Guests: Tom Selleck, Sally Bedell Smith, Laurence Leamer
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight, count down to D-Day. We‘ll look at General Dwight Eisenhower with the man who plays him in a new movie, actor Tom Selleck.
Plus the enduring legacy of the Kennedys, from Jackie to the new generation of Kennedy men. What‘s behind the Kennedy mystique?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Tom Selleck is here to give us an inside look at his transformation to one of the great generals and presidents of our time, Dwight D. Eisenhower. We‘ll get to that in a moment.
But first, a look at today‘s top story with HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, as President Bush and challenger John Kerry head into the Memorial Day weekend, both candidates are claiming the mantle of military leadership at a time when that issue has become crucial.
(voice-over) This weekend, hundreds of thousands of veterans are coming to Washington for the dedication of the World War II memorial. It‘s one of the most significant veterans events in decades. And the president and John Kerry will both attend and play homage to the greatest generation.
Memorial weekend has long been an opportunity for the nation‘s commander-in-chief to honor veterans and remember those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
President Bush has been building up to this weekend with speeches linking the war against terror with the sacrifice of American who fought 60 years ago against tyranny.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These Americans saw far away conflict change their lives and took on duties they had not asked for and did what had to be done. They kept this country free. We‘re still in their debt.
SHUSTER: John Kerry is in the midst of an 11-day focus on national security.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must pay tribute, and that tribute will come as we hear and heed the lessons of the greatest generation.
SHUSTER: And this week, he said their leaders drew their power not just from military might but from trust around the globe.
KERRY: There‘s a powerful yearning around the world for an America that listens and leads again. An America that is respected. Not just feared.
SHUSTER: On Friday, with the nation turning its focus to veterans, Kerry went on the attack again.
KERRY: Over a trillion dollars of the last tax cut is going out to the wealthiest Americans, and we‘re starving the V.A. for $1.8 billion.
Let me tell you something. We don‘t have a budget problem that‘s broken in Washington. We have a values problem that‘s broken in Washington.
SHUSTER: Kerry accused the Bush administration, which is preparing for budget cuts, of short changing military health care. An administration proposal earlier this year would have ended benefits for 170,000 veterans.
But there is ammunition against Kerry, as well. He voted against the $87 billion package funding the troops in Iraq. And at one town hall earlier this year, Kerry tried to defend his position with confusing Senate speak.
KERRY: This is very important.
I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.
SHUSTER: That line has made it into Bush campaign attack ads, and Kerry, for his part, has responded in ads with testimonials about his service in Vietnam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The decisions that he made saved our lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his life to save mine.
SHUSTER: The debate over who would provide better military leadership comes at a crucial time. Polls showed that the war against terror and the conflict in Iraq are just as important to voters right now as the economy.
The White House is banking on a transfer of sovereignty in Iraq as scheduled at the end of June. And on this day, the president appeared with the prime minister of Denmark, which has 500 soldiers serving in the U.S.-led coalition.
BUSH: We‘re working closely in the United Nations to get a new Security Council resolution. And we‘re making progress on that resolution.
SHUSTER (on camera): But that resolution will be just a first step. And with only a month until the scheduled handover, the emphasis on Iraq will only build in the presidential campaign, a campaign moving into overdrive this Memorial Day weekend—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
Coming up, actor Tom Selleck plays Dwight Eisenhower in a new movie about D-Day. He‘s coming to talk about his transformation into Ike.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, actor Tom Selleck plays Dwight Eisenhower in a new movie about D-Day. He‘s coming her to talk about it when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Actor Tom Selleck plays Dwight Eisenhower in a new TV movie, “Ike: Countdown to D-Day.”
Here‘s a scene where Tom Selleck, as Ike, convinces Winston Churchill that he should be the supreme commander of all the allied forces preparing to invade Europe on D-Day.
Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM SELLECK, ACTOR: If I am not given complete and unfettered command of this situation, you can, if I may put it politely, sir, take this job and put it where you choose, because I will damn well quit.
America did not send a million of its finest men to stand by while faceless aircraft destroy the Europe they‘re building to die to save.
And I don‘t believe you rallied the British people to fight on alone. All these long years to bear so much, only to see the great cities of Europe become heaps of rubble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a great movie.
SELLECK: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: It‘s coming out next Monday night, the 31st of May.
MATTHEWS: It is a hell of a movie. I‘ve seen it, Arts and Entertainment.
You play Ike pretty well.
SELLECK: Well, it means a lot. You know, for a kid who played army in his dad‘s Eisenhower jacket and rolled up the sleeves.
You know, I put that uniform on. And remembered all—my mom‘s maiden name is Jagger. And I—When we went back to Detroit after we moved to California when I was 4, I‘d go to all my aunts and uncles‘ houses, the Jagger boys and the Selleck boys, and these pictures and that uniform were up on the mantle.
SELLECK: So it put a lot of pressure on me. I really—I kind of said to myself almost every day, “Don‘t screw this up.”
Because I thought of my dad a lot, who died about three years ago.
MATTHEWS: What do you think? It is the 60th anniversary coming up this weekend. And tell me about D-Day. What does it mean historically to this country and to you?
SELLECK: Well, I think it means everything. You know, I don‘t think people realize—we won. So it gets a little glib and simple. And we see movies about it, and they mention the suffering.
But Europe could have been a much different place quite easily. You know, the Germans might have been on the defensive, but they weren‘t through.
And without the resolve, I think, to invade the French mainland, you know, it wouldn‘t have been that impossible for the British or the Germans to sue for peace and end up with the Nazi...
MATTHEWS: Well, there‘s another option. The Red Army could have swept right across Western Europe, and we wouldn‘t have had anything after the war.
SELLECK: Yes. It could have been communist dominated Europe.
So—so it changed the world. It certainly changed the people who were there, which is just as important.
MATTHEWS: I thought Ike was—has been missed by history. I want to get to that, why—Maybe because he‘s a Republican and the media doesn‘t do as good a job on Republicans as they do on Democrats.
I know Harry Truman was dumped by history. And then all of a sudden, thanks to David McCauley (ph), he‘s become every Republican‘s favorite Democratic president now.
MATTHEWS: But Eisenhower as a leader, why was his role important in leading the allied charge in Europe? I mean, you had Churchill. You had Stalin involved at the other end of the fight. You had Roosevelt, Patton, Montgomery.
What was his role in all that?
SELLECK: I think he might have been the perfect guy in exactly the right place at the right time, because of who he was. Because of his ego, which was—he certainly had one.
But he seemed to be able to keep his eye on winning the war. And he was handling just that. The great icons of the mid-20th Century and the egos that‘s went with them.
And he seemed to have that gift. I mean, he was much more tough and tenacious than I realized until I—I got into this. But he always had that charm to get out of the—after he made some demands, he could always -- he had that Ike grin and that ability to work with other people that, I think, obviously, made him the perfect guy to be supreme commander.
MATTHEWS: I like the way that in the movie, when he has to keep de Gaulle happy, the head of the free French, of course the great General de Gaulle. And he even orchestrates or choreographs taking him outside so that he can wave his arms a little bit and get mad at him for awhile. That‘s amazing, his human knowledge.
SELLECK: De Gaulle can point his finger in his face.
And all he wanted de Gaulle to do is—is go on the radio after his address to the troops and ask the French people to help in their liberation. And de Gaulle says, “No, no. Me follow you? I cannot do that. I‘m the leader of France.” And he never gave that speech.
But De Gaulle, that‘s at the low point of their relationship. They actually had quite a bit of mutual respect for each other. But he really needed de Gaulle.
De Gaulle was—he was two things. He wasn‘t tainted by the Vichy brush, the collaboration brush. And I think he was not a communist. And that was important after the war.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Roosevelt never liked de Gaulle much because he was a man on the right and Roosevelt was a man on the left. But Ike liked him, right?
Let me take a—Here‘s a conversation in the movie about Eisenhower. It has him with an old friend, Major Colonel Henry Miller, after he had overheard—he‘d been overheard drunkenly revealing the invasion plans. What a scene that was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SELLECK: It might be easier if we didn‘t have so much history, Hank. The stakes are way too big. You‘ll have to go home. Immediately. And you won‘t be coming back. We both owe that to the men who will be dead in a few weeks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ll lose my operational rank. I‘ll go home in disgrace, a major. You can‘t send me home. You owe me something. I‘m part of the inner circle.
SELLECK: That‘s the worst thing you could have said, Hank. There is no inner circle. Only those who live and those who will die. And you don‘t seem to get that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Hardest thing in life, isn‘t it?
SELLECK: I think it is.
Ike goes downstairs to his aide and friend, Bedell Smith, and it‘s a weak moment for Ike.
And when you‘re playing a general, it‘s tough, you know. Because they have a command face. They have a presence. He‘s in front of people a lot. So you find those private moments. And this was certainly one of them, where he had to send a friend home. He was going to be a major.
MATTHEWS: Because he got drunk and blabbed about the war.
SELLECK: He got drunk and talked loud about drinking French wine in a few weeks.
And he says in it you can, hell, you can decide to invade Russia at dinner. But what‘s hard is to see how it hurts one single person. And he‘s looking for help from Bedell Smith, and all Bedell Smith can say to him, when he says, “You lose your humanity, won‘t you?”
Bedell Smith says, “Couldn‘t say, sir.”
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take look at that. A clip related to that. Here‘s President Eisenhower. You‘re General Eisenhower, talking to Bedell Smith - - his beetle, actually, as we say in the Jesuit school. He‘s chief of staff. That‘s what they call the guy, a beetle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SELLECK: The thing about all the power, Bedell, it isn‘t the big decisions that weigh heavy. Hell, you can decide to invade Russia at dinner. Pick Waterloo for battle on a whim.
It‘s the details. The small stuff. It‘s easy to gamble a million lives. What‘s hard is to see how that can hurt one single person. And if you can‘t keep that straight, well, you‘ll lose your humanity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I just was taken with this movie, Tom.
SELLECK: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: It‘s an amazing movie. You play this guy. I mean, you took your hair off.
SELLECK: Yes. Every day.
MATTHEWS: I kept thinking it was going to have to be Robert Duvall.
SELLECK: I didn‘t want to wear Ike ears, you know, and an Ike nose. People know what I look like, so they‘d just be looking for the latex lines. I just wanted to get in the ballpark physically and kind of...
MATTHEWS: He smoked a lot. But then I went and looked it up the other day. He smoked like...
SELLECK: He smoked (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Camels a day. I talked to John and...
MATTHEWS: Chain smoker.
SELLECK: And John said—Duvall played him once in a miniseries in the ‘70s. And he said, “Well, Duvall did a good job but he smoked too much.”
And then John kind of said, “Well, no, he didn‘t, you know. My dad smoked way too much in those days. He smoked four packs a day.”
It‘s a real responsibility if you‘re doing something historically accurate, and you‘ve got kids today. I wrestled with it. I think it was germane to the picture. It was very much who he was. He wrote about it in “At Ease,” stories...
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think you sold cigarettes. I think it sold the past.
SELLECK: I think there‘s great—When you make something right for the time, you‘re going to say something ironic about today.
MATTHEWS: Hey, look, if you cleaned that up in the end, and been smoking all through the movie, it would have been a joke.
Anyway, we‘ll be right back with more with Tom Selleck and Ike, the guy he‘s playing in the movie next Monday night, the 31st of May.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SELLECK: I‘m not sending a bunch of fresh young kids from Iowa and California and New York and Nebraska to die on French beaches for the freedom of people they know nothing about so we can establish a new racial order.
I‘m asking them to die to prevent precisely that. And they‘re ready to do it. And that‘s why they‘re heroes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Tom Selleck, who plays Dwight Eisenhower, Ike himself, in the new movie, “Ike.” It‘s going to be A&E next Monday night.
Eisenhower and Patton, you know, Patton got the break. He got the first movie and he got George C. Scott to play him. But I‘ve seen it 100 times like everybody.
Who was the good guy in that fight?
SELLECK: Well, it depends on whose account you read. And I read them both.
You know, I think Ike was a good guy. I think he—he stood by Patton at some very tough times.
MATTHEWS: After he‘d slapped a guy.
SELLECK: Yes, after he slapped a guy and then this comment he made about Anglo-Saxons to rule the post-war world.
But he knew he was his best field commander once he got on shore. And
· and this was a real hard scene for Ike because Patton was a mentor. He was six years his senior. They used to hang out and get drunk together and do pranks after West Point.
And Ike lobbied to get under Patton in his tank command, a field commander, which Ike never had. And when Ike went on to Washington instead, Patton wrote him and said, “Someday you‘re going to be giving me orders.” And this was the day.
And I presented it. At least, that‘s the way I felt. To dress down his friend and mentor, now that he‘s his superior officer, was a tough thing for him.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk him as a man. There‘s a great scene in the movie. And I knew—I‘ve seen newsreel pictures of it, as you and I before. Ike seeing off the paratroopers.
MATTHEWS: The 101st, the 92nd.
SELLECK: Well, you know...
MATTHEWS: Knowing they‘re facing really bad odds because they‘re dropping right behind the lines there.
SELLECK: Yes. Well, when he ordered that close drop in bad weather, he was expecting from some very good prognosticators, seven out of 10 dead. Not just casualties. Dead.
It says a lot about who Ike was as a man. And I really feel he was kind of every man in that sense. That he then turned around, went to the airfield, visited the 101st Airborne, looked them in the eye, put on a happy, positive face and wished them luck.
And everybody says, who saw Ike watch the planes go, said they saw a tear in his eye. But not in front of those guys.
As it turned out, the losses were 20 percent. That‘s a serious problem into itself. It was a relief.
And then I think we have a scene in the movie. To me as the actor, it just was this enormous relief it wasn‘t 70. And then you start dealing with one in five.
SELLECK: Those are courageous people who dropped behind those lines.
They knew the odds. And so did he.
And this kind of mutual—I think it‘s one of the most emotional points in the movie. Because you‘ve got the airborne troops, the kids putting on a happy face. You have Ike putting on a happy face, and they both know what‘s—what‘s...
MATTHEWS: He convinces me that there‘s such a thing as forget the right wing, left wing stuff. There‘s such a thing as Americanism.
You know, this thing about, you don‘t want a racial kind of victory. He didn‘t want it to be an Anglo-Saxon victory. There‘s a lot of people that were fighting that war, the Polish. Everybody was fighting. The Russian were fighting. The Africans were fighting him. Everybody‘s fighting the Nazis.
And the other thing is about when I hear that story about how, when we did win the war and we took over the camps, the concentration camps.
MATTHEWS: And he made the Germans in the neighborhood who said they didn‘t know anything about it, he made them walk through to get their ration stamps or they weren‘t getting any food.
SELLECK: Yes. Look. His story is, couldn‘t be more American. He‘s a farm boy from Kansas. He‘s the son of pacifists, by the way. And he went from lieutenant colonel to four-star general in two years.
And at that point became the most powerful man in history, literally.
He could override Roosevelt and Churchill regarding overlord (ph).
MATTHEWS: He was sort of a giant sized version of Colin Powell, wasn‘t he?
SELLECK: I think he was. I know Colin. I‘m very fond of Colin.
MATTHEWS: His diplomatic ability. The ability to work with...
SELLECK: I think they have the same skills. And Colin is a wonderful guy, too. And has the charm necessary to exercise strength and at the same time, not offend everybody around him. Ike seemed to be able to do that, too.
And I don‘t know. It was great getting to know him. It—I thought I knew him. And then I went in and did this movie and did research and my admiration kind of increased tenfold.
MATTHEWS: You know what amazed me in the movie, watching the movie—and acting in it must have been interesting—the—that he‘s a guy, too. Without getting into all the stories and all that.
You know what struck me? When he went to bed at night, and he slept
on a little cot in a spare place. He wasn‘t at the
SELLECK: He slept in a little trailer. He didn‘t want the big suite.
MATTHEW: He wasn‘t at some fancy hotel in England or anything. And he‘d wake up when someone called up and said, “Time to get up.” And here he is, just this regular guy. He‘s got to brush his teeth and shave and go to the bathroom. And he‘s like this—like you getting up, this regular guy.
Meanwhile, he‘s commanding like 300,000 troops, and he‘s going to take them all in the airplanes and the hospital ships. And this one guy is calling all the shots.
SELLECK: Literally. And you know, I don‘t think people realized that an allied command had never worked before. It had been tried in name only. And Ike had had terrible experiences in the First World War. And I guess you were saying about Stalin.
MATTHEWS: He won it one day.
SELLECK: Everybody knew it needed—Ike, I think one of his main reasons for wanting to be the supreme commander wasn‘t just the power. He felt sincerely, I think, that somebody needed to be to blame so that it didn‘t taint Churchill and Roosevelt. And—and that‘s very much who he was.
MATTHEWS: And he wrote this letter. He wrote this letter.
MATTHEWS: And you show in the movie where he‘s sitting in the back of his car.
MATTHEWS: And he pulls out his—I don‘t know what. His writing materials, and he writes, I blame myself. He says if this fails, this is the sheet we‘re going to put...
SELLECK: Yes. This is my responsibility and mine alone. He says the landings at Normandy have failed and I‘m alone responsible, in essence.
And I saw documentary, a 20-year anniversary of D-Day where Walter Cronkite walked the beaches with Ike.
MATTHEWS: I remember that.
SELLECK: And I just—I watched it. He was a different man by then in terms of—but who he was, was the same guy.
And when Walter Cronkite brought up that letter, the sheer embarrassment on Ike‘s face just kind of—well, no one was supposed to see that. They were supposed to destroy it. And he was very embarrassed that he had to talk about it. Because now he knew it was making him out to be a hero. And—But he was genuinely embarrassed.
MATTHEWS: He was too modest. Yes.
That was, by the way—you and I remember that scene, too. I remember when it happened. When these two experts, Cronkite who covered the war, and Ike...
SELLECK: I watched it at the time.
MATTHEWS: I remember these two guys sitting. And remember how he talked about how the soldiers won the battle, because they got the hedge cutters and went through the hedges?
SELLECK: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: They figured that out.
SELLECK: And he walked the spots and you could see it. I‘ve got to see it again now. It‘s probably make me cry now.
MATTHEWS: Those two guys together.
SELLECK: I played the guy. Those two guys together. And I wish we could do more TV like that.
SELLECK: We should get that kind of candor.
MATTHEWS: I like Ike.
SELLECK: I like Ike.
MATTHEWS: And it‘s one hell of a movie. Remember the old movie, “Command Decision”?
SELLECK: There you go.
MATTHEWS: It‘s like that great movie.
Anyway, thank you, Tom Selleck.
SELLECK: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Ike himself.
When we come back, a special look at the Kennedy family. Best selling author Sally Bidell Smith with a behind the scenes look at the Kennedy White House.
Plus, Laurence Leamer on the new generation of Kennedy men.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, two new books on the Kennedy family, Sally Bedell Smith‘s “Grace and Power” on the life of President Kennedy, and later, best-selling author Laurence Leamer on the new generation of Kennedys, their triumphs and tragedies.
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Sally Bedell Smith is a friend of mine, obviously. She‘s a contributing editor at “Vanity Fair.” And, most importantly for tonight, she‘s author of a new book, “Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House.”
I have to thank you for coming on this show.
This to me, I know you don‘t like the sound of it, but beach reading. This is the greatest story. I thought that Jack Kennedy was married to Jacqueline Kennedy and he had maybe a girlfriend here or there, Judy Exner, Campbell, Campbell Exner, and of course, my favorite of them all, Mary what‘s her name?
SALLY BEDELL SMITH, AUTHOR, “GRACE AND POWER”: Mary Meyer.
MATTHEWS: Mary Meyer.
MATTHEWS: But I had no idea he had a book full of them.
MATTHEWS: How did this guy traffic manage all these debutantes, these beautiful women with incredibly, if sophisticated, wealthy backgrounds? How did it all go on? And it is all factual as hell, this book.
SMITH: Well, he led a very compartmentalized life, not only with the women in his life, but with his family.
MATTHEWS: He was like a submarine captain.
But that was the big surprise to me, that, as you said, there was a sort of stereotype of him as somebody who would have quick assignations with bimbos.
SMITH: But, in fact, he had simultaneous affairs going on with women in his inner circle.
MATTHEWS: Sophisticated women of his level, more or less, as you might say in the old way.
SMITH: Sophisticated. Absolutely. Absolutely. They were beautiful.
They went to places like Bennington and Vassar.
MATTHEWS: They were all single women, to put that straight.
SMITH: They were single women. Two, Mary Meyer and Helen Chavchavadze, who were divorcees in their 20s. And they were—also happened to be very good friends. He kept them in separate compartments and they didn‘t tell their secrets to each other until the very end.
MATTHEWS: So, he would be at state occasions and they would be invited as sort of nice little appointments to show up. And they would be there around Jackie and Jackie knew them. And all this is swirling around, this romance that is almost out of “Gosford Park,” right? And nobody knew it. But the women didn‘t know about the other women. Nobody knew anything but their own role.
SMITH: That‘s correct.
And that was the case for a lot of the people around Kennedy. But, yes, Jackie said at one point to her dress designer, Oleg Cassini, I want to recreate Versailles in America.
SMITH: But I don‘t think she necessarily meant in all its respects.
SMITH: But her social secretary, Tish Baldridge, told me, Jackie loved to have beautiful people around.
SMITH: Beautiful men, beautiful women. And she said it was for Jack‘s sake. But it was for Jackie‘s sake as well. One of those women that Jack had an affair with, Helen Chavchavadze, said, Jackie chose his play mates. It was very French.
MATTHEWS: Oh, really? So she was suggesting different courtesans or mistresses and he would pick up on it.
SMITH: Yes and no. Yes and no.
MATTHEWS: But he also was having things going on with her press secretaries, people like that working for Pierre what‘s his name.
SMITH: Pierre Salinger.
MATTHEWS: Pierre Salinger.
There were many more women who were part of the West Wing.
MATTHEWS: OK, I want to ask you a psychological problem.
MATTHEWS: Did he do damage to Jackie by all these affairs, psychologically? Or is he one of those incredibly—I‘m not talking about morality, obviously. But in term of psychology, was she so cool about this that—was she so French about this, it didn‘t bother her?
SMITH: Well, the evidence is that she loved him very much, first of all. She understood that his womanizing was part of his character.
MATTHEWS: Because her dad was like this, right?
SMITH: Her dad was like this. And she adored her dad. Her father-in-law, Joe Kennedy, was like this. She adored him.
MATTHEWS: Did Kennedy pick Jackie because he knew she was a woman that would put up with his lifestyle, to put it bluntly?
SMITH: That‘s hard to know.
But what was clear is, she confided in people, several of whom talked to me. One was a local doctor who she took into her confidence. And she received counseling from him on the telephone. She confided to one of Kennedy‘s old friends from P.T. boat days, Jim Reed (ph), who talked to me about it.
SMITH: She wrote a letter that I found to her decorator in Paris.
MATTHEWS: What did it mean when Jack said, because one of his buddies, his old buddy Chuck Spalding, one of his closest friends, would say, and Jack had things under control. He would talk about different social settings going back in the ‘40s.
I talked to this guy about it, because I was doing this other thing. And Jack would say, well, his buddies would say, and he had things under control. Even when he was with somebody else‘s wife, he things under control. Was Jack such a Prince Charming that he could dominate these relationships even if it was somebody else‘s wife, it was the other guy—it was Jackie? In other words, he didn‘t take anything from Jackie. He was the boss. Was he the boss?
SMITH: Of course.
And Jackie even wrote a letter to somebody saying, a woman‘s place is secondary to the man. She was not a feminist. That‘s not to say she wasn‘t independent. It‘s not to say that she didn‘t design her role in her very own way with her very own priorities.
MATTHEWS: Right. Right.
SMITH: But she understood that she was secondary. And she did everything she could to enhance him.
MATTHEWS: But most women, if they even think their husband is showing too much interest in somebody for five seconds, they put the freeze on. They let him know he‘s going to pay a price for this. How come Jackie couldn‘t do that, or he didn‘t care?
SMITH: Well, she did get back at him in little ways. She inflicted small embarrassments on him.
MATTHEWS: Like taking these trips to India with Franklin Roosevelt Jr.?
SMITH: Well, that wasn‘t one. I‘m talking about just
MATTHEWS: And dancing all night with what‘s his name, the Greek shipping magnate, Onassis?
SMITH: Well, but even before that, John Angele (ph) in Italy in of 1962. And it‘s been alleged that she had an affair with Angele. And I spoke to three...
MATTHEWS: During the marriage?
SMITH: During the marriage. I found absolutely no evidence for that.
She was very much under control, as you said. And she was very concerned about her image and the image of the president.
MATTHEWS: Maybe that‘s one of the reasons men like him.
Let me ask you this, my favorite question. Why do guys, all real guys like Jack Kennedy, and even when they find out about this stuff, and they‘ll never know enough until they read this book, because they don‘t know it all, and they‘ll be saying, what a guy, and the wife will say, he is, what a guy. And men don‘t generally like Bill Clinton. They don‘t like him. Most guys don‘t like Bill Clinton. And most guys like Jack Kennedy.
Is it because he was a war hero, because he was a real guy? He hung around with guys? He did things guys do? He wasn‘t always being Bill Clinton, feeling your pain and that sort of feminine side to Bill?
SMITH: I think that had a lot to do with it.
MATTHEWS: Why does someone like me like Jack Kennedy and not particularly in love with Bill Clinton? What‘s the difference? There‘s got to be a difference.
SMITH: Well, first of all, he had a great sense of humor. He was wonderfully self-deprecating.
MATTHEWS: Clinton has no sense of humor, right? You agree with me that Clinton has no sense of humor?
SMITH: He doesn‘t seem to have that third eye that Kennedy had, where could detach himself and he could laugh about himself and he could laugh about his situations.
And he was, as one of these women who talked to me for the first time said, you know, she said, it wasn‘t about the intimacy, necessarily. It was about...
SMITH: It was about—she said it was a game.
SMITH: She said it was just fun to spend an evening with him. He was such good company. He was irresistible, she said.
MATTHEWS: What was Jack Kennedy like?
SMITH: Well, he was obviously very bright, very alert.
MATTHEWS: But, as a person, what was he like? Was he warm? Was he cold?
SMITH: As a person, he was. He had a reserve.
One of his friends, Bill Walton, who was extremely devoted to him, said you would never bleed in Jack Kennedy‘s presence, nor would he bleed in yours. And Chuck Spalding, whom you mentioned a couple moments earlier, said that there was a sort of statute of limitations for the time that you could spend with him, 48 hours, he said. And then it had to move on to the next person.
Everybody—this is a portrait of the Kennedys at the center and their cast of characters, their courtier, if you will. And they each played a designated role.
MATTHEWS: ... Charlie Bartlett, who was a reporter for the Chattanooga paper, and was a great, close friend of Jack‘s.
MATTHEWS: He said that being be with Jack Kennedy just made you happy. They were so happy, and Chuck Spalding, and Red Fay. When you‘re in his—and Ben Bradlee—when you‘re in his company, he was so...
MATTHEWS: He said, it was always like you were going to a fair.
There was something fun going on.
Red Fay wrote a book called “The Pleasure of His Company.” And I think men and women felt that in his presence. And Joseph Alsop said something really interesting, which was that Kennedy had a capacity to capture you and change you and that it was a source of his mystery and his allure.
MATTHEWS: Was he a romantic or was he a cold, ruthless—despite all the charm, ruthless guy who knew what he was doing? Or was he a romantic like Bobby?
SMITH: I think he had so many different facets and that both he and Jackie had lots of different dimensions that I‘ve tried to show in this book through the various relationships that they had with the people around them. It‘s an effort to...
MATTHEWS: Right. Did he write “Profiles in Courage”?
SMITH: He collaborated.
MATTHEWS: Did he actually write it?
SMITH: He wrote portions of it.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he wrote part of the introduction, part of the introduction, I think. He selected the chapters.
SMITH: The whole story of how he wrote it with Ted Sorensen.
MATTHEWS: How did the Kennedy family react to this? Because they always have an opinion. Ted and the rest do have an obvious interest in how the family legacy is upheld or not. Do they like this book?
SMITH: I have heard from a lot of people whom I‘ve interviewed. And they are all extremely pleased with the book.
MATTHEWS: So the cat is out of the bag and they don‘t really mind somebody of your incredible class putting out a story that shows that Jack Kennedy did have a lot of these mature affairs going on.
SMITH: I think the fact the
MATTHEWS: That‘s changed.
SMITH: The fact that there is a dark side of Jack Kennedy‘s life has been known.
SMITH: I think this is an effort to bring some more understanding to it and to bring some new insights to it.
But in the old days of Dave Powers, who was one of Kennedy‘s Irish mafia, who would say like, only the Campbells he knows was Campbell‘s Soup and the days where they would completely deny everything is over.
SMITH: Yes. I don‘t—I do believe that. I talked to people who were close to the Kennedy family. And the sort of general line is, it was recreational. I kept hearing that over and over.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, because a lot of people don‘t buy that morality. In fact, I don‘t think my wife would accept the idea or your husband would accept the idea or you would idea of recreational sex outside of marriage.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you this question here.
SMITH: I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: Would people who are very religious and Catholic or whatever religion, very moral, would they at the end of this book say, I don‘t think as much of Jack Kennedy as I used to or would they say, God, what a character?
SMITH: I think they could come away feeling either way, because what I tried to do was to present not only the idealism and the way they invigorated the nation and inspired the current Democratic presidential contender and the past Democratic president.
SMITH: They had the capacity to inspire an entire generation.
At the same time—and this is sort of the nature of their enduring mystique—at the same time, they did lead their lives differently from the way a lot of people imagined.
MATTHEWS: I think we‘re going to spend the rest of our lives, thanks to your book, “Grace and Power” and all the books that are coming later, I‘m sure, we‘re going to be for the rest of our lives looking at guys like Bill Clinton and John Kerry saying, you‘re no Jack Kennedy.
Anyway, Sally Bedell Smith, a great writer, has written great books before. This is another one. I do recommend this book, because I cannot wait to finish this book. It has got beach written all over it. The book is called “Grace and Power: The Private World”—and I should say the classy world—“of the Kennedy White House.” And he‘s no Bill Clinton.
Coming up, author Laurence Leamer on the “Sons of Camelot,” the new generation of Kennedy men.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Laurence Leamer, author of “Sons of Camelot,” on the new generation of Kennedys, when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
Laurence Leamer has written three books on the Kennedy family. His latest is called “Sons of Camelot: The Fate of an American Dynasty.”
I talked with Leamer and I asked him what‘s behind the enduring mystique of the Kennedy family.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Kennedy family. First of all, the word Camelot is in fact a post-Dallas term. No one ever called the new frontier Camelot when Kennedy was there. Who first started it? It was Jackie in her interview with Ted White for “LIFE” magazine that created the whole notion of Camelot. Do you think it was just a myth?
LAURENCE LEAMER, AUTHOR, “SONS OF CAMELOT”: Well, White didn‘t know what to do that weekend, because he thought it was over the top. But here was the president‘s widow the weekend after. And he went with it and it created an enormous impact in “LIFE” magazine.
Yes, but I think, finally, after all these years, we‘ve come to terms with the Kennedys, the good and the bad. Listen, who did President Bush invite first to the White House but Ted Kennedy? Who did George Bush Sr. give his third annual award for distinguished service? To Ted Kennedy. And who did President Bush rename the Justice Department? The Robert F.
Kennedy Justice Department. So it‘s really not a partisan issue.
We know that these are patriots who care for their country.
MATTHEWS: In fact, Ronald Reagan, to name another Republican, he gave the Freedom Medal to Robert Kennedy soon after he came in. And Jimmy Carter had been holding that up.
But I guess question is, what role do they play? Are they out of power or in power? Would you say the Kennedys are still influential with regard to national policy?
LEAMER: Well, certainly Senator Kennedy is. His son Patrick, who is in Congress, is not, is a kind of weak shadow of his father.
But it‘s not just politics. It is that no family has made more contributions to—philanthropic contributions. If you go through the list, all the Shrivers.
LEAMER: Joe Kennedy‘s Citizens Energy. Bobby Kennedy was an environmental leader. There‘s no wealthy family in America in which so many people have made such contributions.
MATTHEWS: But what about the bad year they had last year? Mark Shriver, who is my congressional district in Maryland, he lost. Kathleen Kennedy Townshend, a very nice lady, she lost for governor. She should have won that race.
Max Kennedy was going to run for the 8th up in Massachusetts, Tip‘s old seat and Joe‘s old seat. He pulled out of the race very early on, after a weak showing. He‘s not a very good public speaker. Patrick may run for the Senate. I‘m not sure it‘s a smart move, because it is a tougher going statewide with two C.D.s rather than one. Do you really think that the Kennedys are showing any political might except for Ted?
LEAMER: Oh, no.
And if I were a young politician, I would want to take on a Kennedy and defeat a Kennedy. Governor Erlich became one of the most prominent governors in America because of that. Van Hollen defeated Mark the same way. So, no, no, they don‘t.
And the next generation of Kennedys, when and if they run for office, it will be on their own merits, not on their name.
MATTHEWS: Earlier this week, Ted Kennedy went on television at the Brookings Institution. He was taped saying that Iraq has become Bush‘s war, very strong war talk there, political war talk between two parties. Do you think he is too far in the partisan direction, the leftward direction to help John Kerry win the middle?
LEAMER: But he‘s the point man. He‘s out there. That‘s what the road is he is going to take. He‘s going to do often what the vice presidential candidate does. And that is what he is going to do all through this election.
MATTHEWS: Do you have a sense—do you have any knowledge that he‘s willing to play that role right through November?
LEAMER: It‘s clear that‘s what he‘s doing this election. He thinks it is crucial for the future of this country to get President Bush out of there.
Those are his politics. At his age, with all of his prestige, all of his power, all of his energy, he‘s going to attempt to do that and do everything he can.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Ted Kennedy and his new sort of gung-ho-ness, if you will. Is that because of his marriage to his new wife? It just seems like the whole thing, the whole guy is rejuvenated at the age of 60-something. There‘s something going on here. It‘s almost chemical.
LEAMER: Well, no, he has his peace. He finally, for first time, has a happy marriage and a happy home life.
But it is politics with this man. He‘s a great politician. He cares about these issues. He worked with President Bush on the education bill. And when President Bush didn‘t come through with the funding, he was on radio and television criticizing him. He cares about the issues.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about—we‘re going to come back and talk at length, but why don‘t you tease us a little bit. How happy is Ted Kennedy that the biggest hero in the family right now is a Republican Austrian immigrant named Arnold Schwarzenegger, his cousin-in-law?
LEAMER: He is perfectly delighted with it.
In August, Maria and Senator Kennedy got together in Hyannis Port. And, privately, Senator Kerry was for Arnold‘s election. He offered him Bob Shrum. That would have been a disaster for Arnold. And Governor Schwarzenegger was smart enough to say no.
MATTHEWS: Why? Because Shrummy is too liberal.
LEAMER: He is too liberal, definitely.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to come right back and talk more with Laurence Leamer about the inside skinny on the Kennedy family and its political power yet today.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Laurence, you‘re a great author, a great read. To me, it‘s candy reading at the beach reading about the Kennedys. And I was reading a chapter about John up at Brown. Even a kid going to a college is interesting in your hands, your writing ability.
What is the appeal? What is—you know there‘s an appeal. You‘ve written a number of books on this topic, three of them.
MATTHEWS: What is about people, when they go to the bookstore and they see that book of yours, they want to at least open it up and look at the pictures, at least?
LEAMER: Because the drama is such over—overwhelming.
I mean, this book, which goes from ‘63 to 2004, imagine, there are 19 people in this book, Senator Robert Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and 17 grandsons, Out of that, you have four violent deaths. You have five people who died having the misfortune of being around them. You have a couple of them accused of statutory rape. You have half of them with problems with drug or alcoholism. And yet you have all these accomplishments and all these contributions they‘ve made to American society, unlike any other family.
MATTHEWS: Well, couldn‘t you say that every family, yours, too, mine, has all kinds of people in it that...
LEAMER: I don‘t know about yours, but mine doesn‘t have that much.
MATTHEWS: Well, there is a great divergence. But there‘s also the probably you might say the fate of a family that took a lot of chances. It seems that‘s one thing that Kennedys do. They play hard. They ski hard. Every sport they get into seems to be an ultimate endurance question. They don‘t just go out and swim in a swimming pool. It has got to be in the ocean. They have got to go out and they have got to go out and sail in the ocean. They have got to ski 100 miles an hour. They‘ve got to climb mountains.
They don‘t do the normal pastimes, like going to a baseball game.
LEAMER: No. And, Chris, that‘s why I could spend 15 years writing about them, because I felt alive writing about them. That‘s the essence of them. Every moment is lived. And that‘s what one takes away from them.
Plus, one takes away that one has to give back. That‘s what Joseph P.
Kennedy Sr. taught his sons and grandsons. And they‘ve picked up that.
And I think most of them try to do that.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the thing that kids of famous people deal with all the time. And I‘ve been around a lot of them, or some of them.
They have to—they keep wondering, when‘s the spark that made their parents exciting and big time, or their brother or sister big time, going to hit them? And a regular person in a family like, it must drive them crazy. For example, Ted Kennedy, with all his hard work and ability, probably must have wondered, what is about it Jack that made him so incredibly charming to the country? What made him so charismatic? My brother Bob was almost a saint in so many ways in his drive for moral perfection or leadership.
And you don‘t feel you have it yourself. I think Ted must have confronted this so many times. And all the kids, all the grandkids say, wait a minute, I don‘t feel special. Doesn‘t this drive them to a level of complete frustration in life?
LEAMER: Look, no, I think, with Ted Kennedy, that insecurity that he still feels, that he‘s lesser than his brothers, that he can‘t equal them, that these bad things have happened to him, pushes him forward. I think that‘s a great energy.
Even, at his age, he‘s going to be the greatest legislator of the 20th century. And yet he‘s so insecure about himself.
MATTHEWS: That‘s funny, because his brother had a hand in picking the great senators of all time. And he would be in the running, wouldn‘t he?
LEAMER: No question about it. I mean, he‘s there.
MATTHEWS: Is he content to be a great senator and not a president or former president?
LEAMER: Oh, yes.
I mean, listen, if he had run for president, he probably would have lost. His impact may be seen of history. Maybe you‘ve seen that he has had more impact on America than any of his brothers. That‘s certainly—the legislative mark that he has on so many things, and not just on liberal things, that health insurance is portable, revising the federal legal code. I flew from California last week. I got a cheap ticket because of deregulation, and things like that.
MATTHEWS: He did airline deregulation.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, are there any young Kennedys on the horizon that might win major office? Do you see anything fluttering out there?
LEAMER: The good thing is that Joe Kennedy has two sons, Matt and Joe. When Joe went to Berkeley, everybody sat around and sucked up to him because he was a Kennedy. That didn‘t happen with Joe‘s sons. And they‘re interested in politics. And if they get there, they‘ll get there on their own, not because of their name and not because people are sucking up to them.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Laurence Leamer.
Be sure to tune into HARDBALL next week. Monday, we have got a special Memorial Day show lined up. Thomas Friedman will be here later in the week. And one week from tonight, MSNBC begins its special coverage of the 60th anniversary of D-Day.
Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.
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