Posts Tagged With: Bobby Kennedy

FAKING SINCERITY

To appreciate the full ramifications of the Republican sweep of last Tuesday’s election, one has to explore various and complicated aspects of the human condition.  For example, as I wrote previously, the election results in most cases were decided by the people who didn’t vote, versus those that did. About 45% of eligible voters did cast their ballots, which is actually slightly higher than most off-year elections. But a solid majority of eligibles couldn’t be bothered to show up at the ballot station, or couldn’t care less about who won. Supposedly, most of those that did vote were turned off by Obama Administration and Democratic ineptitude and failures, and that prompted a fairly strong turn-out for the Republican cause. This was best illustrated in the state of Virginia, where Democratic Senator Mark Warner was supposed to have coasted to an easy re-election win over a Republican hack named Ed Gillespie. Instead the election was a nail-biter through the entire evening with Gillespie leading most of the time. Warner finally edged out a win by the skin of his teeth in the early morning hours. The reason for Warner’s near loss- people in southern Virginia were motivated to turn out in heavy numbers to vote Republican as a protest against Obama; while Democratic strongholds in northern Virginia saw meager numbers of voters at the polling booths. Ironically, people that benefit most from Government assistance, such as the poor, the sick, and the unemployed, tend to vote in light numbers, while those opposed to Government redistribution vote much more heavily. Also, young voters who generally are more liberal tend not to show up at the polls, while oldsters, like myself, who are usually more conservative, will vote in heavier numbers, even in off-year elections. What else do they have to do with their time.

Then, there’s the way candidates appeal to the voting public, as a crucial factor. In 1946, both Jack Kennedy and Richard Nixon had returned home from fighting in WWII, and both were elected to Congress that year. In Kennedy’s case, it was part of family tradition to run for high public office. But in Nixon’s case, no political aspirations were initially in evidence. Not until a group of wealthy businessmen from southern California approached him, and said they liked his style and that he should consider entering the political arena. They, the businessmen, would provide the necessary financial support for such an effort. Nixon was grilled on variety of issues to ensure that his views were sufficiently conservative to suit the businessmen’s interests. But most of all, Nixon was told, to become a viable candidate, he had to appear thoroughly sincere in belief of the issues he would be promoting. “Well, hell,” replied Nixon. “I can fake that; at least as well as the next guy, if not better.” Since I wasn’t at that meeting, perhaps the exchange of verbiage didn’t go down in exactly those words. But I’m pretty sure that it was very close to that. Nixon was so good at faking his sincerity, that he would go on to be elected Congressman and then Senator from California. Next he was chosen to be Eisenhower’s running mate in the 1950s. From there, after some political setbacks, Nixon was elected to the Presidency in 1968. He made huge accomplishments as President; but was eventually done in and disgraced by his own paranoia during the Watergate scandal, which forced him to resign the Presidency. Faking the sincerity factor no longer worked for him.

Another good example of the fickleness of the average American’s political thought-proceesses also occurred during the tumultuous 1960s. In 1968, America had already been devastated by the assassinations of two leaders of monumental consequence, namely, John Kennedy and Martin Luther King. In 1968, Robert Kennedy, affectionately known to his supporters as Bobby, decided to enter the fray for the Democratic nomination for President. He had been Attorney-General in his brother’s administration, and then was elected Senator from New York. Possessing much of his brother’s charisma, he generated huge popularity and seemed well on his way to securing the the Democratic nomination, when he too was assassinated in June of that year. It was a shattering loss for most Americans. I remember writing at the time that no nation, not even one as powerful as the U.S., could sustain such devastating losses in leadership without going into a tailspin. Hubert Humphrey, a decent enough Senator from Minnesota would go on to obtain the Democrat nomination while Richard Nixon was the GOP nominee. But there was a third player in that year’s election.

His name was George Wallace, and he was the racist Governor of Alabama. In 1968, segregation and Jim Crow laws were still alive and well throughout the South. Wallace decided to run as an independent in the Presidential race that year, figuring that he had as good a shot as the main-stream party candidates. So, who was George Wallace? Five years previously, he had declared, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” That racist statement occurred when Wallace stood in the school house door to block black students from entering the University of Alabama, as had been decreed by the courts.  He eventually was forced to back down by an edict from then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who had to federalize National Guard troops to provide protection for those black students. But that wasn’t the most interesting part of that 1968 scenario.

The most interesting part was that the very  people that had actively supported and voted for Bobby Kennedy in the Democratic primaries, were now turning out in huge numbers to listen to, and support George Wallace on the campaign trail after Kennedy’s assassination. Even though you couldn’t have two politicians who were more diametrically opposed to each other. Kennedy was a liberal who was for civil rights, and strongly opposed segregation and Jim Crowism. He was opposed to the war in Viet-Nam and promised disengagement if elected. He vigorously favored Government intervention to help the plight of the poor and sick. Wallace was just the opposite. He was not only a strict segregationist, but he was also one of the few public supporters of the Viet-Nam war. He couldn’t care less about reducing poverty, as noted by the fact that Alabama was the second poorest state in the union, with Mississippi being dead last. And yet many of the same people who were enthusiastic about Bobby, became similarly enthusiastic about Wallace.

How does one account for that? It’s the sincerity factor. When questioned about this supposed anomaly, voters were unapologetic. Bobby was a good man because he wasn’t talking out of both sides of his mouth, said one man. Now, Wallace is the only guy who means what he says and isn’t trying to please everyone at the same time. One woman added that “they say what they mean and they don’t try to beat around the bush.” So, in the end, it’s not about ideology. It’s about which candidate can sell the public on the fact that they are the authentic, real-deal. After all, politics is a game of salesmanship. The one that can best fake sincerity will usually rise to the top.

 

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FROM D-DAY TO ETERNITY

A few days ago, June 6th, marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and the beginning of the end of Adolph Hitler’s evil Nazi empire. About 160 thousand Allied troops consisting of mostly U.S. forces, but with some British and Canadian troops, stormed the beaches in Normandy, France, and endured unbelievably horrific and withering German artillery fire, as they endeavored to gain a foothold on French soil. Thousands lost their lives that day on those bloody beaches with thousands more severely wounded. But by the end of the day, the Allies did achieve a foothold, although just barely, and began their long trek towards Berlin. Heads of state, including President Obama, and other dignitaries attended the 70th anniversary celebrations in Normandy, especially paying tribute to those that were killed that day on the Normandy beaches as the ocean turned from blue to red. Also in attendance were some remaining veterans of that conflict, now in their late eighties or nineties. Their numbers, of course, dwindle with each passing year.

Within 11 months after D-Day, the Nazi Empire had crumbled and Hitler had committed suicide. But first the Allies had to contend with more horrific German firepower and ferocity in the towns and villages surrounding the Normandy beaches. Slowly grinding on, and again experiencing terrible casualties, Allied troops finally reached the outskirts of Paris. When the Allies finally broke through the German line, and American tanks rolled down the Champs-Elysees, Parisians by the tens of thousands, lined the streets, dancing in joy and tossing flowers and blowing kisses at the Allied troops. The U.S. was at its zenith back then, loved, admired, and respected by virtually every country in the world. Even by Germany and Japan, once they had rid themselves of the evil regimes that had taken over the reigns of their governments. Does anyone believe that U.S. troops would be greeted in a similar fashion if U.S. tanks made a similar entrance today. If U.S. tanks streamed down the Champs-Elysees today, or the streets of any other foreign city,  local citizens would be cursing, spitting, or shaking their fists at the U.S. presence. Just an indication of how far U.S. prestige has fallen in the eyes of the rest of the countries on this planet today.

But back in the 1940s and even the 1950s, America was looked upon as a savior from all the evil and nefarious forces lurking everywhere on this planet. The American economy began booming after the war’s end. There was a huge, pent-up demand for consumer goods, since U.S. factories during the war had shifted almost exclusively to the manufacture of military hardware. People were now buying everything from cars to kitchen appliances faster than they could be produced. It was an era of prosperity and good will; but dark clouds were already looming on the horizon. By the late 1940s Americans began to develop an inordinate fear regarding the spread of communism. This fear was not totally unjustified since China, the largest country on Earth fell to the communists in 1948. In Europe, Stalin’s Russia had spread its communist-style of governance through a slew of East European nations. Hence, the American fear concerning the spread of communism led to  epidemic proportions of paranoia.  It led us to go to war again in Korea; and to an eventual stalemate which freed only half of that peninsula. And, as usual under such circumstances, there were seedy politicians willing to take advantage of irrational fear mongering.

A senator out of Wisconsin named Joe McCarthy realized that there was much gain to be made out of anti-communist hysteria and political witch hunts, and began launching them with unbridled fanaticism. Hundreds, if not thousands of innocent lives and reputations were ruined or destroyed by McCarthyism, which actually became a new word in the dictionary. But the Senator’s very successes led him to overreach, which in turn led to his destruction. McCarthy finally drank himself to death in the late 1950s. With the end of that decade most Americans felt that the excesses of McCarthyism had been put behind them, and a new era of Camelot was about to begin with the election of John Kennedy in 1960.

It was thought that with movie star good looks, and exuding an excess of charm and charisma, JFK, of the Boston Irish Kennedy clan, would put America back on the ascendancy. Along with his glamourous wife Jackie, John Kennedy would surely re-establish the America dream to its full potency, and Camelot would reign throughout the land. Unfortunately, such hopes soon turned out to be bitter fruit. Kennedy allowed himself to fall into the previous decade’s anti-communist quagmire, and upped the ante on his predecessor’s involvement on conflict in a jungle hell-hole known as Viet-Nam. It was the most disastrous war the U.S. had ever engaged in, and the first war we lost out-right. It put us back on a downward slope. And if this weren’t enough, tragedy then struck. A deranged killer’s bullet laid Kennedy in his grave, in November 1963.  The country went into a deep period of mourning, from which it has never fully recovered, especially, the person closest to the slain President.

Jack’s younger brother, Bobby, had been his campaign manager during the 1960 election, and was then appointed Attorney-General, when Jack was sworn in as President. It was the tumultuous ’60s with great civil rights demonstrations against the segregated South, as well as huge demonstrations against the war in Viet-Nam. Both the President and the Attorney-General were deeply involved with the civil rights causes of that era, and with their leader, a young black minister named Martin Luther King Jr. If the Kennedy Administration became too involved in Viet-Nam, it at least succeeded in breaking down racial segregation barriers throughout the deep South. As I said, Bobby took Jack’s death especially hard; but the grief made him a deeper and more empathetic figure.

Bobby ran for the Senate in New York in 1964 and won. In 1968 he was determined to run for the presidency on a platform of extracting us from the Viet-Nam war, removing the last vestiges of racial segregation and bigotry in our country, and having the Government become more involved in the plight of the poor, sick and hungry. Alas, all this was not too be.

Earlier in 1968, Martin Luther King had been gunned down by another deranged individual, and the civil rights movement lost their greatest leader. Then on June 5, 1968, just after he won the California primary in his race for the presidency, Bobby Kennedy was also shot by another sicko with a gun. He died the next day, June 6, the 24th anniversary of D-Day. I guess, as the song says, you don’t lose such quality and beloved leadership as John, Martin and Bobby, without serious consequences. Replacements for men of such caliber have been sadly lacking, and thus increasing the American Empire’s downward spiral. Today, we have dingbats such as Sarah Palin or Ted Cruz being mentioned for the presidency in 2016. A sign of the times of, indeed, how far we have fallen.

 

 

 

 

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