A new book on Joseph P. Kennedy, patriarch of the Kennedy family, reveals that he had New York Times columnist Arthur Krock, who was on his payroll, secretly approach President Roosevelt in December 1940 with a plan to send Kennedy to Ireland to secretly negotiate with Irish leader Eamon De Valera for the use of Irish military bases and ports.
The British government immediately intervened and stated that “For your own information we regard Mr. Kennedy as a highly unsuitable emissary though we appreciate that we must not antagonize him or such Irish American opinion as is under his influence.”
The material is in the new Kennedy biography ‘The Patriarch’ by David Nasaw.
Krock made the overture shortly after Kennedy had returned from his role as Ambassador to London where his pro-appeasement leaning had frustrated Roosevelt.
However, Roosevelt was reluctant to fire him because his sway with Irish Americans was considerable and he had lost two key Irish Americans.
“With James Farrely (Postmaster General) having abandoned the administration and Al Smith campaigning for (Wendell) Wilkie the president needed a high profile Irish American to come to his defence,” Nasaw writes.
Roosevelt actually offered Kennedy the Dublin Ambassador’s post after he was first elected, but Kennedy turned it down.
The book also clears up the incorrect stories about Joe Kennedy being a bootlegger. It was actually a person with the same name, resident in Vancouver, Canada, David Joseph Kennedy who was running hooch during prohibition.
The book also includes a letter to Jack Kennedy from his father urging him to marry an Irish Catholic girl because of the religious make-up of Massachusetts.
“Politics is a great game! You better be sure to marry yourself a nice Irish Catholic girl ...“I am thoroughly convinced that an Irish Catholic with a name like yours ... married to an Irish Catholic girl would be a pushover in this state for a political office.”
Kennedy made the remarks after the Democratic candidate for senate in 1942, Irish Catholic Joseph Casey got in trouble, especially with women, on the grounds he married a Protestant and had a baby five months after marriage.
Kennedy also arranged for 13 West Point students found cheating in their exams to take their degrees at Notre Dame which he paid for as he felt they had been shafted. The book reveals his close links with Notre Dame presidents Father Ted Hesburgh and Father James Cavanaugh.
It also deals with his intense irritation that senior Catholic figures such as Cardinal Spellman in New York did not support his son’s race for the White House despite the fact that he was the first Catholic to run.