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The Heartbreak Campaign
May 10, 2008 2:27 PM   Subscribe

The Heartbreak Campaign. "Increasingly opposed to the Vietnam War, Robert F. Kennedy struggled over whether he should challenge his party’s incumbent president, Lyndon Johnson, in 1968. His younger brother, Teddy, was against it. His wife, Ethel, urged him on. Many feared he would be assassinated, like the older brother he mourned."

Excerpt from Thurston Clarke's The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, due to be published later this month.

Morley Safer, The Burning of Cam Ne. LBJ said Safer's 1965 CBS report on Marines burning a Vietnamese village "shat on the American flag" and demanded a security check, which revealed that Shafer "wasn't a communist, just a Canadian." LBJ responded, "Well, I knew he wasn't an American."

Robert F. Kennedy, transcript of November 26, 1967, appearance on Face the Nation.

Eugene McCarthy, November 30, 1967, Announcement of Candidacy for President [audio link on this page]

Robert F. Kennedy, January 4, 1968, What Do We Stand For? The Liberation of the Human Spirit [Google cache]

Robert F. Kennedy, February 8, 1968, Unwinnable War speech

Robert F Kennedy, March 16, 1968, Announcement of Candidacy for President
"Yes, of course he has the stuff to go all the way," John J. Lindsay replied. "But he's not going to go all the way. The reason is that somebody is going to shoot him. I know it and you know it. Just as sure as we're sitting here somebody is going to shoot him. He's out there now waiting for him And, please God, I don't think we’ll have a country after it."
posted by kirkaracha (28 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Slightly off-topic, but this gives me more occasion to wonder why the people I talk to seem to like LBJ so much. He was massively talented, sure, but he also had fascist instincts and was committed to a disastrous, dumb war -- even though he had all the facts.
posted by grobstein at 2:41 PM on May 10, 2008


You're just bringing this up because Obama has to campaign in Kentucky and West Virginia, aren't you?

I really hope he's not assassinated. It'll make April 29, 1992 look like a three year old's birthday party.
posted by mullingitover at 3:02 PM on May 10, 2008


Wow, nice post.

I wasn't to be born for another thirteen years, but I've always heard the story from my mom about when she and my dad first heard that RFK was running, and all of the color just drained out of my dad's face, and the first thing he said was, "Somebody's going to kill him." Kind of bizarre to know that was such a common response.

From my sophomoric days as a teenager, when I spent a phase obsessed over the Kennedys, it was clear to me that RFK was really the potentially greatest of all of them - the courage to take on the mob even after Jack cut the Chicago deal with Giancana (allegedly) and the tact and honest human respect behind his Indianapolis speech. Strong, wise, brave and canny, he would've been a president for the ages, methinks.

Whenever somebody calls Obama Kennedyesque (which happened a lot more six or eight months ago than now) my thought would always be, "Yeah, Robert Kennedy."
posted by Navelgazer at 3:15 PM on May 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is there some reason Obama has a better chance of being shot in Kentucky or West Virginia?
posted by Roman Graves at 3:20 PM on May 10, 2008


And great post, sir.
posted by Roman Graves at 3:24 PM on May 10, 2008


You're just bringing this up because Obama has to campaign in Kentucky and West Virginia, aren't you?

Probably not. I suspect it's more because the FPP is focused on the current (June 2008) Vanity Fair cover story and 'soon-to-be-released' book on RFK by Thurston Clarke.
posted by ericb at 3:43 PM on May 10, 2008


Eulogy (excerpt) of Robert F. Kennedy [text].
posted by ericb at 3:50 PM on May 10, 2008


Speaking of RFK, about a month ago ABC news ran a story (which you can read about and watch here) regarding new foresenic audio analysis of RFK's assassination which strongly suggests more gunshots were fired than could have been fired by Sirhan Sirhan alone.

In addition to this, in 2006 the BBC ran a story (which you can read about here and watch here) which strongly suggests based on detailed analysis of film taken just minutes before RFK's assassination "that [three CIA] operatives and four unidentified associates were at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles in the moments before and after the shooting on 5 June, 1968," and that "three of these men have been positively identified as senior officers who worked together in 1963 at JMWAVE, the CIA's Miami base for its Secret War on Castro. David Morales was Chief of Operations and once told friends: 'I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard.'"

Now you can do what a lot of people do when confronted with this kind of information, even if it's as impartially presented as it is in these two mainstream news pieces, and that is use the magic word "conspiracy" to effectively quell all legitimate discussion of the case. Or you can begin to wonder if the murder of RFK, like the murder of his brother, remains unsolved.
posted by ornate insect at 3:54 PM on May 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


I thought it was already accepted that RFK's murderer was his bodyguard.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:56 PM on May 10, 2008




Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not -- George Bernard Shaw, preface to Mrs. Warren's Profession
posted by Faze at 4:12 PM on May 10, 2008


Ooops ... meant to link to this.
posted by ericb at 4:14 PM on May 10, 2008


quell all legitimate discussion of the case

Case? There are no conspiracies, only coincidences.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:43 PM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


You're just bringing this up because Obama has to campaign in Kentucky and West Virginia, aren't you?

No. If that's what I wanted to do I wouldn't have spent an hour getting links to all of the speeches mentioned in the article. I thought people who read the article might be interested in the full text of the speeches that were mentioned. I included the quote because it's a chilling quote and fear of an assassination was a theme running through the article, including the intro blurb at the beginning, which I also quoted. I see that was a mistake because people will ignore the article an links, as usual, and rehash the assassination.

I thought the article was interesting because of RFK's evolution from mimicking his brother (copying his mannerisms, launching his presidential bid in the same place and with the same words his brother did) into taking a stand as his own man. The only association I made with Obama was in noting RFK'spassionate approach to the unpopular war of his time and appreciating RFK's eloquence and willingness to talk to adults as adults. For example, he quotes Socrates in his Kansas speech (and later quoted Aeschylus when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed).
posted by kirkaracha at 5:03 PM on May 10, 2008


Slightly off-topic, but this gives me more occasion to wonder why the people I talk to seem to like LBJ so much. He was massively talented, sure, but he also had fascist instincts and was committed to a disastrous, dumb war -- even though he had all the facts.
posted by grobstein at 5:41 PM on May 10 [+] [!]


Because he was so right and so effective on civil rights.
posted by etaoin at 5:38 PM on May 10, 2008


Yeah, LBJ wasn't any more "fascist" than any other effective top-dog legislator (can we please retire that lazy insult?), and he took a huge risk in finally embracing civil rights. I hated him at the time, mind you, because of the war (and he knew perfectly well it was going to trash his historical image—there was real tragedy in that shitkicking bastard), but in retrospect he looks a hell of a lot better than most of his successors.

And I hated Bobby, too, for jumping in and ruining the prospects of my beloved Gene McCarthy. (I know, I know, matteo, no need to rake me over the coals again. It was 1968 and I was a teenager, OK?)
posted by languagehat at 6:18 PM on May 10, 2008


From ornate insect's link: "Dr Herbert Spiegel, a world authority on hypnosis at Columbia University, believes Sirhan may have been hypnotically programmed to act as a decoy for the real assassin."
...
Now you can do what a lot of people do when confronted with this kind of information

What's that? Snicker at the conspiracy crazies?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:13 PM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whether or not LBJ was a good president in terms of policy, he did have a near Lincoln-like fortitude to endure in the face of unpopular racial decisions. When he began his work on the civil rights projects that constitute a big part of his legacy today, he did so knowing that it would alienate Southern voters from the Democratic party for a generation, but he did so anyway because it was the right thing to do. And now its been two or three generations since the South regularly went for democrats, actually...

Of course, he also had a George Bush like fortitude to endure in the face of unpopular war decisions. Fortitude is not always the best trait in a President...

In the end, he was flawed, but not so badly that he should be completely ignored or denigrated, but badly enough that he shouldn't be held up as a shining example.
posted by Kiablokirk at 7:13 PM on May 10, 2008


Just as sure as we’re sitting here somebody is going to shoot him. He’s out there now waiting for him And, please God, I don’t think we’ll have a country after it.”

And we don't. The year 1968 was like the year Zero. I was a teenager, riding on waves of youthful optimism, in such short supply now. It seemed as if the culture of war and old-school jingoism was on its way out...almost...if...

And then the magnificent King and the man who could continue King's anti-war, anti-corporatocracy crusade went down.

And then the anti-Semitic S.O.B. who was to turn turn time backwards into the Cold War Crucible of aggressive paranoia took over.

I have been depressed for decades.

As mentioned in the article, RFK loved Emerson. America had so much in Emerson, who should be considered America's saint.

And Nixon seems like a saint compared to Bush. So sad.
posted by kozad at 7:22 PM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


> And Nixon seems like a saint compared to Bush. So sad.

Now that's bizarre. Is time casting its golden haze even over tricky dick?
posted by jfuller at 7:50 PM on May 10, 2008


jfuller writes "Now that's bizarre. Is time casting its golden haze even over tricky dick?"

No, Bush just sucks that much.
posted by mullingitover at 8:04 PM on May 10, 2008


I am very fond of that speech, ericb.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:02 PM on May 10, 2008


So who are you going to vote for, and why?

Bush isn't a part of this anymore. Pick your "poison". Step up to the plate. One batter at a time.
posted by LiveLurker at 12:08 AM on May 11, 2008


Now that's bizarre. Is time casting its golden haze even over tricky dick?

Did you watch Nixon's funeral? You'd have thought they were burying MLK.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:26 AM on May 11, 2008


Blazecock Pileon, that link is absolute proof of either:

1) The omnipotence of Allah

or

2) The unthinkable

Ah, to live in interesting times.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 5:49 AM on May 11, 2008


I guess I should read more on the Kennedys. I have no idea why it was a common idea that RFK was going to be killed.
posted by m0nm0n at 10:32 AM on May 11, 2008


Today, when I was waiting for a (what turned out to be a rather unsuccessful) canvassing shift for Obama, I went to the library and read the Vanity Fair article. Well, 'twas Mother's Day and all.

The What do we stand for? The Liberation of the Human Spirit speech is amazing. Thank you for this post.
posted by one teak forest at 2:13 AM on May 12, 2008


No, seriously, he announced his candidacy on MARCH 16TH, 1968 for the 1968(!!!) presidential election?
posted by telstar at 5:43 PM on May 16, 2008


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