February 17, 2017

1968. President Johnson on the Assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy

Lyndon Johnson Faces a Nation in Shock

Bill Downs

ABC Washington

June 6, 1968

For Lyndon Johnson, this is the second time in five years that he has faced the nation in shared shock and indignation over a cruel and senseless assassination. The fatal shooting of Senator Robert Kennedy does not put as much pressure and strain on the Chief Executive as did the killing of President John Kennedy in November of 1968. Five years ago Mr. Johnson had to take over and learn the art of executive power in the most difficult and important job in the world.

But in many ways the assassination early yesterday of the second Kennedy brother presents a more difficult problem. It's no secret of the double-barreled clash between the New York Senator and Mr. Johnson—a clash of both personalities and domestic and foreign policy outlook.

If there was one area which each admired the other, it was in the field of politics. Senator Kennedy could and did differ on the pace and direction of the US government. In the political struggle fought between the White House and Capitol Hill, both men respected each other's political punch and footwork.

For this reason, President Johnson could pay this tribute today to the fallen New York Senator:
"Robert Kennedy affirmed this country; affirmed the essential decency of its people, their longing for peace, their great desire to improve conditions of life for all. During his life, he knew far more than his share of personal tragedy. Yet he never abandoned his faith in America. He never lost his confidence in the spiritual strength of ordinary men and women. He believed in the capacity of the young for excellence, and in the right of the old and the poor to a life of dignity."
Although far apart in background and personality, Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy had many things in common—a compulsion to work, fight, and win. Said the President, "Our public life is diminished by his loss."

Had Senator Kennedy lived, no matter what the outcome of the election, we can almost hear him paying the same kind of tribute at the retirement of President Johnson.

This is Bill Downs in Washington for ABC News.