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JACK KENNEDY, ELUSIVE HERO: BOBBY, PART I

January 29, 2012


JACK KENNEDY, ELUSIVE HERO: BOBBY, PART I


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on the 1st half of Chapter 6 of Chris Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, published by Simon & Schuster.



The title of Chapter 6 is: BOBBY.


He could have been a congressman from Massachusetts for life, Chris Matthews writes, but “by 1951, Jack Kennedy’s ambition (to reach the Senate) was clear.”


In September of that year, Jack & his younger brother, Bobby, traveled together on a 7 week fact-finding trip to the Far East.


Chris writes that the brothers were struck by the post-war nationalism that “was beginning to catch fire” in each country they visited.


It should be no surprise to learn that while overseas, Jack got sick…..again.


His temperature rose to 106 degrees & he was given last rites & Bobby never left his side.  He took on a role that would continue even after Jack’s death, that of his brother’s “protector.”


Jack recovered & after he returned home, he made an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.  It was December 2, 1951.


JFK was asked if the rumors were true that he would run for the Senate in 1952.


He answered: “I would like to go to the Senate….like…Smathers & Nixon & I’m seriously considering running.”


In his quest for the Senate, Jack recruited Lawrence (Larry) O’Brien who was “well-connected” in state politics.



              Lawrence “Larry” O’Brien
     Special Assistant to the President


Next, with Bobby’s help, he signed on Kenneth O’Donnell who had been Bobby’s college roommate. 


Kenny, like Jack, was a Harvard man who had served with distinction in WWII.


He knew the “lace-curtain Irish” & the working class of Massachusetts.


Chris writes that “winning….O’Donnell’s…loyalty….was one of Jack Kennedy’s crowning lifetime achievements.”*



                   Kenneth O’Donnell
    Special Assistant to the President
          Photo by Abbie Rowe (NPS)
                   JFK Library Photo


But beating incumbent Brahmin Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. would not be an easy task.


Lodge, who was Eisenhower’s campaign manager in the 1952 primary campaign, was popular with Irish Democratic voters.


Kenny’s 1st task was to distance Jack from his “old man” & “build a statewide organization.”


In the meantime, Jack had been waiting to make his final decision on running for the Senate based on the decision of Democratic Massachusetts Governor Paul Dever to seek re-election as governor or run for the U.S. Senate.


In a meeting at Boston’s Ritz-Carlton, the Governor confided to Jack that he would seek re-election.  Jack said, “Well, that’s fine. I’m a candidate for the Senate.”


We’ve all heard about the Kennedy TEA PARTIES given by mother Rose & sisters Eunice, Jean & Pat in the 1952 Senate campaign & Chris tells us that “(They) proved a brilliant strategy for claiming the majority of voters.”


Kenny O’Donnell described one of the tea parties held in his hometown of Worcester this way….


“(Jack) spoke, shook every single person’s hand in the room (but) he was on crutches (and for) the 1st time I realized he had substantial health problems.*


Two or three thousand people (attended). Nobody would leave until (Jack) left. I had never seen anything like it. I just felt this guy could go all the way.”


Even so, Kenny knew that Jack could not win unless they could get another KENNEDY on board who could “stand-up” to Jack’s father.


*Chris reports that Jack’s spinal x-rays of 1951 revealed the support bones in his spinal column had collapsed.


**Kenny O’Donnell would become President Kennedy’s appointments secretary.


In one of my JFK scrapbooks, I still have the letter sent to me in response to my letter to JFK telling him that we were coming to Washington in July 1962 & asking if it would be possible to “catch a glimpse of him” during our visit.  




                         THE WHITE HOUSE
                                WASHINGTON


                                         June 28, 1962


Dear John:


Thank you for your letter to the President.  He was pleased to hear that you are coming to Washington and hopes that you will enjoy your trip to the Nation’s Capital.


I wish I could give you a definite response to your query, but I am unable to do so.  The President’s engagements vary from day to day and it is not possible to name a time when you might catch a glimpse of him during your stay in Washington.  It is suggested that you check the newspapers while you are here because the press usually gives notice of his public appearances.


                                         Sincerely,
                             Kenneth O’Donnell
                                Kenneth O’Donnell
                     Special Assistant to the President











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