Biographies & Memoirs

CHAPTER TWELVE

Thunder

1965-1967

In the scheme of things, the Frank Morrissey episode was but one small distraction in a globally tumultuous year. Vietnam was ablaze: back in March, amid his hopeful domestic social initiatives, President Johnson had authorized a "limited" aerial bombardment of North Vietnam. But like the larger war it was designed to end, Operation Rolling Thunder slipped its restraints and took on a monstrous life of its own.

Rolling Thunder had been conceived as an eight-week demonstration of America's military might--the "shock and awe" of its time. It would strike fear into the enemy as it smashed his industrial and transportation systems and decimated his troops heading south. In short, the operation would be a technological fix for a technological failure: the jungle-andtunnel ground war that had neutralized our mass-battlefield weaponry and frontline tactics.

By the end of 1965, the bombers had been flying for nine months, and they would continue to do so until November 1968. Only after more than three hundred thousand U.S. attack sorties had resulted in nearly a million tons of bombs dropped, 745 American crewmen shot down (of whom 145 were rescued), seventy-two thousand Vietnamese civilian casualties out of the ninety thousand total, and little discernible achievement of its goals was Rolling Thunder suspended.

The bombing of North Vietnam was to become one of two cornerstones in my evolving campaign against the war. The other was refugees.

I supported the war when I arrived in Vietnam on that October 1965 visit. I still supported it upon my return. I supported it, by lessening degrees, until the spring of 1966. Supporter of the war though I was, I began to perceive almost as soon as we arrived in Vietnam that its dynamics were more complex than Americans were being led to believe. What I saw was reinforced by the findings of my refugee subcommittee, which held thirteen hearings during the summer of 1965 on the effect of our war efforts on the Vietnamese people, particularly in rural areas. A gulf had opened between what was happening in the military sphere (or what was claimed to be happening) and what was happening to the people: the civilian population. Nearly a sixteenth of them were on the run. They were essentially refugees in their own country.

Generally, we think of refugees as being people who are forced to flee for reasons of safety, but sometimes they are forced to move from place to place within their own land. Displacement is the common denominator. As I write today, for instance, there are more than two million people in Iraq who have been uprooted. They are refugees as surely as anyone who's been forced to cross a national border. The same was true of Vietnamese farmers and workers in 1965: they remained inside their country, but were constantly being forced out of home and hearth, with their lives in the balance.

The displacement most anguishing to me was that of people scrambling away from "free fire zones," areas into which U.S. forces could fire weapons without clearance from superior officers, under the assumption that friendly personnel had been evacuated and that anyone left was probably an enemy combatant.

In the four days our delegation was in South Vietnam, we received many briefings, though we were prohibited from viewing combat operations. We were briefed by General William Westmoreland, the commander of military operations there. Westmoreland told us things were going well. We were briefed by the general's subordinate military leaders, who told us things were going well. We were briefed by diplomats who were involved in humanitarian undertakings. The diplomats told us things were going well.

They told us that things were getting better in the South, and that although there was systemic corruption in the South Vietnamese government and military, our special forces were training Vietnamese troops, and that they were improving and getting better organized. The South Vietnamese officials that I spoke with had a similar message.

I was impressed and accepted at that time what Westmoreland and the others had told me: that things were moving in a positive direction and the biggest concern was the danger of success by the Vietcong and the expansion of communism in the region.

I published my impressions of that visit--reinforced by an extraordinary conversation after I returned home--in an article for the February 8, 1966, issue of Look.

I began by acknowledging the debate "on an almost unprecedented scale" over our presence in Vietnam, and the nearly universal public awareness of this debate. An even more important related issue, though, was receiving hardly any attention, despite an address on the subject by President Johnson the previous April:

The second conflict in Vietnam--the struggle for the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people themselves--has not been waged with the same ferocity. There has been no one firm humanitarian policy.... The struggle... has not been one that has produced a concern for the most important element in the Vietnam situation--the welfare of the Vietnamese people themselves.

As evidence, I noted the following, among several other examples:

·         That Vietnam had only eight hundred doctors, five hundred of whom were in the military, leaving three hundred for a civilian population of sixteen million. (Of these, nearly one million had become refugees by December 1965.)

·         That 80 percent of Vietnamese children suffered from worms.

·         That the country's social institutions were being decimated by war: not one of the sixteen thousand villages or their officials had escaped assassination or terror.

·         That the government in Saigon was indifferent to these and related problems: "Government officials assured me that the refugee situation was well in hand--yet I inspected one camp of over six hundred people without a toilet. Construction was started on seven refugee camps in anticipation of my visit. Work stopped when my plans were temporarily altered. It began again when it was finally possible for me to go."

I witnessed and understood quite clearly these effects of the war. They troubled me. Yet the ultimate transformation of my position on the war was spurred by the critical conversation awaiting me back in the United States.

The figure I spoke with was Bernard Fall, the extraordinary French journalist and historian who'd been writing about Vietnam since his country withdrew as a colonial power. Fall had invited Tunney, Culver, and Tydings to his Washington apartment shortly after they returned home to compare their impressions with his. When I next saw them, they urged me to seek this man out myself.

I found myself edified by a fit, lean-jawed, bespectacled man of thirty-nine, who looked as though he would be more at home in a camouflage jacket than a scholar's study. Fall was a man of penetrating ideas and fearless action. His parents had been part of the French resistance in World War II and paid for it--his father killed by the Gestapo, his mother dying in a concentration camp. Bernard had taken up their activist ideals. He'd observed combat as a journalist traveling with French forces in Vietnam in 1953, and had predicted France's downfall. He had accepted a professorship at Howard University, but returned to Southeast Asia, where he applied brilliantly unorthodox measurements to his study of the war. On his last visit there, two years after our talk, Fall was killed by an exploding land mine while on one of his many forays into the field--this time with a platoon of U.S. Marines pursuing the Vietcong down the fabled Route 1, which he had trod with the retreating French more than a decade earlier.

The structure of our conversation was the itinerary of my own visit to Vietnam. I would name a location and Fall would ask, "Now, who did you get briefed by?" I would reply, "Well, it was the State Department and the land reclamation people and the economic development people, and they told us that there was more rice being produced than ever."

Fall would shake his head and reach for a folder. In it would be statistics for rice production in that region before the war--say, three hundred thousand tons. I would be perplexed: "Oh? That doesn't really square with what I was told on this. It was a much lower figure." Fall would then ask, "And what was the price of rice? And what did that price tell you about security?" I would consult my notes and quote some rice prices, wondering what they had to do with security. Fall would produce a pamphlet from the Department of Agriculture, quoting rice prices at various hamlets within a region. "Why is there a 200 percent increase from this village to this one? Don't you suppose it is because this second village is not secure?"

Thus Bernard Fall, sitting in his study and drawing only upon American documents, would contrast what our official sources had told us with what could be inferred from our government's own statistics. And thus he raised the most serious questions I had yet encountered about honesty, truthfulness, and candor in war.

Back in the Senate, I resumed work on issues tangential to the war. I began on a reform that would take years to be enacted into law: an overhauling of the Selective Service System to create a fairer process for the military draft.

The draft method then in use had changed little, in structure at least, from the late 1940s. It required all men aged eighteen to twentysix to register for conscription into the army, with the option of volunteering for the navy, marines, or air force. The length of commitment, including active duty and reserve time, was six years. Local draft boards would select names from these lists, in theory starting with the oldest registrants first.

The problem with this method was that as the years went on and the threat of war receded, the SSS built in an ever-expanding array of deferments, or available excuses for avoiding military service. The reason for this was bureaucratic survival: the officers in charge of running the draft did not want Congress to abolish their administrative authority in favor of an all-volunteer army. Lieutenant General Lewis Hershey, the system's director, actually argued that the prospect of being drafted had the power to terrify young men into enlisting, in the hope of getting the best possible deal for themselves. These layers of deferments led inevitably to a de facto system of class privilege for those who claimed "other priorities": potential college students, who were mostly white, could avoid or delay the draft, while young black men, with no college prospects, could not.

I began to face the fact that while draft reform was well worth pursuing, it was subsidiary to the overarching question of the war itself. In the spring of 1966 I began addressing this question. I was not yet ready to call for an American pullout from Vietnam. But I was ready to challenge Lyndon Johnson on a cornerstone strategy in his prosecution of the war.

An occasion presented itself: a meeting the president called at the White House on the evening of June 29. He'd invited some thirty-five members of the House and five senators: George McGovern, Fritz Mondale, Joe Tydings, John Cooper, and me, all of whom had traveled to South Vietnam. He wanted our input--or so he declared.

My notes on that meeting provide a window into the president's leadership style and "consultation" with Congress. President Johnson came in at about 6:15 p.m. and asked Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to give us a report on that morning's bombing of petroleum tank farms near Hanoi and Haiphong Harbor.

The president mentioned that the congressional response he had heard to date had been principally critical of the bombing. He was distinctly uneasy as he went around the table asking for our comments. His concern quickly evaporated, however, as the first members to speak indicated that they wanted the president to go even further. They were concerned that he was holding back and hadn't taken the wraps off the air force and the military completely. Johnson visibly relaxed.

When the president called on me, I broke the mood. "I regret that I have to sound the first note of discord this evening," I began. I felt we should be moving in a different direction because aerial bombing had never been successful in bringing people to a peace conference table. I quoted the mayor of Hamburg, Germany, as saying in May of 1945 that although the city had suffered forty-five thousand civilian casualties under Allied bombing, the will of the people had never been stronger in defense of their city and country. I said that we should halt the bombing in the North and do what was necessary in the South to maintain the security of our forces, while continuing the search-and-destroy efforts. If it was necessary to send additional troops to achieve this goal, then that step should be taken. In the silence that followed, I added that what disturbed me the most about the current phase was that we appeared to have given up our diplomatic efforts.

What does the future hold? I asked. Will we continue the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong? Are we prepared to respond at this time if Chinese ships enter this port or Chinese planes attack our bombers? Are we going to stop them or destroy them? Are we going to bomb the port facilities?

The president dismissed my concerns. According to my notes, he said, "What would anyone do in this situation? Everyone wants an easy answer. When a fella is about to hit you, what do you do? If fifty trucks come down the road, do you just crawl under the rug? Or do you hit 'em back? I've given this a lot of thought. I think we should hit 'em back." McNamara expressed his own concern about ending the bombing: "How do you tell American [infantry] to face fifty trucks of ammunition when you have planes and bombs to take them out?" Johnson then said that he hadn't received a letter from one soldier in Vietnam who wanted the U.S. military to withdraw from the country. And until the North Vietnamese get more discouraged than they are today, he said, we would not be able to reach any agreement with them. By bombing Hanoi and Haiphong, we would raise the cost of the war to them to such a level that they would no longer be interested in it. It was obvious that the administration had made up its mind. George McGovern and Joe Tydings asked about the nature of our objectives in Vietnam. But George Ball summarily dismissed their questions just before the president broke in and said, "We have already stated the problem twice--what our objectives are in Vietnam." Tydings said he'd seen a recent speech by Secretary of State Dean Rusk that he felt left open the interpretation about our fundamental objectives. He thought they should be clarified.

Before that could happen, Congressman Howard "Bo" Callaway interrupted to declare that he was a West Point graduate, that he had some one hundred friends in Vietnam, that he'd spent two weeks there. He pronounced the president's bombing strategy long overdue. Morale among the boys on the aircraft carriers, after their strikes on Hanoi and Haiphong, had never been higher.

When the congressman was finished, the president said that that was the finest statement that he'd heard on Vietnam all evening. By this time in the evening, President Johnson had relaxed completely. His spirits rose as he became sure of the support of the House members.

I left the meeting with Senators McGovern, Mondale, and Tydings. McGovern shared my frustration, saying it was impossible for him to communicate effectively with the president about Vietnam: "Something happens to you when you get into the Cabinet Room with all those charts, maps, and aerial reconnaissance photos around the room."

And so Rolling Thunder continued.

A different thunder rolled through American cities in the hot summers from 1965 through 1969 and, sporadically, beyond: the thunder of gunfire and explosions and police tear gas canisters as Americans fought one another in urban streets; the thunder unleashed by the violent collision, as the Kerner Commission would later phrase it, of "two societies, one black, one white--separate and unequal."

The inaugural of the 1960s race riot era--the six-day spree of fires, deaths, and terror in the Watts neighborhood of south-central Los Angeles--was almost a year old when, on August 8, 1966, I traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, to address the annual convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I shared the platform with Martin Luther King Jr., the organization's first president (though unfortunately I never got to know him well).

I began with praise for the group's commitment to nonviolence. "You have been jailed and bombed, beaten, and stoned," I told them, "but your work has persevered."

I ticked off the recent milestones in black America's fight for equality: the passage of three civil rights bills since 1959 with a fourth soon to come, the registration of more than two million Negro voters in the South, the advent of the War on Poverty.

I acknowledged the realities that remained. "After all of the programs that Congress has passed," I asked, "how much has the life of the average Negro really changed? Not very much. What good is a desegregated motel if you can't afford to stay there? What use is the right to vote if you must risk your job and even your life in order to vote?"

None of us, perhaps not even the rioters themselves, could then fully imagine the breadth of combustible despair and anger that curled about the nation's most alienated streets, black and white, awaiting the spark of ignition. Parts of San Francisco, Omaha, Waukegan, Lansing, and Chicago went up that summer. The next year would see the conflagration of Newark--five days, twenty-six deaths, more than $10 million in property damage. No city, it began to seem, was safe: Tampa, Buffalo, Memphis, Milwaukee, Washington, Baltimore, Youngstown, Hartford, Fort Lauderdale--the list went on. As did the sniper fire, the clubbings, the flames, the deaths of police and civilians, the ruined small businesses and churches and schools, the incalculable economic devastation: $45 million in insured damages in one hundred cities by early 1968, to cite but one of many figures.

"How is it possible?" President Johnson asked. "After all we've accomplished? How could it be?"

It was a question that many in Congress must have asked themselves. It implied a crushing sense of betrayal. Here we were, by our own sights, a collection of affluent, well-educated, politically successful white men who had devoted years to a constellation of causes that might well have led to electoral defeat for any or all of us. School desegregation. Desegregation in universities. Desegregation in transportation and public gathering places. The Civil Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act. The poll tax repeal. We acted, as I have said, because we believed that the principle of equality and justice among the races was a cause larger than our own ambitions. We believed that our victories in these causes would change history. And at the very moment in American time when we were anticipating a mood of joyfulness and uplift, our cities were exploding in violence. How could it be?

There were no easy answers. There never are.

In early 1967, the tide of events began to pull the Kennedys again toward the responsibilities and perils of the highest office in the land. A January poll showed Bobby beating Lyndon Johnson, who was entangled in the coils of the Vietnam War. While it was Bobby alone who took on the burden of contemplating that ultimate choice, all the family reached out to share the weight with him. What he decided would transform all our lives.

The background of Bobby's presidential campaign of 1968 probably had its roots two years earlier, when he and I were campaigning in the Midwest for Democratic senatorial candidates. One of them was Paul Douglas of Illinois. Douglas was a brilliant but aging figure, a decorated hero of World War II and a close friend of Jack's. He had good ideas about economic policy and urban redevelopment, but he remained a hawk on the war. In the late summer of 1966, embroiled in a close race with the Republican Charles Percy, Douglas asked my brother and me to come out and help him.

We arrived at a pivotal moment in a decade festering with pivotal moments. The antiwar movement, galvanized the year before by Johnson's bombing campaign over North Vietnam, had spread across the United States, with university campuses forming its central nervous system. Senator Douglas had been shocked by the vehemence from students that greeted his speeches. Because Bobby and I agreed with him on nearly all the other issues, we went to bat for him on the campaign trail.

We were both accustomed by now to the raw passions of the civil rights movement, but the fury of the antiwar demonstrators was new to us. The placards, the chants, the shaking fists, the interruptions as we tried to speak to crowds--all of this told us that something profound had taken root in American society.

Bobby returned East after a few days, but I moved on to the University of Wisconsin at Madison to speak on behalf of Gaylord Nelson, who, like Douglas, was up for reelection to the Senate. Nelson was considered a liberal--he founded Earth Day in 1970--and in this year was edging toward an antiwar position, but had not yet declared it. This was not good enough for the three thousand students who awaited us in the lecture hall.

Our first sign of trouble was a display at the back of the hall, whose broad contours were soon to become familiar: an array of white sheets with skeletons drawn on them in charcoal--graphic, and almost ghoulish. Other sheets depicted the explosions of bombs and artillery shells.

I was the first to speak--or try to speak. The crowd erupted in a roar as I walked to the microphone. I looked out at a sea of thrashing arms, writhing bodies. I asked, shouting into the mike, whether they were going to let me speak. "NO! NO!" they thundered. An antiwar chant welled up. Finally I shouted, "I'll let one of you come up! I'll listen to you speak, and then you listen to me!" A young man approached the stage from the crowd. To this day, I can remember his last name: Schultz. He was from New York. He took the podium and gave an impromptu antiwar talk--I must say, a stirring impromptu antiwar talk--that lasted about seven minutes. At the end, waves of roaring approval resounded in the hall.

I decided to honor the mood of the crowd. "You can keep going," I shouted to Schultz. "Keep going!" He cited a couple further facts, and then stopped again. I renewed my gesture: "Keep going! This is a major issue! Keep going!" But Schultz had run out of gas. "I don't have anything more to say," he told me. "You don't have anything more to say?" I repeated. "That's all you had to say?" I had made a tactical mistake: the crowd thought I was browbeating him, and directed boos at me.

At length, things quieted down enough that I was able to speak for the same amount of time as Schultz. My own doubts about the fundamental validity of the war--the seeds planted by Bernard Fall and my own concerns for refugees and the humanitarian aspects of the war--were forming themselves, but I had not yet declared a sweeping opposition. So I spoke critically about one of the two or three issues that orbited this central point: our military's lack of a coherent exit strategy.

Yet the time for declaring oneself was drawing near. By 1967, as U.S. troop levels in Vietnam topped four hundred thousand, the antiwar movement, ignited by the bombing of North Vietnam, swelled toward its peak. Returning veterans disillusioned by the war began to publicly burn their draft cards. In January Martin Luther King declared himself on the dissidents' side, arguing that the war was starving vital domestic legislation.

It was in this atmosphere that my brother, in the early spring of 1967, delivered the Senate speech that set him irretrievably on a course apart from that of President Johnson. Its message was simple: Stop the bombing. Negotiate with North Vietnam for peace.

Bobby had spoken with Johnson before his speech. He'd traveled through Europe weeks earlier, meeting with President Charles de Gaulle, the Socialist leader Francois Mitterrand, and the Far Eastern specialist Etienne Manac'h in France; Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger and then foreign minister Willy Brandt in Germany; and, in Italy, the Italian foreign minister Amintore Fanfani and President Giuseppe Saragat. All had expressed variations of the same conviction: that America's course in Vietnam was wrong, and that it was harming U.S. relations with Europe. The wellconnected Manac'h had added the provocative view that Hanoi, though it had lost trust in President Johnson's peace overtures, was prepared to negotiate without preconditions except one: that America halt its bombing of the North.

On his return, Bobby had met privately with Johnson and told him frankly what he thought the president should do--told him, in essence, the thrust of the speech he was contemplating.

And then Bobby made a serious offer to Johnson. He proposed that the president give him the authority to personally negotiate for peace. He would shuttle back and forth between Washington and Saigon, and would even travel to Hanoi and China if necessary--and Moscow--if Johnson would trust him to be the U.S. government's agent in these secret negotiations.

If the president had accepted his offer, Bobby certainly would have been too immersed in the peace process to become involved in the 1968 presidential primary. But Johnson just couldn't accept his offer at face value. He worried about Bobby's sincerity and whether he had ulterior motives. Bobby didn't. He just wanted to end a war.

And so on March 2, 1967, after a night of drafting and redrafting his speech, with the knowledge that American opinion tilted against him and that the political repercussions would be harsh, Senator Robert Kennedy stood up in the Senate and spoke for the record about his break with America's conduct of the Vietnam War.

He absolved Johnson of personal responsibility for the conflict, and accepted some responsibility, along with the late President Kennedy, for failures of policy. Yet this ever-widening war must end, he declared, and it was Congress's and the president's responsibility to end it. Given that Hanoi was reported to be ready to negotiate, the United States should test that readiness by a cessation of the bombing. An international group should monitor the borders for signs of further escalation by the North, and United Nations forces should gradually replace U.S. troops as negotiations moved forward.

Johnson increased the bombing missions.

I respected the courage and moral clarity that Bobby displayed with this declaration. And I was moving closer to my own public break with the administration's war policy. I had privately urged the administration to pursue diplomacy instead of bombings, but those efforts had obviously been futile. I then publicly declared that the Great Society itself had become a casualty of the Vietnam War. We had been forced to spend so much militarily that there were no longer resources for domestic programs.

In May, I disputed the official estimates of war casualties among South Vietnamese civilians. I reported to Neil Sheehan of the New York Times that my subcommittee staff and I had determined that the dead and wounded amounted to more than one hundred thousand a year--double the figure announced by the administration.

I also kept up my criticism of the deplorable state of medical care available to Vietnamese civilians, and in July the president responded--or appeared to respond--by sending a team of physicians over to study the situation. The doctors' findings proved nearly as worthless as the facilities they examined. To their credit, they called for increased spending, especially on surgical resources. But they dismissed my casualty estimates as far too high. They rejected my call for building three new hospitals in the country. I convened public hearings on the issue. The doctors again pointed to underfunding by the Johnson administration. We were getting nowhere.

In August McNamara admitted to a Senate committee that the bombing of the North was not working. In November he announced his resignation, and his intention to join the World Bank as its fifth president. Johnson replaced him with Clark Clifford.

Lyndon Johnson had reasons to resent the Kennedys, and Bobby in particular. Public opinion polls showed a tide of popular support for my brother's candidacy for president as 1967 went on, and a corresponding drop in LBJ's popularity. Bobby had said nothing about running for president then, although privately he had burned to challenge Johnson at least since the summer of 1967--not from personal animosity, but because he wanted to stop the war, among other priorities. I talked him out of it at that time. I did not see how we could pull things together to win the nomination against a sitting president, and even if we did, I didn't see how we could win in November.

Now my brother was beginning to attract people who agreed that Johnson must be challenged from within his own party: people such as activist Allard Lowenstein, who soon would head the Americans for Democratic Action, and California's Jesse Unruh. Bobby continued to hold back from any inclination to run, even as he kept up his criticism of the war, and Senator Eugene McCarthy seemed poised to declare as the candidate of the antiwar left. Yet the opinion polls, the urgings of friends, the rigidity of LBJ as his popularity sank--all this, coupled with Bobby's own anguish over the continued waste of humanity and resources in Vietnam--made it impossible for him not to contemplate the prospect.

On October 8, 1967, a group of us met at the Regency Hotel in New York to discuss Bobby's plans over the next year. Bobby did not attend the meeting, but he had called and specifically asked me to be there. In addition to me, the group consisted of Chuck Daley, Joe Dolan, Fred Dutton, Dick Goodwin, Ivan Nestingen, Kenny O'Donnell, Pierre Salinger, Steve Smith, Ted Sorensen, and Bill vanden Heuvel. We had a good give-and-take and decided at the end of the day not to confront Johnson at that time, but not to endorse him either. In the meantime, the team would start to make contacts with the Democratic organization in different parts of the country (we saw this as essential no matter what steps we ended up taking in '68) and would take soundings in New Hampshire right away. We agreed to get together again in a month or so.

On Tuesday, November 28, Eugene McCarthy came to my Senate office to let me know that he was going to announce his candidacy for president. He told me that he would enter four primaries, but that for the time being Massachusetts was not one of them. He expected to keep the Massachusetts decision--and New Hampshire--under review for three or four weeks and would let me know before he made any announcements. I told him that I would have to keep open the possibility of running as a favorite son and he said fine, that he understood anything along those lines that I would do. At that time, McCarthy understood that my running as a favorite son would be intended as a placeholder for LBJ, but the whole situation was one I was eager to avoid. I indicated to McCarthy that there was a Massachusetts Democratic State Committee meeting on December 2 and that a resolution was going to be voted on at the time, but he seemed only vaguely interested in that. Our meeting lasted about fifteen minutes.

McCarthy publicly declared his candidacy on November 30. And on December 2, with a bit of behind-the-scenes work from our people, the Massachusetts State Committee voted to support LBJ and his policies by a vote of forty-five to four. Within hours of that vote--and without notice to me--McCarthy publicly announced that he was entering the Massachusetts primary. He came by to see me briefly on December 6 to "explain" the reason for violating his commitment to talk to me before he made any announcements about my state. He felt that the State Committee vote had left him no choice. They had "thrown down the gauntlet." He hoped I would understand. Then he said that when you enter these campaigns, sometimes you go past the point of no return.

On Sunday, December 10, a small group met at Bill vanden Heuvel's apartment in New York to discuss Bobby's plans. This time, the fortytwo-year-old potential presidential candidate was there as well. In addition to Bobby, Bill, and me, the participants in that meeting were Fred Dutton, Dick Goodwin, Pierre Salinger, and Arthur Schlesinger.

Schlesinger opened with a fiery argument for Bobby making the run. Goodwin offered some strategic thoughts about how Bobby might enter the primaries on the assumption that McCarthy would soon withdraw, leaving Bobby to face Johnson at the convention. Bobby himself spoke up from a moral perspective. He wondered whether the world could endure another Johnson term, and whether that question alone should propel him into the race.

I believed, and Ted Sorensen agreed with me, that the 1968 elections would not be a good time for a run by Bobby. We both believed that Johnson would win reelection and that my brother should wait until 1972, when he would be the logical successor. The meeting ended with an agreement to take a look at the situation again after the first of the year.

The year 1967 had held its moments of relief for me from the weights of Vietnam and urban racial violence. In the spring, I worked with Howard Baker, then a freshman Republican senator from Tennessee, on "one man, one vote" legislation, basically reforming congressional districts in the United States into roughly the same size in terms of population. Bobby knew and admired Baker and had suggested that we join forces.

The Supreme Court had ruled five years earlier that population imbalance in legislative districts could be challenged in court as unconstitutional. Proportional population was a tough issue to sell in practice, though, because both Democrats and Republicans valued having congressmen in small rural districts. The House had just passed a bill that would permit a 30 percent differential between the most and the least populous districts; the Senate Judiciary Committee, over my objections, increased the margin to 35 percent.

With Baker working the press, and me working the phones and the meeting halls to galvanize the support, we began to progress. The process took several months, and we faced many strategic delays. But in November, the momentum swung in our favor and we won on a Senate vote of fifty-five to twenty-two. I was exhilarated.

Even more satisfying was the birth on July 14 of Joan's and my second son, Patrick Joseph Kennedy. Patrick was a gift of pure joy. This new baby embodied so much of my hopes and dreams for the future. I couldn't even imagine then the pride I would someday feel serving alongside him in Congress. With our expanding family, Joan and I needed a bigger house. So we found property along the Potomac River, not far from Bobby and Ethel in McLean, Virginia, where we proceeded to build a new home.

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