and he said, “You know, I’ve decided I’m not going to run in '84 and we need to get a speech ready.” I reached in my pocket and took out some folded up legal sheets and said, “It’s already done.” He looked at Larry, because he thought Larry must have told him. Larry said, “I didn’t, I didn’t.”

Heininger

For the one in '85, when he said put it in, did you get a sense that there was a sadness or a relief there?

Shrum

No. I thought there was a sense of, I’ve made my decision. I’m not going to play around with the Presidency anymore. I’m going to do the Senate. I think you know it’s not a small factor. To run in '88 he would have had to give up his Senate seat.

Heininger

Well, that’s huge. He didn’t have to do that at any other stage.

Shrum

And by that time, if you looked at what he was doing during the Reagan years, in the '80s, and you spent much time with Tom and Greg and some other people–he saved the Voting Rights Act.

Heininger

Yes.

Shrum

He is, I believe, responsible for the passage of sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa. He’s having an enormous impact on an economic policy beginning to turn around and on tax policy, and in a way he’s conducting his own approach to foreign policy, although he’s always being very careful to report to the President in the White House, no matter who it is.

Heininger

With Larry as a back channel.

Shrum

So Larry told you all about the back channels?

Heininger

Yes.

Shrum

Larry said to me, “I don’t think [Konstantin] Chernenko is going to live very long.” I said, “Larry if you’re saying that, that means Chernenko is not going to live very long.” [laughter]

Heininger

So you really didn’t get a sense that this was–I mean that’s interesting, for somebody for whom this had been such a part of his life for so long, that it was forward-looking, not backward-looking at what might have been and what he could have had, and he might have even still had.

Shrum

I think he was mindful of that. As I say, I don’t think he could look forward and say what I’m about to say, which is that as a Senator, he’s probably accomplished more than a number of Presidents, maybe many Presidents have, but he did have a sense, I think–I mean recruiting Bob Dole to save the Voting Rights Act. He and Dan Quayle are doing job training together. So he’s achieving this I think almost unique status as someone who speaks the conscience of his party but is able to work with people across the aisle and actually get things done. It’s not like the '88 Senate campaign was going to be tough. You know he was going to get reelected.

The Senate campaigns were interesting, each in their own way. The '82 campaign because he was quite amused at the beginning of the debate. We had done our debate prep, but Ray Shamie had brought in all these giant briefing books, which he arranged around his legs. Eighty-eight wasn’t–ninety-four, that was hard, and we can talk about that tomorrow, because that will take a little while.

Heininger

We’ll talk about that tomorrow. That’s a biggie. All right, one more thing on the speechwriting. When you have been as closely associated as you have been with Kennedy and with Kennedy’s words and Kennedy’s rhetoric, how do you write for other people?

Shrum

Well, I wrote for people before him and–

Heininger

Talk about the moonlighting you did for Gary Hart.

Shrum

One of the reasons I apparently got busted was I guess how I arranged or wrote the piece. A reporter went up to Billy Shore and said, “A lot of that sure sounds like Kennedy.” Now what you have to understand is Gary Hart naturally sounded a lot like Robert Kennedy, who was his hero. When you asked me before about friends, John Kerry is a very good friend and someone I’ve worked for. You just have to hear the voices and you have to have a sense in your head of how they sound. You couldn’t write the same stuff. I don’t know how to–

When I sat down to write something for Al Gore, I knew I wasn’t writing something for Kennedy. There may be some people who say, “I could read Gore’s acceptance speech and I could tell you were in it.” Maybe that’s true, but it’s not a replication of a Kennedy speech.

Heininger

What makes it different?

Shrum

Timbre and pace, the way people argue or make a point. I’ll just give you an example, and this is intellectual, you don’t have to intuit this. Kennedy is fabulous and maybe unequalled at the right kind of political ridicule. The section on the progressive income tax in the '80 convention speech that Ronald Reagan thought was the invention of Karl Marx and it’s the invention of Theodore Roosevelt, and the fun he has with it. Roosevelt was really good at it. There are other candidates I’ve worked for, you wouldn’t try it at all because they wouldn’t pull it off. That section on Reagan in the '80 speech, the “Where was George?” at the '88 Democratic Convention–when you’re doing, “Bush said he wasn’t there or hadn’t heard or didn’t know or couldn’t remember whether he made the deal to trade arms for hostages,” which leads us all to ask the question, “Where was George?” Pretty soon you’ve got the whole convention doing it. A lot of politicians couldn’t do that or if they did it, it would come across as bitter. With Kennedy it comes across as kind of joyous and fun, as it did with FDR [Franklin D. Roosevelt].

Heininger

Whereas I could not see John Kerry doing that. I couldn’t really see Al Gore doing that, because that’s just not who they are.

Shrum

People have to be true to who they are. Gore is better–this is off the Kennedy oral history. I think Gore was taught to talk too slowly when he first went into politics in the South, because a lot of people talked that way. It was a kind of old-style way of talking. He got better and better in the 2000 campaign as he spoke faster, and when he discovered it, liked it. Some people can be very emotional and get away with it, and sparingly emotional. You don’t have to use a lot of words, necessarily. And then Teddy and I have done all these eulogies together: his mother, Jackie, John [Kennedy Jr.].

Heininger

Did you write the one for John?

Shrum

I worked on it, yes. I always say I worked on it, but he knew–we had some reason to believe that we were going to need one.

Heininger

Because of John’s behavior?

Shrum

No, because the plane was lost for so long.

Heininger

Oh, that part.

Shrum

I loved John. I thought John was terrific.

Heininger

But I have heard another story that he had yelled at John for another occasion of flying into Martha’s Vineyard Airport in conditions, and not being instrument-rated.

Shrum

I don’t know anything about that.

Heininger

And that he yelled at him about doing that before, a very similar situation.

Shrum

I don’t know anything about that. I just don’t. I liked John a lot. Everybody–suddenly, he had a million best friends. I would just say I was a friend. He was funny. He had his dad’s and his uncle’s sense of humor. He called me I guess it was the day Pamela [Churchill] Harriman died in Paris, and he said, “I’m about to close George and I need 750 words instantly for the back page.” I said, “Fine, I’ll send them to you.” So I did it and sent it to him, and then he sent me a contract and a check for rather more than he needed to pay me. At the bottom of the letter he said, the fee is X, and he wrote under it: “Now you can show Uncle Teddy how much we pay you by the word. He should pay you more.”

Heininger

That’s a story I’ve not heard. That’s a good one.

Shrum

Caroline [Kennedy Schlossberg] wrote me a very nice note–it was either Caroline or John, I have it upstairs–after the funeral mass for their mother. “Thank you for the intercessions, and of course we all know Uncle Teddy wrote his whole speech by himself–” That’s how they were with each other. But for me it’s just been a privilege. After the 20th anniversary mass for President Kennedy’s assassination, he had the speech printed up afterwards and sent out to friends at Christmas. He inscribed it in a very generous way that said something about my relationship with him. It sounds braggy, so I’m not going to say it.

Heininger

No. No, because it’s reflective of what your relationship has been to him.

Shrum

It was a little stunning to me, but he was just that way. The other thing you asked, and I’ve been thinking about it, about how people became close. I think so much of his life, from the time when he was very young, literally thousands of people were constantly grabbing at him. But having a few people who he could sit around with, who he rightly or wrongly had a lot of respect for and also could have some fun with, and where he didn’t have to be on all the time, has been very important to him. In Boston people have tended to be respectful of his privacy over the years; they’ll say, “Hi, Senator,” but they kind of leave him alone. But my God, I mean I can remember walking through airports and suddenly you’d have 500 people coagulate. So that may be a piece of it too.

Oh, the thing I forgot about when Larry went up to Hyannis Port when he dropped out of the Presidential race for 1984. He had given a speech at the midterm convention in Philadelphia in '82. We don’t have midterm conventions anymore. He sent that one out at Christmas and he inscribed that one–the title of the speech was “Our Day is Coming Again” and underneath it he wrote, “To Bob, our day is coming again, if you are the one who comes up to the Cape instead of Larry next time.” [laughter] But the record of achievement is so staggering. We could stop any time you want, by the way. We can start up tomorrow.

Heininger

I want you to think about this issue of the friends, because it’s a–

Shrum

Not all the friends, obviously you know this, not everybody who worked for him has become a close friend.

Heininger

That’s right.

Shrum

Although I think almost everybody who worked for him is deeply loyal to him.

Heininger

Yes.

Shrum

By no means are all his friends people who worked for him.

Heininger

That’s right.

Shrum

Although I do remind John Culver that he did work for him.

Heininger

Yes, he did. But it’s a conundrum of somebody who comes from the kind of family that he comes from, who has led the kind of public life as he has led, everything open to the media. How do you have any kind of a personal life? How do you let people in and who do you choose to let in? There are many people for whom work life does not cross over really into personal, social life, and then there are those people who can make that cross and become not employees, not staff, but become close personal friends as well. That’s a very small group.

Shrum

It almost has to be small.

Heininger

It has to be small because you can’t deal with that many people.

Shrum

I’ll try and think about it. I’ll ask Marylouise what she thinks too. Now somebody has told you the story about when he and Vicki got engaged, and the ring, right? You know about the ring? He put the ring down in the ocean. They were scuba diving. He kept saying, “Oh, my God, we can’t find the ring.”

Heininger

I actually like it better, you know, than putting it in a glass of champagne at a restaurant. It’s actually quite novel.

Shrum

They were sailing in the Virgin Islands, and they did that a lot over the years. Vicki, who I think was not a sailor at all, unlike me became not a permanent passenger but the first mate.

Heininger

She gets to crew.

Shrum

So let me think about it some more.

Heininger

Think about it some more. The things I want to talk about tomorrow in particular–

Shrum

We should talk about '94. We should talk about Gore and Kerry, because he played really big roles in those.

Heininger

I want to talk about the Willie Smith trial, but those are the basic things for tomorrow. Thank you very much.

R. Shrum, July 6, 2009 36

2020 The Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate

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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