AS SEEN IN:
"The Missiles Of October"
AS PLAYED BY:
Kenneth Patrick O'Donnell (March 4, 1924 - September 9, 1977), known as Kenny, was a top aide to U.S. President John F. Kennedy and part of the group of Kennedys' close advisors called the "Irish Mafia". He served as organizer and director of Kennedy's presidential campaign schedule in 1960, as Kennedy's special assistant and appointments secretary 1961-1963, as Lyndon Johnson's Presidential Aide 1963-1965, as campaign manager for Robert Kennedy in the 1968 presidential election campaign, and as campaign manager for Hubert Humphrey after Bobby Kennedy's assassination.
In 1958, O'Donnell became a member of JFK’s staff, and in 1960 he was the organizer and director of John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign schedule. The following year he became Kennedy's special assistant and Appointments Secretary. In this role he functioned in many ways as Kennedy's Chief of Staff, a position that Kennedy never filled during his tenure in the White House.
O'Donnell unofficially advised Kennedy during the planning for the Bay of Pigs invasion as well as during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and was an early critic of the Vietnam War, advising Kennedy to bring an end to America's involvement in the conflict.
O'Donnell arranged JFK's trip to Dallas in November 1963, and was in a car just behind the president's when Kennedy was assassinated. It was an enormous blow to O'Donnell, who long blamed himself for the death of the president.
It was my impression that O'Donnell had the greatest influence in shaping the President's most important decisions. He was able to set aside his own prejudices against individuals and his own ideological commitments (I would rate him a moderate Democrat) and appraise the alternatives with total objectivity. It was impossible to categorize O'Donnell, as White House observers did with other staff members, as either a "hawk" or a "dove" on foreign policy, or a Stevenson liberal or Truman conservative on civil rights. JFK gave extra weight to O'Donnell's opinions because he knew he had no personal cause to argue. Ken had only one criterion: Will this action help or hurt the President? And that, for O'Donnell, was another way of asking: Will it help or hurt the country?
- Pierre Salinger