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1967_08_26--028_SP At Home with Heir Apparent

Hard-headed politicians have noted that Hubert Humphrey's influence has waned among the lib- eral elements while Kennedy's has grown, and that Kennedy's appeal to the young voters—the "jumpers and squealers" as some politicians call them—has risen enormously. For this and other reasons there is talk that, in the pre-convention weeks of 1968, President Johnson may find himself in a position where he seems to be facing defeat unless he dumps Vice President Humphrey, whom he has already pledged to keep as his running mate, and offers the place to Senator Kennedy instead. This switch, according to the theory, might assure President Johnson's reelection in an otherwise doomed situation, because it would unite the two wings of the party. I mentioned the outlines of this theory to Senator Kennedy. His answer was instantaneous. "No," he said intensely. "First, I don't think he President Johnson will be in that mood, and I would think it very peculiar if he was; and unfair, and a betrayal of Hubert Humphrey, who has carried the burden all the way through." "It would be a double-cross?" "Yes, and secondly, I am not going to be Vice President under any circumstances. I am satisfied where I am, and so I am not going to take it under any circumstances. And I don't think he would offer it to me under any circumstances." In the next two days a Johnson intimate and a Kennedy staff man both made approximately the same comment about this statement: "That's what he would say anyway, of course." But somehow I think the senator meant it. I then asked Kennedy if it was also true that he would not under any circumstances challenge President Johnson "head on" in 1968. "That's right," he shot back. "So," I pressed on, "that would leave only the possibility that President Johnson's health, or something else, should cause him to take himself out of the running?" The senator nodded. What about 1972, then? "I don't think I can plan for it," he said. "It would be foolish. I don't even know if I'm going to be here." This feeling of fatalism is very much a part of him these days. "I think you affect in a very adverse fashion your ability to cope with present problems if you try to govern yourself by thinking of problems too far in the future. I don't have any long-range strategy—but I think everybody's going to go on thinking I do." Suddenly Christopher and Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy came crowding into the room. "D-a-a-d-e-e!" Matthew was yelling, "make me a paper airplane like you made for Christopher, please!" He had a sheet of paper in his hand and he pushed it at Daddy. The senator directed him to watch carefully how it was folded so he could do it himself the next time. "But as you see things now," I went on, "you will definitely run for reelection as senator in 1970?" "Yes." The senator folded the paper, creased it carefully and lined it up for proper aerodynamic balance. Matthew reached for it eagerly, but Daddy took careful aim and launched the plane. We all watched it sail the length of the dining room and out the door. The kids screamed with delight and ran after it. The senator looked at me with a grin, curious to see how I was taking life with father at Hickory Hill. This man—who can drop a glacial curtain over his eyes so fast you can alrhost hear it fall, who can clam up tight in front of an eagerly While Ethel spoons a meal into Douglas Harriman Kennedy, Kathleen pops in to report on personal news—the town's new discotheque, a dance she had been to—and Matthew stands by to get a word in edgewise when he can. Young Matthew finds Mom resting on a sail bag, in time to impart a confidence before she leaves to board the boat. 31


1967_08_26--028_SP At Home with Heir Apparent
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