Tag Archives: John F. Kennedy

Happy Birthday, Bob

19 Nov

Robert Kennedy with daughter Kathleen

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BOB

Had he lived, Robert F. Kennedy would be 86 years old on November 20th. We thought it might be interesting to honor him this year not with a few selected quotations by him, but rather quotations about him.

How was Bobby Kennedy described by the people who knew him best?

Their opinions were not always kind, to say the least. Lyndon Johnson called Bobby “that little shitass” and “a grandstanding little runt.” (Kennedy, who cherished his very own LBJ voodoo doll, called Johnson “mean, bitter, and vicious–an animal in many ways.”)

Joe McCarthy’s chief aide (and longtime RFK nemesis) Roy Cohn referred to Robert Kennedy as a “rich bitch,” saying: “he always had that little smirk on his face, designed to get under my skin, and it did.”

Apparently the feeling was mutual, as the two men once nearly came to blows in the Senate hearing room during the Army-McCarthy hearings.

Jimmy Hoffa, who thought Kennedy “a damn spoiled jerk,” described his first meeting with him in 1957: “I can tell by how he shakes hands what kind of fellow I got. I said to myself, `Here’s a fella thinks he’s doing me a favor by talking to me.'” Hoffa later bragged that during the Rackets Committee hearings, “I used to love to bug the little bastard.”

As Bobby himself once said, we are not here “to curse the past or to praise it,” so we thought it appropriate to include the bad with the good when selecting quotes from others on what they thought of Robert Kennedy. Opinions varied, at times so wildly, you’d almost never believe that all of these people are talking about the same man.

The full truth about RFK, as ever, lies somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

I think that’s why he still fascinates us. Even after all these years, the real RFK is (to borrow from Churchill) “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” He’s a puzzle, difficult to solve, and yet we never seem to want to stop trying.

AS THEY REMEMBER BOBBY

“The major difference between Bobby and his brothers is that Bobby always had to fight for everything.”

— Bobby’s wife, Ethel Skakel Kennedy

“He was the smallest and thinnest, and we feared he might grow up puny and girlish. We soon realized there was no chance of that.”

— Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (mother)

“Jack is too soft and forgiving. You can trample all over him and the next day he’ll be waiting for you with open arms. But when Bobby hates you, you stay hated.”

— Joseph P. Kennedy (father)

“Bobby was the most generous little boy.”

Jack Kennedy’s lifelong best friend, Lem Billings. (To which Joseph Kennedy Sr. gruffly replied: “I don’t know where he got that!”)

“All this business about Jack and Bobby being blood brothers has been exaggerated.”

Bobby’s sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

“Kennedy was not arrogant, but he had a sarcasm that could be biting.”

Frank Hurley, Bobby’s classmate at Portsmouth Priory

“How would you like looking forward to that high whining voice blasting into your ear for the next six months?”

Jack Kennedy, on hiring his younger brother Bobby to manage the 1960 campaign.

“Jack thought Bobby was too serious, a severe figure, and tried to lighten him up. At the same time, he thought Bobby was…the sacred one. He felt protective about him.”

 — Chuck Spalding, longtime friend to both JFK and RFK.

“I don’t know what Bobby does, but it always seems to turn out right.”

–President-elect John F. Kennedy, shortly after winning the 1960 presidential election

“Up until the Bay of Pigs, Jack had more or less dismissed the reasons his father had given for wanting Bobby in the cabinet as more of that tribal Irish thing. But now he realized how right the old man had been. When the crunch came, family members were the only ones you could count on. Bobby was the only person he could rely on to be absolutely dedicated. Jack would never have admitted it, but from that moment on, the Kennedy presidency became a sort of collaboration between them.”

— Lem Billings, lifelong friend to the Kennedy brothers

“Everybody bitches about Bobby, and I’m getting sick and Goddamn tired of it. He’s the only one who doesn’t stick knives in my back, the only one I can count on when it comes down to it.”

— President John F. Kennedy

“You knew that, if you were in trouble, he’d always be there.”

— Former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis on RFK

“He had a better sense of what was important, and what was not, than anyone I ever met. Once he realized something was significant, he became the most deliberate, most thoughtful, most intense man.”

— John Nolan, Kennedy’s administrative assistant at the Justice Department.

“His most tenaciously maintained secret was a tenderness so rawly exposed, so vulnerable to painful abrasion, that it could only be shielded by angry compassion to human misery, manifest itself in love and loyalty toward those close to him, or through a revelatory humor.”

 — Richard Goodwin, speechwriter, longtime friend and advisor to JFK, RFK, and LBJ

Bobby and Jack

 “I always say—don’t try to psychoanalyze Bob. Look at what he said and look at what he did. He meant what he said, and what he did was incredible.”

 — Ed Guthman, Robert Kennedy’s special assistant for public information in the Department of Justice and his first senatorial press secretary.

Robert F. Kennedy

I remember once John F. Kennedy talking about his younger brother. He was talking about the time when they were both a lot younger, and Bobby was small and jumping off the family sailboat. JFK said, and I quote, “It showed either a lot of guts or no sense at all, depending on how you look at it.” I think you can say that about Bobby’s entry into the 1968 presidential race. It either showed no sense at all, or a lot of guts. I think there were some of both of those factors present.”

— Ted Sorensen, policy advisor, legal counsel and speechwriter for President Kennedy.

“In every presidential election since 1968, we continue to listen for echoes of Robert Kennedy’s speeches which urged us to turn away from war, embrace peace, share the wealth and the resources of the land with the less fortunate, embrace the ideal of social justice for all, and put aside the divisions of race, age, wealth, militarism and the narrow partisanship that have come to divide us– and divide us still.I believe we will look at what he was about, what his politics and policies were about, what his motivations and commitments were about, thereby enhancing the record of his life and times for those who will come to this place to continue the quest. Today, we remember the man, who for many of us changed our lives, the man who changed the country and, had he lived, would have changed it again and again.” 

— Bobby’s trusted friend and advisor John Seigenthaler

“The reason we should revive Robert Kennedy as a hero for our times, for the 21st century, is because he presents us with a flawed, complicated hero of great compassion, and leadership. His was not a leadership that sought to merely bear witness to the truth but rather one that sought results and shaped them in the anvil of action.I think that there’s nothing our politics needs today more than the image, the model, the example, and the inspiration of Robert Kennedy’s life.Throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis Robert Kennedy did what he had done as a young man. He asked moral questions: is it right or is it wrong? When I first met him, I didn’t like his answers. He was more of a Cold Warrior with a Joe McCarthy view of the world, than I was. What changed in Robert Kennedy, in my opinion, was that his view of the world became broader and deeper. The child that was compassionate, the child that was religious, the child that asked moral questions, was the man who in the Cuban Missile Crisis had the courage to ask the moral question, “Could we have a first strike and live with our conscience if we did?” In the face of the geo-politicians in that room, he asked those questions. That was not easy to do, and he did it….And then lastly, in this election right now, the clear, important message from a country divided down the middle is that we want the next President of the United States to find common ground in the way that Robert Kennedy did. He attempted to reach out to left and to right, and beyond all ideological barriers to find a common ground, to get things done.I would recommend to the next President of the United States that he immerse himself in the story of Robert Kennedy. I would say begin with Maxwell Kennedy’s beautiful book and then go on to Ed Guthman’s collection of speeches. Can we revive in our time some of what we had? …”a transcendent yearning for the possibility of redemptive change?” We all, I think, have that yearning. I think the American people have it. And the story of Robert Kennedy can drive us to try to realize that possibility.”— Harris Wofford, special assistant to President Kennedy, chair of the sub-cabinet group on civil rights.

Happy Birthday, Bobby Kennedy. This world misses you.

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Gallup Poll: Kennedy Still Highest-Rated Modern President

8 Dec

 

85% Says It All

 

According to a new Gallup Poll, President John F. Kennedy continues to earn the highest retrospective job approval rating from Americans, now 85%.

Ronald Reagan ranks second, with 74%. While these presidents’ ratings are largely unchanged from 2006, Bill Clinton’s rating has improved, putting him in third place, while Jimmy Carter, at 52%, has dropped from third to sixth. Richard Nixon remains the lowest rated.

The poll was limited to approval ratings for American presidents who have served in the past 50 years.

Approval of How Past Presidents Handled Their Job -- Recent Trend (2006, 2010)

The Nov. 19-21 Gallup poll asked Americans to say, based on what they know or remember about the nine most recent former presidents, whether they approve or disapprove of how each handled his job in office.

Kennedy has consistently ranked No. 1 in this Gallup measure initiated in 1990.

 

 

Read full story here: Kennedy Still Highest-Rated Modern President, Nixon Lowest.

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

44 Years Later, JFK’s Words Still Resonate

21 Nov

This week marks 44 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

It is a time when all Americans (even those who were not yet born in 1963) stop to reflect on what our country lost that day — for we lost so much more than more than just a man — and we ponder what role that tragic event played in shaping the world we now find ourselves living in.

While it is important that we pause to remember the past, and to ask these questions about America’s future (he would want us to), let’s not allow ourselves to forget the man Jack Kennedy was. Because it seems that far too often, we focus our attention on his death and the many questions that still remain unanswered. Shouldn’t we instead remember his life?

Since this somber anniversary happens to fall on Thanksgiving this year, it just doesn’t seem appropriate somehow to be mournful. Rather, let us give thanks for all of the good things he brought to this world as a catalyst for change. Let us recall the way he inspired people around the globe; the hope and optimism he brought to the presidency. Let’s celebrate his vision, his strength, his courage, his razor-sharp mind, his grace, charm, and of course, that delightful, sometimes wicked wit.

This would be a perfect time to reach for one of your favorite books on the shelf and immerse yourself in some of his words. Listen to some of his best speeches. Because these things are the legacy he left us. His words will live in history forever and cannot be erased.

Naturally, we all have our own favorite books and speeches of JFK’s; I’ve certainly got a long list of works I find deeply moving and inspiring, but I’ll refrain from making any recommendations here because I feel that how each of us remembers him this week should be a strictly personal choice.

But there is one little tidbit I want to share:

On November 19, 1963, just three days before his death, President Kennedy wrote this message for the rededication ceremonies of the national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:

“The goals of liberty and freedom, the obligations of keeping ours a government of and for the people are never-ending.”

Just one sentence, but this says it all. Written exactly 44 years ago, these words serve to remind us all that there is still so much work to do. Lest we forget.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

May 29, 1917- November 22, 1963

 

 

Copyright RFKin2008.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

RFK Jr. Blasts Helms, Kissinger, CIA “Family Jewels”

23 Jun

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. appeared on “Hardball” with Chris Matthews Friday, June 22, 2007, and forcefully denied allegations that his father had ANYTHING whatsoever to do with the CIA’s plans to assassinate Fidel Castro.

The latest round of lies from Langley come on the heels of a new stack of materials to be declassified this week regarding the agency’s often-successful efforts to assassinate foreign leaders over the past 60 years, among a plethora of other dirty deeds done dirt cheap. The CIA calls the report their “Family Jewels.”

In the report, not surprisingly, the agency once again tries to pin the blame on Bobby Kennedy for their own efforts to 86 Castro.

This clip is about 4.5 minutes, Kennedy’s right on the money. He manages to condense the rather intricate Castro/CIA monkeybusiness into a concise soundbite.

If you didn’t see this live, it’s on You Tube:

RFK Jr. went even more in-depth on his "Ring of Fire" radio show that weekend on Air America, setting the record straight once and for all. Video of his interview with Mike Papantonio is from goleft.tv.

http://goleft.tv/view.asp?v=220

Thought RFK Jr. did an admirable job of defending the “Kennedy Family Jewels” …:)

* The above video is the property of the respective copyright owners. Article text is copyrighted material and may not be reproduced without the following legal notice: “Copyright 2007 by http://RFKin2008.com. All Rights Reserved.”