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October 1, 1964, Vol. IX, No. 50
Bobby is Not ‘Best Man’ for Playwright Vidal
By Mary Perot Nichols
The author of “The Best Man” stood on a sidewalk at 74th Street and Madison Avenue on a rainy Monday and told TV and newspapermen that the best man for the Senate was certainly not former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Playwright Gore Vidal, who is related to Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, is chairman of a newly formed group of liberal Democrats called “Democrats for Keating.”
“We believe,” said Vidal at the 928 Madison Avenue headquarters of the new group, “that one of the great myths of current American politics is the widespread belief that Robert Kennedy is a liberal. We believe that he is anti-liberal and disturbingly authoritarian.”
Vidal pointed to the launching of Kennedy in New York State by “the discredited old-line bosses, Buckley, Steingut, Crotty, and Powell.” “His election,” Vidal said, “would strengthen immeasurably the worst elements in the New York State Democratic Party and would be a body blow to the New York reform movement spearheaded by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and Senator Herbert H. Lehman.”
TV reporter Lisa Howard noted that while many reform Democrats were keeping silent about Kennedy, Democrats for Keating were receiving checks from them. The glamorous Miss Howard, a major reform figure and organizer, with Vidal, of Democrats for Keating, said, “lots of reformers” are going to vote for “Johnson, Humphrey, and Keating.”
Vidal, a little less tactful on the subject, aid, “All the reformers have political ambitions, so they don’t want to defect.” But, he noted with a grin, “Some of my best friends are reform Democrats.”
Senator Kenneth Keating, beneficiary of this disaffection with Bobby Kennedy, stood on the sidewalk shaking hands with passers-by and pledging to continue to serve all New Yorkers without regard to their political affiliation. Senator Jacob K. Javits, a prominent Republican for Keating, was queried by the press as to whether he still withheld his support from Barry Goldwater. Javits responded firmly, “I withhold my support.” He also said he would make it clear before election day what lever on the Presidential line he intends to pull down.
Keating, a little milder than Javits on the Goldwater subject, apparently satisfied the Democrats present that he would “never, never” support the GOP Presidential candidate.
Among the signers of the anti-RFK manifesto read by Vidal were James Baldwin; Robert K. Bingham, managing editor of the Reporter magazine; Carey McWilliams, editor and publisher of the Nation; and actors Paul Newman and Walter Abel.
Inside the hole-in-the-wall Democrats for Keating headquarters, which shares an entrance with a tailor, were copies of Vidal’s blistering March, 1963, Esquire article on the Presidential ambitions of Bobby Kennedy. The piece, which severed Vidal’s relations with the Kennedy family, highlights Bobby’s close friendship with the late Senator Joseph McCarthy and contains the now-famous comment by a government associate of the former Attorney General, “It’s not as if Bobby were against civil liberties — it’s just that he doesn’t’ know what they are.”
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