Tag Archives: Robert Kennedy

McCain’s farewell compares to RFK’s

Someone this week compared the farewell of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain to another such long goodbye that occurred 50 years ago, when the nation bid farewell to the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

I found the comparison an apt one, and one that I believe Sen. McCain would approve of.

On June 5, 1968, Sirhan Sirhan stepped out of a crowd in a Los Angeles hotel kitchen and shot RFK, who died the next day. Bobby Kennedy’s death shocked, stunned and saddened the nation.

There was a moving funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and then the slow and emotional train ride from NYC to Washington, where the tracks were lined by millions of mourners waving goodbye to the slain political icon.

They would bury Bobby Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery in a simple grave next to that of his brother, President John F. Kennedy.

Fifty years later, another political titan is getting the deserved long goodbye. John McCain was saluted in Phoenix by friends and loved ones, including his longtime friend and political foe, former Vice President Joe Biden.

His remains then were flown aboard a government jet to Washington, where they will lie in state under the U.S. Capitol Dome in the Rotunda, an honor given only to 31 prior public officials.

There will be another service, with eulogies given by former Presidents Barack H. Obama and George W. Bush, two one-time presidential campaign rivals, but also men Sen. McCain grew to respect.

Then the senator’s remains will be taken to Annapolis, Md., where they will rest for eternity near where McCain’s long, distinguished and heroic public service career began … as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy.

I like the comparison in the way the nation has saluted these men. I would like to believe Bobby Kennedy and John McCain would as well.

Indeed, I am certain the men’s spirits will find each other in heaven and they will share stories of battles won and lost and of the good they both sought to bring to the nation that bade them long and heartfelt farewells.

RFK writes compelling back story about MLK Jr.’s death

The world reeled in grief 50 years ago today when word broke out that Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot to death in Memphis, Tenn.

The grief turned to anger in many cities across the United States. African-Americans reacted violently. They rioted. They burned cities.

But one major American city — Indianapolis, Ind. — remained calm. Why? Another man who was just two months from his own tragic and untimely death spoke to a crowd and broke the terrible news to them.

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was running for president in 1968. He heard about the shooting. He asked his aides if the crowd that was waiting to hear a campaign stump speech knew that Dr. King had died. He was told they likely didn’t know. Bobby Kennedy had to tell them.

So he did. He spoke for six minutes after telling them he had “terrible news” to deliver. In just a few minutes, RFK managed to lend a word of comfort and, indeed, empathy. His own brother, President Kennedy, had been felled by a gunman less than five years earlier. “He was killed by a white man,” Sen. Kennedy said in seeking to quell the feelings of hatred that some in the crowd might harbor “toward all white people.”

He spoke of the need for more “love” and “compassion” in the United States.

The result in Indianapolis was that its residents didn’t react in the manner that tore many other cities apart.

Robert Kennedy, with those brief words, delivered perhaps one of the greatest political speeches in U.S. history. Its message, though, reached far beyond the partisan concerns of a politician seeking election to the nation’s highest office.

The politician spoke to a nation in the deepest grief imaginable.

Tragically, he would march on to his own horrifying end, triggering yet another round of grief.

Crowd size is overrated … trust me

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is blown away by the size of the crowds greeting Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders as he campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Here’s what Reich posted on Facebook: “What amazes me, frankly, are the crowds. Not since Robert F. Kennedy sought the Democratic nomination in 1968 has a candidate for the nomination of either party generated such large numbers of people eager to see and listen to him. None in living memory has summoned such crowds this early, before the nominating season even begins. Even Sanders’ advisers are amazed (I spoke with one this morning who said they never expected this kind of response).

“What’s the explanation? It’s not his sense of humor. It’s not his youth. He isn’t a demagogue, bashing immigrants or pandering to hatred and bigotry. It’s that he’s telling Americans the unvarnished truth about what has happened to our economy and our democracy, and he is posing real solutions. And it seems that America is ready to listen.”

I guess I need to remind Reich — who I’m sure is aware of a lot more than I am — about a reality.

It is that big crowds don’t translate necessarily into votes.

The late U.S. Sen. George McGovern drew big crowds as well when he ran for president in 1972. I stood among a throng of thousands of people in a plaza in downtown Portland, Ore., as McGovern fired up the masses. That crowd was big, boisterous, enthusiastic — and it mirrored many of the political rally crowds McGovern was drawing all across the nation.

Sen. McGovern lost the election that year by 23 percentage points, as President Nixon rang up a 49-state landslide victory.

Yes, Sanders is telling voters his version of the “unvarnished truth.” Indeed, RFK did much the same thing in 1968 as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination. Kennedy’s message was different; it dealt more with issues of the heart, such as peace abroad and justice at home for all Americans.

Sanders’s crowds are impressive. Let’s remember, though, that he remains a still-distant second to the Democrats’ frontrunner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who’s got another all-important edge over the rest of her party’s primary field: money.

We now live in an era where money matters far more than massive crowds.

Take this vow from Patrick with much salt

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he’ll never run for governor against Greg Abbott.

Not only that, he says he’s not going to run for governor ever.


Do I believe him? Is this the final word on the subject?

I remain a bit dubious about this disavowal of any further political ambition. As for the finality, do not bet anything, not a nickel, that we’ve heard the last of it.

As lieutenant governor, Patrick presides over the Texas Senate. As governor, Abbott is the state’s chief executive. Patrick’s conservative agenda is well-known. So is his rather meteoric temperament. Abbott’s conservative credentials also are beyond question. However, there are times when he doesn’t seem as fervently conservative as Patrick.

I hear what Patrick says today about his political ambition. However, these things can and do change.

There’s just something about Patrick that makes me wonder whether he’s telling us the whole truth.

The late U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen once told me he wouldn’t accept a vice-presidential spot on the Democratic Party ticket in 1988. Then he did.

The late U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy said he wouldn’t seek the presidency in 1968. Then he did.

I believe Dan Patrick is capable of changing his mind.


GOP readies for internal fight

One of the many forms of conventional wisdom in the wake of the 2014 mid-term election goes something like this: Republicans, flush with victory at taking over the Senate and expanding their hold in the House, now face a fight between the tea party extremists and the mainstream wing of their party.

Let’s go with that one for a moment, maybe two.

I relish the thought, to be brutally candid.

The likely Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, may be looking over his shoulder at one of the tea party upstarts within his Republican caucus, a fellow named Ted Cruz of Texas.

Cruz wants to lead the party to the extreme right. McConnell is more of a dealmaker, someone who’s been known to actually seek advice and counsel from his old friend and former colleague, Vice President Joe Biden. Cruz, who’s still green to the ways of Washington, wants to shake the place up, seeking to govern in a scorched-Earth kind of way. He wouldn’t mind shutting down the government again if the right issue arises. McConnell won’t have any of that.

So, will the battle commence soon after the next Congress takes over in 2015.

Lessons unlearned doom those who ignore them.

Republicans have been through this kind of intraparty strife before. In 1964, conservatives took control of the GOP after fighting with the establishment. The party nominated Sen. Barry Goldwater as its presidential candidate and then Goldwater got thumped like a drum by President Lyndon Johnson.

They did it again in 1976, with conservative former California Gov. Ronald Reagan challenging President Ford for his party’s nomination. Ford beat back the challenge, but then lost his bid for election to Jimmy Carter.

To be fair, Democrats have fallen victim to the same kind of political cannibalism.

In 1968 and again in 1972, Democrats fought with each over how, or whether, to end the Vietnam War. Sens. Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy challenged LBJ for the nomination in 1968. Johnson dropped out of the race, RFK was assassinated, McCarthy soldiered on to the convention, which erupted in violence and Democrats then nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who then went on to lose to GOP nominee Richard Nixon.

Four years later, the Democratic insurgents nominated Sen. George McGovern after fighting with the party “hawks.” McGovern then lost to President Nixon in a landslide.

So, what’s the lesson?

History has shown — and it goes back a lot farther than just 1964 — that intraparty squabbles quite often don’t make for a stronger party, but a weaker one.

Bring it on, Republicans!



‘Carpetbagger’ no longer a four-letter word?

Former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is considering whether to run for Senate once again.

He might run for a Senate seat in … New Hampshire!

Brown isn’t from the Granite State, which borders Massachusetts. Indeed, one can get from virtually anywhere in Massachusetts to New Hampshire in pretty short order, given that the Bay State is so small in geographical size. For that matter, so are all the New England states.

Is the former senator a carpetbagger?


And isn’t it a bad thing to roll into a state, congressional district, legislative district, county commission district — name it — just to win a political office?

The very term “carpetbagger” became known after the American Civil War, when northerners carrying carpet suitcases went south to “reconstruct” the states of the former Confederacy. The term also applied to Republican political appointees who moved south packing the customary sturdy carpetbag luggage that was common in that era.

Well, “carpetbaggers” have moved into states to seek public office and done pretty well.

U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy fought off the carpetbagger charge when he quit President Johnson’s Cabinet to run for the Senate seat in New York in 1964, even though he lived in New York for only briefly when he was a boy. RFK won, served part of his first term, ran for president in 1968 and was killed by an assassin.

Hillary Rodham Clinton had even less familiarity with New York when she ran for the Senate in that state in 2000. She won, was re-elected in 2006, served until 2009, when she became secretary of state in the Obama administration and now appears set to run for president in 2016.

Those are the two more notable examples of “carpetbaggers” who made good.

Right here at home in the Texas Panhandle, we watched a Randall County resident, Victor Leal, move into a rental home in Potter County in late 2009 for the expressed purpose of running for a Texas House seat that included Potter County; his former residence was outside the district. The new Potter County resident lost the GOP primary in 2010. Leal had to fend off questions about his residency, which likely contributed to his defeat.

All in all, though, “carpetbagger” might technically still be a pejorative term but politicians have perfected ways of scooting past the negative implications.

Former Sen. Brown no doubt has his elevator speech lined out if and when the question comes up. He’ll likely be able to say that New Hampshire and Massachusetts are so packed so close together, they share the same media market and they share so many common interests and concerns that living in one state is like living in the other.

Times do change.