Archive | April, 2008

A Few Words From JFK on Presidential Leadership

25 Apr

John F. Kennedy on the campaign trail, 1960

“Vote for Kennedy!”: Flashback to 1960, the last time a sitting (or in this case, standing) U.S. Senator won the presidency in a general election.

A FEW WORDS FROM JFK ON PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP

This election year, we all must have a heart-to-heart with ourselves and ask, “what qualities do I want in a president? What truly constitutes leadership?”

We’d like to draw your attention to a speech President John F. Kennedy gave in 1962 which is rarely noted or quoted. Sadly, this address seems to have been somewhat lost to history, but reading his words again should strike a deep resonant chord in all of us today.

This speech hits home now when we look at our plunging economy, the national debt, the death of American industry, the downfall of labor unions, our failing education system, corporate profit-taking, the war, escalating tensions around the globe, the pillage of our natural environment, the election, and perhaps most importantly – the powers properly granted to the president under the Constitution of the United States to fix these problems. What is within his or her power, and what is not?

After eight years of George W. Bush, it’s a hot question in 2008.

WHEN IS AGGRESSIVE USE OF PRESIDENTIAL POWER A GOOD THING?

Let’s look at just one historical example.

President Kennedy made these remarks during a speech to the United Auto Workers Union in Atlantic City in May, 1962. Addressing the issue of how much influence the President should have over the nation’s economy (or perhaps put more bluntly, whether he should bow and do the bidding of his corporate puppetmasters), Kennedy vigorously defended his recent actions which had forced the steel industry to eliminate a price increase.

“I speak,” he said, “as President of the United States with a single voice to both management and labor . . . I believe it is the business of the President of the United States to concern himself with the general welfare and the public interest . . . I believe that what is good for the United States—for the people as a whole—is going to be good for every American company and for every American union.”

Unjustified wage and price demands, said the President, are equally “contrary to the national interest.” His Administration “has not undertaken and will not undertake” to fix prices or wages or to intervene in every little old labor dispute. Instead, it depends on labor and management to reach settlements within “guidelines” suggested by the Administration.

This aggressive policy had been the subject of “a good deal of discussion, acrimony, and controversy on wages and prices and profits,” Kennedy acknowleged, but he added this justification: 

“Now I know there are some people who say that this isn’t the business of the President of the United States, who believe that the President of the United States should be an honorary chairman of a great fraternal organization and confine himself to ceremonial functions. But that is not what the Constitution says. And I did not run for President of the United States to fulfill that Office in that way.”

OK, stop. Go back and read that paragraph again, because it’s terribly important. What did he just say?

He just stated that he did not run for the Presidency for the honor of being corporate America’s puppet. Or the Military’s puppet. Or anybody’s puppet,for that matter. He said that he was well aware of the immense powers granted to the president under the U.S. Constitution, and that he fully intended to make use of those powers when necessary.

Do you realize how dangerous these words are when spoken by a president?

For those who still seek an answer to the neverending question – “why was President Kennedy killed?” – it could be argued that he had to be “replaced” becasue he interpreted the Constitution literally. JFK thought that “goddamn piece of paper” (as future presidents would refer to this now-arcane historical document) actually meant what it said.

Kennedy continued:

“Harry Truman once said there are 14 or 15 million Americans who have the resources to have representatives in Washington to protect their interests, and that the interests of the great mass of other people, the hundred and fifty or sixty million, is the responsibility of the President of the United States. And I propose to fulfill it!

And there are those who say, “Stay out of this area–it would be all right if we are in a national emergency or in a war.”

What do they think we are in? And what period of history do they believe this country has reached? What do they believe is occurring all over the world?

Merely because vast armies do not march against each other, does anyone think that our danger is less immediate, or the struggle is less ferocious?

As long as the United States is the great and chief guardian of freedom, all the way in a great half circle from the Brandenburg Gate to Viet-Nam, as long as we fulfill our functions at a time of climax in the struggle for freedom, then I believe it is the business of the President of the United States to concern himself with the general welfare and the public interest. And if the people feel that it is not, then they should secure the services of a new President of the United States.”

 – JFK to the United Auto Workers Union, May 8, 1962

THE PRESIDENT IS NOT AN “HONORARY CHAIRMAN OF A GREAT FRATERNAL ORGANIZATION”

My point exactly. After eight long years of a president who could care less about the general welfare and the public interest, it is now up to the people to secure the services of a new President of the United States. And we’re going to do it this November.

But who among the current crop of candidates posesses the kind of leadership qualities JFK not only talked about, but exhibited during each of the thousand days?

Do you see that kind of bold vision in Hillary Clinton? Does Barack Obama have the fight in him to stand up when big industry starts pushing? Would John McCain lift a finger to challenge the military industrial complex? Who’s got what it takes?

What do YOU want in a president, America? What defines true presidential leadership?

To my mind at least, true presidential leadership requires the kind of courage exhibited by JFK in the example above.

CLASH OF THE TITANS

At the time, Kennedy was roasted for his aggressive use of presidential power in the showdown with Big Steel  – by the business community, by academia, the press, members of Congress, and even his predecessor Dwight Eisenhower.

In the May 18, 1962 issue of Time magazine, Ike strongly criticized the President for “the strenuous efforts of the Administration to increase greatly the power of the executive branch of the Government. It has long been my judgment that the real threat to liberty in this Republic will be primarily found in a steady erosion of self-reliant citizenship and in excessive power concentration.”

To back up his charge that Kennedy is asking for too many powers, Ike cited Kennedy’s requests for authority to modify income taxes when he decides it is necessary, to finance emergency public works by diversion of funds, to “regiment all agriculture,” to “take over a whole host of state and local responsibilities, notably including the proposal for a Department of Urban Affairs,” and “to dilute the independence of the Federal Reserve Board by presidential appointment of its chairman.” Added Ike: “The objectives under lying many such proposals are not in themselves controversial. I do not agree, however, that in every instance more presidential power is needed to achieve them.”

Ironically, while it was President Eisenhower who had cautioned against undue influence by the Military-Industrial-Complex two years before, the truth of the matter is that during his presidency Eisenhower sought out the Titans, respected their advice, and treated them as they thought they deserved to be treated — in other words, as representatives of the most influential body in the nation.

By contrast, Kennedy kept his distance. Prior to his election he had had little contact with industrial circles, and once he was in the White House he saw even less of them. Businessmen were generally excluded from the Kennedys’ private parties. Not only did he “snub” them (in the words of Ralph Cordiner, President of General Electric), he also attacked them. Kennedy did not consult the business world before making his appointments. The men he placed at the head of the federal regulatory agencies were entirely new. Since the end of the war, the businessmen had become accustomed to considering these bodies as adjuncts of their own professional associations. They were more indignant than surprised. They attempted to intervene, but in vain.

If the Titans thought that John F. Kennedy was going to be their puppet, they had another thing coming.

“Honorary chairman of a great fraternal organization” who should “confine himself to ceremonial functions?” Not this president. 

Kennedy had just let let them know: This president had a mind of his own – and if you don’t like it, perhaps you boys should go get yourselves another president

HAIL TO THE CHIEF

Even nearly 45 years after his passing, I still look to President Kennedy’s words and deeds for strength and inspiration – I think many of us do – and every election year since then, we have searched for a political candidate who embodies that same spirit. Someone who understands and achieves that perfect balance between exercising presidential power and the public interest, while avoiding the temptation to become drunk on their own power and take the country into a dictatorship.

It’s always a difficult balancing act for any president, but the example of JFK’s administration showed us all that a president can use his power forcefully and effectively when the need arises – but that such use is only acceptable and reasonable if this flexing of executive muscle is done to benefit the national interest. (And, more often than not, to force corporations or industries into doing the right thing – what they should have done in the first place – for their fellow citizens.)

“The American people will find it hard, as I do, to accept a situation in which a tiny handful of steel executives whose pursuit of private power and profit exceeds their sense of public responsibility can show such utter contempt for the interests of 185 million Americans.”

– President John F. Kennedy, April 11, 1962

In my own personal dictionary, you look up “presidential leadership,” and there’s Jack Kennedy’s picture.

President John F. Kennedy, fall 1962

When the people said, “we want action, not talk“, Kennedy delivered.

THE PRESIDENT HAS THE POWER 

So the next time you suffer sticker shock at the gas pump, and you wonder aloud, “who can fix this?” – remember that the president has the power. All a president needs is a plan and most importantly, the courage to stand up to The Men Who Rule The World because he knows the Constitution and the people will back him up.

Next time you feel obliged to curse the oil companies for sticking it to millions of people while they enjoy record profits, remember who our president is now.

Next time you bitch about the modern day industrial robber barons who are stealing us blind and wonder why Congress does nothing to stop it, remember President Kennedy.

Remember that he went to bat for all Americans and fought the Titans just to shave what amounted to a rather paltry price increase in steel down to a reasonable amount. Remember that he won that battle, too.

Remember that if our current president, or any future president, should have the political will and the courage, they can also fight the Titans and curb these out-of-control oil industry profits, bring an energy revolution to the table, get us off of foreign oil and out of debt to dictators quicker than you can say, “all in a day’s work!”

Remember that when you choose a presidential candidate this year.

`Nuff said!

 

Copyright RFKin2008.com.

 

For further reading on JFK’s showdown with U.S. Steel, we highly recommend:

“John F. Kennedy and the Titans” by Laura Knight-Jadczyk at http://laura-knight-jadczyk.blogspot.com/2006/11/john-f-kennedy-and-titans.html

“A Diversity of Dilemmas”, Time Magazine, May 18, 1962 article at: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,896150,00.html

Profiles in “Kennedy Courage”

17 Apr

This editorial comes from the folks over at the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for President website, used with permission.

OP-ED: WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF

At the Draft Kennedy website, probably the most frequently asked question we get is (sadly): “if Robert F. Kennedy Jr. ran for president, would he be assassinated?”

While we make an effort not to dwell on the potential negatives, it is a reasonable question and should be addressed. Bear in mind this is only one blogger’s opinion, but I will try and tackle this most troubling of concerns and share my own philosophy about another Kennedy attempting a run for the presidency. 

(Deep, heavy sigh) … Well, here goes: 

The road to the White House is always dangerous. Even more so, it seems, if your last name is Kennedy.

But there’s a certain something I like to call “Kennedy courage.” It’s that one special gene in the family that makes them dash headfirst towards a challenge many of us would run away from. It is a mindset that places honor and country above personal interest, or even their own physical safety.

And yet, any time in the past 40 years when a Kennedy seeks political office, all of us can’t help but worry a little. After all, “they shoot Kennedys, don’t they?”

We won’t speculate as to how Bobby Kennedy Jr. feels about this. How much of a factor would it be in his decision to run or not to run – ah, that is the question, my dear Hamlet.

So soon after the assassination of his brother, many advised Bobby to be wary of close contact with crowds along the campaign trail. Notice the absence of Secret Servicemen and uniformed security guards. Here we see a smile on his face and warmth in his eyes. We do not see fear.

“AND IN THE TOTAL OF ALL THOSE ACTS WILL BE WRITTEN THE HISTORY OF THIS GENERATION” (RFK)

Perhaps we can glean some insight from examining his father’s words on the subject. Is this what RFK raised his children to believe?

“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” (RFK)  

Did Bobby and his brother Jack constantly live in fear of losing their lives?

“I thought they’d get one of us, but Jack, after all he’s been through, never worried about it. I thought it would be me.” (RFK)

So it seems RFK expected to be assassinated all along. Then why did he stick his neck out there and run for President?

“I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and I have such strong feelings about what must be done. And I feel obliged to do all that I can.” (RFK)

If RFK believed that he was going to be killed before achieving the presidency, what was the point of running at all?

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation… It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” (RFK)

NOW THAT’S COURAGE

What about Bobby’s uncle, President John F. Kennedy? His thoughts on the possibility of assassination: 

“You know, last night would have been a hell of a night to assassinate a President…I mean it. There was the rain, and the night, and we were all being jostled…

But if somebody wants to shoot me from a window with a ri­fle, nobody can stop it. So, why worry about it?”

– John F. Kennedy to his wife on Nov. 22, 1963, just hours before his murder.  

https://i1.wp.com/laura-knight-jadczyk.com/images/jfk_fortworth_22nov63.jpg

(Does this man look the least bit afraid to you?  President Kennedy casually mingles with a crowd of thousands in Ft. Worth on the morning of his assassination.)

 “A man does what he must-in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures-and that is the basis of all human morality.”
(JFK)

In other words…

“YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO DIE WITH YOUR BOOTS ON” – RFK JR. 

In my mind, this is why both JFK and RFK died a hero’s death. Both knew the potential consequences of pushing the envelope, of challenging the powers that be, but they did it anyway. For the greater good. In hopes that these sacrifices would force change.

I’d like to see more politicians who exhibit that kind of courage today, and methinks Kennedy’s got it in spades. As he said in a 2006 interview with Brad Blog:

“I can only say that those of us who care about this country have to keep fighting, and whether you think you’re gonna win or lose, you gotta just keep slugging and you gotta be ready to die with your boots on, because that’s what our forefathers did. They started a revolution, and they put their fortunes and their lives at stake. And we need to summon the same kind of courage from our generation, and demand that kind of courage from our leadership.” 

TO RUN OR NOT TO RUN…THAT IS THE QUESTION

We can’t speak to Mr. Kennedy’s political intentions, nor can we even begin to imagine how the tragedies in his family history add to the weight of such a decision. All we can really do is try our best to understand the mindset of someone who grew up a Kennedy, with all the public pressure, expectations of high achievement and fears of assassination constantly swirling around them. Most of this is naturally projected upon them by the public, naturally, and may not accurately reflect how the Kennedys themselves feel.

And that’s not even factoring in what it’s like to grow up fatherless. Or to lose your father in such a brutal and traumatic way. That’s a private matter for RFK Jr. We can have only a very limited understanding of what part the assassinations of his father and uncle must necessarily play in his own decision to run or not to run – and that is always the question!

Most of the people who frequent this blog and put their signatures on the ”Kennedy for President” petition have already made their peace with the issue of potential assasination and don’t think it’s a risk. Naturally, we want him to run. And we are concerned for his family’s safety, too. They are always in our prayers.

You could put me in the camp who does not believe that assassination is a major risk factor. I think the days of assassinating presidential candidates, or even presidents, have passed. It hasn’t happened here since 1963, and I doubt it will happen again. Here’s why:

We must remember the political turbulence of those times (the 60s) and the issues which inflamed people… to march, to riot, to act violently, to even kill our leaders openly in public -at a political rally, on a hotel balcony, or at high noon on a crowded downtown street – no longer exist. We have a whole new set of problems now, and different ways of dealing with them.

Have you ever wondered why our most beloved and inspirational leaders were shot down and silenced, when by contrast, unpopular presidents since the Kennedy and King murders – Nixon, Ford, Bush 41 and Bush 43 (by far and without a doubt the most despised president in our nation’s history), have all survived their terms?

Assassinations are messy things. Too many witnesses. Zapruder films which capture the evidence. A chain of custody on evidence not so easily manipulated. Honest people who eventually come forward. Too many leaks. Conspiracies and coverups are very difficult to orchestrate and maintain. And it’s a really tough sell to the people. (Recent polls show that more than 90% of the American people do not believe the Warren Report to this very day! They also raise serious, valid, unanswered questions about the murders of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. The recent murder of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan has also sparked rumors of conspiracy, regardless of what Musharraf’s government says. The folks aren’t buying it.)

THE NEW SCHOOL STYLE OF POLITICAL ASSASSINATION

For those who want to punish a political rival or even a president, they’ve found it is hardly necessary to kill them anymore. The cleaner method is to assassinate their character. Serves the same purpose, but no muss, no fuss!

Or at the presidential level, in the cases of Nixon and Clinton, to simply impeach. (And perhaps go for a nice character assassination while you’re at it.)

It’s also a new, improved method of getting rid of the challengers, the upstarts, the truthful, the good.

That’s why I worry for Bobby Kennedy, but I do not fear for him. He is a brave, strong man of great courage and if he should ever decide to run for the presidency, you can rest assured he will have considered the possibility of assassination and decided to charge into battle anyway.

PAY ANY PRICE, BEAR ANY BURDEN

Kennedy’s dilemma is not all that different from any regular fellow who joins the army as a volunteer. He certainly doesn’t have to go to Iraq or Afghanistan. Hell, he could just as easily stay home with his family and go to his day job. Maybe he has a great day job, one where he is already making a difference in the world. Is he a fool to leave it and go fight a war where he might be killed? Even a war that he disagrees with? With a wife and kids at home? Why would he do a thing like that? Is he crazy?

No. He doesn’t do it because he was drafted and has no other choice but to fight. He chooses to go, knowing well the risks for one reason: he loves his country and is willing to die for it if need be.

The road to the presidency is always a treacherous one (doubly so, I again concede, if your name is Kennedy), but with our country in such grave danger, this is not the time for Americans to be afraid.

If we let fear win out over hope and good men do nothing to stop this evil, the bad guys win. And We The People lose. Everything. 

MANKIND IS OUR BUSINESS

There are some who say that Kennedy would be better off to just mind his own business, to get those lofty presidential ambitions out of his head. Some people say the Kennedys have already sacrificed enough for their country, that they should let somebody else do the work (and take the risks) now. But when the chips are down and America is in crisis, we always turn to the Kennedys and ask them to not only join us, but to lead us.

Why is it always thus? Why should the Kennedys be any better qualified than anybody else? Why do we instinctively put our trust in them? Because for generations, this family has made a demonstrated commitment to public service and the national interest. Not because anybody asked them to, not because they were expected to, but because they wanted to. Because they felt they had to.

Many have wondered why the wealthy, handsome, debonair young Jack Kennedy traded in the life of a millionaire playboy for a career in public service. At the time of his election in 1960, Kennedy was the wealthiest man ever to occupy that office; a president’s salary could hardly provide the lifestyle he had grown accustomed to as the son of one of America’s most successful businessmen. (Actually, JFK had donated his entire governmental salary to charity since first elected to the U.S. House in 1947. Robert Kennedy did the same, although these facts were successfully concealed from the public until late in JFK’s presidential term. In truth, the two donated much more than their salaries to charity each year.) 

As millionaires many times over, the Kennedys could have just as easily kicked back and enjoyed the good life. So why did they choose to give so much and do far more than their fair share at such great cost and loss to themselves? 

Because, as JFK said in November, 1963, just four days prior to his own assassination, “mankind is our business.”

“I realize that there are some businessmen who feel only they want to be left alone, that Government and politics are none of their affairs, that the balance sheet and profit rate of their own corporation are of more importance than the worldwide balance of power or the Nationwide rate of unemployment. But I hope it is not rushing the season to recall to you the passage from Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” in which Ebenezer Scrooge is terrified by the ghosts of his former partner, Jacob Marley, and Scrooge, appalled by Marley’s story of ceaseless wandering, cries out, “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob.” And the ghost of Marley, his legs bound by a chain of ledger books and cash boxes, replied, “Business? Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business. Charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

…Whether we work in the White House or the State House or in a house of industry or commerce, mankind is our business. And if we work in harmony, if we understand the problems of each other and the responsibilities that each of us bears, then surely the business of mankind will prosper. And your children and mine will move ahead in a securer world, and one in which there is opportunity for them all.

– President Kennedy’s remarks to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Nov. 18, 1963, four days before his death. It is interesting to note that at the very moment this speech was delivered, another assassination plot was underway in Tampa and the Secret Service was on high alert.

SO WHAT’S THE SOLUTION – A HUMAN SHIELD?

Even the best Secret Service protection and all the precautions in the world cannot completely prevent an assassination. This history has taught us many times. So, what can we do to improve the security situation around RFK Jr. if he decides to run for President?

Obviously, all presidential candidates are entitled to Secret Service protection if they want it. And the very best private security firms would likely be engaged as additional bodyguards. But a few more ideas have been suggested by Kennedy’s supporters in the spirit of good ol’ citizen activism, and some of these notions are quite creative indeed.

One of the most popular is to organize thoroughly vetted and trusted volunteers who are willing to form a “human shield” around the candidate at every campaign stop. This would send out a powerful message to the world and anyone who might wish him harm: We’ve got Bobby’s back. This is one Kennedy you won’t be messing with — or you’ll be messing with all of us!

Others suggest that Kennedy should strap an AK-47 on his shoulder Rambo-style every time he leaves the house. That would certainly project quite a tough guy image at press conferences, eh? (Also guaranteed to ensure he wins each and every debate, hands down.)

And having Jesse Ventura as his Veep/Bodyguard wouldn’t hurt a bit, either. Surely the very notion of Ventura assuming the presidency would be enough to make anyone planning to assassinate Kennedy think twice. Ventura as VP might turn out to be the best life insurance policy RFK Jr. could ever have.

So with all these dangers and lone nuts lurking in the bushes, why on earth would we still ask Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to step forward and lead this generation of Americans?

Because:    

 

FREEDOM CAN BE LOST WITHOUT A SHOT BEING FIRED 

 

“We meet tonight at a time of peril. Americans do not like to talk about peril. We do not want to admit that we could be in danger, that we have fallen behind, that we may be second best in some areas. There has always been something un-American or defeatist about suggesting that we could lose a war or lose our way of life. We have traditionally believed America to be invincible because America was right, because we have never lost a war, because we have always been successful in whatever we set out to do as a nation. Those who talk of peril here been alarmists, lacking faith in the superiority of our system – demagogues, handicapping our efforts by arousing fear or panic – malcontents, calling into question the wisdom of our methods and our leadership.

But tonight we meet at a time of peril – and it would be foolish to deny, or conceal the stark facts of our situation. There may still be some benefits in terms of avoiding panic and retaining confidence through continued reassurances and optimistic prophecies – but these benefits are outweighed, it seems to me, by the larger responsibility of democratic government to keep the people fully and frankly informed. Neither the “boy who cried wolf,” nor the “gentlemen (who) cry peace, peace – (when) there is no peace” can long serve in a government dependent upon the trust and faith of the general public, once the facts are out. The hard truths of our position, of our failures as well as our successes, our perils as well as our hopes, are inevitably going to come out – and I for one have full confidence in the ability of a free and fully informed people to face those facts with calm and courage.

We are in peril today – and by that I do not mean simply the danger to our lives and our fortunes, to our unscarred shores and our unsurrendered flag. For we could lose more than a war, more than our lives – we are in peril of losing our whole way of life, not only our nation’s peace and freedom but our own peace of mind and freedom to think, our cherished concepts of democratic government and individual liberty. And we could lose it all, all we hold dear, without a single shot being fired.”

– Senator John F. Kennedy’s speaking at the National Conference of Christians and Jews Dinner, Chicago, Illinois, December 3, 1957.

It is important to note that President Kennedy again repeated this sentiment on the day he died:

“In today’s world, freedom can be lost without a shot being fired, by ballots as well as bullets.”

– Remarks prepared for (but never delivered) the Dallas Trade Mart luncheon, Nov. 22, 1963

* Op-Ed copyright RFKin2008.com. All rights reserved.

“The American People Deserve To Know The Truth” JFK Secret Service Agent Says

9 Apr

BARACK OBAMA NEEDS TO HIRE THIS MAN

Abraham Bolden is the first African-American Secret Service agent assigned to the presidential detail.

With the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination recently passed, the 40th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s murder coming up in June, and all the resultant hysteria swirling around the issue of presidential candidate Barack Obama’s safety as of late, we would like to humbly remind Senator Obama what a real Secret Service agent looks like.

If Barack Obama wants to surround himself with a security staff that can be fully trusted to keep him safe from harm, we would recommend that he hire JFK’s former Secret Serviceman Abraham Bolden as the head of his personal security detail. And if elected to the presidency, we would further implore President Obama to restore Mr. Bolden’s former status on the White House detail of the United States Secret Service.

At age 73, we realize that Bolden would likely be unable to play a very active role in providing physical security for Obama, and that the appointment would be honorary. But we also believe that this brave and loyal public servant should be rewarded for his many years of courage in the face of intense persecution and suffering.

Bolden’s career was destroyed, his reputation sullied, he was thrown in prison on trumped-up charges, subjected to solitary confinement and drugged…all because he dared to protect the president of the United States and tell the truth of what he knew about John F. Kennedy’s murder.

Nearly 45 years later, Abraham Bolden (the first black man to serve on the presidential detail – at JFK’s personal request  – and who successfully thwarted a plot to assassinate Kennedy in Chicago on Nov. 2, 1963) has come forward to tell his story in a new book “The Echo From Dealey Plaza“, which we hope that Senator Obama already has a copy of. We hope that Senator Obama reads it carefully and takes Bolden’s words as a cautionary tale. Lastly, we hope that Senator Obama will recognize the efforts of his fellow Chicagoan and do his part to give Mr. Bolden his just due at long last for a job well done. Courage such as this should be honored, especially when it comes to protecting the life of the President.

It’s a task every Secret Service agent is sworn to do, of course. But as we discovered that fateful day in Dallas, not every agent on President Kennedy’s detail was as loyal to that sacred oath as Abraham Bolden – a fact that President Kennedy himself was apparently aware of.

“Keep those Ivy League charlatans off the back of my car.”

 – President John F. Kennedy to Secret Service Agent Floyd Boring in Tampa, November 18, 1963

(as reported in William Manchester’s Death of a President) 

We present below a fascinating recent interview with Mr. Bolden from the Chicago Sun-Times, speaking about his new book. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is everything a Secret Service agent should be!

(Oh, and Mr. Kennedy – if you run for President, the same advice goes for you, too. Hire Mr. Bolden and put him in charge! Can you think of anyone with a greater motivation to keep you well protected?)

http://www.randomhouse.com/images/dyn/cover/?source=9780307382016&height=300&maxwidth=170 

“I’VE ALWAYS HAD FAITH IN JUSTICE”

CONVICTED SECRET SERVICE AGENT FINALLY TELLS HIS SIDE

 http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/books/856394,SHO-Books-chilit23.article#

 

If a novelist set out to rewrite Franz Kafka’s The Trial as a modern-day horror tale, it might read much like Abraham Bolden’s The Echo From Dealey Plaza.

Kafka’s character Josef K. is tried by some faceless bureaucracy but never learns why he is on trial. He maintains his innocence. 

The Chicago lawman forfeited a promising career, spending three years and nine months in prison. He felt the crushing weight of a bureaucracy fighting to save itself after JFK’s assassination.

Just 28 years old when Kennedy was killed in 1963, Bolden is now telling his story at age 73. Speaking by phone from his South Side home, Bolden shows no bitterness or disillusionment. That’s a testament to his unbending faith and indomitable spirit.

“I’ve always had faith in the American system of justice,” he explains. “I spent a great deal of time in police work, where I came to believe if a person sticks to the truth and continues to seek justice, somewhere along the line that justice is going to prevail.”

Bolden’s problems began the day he arrived in Washington in 1961 for his White House assignment. He describes a month of harassment and bigotry at the hands of the good old boys on Kennedy’s detail, some of whom he says drank heavily, chased women and were lax in following procedures. Although JFK showed him special kindness, he couldn’t wait to get back to Chicago and his family, and turned down any permanent Washington post.

Later, when Kennedy was assassinated, Bolden’s warnings to his superiors became a threat to the agency. He doesn’t believe his presence in Dallas would have prevented the slaying. But the Secret Service dropped the ball after learning of assassination plots in Chicago and Miami that might have led to beefed-up security in Dallas, he says.

“If I had stayed there [with Kennedy], my very life would have been in danger,” he says. “After my run-in with [senior agent] Harvey Henderson where he denigrated my race . . . we all carried guns, and accidents do happen — and yes, you could put ‘accidents’ in quotes.”

When the agency brought charges against Bolden, he was in Washington on a training assignment and was flown back to Chicago, where he says he was forced to take a Secret Service-administered polygraph exam. His superiors questioned him about a phone call he had placed to the White House switchboard in which he had asked about giving information to Warren Commission general counsel J. Lee Rankin.

The Bolden case made front-page news, and the next day he went public with his criticism of the agency’s Kennedy detail. That led to a more vigorous prosecution, he says, admitting he should have handled things differently.

“I would have done it in a different venue,” he says. “What I should have done was resign my position as a Secret Service agent. That would have been difficult to do because I was a family man and had no other job to go to. The best avenue would have been to resign and come to people like . . . newspaper reporters. Going to the chief and so-called bad-mouthing them at meetings was not the best way to do it. I became known as not a team player.”

If there’s a villain in Bolden’s story, it’s U.S. District Judge Joseph Sam Perry, who presided over both trials. Perry, Bolden writes, browbeat the holdout juror in an 11-1 vote for conviction at the first trial, telling her that Bolden was guilty. During the retrial, Perry seated an all-white jury, then closed the courtroom to the defense and media while he charged the jury. After Bolden was convicted, one of his two accusers admitted at his own counterfeiting trial, also before Perry, that the prosecutor had told him to lie at Bolden’s trial. Instead of causing a mistrial or a reversed verdict when the prosecutor took the Fifth Amendment about suborning perjury, higher courts ruled there was insufficient cause to retry Bolden. Still, the former agent lets Perry off the hook.

“What he was doing was making sure that the mandates from the higher-ups were carried out,” he explains. “He was influenced by people who were far above him who said, ‘Bolden’s got to go.’ The conspiracy was formulated in Washington, D.C., itself. After Oswald was assassinated, the sole purpose of the Secret Service was to save itself.”

When the prison bars slammed shut, Bolden’s real nightmare began. He landed in a psychiatric ward, kept in isolation and heavily drugged. Then he experienced two vivid, prophetic visions for which he has no explanation.

“I think about it even today,” he says. “It was not something I expected or conjured up by doing anything special. They just seemed to come. When I had the first one in [the psych ward], I thought I was going nuts. I became afraid that something had happened to me mentally. I was doing everything I could to maintain my mental balance while I was near those psychiatric patients who were screaming and being beaten. Had not that event of the fire [in an adjoining cell] freed me the next morning, I probably would have ignored it as a dream or something.”

He finally left prison in September 1969 as an unemployed parolee, then rebuilt his life. He worked for 15 years in quality control consulting with machining companies.

Now retired and widowed from Barbara, his tower of strength through the darkest hours, Bolden says he’s telling his story out of obligation to Kennedy — and because it’s what Barbara wanted.

“Right now today, I tell you, sometimes it’s difficult to relive the chapters in that book. They’re very emotional to me. It affects my life in that in taking my case to the public, I feel somewhat relieved. I’ve carried out my charge and my duty to President Kennedy, who entrusted me with his life. I owed that to President Kennedy to bring forth the facts I have surrounding his death. It helps to pay that debt.

“The American people deserve to know the truth about the tragic day of Nov. 22, 1963. I know it’s a very optimistic statement, but I really believe the truth is going to come out.”

THE ECHO FROM DEALEY PLAZA

By Abraham Bolden

Harmony, 320 pages, $25.95

Jeff Johnson is a copy editor in the Sun-Times features department.

RFK Murder: More Than One Shooter?

7 Apr

RFK at the Ambassador hotel los Angeles

(Kennedy speaks to a packed ballroom after winning the California primary. Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, June 4, 1968.)   

YOU KNEW IT ALL ALONG

Here’s a recent story you might have missed: a bombshell new report that Sirhan Sirhan was not the lone shooter in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

Kennedy was gunned down on June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. A gunman identified as Sirhan Sirhan was wrestled to the ground and later convicted as the man solely responsible for Kennedy’s murder.

Forensic scientists met at a conference in Connecticut last week to discuss their independent findings that cast serious doubt on the Kennedy assassination. Sirhan Sirhan is serving a life sentence in Kennedy’s death, but the conference presenters argue he could not have fired the fatal shot that killed Kennedy.

One investigator, Dr. Robert Joling, has studied the Kennedy assassination for nearly four decades. He determined the fatal shot came from behind Kennedy, while Sirhan was four to six feet in front of the senator and never got close enough to shoot him from behind, an NBC affiliate reports.

13 SHOTS FIRED AT KENNEDY 

Analysis by another forensics engineer, Philip Van Praag, of a Canadian journalists tape recording, known as the Pruszynski recording, determined that 13 shots were fired while Kennedy was killed, although Sirhan’s gun only held eight bullets, according to the NBC reporter. This suggests that a second shooter was involved in the assassination.

Van Praag’s analysis led him to conclude that a second gun that was fired matched a type owned by one of the security guards in Kennedy’s entourage.

“When that security guard was asked about owning that gun at first he admitted, ‘Yes I owned that kind of gun but I got rid of it two months before the assassination.’” correspondent Amy Parmenter said on MSNBC Wednesday. “It turns out upon further investigation, in fact, he did not get rid of that gun until five months after the shooting. Of course, you can see where we’re going with this. … That security guard, was in fact behind Senator Kennedy when the fatal shot was fired.”

Because we choose not to publish graphic images of the Kennedy assassinations on this website, you may watch the video of the MSNBC News Live broadcast of March 26, 2008 here.

The CIA Killed RFK 

ROUND UP THE USUAL SUSPECTS 

Who did pull triggers that night? A 2006 BBC Newsnight investigation gets closer to the answer – and the killers’ names (all three were known CIA operatives, now deceased) – than any mainstream media outlet ever has. You can watch the BBC report online here.

Almost 40 years after his murder, only now are the true facts about the RFK assassination finally coming to light.

But you really knew it all along, didn’t you?

 

 

Copyright RFKin2008.com.

“Pain Which Cannot Forget”: 40 Years Ago This Week

1 Apr

MLK and RFK

RFK and MLK

MARCH 31-APRIL 4, 1968 – A WEEK THAT CHANGED AMERICA

“Even 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.”

 — Aeschylus, as quoted by Robert Kennedy upon the death of MLK

Φ

40 years ago this week brought us to a critical turning point in the American experience. With the peace movement rapidly growing and anti-war sentiment at its’ peak, it seemed that things were “getting better all the time” (or so said Lennon and McCartney the previous summer), but little did America suspect that the era we knew as “Camelot” was about to come to an abrupt, ironic, and bloody end.

Over the course of just five short days, we watched in shock as President Lyndon B. Johnson stepped aside and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was brutally murdered. We saw race riots erupt in the streets of our cities, and wondered if the whole world would burn. We heard one of the most stirring pleas for peace and unity ever spoken by any politician when Robert F. Kennedy delivered the news of Dr. King’s assassination in the heart of an Indianapolis ghetto — and we slowly began to heal.

Looking back with the hindsight of history, we can now fully comprehend the importance of this pivotal moment. Those who lived through it will never be able to shake the memory. For for the ones who weren’t old enough to remember or hadn’t been born yet, the events of that week still fascinate, even when experienced secondhand through books or grainy old news footage.

It’s a tale of stunning upsets, unimaginable horrors and stark contrasts: of presidents and peace, of war and love, of confusion and clarity, of Kennedys and Kings. Of pain which cannot forget – even after forty years.

LBJ GETS OUT OF THE WAY

The first jolt came on March 31, President Lyndon B. Johnson stunned the nation with the surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election to the presidency in 1968.

Appearing on TV at 9 p.m. that evening, LBJ first announced that he was taking steps to limit the war in Vietnam. He outlined his plan at some length; then, in what seemed almost an afterthought, dropped this unexpected bombshell:

“Fifty-two months and 10 days ago, in a moment of tragedy and trauma, the duties of this office fell upon me. I asked then for your help and God’s, that we might continue America on its course, binding up our wounds, healing our history, moving forward in new unity, to clear the American agenda and to keep the American commitment for all of our people.

United we have kept that commitment. United we have enlarged that commitment.

Through all time to come, I think America will be a stronger nation, a more just society, and a land of greater opportunity and fulfillment because of what we have all done together in these years of unparalleled achievement.

Our reward will come in the life of freedom, peace, and hope that our children will enjoy through ages ahead.

What we won when all of our people united just must not now be lost in suspicion, distrust, selfishness, and politics among any of our people.

Believing this as I do, I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year.

With America’s sons in the fields far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office–the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”

LBJ's address to the nation, March 31, 1968

President Johnson addresses the nation on television – March 31, 1968 

At that exact moment, Kennedy (who had just announced his intention to run for the presidency two weeks earlier) was coming in for a landing at La Guardia airport. The New York State Democratic chairman, John Burns, raced aboard the plane and breathlessly told Kennedy, “The president is not going to run.”

Kennedy just stared at him. “You’re kidding,” he said.

On the drive in from the airport, RFK seemed lost in thought. Finally, he said, “I wonder if he (LBJ) would have done this if I hadn’t come in.”

MLK ASSASSINATED

Bobby wouldn’t have much time to ponder Johnson’s motivations. While on the campaign trail four days later — again on an airplane — he recieved word that Martin Luther King had just been shot and killed by a sniper in Memphis.

Kennedy “sagged. His eyes went blank,” said New York Times reporter Johnny Apple, who delivered the news to RFK.

By the time Bobby arrived in Indianapolis, King had been reported dead. Fearing a race riot, the chief of police advised Kennedy to cancel his scheduled appearance in a mostly black neighborhood. Ignoring the warnings, RFK arrived at the speech site – a wind-blown lot surrounded by tenements – in his brother’s old overcoat with the collar turned up.

About a thousand people were gathered there, rallying and cheering for Bobby with all the usual excitment generated at his campaign stops. The crowd awaited his speech, happily oblivious to the news that Dr. King had been shot down. 

Throwing out his prepared remarks, Bobby pulled from his pocket a crumpled piece of paper with his own hastily scribbled notes and began to speak in quiet, reverent tones, his voice occasionally cracking with nervous emotion:

“Ladies and Gentlemen – I’m only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening. Because…

I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

(Audible gasps and cries of “No! No!” can be heard from the crowd)

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s 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 evidently is that there were white people who were responsible – you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization – black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.

RFK speaking on the night of MLK's death, april 4, 1968

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also 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 get beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even 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 and lawlessness, but is 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 whether they be black.

(Interrupted by applause)

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah 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. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s 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 that abide in our land.

(Interrupted by applause)

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. Thank you very much.”

 
Listen to the entire speech 6:12

The murder of MLK, Lorraine motel, Memphis
(The murder of MLK. Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN. April 4, 1968.) 
PAIN WHICH CANNOT FORGET 
Late that night, a sleepless, restless Kennedy was seen wandering the halls of his hotel alone. At 3 a.m., he knocked on the door of Joan Braden, an old friend who had also worked on JFK’s 1960 campaign. Bobby confided to her the true source of his agony.
“Joanie,” he said, “that could have been me.”

Two months later to the day Robert Kennedy was gunned down during a celebration following his victory in the California primary, June 4, 1968. He would die 26 hours later.

While it would be easy to look back after 40 years and dwell on 1968’s sorrows, its’ crippling series of tragedies, perhaps we should instead remember and take to heart Bobby Kennedy’s advice:

“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.
I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final sermon.
 Memphis, TN, April 3, 1968

 

Copyright RFKin2008.com