A PROFILE IN COURAGE

AN INTERVIEW WITH NEIL GALLAGHER

PART 1 THE KENNEDY YEARS

Q. When did you first meet with John F. Kennedy?

Well, I first met Kennedy at the 56th Convention, I was a delegate from New Jersey, and supposedly the Convention would be open, and everybody had their little campaigns for who was going to be Vice President. Adial Stevenson said that it was ‘gonna be an open Convention. So there was some people from Massachusetts that I knew from the War days who were friends of Kennedy, and they introduced us. We had this little boomlet for Vice President and I got some of the people in New Jersey, and we started to stir things up for Kennedy to be Vice President. It was the best thing that ever happened, he lost. Nobody ever heard of him again, that’s how I first met him.

Then shortly thereafter ‘I was elected to Congress and then we became friends. Then after I was in Congress, then it appeared that now he was going to get serious about running for President. So we’d meet every once and a while, maybe every couple of weeks or so, maybe have a sandwich over at his office and we go over what some of the people in New Jersey might feel about it, the Leadership, whether the Governor might be for him or the political leaders… So we became quite friendly.

He was a funny guy… we would go over 4/5 leaders in New Jersey in our state's political leaders and then he said to me, we went over what they might say… ‘but what about the governor,’ and I said well I don't know… ‘Well let me see if I can give you a reason why he’ll never be ‘for me,’ I said okay, and he's says… well he'll never be ‘for me’ no matter what happens, because first of all he says, he's anti-Catholic, he is a fallen-away Catholic himself, so now he is vigorously anti-Catholic and he feels that no Catholic could ever win, and he said the other reason was, he said that up until now he said, he's been the bright young thing in the Democratic Party, he said I'm younger than he is, but he said Neil, I want to tell you what the real reason is… I take a better picture than that son-of-a-bitch and he’ll never forgive me… and you know what, that's really what it boils down to in the end so…

Q. Was Kennedy trying to return to the legacy of FDR?

There's no question about that, I think the policies of Dullus and the standoffishness of President Eisenhower who sort of had the admiration of the world for his role in the War, but the policy was really driven by Dullus, though revisionist history says that the man behind it all was Eisenhower which is probably true. I think he was a more of a manager then someone who was making policy. I think that Dullus added to the policies of Truman and Acheson and left no room for the diminution of the Cold War. I think Kennedy viewed that as one of his great responsibilities to reduce those tensions, because everybody's still talking about a Nuclear war and we're talking about a service plot right now, but Nuclear War was the end of the world for ‘many ‘many people and then I think Kennedy took that very seriously, how to reduce the tensions and not fall into a War, and of course he was highly tested by Kruschev...

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