Some thoughts on Bobby Kennedy – by
that come to mind as I have begun to read the new book by Lawrence O’Donnell, Playing With Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics. O’Donnell begins with the famous incident of Richard Nixon encountering a young Roger Ailes on the set of the Mike Douglas show, something that had a huge impact not only on Nixon’s ‘68 campaign, but on the future of American politics, especially given the role Ailes played until his forced removal from Fox News. O’Donnell then pivots to Bobby Kennedy, and talks about the impact he had, and offers images of Bobby holding Jackie’s hand after the death of his brother, and the reaction of crowds to Bobby.
Robert Francis Kennedy was different in many ways. Perhaps the most famous example of his difference can be seen in this video, of how he informed a crowd in Indianapolis of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr,:
It is interesting to note that when many American inner cities exploded that night with rage at what had happened, Indianapolis did not.
But it is two other memories of Bobby Kennedy that I think demonstrate, for all his flaws, he might have been a President who could have healed this nation in the turmoil of 1968.
The first was an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, while that show was still in New York City. Bobby Kennedy, already by then a US Senator from NY, lived in the same building as Carson, 860 United Nations Plaza in the Turtle Bay section. My memory is not clear, but they may have had adjacent apartments. I remember tuning in one evening because RFK was going to be on — I rarely watched the show, but this I wanted to see. I wish I could find video of the conversation between the two men because it was extraordinary, largely because of something Kennedy said.
He decided to compliment Carson. He recounted something he had heard about what Carson had said to his son about bad words. Carson had told his son that the truly bad words were not the 4-letter and related words we think of as curse words, but — and here my memory is that RFK used the offensive wors — words like Nigger and Kike that were designed to hurt and demean others. Carson was embarrassed at the praise, but it was a powerful moment — whether or not RFK used the actual words.
The other was an incident I read about. Bobby and Ethel and their very large brood were in line for some movie in great demand, having driven from their home in McLean VA (Hickory Hill, where Jack had lived with Jackie before moving to the White House) to the MacArthur Theater in the Palisades section of DC. The manager of the theater saw them on line, somewhat back, and came out and offered to take them to the front of the line and immediately to the theater. Bobby declined, saying it would be unfair to the others online ahead of them.
I am aware that Bobby’s first DC job was working for his father’s friend Sen. Joe McCarthy. I am aware of others of his very human failings. But he was a man who continued to grow, and in some ways I view his assassination in LA after having won the California primary as in some ways a greater loss to this country than the death of his older brother 54 years and 3 days ago.
Anyhow, as I work my way through what looks to be a very good book, I thought these two memories worth sharing.
Some lighter moments…
“I couldn’t stop thinking about Bobby Kennedy today.” i’mgoing.home
Some thoughts on Bobby Kennedy: https://m.dailykos.com/stories/2017/11/25/1718466/-Some-thoughts-on-Bobby-Kennedy