Part 1: Living History: Ted Kennedy, Remembered.
After JFK’s assassination, Ted focused on keeping his grieving family together. He was particularly concerned for Bobby, who seemed to take the loss the hardest. “I was so worried about Bobby that I tried to suppress my own grief,” he would write in his memoir, True Compass. “So I just pushed it down further and further inside.” A year later, wanting to fulfill Jack’s legacy, Bobby ran for the open Senate seat in New York and won. Ted, who was entering his second term, was sworn in alongside his older brother.
K. Dun Gifford, aide: Bobby was more of a thinker, Ted was more a doer. They joked about that. Bobby was always reading philosophy books and his speeches were always filled with things from Saint Augustine. Teddy was willing to almost wrestle with people to get legislation done.
Clymer: In Robert’s first year, he and Ted are sitting at a labor committee hearing, waiting their turn. Robert passes Ted a note saying, “Is this how I get to become a good senator?” Ted sends back a note that says yes. After a while Robert writes back, “Just how long do I have to sit here to be a good senator?” Ted’s reply is “As long as it takes, Robbie.” That could have been his motto.
David Burke, former chief of staff: Bobby would be on the floor when Teddy was and hope that Teddy would make a mistake. They were competitive like that.
Abrams: We had a softball game scheduled in the ’60s between his staff and Robert’s staff. Well, we thought it might be good to bring a couple of reinforcements. One of them was our classmate Billy Cleary [who had won a gold medal on the 1960 Olympic hockey team].
William Cleary, family friend: I said to [a staffer], “What am I doing down here?” He said, “Don’t worry about it. Say you’re another staff member.”
Moody and impatient, Bobby never took to the Senate, and by early 1968 was itching to challenge Lyndon Johnson for the presidency. Ted didn’t like the idea, and told Bobby he couldn’t win the nomination taking on a sitting president. Bobby wouldn’t be dissuaded, though, and made his announcement. “None of my misgivings mattered anymore,” Kennedy wrote in True Compass. On June 5, 1968, the night of the California Democratic primary, Ted was campaigning for his brother in the northern part of the state.
Burke: Ted and I were in the San Francisco area. When it looked like Bobby was going to win the state, the rally we were at got louder and louder. I told Ted, “We’d better get out of here. This house is going to blow its roof.” We went back to our hotel and turned on the television. That’s how we learned Bobby had been shot.
Caplin: I came back on the train carrying Bobby Kennedy’s casket. People lined up almost from New York to Washington. That was an unbelievably long ride—six or seven hours—and Teddy sat next to the casket for the entire time. He was perspiring and his hands were damp; I really felt that he was frightened. It’s hard to imagine: He was the kid of the family and suddenly he’s the paterfamilias. I feel Ted was overwhelmed by it, and I think that explains a lot of his conduct later on.
Doherty: After the funeral, he took off on a boat and he just sailed for most of the summer.
Jack Driscoll, family friend: Being out on the water was his way of getting away from all his trials and tribulations.
Clymer: He described to me instances of driving up to the Senate and not being able to go in. I don’t think there was any question that he was clinically depressed.
Gwirtzman: There was an effort during the Democratic National Convention [in 1968] to draft him for the presidency. It was a very violent convention because of the conflict between the Chicago police and the antiwar demonstrators. They wanted him to help calm the waters.
Burke: People thought it was in their best interest and that it would be nice for Ted; it would be good for the memory of Bob. But it was just too shocking, the loss of Bobby so soon after the loss of Jack. I believe Ted was emotionally unprepared.