Happy Birthday, RFK

20 11 2011
Robert Kennedy with daughter Kathleen

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BOB

Had he lived, Robert F. Kennedy would be 86 years old on November 20th. We thought it might be interesting to honor him this year not with a few selected quotations by him, but rather quotations about him.

How was Bobby Kennedy described by the people who knew him best?

Their opinions were not always kind, to say the least. Lyndon Johnson called Bobby “that little shitass” and “a grandstanding little runt.” (Kennedy, who cherished his very own LBJ voodoo doll, called Johnson “mean, bitter, and vicious–an animal in many ways.”)

Joe McCarthy’s chief aide (and longtime RFK nemesis) Roy Cohn referred to Robert Kennedy as a “rich bitch,” saying: “he always had that little smirk on his face, designed to get under my skin, and it did.”

Apparently the feeling was mutual, as the two men once nearly came to blows in the Senate hearing room during the Army-McCarthy hearings.

Jimmy Hoffa, who thought Kennedy “a damn spoiled jerk,” described his first meeting with him in 1957: “I can tell by how he shakes hands what kind of fellow I got. I said to myself, `Here’s a fella thinks he’s doing me a favor by talking to me.'” Hoffa later bragged that during the Rackets Committee hearings, “I used to love to bug the little bastard.”

As Bobby himself once said, we are not here “to curse the past or to praise it,” so we thought it appropriate to include the bad with the good when selecting quotes from others on what they thought of Robert Kennedy. Opinions varied, at times so wildly, you’d almost never believe that all of these people are talking about the same man.

The full truth about RFK, as ever, lies somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

I think that’s why he still fascinates us. Even after all these years, the real RFK is (to borrow from Churchill) “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” He’s a puzzle, difficult to solve, and yet we never seem to want to stop trying.

AS THEY REMEMBER BOBBY

“The major difference between Bobby and his brothers is that Bobby always had to fight for everything.”

— Bobby’s wife, Ethel Skakel Kennedy

“He was the smallest and thinnest, and we feared he might grow up puny and girlish. We soon realized there was no chance of that.”

— Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (mother)

“Jack is too soft and forgiving. You can trample all over him and the next day he’ll be waiting for you with open arms. But when Bobby hates you, you stay hated.”

— Joseph P. Kennedy (father)

“Bobby was the most generous little boy.”

Jack Kennedy’s lifelong best friend, Lem Billings. (To which Joseph Kennedy Sr. gruffly replied: “I don’t know where he got that!”)

“All this business about Jack and Bobby being blood brothers has been exaggerated.”

Bobby’s sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

“Kennedy was not arrogant, but he had a sarcasm that could be biting.”

Frank Hurley, Bobby’s classmate at Portsmouth Priory

“How would you like looking forward to that high whining voice blasting into your ear for the next six months?”

Jack Kennedy, on hiring his younger brother Bobby to manage the 1960 campaign.

“Jack thought Bobby was too serious, a severe figure, and tried to lighten him up. At the same time, he thought Bobby was…the sacred one. He felt protective about him.”

 — Chuck Spalding, longtime friend to both JFK and RFK.

“I don’t know what Bobby does, but it always seems to turn out right.”

–President-elect John F. Kennedy, shortly after winning the 1960 presidential election

“Up until the Bay of Pigs, Jack had more or less dismissed the reasons his father had given for wanting Bobby in the cabinet as more of that tribal Irish thing. But now he realized how right the old man had been. When the crunch came, family members were the only ones you could count on. Bobby was the only person he could rely on to be absolutely dedicated. Jack would never have admitted it, but from that moment on, the Kennedy presidency became a sort of collaboration between them.”

— Lem Billings, lifelong friend to the Kennedy brothers

“Everybody bitches about Bobby, and I’m getting sick and Goddamn tired of it. He’s the only one who doesn’t stick knives in my back, the only one I can count on when it comes down to it.”

— President John F. Kennedy

“You knew that, if you were in trouble, he’d always be there.”

— Former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis on RFK

“He had a better sense of what was important, and what was not, than anyone I ever met. Once he realized something was significant, he became the most deliberate, most thoughtful, most intense man.”

— John Nolan, Kennedy’s administrative assistant at the Justice Department.

“His most tenaciously maintained secret was a tenderness so rawly exposed, so vulnerable to painful abrasion, that it could only be shielded by angry compassion to human misery, manifest itself in love and loyalty toward those close to him, or through a revelatory humor.”

 — Richard Goodwin, speechwriter, longtime friend and advisor to JFK, RFK, and LBJ

Bobby and Jack

 

“I always say—don’t try to psychoanalyze Bob. Look at what he said and look at what he did. He meant what he said, and what he did was incredible.”

 — Ed Guthman, Robert Kennedy’s special assistant for public information in the Department of Justice and his first senatorial press secretary.

 

“I remember once John F. Kennedy talking about his younger brother. He was talking about the time when they were both a lot younger, and Bobby was small and jumping off the family sailboat. JFK said, and I quote, “It showed either a lot of guts or no sense at all, depending on how you look at it.” I think you can say that about Bobby’s entry into the 1968 presidential race. It either showed no sense at all, or a lot of guts. I think there were some of both of those factors present.”

— Ted Sorensen, policy advisor, legal counsel and speechwriter for President Kennedy.

“In every presidential election since 1968, we continue to listen for echoes of Robert Kennedy’s speeches which urged us to turn away from war, embrace peace, share the wealth and the resources of the land with the less fortunate, embrace the ideal of social justice for all, and put aside the divisions of race, age, wealth, militarism and the narrow partisanship that have come to divide us– and divide us still.I believe we will look at what he was about, what his politics and policies were about, what his motivations and commitments were about, thereby enhancing the record of his life and times for those who will come to this place to continue the quest. Today, we remember the man, who for many of us changed our lives, the man who changed the country and, had he lived, would have changed it again and again.” 

— Bobby’s trusted friend and advisor John Seigenthaler

“The reason we should revive Robert Kennedy as a hero for our times, for the 21st century, is because he presents us with a flawed, complicated hero of great compassion, and leadership. His was not a leadership that sought to merely bear witness to the truth but rather one that sought results and shaped them in the anvil of action.I think that there’s nothing our politics needs today more than the image, the model, the example, and the inspiration of Robert Kennedy’s life.Throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis Robert Kennedy did what he had done as a young man. He asked moral questions: is it right or is it wrong? When I first met him, I didn’t like his answers. He was more of a Cold Warrior with a Joe McCarthy view of the world, than I was. What changed in Robert Kennedy, in my opinion, was that his view of the world became broader and deeper. The child that was compassionate, the child that was religious, the child that asked moral questions, was the man who in the Cuban Missile Crisis had the courage to ask the moral question, “Could we have a first strike and live with our conscience if we did?” In the face of the geo-politicians in that room, he asked those questions. That was not easy to do, and he did it….And then lastly, in this election right now, the clear, important message from a country divided down the middle is that we want the next President of the United States to find common ground in the way that Robert Kennedy did. He attempted to reach out to left and to right, and beyond all ideological barriers to find a common ground, to get things done.I would recommend to the next President of the United States that he immerse himself in the story of Robert Kennedy. I would say begin with Maxwell Kennedy’s beautiful book and then go on to Ed Guthman’s collection of speeches. Can we revive in our time some of what we had? …”a transcendent yearning for the possibility of redemptive change?” We all, I think, have that yearning. I think the American people have it. And the story of Robert Kennedy can drive us to try to realize that possibility.”— Harris Wofford, special assistant to President Kennedy, chair of the sub-cabinet group on civil rights.

 

Happy Birthday, Bobby Kennedy. This world misses you.

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Bobby Brings Daughter Kick Into the Spotlight

17 03 2008

Bobby Kennedy Jr. with daughter Kick

RFK Jr. and daughter Kick. Her friend Zander sits between them.

BOBBY AND KICK KENNEDY APPEAR ON “MORNING JOE”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his eldest daughter Kathleen (”Kick”) stopped by “Morning Joe” recently to talk about Kennedy’s new IMAX 3-D film, Grand Canyon Adventure.

The film, narrated by Robert Redford, with a soundtrack by the Dave Matthews Band, features Bobby and his daughter Kick going on a whitewater rafting adventure down the Colorado River. The film opens across the country on March 20 in IMAX theatres.

Kennedy hopes it will help to raise awareness of his decades-long fight to save the nation’s waterways and conserve this most precious natural rescource.

Kick Kennedy, a granddaughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy and Stanford University student, has kept a fairly low profile until now. This new film marks her cinematic debut, bringing her into the public eye for the first time. She seems totally confident and at ease appearing beside her father in media appearances to promote Grand Canyon Adventure.

As you’ll see in the interview, she is lovely young woman brimming with charm and good humor – we look forward to hearing much more from her in the future.

In case you missed the live broadcast last week, here’s the video of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” interview from March 12. The segment is about 10 minutes long. Click the link below to watch it on GoLeft.tv:

WATCH THE VIDEO OF RFK JR. AND KICK KENNEDY HERE





“This is the World Eisenhower Warned Us About” – RFK Jr.

25 01 2008

Bobby Kennedy Jr.

THE FIRE STILL BURNS

Several emails have recently come in asking “what the hell got into Bobby this week on Ring of Fire?” (His Saturday Air America radio show) I don’t know, but whatever set him ablaze, I will say that the man was in rare form. This was one of the best broadcasts I’ve heard from him in quite awhile.

In the opening minutes of the show, Bobby launched into a particularly passionate rant about our arms-happy economic foreign policy that left even his longtime co-host Mike “Pap” Papantonio (who has heard it all by now) speechless. Hearing him talk, one couldn’t help but be reminded of President Kennedy’s disdain for “a Pax Americana, enforced on the world by American weapons of war” in his 1963 American University commencement address.

RFK Jr. also invoked another famous presidential speech: “This is exactly the world that General Dwight Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell address to the nation in which he cautioned against the domination of our democracy by the Military-Industrial Complex.

“The U.S. traditionally was an isolationist nation.” He explained further. “We focused on our own hemisphere, we focused on developing our economy, not policing the world. We were Anti-Imperialist, that was part of our tradition. “That was not just Jefferson, but it was Madison, Adams, Hamilton and all of them…This was an Anti-Imperialist nation!

“Well now, we spend $500 billion a year on arms.” Kennedy said. “That’s more than the entire world put together! This is not something that is good for the American people.”

He also encouraged every American to do a little independent thinking and ask themselves “who benefits?” from the waging of eternal war.

Kennedy talked on at some length about how we can bring a balance of power to the Mideast and restore our standing as a nation of goodwill in the eyes of the world. He also put forward some solid ideas on how to break our oil addiction with an “Apollo project” which would bring with it a prosperous domestic economy invested in green energy technologies, and spelled out exactly how it could be done within just a few years.

With a plan like that, people ask, it sounds like this Kennedy guy should be running for president, already.

* Listen to the Ring Of Fire radio show segment. (Jan. 19, 2008, Hour 1)

AND THAT WAS JUST THE FIRST HOUR…

Kennedy was just getting warmed up. In the second hour of the program, he spoke with Joseph Cirincione (Senior Fellow and Director for Nuclear Policy at the Center for American Policy) about how the Bush administration hyped a recent incident at sea between our Navy and the Iranian National Guard.

Had this “Filipino Monkey” thing actually been taken more seriously, we very easily could have had another Gulf of Tonkin on our hands or accidentally fired the first shot of WWIII.

And that’s enough to get anybody hopping mad. Especially someone named Kennedy whose father and uncle JFK diplomatically averted nuclear holocaust during the Cuban Missle Crisis. Those thirteen days in October 1962 were without question the most intense in world history; a moment when one false move, one slight misunderstanding or miscommunication could have meant The End of Everything.

Playing a dangerous game of chicken with Iran now inevitably results in close calls like this one, which Kennedy referred to as “classic American gunboat diplomacy in the 19th century sense.” Was this just another “Remember the Maine!” type incident “where we used American propaganda to hype a conflict with another nation?”

THE HOAX OF HORMUZ

“It appears that the Navy tapes that we all saw last week that allegedly showed Iranian Revolutionary Guard gunboats buzzing and harassing a convoy of American battleships were faked.” Kennedy said incredulously.

“That’s exactly right, Robert.” Cirincione concurred. “What we basically have here is The Hoax of Hormuz. We have a very misleading tape and storyline coming out last Monday, on the eve of the President’s trip to the Middle East. And it appears that the administration has once again exaggerated a threat for political purposes.”

“Clearly, the object of the United States propaganda campaign, which we all saw on television, was to inflame this situation rather than try to contain it.” Kennedy said. “In my view…that’s what our policy should be in that part of the world: to contain these incidents rather than to manufacture provocations.

“The voice we hear on the tape is clearly not a voice coming from those little Iranian speedboats. There was this phony, fake Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation voice that was just spliced in as a way to frighten the American people and hype the case for conflict.”

SPEAKING OF CONFLICT, WHAT ABOUT PAKISTAN?

Kennedy brings a unique and very personal insight to the current chaos in Pakistan. The Bhutto dynasty has drawn many comparisons to the Kennedys over the years, mainly because these two families have seen more than their share of political power struggles, coups, and violent, untimely deaths. The many similarities are indeed striking, if not even a little spooky.

Benazir Bhutto

The late Benazir Bhutto, Harvard classmate of the Kennedys

Most recently, the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto (by a “lone nut” sniper in a motorcade, no less) brought up the obvious comparisons to JFK and Dallas. Incidentally and by sheer coincidence, it seems, JFK’s nephew Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Sen. Arlen Specter (Warren Commission counsel and mastermind of the “Single Bullet Theory”) were in Pakistan at the time, scheduled to meet with Bhutto that very night.

THE KENNEDY-BHUTTO CONNECTION

But Bhutto shared some similarities with Bobby Jr. as well. Being the same age, they attended Harvard together and were friendly with each other’s siblings.  She inherited her father’s political legacy as the eldest daughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who founded the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Bhutto led the country as president and then as prime minister between 1971 and 1977, when he was arrested on murder charges following a military coup. At first a reluctant political player, Benazir Bhutto vowed to carry on her father’s work, taking over after her father was hanged by the government of General Mohammed Zia-Ul-Haq.

But the somewhat eerie connections don’t end there. During her Harvard years, Benazir (known as “Pinky” on campus) Bhutto roomed with Bobby’s sister Kathleen Kennedy, class of `73. Meanwhile, Bobby Jr. and his younger brother David (who died of a tragic drug overdose in 1984) shared rooms and good times with Benazir’s younger brother Mir Murtaza Bhutto (who was shot to death in 1996).

Bobby’s late friend Mir Bhutto’s death has been described as a politically-motivated murder by his daughter Fatima and the way this horrible event unfolded is strangely reminiscent of the assassination of Robert Kennedy Sr. in 1968. The Bhuttos, like the Kennedys, have lost far too many family members in the midst of national political upheavals — and that’s not to mention the various intrigues within the family circle itself.

The murder of Mir Bhutto, it is often rumored, was ordered from the highest levels of the Pakistani government, which at the time was run by his estranged sister, Benazir Bhutto. Then there is the troubling tale of their brother Shah, who died violently in 1985 under circumstances which can only be described as curious. As Bobby told the story on this week’s radio show:

“They (Shah and Mir) married twin sisters who were the daughters of the Soviet puppet president of Kabul. One of the sisters then murdered Shah – poisoned him in France – and Mir divorced the sister, probably prudently.

“But then Mir was involved in a hijacking which put a price on his head in Pakistan. He finally came back to Pakistan and ran for Parliament, and then was murdered in a hail of gunfire that many people believe was orchestrated by his own sister, by his elder sister (Benazir) and her husband. We don’t know…but there is strong evidence of that.”

This amazing story, with all its’ bizarre twists and turns, has to be heard to be believed. (Even then, you might have to listen a few times to fully wrap your mind around it).

Near the end of this interview, Kennedy expressed his belief that it is Pakistan, not Iran or Iraq, which is “the principal threat to all of the globe in terms of proliferation of nuclear materials to terrorist groups who may actually use them.”

“Exactly.” Cirincione agreed. “Pakistan is the most dangerous country on earth.” 

* Check out the entire interview on Ring of Fire here. (January 19, 2008 show, Hour 2. The Joseph Cirincione interview starts about 18 minutes into the program.)

Copyright RFKin2008.com

 

 

 





Kennedy Family Split On Endorsements

19 12 2007

Interesting story from Politico this week:

KENNEDY FAMILY SPLIT ON ENDORSEMENTS

By Carrie Budoff Brown

Like any other American family, the Kennedys are a house divided when it comes the 2008 presidential race.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and her sister, Kerry, have hit the trail for Hillary Rodham Clinton. So has their brother, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Old hands to President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy dote on Barack Obama, in part because he reminds them of the charismatic brothers.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver and a half-dozen other family members put money on Christopher Dodd.

And everybody wants to know where Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) will go. Yet he isn’t talking — or likely to endorse.

A tangle of longstanding political ties, friendships and gut feelings has caused the Kennedys and those closely identified with them to scatter across the primary field.

But the Democratic pursuit of their endorsements and their cash underline how the presidential candidates still chase the Kennedy imprimatur like it is their party’s seal of approval, automatically transferring warm feelings of the family’s legacy to them.

“There is certainly a romantic aspect to it,” said Eric Smith, a press aide to former Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Miss.) during his 2004 presidential campaign, which picked up support that year from U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) of Rhode Island.

“That period in the Democratic Party is one of great optimism. It is one that Democratic activists think of very fondly. So an association with that time is a positive in the eyes of Democratic activists.”

Ted Kennedy is the biggest catch.

The senator reeled in Iowans for John Kerry in 2004, drawing crowds that only Howard Dean could muster. Democratic activist Bonnie Campbell, who was backing Dean, recalls walking into her Des Moines precinct on caucus night, spotting Kennedy in the doorway, and hearing her husband say: “We are screwed.”

With a field this year that includes his Senate buddy (Dodd) and two members of his Senate committee (Clinton and Obama), Ted Kennedy appears ready to sit this one out.

“Senator Kennedy has no immediate plans to endorse a candidate,” said a statement released by Kennedy’s office. “He has very strong relationships with many of these candidates personally, and he has a lot of respect for them. Senator Kennedy believes that any one of them would make a great president. He looks forward to the campaign and seeing a Democrat elected to the White House.”

His family is definitely picking sides, however.

But the former Kennedy aides are the ones drawing the most attention for their bold comparisons. Obama received an email from Harris Wofford, 81, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and adviser to President John F. Kennedy, soon after his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention. The message: “Do not let this moment pass.”

“He touches my soul, and I think he has touched the soul of America,” said Wofford in an interview after endorsing Obama this month. “For me, no one has done that since John, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I waited a long time to have that feeling.”

For George Stevens Jr., the longtime producer of the Kennedy Center Honors who worked in the Kennedy administration, Obama “captures the spirit” of Bobby Kennedy. Stevens, too, wrote Obama a letter to tell him so. And Stevens later signed on as an informal adviser to the campaign.
 
Theodore Sorensen, 79, a former speechwriter to President Kennedy, traveled to Iowa in October to endorse Obama and challenge the criticism of him as not yet ready, citing JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis as evidence. “That young president who had been accused of being too inexperienced and too young successfully steered the country through that crisis,” Sorensen said of Kennedy, who was 43 years old when he took office.

Obama, who would be 47 at his inauguration, seemingly does his part to encourage the link.
There was the February announcement speech, when he went hatless and gloveless on a frigid morning, stirring comparisons to President Kennedy’s inaugural address. He talks of a new generation of leadership and moving past the political fights of the 1990s. And he invokes the former president on the trail, usually as he defends his intention to talk to enemy states: “John F. Kennedy once said you should never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate.”

But if Obama is the new JFK, the late president’s family hasn’t received the memo. None has endorsed Obama, although several have donated to his campaign, with their contributions adding up to at least $9,000, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Kennedy family, including Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and her husband, Edwin, has sent more than $15,000 to Clinton. Dodd has received more than $17,000 from members of the family, such as Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of the late president.

On endorsements, Clinton and Dodd have received $4,000 apiece from the family. None carry the heft of Sen. Kennedy, but each can claim their own constituencies.

In Clinton’s camp is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a well-known environmentalist; Kerry Kennedy, a human rights activist; Rory Kennedy, a documentary filmmaker; and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former Maryland lieutenant governor and recognized female political leader.

On Dodd’s side is Rep. Patrick Kennedy Jr.; Ted Kennedy Jr., an advocate for people with disabilities; Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics; and Bobby Shriver, who works with U2’s Bono on AIDS and debt relief.

In endorsing Dodd, they talked about his work on behalf of children, his stint in the Peace Corps and his support for foreign assistance. But they always came back to the personal — and who best embodied the Kennedy legacy.

“When my uncle Jack asked people in the country in 1960, ‘ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,’ Sen. Dodd answered that call,” said Ted Kennedy Jr., “ and that’s exactly the kind of inspiration that is needed in this country today.”

 

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