In the end, Arthur Schlesinger had come to know Robert Kennedy better than he’d ever known John. And sitting down with his journals three days after Bobby’s death, Schlesinger acknowledged that, to his own surprise, he’d grown closer to him, too. Hero-worshipper though he may have been, he retained—or now reclaimed—a historian’s powers of observation, and judgment. He dissected the differences between the two brothers as only he could have done.
In Bobby’s case the contrast between the myth and the man could not have been greater. He was supposed to be hard, ruthless, unfeeling, unyielding, a grudge-bearer, a hater. In fact, he was an exceptionally gentle and considerate man, the most bluntly honest man I have ever encountered in politics, a profoundly idealistic man and an extremely funny man. JFK had much better manners. RFK was often diffident and had no small talk. He would do much better at Resurrection City than at the Metropolitan Club.
Schlesinger’s final comparison between the two was his most startling. “It will be a long time before this nation is as nobly led as it has been in these last three years,” he had written on November 22, 1963. But only four and a half years later, by the time Bobby Kennedy walked into the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel, Schlesinger had been prepared to say that time was already nigh. “What kind of a President would he have made?” he asked. “I think very likely a greater one than JFK. He was more radical than JFK; he understood better the problems of the excluded groups; and he would have been coming along in a time more propitious for radical action.”