Tag Archives: RFK

Longing for old custom

There once was a time in Washington, D.C., when freshmen members of Congress — senators and House members — spent their first terms learning to locate the Capitol Hill restrooms, which they did without hardly ever uttering a word out loud.

Those days are gone. The media these days bestow instant celebrity status to congressional newbies. I wish we could silence some of them.

There were exceptions to the old way of senators and House members having to earn their way under the spotlight. I can think of Robert F. Kennedy, who took office as a senator from New York in 1965. He became an instant star, even though he never really liked serving in the Senate. The rest of ’em largely stayed quiet until they earned their spurs. Hillary Rodham Clinton took her Senate seat in 2001 as her husband was leaving the presidency. Indeed, Sen. Clinton was a household name — as was RFK — before she decided to seek elected public office.

These days? We get the likes of Republicans such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. I’ll lump at least one Democratic lawmaker, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, in that camp of instant celeb. The media seem to enjoy reporting on the things these people say, even when they make little sense.

Lately, too, we have heard from that GOP nut job Madison Cawthorn, who yapped about sex parties, bringing a dose of embarrassment to fellow Republicans in the House.

I fear this all is a consequence of social media. Everyone has a recording device on their “smart phones.” Whatever one can say is recorded instantly and shared with every human on Earth.

I guess I’ll just have to sigh out of frustration, knowing there ain’t a thing I can do to change the world in which we live. Maybe I’ll just have to learn to tune out the blatherings of these newcomers and listen more intently to those with actual governing experience.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Biden needs an RFK

Who functions in the Joe Biden administration as the tough guy in international negotiations? Who can President Biden rely on to get the message delivered in clear and unambiguous terms that the United States means business when it threatens the other side with severe punishment if talks break down?

I refer to someone such as Robert F. Kennedy, who filled that role for his brother, President John F. Kennedy, during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

The situation today isn’t precisely identical, but to my eyes and ears it reminds me a bit of what transpired in 1962. Russian troops are massing on the Russian border with Ukraine. Russian thug Vladimir Putin is threatening to invade Ukraine if certain conditions are not met. President Biden is trying to talk Putin off the proverbial ledge.

In October 1962, the Soviet Union began assembling missile sites in Cuba. JFK got wind of it and set out to talk Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev out of deploying the missiles that could hit U.S. cities. He ordered a blockade of Cuba, using U.S. Navy ships to turn back any vessels heading for Cuban ports. He then dispatched his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to negotiate with the USSR envoys at the United Nations.

RFK laid down the law: either dismantle the missile sites or face the mighty wrath of American military might. The Soviets backed down. We gave them some concessions, to be sure, such as taking down our own missile sites in Turkey. The point is that JFK had RFK to do his dirty work.

Is there someone in the Biden administration to fill that task now? Man, I hope so.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

End conspiracy talk … OK?

I watched a four-part documentary tonight titled “Bobby Kennedy for President.”

It was touching, deeply moving and it brought back memories for me about the 1968 presidential campaign during which Sen. Robert Kennedy’s life was cut short by Sirhan B. Sirhan in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

The fourth part of the film talks about the “conspiracy” theories being kicked around to this very day about whether Sirhan acted alone in killing RFK.

I’ll clear the air right now. I hate conspiracy theories. I do not believe in them … generally.

Investigators have looked time and again at the events leading up to moment that RFK was gunned down. They have determined there is no evidence of a second gunman. No evidence! None! Zero!

Sirhan Sirhan acted alone. He killed RFK.

Why do I disbelieve these theories? Because secrets such as what has been alleged are impossible to keep. It’s been 53 years since Sirhan shot Sen. Kennedy. How in the world does anyone keep any information about that terrible event from the rest of the world for that period of time?

The Netflix series probes into the questions that just won’t wither away. I wish they would, but I also know they won’t. They will persist for as long as human beings draw breath, just as those conspiracy theories about President Kennedy’s murder five years earlier will live forever.

Count me out!

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Thank you, Gov. Newsom, for denying parole to Sirhan

Sirhan B. Sirhan, the man who killed Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and likely changed the course of American political history, is going to stay in prison after all, thanks to a decision handed down today by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The state parole board had recommended parole for Sirhan, who was waiting for RFK in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen the night Kennedy won the state’s 1968 Democratic Party presidential primary. Sirhan fired his pistol into RFK’s head and was taken into custody immediately after the shooting.

I want to join Sen. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel, and six of her surviving children, in applauding Gov. Newsom’s decision. Two of Mrs. Kennedy’s sons — RFK Jr. and Douglas — want Sirhan paroled.

He should stay locked up. His premeditated murder of a leading American politician was an attack on our political system. Sen. Kennedy might have been poised after his decisive victory in California to claim the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968. He could have then defeated the eventual winner of that election, Richard Nixon. Bobby Kennedy then could have ended the Vietnam War as he had pledged to do during his frenetic 85-day campaign for his party’s nomination.

Sirhan Sirhan, RFK assassin, denied parole (msn.com)

Robert Kennedy was the first politician I ever truly admired. I had the rare honor of shaking his hand a week before he was gunned down. His death saddens will sadden me for as long as I live.

Thus, I want to salute Gov. Newsom for rejecting the parole board’s recommendation. He wrote this of Sirhan in an op-ed that appeared in the Los Angeles Times:

“He does not understand, let alone have the skills to manage, the complex risks of his self-created notoriety. He cannot be safely released from prison because he has not mitigated his risk of fomenting further political violence.”

Well done, Gov. Newsom.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

RFK’s widow weighs in: no parole for Sirhan

Does this now doom Sirhan Sirhan’s journey toward the door of the prison where he has been held for 53 years?

No, but it should.

Ethel Kennedy, the wife of the man Sirhan murdered on June 5, 1968, has said Sen. Robert Kennedy’s killer should not walk free. “Our family and our country suffered an unspeakable loss due to the inhumanity of one man,” Kennedy, 93, said in a statement of Sirhan Sirhan. “We believe in the gentleness that spared his life, but in taming his act of violence, he should not have the opportunity to terrorize again.”

A two-person parole board has recommended Sirhan be released. It’s far from a done deal. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has the authority to veto what the panel has recommended. A complete review of the parole recommendation could take months to complete.

Six of the Kennedys’ nine surviving children have spoken out against the recommendation to parole Sirhan. RFK Jr. and Douglas Kennedy have endorsed the parole recommendation. Now, though, their mother has said that Sirhan still poses too great a risk to society for him to walk free.

On a personal note, I still mourn RFK’s murder. I was able to shake his hand a week before he ventured into the hotel kitchen after winning the California Democratic primary. I was shaken to the core at his death and it still haunts me.

I do not mean to suggest that Robert Kennedy’s life means more than any other murder victim, but Sirhan Sirhan very well might have changed the course of U.S. political history by denying Americans the chance to decide whether RFK should become president of the United States in 1968.

Ethel Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, says Sirhan Sirhan ‘should not be paroled’ (msn.com)

Count me as one American who would not be disappointed in the least if Gov. Newsom decides to keep Sirhan B. Sirhan locked up … where he belongs.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Sirhan gets parole … wow!

This bit of news is going to take some time to sink in.

I am still processing the announcement that Sirhan Bishara Sirhan will be paroled from the California prison system 53 years after he shot my first political hero to death in a hotel kitchen.

Sirhan murdered Sen. Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968 moments after RFK declared victory in California’s Democratic presidential primary. Sen. Kennedy would linger for a day before succumbing. Robert Kennedy was 42 years of age and well might have been elected president of the United States. Hmm. Do you think his tragic death might have changed history’s trajectory? We were fighting a terribly unpopular war and Sen. Kennedy wanted to end it.

Let me stipulate that this recommendation does not make parole a done deal. It needs further review and final approval by the governor. However, the absence of any objection from prosecutors and the support of RFK”s family members suggest to me that it’s likely to occur. That Sirhan will walk out of prison.

Oh, my. How does one deal with this?

Two of the senator’s surviving sons, RFK Jr. and Douglas, both argued on behalf of Sirhan’s parole Douglas Kennedy said it is time to give way to grace and forgiveness. How in the world does one argue with the logic from the son of one of U.S. history’s more revered political figures?

I had hoped the 77-year-old Sirhan would spend the rest of his life behind bars. That won’t happen. He reportedly will live with his sole surviving brother.

No word, of course, yet has come from Ethel Kennedy, the slain senator’s wife who was there in the hotel kitchen when her husband was struck down; she was pregnant in that moment with the couple’s 11th child.

I am still trying to roll this one around. I cannot yet reach a decision on how I feel about Sirhan’s pending parole.

All I am feeling at this moment is renewed pain over the loss I felt at that moment when we got word at home in Oregon that RFK had been shot. I remember watching the returns from California. The networks declared Bobby Kennedy the winner and I went to bed a happy young man. I had the pleasure one week earlier of shaking the senator’s hand at a chance meeting in a restaurant parking as he finished campaigning in the Oregon Democratic primary.

Then my mother woke me up. She told me to come downstairs. I watched the horror of the event unfold in real time.

I am not going to express joy for Sirhan Sirhan’s release. I am saddened all over again.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Nation needs this kind of wisdom

The United States of America is in crisis. We have been through this before, in other contexts. However, we are lacking the kind of wisdom that comes from the top of our political leadership that we have heard during previous crises.

The Dallas Morning News today published an editorial calling for such wisdom as we grapple with issues relating to police brutality and racial injustice. The newspaper cited a speech given by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, at that moment a candidate for president, in the hours after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was felled by an assassin.

RFK said this:

“In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black — considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible — you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization — black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.

“Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.

“My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: ‘In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.’

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.

“So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love — a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

“We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we’ve had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.

“But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.

“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

“Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”

Sen. Kennedy spoke those words to a crowd of African-Americans gathered for a political rally in Indianapolis, Ind. While many cities in the land erupted in violence that evening, Indianapolis remained calm. Why? Because citizens were somehow assured that at least one political leader was listening to them and he cared about them.

A gunman would still RFK’s voice forever just two months later.

We are made poorer as a result. We need that kind of wisdom in this moment of grief.

Barr joins the cabal of disagrace

I had harbored some hope that William Barr would bring some integrity to the Donald Trump administration when he accepted the president’s nomination to lead the Department of Justice.

After all, he had served as attorney general in the early 1990s near the end of President George H.W. Bush’s term in office. He served then with honor and dignity.

I was terribly and tragically wrong. The attorney general’s latest recommendation that former national security adviser Michael Flynn avoid prosecution for lying to the FBI and to Vice President Mike Pence about the Russia attack on our electoral system in 2016.

Flynn has pleaded guilty twice to committing perjury. Now we hear Barr suggest that his lying wasn’t “material” to the investigation into whether Russia interfered in our election.

Here, though, comes a stunner: Nearly 2,000 former DOJ staffers have demanded Barr’s resignation. It reminds me of something a former editor of mine used to say: If someone calls you an ass, blow it off; if others call you an ass, then you need to shop for a saddle.

So now the AG has a couple thousand former DOJ lawyers and others calling him an ass.

As NBC News reports: The letter urges the judge who is in charge of the Flynn case, Emmet Sullivan, to “take a long, hard look at the government’s explanation and the evidence.” Barr is using the Justice Department to further President Donald Trump’s personal and political interests, it says, and “has undermined any claim to the deference that courts usually apply to the department’s decisions about whether or not to prosecute a case.”

The good news is that the judge to whom Flynn entered the guilty pleas must sign off on Barr’s request. Judge Sullivan is known to be an independent thinker, which of course gets to the beauty of the federal judicial system; these judges are appointed for life and, thus, are ostensibly removed from partisan considerations.

As for Barr, the letter signed by those thousands of DOJ staffers asks Congress to censure the AG. Just think, too, that many of those who signed the letter worked in Justice Departments under Democratic and Republican administrations.

Lastly, take a good look at the picture attached to this blog post. Barr is standing in front of a bust of the man after whom the Justice Department building is named: Robert F. Kennedy, the AG from 1961 to 1964. I can say with absolute certainty that RFK would be aghast and appalled at where William Barr has taken the Department of Justice.

Bloomberg trying to buy Democratic presidential nomination

Michael Bloomberg has put a price on the Democratic Party presidential nomination he is seeking to buy.

Whatever it is, he can afford it. As the former New York mayor throws millions of bucks at TV ads, though, he is annoying the daylights out of this voter … that would be me.

I am troubled by the idea of this megazillionaire forgoing the early primary states to blanket the airwaves with TV ads that proclaim that he can parlay his business acumen into the presidency of the United States.

We had another rich guy do the same thing, in 2016. Donald Trump sold millions of Americans a bill of goods about his business success. We’ve all since learned that Trump’s success was, well, a bit of a mirage. He’s still rich, or says he is rich. He lives large with those glitzy resorts where he retreats from his duties as president.

But back to Bloomberg.

I recall the 1968 presidential primary campaign. Sen. Eugene McCarthy surprised President Johnson with a strong second-place finish in New Hampshire. Then came Sen. Robert F. Kennedy into the battle. RFK and Clean Gene fought state to state in primary battles. Kennedy won most of those fights; he lost the Oregon primary in May, then ventured to California, where he won that state’s primary.

On the Fifth of June, a gunman rewrote history. Sen. Kennedy died the next day.

Meanwhile, Vice President Hubert Humphrey had skipped the primary fights. He spent his time gathering up delegates more or less off the grid.

There’s a certain similarity to what we’re seeing today, except that VP Humphrey wasn’t pouring millions of his own dollars into the fight, chiefly because he didn’t have the money stashed away. Bloomberg is seeking to self-finance his campaign.

This whole exercise turns me off. I want him to face his opponents on a stage, answering questions about his change of heart. You’ll recall how he declared with what we now assume was a faux sincerity that he wouldn’t run for president in 2020. Now he’s in. What gives?

I prefer presidential candidates to get scuffed up along the way. All the rest of ’em this year have suffered their share of nicks, cuts and bruises. Michael Bloomberg’s vast wealth shouldn’t exempt him from the same kind of treatment.

‘AOC’ now becomes a political brand? Who knew?

I never really saw this one coming. I still find it strange.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become known the way JFK, LBJ, RFK, MLK have become known. Yep, she’s now referred to by her initials.

Here’s what I do not quite get: She is a freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives, coming from New York City. She knocked off a long-time member of the House, Joseph Crowley, to become the Democratic Party nominee in 2018; given the district’s strong Democratic leanings, her election was a shoo-in later that year.

She has become a ubiquitous presence throughout the media. Newspapers give her plenty of space on their pages; cable and broadcast TV news outlets rush to get her to appear on their programs; I guess Fox News is the exception, given that the network doesn’t much cotton to her political leaning, nor does she to Fox’s leaning.

I’ll acknowledge, too, that this blog now refers to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez occasionally as “AOC.” Why? It’s easier for my rickety old fingers to type her initials than her entire name.

Man, the political calculus has changed. There once was a time when politicians needed years worth of seasoning to attain this kind of star status. By that I refer to the use of initials to ID them.

I get that there’s a certain form of musicality to the sound of some initials as you say them. The examples I cited at the top of this blog post symbolize to what I am referring. I suppose “AOC” does as well.

It’s not that necessarily believe Ocasio-Cortez is always wrong when she makes her public pronouncements. I just want her to grow a little bit more into the job she won before she becomes such a media force of nature.

Call me old-school. Or fuddy-duddy. Maybe even a grumpy old man.

I don’t care. I just prefer politicians to earn their way into this form of colloquial status.