I began this improbable journey almost a half century ago. After John Kennedy was murdered, events sped by in whirlwind disorder. J. Edgar Hoover, perhaps the most distrusted official in the country, quickly proclaimed that the assassin was a young man who was guilty beyond all doubt and that there was no possibility that anyone else had been involved. Walter Cronkite, at the time said to be the most trusted man in the country, agreed. Then Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin (how rarely was that cautionary word employed by the media), was shot to death while Americans observed the murder on national television. Oswald was shot in the Dallas Police and Courts Building while surrounded by police officers by an old and dear friend of many of the cops, including those on duty that day. That Jack Ruby, the murderer, had worked for the FBI as an informant and had been previously employed by Congressman Richard M. Nixon, who was looking into subversive actions by his fellow Americans, was among the many facts suppressed by local and national police and their loyal assets in the news business.
I had known John when he was a senator seeking to become a president. I supported him for the Democratic Party nomination that took place that year in Los Angeles. I was active in efforts to wrest control of the Democratic Party in New York, led by Carmine DeSapio, from its established leaders, most of whom had substantial connections to organized crime. The founders of our Reform Movement were Eleanor Roosevelt, former governor Herbert Lehman, and many young people who, as in my case, were naïve enough to believe that change is possible. I still hold to that vision in spite of the existence of all evidence to the contrary.
Murray Kempton, a very clever writer for the then somewhat liberal and somewhat crusading New York Post, observed that the Reform Movement was “mostly comprised of young lawyers seeking to become old judges.” I told him that I was in touch with my colleagues every day and that he was barely acquainted with them. In reply he smiled and nodded. As it turned out he knew them better than I did.
Both John and his brother Bobby, as well as some of his advisors from Massachusetts who came to New York to look over the political scene, were wary of the regular organization and not quite sure about the reformers either. They suggested a compromise regarding the campaign. Each of the warring branches of the Democrats would select a person to manage the campaign in crucial New York, and they would hopefully work together to get Kennedy elected. They asked that I be the reform designee and the reform leaders, who much preferred Adlai Stevenson as their nominee in any event, were willing to comply...
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