Thursday, August 27, 2009

"With the Irish, laughter and sadness are never far apart"

Posted By on Thu, Aug 27, 2009 at 4:45 PM


Former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams sent out his thoughts on the late Sen. Kennedy this afternoon. We'd read the funny anecdote about Teddy at the Montana Fair in 1960, but didn't know that episode also connected to the Bay of Pigs.

The full text of Williams column here:

In 1960, Montana and the other states of the Rocky Mountains were the campaign stomping grounds for Ted Kennedy. That summer and fall the 28-year-old Ted was out here working for his brother Jack’s presidential campaign. The youngest Kennedy was traveling, most often by car, up and down the Rockies, going door to door, working the streets, visiting college campuses, and making sure that he was seen and heard wherever a crowd had gathered.

As Montanans remember or have recently read, the Southeastern Montana Fair and Rodeo was being held that August in Miles City. Ted was there and when he asked the rodeo announcer if he could say a few words for his brother, the answer was, “Kid, this isn’t a political convention, it’s a rodeo. If you want to get you and your brother Jack’s name mentioned, go down to the chutes, pull on some cowboy clothes, get up on one those broncs and I’ll announce you.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for this next cowboy. He is the brother of presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. Here, out of chute number six, is Ted Kennedy on Skyrocket.” He didn’t make it to the buzzer, hitting the dust on the third buck.

Although Ted liked to recall that story, it was the sequel that really set off his Irish laugh and put mist in his eyes. With the Irish, laughter and sadness are never far apart.

Only three months into the presidency of John Kennedy, an illegal American CIA-led invasion of Cuba failed. It was known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion and it created a major scandal for the new President. As Ted relates the story, it is this: The evening of the disaster, a late-night meeting was held in the White House residential area. Attending along with the President were his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk. The President spoke about the stupidity of the effort and how to right the wrong and inform the public of the mistake. Gloom surrounded them. President Kennedy, sitting on his bed, went quiet for a very long time; no one spoke. Finally, President Kennedy, who was always looking for the bright side, removed his hands from his face and said, “Oh well, we will tell the truth and see what happens. Perhaps I’ll be impeached, scandalized, but even if the worst happens, why even if the family goes broke, we can always make a few bucks on Teddy breaking broncs up in Montana.”

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