Tag Archives: RFK

McCain wants Trump to stay away, but wait …

Sen. John McCain reportedly has made his feelings known about Donald J. Trump: He doesn’t want the president of the United States to attend his funeral, according to what the media are reporting.

That is Sen. McCain’s call. I won’t challenge it, nor should anyone else.

But let me put out just another perspective on this kind of antipathy and whether it should follow someone to the grave.

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was running for president when a gunman shot him to death on June 5, 1968. He sought to succeed President Lyndon Johnson, a man he detested with virtually every fiber of his being. What’s more, the feeling was so very mutual, as LBJ loathed RFK with equal fervor.

Sen. Kennedy was just 42 years of age when he died and likely didn’t give much thought to who should attend his funeral, let alone express it to anyone close to him.

RFK’s requiem took place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Among the attendees were President Johnson, along with first lady Lady Bird Johnson.

It was generally known in 1968 that Sen. Kennedy and President Johnson detested each other. I don’t recall in the moment much public discussion about whether the president should attend the funeral of his bitter political foe.

So, he did.

It begs the question, though, for the present day: Given Sen. McCain’s reported desire that Donald Trump stay away from his funeral, should the president honor the senator’s request when that sad day arrives?

The nature of today’s media climate suggests to me the president would be smart to stay away. Memories are long and my hunch is that Trump’s presence at a ceremony that would pay tribute to a war hero whose service he once denigrated would dilute the honor that Sen. McCain will so richly deserve.

Time for another bumper sticker?

It’s been 50 years since I plastered a political sticker on the bumper of my car.

I owned a 1961 Plymouth Valiant in 1968. I adorned it with a “Kennedy” sticker to express my support for Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s run for the presidency. I wasn’t even old enough to vote. It all ended tragically, as you no doubt know.

I’m giving thought to doing so again in 2018. I support Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

However, I’m a bit queasy about it, given the intense division that exist in this country. Yeah, yeah. I know that 1968 produced an even deeper schism, given the intense feelings about the Vietnam War.

This, though, seems different. It’s even more intense. It’s as visceral as it was back then.

Not only that, I happen to reside in a deeply Republican state full of folks who are unafraid to challenge those of the “other” party. The same holds true for Democrats in their feelings against Republicans. Not only that, we are headquartered in the most Republican-friendly region of this GOP state.

Dare I plaster my political preference on a car and expose it to angry response? Hmm. I’ll have to give that just a bit of thought before I take the partisan plunge once again.

Is this the year to give campaign cash?

I have had an active interest in politics for 50 years.

It probably began the moment I shook U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s hand late one night in the parking lot of a trendy Chinese restaurant just before the 1968 Oregon Democratic Party presidential election.

I wasn’t old enough to vote that year. My first vote came four years later when I cast my first presidential ballot for Sen. George McGovern.

In those five decades, though, I’ve never given money to a political candidate. Not for president. Or U.S. Senate. Or House of Reps. Or governor. Or any other state or local office.

My career path precluded that level of political activity. As a journalist in Oregon and then in Texas, I simply could not in good conscience support a candidate with money.

I never took the oath of political abstinence that many in my craft have pursued. I always voted. Many other reporters and editors have vowed never to cast a vote for a candidate in an effort to maintain some level of objectivity when covering these politicians … or commenting on them.

I’ve long understood that voting is a private matter. We cast our ballots in secret. We are not obligated to divulge for whom we’ve voted.

I departed full-time journalism in August 2012, which means I got to vote in another presidential election that year. I did so again in 2016. In between, I voted in the 2014 midterm election and have voted already in the 2018 primary; I intend fully to cast a ballot this year in the fall election.

I am facing a bit of a quandary. There are some political candidates I like — a lot! Whether I prefer them over their opponents enough to give them money remains an open question.

One disclosure I need to make: One 2018 candidate for public office, the U.S. House, is a close personal friend, a man for whom I have the highest regard. If anyone is going to get some of my dough, he is likely to be the one.

About the closest I’ve come to donating to politicians is at tax-filing time; I routinely dedicate a portion of my tax returns to public campaign financing, which I support in the strongest terms possible.

My interest in politics only has grown over the past 50 years. Even though I haven’t yet emptied my wallet. This might be the year.

2018: the year of memorable commemorations

Fifty years in a marriage is a big deal, I trust you’d agree.

It’s the “golden anniversary” of a couple’s taking vows to stay together “for as long as you both shall live.”

This year marks the 50th year since the occurrence of astonishingly important historical events. I hesitate to call many of these occurrences “anniversaries,” given that very word connotes a happy event. What we’re going to mark as this year progresses too often are much less than that.

For instance:

  • On Saturday, it will be the 50th year since President Lyndon Johnson announced the suspension of bombing in North Vietnam — and then told the nation he “would not seek, nor … accept my party’s nomination for another term as your president.”
  • This coming Wednesday marks the date 50 years ago that James Earl Ray assassinated the great Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was standing on that motel balcony. I’ll have more to say about that in a few days.
  • Fifty years ago on June 5, 1968, U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy — my first political hero — won the California Democratic Party presidential primary, only to be gunned down in a hotel kitchen pantry. More on that tragic day will come later as well.
  • The summer of 1968 produced a bloody confrontation in Chicago as Democrats sought to nominate someone to run for the presidency. Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the nomination, but the story of that event was the bloodshed in the streets.
  • The 1968 presidential election gave us Richard Nixon. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • Finally, that tumultuous year came to a close with a glimmer of hope. Three men took off atop a Saturn V rocket and roared into space, toward the moon. They orbited the moon and on Christmas Eve, Americans heard these men — Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders — read from the Book of Genesis about the creation of our world. Borman, the mission commander, then wished “all the people on the good Earth” a Merry Christmas.

I will look back on that year as a time of tumult, terror and tempest. I also will remember it as a year that ended with the perfect salutation.

Ivanka takes offense? Get over it, young lady

Ivanka Trump is walking the finest of lines.

She is the elder daughter of the president of the United States. She also is an unpaid senior adviser to the Leader of the Free World.

So, when she gets asked by a broadcast journalist about the allegations of sexual abuse leveled against her father/the president, she reveals why it’s important that the president be mindful of the problems nepotism poses in hiring senior advisers.

Ivanka cannot serve in her “official” capacity without facing difficult questions surrounding her “boss,” who also happens to be her father.

She called the question posed by NBC News’s Peter Alexander “inappropriate.” Wait a minute, young lady. He was asking the question of a senior policy adviser, not of a presidential daughter.

This is why nepotism is a bad thing when it involves people at the highest levels of government.

Many decades ago, the federal government implemented an anti-nepotism policy in response to questions surrounding the appointment in 1960 of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy by his brother, President John F. Kennedy. After JFK’s murder in November 1963 and after RFK was elected to the U.S. Senate the following year, the government enacted a policy that prohibited hiring by presidents of “linear” relatives to paid positions.

It didn’t cover the role that Ivanka Trump fulfills in her father’s administration.

There needs to be some tightening of these rules. If it’s not going to happen, then the president needs to send his daughter packing.

Grandpa would have been proud

I watched Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

Then I listened to some of the analysis of it. A few minutes later, I listened with equal intensity to the Democratic Party’s designated respondent to the president’s speech. A young member of Congress, Joseph P. Kennedy III, D-Mass., offered the response.

I listened to Rep. Kennedy with more than just a touch of wistfulness. The young man is the grandson of my first political idol. You’ve heard of him, too: Robert F. Kennedy.

I wrote once about an astonishing Bobby Kennedy Moment that occurred in my life. Here is what I wrote in June 2015:

A bullet changed history 47 years ago today

I have shared with you over the years I’ve written this blog about the astonishing array of public figures whose paths crossed with mine.

My brief encounter with Robert Kennedy ranks at the very top of the long list of distinguished individuals I’ve had the honor of meeting.

Get this, though: My meeting with RFK occurred one year after my graduation from high school. It happened on the eve of a 1968 presidential primary election in my home state of Oregon.

I had no possible idea in that moment that my political idol would die one week later after he scored the biggest political victory of his life. RFK had won the California Democratic primary. He thanked his supporters and then said, “On to Chicago and let’s win there.”

He never got to his party’s nominating convention in Chicago. He walked through a kitchen pantry in Los Angeles and was gunned down by Sirhan B. Sirhan.

When I saw the young man deliver his party’s response to the president’s speech last night, I only could imagine how proud he would have made the grandfather he never knew.

At least Joe Kennedy knows of the impact his grandpa had on millions of Americans — such as yours truly — who came of political age in the most turbulent of times.

Can it be? Mitt is getting back in the game?

I do hope this story pans out.

Sources have revealed that U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Senate’s longest-tenured Republican, is calling it quits and that his good friend Mitt Romney is going to run for his seat in Utah.

Why is my heart palpitating? Well, Mitt is no friend of Donald John Trump Sr. Neither, it might be noted, is Sen. Hatch. However, Hatch is facing a near-certain GOP primary challenge. He’s decided — allegedly — that he’s had enough of the fun and games in Washington. He’s now 83 years of age. He must lack the staying power and/or the stomach for another political fight.

But how about that Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who’s made three stabs at higher office? He lost to U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, then came up short in two tries for the presidency, losing the 2012 general election to President Obama.

He might have made an even bigger impact on the current political environment, though, with that stunning speech he delivered in 2016 that tore the GOP presidential nominee, Trump, a new one. He called Trump a “fraud,” a “phony” and a whole lot of other pejorative terms.

Then after Trump got elected Romney supposedly was on the president-elect’s short list for secretary of state. He interviewed with Trump in private, came out in front of the cameras, smiled and said all the right things.

But … my gut tells me Mitt isn’t in Trump’s camp.

I’m not at all sure about Mitt’s residency. Does he still live in Massachusetts? Does he maintain a residence in Utah? I guess it doesn’t matter too terribly, given that these residency laws at times can be quite lax and open to broad interpretation. Do you remember the time the late Robert F. Kennedy (in 1964) and then Hillary Rodham Clinton (in 2000) ran for the U.S. Senate from New York, even though neither of them actually lived there at the time they ran for the office?

Whatever. I am glad to see Mitt Romney possibly getting back into the public service game. I just hope he can muster up the guts to keep “telling it like it is” as it regards the president of the United States.

400K for one speech? No wonder they’re griping

Barack H. Obama delivered a speech to a Wall Street health care outfit’s annual conference.

The former president plans to rake in a cool $400,000 to make the speech. As you might imagine, he’s getting some guff from those within his Democratic Party base who contend that it’s insulting for him to earn the equivalent of the annual salary he drew while he was president of the United States … with just a single speech.

I happen to agree.

I also understand that the president is taking advantage of what the market will provide him for his words of wisdom.

Former adviser has a good idea

But here’s another option, which comes from Van Jones, a former Obama adviser who now serves as a contributor for CNN: Why not go on what Jones calls a “poverty tour.” It would help fend off some of the complaints the former president is getting from members of his base.

“We need a Bobby Kennedy in this country,” Jones said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.

Indeed, RFK famously took a lengthy tour of Appalachia before launching his 1968 bid for the presidency. Kennedy got to see up close the abject poverty that engulfs families in eastern Kentucky; he heard tales of misery and heard people’s pleas for help.

And, yes, Bobby Kennedy was born into privilege.

As The Hill reported: He (Jones) suggested the former president “go to Appalachia, go to Native American reservations where they’re shoving these pipelines down their throats and they don’t even have clear, running water. Go to South Central, go to the Arizona border where you have a lot of poverty.”

What would this do? Oh, it likely wouldn’t persuade the former president to give back the money or perhaps donate it to worthy causes. It would allow him to understand better the plight of millions of Americans who are unable to collect that kind of money just for making a speech.

Didn’t they enact an anti-nepotism law?

President-elect John F. Kennedy called the media together shortly after his election in 1960 to announce his choice for attorney general.

It would be his brother, Robert, who never had practiced law privately. He had served as general counsel to a Senate committee chaired by the infamous Joseph McCarthy and later worked with his brother in the Senate.

JFK joked that RFK needed a bit of experience before he would become a successful lawyer, so he named him AG.

The appointment caused some consternation at the time, even though RFK would go on to become a highly effective attorney general.

In 1967, Congress enacted a law that banned such nepotism at the highest levels of government.

Then came Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States. What does he do? He places his daughter Ivanka into a West Wing office, where she now has an actual White House job. Oh, and her husband, Jared Kushner, also now works as a senior policy adviser.

Neither of them has government experience. Neither has any political seasoning.

Trumps take over the White House

But hey, what’s the problem? Ivanka won’t take a salary, which I guess serves as Dad’s dodge in giving her a government job.

However, didn’t Congress have enough fear about nepotism 50 years ago to approve a law to prohibit it?

I don’t believe that concern has lessened.

Once ‘noble’ pursuit getting more vengeful

The late Robert F. Kennedy used to proclaim that politics could be a “noble” pursuit if its practitioners kept their eye on the public service aspect of their craft.

It’s gotten a lot less noble in the years since RFK’s time in the public arena.

Politics has become a contact sport. A blood sport in the eyes of many. We are about to witness it become even bloodier as the next president of the United States takes his oath and begins the work of leading the country.

Donald J. Trump is headed for the roughest ride imaginable. More than half of those who voted in this year’s election voted for someone else. There are myriad questions surrounding the president-elect’s fitness for office, about his business dealings and about the quality of the team he is assembling.

It’s been said there might be an impeachment in Trump’s future if he doesn’t take care of some of those business dealings that could run him smack into the “emoluments clause” in the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits presidents from receiving income from foreign governments.

Is all this to be expected? Sure it is.

Is it unreasonable to ask these probing questions? Of course not!

Vengeance can be most troubling. Trump will take over from a president who’s himself felt the wrath of those who opposed him at every turn. There was talk of impeaching Barack H. Obama, too.

President Obama sought to do some bold things, such as get medical insurance for millions of Americans; he sought to rescue the failing economy early in his presidency with a costly stimulus package; he continued to pursue terrorists abroad using aggressive military action; he sought to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

All along the way, his foes sought to stymie him. There were a couple of shameful incidents, such as when a Republican member of Congress shouted “liar!” at Obama as he was delivering a speech to a joint congressional session; there also was the declaration from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell who said his “No. 1 priority” would be to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

The Democrats now are on the outside looking in at Republicans’ efforts to reshape the federal government.

It won’t be a cakewalk for the new guy any more than it was for the fellow he will succeed.

Memories are long in Washington, D.C., even if politicians who say spiteful things to and about each other can make up and join the same team — which happens all the time in the nation’s capital.

Trump’s team must know that political nobility is long gone. They’d better get ready to be roughed up.

As they say: Payback is a bitch.