• U.S.

Nation: A Bit of a Split

3 minute read

Washington’s Democratic leaders may be agreed on how to treat the South, but they have a splitting headache on other political matters. The problem: growing resentment over Bobby Kennedy’s notion that he is the only one who really knows what is politically good for his big brother.

Among those who often disagree with Bobby’s diagnoses and doses are National Committee Chairman John Bailey and Larry O’Brien, chief of the White House liaison staff with Capitol Hill. Bobby’s critics are still sore because he intervened in last year’s gubernatorial election in New York, foisted upon the party U.S. Attorney Robert Morgenthau, a hapless candidate who endangered the chances of several Democratic candidates for Congress. Bobby denies that he did any such thing, places the blame for Morgenthau’s selection on New York City’s Mayor Robert Wagner. But the critics insist that Bobby telephoned Bronx Democratic Boss Charles Buckley, enlisted his support for Morgenthau and thereby turned the unhappy trick. And Morgenthau’s defeat, of course, did nothing to endear Bobby to his critics.

Then there is the matter of the Bay of Pigs. After last October’s Cuba crisis, Bobby, riding high on the Administration’s apparent success, reopened the whole issue by insisting that his White House brother had not called off the air cover for the Bay of Pigs invaders. Air cover, he claimed, had never been planned in the first place. Bobby’s fraternal defense only stirred up more controversy. And he himself admits that it was a political mistake: “If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn’t.”

Some Administration political aides were also annoyed by the fact that Bobby recently testified—voluntarily—against two former Democratic Representatives, Maryland’s Thomas F. Johnson and Alabama’s Frank Boykin. The two were charged with accepting money for using influence in an attempt to persuade the Justice Department—including Bobby himself—to let a convicted land swindler off easy. Bobby insists that his testimony against the pair was necessary; his critics say that it was not and only managed to increase tensions between Capitol Hill and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

As still another complaint, Bobby’s Administration critics note that he recently accompanied Defense Secretary Robert McNamara on a visit to the office of Arkansas’ Democratic Senator John McClellan, chairman of a committee investigating McNamara’s controversial contract for the TFX all-purpose fighter aircraft. Says one angered White House staffer of Bobby: “He went in to make a deal with McClellan—who has never given us a vote on anything.”

Such complaints are probably inevitable whenever a President’s brother doubles as a top Administration official and a most-trusted political adviser. But it is also true that the disagreements will not cause the President’s brother to lose any sleep—much less his job.

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