Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Caroline Kennedy: Cartoon Asks if "The Kennedys" Dynasty Is Enough for NY Senate Bid; Video Coverage

Why thank you very much, Walt, for mentioning the book!. For last minute Christmas shoppers, the full title is "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings." And the ending in this history of the Kennedys -- now updated an accompanying Warner Home Video documentary -- underlines Caroline Kennedy's potential to follow the family's political legacy! Isn't it wonderful to be on top of the news!
Caroline Kennedy faces scrutiny
Caroline Kennedy faces scrutiny

Saturday, December 20, 2008

REVIEW: JFK Assassination: The 'JFK And The Unspeakable' Is Inexplicable and Ultimately a Disservice to History

I have no easy answers for the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but as an investigative reporter I value the truth too much to have offered a conspiracy theory in my own 2003 book ("The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings", now out in paper along with a Warner Home Video documentary of the same name) without sufficient evidence. Let's be clear: my book did uncover a lot of new evidence about the impact of the assassination on Jackie Kennedy and how she expressed her thoughts of suicide and grief to a Jesuit priest who counseled her. It's probably the most definitive, fact-based account of Jackie's reaction to this tragedy ever published. But that finding was based on my taped interviews with the priest and Jackie's own letters at Georgetown's library archives, not on some conjecture pulled from the air. Or even worse, of how I envisioned things to be.
Unfortunately, James W. Douglass does just that in "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters", which in the end is just another JFK conspiracy book yearning for some answers, only this time cast mistakenly in Catholic theology and anti-war peace activism. While the goal of seeking meaning to this inexplicably horrid act is understandable -- indeed laudable -- Douglass makes claims of fact that are, in reality, more speculation and unsubstantiated beliefs. The Kennedy legacy is too important to this nation (and the Catholic church in America) to be waylaid by such well-drawn chimera.
Let's start with where I do agree. President Kennedy's speech at American University was a remarkable one, indicative of a man who nearly witnessed an atomic apocalypse up-close and was determined to do something to avoid such insanity in the future. Douglass, like many historians before him, is right to say Kennedy's judgment matured after the Cuban missile crisis. And indeed, Kennedy may have taken measures to dismantle the arms race and avoid the Vietnam morass. Unfortunately, there is little evidence beyond the wishful thinking of admirers and a kind of retro-rewriting of history informed by the disaster that became Vietnam after JFK's death.
One of the ironic aspects of Douglass' heart-felt but mushy-head book is the way he couched so much of his conjecture about what Kennedy wanted to do in terms of liberal Catholicism. I devoted a whole chapter in my book to the era of the "Two Johns" -- JFK and Pope John XXIII -- who provided a refreshing period of Catholic liberalism in the early 1960s, when vocations among idealistic men and women were on the rise, a time when the Church spoke adamantly about sins of the racism and poverty rather the institution today that seem so tortured by sex and determined to force pregnant teenagers and desperate women to become mothers against their will. I believe this period, epitomized by Vatican II, informs much of the Kennedy political view, especially in the years after Bobby's death in 1968. But let's have a reverence for the facts, too, especially in matters of history.
The Kennedys embody, more than any other American Catholic family, several fundamental aspects of the historic role of the church. As poor Irish Catholic immigrants workers arriving in Boston, they illustrate the vital role that the Catholic parish played as not only a house of worship, but as a place where the young went to school, where the young socialized at church dances and the dead were buried, where politicians like Honey Fitz got their start pressing the flesh at various parish events, and as a kind of clubhouse, a haven for the unwashed, where family bread-winners could learn of how and where they could get jobs. Secondly, the Church is undoubtedly the focal point for the spiritual life of Catholics, where they become collectively the body of Christ during mass. When tragedy strikes, when the "unspeakable" happens, faith can be the only salve. Indeed, I learned how Jackie's grief by asking Jesuit priest Richard McSorley, "Did the Kennedy kids ever ask if there is a loving God, how could such terrible things happen?" McSorley said they never asked him directly but that Jackie did. But another aspect of the institutional church is that one played out during the 20th Century in matters of international politics. The relationship between Joe Kennedy, New York's Cardinal Spellman and the secretive Vatican administrator, Count Enrico Galeazzi, is one of power and intrigue. JFK was well aware of this long-running and mutually beneficial tie with the Vatican and was a beneficiary of it. During the 1950s, as I detail in my book, the institutional church was very concerned with the spread of communism in both Cuba and Vietnam. The rise of Diem, a Catholic in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, was strongly supported by Joe Kennedy and by Spellman, who baptized and married the Kennedys. JFK's policies as president largely reflected and were in agreement with these goals. Even the Maryknolls played host to the visiting Diem figures to came to the US seeking support for their wr against the communists. There is little evidence that JFK would have steered away from further escalation in Vietnam, no matter what James Douglass suggests. To add another layer of supposition --by arguing that JFK was killed by some unknown force to prevent an imminent withdraw from Vietnam -- only compounds his disservice to history and his audience.
The depth of reaction to Douglass's book, and all pro-conspiracy books, only underlines the profound impact of JFK on the American psyche. But I think the Kennedy legacy is best served by works of history that examine how their ascendacy from their immigrant background and made America, once a profoundly bigoted place against 'papists', in a much more catholic (if not Catholic) nation filled with many people of different minority backgrounds.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Caroline Kennedy Sweepstakes: VIDEO: The Dynasty Issue - Of Kennedy Kings and Queens and What an Irish Chieftain Means Today

Dynasty! Monarchy! Shades of Camelot! The casting of the Kennedys as some kind of American royalty has always struck me as a bit ironic. JFK's great-grandfather as Irish Catholic immigrant worker who died of cholera. His grandfather was a local pol whose mother ran a tavern. If not for his wily old man, who made a fortune in booze, stocks and real estate tips from the NY archdiocese, John F. Kennedy probably never would have been president. (Hence, the title of my book, "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings," refers both to that miscast Camelot label perpetuated by the late Theodore H. White in recalling JFK soon after his assassination, and even more so to the idea of a Irish chieftain and that kind of clannish character that the Kennedys brought to American politics.
(If you're looking for a Christmas 'best book' buy at the last minute, why not read all about it? Sorry for the commercial!)
So, my friends, the Senate bid of Caroline Kennedy is bringing up the old dynasty concerns again. The idea of this Camelot princess suddenly deigning to ask for the Senate seat, as if claiming a family heirloom, a political crown just waiting to be placed on her head, is rightfully galling to all the democratic Republicans in the land. But is that really a fair charge?
After all, Caroline Kennedy came of age as a New York politician by directly and quite publicly opposing the presidential bid of Hillary Clinton, the heir to the Clinton political legacy. (All this makes you wonder what office Chelea Clinton may be eyeing down the road!) And she backed the presidential bid of an African-American first-term Senator who clearly seemed a long shot this time last year. The election of Obama to the highest office in the land is hardly the act of dynastic politics -- quite the contrary. So Caroline Kennedy doesn't seem monarchist but someone who, late in life, may have found something about herself that she didn't know existed -- that in a family full of politicians, she may prove to be one of the most surprising of all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

VIDEO - Caroline Kennedy: Will She or Won't She? Only Her Governor Knows For Sure; She Breaks Bread with Rev. Al

How many more cheap puns can headline writers make out of the political roundabout involving Caroline Kennedy's Senate bid? (Actually, the press hope this goes on forever!) But will Gov. Patterson, at this late stage, risk the wrath of the Kennedys and many of their NY followers (not to speak of the new incoming President Obama) by rejecting JFK's daughter? Seems unlikely to this blogoskeptic and Kennedy historian. Just look at the glee in this report:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sweet and Sour Caroline: Is NY the new battle scene between Obama and Hillary loyalists? See Video and Analysis

So are we going to see a little skirmish between the Obama crowd and the Hillary loyalists over her soon-to-be departed Senate seat? Can Caroline Kennedy be denied?
Mmmm, it seems unlikely, no matter how unfair or inappropriate, that JFK's only daughter will be stopped in her desire to become the next U.S. Senator from New York. There's a scene in the new documentary "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings," where Caroline's uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, addressed some of the same kind of carpetbagger charges in his 1964 race against Republican incumbent Kenneth Keating.

What's deeply ironic here is that Caroline Kennedy was an early and prominent support for Sen. Barack Obama -- which helped to convince her uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, to do the same. It was a big blow to Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidential nomination. I wonder if Hillary had won the presidency, would Caroline Kennedy still be in line for this job?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Caroline Kennedy as NY Senator? Her Entry in Politics Was Predicted in "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings"

Caroline Kennedy's reported interest in the Senate seat of Hillary Clinton's is a remarkable turn of events. As you can see in the newly-updated version of my 2008 book "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings," -- now out with its own Warner Bros. documentary -- I underlined the potential that Caroline Kennedy someday follow the political legacy of her father, President John F. Kennedy. My sources during the research of this book told me that they felt Caroline might step forward, out of the reclusiveness favored by her mother, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and enter the political arena where she'd be embraced as JFK's heir. Apparently, her cousin, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., has indicated to the Times he's not interested at this moment in the Senate seat.
Here's what I said in my book about Caroline Kennedy, her interest in politics and public service, and the role of the Kennedy women in this generation of the family:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dennis Miller Embraces 'The Kennedys' and Wonders Where the "America's Emerald Kings" Came From.

Earlier this month on the Dennis Miller radio show, producer/director Robert Kline talked about "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" based on my book of the same name. In the beginning, Dennis Miller asked about the origin of the phrase "America's Emerald Kings" and yes indeed there is some irony in that phrase. As I explained in the book, it obviously plays off the 'Camelot' imagery but underscores that the Irish roots as immigrants who came to the US as poor migrant workers. It also suggest the Irish idea of "chieftains", the Irish kings, and how the Kennedys seemed to embody that idea here.

john The Dennis Miller Show - Robert Kline Interview

Sunday, November 23, 2008

JFK Assassination: Oliver Stone Talks About Film; Now Sold with New Documentary and Updated Book Looking at Kennedy Legacy

Oliver Stone's movie "JFK" is now being sold with a new Warner Bros. documentary based on the newly updated book of the same name, "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings". Here's an old clip of Siskel & Ebert reviewing Stone's film when it originally came out. It's now available on Blu-Ray DVD. The book can be found at Amazon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

JFK's Legacy and the Cultural Meaning of the Kennedys: Preface from the New Edition of "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings"

Here is the new 2008 preface to "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings." It's been released with a new Warner Home video documentary based on the book, sold along with Oliver Stone's "JFK" feature film.

Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that immigrants were America.
—historian Oscar Handlin (as quoted by John F. Kennedy in A Nation of Immigrants)

The 2008 presidential campaign offered many reminders for Sen. Edward Kennedy of the barriers his brother faced in 1960, becoming the first and only U.S. president from a minority background. With a sign from Dunganstown, Ireland hanging in his Senate office, a reminder of the famine-ravished farm where his ancestors began, Ted always seemed to understand that the Kennedys were perhaps America’s greatest immigrant story -- overcoming religious, ethnic and cultural barriers to reach once unimaginable heights.
“ My brother Jack wrote ‘A Nation of Immigrants’ in 1958, and his words ring true as clearly today as they did half a century ago,” said Ted, a few months before he was struck with a malignant brain tumor. “I’m constantly reminded of my immigrant heritage.” Indeed, the Kennedys’ vision of “A Nation of Immigrants” had transformed America forever.
Throughout 2008, presidential candidates from various minority backgrounds invoked the Kennedy name as a constant touchstone. The first major female candidate for president, Sen. Hillary Clinton, drew endorsements from Robert Kennedy's children, including Kathleen and Bobby Jr. The first major candidate from a Hispanic background, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, echoed JFK in proclaiming, “We are a nation of immigrants.'' In a speech to allay concerns about his Mormon religion, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney harkened back to JFK’s famous 1960 speech before the Houston ministers, when many were fearful of a Catholic in the White House.
Most notably, Barack Obama, the U.S. Senator from Illinois, possessed a style and dignity particularly reminiscent of the Kennedy era. "People always tell me how my father inspired them,” said JFK’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy, in her endorsement. “I feel that same excitement now. Barack Obama can lift America and make us one nation again." At a key moment in the primary campaign, Ted Kennedy publicly supported Obama who, in turn, said the Kennedy family always stood for “what is best about America”. Obama’s campaign faced many similar tests that Kennedy endured in 1960 as the first and only Roman Catholic elected to the presidency. As a minority, born to black and white parents, Obama had to overcome codes words and subtle biases historically applied to African-Americans. Like Catholic hard-liners who complained that Kennedy wasn’t “Catholic enough” in 1960, Obama was sometimes criticized within the black community for not seeming “black enough” in 2008. And yet when the media made it seem Obama had been attacked for his minority status, African-Americans rallied to his support, just as Catholics did in 1960 for Kennedy. Ted Kennedy’s dramatic embrace of Obama’s candidacy carried a powerful symbolism, one of the last significant acts of his distinguished career before he fell ill.
The Kennedy’s legacy from a minority background demands a greater understanding of the cultural forces that they both represented and overcame. From today’s perspective, it is increasingly clear that John F. Kennedy was the Jackie Robinson of American politics, paving a way for presidential candidates from other minority backgrounds. For future generations, the transcendent appeal of JFK’s 1960 success meant that other discounted Americans could possibly overcome the hurdles of ethnicity, race, religion and sex. As this book recounts, the religious bigotry Kennedy faced in 1960 could have easily embittered a candidate with less personal grace and less awareness of this nation’s history. But JFK’s idealistic belief in America’s greatness was clearly stated in, A Nation of Immigrants, which reflected so much of his family’s story. The essence of this little known, little-studied book became the 1965 Immigration Reform Act, which ended the discriminatory preference given to white Europeans and opened the door to millions from Latin America, Asia, Africa and around the world. First proposed by JFK in July 1963, a few months before his assassination, the bill was passed in his memory, pushed by his two brothers in the U.S. Senate. No law in our lifetime has done more to change America and is arguably the Kennedy family’s most lasting legacy to our country.

This book takes a new look at the Kennedy saga over five generations, exploring the impact of religion, race and cultural identity on their public and private lives. Too often, previous historians ignored these powerful forces and portrayed JFK as a Harvard-educated Anglophile, the perfect specimen of a secular, assimilist “melting pot” view of American history. As a result, dozens of Kennedy books routinely ignored, or gave only a passing nod, to the underlying forces of ethnicity and religion that so often influenced the Kennedy family’s actions and outlook. In death, JFK’s reign was lionized as “Camelot” by his widow and those who grieved. But a comparison to British royalty hardly seems proper for the great-grandson of an Irish migrant worker who fled from Dunganstown, County Wexford farm during the Great Famine. Only with the passage of time, and the recent availability of many personal documents at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, does a more complete and accurate portrait emerge.
In re-examining the record, we gain a fresh understanding into the Kennedy family’s sense of their own immigrant heritage, their epic encounters with religious bigotry, and how the complex dynamics of their family life reflected the Irish Catholic experience in America. From Patrick and Bridget Kennedy fleeing famine-stricken Ireland among the great wave of emigrants in the 1840s, to efforts by Ted Kennedy and his sister, U.S. Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, to bring peace in the 1990s to their ancestral homeland, their sense of being Irish, of being Catholic, and of being members of a family coming from an often oppressed immigrant minority—indeed the very Irish notion of a Kennedy clan, as they often referred to themselves—carried through from one generation to the next.
Though this book is not intended as a policy analysis, it is nevertheless striking how much of the Kennedy family’s cultural background played a role in such issues as civil rights, Vietnam, poverty, immigration, terrorism and the fight against communism. Certainly, the Kennedy relationship with the Roman Catholic Church was far more extensive than the public perceived of the 1960 presidential candidate, elected as he was by vowing a strict separation between church and state. Private letters illustrate the family’s deep political and financial ties to the church, both in America and with the Pope’s right-hand man at the Vatican. These documents detail Joe Kennedy’s secret dealings between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the future Pope Pius XII, why he felt that FDR harbored a bias against Catholics like himself, and how the Kennedys battled behind the scenes with the church’s hierarchy during JFK’s historic presidential campaign. Joe Kennedy’s decades-long friendship with the suave, discreet Vatican administrator, Count Enrico Galeazzi, offers a fascinating venue into the Kennedy family’s influence in Rome. Their correspondence during the 1960 presidential campaign provides a running commentary on the family’s frustration with anti-Catholic bigotry and anger with the conservative bishops in their own church—something the Kennedys dared not show to the American public.
We also gain new understanding into the personal side of the Kennedys, the often profound and pervasive impact of their cultural background beyond the sheer exercise of power and money. Volumes of family documents—from typed formal correspondences to the handwritten comments on funeral Mass cards, or scribbled St. Patrick’s Day greetings—reveal their struggles with faith after so many tragedies, their difficulties in overcoming anti-Semitism and race, and reconciling matters of marriage and sex within the church’s teachings. We learn of figures such as Jesuit priest Richard McSorley, who spoke for the first time about Jacqueline Kennedy’s depression and thoughts of committing suicide in the wake of her husband’s 1963 assassination. In a typical Kennedyesque setting (while playing tennis in Bobby and Ethel’s Hickory Hill backyard), Father McSorley advised and comforted Jackie as she wondered aloud about a God who would claim the lives of her husband and their infant son, Patrick, within a few tragic months. We get a much more realistic picture of the traumatic impact of these events on the widowed first lady, who appeared silent and stoic to the American public from behind her black veil.
This book focuses on what JFK called the “emerald thread” between two nations—for so much about the Kennedys in America can be understood and appreciated only by first studying what happened to them in Ireland. Interviews and documents detail the Kennedys’ long involvement in the quest for Ireland’s independence, including how some family members in Ireland were tied to the Irish Republican Army. It recounts JFK’s celebrated 1963 visit to Ireland, including the home of his elderly Irish cousin who, unknown to the unwitting White House, had once been a local gunrunner for the IRA’s women’s branch. As former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend explains, the Kennedys’ sense of being Irish Catholics—both as outcasts in Ireland and as “outsiders” in the Brahmin world of Boston—would affect their politics for decades to come.
Though some call them “America’s royalty,” a more apt analogy may be the Irish chieftains of old, the kings of an emerald isle who, according to legend, inspired and led large groups of followers. This book’s title alludes to the “chieftain” notion mentioned by several people who were interviewed, and occasionally by the Kennedys themselves. These qualities emerged first among the Kennedy men who achieved fame and power, but also, tellingly, in recent years with the family’s prominent women. From the broadest vantage, the Kennedy story reminds us of the glories and the limits of America’s melting pot and those histories that paint people from minority groups in familiar “just like us” tones. We gain a better grasp of the Kennedys’ appeal beyond Irish Catholics—to countless other immigrant and minority groups who share a dream of ascendancy in America. In this context, our understanding of the Kennedys becomes richer, more complex and of greater historical significance to what JFK called a nation of immigrants. It recalls how far we’ve progressed as a country since the 1960 election, and yet how many barriers still remain today.

In preparing this work, many people are to be thanked, particularly Basic Books publisher Elizabeth Maguire who edited this book in its original 2003 version. Liz died far too young in 2006 but her memory lives on with all those she touched. Editor Amanda Moon oversaw this re-issued version and updated introduction, which is being jointly released with a new Warner Bros. documentary about the Kennedys based on this book. Robert Kline, producer of this new documentary, is particularly to be thanked for his friendship and help in putting together this joint effort. My agent, Faith Hamlin of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates Inc., has been a bedrock of support, finding the right venues for three successive, sometimes controversial, books about American life in the twentieth century.
Writing is a solitary endeavor, but I relied continually on my family for help along the way. My wife, Joyce McGurrin, provided constant encouragement with her knowledgeable insights, thoughtful ear, and nightly cups of tea. In Ireland, Joyce’s family and her own intuitive awareness of the Irish sensibilities proved invaluable for this New York fellow. This book is dedicated to the joy of our lives—our three sons, Drew, Taylor and Reade—whom we love very much. The boys spent two weeks in Ireland with their parents during the early stages of research, alternately learning how to play hurling at the Kennedy Homestead and how to look up material in the National Library in Dublin. Mostly, they gained a sense of their own history. Because they were teenagers with an abundance of intelligence, charm and Irish wit, Drew and Taylor, known as the “redheads,” likely learned the most from this experience. They spent hours with their father pulling books and sifting through archives. But Reade, a bit younger with the same gifts, had probably the most personally affecting experience.
For Easter 2001, we spent the weekend with Joyce’s cousins, the Brennans, at their eight-hundred-acre sheep farm in County Donegal; there, Reade met a cousin who shared the same birthday and looked just like him. The two boys hit it off like twins. They were mirror images of each other, one Irish, the other American. It was a gentle reminder that we can all recognize a little of ourselves in the Irish and how much we might learn by looking back at where we’ve been.

Long Island, New York.
May, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Boston Globe: Kennedy Movie Debuts in Beantown, On to NYC; Sold with Oliver Stone's "JFK" as DVD Ultimate Collector's Edition

Here's what the Boston Globe says:
Director Robert Kline knows the Kennedys have been covered rather thoroughly, but he's hoping his documentary "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings," based on the book by Thomas Maier, brings something new to the discussion. "In the back of my mind, I always wanted to pay homage to the Kennedys," said Kline, the cofounder of Lifetime and former VP at Fox, who grew up in Ogunquit, Maine. The documentary, which had its world premiere at Boston College last night, focuses on little-seen private and political footage - some of JFK reassuring voters about his religion - and also gives deeper treatment to the Kennedy women. The film, which traces the Kennedys' path from Ireland to America's most powerful offices, will be distributed with a new high-def edition of Oliver Stone's "JFK," starting today. "It's not just good footage, it's great footage," Kline promised.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Video: Who Needs Boston College-Notre Dame football, when you have a new Kennedy documentary playing on campus? Boston Globe calls it "A Screen Gem"

Is this bigger than the Boston College- Notre Dame football game? Hey, I don't see that event mentioned in the Boston Globe gossip column today, but sure enough, there's a lovely item about the new Kennedy documentary playing Monday at Boston College (and on Wednesday at Fordham's Lincoln Center): Here's what the Globe said today:
Screen Gem
"The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings," will have its world premiere at Boston College on Monday. The documentary, based on Thomas Maier's book, traces five generations of Kennedy and Fitzgerald family trials and triumphs. Director Robert Kline and state Senator Harriette Chandler, a friend of the family, are expected to speak at the screening.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Barack Obama and Kennedy's 'Prophesy' about First African-American President; Predicted it 40 years ago; Kenyans Talk of Kennedy Ties To Obama's Win

First NBC newscaster Tim Russert pointed out the 'prophecy' of Robert Kennedy in the 1960s about a African-American president being elected in 40 years. And here's an account of the Obama-Kennedy connections following his victory this week.

"Obama made history when he was elected the first US African-American president on Tuesday. The prophecy goes back exactly 40 years ago when a much-beloved American leader, Senator Robert F Kennedy, while mourning his brother’s assassination, made his prophecy on Voice of America in 1968. "There is no question about it," Kennedy said. "In the next 40 years, a Negro can achieve the same position that my brother (former President John F Kennedy) had." Those were troubled times in the US. White extremists were still lynching blacks in America’s South and segregation had only been abolished. Kennedy said: "Prejudice would exist and probably would continue ... but we have tried to make progress and we are making progress. We are not going to accept that status quo."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Video: Kennedys Stump for Obama Right up to Election Day; Caroline Compares "Spark" of Dem to her Dad

Right up to election day, the Kennedys are prominent in the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, invoking images that harken back to the 1960 election of JFK. Here in Florida is Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late president, on the stump for Obama. “We haven’t had a leader who could light that spark and inspire us again... but we do now,” she said.

Global Climate Exhibit at American Museum of Natural History; Control Warming from Carbon and Fossil Fuels, Experts Say

The newest Newsday video from yours truly can be found here and on the Newsday website. I'm trying to show that there's an audience for science, medical and health stories on the Internet version of Newsday as well as in print.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Studs Terkel: An Appreciation

Studs Terkel was the soul of the Windy City, the Chicago where people love to talk about politics, religion, their work and ultimately themselves. Terkel, a Pulitzer Prize-winner who died today at age 96, encompassed all of these passions in his journalistic career. As a college student three decades ago, I remember reading "Working", his fascinating compilation of everyday jobs. And in the early 1990s, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Studs Terkel at a New York Library party for the opening of The New Press, started by Terkel's long-time friend and publisher, Andre Schiffrin. Studs was a loyal sort and never forgot the gratitude that a writer has for working with a great publisher. In my 1994 book "Newhouse", Terkel described how he came to write "Division Street: America" with the help of Andre Schiffrin:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

REVIEWER: New Kennedys Documentary Based on Book Is The 'Highlight' of New Oliver Stone "JFK" DVD Pak

Warner marries new JFK disc with doc
Ultimate Collector's Edition will be released Nov. 11

By Laurence Lerman -- Video Business, 10/23/2008
OCT. 23 | Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK has been issued on DVD several times over the past decade, but never with the with the kind of collectability and supplemental sheen that accompanies it in Warner Home Video’s upcoming JFK: Three-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition.
The highlight of the package—which includes the director’s cut of the film, a vintage documentary and featurettes, reproductions of Kennedy family and presidential photos, letters written by or to John F. Kennedy and more—is the new feature-length documentary The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings. Written, directed and produced by Robert Kline, the film will premiere on Nov. 10 at Boston College, a day before the Ultimate Collector's Edition is released. [Ed Note: In New York, it'll be shown at Fordham's Lincoln Center McNally Ampitheater on Nov. 12]

The DVD set is priced at $39.98.
Kline is a former executive at 20th Century Fox, co-founder of the Lifetime Network and producer of Stone’s 1993 Vietnam saga Heaven & Earth. He based his Kennedy film on Thomas Maier’s 2003 book of the same name, which examines five generations of the renowned family.
“It couldn’t have been done without the total cooperation of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum,” Kline told VB last week “They gave us a full-time archivist, and they never interfered creatively.”
As for the inclusion of the intensely researched documentary on the JFK: Ultimate Collector’s Edition, Jeff Baker, Warner’s senior VP/general manager of theatrical catalog, calls it “a marriage that a matchmaker dropped down from heaven.”
“We were planning on repromoting JFK anyway because of the 35th anniversary of the assassination,” he told us. “Oliver [Stone] gave us his blessing. He liked that we were marrying up his film with a documentary on the same subject. His visceral reaction was that it could be very interesting.”
America's Emerald Kings also will be available individually priced at $19.97.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

After Oliver Stone's 'W' Comes Next Month's 'JFK' and 'Kennedy' Docu Based on Book "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings"

Stars Align for Warner 'JFK' Release

By Billy Gil | Posted: 17 Oct 2008
Next in line to receive Warner Home Video’s elaborate “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” treatment will be JFK, the 1991 Oliver Stone film about the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the alleged cover-up that followed.
The set will be available Nov. 11 as the three-DVD JFK: Ultimate Collector’s Edition at $39.98; a Blu-ray Disc of JFK will be released the same day at $34.99.
In a superheated election year, and on the 45th anniversary of the assassination, the timing was right to re-release the film, said Jeff Baker, Warner’s EVP and GM of theatrical catalog.
“This is an election year, and there is great interest in presidents in general,” Baker explained. “I had been approached by [Robert] Kline, who’d acquired the film rights to a book called The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings.”
So Baker commissioned a documentary based on the Thomas Maier book about the Kennedys, directed by Kline, who had previously produced Stone’s Heaven & Earth (on DVD from Warner) and worked on a documentary for Warner’s Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music.
“I told [Baker] I thought it would make a sensational [documentary],” Kline said. “It’s a journey over five generations. It’s really a journey of an escape from Irish poverty and prejudice, and coming to Boston and finding out that many of the demons they were escaping from would greet them in New England, and what they overcame.”
Indeed, Kline’s documentary, which bears the same name as the book upon which it is based, is a far-reaching
exploration into the Kennedys’ history, including in-depth looks into some of the lesser-known Kennedys, such as younger sister Kathleen Agnes Kennedy, whose death May 13, 1948, greatly affected her brother.
Kline, who as a young man worked for Robert F. Kennedy, by chance was able to access footage from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for his documentary, which also will be available the same day as a standalone DVD, at $19.97.
Some of the library material Kline accessed included letters written by or to Kennedy. Six of those letters will appear, reproduced, in JFK: Ultimate Collector’s Edition, including Kennedy’s inaugural address and a handwritten letter to his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. They will appear alongside re-created presidential photos from the library and a re-created campaign button from the National Archives and Records Administration.
The Kennedy library content will make its public debut with this home video release, making it somewhat of a first in terms of historical content coming to the public with a DVD.
“We do a lot of entertainment-oriented packages strictly related to the film,” Baker said. “This is really a different animal, a little more cerebral in nature and geared toward someone who wants to learn more about the family as well as the JFK film. It’s really much more of a serious historical piece with this JFK entertainment in the middle of it.”
The three-disc set also includes extras previously included on the two-DVD JFK: Special Edition Director’s Cut, including commentary from Stone, the featurette “Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy,” two multimedia essays, and extended and deleted scenes. The set also will include a collectible hardcover book with production photos, photo cards of the actors with character bios, and background on the film and why it’s relevant today. The Blu-ray version will come in Digibook packaging, with press material and photographs from the film, and does not include the special features and reproduced presidential memorabilia contained within the DVD version.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

VIDEO: Barack Obama and John McCain Supporters In Last-Minute Campaigning On Long Island; How Presidential Politics Works on the Grassroots Level

Here are two mini-documentaries about the different presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain on Long Island, and how folks are working at the grass-roots level on their behalf. This appears on the website.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Boston College Nov. 10 Screening of "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings," new docu sold along with Oliver Stone's "JFK"

From the Irish Literary Supplement, Fall, 2008: Thomas Maier's book, "The Kennedys-America's Emerald Kings. encompassing a live generational family's journey starting from Wexford, Ireland to the United States in the twenty first century. Robert Kline, Executive Producer of Enduring Freedoms Productions and formerly Executive Vice President of 20th Century Fox, has produced a two hour documentary based on the book which will have its world premier on Monday November 10 at the Robsham Theatre on the Boston College campus. Hosted by the Center for Irish Programs, this premier screening will be followed the next day. November 11th, by the release of nearly one million DVD copies of the documentary which will be distributed and sold nationally by' Warner Brothers.

Here's the Makem Brothers in concert:

Friday, October 3, 2008

"W' Bush Trailer for New Oliver Stone Movie, then "JFK" and "The Kennedys" in November; "Whaddaya Think You Are -- A Kennedy? You're a Bush!"

In Variety, Peter Bart gives a big hooray to Stone for the new 'W" bipic which opens on Oct. 17. The new "JFK" DVD will unveil Nov. 12 along with a brand-new Warner Bros documentary by Robert Kline, a previous co-producer of Stone's work, with this new docu based on my book, "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings." Stone's original movie "JFK" explored the Kennedy assassination and conspiracy theories behind it. Basic Books is issuing a new updated version of my 700-page biography, including a preface that talks about the Kennedy family's impact on the 2008 presidential race with Barack Obama, and also details Sen. Ted Kennedy's battle with brain cancer.
Here's some of what Peter Bart says about "W" the new Stone film:
Last week I saw Oliver Stone's "W.," an engrossing film which reminds us that the man who made "Platoon" hasn't lost his edge. Part polemic, and part parody, "W." explores the love-hate relationship between George Bush senior and junior. It culminates in a devastating (and imagined) scene in which Bush senior all but implodes in parental rage, declaring that, thanks to junior, no Bush will ever again be elected to public office.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

VIDEO: Call Me Lucky: Sarah Palin Wins the VP Gamble, and Maybe the Biggest One of All

Who needs all those CNN audience meters, rolling up and down with approval and discontent? We know what we saw here at this website, where we can spot true Americans and true blarney with hawk-eye clarity. So our result after the VP debate? Well, it wasn't exactly Kennedy-Nixon or Lincoln-Douglas.
Joe Biden was OK but looked a little sleepy, missing a few chances to punch and counterpunch. Without doubt, the true champ tonight was Sarah Palin, the Mauler from Wassila, who gritted her teeth and flashed a wink or two at the crowd while poking away. (No friendly winks for any of the mainstream media, though). She was remarkably effective against the Pride of Scranton or Wilmington or wherever Biden says he's from. There are lot of people betting she'd stumble and lost that heavy-favorite bet, at least tonight.
Palin may have taken a step or two towards the vice-presidency.
But the most remarkable news today is that Palin may be even closer to the presidency than we think.
According to some wise-aleck who looked up the Social Security actuarial tables, Palin would have a 1 out of 6 or 7 chance of becoming president if the Republican ticker prevails. (We won't spell out how that exactly might happen, but you get the picture). This was, of course, bad news to the sourpuss Mainstream Media. Roger Cohen, in the NY Times, underlined the McCain-Palin gamble in today's pages:
I know one thing: this is no time for further gambling. John McCain rolled the dice on Sarah Palin. I’m grateful to Bob Rice of Tangent Capital for pointing out that the actuarial risk, based on mortality tables, of Palin becoming president if the Republican ticket wins the election is about 1 in 6 or 7. That’s the same odds as your birthday falling on a Wednesday, or being delayed on two consecutive flights into Newark airport. Is America ready for that? The lesson of the last eight years is this: when power is a passport to gamble, people can end up seriously broke or seriously dead.

So McCain may be the gambler, but who can say they are more lucky than Sarah Palin?
No one thought Lyndon Johnson had a chance of becoming president, either.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden Watch-out: Just Try Calling Your an Opponent an Elephant (or a Donkey) JFK-style.

In the Book of Debates, it is written that no candidate in their right mind should resort to name-calling. Those who violate this commandment are condemnded to purgatory in the public's mind and to the media's hell. Be like JFK, everyone advises, cool and in control, never resorting to name-calling.
Certainly Barack Obama and John McCain in this year's race, for all of the bile toward each other, have not resorted to any heavy doses of name-calling. But here's a little YouTube evidence that suggest Saint Jack wasn't quite all pure. Imagine, comparing Richard Nixon to an elephant!
As we head into the Vice-Presidential Debate (aka, The Super Bowl of Potential Gaffes), our head is swimming with the possibilities posed by Mooseburger and the Motor Mouth (Sarah Palin and Joe Biden).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

For Obama, Is the Key to Success 'Be More than Irish than Harvard'? Will Poet's Inscription to JFK Hold a Key to This Year's Race?

This year, in places like Scranton Pennsylvania and other rust-belt locales, is the old inscription from poet Robert Frost to JFK at his 1960 inaugural still applicable: Be more Irish than Harvard?

Of course, readers of a certain biography, soon to be released as a Warner Bros. documentary, are very familiar with this phrase which held some of the key to Kennedy's success. But Catholic University professor Tim Meagher wonders in this essay if Obama's style on the stump might turn off Catholics who are pivotal in these swing states, pointing to Hillary Clinton's success with white Catholics over Obama during the primary season. That would very ironic given Obama's strong support from the Kennedy family during this election campaign.
But Meagher's essay really doesn't consider the changes in the institutional Church itself between JFK's time and now. Back in 1960, there was a lot obvious ethnic pride surrounding JFK's candidacy, becoming the first U.S. president from a minority background. The priests of this era of Pope John XXIII rallied to Kennedy's cause, at a time when priests and nuns were generally liberal on political matters and the church was a leader in the fight for racial equality. These days, church leaders tend to be more conservative and seem more concerned with Right-to-Life concerns than whether Catholics might not pull the ballot lever for Obama because of his race. McCain's appeal to white Catholics in places like Scranton might succeed in the same way as Hillary Clinton's --  benefitting indirectly from an underlying racism toward Obama dressed up as some cultural problem.
Obama's dilemma in overcoming long-held biases by some voters is much the same as was Kennedy's challenge as an Irish Catholic in 1960. But it seems unlikely many Catholics will see this historical connection and even more unlikely that parish priests in Scranton will address the immorality of voting against a candidate simply because of his race.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

God, Christian Right and Stephen Colbert -- Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Once and Possibly Future Md. Gov. Opines on Catholics, Democrats and Family

Talking about God and Democratic politics isn't the usual television fare. The Blue Party in recent years has let the GOP frame such eternal social questions like 'What Would Jesus Do?' But here on the Colbert Report, of all places, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Maryland Lt. Governor, bravely touts her new book tackling this subject.
I always liked her sense of humor. When I interviewed her for my bio, The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings, Townsend laughed heartily at herself and other foibles, but spoke eloquently about how the family's Catholic faith informed RFK's decisions on race, immigration and his view of life. In particular, Robert F. Kennedy's friendship with Cesar Chavez seems like an odd couple, unless seen through the prism of Kennedy's understanding of his own family's history.
After the interview, Kathleen invited me to sit in her father's old red leather seat from his days in the Justice Department as JFK's Attorney General. I generally like to keep my objective veneer in place, but what the hell, right? I plopped right in the seat and smiled next to the very gracious Townsend.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Review: Kerry Kennedy on "Being Catholic Now", Predicts Most Catholics Will Vote for Obama

It's nice to see that my book, The Kennedys; America's Emerald Kings," isn't the only one discussing the Kennedys and Catholicism in America.
In the Boston Globe, Kerry Kennedy discusses her new book "Being Catholic Now" which deals with much of the controversies of that past few years. She also told the NY Daily News that she think Catholics will largely vote this year for Barack Obama.
Here's a little of what she had to say to the Boston Globe:
"I was witnessing the mighty spirit, and the tremendous capacity of this institution which was so much a part of my history, and my family, and my sense of spirituality, and my vision of social justice . . . and then coming back and hearing bishops who were protecting their turf instead of protecting children and playing Three-card Monte with the pedophile priests and blaming it on people who are gay," she said. "So it was important to me to resolve that."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

VIDEO: Oliver Stone's "W" Followed by DVD Release of "JFK" Along with "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" documentary

Right after the much publicized release of Oliver Stone's "W" movie on the life our current president, Warner Bros will be re-releasing on DVD Stone's earlier film involving another president "JFK" along with a brand-new documentary "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" based on my biography published by Basic Books. The newly re-issued book looks at the impact of the Kennedys on the 2008 presidential races, their support of Barack Obama, and Ted Kennedy's battle with cancer. Here's the trailer for the new "W" movie.

ICONS Festival Outside Boston Celebrates Irish-American Music and Arts

The Irish Cultural Centre of New England was kind enough to host my talk about "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" a few years back. And now this coming weekend, the Centre is hosting ICONS, the Irish Music and Arts Festival, September 12-14, including such performers as the Boston Kiltics seen here in this video. I'm hoping to see return soon with the new Warner Bros. two-hour documentary "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" based on my book and debuting Nov. 10 at Boston College.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Alas, Conventions, We Hardly Knew Ye -- Now Give Me That Old-Time Entertainment, RNC and DNC Style!

For years, critics have bemoaned the death of entertainment on commercial television. Oh where, oh where have those old programs gone on the Big Three networks? Remember Omnibus, the Hallmark Hall of Fame Hour, even the Ed Sullivan show with Topo Gigot? Sadly the old softshoe, the variety skits and the June Taylor dancers have faded away. Now we have all these reality shows done on the cheap, featuring contestants eating bugs or trying Jackass stunts. (Where DO they get these folks?) As our mothers might ask, "So, mister, you call this entertainment???"
But fear not, this summer -- the season when TV traditionally tests new programming -- comes a new form of TV entertainment. What better to get your jollies than the new show called "Convention"? Think of it, each week a major party could be given their own network nighttime slot, with their own brand of entertainment. The Dems this year had a fondness for the soulfulness for Stevie Wonder, while GOP serenaded its troupe with the twang of Gretchen Wilson.
Of course, in the old days, conventions really had some drama (or least we thought so). Remember when Bobby Kennedy worked the floor of the convention, shoring up any strayers from the Kennedys cause. Ah for the old days of baited breath, cigar smoke and backroom deals! For more than 25 years -- since Reagan challenged Gerald Ford at the 1976 convention -- there hasn't been much drama at either convention. So bring on the music and comedy! It's the best thing on TV this summer.

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Jack" McCain More Like JFK Than Obama? John McCain's GOPers Jump Into "Compare-Alot", Say Kennedys More Like Their War Hero Than Ted and Caroline's

Everyone wants to get into the JFK comparisons, even supporters of John McCain. In this NY Daily News essay, Bartle Bull -- whose pedigree describes him as a former publisher of The Village Voice and New York State chairman of Democrats for McCain -- makes the case that McCain's background of service in the military is more like President Kennedy than the current Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, supported by JFK's daughter Caroline and brother, Sen. Ted Kennedy. Since we've written much about the Camelot comparison -- what we call "Compare-Alot" -- we were a sucker for this one too.
Like Jack Kennedy, McCain is grounded by heroic service as a naval officer. His patriotism requires no parsing. Like JFK, McCain understands that you cannot conduct foreign policy without understanding history. No person of that background could suggest a unilateral strike on Pakistan, as Obama did last year, apparently forgetting that this United States ally has nuclear weapons. Calling Obama's threat to Pakistan "misguided" at the time, Sen. Joe Biden also said the freshman Illinois lawmaker was unprepared to lead America. Calling McCain "my hero," Biden has stated that he would be delighted to share a ticket with the Arizona senator, whom he has suddenly begun to denounce.

But Bull's analogy may have even more significance regarding RFK, suggests Mr. Bull. As he writes about a Robert Kennedy-McCain comparison:
When Robert Kennedy ran for President in 1968, Eugene McCarthy was the darling of our party's "limousine liberals," as Obama is their cocktail today. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote that Bobby became "the hate object in sections of the intellectual left, at least in New York." RFK turned to the blue-collar Democrats, some of whom are now shifting their support from Hillary Clinton to McCain. As Robert Kennedy's New York campaign manager, I recall his concern about young voters who believed they saw inspirational "hope" and "change" in McCarthy.

Oliver Stone's New Feature "W" Followed Nov. 10 by Re-Issued "JFK" on DVD with New Kennedy Documentary

Sunday, August 31, 2008

VIDEO: "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" By Thomas Maier and New Warner Bros. Documentary Based on Book, Along with Oliver Stone's "JFK"

REUTERS- The controversial highly-charged story surrounding John F. Kennedy's assassination is revisited with the November 11 release of Oliver Stone's JFK as a Three-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition from Warner Home Video. The UCE will feature The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings, an extraordinary new documentary from filmmaker Robert Kline based on Thomas Maier's acclaimed book about five generations of the renowned political family. Unique to the documentary is political and private footage of the Kennedys not widely available to the general public. The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings documentary will be premiered on November 10th at Boston College and also screened on November 12th at Fordham University/Lincoln Center. Both universities
have the largest Irish studies programs in the country.

About The Documentary

The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings is an American saga about the Irish Catholic experience. It encompasses five generations of the Kennedys' and Fitzgeralds' lives -- starting from 1848 in Wexford, Ireland and ending in 21st-century America. The film was adapted from Thomas Maier's highly acclaimed book The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings from Basic Books, re-released in July 2008. The documentary provides a look at both the family's tragedies of poverty and
political oppression and their successes and the triumphs of the White House years. It embodies the most complete work on this Irish American family and their unique place in American history and culture.
Basic Books
Greg Houle, 212-340-8163