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Oral History

Samuel Beer Oral History, Professor, Harvard University; president of Americans for Democratic Action

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

Beer

I couldn’t get to the opening [ceremony] because it was the day before we came down. Where’d you have it, in the Capitol?

Knott

Yes, it was in the Russell Senate Caucus Room.

Beer

Did you have your contacts assembled there, the people you’re interviewing?

Knott

No. Senator Kennedy invited a lot of his staff, his family. There were eight or nine Senate colleagues there. There was a small contingent from the Miller Center. We didn’t really invite the folks who we were going to interview because those are in the hundreds. [laughs]

Beer

Who finances this?

Knott

Senator Kennedy has created the Center for the Study of the United States Senate. They don’t actually have a physical entity yet, but it’s going to be next to the Kennedy Library in Dorchester on the grounds of U Mass-Boston.

Beer

On the same hunk of land?

Knott

Yes, between the library and the university.

Beer

And accessible, of course.

Knott

Yes, right. I worked at the Kennedy Library for six years. The Miller Center has a Presidential Oral History program where we do oral histories on [William] Clinton, [George H.W.] Bush, Sr. and [Ronald] Reagan. And now for the first time we’re branching into the U.S. Senate with Senator Kennedy. This is six-year project.

Beer

Do you know any good, recent book on the Senate? The old one was [Chris] Matthews.

Knott

Right, right.

Beer

There’s a new one. I’m a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and I was asking Don Wolfensberger about it. He heads the Congress project there. They don’t write these institutional books any more.

Knott

There’s a woman named Sarah Binder at the Brookings Institution who does good stuff. We just met with her recently.

Beer

Has she done a book on the Senate?

Knott

Yes, I believe so, yes. 

Beer

What was your dissertation on?

Knott

I wrote about early presidential use of covert operations.

Beer

Covert operations. How it started?

Knott

How it started.

Beer

From the beginning.

Knott

Right, and there was this contingency fund that was created in the very first Congress that allowed the President to fund both secret diplomacy, but also occasionally intelligence operations and covert operations. So I was kind of interested in the roots of covert activity.

Beer

Those were the days when you had to control freedom of speech, the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Knott

Right. Okay. I think we’re ready to go. This is an oral history interview for the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History Project and we’re with Professor Samuel Beer and Jane Brooks Beer. We are interested in talking to Professor Beer about, particularly, the early days, your early relationship with Senator Kennedy and your role in Americans for Democratic Action, both in Massachusetts and on the national level. I should say that anything that you say here today we will put in a transcript that you will receive in about two or three months, and you can make any changes to that transcript that you like. You can add material. You can delete certain things if you have second thoughts about anything that you say. All of these materials will be released down the road in about six years or so at the completion of the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History Project. Any questions you have about the project itself we can address right now or later, if you’d like.

Beer

Well, I’ll need to go over that transcript because here I am in D.C. and I have masses of notes on this, having known Teddy ever since 1962, and have seen him sometimes close or afar, and I don’t have the material here. After I get the transcript I think I can, if need be, add details.

Knott

That would be great.

Beer

You certainly can get facts and dates wrong. Your briefing book’s very helpful. You have an enormous amount of material, particularly on this early period, but I want to start out with the big thing. But first, I’d like to hear Jane’s rendition of our last meeting with Teddy, which was—well, we didn’t meet him. The last time we saw him was at Jordan Hall.

Mrs. Beer

Symphony Hall.

Beer

Symphony Hall. It’s a marvelous portrait of what he’s— she remembers the details.

Mrs. Beer

Well, we were invited to it, as I believe everybody was, and Symphony Hall is a big place. It was filled. This was during the Democratic Convention in Boston.

Knott

2004?

Mrs. Beer

Right. And it was, I think, the second or third night of the Convention and Teddy was speaking. And here was this enormous hall, filled with his supporters, and they had the speech shown on an enormous television screen in the hall. Everybody cheered, and then some time after the speech, he arrived. Well, of course, it was so wonderful. This entire hall was not just Democrats, but they were supporters of Senator Kennedy.

Beer

And family.

Mrs. Beer

And whatever. We wondered why we were sitting back so far, and then we heard that there were 150 members of the Kennedy family in the front. The person who sat at our table was a childhood friend of Vicky Kennedy’s. The Senator said hello to everybody and then the entertainment was Yo-Yo Ma, who played something wonderful, and then they had two soloists who sang. They were in New York productions and had come down to do this and one of them, the man, sang To Dream the Impossible Dream from—

Knott

Man of La Mancha.

 

Mrs. Beer

Man of La Mancha and then Bono got up and he sang about blood brothers and what they had given and so forth. He’d obviously made it up for this occasion. Then they said that now—oh, it was the Pops Orchestra―they’d persuaded Senator Kennedy to take over the direction of the orchestra. So they changed his jacket to a white jacket to match the other members of the orchestra, and he got up and he directed the Stars and Stripes Forever most energetically. Then they sat him on the side of the stage. There was a film narrating his life and the person who narrated it was Glenn Close, so you had all these stars on the stage, and then John Williams sat at the piano and he had made up words and he played You’re the Top, but with special words. It would be nice if you could get those words.

Knott

Yes, it sure would. 

Mrs. Beer

From John Williams. I’m sure that there’s some record of them. I can’t remember them all, but they were just directed at Senator Kennedy and his life after we’d seen this film. So then he took a bow and everybody shouted and so forth.

Knott

That was great.

Mrs. Beer

And on the way out we ran into Dave Nyhan, the journalist, who was just killed shoveling snow. Just died shoveling snow. And who was the other man? Martin—

Beer

Martin Nolan.

Mrs. Beer

Nolan. And I said, Oh, it’s so wonderful. If it hadn’t been for Chappaquiddick, he’d be the President. And he said, Well, it isn’t so bad being the senior Senator with good ideas. 

Knott

Well, that’s great. Thank you. 

Beer

What I want to do is sort of, your end is my beginning.

Knott

Okay.

Beer

And I want to start with the big thing here, which is Teddy’s relevance to how we govern ourselves, the American democracy, and what he’s meant to it. If you want to get to the details on the early days, okay, but what set me to thinking of this was this expression, Shadow President. I think it was Burton Hersh who invented that, and Burton had been a student of mine and probably got this out of what we did on British government. I mean, the people over on the opposite side have this shadow Chancellor, shadow Home Secretary, and so on. I think Burton may well have picked it up―I never asked him―from the British example. Teddy, in a curious way, although we have this presidential separation of power system, not the parliamentary cabinet government….

There’s a strong trace of the British parliamentary process and its leadership, even under separation of powers. That’s a theme I think worth looking at, the extent to which Teddy has been, particularly when we’re in a conservative period as we are now and have been, ever since Reagan, if not before, for someone to be the leader of the opposition, but to be the— He’s not a Prime Minister; he’s a shadow President, and this happens, I think, in other cases. I was trying to think if it has happened when the Republicans were in the minority, because in a way, American politics goes this way. We have these swings back and forth, basically, between market choice and public choice, and laissez faire, a little more of that, or a little more social liberalism, which is the term I prefer, and Ted said, and coming from [Franklin] Roosevelt. 

I think that the person to compare him with on the other side would be Senator [Robert A.] Taft, but he was Mr. Republican. In a way, he performed the same role and function that Teddy has performed and been performing when the Republicans were in a hopeless minority, like the Democrats today. I think it’s worthwhile looking at how he did it, and, of course, it means he does two different things. In one role, he is the great stalwart liberal. Roosevelt introduced the term. I sent you the piece of mine on FDR, where I point this out. It wasn’t used in our politics much before Roosevelt. He gave it currency and its meaning at that time, which legitimized wide government intervention to correct inequalities of wealth and economic power.

Teddy was a member, as you note, of three different committees. He has taken the lead on many issues that weren’t necessarily connected with one of his committees. It might be, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that he was speaking as the champion of Rooseveltian liberalism. 

But in his second role, the crucial thing is that he works with Republicans. So he has this dual talent, often thought of as a doctrinaire liberal, but he’s anything but doctrinaire when it comes to getting something done. The word that’s commonly used is accommodation. I think it’s worth looking into, to examine how he operates and gets things done. 

I can think of three examples during this conservative period. One in 1982, when he got the civil rights renewal through. I won’t go into the details. It’s all beautifully set out in great detail in Adam Clymer’s marvelous book. Adam doesn’t do much by way of generalization, but he certainly gives you an exact blow-by-blow account, showing how Teddy worked with Republicans, whether they were moderate Republicans, who were on his side anyhow, like Lowell Weicker, or when they were not, but to whom he made concessions. I’ve corresponded with him on that point, about when you compromise and when you don’t.

Knott

You’ve corresponded with?

Beer

Teddy.

Knott

Senator Kennedy on this?

Beer

It just suddenly occurred to me that I had, because I got this from Senator Wayne Morse. It was years ago. We were talking about when you compromise, and he brought up the example of the Minimum Wage Act, which, of course, started with tiny amounts like 25 cents an hour. Roosevelt had to get Senate support, and Claude Pepper, who was a Senator from Florida at that time, said, Great, I’m for it, but you must make an exemption of the sponge divers of Tampa Bay because 25 cents an hour was too much for their employers. So Roosevelt gave him that exemption. The bill went through. That’s the important thing. The Minimum Wage Bill went through. Then from time to time they added to it, eventually covering the sponge divers of Tampa Bay. This was Morse’s example of how you compromise but keep your principle. I think it would be interesting to see the extent to which Teddy did this when the Minimum Wage had to be renewed.

The other examples are the civil rights acts and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Teddy did the same kind of thing there. Those are three examples that I think are worth working on. I don’t remember if I had any correspondence with him on that or not. This is what I’d have to look up my files.

Now, this in a way gives us a kind of party government. I make a lot out of that, and that’s why I sent you that metaphysical background of mine, because you asked me how I got interested in politics. Well, it started early. When we were at some do at the Willard Hotel last year, I said in a nonchalant way, Oh yes, the first time I stayed at this hotel was 1921, when my father brought me and my brother down here. My mother had died the year before and he was being the good parent. My brother went off by himself because he wouldn’t fool around with his father and younger brother. But then we got a call from our Congressman, another Spanish War veteran like my father, asking wouldn’t he like to go over and shake hands with the President? My father knew him because he lived only 18 miles from us in Marion, Ohio.

Knott

Warren Harding.

Beer

Warren G. Harding, yes. Fortunately, my father had not supported him for the nomination or he might’ve gotten caught up in this terrible bunch of thieves in the Harding Administration. I mean, you talk about thievery today. Those guys were shoveling it out—the oil reserves of Teapot Dome. We went over to the White House and I remember shaking hands with Harding, who was a really sweet man and not nearly as stupid as often made out to be. And who lived under this Shadow of Blooming Grove, meaning that he had a black ancestor.

So we got back to the hotel and my brother—this was the family values side of the story―my brother came swaggering in saying, You don’t know where I’ve been today. And I said in my sweet young way, Where have you been? And he said, I’ve been to the top of the Washington Monument. And I said, You don’t know where I’ve been today. I’ve been to the White House and shook hands with the President. And in his familial way, he grabbed me by the neck and he said, Don’t you dare tell anybody back home. Some say my interest in politics started then.

Actually, the thing that got me interested in politics was the experience when I went abroad on a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford in the 1930s—’32 to ’35. That was the time when the world was falling apart. I visited Spain, Russia, Italy, and Germany. I got to Germany shortly after the passage of the Enabling Act of March 23, 1933, which put Hitler in power. 

I had not voted in 1932 when I could have cast my first vote for FDR because I was too much the child of the cynical [H.L.] Mencken and professors like [Charles A.] Beard. You’ve seen what I’ve written about that.

Knott

Yes.

Mrs. Beer

I was one of 800,000 people who voted for Norman Thomas.

Beer

Right. 

Mrs. Beer

Who came the same town that Harding did.

Beer

So, I always tease my friend Hugh Heclo, who also comes from Marion.

Mrs. Beer

It’s a little town.

Knott

I’ve been to Marion. 

Mrs. Beer

Right, and seen the monument there?

Beer

All of these small towns, today they’re falling apart because the Wal-Marts drain business from their centers. 

There’s that long liberal period when Roosevelt and the shadow of Roosevelt was dominant. The exception was [Dwight] Eisenhower, but he was not a strong partisan. If anything, he solidified the New Deal. The reactionary members of the Republican Party had hoped that he’d repeal Social Security. That was the thing they wanted to get rid of. That was the great intervention. 

Knott

When did you actually go to Harvard?

Beer

Nineteen thirty-eight. Before that I was at Oxford. 

Knott

Yes, yes. 

Beer

In 1935 came back to the U.S. and worked in Washington. That’s when I worked on some of Roosevelt’s speeches and did ghostwriting for Rexford Tugwell in the Resettlement Administration. Then in New York, where I had made a fling in journalism on the New York Post and on Fortune. Then I went back to academia in the fall of ’38.

Knott

Do you remember Joseph P. Kennedy? Did you ever run into him at all?

Beer

Yes. 

Knott

Do you have any recollections?

Beer

Yes. I knew the father, but I didn’t know him well. I remember meeting him at a dinner. But mostly his performance at the Democratic Convention of 1956. Joe controlled a number of seats. The disturbing thing was to see how he had the former dean of the Harvard Law School, James N. Landis, on a string, bossing him around, telling him what to do. Obviously, he was an incredibly domineering type. What did you think I might know?

Knott

I don’t know. I was just curious if your paths had crossed?

Beer

How could you grow up under that father and not be affected in some way? Teddy, of course, was quite different. If you’re interested in his comparison. 

Knott

I am, actually.

Beer

I didn’t know Robert [Kennedy], but I never particularly cared for him. I thought he was rather dark, reclusive person. I met him at the [Kenneth] Galbraiths’. I’ve been to their house, Hickory Hill, wasn’t that it? Seen him with his wonderful family of kids and his wife, but I never really cottoned to him. I didn’t think he had the inner warmth and sympathy that Teddy has. And in Teddy’s case maybe just being the younger kid, but also his awful vicissitudes, I think, have given him a sympathy with human frailty. Roosevelt also had this, I think, because of his polio. Jack I knew fairly well because he’d been my Congressman. I remember seeing him first walking down Mass. Avenue into Harvard Square in 1952. Wasn’t that when he first got elected? 

Mrs. Beer

Forty-six.

Beer

Forty-six, right. 

Mrs. Beer

That’s the only time I ever met him. He asked me for his vote. [laughs]

Beer

Fifty-two was when he went to the Senate.

Knott

Right, right.

Beer

And he was this gangly guy. Also he was on the visiting committee of the Government Department. So I’d see him in that connection too. When he decided he’d run for the Senate, after one of our dinners at the annual meeting with the Committee, he asked me over and said, What do you think of my doing this? I’d heard of it and I said, Oh, for God’s sake. This was ’51, I think, when we were talking, and I said, Jack, for God’s sake, don’t do this. You can’t beat that war hero [George Cabot] Lodge anyhow. Stay in the House and become a famous man like Henry Clay. He didn’t give me any baloney about the public good. He said in that flat Boston voice, No, Sam, I couldn’t stand another term of being bored to death by John McCormack. That was my one piece of advice to Jack. Obviously, Jack, of course, was a heroic person. I meant to ask, have you looked into it? Did Teddy know about the severity of Jack’s illness?

Knott

Yes.

Beer

I’ve been on this screening committee of the Kennedy Library. We finally released this material to [Robert] Dallek, which you know about. I thought Dallek’s use of it, on the whole, was very good because what it showed was that Jack was a far more heroic person than we ever supposed. He didn’t just swim six miles. He swam all around with that rope in his mouth. He would not have gotten into the Navy, of course, on his own. He had to do it by influence. But he was right and the critics were wrong. Nobody’s been able to show that this constant pain had diverted or affected or constrained his decisions. I’m sure guys have worked on it, and I know Dallek couldn’t find any case. It really makes Jack a different person, so totally uptight and unlike Teddy, who’s so constantly unbuttoned and with a wonderful human warmth. 

He reminds me of a Senator I remember from Iowa named [Harold E.] Hughes, who was briefly a Senator. He’d been a truck driver and an alcoholic. He got religion and got off the booze, but he still retained his Celtic, his Welsh, warmth. I remember I was on some committee with him, sitting beside him, and just the warmth, the physical and emotional warmth, of these Celtic pols attracted you. And Teddy is like that.

Knott

I see, but Jack was not like that?

Beer

Jack was not like that, no. What it was that attracted him, of course, was just his marvelous brainpower. He was smart like Clinton. Or like [Tony] Blair. He could move quickly from one subject to another, and he knew his stuff. And he wasn’t terribly liberal. For instance, his big tax cuts in 1962. 

Have I made the point about the role of a Senator who becomes the real leader of the party, in the British sense of the word, when they’re out of power, unlike our nominal leaders? Who was it? [Thomas E.] Dewey made this remark about the defeated Presidential candidate being the titular leader of his party, Yes, the hind tit. If you’re the defeated candidate, you aren’t the head of the party. I noticed [John] Kerry makes a sort of a gesture of being head, but he’s not. I mean, if the Democrats have a party head today, it’s Teddy. 

I mentioned three cases where he asserted this extraordinary power as shadow President. It’s never worked very well in foreign affairs. He was anti-Vietnam War and, more recently, he’s been against the Iraq War. I’ll give you my—the last real contact I’ve had with him―and you can look at these. You can have them if you want them. That’s my letter. Maybe you’d better give it to me and I’ll tell you what it is. I think that’s the last letter, January 28th, 2003. I haven’t heard much from him since then. I think we got into some disagreement when I said something to the effect that I thought they wouldn’t handle Palestine and Israel until somebody came in and imposed a settlement upon them in some way. And he said, No, you’ll have to wait until they get tired of fighting one another, to which I replied, Another three thousand years?

Mrs. Beer

Longer than that. [laughs]

Beer

But I’ll mention this foreign policy because this is the last serious contact I had. He would usually have me to lunch with John Culver, who had been in my course at the same time.

Mrs. Beer

But Teddy’s daughter said, What grade did you give my father?

Beer

And I didn’t know. It was probably a so-so grade, but—

Knott

You don’t remember him as a student of yours?

Beer

No. Well, no. But you see, this was a big course and I see the students down here all the time and the section men like Jim Schlesinger and ex-students like Timothy Wirth. But I see a lot of them here, either in the government or in the private world. The Chief Justice was in my parliamentary government course. You didn’t know the Chief Justice was enrolled for a Ph.D. at Harvard in government?

Knott

No.

Beer

Well, he was. We could tell you the story. He got fed up with his supervisor.

Knott

This is Rehnquist we’re talking about?

Beer

This is Bill Rehnquist. That isn’t his real name, you know.

Mrs. Beer

It’s his real name. Born with it, but his grandfather’s name was different.

Beer

But there are so many Scandinavians in the Midwest he invented a new name. There are no Rehnquists in Stockholm or Oslo. At any rate, we met him and he recognized me and recalled that his supervisor was so arrogant, so pompous, that he left him and went to Stanford, thereby going into law. I said, And who was your supervisor? And he said, William Yandell Elliot. That was a name to conjure with. So I said, Oh, yes, well, he was my supervisor, too. So we spent the next few minutes talking. To some people, like Henry Kissinger, Bill Elliot was grand seigneur. He was from Nashville, Tennessee, a very extraordinary Southerner. We needn’t go into that.

Knott

Right.

Beer:

At any rate, I would see Teddy and Culver for lunch. And then along in May of 2002, I was criticizing him. I said, You guys have got to criticize this administration for the way they’re going at the Middle East and Iraq. Just ass-backwards. They’re still calling for a regime change right now instead of working their way up to it. And actually, so had Clinton. Clinton has never come out against the war, but that’s another story. At any rate, what I was saying was that [Joseph] Biden should speak up, but he was silent as a tomb. In those days, when [George W.] Bush was manufacturing his big drive toward war, I said, You’ve got to be critical. Well, finally, in September, Teddy exploded in a very powerful speech and I wrote him this letter in October congratulating him and giving my own—

Knott

October, 2002?

Beer

It was October 21st, 2002. And I wrote what I thought in this letter. And then came the 23rd of March, 2003. The New York Times and the Washington Post had editorials. They were both well argued―the Times said no and the Post said yes, and I was inclined to agree with yes. Not that I believe in the UN [United Nations], which I don’t, as I say there. But I thought that somebody had to take the responsibility for acting. But Teddy has remained opposed in going on. This has left him rather isolated because he hasn’t spoken about what should be done. He’s talked about a staged withdrawal, but this is still just withdrawal.

I think he’s never been terribly successful―well, he tried urging a nuclear freeze under Reagan, and that didn’t get him anywhere. I may be wrong, but it’s been harder to be the shadow President in foreign affairs when you’re in the minority. So, what is this role? He gives the Democratic Party a sort of coherence and purpose that develops what the issues are. This is a kind of party government. What you can do depends on the legislature, but it isn’t parliamentary  because in a parliamentary system you govern through partisan majorities, and we don’t. Very rarely does anything get done through a purely partisan majority, with us. You always have to have some people from the other side. That’s just the way it is, and the shadow President, if he’s like Teddy, can make that work.

Now, why this interests me is that this is the point from all that general stuff that I’ve sent you about how ideas get into political action, into governmental decisions, through political parties. And we can go on about that, but I think the reason I emphasize this function is that it is a kind of party government that gives our democracy a parliamentary character along with our typical presidential leadership.

Nowadays, the British are imitating us more than we’re imitating them, but we don’t just have presidential leadership, which is the way things get done. You elect a President and he does it. We also have this shadow President and he gets things done also. It’s a very odd mixture of British-American patterns that are in a way perhaps essential to our democratic system. Now, how far you want to make anything of that, I don’t know. And that letter—you can take a copy. I’ll give you that. 

This doesn’t tell you anything. I don’t think he’s sent me any of his speeches since then, and that’s when we may have disagreed over Palestine. I’m not sure at this point, but I haven’t seen him. He’s always very hearty when I see him. I think personally I talked to him last—Oh, when did [Arthur] Schlesinger come out in Boston with his book of memories? Do you remember?

Mrs. Beer

His 85th birthday. He was born October 15, 1917.

Beer

Remember that occasion? Teddy came, and as he came in he was saying, Where’s Sam Beer? Where’s Sam Beer? He had a particular person he wanted to introduce me to.

Mrs. Beer

He introduced you to his father-in-law.

Beer

What year was that? And he had Sam Morrison’s daughter at our table.

Mrs. Beer

Yes. She’s died since then. 

Beer

Yes. 

Knott

Would that be fairly recently?

Mrs. Beer

Well, a couple of years ago. 

Beer

When did Arthur publish his autobiography?

Knott

It’s got to be a few years old now.

Beer

Yes, it is. Several years. 

Mrs. Beer

I guess two or three years. 

Knott

Okay, that’s sounds right. 

Beer

Oh, I know when I saw him last. I took a copy of the work on the Declaration of Independence by Maier’s wife, Pauline. Teddy had said something to me—I think it was at that lunch with Culver—about the Declaration of Independence, and I said, Oh, you ought to see Pauline because she shows you how people from Framingham and so on said the same thing before [Thomas] Jefferson did. Have you seen the book?

Knott

I have. I’ve actually read the book. 

Beer

It’s a good one. 

Mrs. Beer

I have, too. 

Beer

It’s a good little book of hers. So I told her and she said, Oh, I’d be delighted. So she wrote a nice inscription and sent me a copy, and I went and saw Teddy. Then he immediately started talking about one of the health care issues. I think that’s probably the last time I saw him. 

You’ve got the questions there: how he compared, his effectiveness as a Senator. Well, it depends on what you mean. Senators, you know, say they represent their states. They do pay some attention to their states, that’s true; that’s their constituency, but as Henry Adams said, every Senator looks in a mirror every morning and sees a future President. We don’t have a separation of powers. As Dick Neustadt said, we have separate institutions with the same powers. So the Senators are trying to run the country just like the President. The majority leader is a different thing. You could go through and classify the things that a Senator like George Mitchell has done, a superb Majority Leader but he wasn’t Mr. Democrat, far from it. Teddy is Mr. Democrat, and yet he makes so many compromises and only that way could he get—

Knott

It’s an interesting mix.

Beer

A fascinating way, and it’s an essential of the system, I think. In other words, he fits into that important function of American self-government. Okay, he has had presidential ambitions. He finally had to say in 1982 when he decided not to run that being in the Senate is a satisfying way of being the leader of American liberalism. Well, have I made my point on that?

Knott

I think so. 

Beer

Is that enough? The ability to maintain support. He creates—

Mrs. Beer

He’s a wonderful Senator

Beer

He tells them what it is they’re for, I mean—Oh, I don’t want to miss his wonderful staff. I’ve always said this, from the very beginning. He has this incredible ability for hiring good people. Outstanding. 

Mrs. Beer

I know so many stories about this. Some woman I know in Cambridge complained about the postal delivery or something on her corner in Cambridge, and a couple of weeks later, somebody from Senator Kennedy’s staff called her and said, Mrs. Bragg, how is your delivery service now? And she said, Oh, it’s much improved, thank you. [laughs]

Beer

I’m thinking of their advice to him. He reminds me of what has been said of [David] Lloyd George, that he learned through his ears, and he could sit down and listen to a briefing, and then—this is the example that I like—he said he’ll go in and he’ll give the guy from the Bureau of Indian Affairs a going over, very knowledgeable, and, of course, with his mixture of fierceness and charm, he’ll― That’s American government working through committees. As Woodrow Wilson said, that’s Congress at work, the committees.

With the Brits, I keep constantly urging them to do more of it. They’re doing more and more, inching their way toward select committees, like ours, and they model some on our committee process. But Teddy would get the best out of the committee system by virtue of his able and devoted staff. They like to work for him, able people, and he will then use their brains, listen, and go in and put it into effect in this way. Now, that’s a different kind of function, a Mr. Democrat function. That’s a Senator in charge of a committee and a particular phase of policy-making. 

All right. Now, do you want to ask me any more of these things?

Knott

Well, if I could, could I take you back? I hate to keep bringing you back to Massachusetts politics. Well, first, you were head of the Massachusetts, I don’t know if chapter is the correct word, of Americans for Democratic Action, and you were kind of an oddity, I think, in that you were fairly close or supportive of the Kennedys. And many of your fellow liberal brethren—

Beer

That ended my connection with ADA, really. I didn’t resign because that would always attract attention, but when they refused to support Teddy.

Knott

Can you tell me why you think they refused to support Senator Ted Kennedy?

Beer

I think I mentioned that in the oral history I did with Virginia Daitch. There was a Jewish-Catholic thing. I asked one of my Jewish colleagues, Why the hell are you so much against Jack Kennedy? He said, Because at heart, I think he’s a fascist. Well, it wasn’t long after that that he took a good job under Kennedy. These are things that people say when they’re excited, particularly if they’re drunk, but he wasn’t drunk, but which tell you something about motivation, but it isn’t the whole truth by any means. 

The other thing is about Mark Howe, did you read the letter? Did you ever get a copy of the letter?

Knott

No. 

Beer

Boy, it’s beautifully done. There’s a painting of him in the Harvard Law School and he’s like his painting—beautiful, intelligent blue eyes, an austere―he’s a descendant of Cotton Mather. Mark was called the conscience of New England, and he was, alas!

Mrs. Beer

Married to a very Irish wife.

Beer

Oh, what a marriage. But Mark wrote this letter when Teddy was running for the Senate. I don’t know how Jack and the family came to accept this move, but he was two years too young, so he had to put in Ben Smith. Though Ben would have liked to go on, he did what he was supposed to do and made way for Teddy, and when that became known, the academic supporters of Jack were furious, most of them. And Mark wrote this wonderful letter, which he sent around to all of us, excoriating the people who were supporting Teddy. He got Bob Wood over in a corner of the Faculty Club—and you know who Bob is?

Knott

I do.

Beer

And he was bashing Bob right and left, and Bob said, Mark, Mark, lay off, lay off, lay off. We’re only trying to make him a U.S. Senator, not a Harvard professor. Teddy loves that story. I have told it at various fund raisers. He loves that story. And that one you certainly have to have.

Knott

Right.

Beer

So, how I got connected with that campaign was through—Dan Fenn claims he recruited me. McCormack was the obvious Democratic candidate. He’d worked his way up. You know all this. He was a Catholic, he was liberal. As Attorney General he had published a pamphlet saying that people who are arrested have certain rights. Not a typical view among Democratic voters. Of course, the town and gown distinction there was big. I talked to the Democratic women, and they weren’t interested even in Social Security. They were interested only in one thing—if you won office, there would be jobs, because, you see, Massachusetts was in bad shape from the movement of textiles south and was especially slow to recover from the Depression.

Individual office holders were committed to certain programs. The Congressman, John McCormack, was committed to what he had done under Roosevelt. He would remember the long lines of unemployed and he would remember how the WPA [Works Progress Administration] brought jobs. It isn’t that they had an ideology; it was a much more practical thing. They knew what particular laws gave them particular benefits, so when you added them up, they did have a sense of a common purpose. Liberalism wasn’t the word they might like. Pat Moynihan was very funny about this. He would say, I remember so well how the nuns would be lambasting this awful thing called liberalism, which the Vatican was battling. Then I’d come home and my parents would tell me the great things Franklin Roosevelt was doing in the name of liberalness. 

My interest had this background. Having seen the fall of Weimar, Germany was a great center of interest to me. It was the first place I visited after England. I took up the rise of the Nazis in my courses, and after the war, I switched out of the Army into Military Government and went around Upper and Lower Franconia asking people how this could have happened, what brought it on, in this highly civilized country, and what it was like to live under the terror. 

Before the war at Oxford I had become a left-winger and a fellow traveler with the Communists for a period of time. In due course I escaped from Marxism and became a fierce anti-Communist. This movement to the left was common among my Oxford contemporaries. My roommate, Tristan Jones, was a member of the Communist Party. Are you interested this stuff now?

Knott

Oh, absolutely. Please go ahead.

Beer

His father, Tom Jones, although not a Conservative, was close to the Baldwin government. He came from a Welsh mining family. In his classroom in Wales, there were 12 boys named Tom Jones, so each was given a number. Tom happened to be very smart, becoming a professor at Edinburgh and, thanks to Lloyd George, Deputy Secretary of the Cabinet. During the peace negotiations in Belgium he wanted to talk confidentially with his Cabinet, but how was he going to do that from foreign soil? So he asked how many people in Belgium knew Welsh. There were two, so Lloyd George thought it safe to call Tom Jones and talk confidentially to him in Welsh about his plans. 

Well, that was Tom Jones, and Tristan was his son, and so for typical family reasons, he did the thing that would most annoy his parents. He joined the Communist Party while still at school. His parents, therefore, would pay his bills but would not give him much pocket money. For if they had, Tristan would have given it to the Party. He was lazy but smart, and later was made the managing editor of The Observer by his dear family friend, David Astor. 

Such was the background of my interest in politics. My two concerns were the propagation of my kind of liberalism and the elaboration of how to protect it against itself. This led to an interest in what political scientists called responsible party government. That idea dominated my work as a political activist in Americans for Democratic Action and my attachment to Ted Kennedy.

Mrs. Beer

I like it when you go back to the time and tell when Teddy was in the airplane accident and hurt his back and what that did to him.

Beer

Well, I think that twelve months in the hospital had something like the effect of Roosevelt’s polio with its spiritual rebirth. But you know all about that.

Knott

I do, but we’d like to hear your story.

Beer

Well, that story began two years earlier. The upshot was the failure of half a dozen of us reformers to make any significant progress toward establishing a system of responsible party government in Massachusetts. We were a bunch of academics. Dan Fenn, then in the Kennedy Administration, had recruited me. I brought along Jim Burns of Williams, Bob Wood of MIT, Charlie Haar of Harvard Law School, and John Plank, a Latin America authority in my department. I had prevailed on Teddy to agree explicitly that he would help with party reform, if we would support his senatorial campaign, specifically in the Democratic State Convention, the Democratic Party primary, and the general election. This was a deal Teddy put in writing in a letter to me. During the spring and summer of 1962 we did succeed in rallying support for him in the academic community, party activists, and the general public against the earlier prospects of success for Eddie McCormack.

 In due course Teddy delivered faithfully on his promises to us. one example was his help in setting up a Democratic Advisory Committee which would suggest policies for adoption by the legislature. Here were very able people like General James Gavin, who had commanded the 82nd Airborne in Normandy and was head of this think tank, Arthur D. Little, and Eli Goldstone, CEO of Commonwealth Gas, who liked the Kennedys, not only Jack, but also Teddy. We had liaison with the legislature in Al Cella, an aide to the Speaker. But our great mistake was otherwise to have no members of the legislature on the Committee. Quite naturally, the politicians detested us. Just as Lyndon [Johnson] and others detested the Democratic Advisory Committee nationally, which nevertheless poured into Congress huge amounts of stuff that became the Great Society. So this is what I was doing. It was all part of a very conventional effort among activist people in academic life. It was a complete failure in Massachusetts.

Knott

We talked on the phone a few weeks back and you mentioned this Onions Burke, a chairman of the Democratic State Committee.

Beer

You know about all that? We had very good details from Burton Hersh.

Knott

But it really is important, if you don’t mind, for you to just record—

Beer

Now, let’s see, but that was when Jack was Senator.

Knott

Right. We’re back in the ’50s?

Beer

When Jack finally pulled up his socks and threw Burke out after Burke had made a nasty remark comparing him to Alger Hiss. Jack had been very cautious about intervening in state politics. He would not put in somebody like Gerry Doherty, Teddy’s pick, a topnotch guy, just what we reformers wanted: an educated, sensible, liberal who could also talk to Charlestown. Jack chose Pat Lynch, who really wasn’t all that bad. There’s a marvelous portrait of that event in Burton Hersh. 

Pat was a really nice guy, but he had a problem. I told you about when Mike Mansfield came for Adlai Stevenson. Now, this would be ’56, and the chances of getting support for Stevenson among the Massachusetts Catholics were dim. The women would say, Oh, we could not support a divorced man. Mike wanted to arrange for the local parties to set up meetings when the candidate could come and speak. But before anything was done, practically, the custom was to have a few drinks—quite a few—to Mike’s dismay. And the same thing was true when we were trying to get support during the—what was it? I told you that story where I was sitting there in Judge [John] Fox’s basement with Paul Dever, the former Governor, a supporter of Stevenson. Jack had asked me to do a survey to see how much support there was for Stevenson, and he said, You can get the Young Democrats to do this and we’ll give you $50.00. Well, that wouldn’t begin to pay for a survey, but the Kennedys were very tight in that way with their money. So I got the Young Democrats to do a fairly good job and, of course, everybody’s report was the same. They asked who people wanted on a list of names and Stevenson would be the top person, but at least half of them were undecided. 

Now, what they were doing was lying back, until John McCormack declared. But we were trying to send out cards for Stevenson. I told you this one, about sitting there and, of course, we had to drink. John Fox wouldn’t drink―very strange. You don’t know who he was or anything about him?

Knott

No, I don’t know.

Beer

He was a very significant figure. He’d been one of Dever’s two secretaries, very bright, Jewish, a bachelor. A strange collection of dolls in his basement. Wonderful, sensible, sensitive judge. He then became a judge, of course―that’s what you did after you helped the Governor―and I was sitting there with some of the Harvard Young Democrats. When we lamented we didn’t have enough money to send these cards, they kept pulling my coattails. One said, Professor Beer, you’ve got the decimal point in the wrong place. You’ve got plenty of money. We were all so drunk we didn’t get the figures right. [laughs] We had plenty of money, so we got the cards out. It didn’t do any good. 

I went around the state with Frank Lyons, who was an officer in the ILGWU [International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union]. Always negative. He was against all politicians. No politician could be trusted. Wonderful marvelous Irish guy and, of course, he was all for Stevenson, but we found all these Democrats who were for Eisenhower, and against Stevenson. It was perfectly obvious, so Kennedy finally had to step in and throw Burke out so that he could control the state delegates to the national convention. And he had his plan to run for Vice President. His father didn’t want him to do that, and was quite right. Don’t be associated with a losing ticket.

Mrs. Beer

This is Jack you’re talking about.

Knott

Jack, yes.

Beer

Jack I’m talking about. Got enough on that?

Knott

That’s good.

Mrs. Beer

But you didn’t go on about being at the convention when he had his accident, the state convention.

Beer

Oh, yes, I’m sorry. 

Knott

Sixty-four.

Beer

What we thought we were doing, we had Teddy as the senator, we had [Endicott] Peabody as Governor. We also had Gerry Doherty as party chairman, because Teddy had agreed and we wanted him and he wanted him, so there was no problem. And we thought this would give us a kind of party government, but Peabody had taken on board [Francis X.] Bellotti. I knew Bellotti. He was a poor kid, but a bright, upward-striving Italian.

Mrs. Beer

He had 12 children; he had to support them.

Beer

Peabody, of course, gave him as Lieutenant Governor some access to limousines, but Bellotti used it to build up support for Bellotti for Governor. When it came to the convention in 1964, he declared, and here he was running against his own Governor for the primary. And that’s when, at the convention—was it in Worcester or Springfield?

Mrs. Beer

Springfield.

Knott

Yes.

Beer

I think he had to nominate himself. Peabody won easily at the convention. But Teddy had had this accident—

Mrs. Beer

Airplane.

Beer

—and I recall that night when we got word, and I then went up to the hospital with Larry Laughlin, who later won that lottery, I think honestly, and became a millionaire. Only the immediate hangers-on of Kennedy. And then they put Teddy in the hospital—which was that hospital? Presbyterian? And we arranged, or I did, for these professors to come and tutor him. And he worked so hard. He was very different from Jack. Jack had much more self-confidence in that way, and disdain for the party.

But Teddy was stretched out in this incredible bed and he worked very hard. He read. I’d taken him a book by a man named [W. B.] Graves called Intergovernmental Relations in the United States. Honest to God, it was that thick. I’d rather eat it than read it, but it was a great reference book. He read the God-damned thing. He’d somehow take notes and he’d listen to us. Carl Kaysen and Ken Galbraith would go, discuss the balance of payments, why that was serious. So it was after that Ken gave a dinner for him at Ken’s house.

Knott

Kenneth Galbraith.

Beer

Yes. You know about this?

Knott

No, no, go ahead.

Beer

And asked these hot shots in different fields of economics, mostly economics, but others, who came and put Teddy on trial before this academic liberal expertise. And the questions went around and around and he did very well. He remembered his tutorials, if that was it. He did very well. And you have it some place that we winked at one another. We didn’t wink. As he went out of Ken’s house, Ken and I shook hands and embraced one another because we’d pulled it off. We’d really sold Ted Kennedy to the academic elite. Teddy did a great job. I don’t know, is this of interest to you?

Knott

It’s absolutely of interest, yes. Can I ask you, what was it about Edward Kennedy that led you to support him in those early years when many of your fellow liberals or fellow academics were very wary of him? 

Beer

There was a purely personal thing. It was the fact that I thought he was somebody I could rely on. I may have been wrong about that, but I have felt— I’ve always found reliable people who keep their word. It’s just a feeling, and I remember this feeling very strong. Well, if I was in a tough spot in the Army or some place and had to have somebody to depend on, I’d like to have Ted Kennedy there. It was just a very immediate, direct―and so I said I would do this. I think his immediate personal relationship with me was so reassuring. There was some point in there where Joe Kennedy vetoed an ad. Do you know about that?

Knott

I don’t, no.

Beer

I’m trying to think what the hell that was. We were talking about Joe. This must have been an ad for Jack. Yes, I think it was. It was going to be an ad in the New Republic or in a newspaper. We all signed it and it was going to be run, and then Joe heard about it. He said, No, he doesn’t need any other stones around his neck, let alone a bunch of Harvard professors endorsing him. It must have been for Jack in ’52. 

Knott

Yes. Has the Senator lived up to your expectations, to your hopes? 

Beer

Well, yes, that’s the point. Given the fact that I, in this abstract way based on history and experience, had come down on the side of party government as a way of controlling the dangers of a free society and enlisting its energies—I mean, freedom is a very dangerous thing. You get the invention of these hellish weapons and of hellish movements. A totalitarian system has to come out of some kind of modern freedom movement, but how do you control that? The right kind of political movement makes all the difference. These isms going around.  

That was my interest in political parties as the instrument for, I don’t like to say progress because I don’t believe in it, but that’s what I meant: advance, improvement. And that’s why I was interested in party reform. But Teddy, in a way, has provided the answer through our institutions in a quite unexpected way as the shadow President. 

Russ Muirhead of the Harvard Government Department claims we’re now getting a new party system, and I think he may be right, Teddy may fit into it better. I don’t know, but as I say, I haven’t thought too much about this aspect. I’m not sure how to fit him in with foreign affairs as shadow President, and how he would fit into this new party system on foreign affairs that at present is so important. Anything else?

Mrs. Beer

He’s a wonderful Senator.

Beer

A wonderful Senator, yes. 

Mrs. Beer

I no longer vote in Massachusetts because I sold my house in Massachusetts. My lawyer in Washington was at the bar at both in Massachusetts and D.C., and he said you can no longer be legally domiciled in Massachusetts, which I had been ever since I came to Washington. I had voted in Massachusetts but I was living in Washington because I owned a house there, and he said, No, you can no longer— I said, What? Give up my Senators who vote the way I want them to do? I voted for Tip O’Neill 13 times. But he said, You can’t afford it. But I really know Massachusetts— I mean, Washington politics, except to be anti-Mayor [Marion] Barry, is not much. [laughs]

Beer

I’ve never had any great success in political predictions or choices, but I think the one really good one was supporting Teddy in ’62. He was so superior to McCormack. He was intrinsically a better man than McCormack.

Knott

He was.

Beer

Well, intrinsically much better. McCormack did not turn out to be very good. Or maybe it was because he was disappointed.

Knott

There was a liberal alternative that year. Wasn’t this [H. Stuart] Hughes—

Beer

Hughes? He got 50,000 votes. He ran a ridiculous candidacy.

Knott

Okay.

Beer

And we had— I remember alienating Coolidge. What’s that guy’s name? 

Mrs. Beer

Thomas Jefferson Coolidge?

Beer

No, the Socialist, Sprague Coolidge. He got very mad at me because I asked Hughes some question at a meeting at his house. He was a wealthy guy. Lived up on the hill. I’d always wave to him when I went walking by on Highland Street. 

Mrs. Beer

It’s so interesting in a world that’s so torn up over religion, the question of Teddy’s Catholicism just doesn’t come up now.

Knott

Yes, that’s true. 

Beer

Now, let me see.

Knott

You’ve mentioned Betty Taymor to me as somebody very important during this period. We haven’t interviewed her yet. 

Beer

Haven’t you?

Knott

Well, we talked with her last fall, just to consult with her, but we haven’t formally taped her yet. I was wondering if you might reflect on her role.

Beer

You’ve quoted her book.

Knott

Yes.

Beer

Well, she was a [Betty] Friedan woman before Friedan, and very good looking, but really interested in politics. And, of course, to see her in this office with Pat Lynch. That wasn’t so bad, but there was another guy, whose name I forget, and they couldn’t believe that this gorgeous woman was interested in politics. No woman they knew was interested in politics. And they would make lewd remarks and she’d brush them off. She really was really quite tough, as well as being good looking. She was one of his secretaries. 

This is the way the old parties ran. There were a bunch of tongs, in this sense, Jack simply followed the example of others. He’d built up his own party, which was used for the money in the primary. Then this would be his core support for a general election. Betty Taymor ran for office once or twice and got nowhere at all. Her husband was a good campaign manager. Mel [Taymor] was a gynecologist and he was as good a party man as she. And she’d have trouble with her Jewish friends in Newton. She was Jewish. She wasn’t liberal enough, funny, for Jerry Grossman, and I don’t think this is—Well, you’ll talk to her, you’ll ask her, and she’ll tell you what you want to know.

Knott

Actually, you were the first person who told me how important she was.

Beer

Well, she was very good. They gave her an honorary degree at Goucher College after she wrote this book. She’s very smart.

Knott

You mentioned Gerard Doherty earlier.

Beer

Gerry.

Knott

Gerry Doherty. He was essentially the Reform candidate to straighten out the Party.

Beer

Well, he was the kind of the person who we could talk to. He didn’t mind. He’d ask me to help him write his speech on something. He didn’t mind talking to people from Harvard. People like that were a little hard to find. 

Knott

That divide between the town and the gown that you mentioned was very deep at this point in time?

Beer

Oh, yes. And, you see, [James] Curley was a horrible person. He’d give these kids a bad example. When I retired, the Globe ran a long piece on me and in it I mention about how much—It was such a fad to be favorable to Curley, but he was a terrible influence. What he stole, he never stole for himself personally. He did it, stole, for somebody else. And he had some good causes.

Knott

Do you know if the Kennedys were contemptuous of Curley?

Beer

Oh, God yes. They would disdain him and Mrs. [Margaret] O’Riordan. There was that woman who was a complete negation, a complete zero, but she was there. She would do whatever she was told and all the woman did was sign whatever.

Mrs. Beer

Checks.

Beer

Write envelopes. Not even write checks, just address envelopes. That was the main function. That’s all they asked for. Occasionally some woman would run for office. Louise Day Hicks did and became a Congressman for a couple of times. Taymor thinks that the clerical influence was very anti-feminine in Massachusetts. She’s still very strong on that, and she set up a school, which is established with the idea to educate women for political life. It’s now connected with U Mass-Boston, and it’s successful. She did that on her own.

Knott

Betty Taymor.

Beer

She did, and without much help from these celibates. 

Knott

Right. Okay.

Beer

All right?

Knott

That’s good. 

Beer

There’s a lot of stuff, but I think I’ve hit all of it. You have all this stuff on the early days.

Mrs. Beer

Then the last time that Teddy was elected, we went to the day of the installations over at the Capitol and he said, There’s Sam Beer. I love Sam Beer. 

Beer

[laughs] Now, I don’t know if he still loves me today. Well, because my feelings on Iraq, how we got in there. We’re there and you can’t leave. I like to see Americans win even though it might redound to the credit of George Bush, grinding my teeth, because those who hate George Bush so much that they want to see America defeated, Paul Ignatius agrees with me on this. He says, of course you want to see your country win, and I think they’re doing pretty well. Five hundred thousand troops have served there with a casualty of a thousand and a half is not very much, nothing compared to the Philippine insurrection, where one of my uncles was killed in 1903; 4,234 Americans were killed. It was the same kind of thing. Guerillas coming and you couldn’t see who— 

They weren’t another army; they were civilians. And then suddenly they’d come in with machetes. That’s when they invented the .45 pistol, because these guys would come at you and you’d hit them with a .38 and it wouldn’t stop them, but the punch of getting hit by a .45 caliber knocks you down. I was told that by several people. It’s certainly the common view that the .45 pistol became a sidearm because of the insurrectionists, who were sort of like these suicide bombers. They’d come at you with a machete.

Knott

Have you ever thought of writing a memoir?

Beer

Yes.

Mrs. Beer

He started. He’s done it, worked on it a lot, and I got all the directions to do what you do from the Veterans History Project.

Beer

Because you want me to do that.

Mrs. Beer

It’s D-Day plus three, his wartime memories when he was a captain of an antiaircraft battery.

Knott

I would urge you to keep going ahead.

Mrs. Beer

Well, I have— 

Beer

Who would publish it?

Mrs. Beer

He was supposed to do it in July and he said, no, I’ve got to work on this and I’ve got to work on that, and I bought a new tape recorder [laughs].

Beer

I’ll do that very soon. 

Mrs. Beer

He brought all this stuff down.

Beer

I’ve got an obituary to write. I’m always getting those. You think I should write a memoir?

Knott

I do. And I can guarantee you’d have—Certainly some university presses would be interested in it, and maybe even—

Beer

If I brought the personal stuff in?

Knott

Absolutely.

Beer

I’d have to do that.

Mrs. Beer

I love all the stories—

Knott

My God. I mean, a career—

Mrs. Beer

Of Bucyrus, Ohio. Ten thousand people in it when he was growing up, still 10,000. And the stories he tells about this, and I always say, well, you can take the boy out of Ohio, but you can’t take Ohio out of the boy. 

Beer

I don’t think I should do—if I started doing my hometown—

Mrs. Beer

[laughs] You do it, at least once a day.

Knott

Not many people can say they shook Warren Harding’s hand and have gone on—

Mrs. Beer

Oh, not only that. You remember that among the mistresses that Warren Harding had, there was this beautiful woman, and it’s in Warren Harding’s wife’s memoir or biography. And this woman was very beautiful, and her husband was a merchant, and the four of them were very good friends in that kind of close association. So when Harding was running, the Republican National Committee gave her and her husband $25,000 to go around the world until the campaign was over.

Knott

I heard about this.

Mrs. Beer

Well, that woman was a relative of Sam’s, a close relative.

Beer

Carrie Phillips.

Knott

Oh, sure, yes, I know that name.

Beer

She was my—

Mrs. Beer

Your aunt’s daughter.

Beer

My grandmother’s sister, Katherine Fulton, Kate Fulton, a woman of fierce temperament and family hatred.

Mrs. Beer

And this was her daughter, so it was—

Beer

She was very good looking. They’re all good looking. Three good-looking daughters, and the grandmother was too, and she had this beautiful daughter.

Mrs. Beer

Red hair.

Beer

And I remember her coming with her little husband to visit us, and embracing me, and I don’t know, maybe I was seven years old, but I remember the warmth of that embrace. 

Mrs. Beer

Red hair.

Beer

[Sigmund] Freud was right. If an early event leaves an impression, and I remember that vividly. I can see her, feel her arms around me.

Mrs. Beer

She was known as a great beauty.

Knott

This is Carrie Phillips?

Mrs. Beer

Yes.

Knott

You definitely need to write a memoir.

Mrs. Beer

About that. 

Knott

You’ve led quite a life. 

Mrs. Beer

He’s got a good memory.

Knott

Yes, you do have an excellent memory.

Beer

On some things. 

Knott

Well, thank you very much. I think we’ll stop it here. 

Beer

Okay. 

[recording b]

Beer

Ted Kennedy or what impact, what is his heritage? What impact did—That’s why I sent you that piece on FDR I did. That was very hard writing. It’s like Woodrow Wilson’s opinion, I remember vaguely. He said, If you want me to give an hour speech, I’ll do it right away. A 10-minute speech takes much longer. I tell you, I worked like a bastard on that.

Knott

Yes, I believe it.

Beer

A thousand words to distill it and get these points out, and I think if you could, this could be an enormous assemblage of anecdotes, almost like Conrad Black’s book. That is a lousy book. Have you read it? 

Knott

No, I’ve seen reviews of it, though. We really want to do more with this than just biography. In fact, we think it’s a good chance to look at the U.S. Senate as an institution. This is a man who’s been there for 42 years. So— 

Mrs. Beer

You might like to look at these. 

Knott

I don’t want to take these from you because these are your copies. 

Mrs. Beer

I can copy them if you want me to.

Knott

Well, sure, thank you. 

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

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