Bobby

(Cross posted on Kos)

Today is for giving thanks.  It is also the release of Bobby.  

Many of us salivate over every crumb of courage elected Democrats drop on our plates. Let us remember another dire time in our history -- when many Democrats had gone astray and we were fighting in another hopeless, death-filled quagmire.

Bobby should remind us what bravery means -- to see war, poverty and injustice and reject political expediency and selfish, fear-laden excuses to try and stop it.


Bobby is flying way under the radar.

Lets make sure it doesn't, at least in our own small circles.

Bobby's passion, selflessness and energy need be celebrated. His death ushered in a dark era and moral drought in our history that we still have not recovered from. So much potential and so many dreams were cut down that day in 1968.

But Robert Kennedy planted the seeds of inspiration in so many people across that world, and that has helped cultivate our current generation of heroes. His passion, allure and the simple truth in his heartfelt words has beckoned many to serve. And as Robert Kennedy's story is retold and celebrated, I'm hopeful can help generate yet another crop, because we still have so very far to go.

"Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills - against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence... Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation...

It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." - Robert Kennedy

"I do not run for the presidency merely to oppose any man but to propose new policies. I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I'm obliged to do all that I can. I run to seek new policies - policies to end the bloodshed in Vietnam and in our cities, policies to close the gaps that now exist between black and white, between rich and poor, between young and old, in this country and around the rest of the world. I run for the presidency because I want the Democratic Party and the United States of America to stand for hope instead of despair, for reconciliation of men instead of the growing risk of world war. I run because it is now unmistakably clear that we can change these disastrous, divisive policies only by changing the men who are now making them. For the reality of recent events in Vietnam has been glossed over with illusions. [...]

I do not lightly dismiss the dangers and the difficulties of challenging an incumbent President. But these are not ordinary times and this is not an ordinary election. At stake is not simply the leadership of our party and even our country. It is our right to moral leadership of this planet." - Robert Kennedy

"What is objectionable, what is dangerous, about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents." - Robert Kennedy

"'If we believe men have any personal rights at all,' Aristotle said, 'then they must have an absolute moral right to such a  measure of good health as society alone can provide.' [...]

The issue before us then, is simple: Shall we continue to watch as medical costs soar beyond the reach of most Americans, condemning the poor to illness and the average American to the whim of fate -- or are we going to act to make decent medical care something more than a luxury of the affluent?

I think what we want is clear.  And I think this nation is willing to make the effort necessary for an effective system of care.   We have the resources to do it -- we have the will to do it -- and we are going to do it if I am the next President of the United States. [...]

No program to improve the nation's health will be effective unless we understand the conditions of injustice which underlie disease.  It is illusory to think we can cure a sickly child -- and ignore his need for enough food to eat.  It is foolish to pour in money to cure the effect of filth-ridden slums -- without acting to eradicate the slums that breed so much disease.  It is pointless to establish community health projects to cure the ills of mind and body -- if we do not understand that a community of the jobless, the hopeless, the purposeless spawns disease in the minds and bodies of its victims.  We will not really cure the pathology of individuals unless we begin to come to grips with the pathology of these communities.

Education, jobs, community participation, an end to hunger, these are the elements of a healthy citizenry.  And they must be achieved.  For it is neither economical nor compassionate to care for the consequences of poverty, and ignores its roots." - Robert Kennedy

Tags: Bravery, Camelot, LBJ, NY-SEN, RFK, Robert Kennedy, THANKS, vietnam (all tags)

Comments

13 Comments

Re: Bobby

I think it's important to note, as well, that Bobby's courage wasn't in just confronting conservatives but in confronting his own liberal supporters.  He rallied against student deferments on the draft as well as amnesty for draft dodgers, pioneered the use of tax incentives to encourage corporations to build in the ghettos (in his famed Bedford-Stuyvesant project), and fought against the unions which had become too comfortable, too middle class and too distant from the real working classes.  He was criticized as too weak, too oppurtunistic and too conservative to confront the right-wing because he frequently referenced his law-and-order credentials while campaigning in Indiana.  

But his positions, which stood counter to the liberalism of his day, have come to define progressivism in our time.  No longer do liberals believe in spreading their idealism through armed conflict.  No longer do liberals reject a role for government and business parternships to help combat poverty.  He made idealogical contributions to our philosophy in large part by borrowing ideas from the conservatives of his day when they were right and by dropping the failed policies of his liberal peers.

I just wish some people would remember that when criticizing liberals today for not merely "playing to the base".  Being progressive means moving forward, and sometimes that means admitting mistakes.  Daniel Patrick Moynihan was right to point out that welfare as it was designed in the sixties was not helping people break out of a cycle of poverty.  Russell Long was right to embrace Milton Friedman's call for replacing government benefit programs with direct payments to the poor, thus creating the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Bill Clinton was right to embrace fiscal restraint and move past the deficit spending that defined liberal administrations from FDR to LBJ.  And Barack Obama is right to call on the left to be wary of confusing the seperation church and state with a call for politicians to completely divorce themselves from the spiritual morality that guides them.

Progressives don't just play to the base, they challenge the base to move forward.  And that was one of Bobby's great legacies.

by Ryan Anderson 2006-11-23 12:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Bobby

Thank you for posting the video.  Chilling in its poignancy. A reason to reflect on this Thanksgiving Day.

by susie 2006-11-23 01:26PM | 0 recs
Thank You

Bobby Kennedy is one of the reasons I'm here, working for progressive change. He was a little before my time, but reading his speeches was what made me believe that we can really change our world.

Thank you.

by Fitzy 2006-11-23 02:11PM | 0 recs
Bobby was an ass...

Bobby was no liberal and was just another political hack.  He was intentionally ambiguous on the war mostly sounding as if he supported it while trying to attract "out now" support by talking about "looking at new ideas on Vietnam" (but, of course, he said he could only do that once elected).

He personally ordered the assassination of Diem in Vietnam and hated Martin Luther King, Jr. also personally ordering his harassment while Attorney General.  The Kennedy's just prove that old saw that dying does wonders for your reputation.  McCarthy was the real thing, Bobby was a fraud.

by The Last Liberal 2006-11-23 09:45PM | 0 recs
Blinded to the Light

C'mon -- I've read as much history on RFK & Vietnam as anybody.  The consensus is that the Kennedy Administration turned a blind eye toward the assassination of Diem but that a group of ambitions, young South Vietmanese officers were the driving force with tacit approval from the elements of the US government that mattered (mostly the military).  You seem to suggest that the Attorney General of the US just decided to go after Diem -- that really is sort of silly.  Of course, there is plenty of evidence that came out during Watergate that Nixon's crew, led by E. Howard Hunt, falsified all sorts of documents tying President John Kennedy to Diem's assassination.  

It's also silly to suggest that Kennedy "hated" King.  Everyone knows that RFK could not control Hoover.  Hoover hated King.  RFK was no Hoover.  RFK was hardly a profile in courage but he did not hate King.  RFK was the one who got his brother to call King when he was in Birmingham's jail (and in real danger) during the 1960 campaign.  

I used to worship RFK.  I'm a little more realistic now.  I don't let the dark side blind me to the light, and his light burned brighter than any politician in American history.  I'm going to see the movie tonight.  

by howardpark 2006-11-24 04:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Blinded to the Light

I think part of the problem with RFK is that he changed so dramatically in such a short period of time -not just as a politician but as a person, too- following his brother's murder.  RFK the presidential candidate had very different values and beliefs from RFK the Attorney General, so it's not completely fair to dismiss him on his pre-Senatorial work alone.

by Ryan Anderson 2006-11-24 06:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Blinded to the Light

C'mon -- I've read as much history on RFK & Vietnam as anybody.

How nice.

Some lived it.

Some didn't get through it.

The Kennedys were the problem, not the cure.

Bobby killed the antiwar candidacy of Eugene McCarthy.  And then got killed himself like so many in Vietnam that the Kennedys had heated up.

Say you haven't mentioned the Kennedys' onetime buddy, Joe McCarthy.  

Guess you forgot the McCarthys.

Hard for some of us to do so when people are getting all inspired and hot, like young virgins at an oldtime revival.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-25 03:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Blinded to the Light

Living through it doesn't give you a monopoly. Some of the best historical research has been done by people whose opinions were not clouded by experiencing the events they write or talk about.

Bobby wasn't a saint by any means but from what I understand he certainly wasn't anything like the devil you portray him to be, particularly in the period following the death of JFK. And there is no way on this planet Gene McCarthy was ever going to win the nomination in that year or any other. Even his famous New Hampshire Primary performance, shocking and creditable as it was, actually was a defeat to a write-in.

by conspiracy 2006-11-25 11:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Blinded to the Light

Living through it doesn't give you a monopoly

No argument.

But twisting historical facts to suit one's fancy is better?

there is no way on this planet Gene McCarthy was ever going to win the nomination in that year or any other.

It is sometimes helpful to stick to facts.

Got any idea as to why Hubert Humphrey dared not run in a single primary before being nominated?

Does Joe McCarthy light your fire as he did Bobby and Jack?  Was a vast expansion of the Vietnam War a dandy thing in your opinion?  Did you think the wiretapping of Martin Luther King a fine idea? Was waiting until Gene McCarthy put himself on the frontlines a profile in courage you think?

One can only guess what might have been.  I had a bird's eye view of Vietnam before it happened.  Predicting the disaster of the Kennedys was simplicity itself. It took no genius at all.

So now Bobby Kennedy was all reformed and different and ready to set all right with fine speeches while doing in those who had fought the good fight?

I saw Eugene McCarthy exactly once.  He came to St. Louis to give a speech to a wildly enthusiastic crowd after it was already becoming clear he would not win. I was already older than the great majority of McCarthy fans.  Probably it was no accident a baldheaded local pol of some note sat next to us.  Stood out in that crowd.  He told us he just came to see what the excitement was about.  When the crowd rose to its feet to cheer something or other, I helpfully nudged the fellow and he rose too.  I think he even clapped.  Those things can get to be a habit.

If Humphrey had actually run in the primaries, he would at least have had a legitimate claim on the nomination. But how could he, having played lap dog to LBJ on the Vietnam War for so long?  It was not a formerly brave warrior's finest hour.  We owe Nixon and the aftermath to Bobby Kennedy more than any other person in my opinion.  Your measure is your own.

Best,  Terry  

by terryhallinan 2006-11-25 05:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Blinded to the Light

Of course the spectre of Joe McCarthy doesn't light my fire and to suggest the Kennedys were anywhere near his level is bit of a stretch. You have got to remember that at the time they were still doing the bidding of their old man because McCarthy was a family friend. I agree though they should have spoken out long before they did.

Similarly, he should have had the guts to stand up to Hoover on the wiretapping of King. I won't try to defend him on that though there are ways that I could.

And the fact he waited for Gene McCarthy to test the waters was anything but brave. But the fact is the man saw the light and believed so strongly in his principles that he was willing to stand up for them even after what happened to his brother. He knew the powers that be were probably going to kill him but he ran anyway. That is a greater profile in courage than anything else I can think of.

And remember we are talking about the same Eugene McCarthy that bolted the party in 1976 for an independent White House run and later endorsed that great liberal icon Ronald Reagan for president.

Again, Bobby was no saint but neither was Gene. Like every human being they both had their flaws.  The search continues for the perfect politician. I think we will be waiting a long time.

by conspiracy 2006-11-26 05:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Bobby

Bobby--the movie, not the politician--sucks dead fish with a straw (term from film criticism).   I saw a screening as a fundraiser for a local Democratic group last week and was very disappointed.

The last five minutes, a voice-over of a Bobby Kennedy speech after has has been assassinated (quoted by the OP), is elevating and inspirational.

The first one hour and 50 some minutes are soap opera pablum, intercutting between a pair of Latino bus boys, a hotel manager who's having an affair with a hotel employee and the manager's wife, who also works at the hotel, two college-age Kennedy volunteers who play hookey from knocking on doors and take an LSD trip, etc. etc. etc.  

It's more like a social snapshot of the day that Kennedy was assassinated.  I regret that I spent two hours of what remains of my life seeing it (plus another hour for transportation there/back).

by InigoMontoya 2006-11-24 11:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Bobby

I did see the movie today and I basically agree with InigoMontoya.  It's entertaining and well crafted but does not really hold together -- it is sort of a soap opera pasted on an important historical event.  The last few minutes are very inspirational.

by howardpark 2006-11-24 11:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Bobby

Yeah - I saw it last night and it is a total piece of shit. The writing is bad, the acting is bad, and it has next to nothing to do with Kennedy. We're supposed to really get a kick out of a couple of dumb kids doing LSD, though. That's really supposed to inspire or us something.

by bluenc 2006-11-25 08:30PM | 0 recs

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