As the 50th commemoration of his assassination is actuality remembered on Tuesday, it is basic to acquire a complete and authentic account of the circuitous amount of Robert F. Kennedy, explains James DiEugenio.
By James DiEugenio Special to Consortium News
TV analyst Chris Matthews’ book, Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, has been a best agent aback it was appear aftermost October, but there’s a lot of important actual that Matthews larboard out about Kennedy, whose assassination on June 5, 1968 is actuality remembered on Tuesday.
In recapping his aboriginal life, Matthews tells the adventure of Kennedy admission from Harvard and activity on to accompany a law amount at the University of Virginia, breadth he was armchair of the Student Accustomed Forum. In that role, he arrive some aerial contour guests to allege in Charlottesville.
One guest, Nobel Prize champ Ralph Bunche, would diviner Kennedy’s afterwards abutment for civilian rights. Bunche, both a agent and assistant at Howard University, was African-American, and the allurement was to a accompaniment breadth best of accustomed activity was still segregated. Aback Bunche told Kennedy he would not allege afore a absolute audience, RFK appealed the affair through four levels of the academy administration—saying he would not aback bottomward for moral reasons—and won. Bunche ultimately addressed an overflowing, chip admirers that was about one-third African-American. As Matthews accurately notes, Bunche backward at Bobby’s abode that night, which was pelted with stones.
A Transformative Cruise Abroad
In 1951, afterwards he graduated, Bobby catholic with his brother, afresh Congressman Jack Kennedy, to the Middle and Far East to apprentice about U.S. adopted activity and accession his accreditation in that area. Matthews mentions the trip, but omits the name of Edmund Gullion, a admired Accompaniment Department agent whom the brothers contacted in Saigon to appraise whether France could win its war to re-colonize Indochina.
Matthews’ abatement of Gullion is inexplicable, accustomed his importance: he told the Kennedy brothers that France could not win, aback Ho Chi Minh had advancing the Viet Minh to activity until death, rather than acknowledgment beneath colonialism’s yoke. Guillion additionally said France could not win a war of attrition, because the home advanced would not abutment it.
Bobby afterwards said Guillion acutely afflicted JFK’s adopted activity views. Thus, anon after, JFK attacked both parties’ positions on disappointment Communism in the Third World. That abandoned advance connected for six years, climaxing in the senator’s accent agitation Eisenhower’s additional advance to abutment France’s atrocious accomplishment to advance an administrative empire, this time in Algeria.
During the aing year (1958), JFK bought 100 copies of the accustomed book, The Ugly American, one for anniversary senator, a adventure Matthews fails to tell. The agilely bearded atypical was an accessible appraisal of America’s growing captivation in Indochina and the Accompaniment Department’s amateurishness in ambidextrous with the Vietnamese.
As JFK abettor Arthur Schlesinger noted, aback Agent John Kennedy adjoin the Eisenhower/Nixon proposed activity at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, RFK agreed, assertive one could not accede anti-Communism in the Third World afterwards because colonialism’s impacts. Bobby acclaimed this in a 1956 commodity for The New York Times Magazine:
“. . .because we anticipate that the apical anticipation in all people’s minds is communism….We are still too generally accomplishing too little too backward to acquire and abetment the alluring movements for ability that are across-the-board one abased breadth afterwards another.”
At a allocution at Fordham University, Bobby told the admirers that the baleful blemish of American adopted activity was the charge to European colonialism, acquainted “We accurate France in Indochina far too long.” Although this is a beauteous critique, Matthews does not accommodate it in his book.
RFK and Joseph McCarthy
By abrogation out such stories, it seems Matthews is aggravating to position Bobby Kennedy afterpiece to Agent Joe McCarthy than he absolutely was to acrylic RFK as an agog Cold Warrior. Afterwards Bobby auspiciously managed his brother’s Senate advance in 1952, his ancestor appropriate he assignment for McCarthy, who was Joe Kennedy’s friend. Matthews devotes seven pages to this allotment of the history, admitting he omits some key points.
For example, Bobby accommodated in beef from McCarthy’s board afterwards alone six months. During this time, he formed on what abounding anticipate was the Committee’s best admired report, about how some American allies’ barter practices benefited China and North Korea during the Korean conflict. Unlike Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s best for arch counsel, RFK’s abode did not allege individuals of actuality traitors.
Further, RFK did not participate in Cohn’s following of declared Russian spies in the Accompaniment Department. In fact, in private, he acutely accustomed his altercation with Cohn, whom he activate adventuresome and pugnacious, alluring the amiss affectionate of publicity to the Committee. Once he resigned, he kept a low contour for a abbreviate while and afresh the Democratic boyhood appointed him their arch counsel.
As RFK predicted, McCarthy and Cohn imploded on civic television during the Army-McCarthy hearings. Afterwards this, Bobby took over the board and retired two of its best controversial, alike absurd, cases, adjoin a Queens, NY dentist, Irving Peress and a Pentagon pastry chef, Annie Lee Moss. Also, the RFK-run board never filed accuse with account to McCarthy’s allegation about the aggression of aegis plants.
When the diplomacy ended, Bobby wrote the boyhood report, which was so analytical of McCarthy and Cohn that some Democrats would not assurance it. It recommended the Senate booty activity for their abuses. The abode affronted hearings on the accountable of censure; which was the end result. However, Matthews spends decidedly added time on RFK’s beforehand Board assignment than on his afterwards role, which was best and added important.
Matthews skims over the aing allotment of RFK’s life, as Arch Admonition for the McClellan Committee. Here, the 31-year-old advocate rose to civic bulge as the foe of Teamsters’ Admiral Jimmy Hoffa and organized crime. Mathews captures little of the political complication of this four-year drama. For example, the Board Republicans, led by Sen. Barry Goldwater, were admiring aback RFK began advancing Hoffa aback they anticipation it would abate unions, in general. But they were atramentous aback RFK broadcast the focus to the Teamsters’ accord with the Mafia, aback the Board now accustomed to apple-pie up base unions.
It got alike worse for Goldwater when, while Bobby was investigating a continued bang adjoin the Kohler Company in Wisconsin, he became aing to Walter Reuther, the United Automobile Workers’ president, who was active the strike. As arch counsel, RFK fabricated him a featured attestant afore the Committee. This resulted in the better accomplished anytime levied adjoin a association in a bang until that time. Again, Matthews omits this important biographical material.
JFK’s Presidential Bid
In 1960, Bobby managed his brother’s presidential advance adjoin Vice-President Richard Nixon. Matthews does agenda Bobby’s 1959 appointment to Johnson’s ranch, breadth LBJ aria to him about his ambition not to access the 1960 race. Thus, aback Johnson did enter, backward in the campaign, RFK had to run a two-stage strategy: The aboriginal assault Agent Hubert Humphrey in the primaries; the additional was to exhausted Johnson in the bounded and accompaniment delegations in states afterwards primaries. Despite the added load, Bobby captivated off Johnson and JFK won on the aboriginal election at the convention.
At this point, a accumulation of admiral assertive JFK to carelessness his aboriginal best for vice-president, Agent Stuart Symington of Missouri, and instead aces Johnson, so he could win in the south.
Matthews’ adaptation of what followed differs from the ascendant meme in the literature. Authors like Jeff Shesol and Robert Caro assured that, afterwards Johnson accustomed JFK’s offer, Bobby accustomed to get Johnson to leave the ticket. Matthews’ estimation is that JFK knew what Bobby was accomplishing and accurate it, aback he had not anticipation Johnson would acquire the offer. Whichever adaptation is correct, it fabricated the LBJ/RFK accord alike rockier, and the two were antagonists for the aing eight years—which ultimately burst the 1968 Democratic convention.
The Kennedys and the CIA
Matthews accurately angle the Bay of Pigs operation as one that was brash to fail. In his antecedent books, he didn’t acquire this, which is odd, aback CIA Administrator Allen Dulles larboard a handwritten acknowledgment to that aftereffect in his Princeton archives. Peter Grose, Dulles’ biographer, discussed this in his 1994 book, Gentleman Spy. Thus, Matthews took two decades to present what Dulles accustomed over 50 years earlier. So, finally, Matthews says the ambition abaft the bamboozlement was to acquire JFK accelerate the Navy and Marines into Cuba to save the day. However, JFK refused, although Nixon–whom Kennedy defeated in 1960 for the White House—advised the Admiral to acknowledge a beachhead and invade. This discredits what Matthews empiric in his antecedent book Kennedy and Nixon, breadth he implies there was an adequation amid the two presidents.
Matthews about eliminates the acute role Bobby had anon after. The Admiral appointed him as a affiliate of a White Abode board that was allowable to investigate the operation. During the inquiry, Bobby accepted Dulles no quarter, aback he already doubtable what Dulles afterwards admitted: that the CIA administrator had bamboozled JFK about the operation’s adventitious of success, acquisitive he would acquire an American fleet to save himself from a base defeat.
Thus, the Admiral had accustomed the Bay of Pigs accustomed apocryphal information; and aback RFK accepted Dulles’ deceptions, he conferred with his father, who abiding for his son to accommodated above Secretary of Aegis Robert Lovett, who accustomed he and David Bruce (at State) had accustomed to get Dulles accursed in the 1950s. But Dulles was adequate by his brother, Secretary of Accompaniment John Foster Dulles.
Lovett brash JFK that he now had the absolute befalling to do what he, himself, could not. Thus, on Bobby’s and Lovett’s advice, the Admiral accursed not aloof Allen Dulles, but Deputy Administrator Charles Cabell and Administrator of Plans, Dick Bissell. Feeling bamboozled by the CIA and the Pentagon–which had additionally accustomed the adverse project–Bobby now became JFK’s trusted adviser on adopted affairs.
Matthews omits these episodes and afresh writes that 1962’s Operation Mongoose was Bobby’s idea. Mongoose was the abstruse advance of demolition and buried accomplishments adjoin Cuba that, afterwards seven months of announcement shuffling, was accustomed in November 1961 and launched in February 1962.
The absolute almanac of the memoranda—Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume X—shows that it was hardly Bobby’s idea. In fact, it was Walt Rostow, Assistant to Civic Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, who began the altercation by absorption on the “Cuba problem” and suggesting a barricade or an invasion. Others, like Secretary of Aegis Robert McNamara, and CIA administrator Tracy Barnes, aing in later; and it was Barnes’ advantage to access and demolition aircraft that was ultimately supported.
President Kennedy appointed Bobby to be a affectionate of ombudsman over the project, aback he did not assurance the CIA. As David Corn appear in Blond Ghost, a adventures of Ted Shackley, Mongoose’s circadian supervisor, Bobby insisted on seeing every plan for every advance into Cuba. He additionally accepted that every plan accommodate a detailed, accounting description. To put it mildly, afterwards the freewheeling canicule of Allen Dulles, the Agency affronted at this academic action for Mongoose. This is addition point Matthews’ ignores.
Battle for Civilian Rights
Matthews begins the Kennedys’ action for civilian rights with Bobby’s role as Advocate Accustomed and his activity in the Freedom Riders’ advance to accommodate inter-state busing in the south. However, this is not the accomplished story. During JFK’s advance in June 1960, he said he was able to win the Democratic best afterwards a distinct vote from the south at the convention. As columnist Harry Golden noted, afterwards he was nominated, he told his civilian rights admiral that he would breach the walls of allegory through accustomed accomplishments based on three statutes that his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, did not use to any cogent degree: the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board accommodation of 1954, and the 1957 and 1960 Civilian Rights Acts.
And this is what Advocate Accustomed Bobby Kennedy did, filing added civilian rights cases in his aboriginal year than Eisenhower filed during his two abounding agreement in office. By the end of 1961, he opened 61 new investigations and by 1963, bristles times as abounding attorneys were alive on civilian rights cases than beneath Eisenhower.
This access had been planned by the Kennedy campaign’s civilian rights advisor, Harris Wofford. Afore Bobby became advocate general, Wofford had accounting a continued announcement on the issue, adage it was not accessible to canyon an album civilian rights bill through Congress in 1961, and apparently not in 1962—since the Senate would delay it. Thus, the Advocate Accustomed and White Abode would be astute to use controlling orders and accustomed accomplishments to body momentum.
This happened, and faster than Wofford anticipated, because some of the things JFK had done afore he was admiral encouraged the civilian rights movement in a way that Eisenhower had not. For example, in 1957, he batten in Jackson, Mississippi, advertence that all Americans charge acquire the Brown vs. Board accommodation as the law of the land. Further, during the 1960 campaign, JFK alleged Coretta Scott King to abundance her about her husband’s arrest, while Bobby formed abaft the scenes to get King out of prison. In May 1961, as the new advocate general, Bobby declared at the University of Georgia Law School that he would accomplish the Brown v. Board decision.
Matthews ignores about all of this. But afterwards this information, the adventure of the brief success of the civilian rights movement from 1961-1963 is incomplete. Vivian Malone, one of the aboriginal atramentous acceptance to accept at the absolute University of Alabama, did so although Governor George Wallace declared he would angle in the academy aperture to anticipate it. Aback Vivian’s sister was asked why Vivian did such a alarming thing, she said her sister trusted that Bobby Kennedy would assure her. And he did, sending over 3,000 troops beneath Accustomed Creighton Abrams to the campus. Matthews artlessly does not explain this acute articulation amid the civilian rights movement and the Kennedys’ actions.
Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam
Nor does he afford ablaze on the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam in 1963. As to the former, Matthews addendum that Bobby proposed an air bang to abort the missiles on the island, archetype this to the aboriginal affair of Admiral Kennedy’s advisors. However, I could not acquisition this adduce in the meeting’s transcript. In fact, RFK cautioned his brother adjoin both an aggression and bombing advance at the aboriginal meeting. Although he mentioned added advancing accomplishments at the additional meeting, he able them with words like ‘if’ and ‘whether.’ Thus, these were contingencies, not commitments.
Matthews afresh says the brothers accustomed above Secretary of Accompaniment Dean Acheson’s view, which is absolutely inaccurate. In one of the best acclaimed incidents during that two-week crisis, Acheson basic no negotiations, and rather pushed for a advance on the missile sites to annihilate them. Bobby, afresh advocate general, recoiled, adage it would be the agnate of what the Japanese did to America at Pearl Harbor.
The transcripts actualization that JFK asked about anniversary option—an invasion, bombing campaign, and surgical air strikes. For each, he advised the cardinal of casualties. The Admiral alike questioned Arch of Staff Maxwell Taylor about the cardinal of fatalities with a “surgical strike.” And aback the Admiral visited the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was afraid by their action to his best of a blockade. What absolutely abashed the brothers was aback the aldermanic leaders they alleged to the White Abode said they additionally anticipation a barricade was too meek—including advanced Agent William Fulbright, who advantaged an invasion.
Feeling isolated, JFK had Bobby assignment as his aback approach to the Soviets; thus, Bobby announced with Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin and formed out a deal: the Russians would aish the diminutive weapons from Cuba in acknowledgment for the U.S. not advancing the island and authoritative a bashful affiance that JFK would afterwards aish American missiles from Turkey.
If we accept Bobby’s role here, we accept what JFK was accomplishing in Vietnam in 1963, and additionally RFK’s position on the war from 1964-1968. Nevertheless, Matthews seems clumsy to accord with the ramifications of NSAM 263, Admiral Kennedy’s October 1963 adjustment to activate abandoning American admiral from Vietnam; and, Bobby’s prime role in designing it.
The Admiral had beatific Aegis Secretary Robert McNamara and Accustomed Taylor to Saigon that abatement to abode on the altitude that would abutment NSAM 263. But aback he didn’t assurance the two to abode what he bare to absolve his abandonment plan, he summoned Accustomed Victor Krulak and Colonel Fletcher Prouty to the White House. As historian John Newman notes, JFK asked Bobby to administer their report, which was beatific by jet to Hawaii breadth it was accustomed to McNamara and Taylor to apprehend on their flight to Washington. But you will not apprehend one book about this in Matthews’ book.
LBJ and RFK’s Accommodation to Run for President
This blank credibility to a beyond vacuum. One acumen Bobby absitively to run for admiral in 1968 was because he acquainted that admitting Johnson had said he basic to abide JFK’s policies, he acutely had little ambition to. As John Bohrer addendum in The Anarchy of Robert Kennedy, alike in aboriginal 1964, the Advocate Accustomed was advising Johnson not to militarize Vietnam. His advice, of course, was ignored.
Bobby additionally ample that Dean Rusk, the advancing secretary of state, would now appetite Johnson to amplify the war to heights he and his brother had never contemplated. But it was Johnson’s signing commemoration for the civilian rights bill in 1964 that was a axis point: LBJ asked RFK to canyon about pens, afterwards LBJ had already accustomed one to racist FBI Administrator J. Edgar Hoover. Bobby had had enough. He larboard the Administration and auspiciously ran for agent from New York. Afterwards this, he headed the “Kennedy addition of the Democratic party.”
In 1965, Bobby asked Johnson to blaze Rusk and acquaint South Vietnam the U.S. would no best activity its war. He additionally railed adjoin the NRA’s influence, insisted on admonishing labels for cigarettes, and alike asked that “right to work” laws—which attenuated unions—be repealed. You can apprehend about these adventuresome stands in John Bohrer’s book, but not in Matthews’.
One affair LBJ did to about-face JFK’s adopted activity was to accredit Thomas Mann to key positions on Latin America. Bobby doubtable that Johnson did this to advisedly disengage one of JFK’s key adept creations—the Alliance for Progress. Thus, Bobby, as senator, catholic to Latin America to acquisition out what was activity on. Matthews gives one folio to this axial event. Yet some of the things RFK said and did before, during and afterwards this cruise are acute to compassionate who he was at the time.
After the Accompaniment Department a him about whom he should accommodated and what to say, Bobby told a colleague, “It sounds like we’re alive for United Fruit again.” He told a army in Lima, Peru they should imitate abundant Latin American revolutionaries like San Martin and O’Higgins. At about every added stop he assured his speeches by saying, “The albatross of our times is annihilation beneath than revolution.” He fabricated it a point to appointment the age-old basic of the Inca authority in Cuzco and, on his way back, accouchement were auspicious “Viva Kennedy.”
In Brazil, aback amoroso pikestaff workers told him they were paid alone for three canicule while alive six, the agent absolved to the landlord’s abode and yelled that he was backbiting his workers. Afterwards this, he visited Brazil’s president, who had been installed by a CIA-sponsored accomplishment afterwards JFK was killed. While active aback to his auberge allowance he saw soldiers arresting some of the army and aggravating to accumulate them abroad from his car. As Bohrer writes, he jumped out and shouted, “Down with the government! On to the palace!” I acquire to allotment these key incidents with the clairvoyant because they are not in Matthews’ book.
That adventure south is a applicable commencement to Bobby’s aftermost campaign. Matthews does accommodate a brace of important incidents in the commencement to RFK’s accommodation to run adjoin Admiral Johnson. First, he describes a affair amid Bobby and Walter Cronkite, breadth the CBS anchorperson told he him charge run in adjustment to end the Vietnam War. Second, he quotes Bobby adage in November 1967 that his brother would acquire never committed bisected a actor men to Vietnam and, in fact, was bent not to accelerate action troops at all. But Matthews doesn’t abode how Bobby came to that conclusion.
An Incandescent Cause
Matthews’ description of Bobby’s arresting 85-day advance is adequately actual and doesn’t appear aing to capturing what was conceivably the best adventurous and ablaze presidential advance in the aftermost 60 years. Actuality was the aftermost cause of the 1960s—the aftermost achievement of a bearing that had already witnessed to this point the murders of JFK in 1963 and Malcolm X in 1965. Martin Luther King was relying on Bobby to access the race, and aback he did, was overjoyed, adage he would accomplish an outstanding president. RFK had King, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta on his side.
At his aboriginal academic advance actualization at Kansas Accompaniment University, afore Johnson exited the race, RFK alleged the president’s Vietnam activity “bankrupt” and “deeply wrong.” He afresh quoted the administrator who said that afterwards the Action of Ben Tre, “We had to clean out the apple in adjustment to save it.” Bobby afresh asked, “Where does such argumentation end?” Afterwards he said, “We cannot accelerate American troops to accept the accountability of angry for base and backbreaking governments all the way annular the globe. . . .” Then, in Indiana, he echoed King aback he said atramentous Americans were dying in the war in asymmetric numbers than whites.
King was gunned bottomward in Memphis on April 4, 1968 during the Indiana primary campaign. Kennedy had a assemblage appointed in a predominantly African-American breadth of Indianapolis that night, which the badge told him to cancel, aback they couldn’t assure his safety. Nevertheless, he went and fabricated one of his two greatest speeches. The added had been his “Ripple of Hope” abode in Cape Town, South Africa on June 6, 1966, absolutely two years afore his death. Bobby pleaded with the army in Indianapolis not to accord in to ancestral polarization, to abhorrence and bitterness. As abounding acquire noted, about every above burghal in America went up in smoke that night, but Indianapolis did not.
Kennedy won Indiana and Nebraska, two primarily agronomical states alfresco the northeast. He additionally won every primary he entered except for Oregon. And he climaxed his boastful cause with his greatest achievement in the California primary. As announcer Jack Newfield and others acquire acicular out, commodity aberrant happened in California. Chavez and Huerta got the chat out about RFK all the way bottomward to Los Angeles; and King’s followers did not balloon RFK’s speeches in Cape Town and Indianapolis.
When the acclamation opened that morning, Kennedy’s workers collection about East LA to analysis the assembly and were abashed to see Hispanics and African Americans lined up afore the doors opened. For the aboriginal time in the city’s history, the assembly on the poor east ancillary surpassed the affluent west side. Bobby had accustomed the poor a acumen to vote, which is why he exhausted Eugene McCarthy. A few moments afterwards declaring his achievement and saying, “On to Chicago, and let’s win there,” he was killed—the aftermost of four above 1960s’ assassinations. Matthews doesn’t acknowledgment how they brought the end to a arresting decade. Nor does he acknowledgment how his afterlife acquired the agitated Chicago assemblage and how its access led, amid added reasons, to the achievement of Richard Nixon, the anti-RFK candidate.
Why does Matthews always avoid these points? If one thinks, as his administration at MSNBC do, that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are the advanced ideal, afresh what Bobby Kennedy represented in 1968 was radical: Can you brainstorm either of these politicos cogent Brazilian citizens to storm the palace? Not alike on Saturday Night Live.
James DiEugenio is a researcher and biographer on the assassination of Admiral John F. Kennedy and added mysteries of that era. His most contempo book is The JFK Assassination : The Evidence Today.
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