With the passing of Senator
Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), aged 77, it is only too coincidental that HBO recently
released a new documentary about Kennedy entitled "Teddy." Produced by
multi-Emmy winning KunhardtMcGee, the film is
narrated--using archival materials--by Kennedy himself, and covers his entire
life, from childhood through the election of Senator Barack Obama to the
presidency. The documentary received a range of favorable reviews, including this
write-up by Tom Shales of The Washington Post.
Nixon: Well Goddamn it, there
ought to be a way to get him [Kennedy] covered. I wouldn't bother
with McGovern. I think with Teddy, the reason I would cover him is from a
personal standpoint--you're likely to find something on that.
Haldeman: He's covered on that.
Nixon: You're sure?
Haldeman: Pretty much.
Nixon: You watch. I predict
something more is going to happen.
Haldeman: They're keeping an
eye on the [Kennedy] family. I meant in--
Nixon: I mean, it's a matter of
judgment, I mean he's just gotta--
Haldeman: Did you see his wife
[Joan] came here at the White House again all done up in some crazy outfit?
Nixon: What, did Pat [Nixon]
Haldeman: A Senate wives
Nixon: What did she [Joan]
Haldeman: Some leather gaucho,
with a bare midriff, or something.
Ziegler: Well, no, they put on
a body stocking which is flesh tone.
Haldeman: Oh, is that it?
Ziegler: And then they wrap the
leather gaucho type thing around it. So you look at it from a
distance, and you think "My God, there she is. But she has a body
Haldeman: She was going to wear
hotpants but Teddy told her she couldn't.
Ziegler: They're weird people.
They really are. I mean, even the--
Nixon: It's crude. What the
hell's the matter with them? What's she trying to prove?
Haldeman: Whatever it is, she
ain't gaining many votes, because they've got, the super swinger jet
set types are going to be for them and not for you no matter what
Ziegler: I don't know, the
super swingin' jet set types don't even relate to that type thing.
It's a very, very small group.
Haldeman: Middle American
folk...that's desecration of the White House to most Americans.
Ziegler: She has to have some
sort of hang-up herself personally. She knows what Teddy was doing
out there with that girl [Mary Jo Kopechne] running her into the
water, you know, and what he's been doing.
Haldeman: But that family's
used to that. That's the price you play when you join that club.
Nixon: They do it all the time.
They all know that. Ethel, Jackie, and all the rest of them.
Nixon: They gotta' expect that.
If you want to get in their ballgame, you play by their rules.
in the spring of 1971, on May 28, the topic of conversation again between
President Nixon and Bob Haldeman turned to wiretapping
and creating a fund to monitor Kennedy (3:23, 3.2m). That summer, on July 2,
again the idea was
raised that funds "stashed away" could be used to
"tail" Kennedy (1:15,
1.2m). Haldeman reported that there was approximately one million dollars
available for such monitoring activities. President Nixon suggested that closer
to two million would be needed. More than anything else, the White House was
interested in catching Kennedy having an extramarital affair, which would
presumably end his chances of making a presidential bid in the 1972 election, or
1976 for that matter.
Nixon: I think the best way to
play these is to go after, that's why I want a lot more use of
wiretapping. Are we doing that? Tailing and so forth? I mean
particularly on Teddy.
Haldeman: We're on and off on
Nixon: Well, it should not be
on and off. I mean, that's something we can afford. That's better
than to hire eighteen more researchers, you know, or little boys who
go over there and try to figure out what the P.R.-wise. We can pick
that up. But we can't get any information. Why don't you do that? Why don't you put a
little money in that?
Nixon: I don't know whether
he's [Kennedy's] the candidate or [unclear].
Haldeman: We've got spot
coverage of Teddy just because, you know, wanting to know what he's
doing. We have access in on all of them [Democratic candidates]
through this guy who moves in and out of them, moving around...but
we've got a pretty good fix on what they're all doing.
Nixon: Keep after him
[Kennedy], see? Who have you got that you can put in charge of it?
Not [Chuck] Colson, now understand. You can't do that out of the White
Haldeman: The guy that we've
got outside. That's the way to do it.
Nixon: Do you have a guy?
Haldeman: Through [Jack] Caulfield.
Nixon: I don't know, maybe it's
the wrong thing to do, but I have a feeling that if you're going to
start, better start now.
the fall, the White House continued to be concerned that Senator Kennedy would
be the "dark horse" presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. On
September 8, in a conversation in the Executive Office Building between
President Nixon and John Ehrlichman, Nixon suggested "a
little persecuting" (3:14, 3.0m) of Kennedy, as well as wanting a general
update of the ongoing efforts to monitor Kennedy. Proposed
"persecution" included the use of the Internal Revenue Service, as
well as hiring investigators to follow Kennedy. Ehrlichman responded that there
was already such an investigator following Kennedy--Watergate conspirator Tony
Ulasewicz, who worked under Counsel to President John W. Dean III--and he reported what the
investigator had to say about Kennedy's recent activities in Hawaii and Martha's
Ehrlichman: This time, between
now and Convention time, anything can happen.
Nixon: You mean he will be
under great pressure?
Ehrlichman: Under pressure, but
he will also be out of the limelight somewhat. I mean, he was in
Hawaii pretty much incognito. Very little staff...and socialized.
You would expect at a time like that that you might catch him. And
then he went up to Hyannis. We've got an arrangement.
Ten days later, in an Oval Office
conversation between President Nixon, Bob Haldeman, John Mitchell, John
Ehrlichman, and Charles Colson, Attorney General John Mitchell suggested having
someone full time, ďwith
a dirty tricks approachĒ (3:00, 2.8m), able to direct blame on prominent
Democrats, including Senator Kennedy, who had connections to previous Democratic
administrations during controversial events such as the assassination of South
Vietnamese leader Diem.
While Nixon and his aides often
complained that press coverage was overly complimentary to the Kennedy family, on a few occasions the Nixon White House enjoyed a moment when the press
were critical of the senator from Massachusetts. In an Oval Office conversation
on October 14, 1971 between President Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Charles Colson, they
share a laugh (1:45, 1.7m) about a column written by Mike Royko. Royko
compared the integrity of Senator Kennedy to President Nixon. In a reference to
Chappaquiddick, Haldeman noted
that it would be helpful to have posters provided at Kennedy rallies that ask
the question ďWould you ride in a car with Ted Kennedy?Ē
What the hell is the matter with Teddy? It isnít a question, I
mean, I donít think itís a sex business. I think his problem,
his lack of discretion, donít you think itís the booze? He
First of all, he drinks.
No, no. Bobby and Jack, everybody knows it, had their own ladies.
They were a hell of a lot more discreet.
Iíve had Christina Ford tell me quite candidly that Teddyís
unbelievable. He invited her to the opening of the Kennedy Center,
to his house. He had two tables. One upstairs and one downstairs. He
took her upstairs. All during the dinner she had to fight him off
because under the table he was grabbing her by the legs.
Oh Christ! With other people present?
Thatís right, at his own house. With his wife heading the table
downstairs. You know, Christinaís past, sheís not exactly an
I didnít think so. She doesnít look like an innocent. I donít
Then, she said, he followed her to New York. They [Mr. and Mrs.
Henry Ford II] have an apartment
there, in the Carlyle Hotel. He [Kennedy] rented one ten floors down.
up the stairs, practically beat her door down. She said she sleeps
with many men in her life, but Teddy, just, is impossible. She
finally told him, what if the newspapers get this? He said, "no
newspapers are going to print anything about me. Iíve got that
Nixon: Jesus Christ! Thatís pretty arrogant.
Finally, in an Oval Office
conversation on September 7, 1972 between President Nixon, Bob
Haldeman, and John Ehrlichman, they have an
extended discussion about whether to extend Senator Kennedy Secret Service
protection while he campaigns (3:04, 2.9m). While such coverage was extended
on a temporary basis during the immediate aftermath of the shooting of George
Wallace, Kennedy continued to receive more threatening mail than any other
American political figure. One reason to extend Kennedy's protection was that
the White House was could assign a Secret Service agent who would report on
Haldeman: You've got one United
States Senator [Kennedy] who is a secondary factor in the [1972
You give him [Secret Service] coverage through the campaign.
Ehrlichman: Understand, I don't
like to give him something, but at the same time--
Haldeman: And then if he gets
shot, it's our fault [for not providing Secret Service protection].
Nixon: You understand what the
problem is. If the son of a bitch gets shot they'll say we didn't
furnish it. So you just buy his insurance. Then after the election,
he doesn't get a Goddamn thing. If he gets shot, it's too damn bad.
Do it under the basis, though, that we pick the Secret Service men.
Not that son of a bitch [Secret Service Chief James] Rowley. Understand
what I'm talking about? Do you have anybody in the Secret Service
that you can get to? Do you have anybody that we can rely on?
Ehrlichman: Yeah. Yeah. We've
Nixon: Plant one. Plant two
guys on him. This could be very useful.