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David Macaray: Bobby Kennedy Was No Hero


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Joe McCarthy's Boy Wonder

Bobby Kennedy Was No Hero

By DAVID MACARAY

June 27, 2011

www.counterpunch.org

http://www.counterpunch.org/macaray06272011.html

It’s a mystery why John F. Kennedy is still regarded as the family moderate—cautious, pragmatic, shrewd and calculating—while brother Bobby gets to be portrayed as the impetuous, left-leaning, idealistic humanitarian. It’s a mystery because even a cursory examination of history reveals that that wasn’t Bobby.

For openers, Bobby Kennedy was about as “leftist” as Douglas MacArthur. In truth, he, like his brother John, was a shrieking anti-Communist. The Kennedys were not only Cold Warriors, they were fairly paranoid about it—confusing progressivism with Bolshevism—which is why they believed, ludicrously, that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Communist, and is why they (John as president and Bobby as Attorney General) had King’s telephone tapped.

How much of an anti-Communist was Bobby Kennedy? Consider: During the early 1950s Bobby served as an aide to Senator Joseph McCarthy. Yes, that Joseph McCarthy. His witch-hunting senate committee ruined the careers of scores of Americans through the use of smears and innuendo. It’s a fact. Bobby (“Don’t get mad….get even”) Kennedy was Joe McCarthy’s boy.

It was only after family patriarch, Joe Kennedy, advised his son to jump off the McCarthy bandwagon (alas, “Tail-Gunner Joe” had become an embarrassment, having degenerated into a clownish, alcoholic demagogue) that Bobby sought a new vocation. It was only after Papa Joe urged him to abandon Commie-hunting and focus on another bogy man that Bobby Kennedy decided to make America’s labor unions his next victim.

Obviously, there were many corruption targets to choose from. He could have gone after Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, insurance companies, defense fraud, payola in the record industry, etc., but because Joe Kennedy had no ties, no loyalties, no connections of any kind to the working class—indeed, he held the common working man in contempt—organized labor became Bobby’s new whipping boy. Best to leave those well-groomed gentlemen in the three-piece suits alone, and go after the guys in the watchmen’s caps and mackinaws.

As for Bobby’s celebrated social conscience, that’s another exaggeration. In his award-winning history of the CIA (“Legacy of Ashes”), Tim Weiner reports that it was Bobby himself who spearheaded the plan to murder Fidel Castro. It was Bobby Kennedy who not only initiated the assassination plot, but who—following one ignominious failure after another—flogged the hare-brained operation to keep it going. After all, he was the president’s brother. Who was going to tell him to back off?

All those conspiracies—the exploding cigars, the LSD-laced coffee, the chemical additives to cause Fidel’s beard to fall out (!), bribing trusted Castro associates to poison him, hiring out-of-town Mafia hitmen to murder him outright—those were all sanctioned by Bobby.

Based on documents released via FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), as well as material gleaned from numerous first-person interviews (“Legacy of Ashes” has 150 pages of notes), Weiner made the case that Bobby Kennedy was obsessed with killing Fidel Castro, that he ate, drank and breathed Castro assassination fantasies.

It’s also been documented that Bobby Kennedy bullied Lyndon Johnson into continuing the Vietnam war. According to Doris Kearns Goodwin (in “Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream”), Bobby insisted to LBJ that President Kennedy would have done everything in his power to keep Southeast Asia from falling to the Communists, and that it was therefore incumbent upon Johnson to honor his dead brother’s legacy by not abandoning the war. He pressured LBJ to remain in Vietnam, arguing that pulling out would be the act of a coward and traitor.

It was only after the Vietnam war had become toxically unpopular and been deemed unwinnable that Bobby, who was now seeking the 1968 presidential nomination, reversed his position and declared himself America’s “peace candidate,” harshly criticizing Johnson for his hawkishness. So much for Bobby’s principles….and so much for Brother John’s “legacy.”

While Bobby Kennedy obviously had some good qualities, it’s a mistake to regard him as heroic—as a combination of Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and Che Guevara. Bobby was no hero. He was a hardboiled player. If we insist on making comparisons, he was a combination of Lee Atwater, John Gotti and Henry Kissinger.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

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Legacy of Ashes, huh? Isn't it funny how decidedly mainstream-NYTish the so called """left""" is these days when going after a Kennedy? Legacy of Ashes is a joke. Counterpunch is leftgatekeeper #1 when it comes to fake-left attacks on a Kennedy. Not surprisingly, this article stays as far away from 1968 as possible, preferring the murky realm of Mongoose where CIA allegations can be echoed by both the NYT and the Mcdisidents who pretend to hate that paper. The RFK primary campaign of 1968 is a very dangerous place for today's corporate democrats. No surprise that this article is designed to prevent us from going anywhere near there!

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Touche is right. Bobby made some mistakes in his youth but his brother's death put him on the right path. The part about Viet Nam -- Kennedy was going to sign a document calling for the withdrawal of the "advisors" from Viet Nam, but he died in Dallas. He was not a Globalist. Basically, let other nations choose their own form of govt. He didn't want to conquer another land but make this one greater. He wasn't going to put our male youth to their deaths by sending them over there. All the men who would be alive today...

Kathy C

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Touche is right. Bobby made some mistakes in his youth but his brother's death put him on the right path. The part about Viet Nam -- Kennedy was going to sign a document calling for the withdrawal of the "advisors" from Viet Nam, but he died in Dallas. He was not a Globalist. Basically, let other nations choose their own form of govt. He didn't want to conquer another land but make this one greater. He wasn't going to put our male youth to their deaths by sending them over there. All the men who would be alive today...

Kathy C

Well said Kathy...you may be interested in this Stars and Stripes Newspaper..dated oct.4th 1963 i believe....b

Edited by Bernice Moore
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This wildly inaccurate hit piece typifies the way the left has treated the Kennedy legacy for decades now. That's why the whole left-right charade is fooling fewer and fewer people every day.

JFK was killed by very powerful forces, and the high paying shills in the mainstream media, who serve as their official mouthpieces, made it clear long ago that they still despise him and his family. They don't even try to hide it; whether it's Sy Hersh's "exposes" or Gerald Blaine and Clint Hill blaming JFK for his own assassination, the animosity is still obvious.

No other modern Democratic president arouses this kind of ire in journalists, historians or bloggers. There are strong indications that FDR, for instance, knew about Pearl Harbor in advance, and his presidency began nearly thirty years before Kennedy's, yet there is no way a critical work about him could be published even now, some sixty five years after his death. Harry Truman oversaw the establishment of both the Pentagon and the CIA, and dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When was the last hit piece on him written? We saw what happened when pressure from Jack Valenti and other LBJ loyalists forced the History Channel to stop airing the part of "The Men Who Killed Kennedy" that implicated him in the plot.

The world in which the likes of Macarey, Hersh, Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Christopher Hitchens, etc. operate is decidedly of the "left" wing variety. Now, if the "left" is what it is claimed to be, shouldn't these guys consider JFK some kind of hero? On the contrary, they have no interest in the circumstances surrounding his death, and believe it was meaningless, anyway, since he was an unprincipled, mafia-connected serial adulterer. As for RFK, his leftist credibility was established first hand, when he made eradicating poverty his primary issue prior to and during his ill-fated presidential campaign. Did anyone even know the shamefully impoverished souls of Appalachia existed before Bobby visited them, and forced the media to recognize them? Has any other politician been back there since, outside of his own daughter Rory, who made a film about the subject some years back?

In my view, there has always been an establishment "left" and then the renegade "left." FDR represented the establishment left of his day, while Huey Long would have represented the ultimate renegade. Truman and LBJ were not really leftists, but were accepted by the establishment "left." JFK, on the other hand, was never accepted by the established left. Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry Truman hated JFK. Stevenson belatedly tolerated him. If anything, the established left hated Bobby even more. They gave him the "ruthless" tag, and never forgave him for working for McCarthy or being the hard nosed counsel for the McClellan committee, which they interpreted as being "anti-union" instead of simply being interested in rooting out corruption wherever it was.

When Ted Kennedy decided to run for president in 1980, the same press that had been justifiably criticized by the "right" for ignoring the unanswered questions about Chappaquidick suddenly decided it was a very important issue. Who can forget Roger Mudd's notorious hit piece on Teddy, which when edited left him stuttering and stammering and almost singlehandedly derailed his campaign. As recently as a few years ago, we saw the "left" leaning press publish an interview with Caroline Kennedy, who was considered a shoo-in to be appointed to the U.S. Senate, in which a large number of "uhs" were included for readers to enjoy. They even clean up the grammatical mistakes of athletes- do you mean to tell me that this highly unusual inclusion was accidental? Again, to no one's surprise, another Kennedy's chances at public office went down the drain.

To borrow a phrase from the oft-disliked Alex Jones, the left-right paradigm is bogus. The establishment loves "leftists" like Clinton or Obama. On the other hand, they will never allow "leftists" like Cynthia McKinney or Dennis Kucinich to be elected president. There may be broad areas of agreement bewteen "leftists," but generally speaking, those that are truly interested in protecting civil liberties and in promoting peace are never allowed near the White House. As documented so well in Virtual JFK, Kennedy was the last president to defy the call to war, and he did it multiple times. Bobby Kennedy was the ultimate "dove" candidate, and clearly would have been just as reluctant to follow his marching orders as his brother was. On the other hand, Gene McCarthy, imho, was a typical establishment "left" candidate.

The fact that so many "leftists" remain committed to distorting JFK's (and RFK's) record is curious, if they were indeed the kind of vacuous playboys they are portrayed as. Why should they care about these obsolete political figures from another era, who supposedly epitomized the cold-war mentality, and were actually planning no real reforms of any kind? I think we know the answer to that, and we'll continue to see these kinds of smear campaigns, if and when the next Kennedy runs for high office (right now, I suspect they've already got a few juicy pieces on Robert Kennedy, Jr. in the can). They killed JFK, RFK and JFK, Jr., and they do not want another Kennedy in the White House.

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You know Doug, I figured you or someone like you would post this irresponsible bit of nonsense. So I saved my letter to the author. Here it is:

Dear David:

Its really hard to decide on who is worse on the subject of the sixties, the so called leftist historians, the establishment historians or the artistic types like you.

The idea that the Kennedys were rock ribbed Cold Warriors is loony. Go ahead and read JFK's speeches for Stevenson in 1952, or how he assailed Eisenhower for considering using nukes at Dien Bein Phu. Or his speech in the senate in 1957 attacking the French colonial war in Algeria. Or what he did in his first foreign policy crisis, the Congo, where he actually backed Lumumba.

The list could go on and on, but its clear what you are spouting is unfounded and indiscriminate nonsense.

The Kennedys never thought King was a commie. The problem was that his entourage had former commie sympathizers. Hoover used this to attack King and threatened to go public with it. So RFK made a deal, he agreed to the wiretapping for a period of about 30 days. If nothing came up Hoover would back off. The problem was that JFK was killed around this time. Therefore the wiretapping continued with LBJ' s blessings. Since soon after, he and KIng split on Vietnam. It was LBJ who tried to get reporters to write about the King "sex tapes".

RFK split off from McCarthy when he saw how wild he was and how he trusted Roy Cohn. He then went over to the other side, and that is where he was when McCarthy wrecked himself. He then became a life long opponent of Cohn.

RFK got into the labor union issue when he was on the organized crime beat with two committees in the Senate. It was there that he got onto Hoffa and his association with mobsters. He was determined to crack Hoffa and the Teamsters. How bad were the Teamsters: they had to be court regulated for decades No one, repeat no one , ever attacked the Mafia like RFK did. Why did you leave that out? And why did you also leave out RFK's attacks on the steel companies and the electric companies?

Anyone who uses the NY TImes reporter Tim Weiner as an authority on the CIA and the Castro plots must have an axe to grind. I mean who is next, Sy Hersh on the Kennedys? The CIA's own Inspector General report says that the Kennedys were deliberately kept in the dark about the plots. Further, the plans to kill Castro originated in the Eisenhower administration, and the guy who wanted to use the Mob to kill him was Nixon. Further, at the time of JFK's death, the first and only detente with the USA and Cuba was being seriously contemplated.

Your last point is bonkers. The idea that RFK pushed the Vietnam War on LBJ is so goofy as to be laughable. It has now been proven with declassified documents that LBJ reversed JFK's withdrawal plan within weeks of his murder. He then drew up battle plans against the north, something the Kennedys NEVER DID. Between Kennedy's murder and the drawing up of NSAM 288, the battle plans, RFK was never in on any meeting with LBJ on Vietnam. And it is now proven, through audio tapes, that LBJ understood he was reversing Kennedy's policy and tried to say the opposite: that he was continuing Kennedy's policy when he knew he was not.

It would be nice if one would do some homework before one would make these rather complete and false pronouncements about two men who were killed under quite suspicious circumstances. And after they died, the face of America was changed radically.

And forever.

JIM DIEUGENIO

This is what I posted on my Facebook page yesterday:

Douglas Caddy: I posted the article on the Education Forum, not because I agreed with it, but because it represents a point of view held by some.

16 hours ago · LikeUnlike.

Nathaniel Heidenheimer yes I know Douglass. I think its important that you posted it because it is one of the best examples of leftgatekeeping , a phenomenon with a long history that is a huge variable in trying to understand why the """left """ is impotent right now at the very moment when it should be strong.

16 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 2 peopleTed Rubinstein and Tyrone King like this..

Douglas Caddy I expect certain members of the Education Forum to express displeasure at my posting it because they like to read only what they agree with. They have little use for contrasting views.

15 hours ago · LikeUnlike.

Nathaniel Heidenheimer I AMAZED at the lack of interest in the RFK Assassination on Education Forum. Amazed!

15 hours ago · LikeUnlike.

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I think with Chomsky--Mr. Cambodia Holocaust Denier--its different.

As it is with Cockburn. See, these guys are structuralists.

That's a smokescreen - they're nothing of the sort: They're intellectual secret policeman, working to channel dissent among the thoughtful and the politically active in directions either helpful or unthreatening to the deep state in general, and the CIA in particular.

The point is easy to prove. A genuine structuralist would examine the CIA as a power system and institution, precisely as he (or she) would any other: Chomsky runs a mile from doing any such thing, most notably in Rethinking Camelot, which, stripped of its rhetorical veneer of New Leftism - and a very thin layer it is, too, in this instance - is one of the crudest pieces of CIA hack-work yet committed to paper. Much of it is laughably contradictory, as Donald Gibson showed in The Kennedy Assassination Cover-up (NY: Kroshka Books, 2000), most notably in his chapter "Establishment Radicals and Kennedy: Lamont, Chomsky, and Russell" (pp.203-223). What they were really up to is this:

These three men together established a two-fold strategy: first, discredit and misrepresent Kennedy; and second, misdirect the investigation of his assassination (Ibid.,p.222).

What sustains them is a Foundation- and CIA-funded pseudo-Left, an echo chamber (based largely in British and US universities), and a control of the "alternative" media every bit as rigid and suffocating as that which pertains in its nominal opposite, the mainstream. Amy Goodman would no more permit a thorough-going critique of Chomsky's services to Langley - which funded him in his research endeavours - than NBC would give 9/11 dissidence a platform.

Calling them "structuralist" is not merely to reproduce their own preening propaganda, but to miss the point entirely.

Edited by Paul Rigby
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This wildly inaccurate hit piece typifies the way the left has treated the Kennedy legacy for decades now. That's why the whole left-right charade is fooling fewer and fewer people every day.

JFK was killed by very powerful forces, and the high paying shills in the mainstream media, who serve as their official mouthpieces, made it clear long ago that they still despise him and his family. They don't even try to hide it; whether it's Sy Hersh's "exposes" or Gerald Blaine and Clint Hill blaming JFK for his own assassination, the animosity is still obvious.

No other modern Democratic president arouses this kind of ire in journalists, historians or bloggers. There are strong indications that FDR, for instance, knew about Pearl Harbor in advance, and his presidency began nearly thirty years before Kennedy's, yet there is no way a critical work about him could be published even now, some sixty five years after his death. Harry Truman oversaw the establishment of both the Pentagon and the CIA, and dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When was the last hit piece on him written? We saw what happened when pressure from Jack Valenti and other LBJ loyalists forced the History Channel to stop airing the part of "The Men Who Killed Kennedy" that implicated him in the plot.

The world in which the likes of Macarey, Hersh, Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Christopher Hitchens, etc. operate is decidedly of the "left" wing variety. Now, if the "left" is what it is claimed to be, shouldn't these guys consider JFK some kind of hero? On the contrary, they have no interest in the circumstances surrounding his death, and believe it was meaningless, anyway, since he was an unprincipled, mafia-connected serial adulterer. As for RFK, his leftist credibility was established first hand, when he made eradicating poverty his primary issue prior to and during his ill-fated presidential campaign. Did anyone even know the shamefully impoverished souls of Appalachia existed before Bobby visited them, and forced the media to recognize them? Has any other politician been back there since, outside of his own daughter Rory, who made a film about the subject some years back?

In my view, there has always been an establishment "left" and then the renegade "left." FDR represented the establishment left of his day, while Huey Long would have represented the ultimate renegade. Truman and LBJ were not really leftists, but were accepted by the establishment "left." JFK, on the other hand, was never accepted by the established left. Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry Truman hated JFK. Stevenson belatedly tolerated him. If anything, the established left hated Bobby even more. They gave him the "ruthless" tag, and never forgave him for working for McCarthy or being the hard nosed counsel for the McClellan committee, which they interpreted as being "anti-union" instead of simply being interested in rooting out corruption wherever it was.

When Ted Kennedy decided to run for president in 1980, the same press that had been justifiably criticized by the "right" for ignoring the unanswered questions about Chappaquidick suddenly decided it was a very important issue. Who can forget Roger Mudd's notorious hit piece on Teddy, which when edited left him stuttering and stammering and almost singlehandedly derailed his campaign. As recently as a few years ago, we saw the "left" leaning press publish an interview with Caroline Kennedy, who was considered a shoo-in to be appointed to the U.S. Senate, in which a large number of "uhs" were included for readers to enjoy. They even clean up the grammatical mistakes of athletes- do you mean to tell me that this highly unusual inclusion was accidental? Again, to no one's surprise, another Kennedy's chances at public office went down the drain.

To borrow a phrase from the oft-disliked Alex Jones, the left-right paradigm is bogus. The establishment loves "leftists" like Clinton or Obama. On the other hand, they will never allow "leftists" like Cynthia McKinney or Dennis Kucinich to be elected president. There may be broad areas of agreement bewteen "leftists," but generally speaking, those that are truly interested in protecting civil liberties and in promoting peace are never allowed near the White House. As documented so well in Virtual JFK, Kennedy was the last president to defy the call to war, and he did it multiple times. Bobby Kennedy was the ultimate "dove" candidate, and clearly would have been just as reluctant to follow his marching orders as his brother was. On the other hand, Gene McCarthy, imho, was a typical establishment "left" candidate.

The fact that so many "leftists" remain committed to distorting JFK's (and RFK's) record is curious, if they were indeed the kind of vacuous playboys they are portrayed as. Why should they care about these obsolete political figures from another era, who supposedly epitomized the cold-war mentality, and were actually planning no real reforms of any kind? I think we know the answer to that, and we'll continue to see these kinds of smear campaigns, if and when the next Kennedy runs for high office (right now, I suspect they've already got a few juicy pieces on Robert Kennedy, Jr. in the can). They killed JFK, RFK and JFK, Jr., and they do not want another Kennedy in the White House.

In the past 15 years or so Gore Vidal, when asked who was the worst President said, "Jack Kennedy, because he brought us closest to complete annihilation."

Actually, his Joint Chiefs of Staff brought us the closest. President Kennedy found them so rabid to get into a nuclear war with Cuba, he feared they would go ahead without warning and do it without his permission.

Actually, the worst President we ever had was George W. Bush, who suffered from short-term memory loss (from his cocaine days) and was the instrument the right wing used to do their dirty work.

I bet he's guzzling down beer right this minute.

Kathy C

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Touche is right. Bobby made some mistakes in his youth but his brother's death put him on the right path. The part about Viet Nam -- Kennedy was going to sign a document calling for the withdrawal of the "advisors" from Viet Nam, but he died in Dallas. He was not a Globalist. Basically, let other nations choose their own form of govt. He didn't want to conquer another land but make this one greater. He wasn't going to put our male youth to their deaths by sending them over there. All the men who would be alive today...

Kathy C

Well said Kathy...you may be interested in this Stars and Stripes Newspaper..dated oct.4th 1963 i believe....b

Thank you, Bernice. It's nice to see it in print before he died.

Kathy C

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It is very significant that the fake-left would publish such a completely Orwell-herniating article on RFK. It is so extreme in its distortion-- that last line about Atwater etc??? about a guy who was taking his End the War in Vietnam message right into all-Republican hamlets of sunburned Nebraska WTJudeoChristinanBuddhistAtheistFis this psychotic xxxx talking about?-- that, when combined with the fact that Counterpunch writes nothing else at all about RFK should really make one or 2 wonder, what is going on here. If it doesn't, then you need to read more about the CIA and left-gatekeeping. That history is as well documented as a bridge that was recently leveraged in yuppie Brooklyn.

Sure go ahead and gut and trash a guy who delivered an anti-war message in Rural Nebraska as BushBama ever gave in brail on the Oxygen Network. Who on Counterpunch stoops to read any history!! And bash him, more importantly 8,000, 0000, 000000,00 harder than you bash BushBama. Its an assassinated Kennedy; its a foundation-funded litmus test!

Re the point on RFK and labor. This jello-brained mollusk conflates Union leaders with rank and file union members. In fact it was Humphrey who was playing 3-Square with the big big union leadership. The truly signifying thing is that LOCALS were beginning to ditch the national unions in favor of the RFK campaign. Now THAT is the kind of thing higher mucky mucks in the CIA notice! This point is made in the absolutely indispensable book In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy by Joe A. Palermo

http://www.amazon.com/His-Own-Right-Joseph-Palermo/dp/0231120699/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1

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"he was a combination of Lee Atwater, John Gotti and Henry Kissinger." Jesus H. Eugene Christ. This is the single stupidest thing I have ever read in my life. And it will be noted that it was in a fake-left Encounter Magazine like publication.

Its time to stop ONLY looking at Republicans, folks.

Nothing... NOTHING .. moves us Righter than the Fake-Left.

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