Published September 21, 2009
This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 18, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Do you think you know all there is to know about Sen. Ted Kennedy? Well, think again. Sen. Kennedy's life in his own words in a new memoir, "True Compass," just out, published just days after he died. Earlier, Sen. Kennedy's lawyer Robert Barnett went "On the Record."
VAN SUSTEREN: "True Compass," the author, Edward M. Kennedy, he is not here to talk about his book.
ROBERT BARNETT, SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY'S LAWYER: Sadly he's not here. We had moved the publication date up to September 14 in the hope and prayer that he would live to see the celebration around the book. But sadly he died the day it arrived at his house.
VAN SUSTEREN: The interesting thing about the book for me is that — actually I wasn't particularly interested in reading it. I thought I knew everything. You know, the stories have been around in the media since the beginning. Then I read the book, and there was so much I didn't know.
BARNETT: Right, and the amazing thing about this — and there's a lot of amazing things about this book, and I'm biased because I think it's a wonderful book — we've all, anybody over 30 has lived through the events: the death of Joe Jr., the assassination of Jack Kennedy, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, Sen. Kennedy's plane crash, the death of John Jr. We've lived through those; we've watched them. But for the first time we hear in this book in his own voice the account by the person who actually lived it. He's never spoken about most of these things. He writes candidly and completely about all of them. So while we don't know the events, we don't know the inside story, the candid story of how it felt…
VAN SUSTEREN: Whether you're a Kennedy fan or not a Kennedy fan, it's a great read. He's a great Irishman in terms of telling the story. You and I talked about — we have sort of our favorites. One of my favorite stories is that when he got punished he was supposed to stand in the closet. He goes in the closet to stand and discovers his sister Jean. She is already standing in the closet.
BARNETT: I know, the humor is terrific. There is a lot of sadness in the book but ultimately there's a lot of humor and joy in the book. My two favorite stories involve his mother, who was obviously a wonderful character, who died at I think it was 104. And when she was 101 he used to go up and see her every weekend he could at Hyannis. And one weekend he was up there, I think she was 101, and she was in her wheelchair, and he was going out to play tennis, and she stopped him and said "Teddy, are you sure that's your racket? I've been looking for mine everywhere."
And the other I love is she gave him for some occasion a blue sweater. And a couple of weeks later she called him and said "Teddy, have you worn that sweater yet? He said No, I haven't worn it, but I love it. It's terrific." And she said "I wonder if you could send it back. I just got the bill, and it's more than I wanted to pay." And everybody's mother, you relate to that.
VAN SUSTEREN: And also the story about when he went out to speak at the Democratic National Convention, and at this point he was very sick, last summer, and he got taken to the hospital the night before he addressed the Democratic National Convention. And what did he say about the doctors?
BARNETT: He was getting the analysis of the medical situation, and it was pretty difficult. It was kidney stones. And, of course, he was battling cancer. And he interjects in the writing of this sad incident, "And I looked around and all the doctors were named Larry." Now, that's a sense of humor.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think there were three Larrys working on him.
BARNETT: Three Larrys, exactly.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I'll leave the book to discuss the rather personal parts where he is sort of introspective. But the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., what a horrible impact that was.
BARNETT: And as we all watched him, and we all did because he was the focus of a great deal of media attention, once his brother Jack, one his brother Bobby was lost, he became effectively the father of all those children, the dozens of nieces and nephews, who looked to him as their father figure. And my sense was when he, from reading the book and from talking to him over the years, when he suffered these losses, he got solace from those kids, from the family. And of course Vicky's kids, too, which became a big part of his family. And if you saw him, the shots that we all saw during that funeral weekend of him on the boat, it was always with those nieces and nephews and sons and daughter and grandchildren. And so it was a family story, too.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's candid. At points raw. But also there are some good laughs out of this. And I had fun reading it. I learned things I never dreamed I would learn.
BARNETT: What I want to know is can it be endorsed by Greta's book club now?
VAN SUSTEREN: Yeah right, "Greta's Book Club." Let's start that and see how it sells. Anyway, Bob, thank you very much.
BARNETT: Thank you, Greta.
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