I started volume 2 of Richard Nixon's memoirs.
Many of you probably know about Ted Kennedy's Chappaquiddick incident,
in which (drawing from wikipedia's language) Kennedy "accidentally
drove his car off a bridge". A young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne was
also in the car, and she drowned while she was trapped inside of it.
There were questions about whether or not Kennedy tried to save
Kopechne, and whether or not he told the truth about the incident.
my latest reading of Nixon's memoirs, Nixon talks about
Chappaquiddick. Nixon says on page 5 that "many felt that [Ted
Kennedy's] story was full of gaps and contradictions", then Nixon offers
his own assessment: "I could not help thinking that if anyone other
than a Kennedy had been involved and had given such a patently
unacceptable explanation, the media and the public would not have
permitted him to survive in public life."
Nixon said that he still
had compassion for Ted Kennedy. Nixon narrates: "When I saw him at a
meeting in the Cabinet Room a few days later, I was shocked by how pale
and shaken he looked. I spoke to him in the Oval Office for a few
minutes afterward and tried to reassure him that he must resolve to
overcome this tragedy and go on with his life."
Nixon is quite
candid, however, in saying that he (Nixon) was thinking about the
political ramifications of Chappaquiddick, since Kennedy was a critic of
Nixon's policies, and Kennedy's name was floated around as someone who
could challenge Nixon for the Presidency in 1972. Thus, Nixon
instructed John Ehrlichman to get an investigation going into
Chappaquiddick, but Nixon relates that "our private investigator was
unable to turn up anything besides rumors" (page 6).
rather cold and calculating, doesn't it? But, on page 5, Nixon tries to
explain how he could have compassion for Kennedy, while also
considering the political ramifications of Chappaquiddick:
politics it is possible to feel genuine personal concern for an opponent
and still be coldly objective about his position as a competitor. Even
as I felt real sympathy for Teddy Kennedy, I recognized, as he must
have done, the far-reaching political implications of this personal
tragedy. In the short term, I knew that Chappaquiddick would undermine
Kennedy's role as a leader of the opposition to the administration's
policies. In the longer term, it would be one of his greatest
liabilities if he decided to run for President in 1972."
still says that he was thinking that Kennedy would be a formidable
opponent in 1972, for, notwithstanding Chappaquiddick, 63 percent of
Massachusetts voters returned Kennedy to the Senate.