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July 08, 2008

Once Upon a Time

By: Bernard Chazelle

When Walter Cronkite asked Robert Kennedy how much money he had for his campaign,

Bobby attacked the networks, saying they were making enough profits to give all the candidates free air time.

On April 26, 1968, Kennedy was giving a campaign speech at the Indiana University Medical Center. One of the students in the audience shouted:

"Where are we going to get the money to pay for all these new programs you're proposing?"

Kennedy replied:

"From you! I look around this room and I don't see many black faces who will become doctors. Part of civilized society is to let people go to medical school who come from ghettos. I don't see many people coming here from the slums, or off of Indian reservations. You are the privileged ones here... It's the poor who carry the major burden of the struggle in Vietnam. You sit here as white medical students, while black people carry the burden of the fighting in Vietnam."

The students drowned him out with boos and hisses.

Earlier that year, the pollster Richard Scammon had warned Bobby that if he was perceived as an extremist he would get a "one-way ticket to oblivion." He didn't seem to care.

Kennedy won the Indiana primary.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at July 8, 2008 12:09 PM

RFK learned while working for Sen. McCarthy that you can get away from saying almost anything without meaning it.

Posted by: seth at July 8, 2008 01:34 PM

Robert Kennedy was an idealist. He had courage of his convictions ( one can recognise a fake or a phony in spite of grand rhetoric ). He went to the reservations to see how people lived. He went to Appalachia to see the conditions under which people lived there. He said what he meant and meant what he said.
There was an excellent Op-Ed in New York Times which is worth reading.
Skepticism--yes. Cynicism--no.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 8, 2008 02:43 PM

Clearly SOMEBODY thought RFK meant it.

If you wanna know who represents a real threat to entrenched power, see who entrenched power attacks. Everything else is speculation.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at July 8, 2008 03:15 PM

Seth, repeat that more often. I was talking with a college prof/peace activist over the holiday weekend, and he refused to believe that RFK had worked for Joe McCarthy until I pulled it up on Google.

But I do believe in the power of transformation, and I think the Bobby who ripped the med students was a bit more evolved than the one who carried Tailgunner Joe's water.

Posted by: Mark Gisleson at July 8, 2008 03:16 PM

The last president to do anything for poor people was LBJ. He grew up poor too. Unfortunately he inherited and escalated a horrible war which ruined his legacy. But as far as improving social conditions LBJ was probably our most progressive president, ever.

RFK was not attacked by entrenched power. Like his older brother he represented it.

I don't think it is good that either of them were killed, but it is a mistake to think that they were shot for standing up to entrenched authority. That is like saying, "Oh the government gave Roy Cohn AIDS to keep him from sparking a revolution."

Posted by: seth at July 8, 2008 03:26 PM

We will never know what RFK could have achieved if he had not been killed and was elected president. However, are so called "entrenched power" and "fighting for social and economic justice" mutually exclusive? Is it not possible to use one's power to bring about change for the better and be an advocate for the "have nots"? We already have an example in our senate.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 8, 2008 03:44 PM

No need to put RFK on the analyst's couch. He said something I quoted. Question: which recent Dem has said such a thing and won the primary?

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 8, 2008 03:50 PM

THE PARTY WILL NEED a chairman and a treasurer to be TOTALLY legal under US Law. Preferably 2 people who will never meet or do ANY business other than public (over the blogs). As always I'm voting for Michael Meyer.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 8, 2008 04:05 PM

@ Prof Chazelle
I think the answer to your question is Ned Lamont.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 8, 2008 04:07 PM

The person or persons behind RFK's murder are not known. What IS known is this:
1) The official version of the murder is fundamentally implausible. The basic physical evidence (the number and direction of the shots) is not compatible with the LAPD's version.
2) When you exclude the LAPD's single-shooter theory, you are left with two options: two unrelated "lone nuts" converging on RFK at the same time (possible, but fantastically unlikely); or a coordinated conspiracy to murder RFK.
3) If this conspiracy was pulled off by anyone other than "entrenched power," it would have been revealed immediately; this is what law enforcement does. But the LAPD's actions, and the fact that essential information is increasingly available--but always fragmentary and sometimes tampered-with--suggests that evidence identifying a conspiracy was suppressed. "Entrenched power" is the only group capable of directing the investigation in '68-'69, and suppressing information afterwards.

RFK was not a saint, and perhaps the lesson his assassination should teach is to stop pinning our hopes for a better world on individuals. But he was also murdered under suspicious circumstances by persons unknown. This is an issue that extends well beyond Kennedy-worship, into our basic beliefs in justice and freedom. We cannot shrug it off and move on, as much as we'd all like to--assassination is the opposite of democracy; our political system cannot function under the shadow of political murder. Our only choice is to address it and nullify it, enabling authentic democracy, or pretend it doesn't happen here (or only happens occasionally, or doesn't REALLY matter, since they're all bums anyway) and continue the sham. We see what the sham brings.

"Entrenched power" is not monolithic; RFK was a part of, and clearly had the blessing of, one faction of "entrenched power." But he was considered a threat by another faction--for reasons known only to that faction. Unfortunately, the anti-RFK faction was more powerful.

Anyone interested in the latest information regarding the assassinations of the sixties--much of it utilizing scientific analysis not available in years past--is recommended to the site Responsible; thoughtful; troubling.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at July 8, 2008 05:01 PM

PREFERABLY a treasurer with good bookkeeping skills. I have none.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 8, 2008 06:44 PM