Louisiana Senator David Vitter and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
These are two names that are not ordinarily linked. Senator Vitter, of course, is the Republican Senator now in the news because of his admission that, family values candidate that he may be, he has in fact been a patron of both the increasingly infamous D.C. Madam and, in the words of an AP dispatch, a “high-priced New Orleans brothel.” (The Senator says this last report is not true.) Mr. Kennedy is in the news because of a talk at one of Al Gore’s Global Warming concerts in which he scorched politicians and talk show hosts for “treason.” Among other things Mr. Kennedy called his targets “corporate toadies.”
Vitter’s problem is easily recognizable. Whatever else he will be charged with, it is fair to say that hypocrisy on a fairly vivid scale will now mar whatever of his political career that remains. Whether he is re-elected or defeated, the Senator has scarred himself badly as someone who says one thing for political profit while doing the opposite in his own life. It is precisely the kind of action that breeds distrust of political leaders.
Which brings us to Robert Kennedy, Jr. A word here about the Kennedys. Certainly I have been a critic in this space about Senator Edward Kennedy and his conduct on the Senate Judiciary Committee. But like many baby boomers, before there was Reagan there was JFK — and JFK’s brother Bobby, Mr. Kennedy’s father. As a kid and a teenager I was an unabashed fan in spite of growing up in an activist Republican and conservative family. I admired them for their activism, their work on civil rights and, in the early 1960s, the Cold War. Then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy and later Senator and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy appeared to me as a perfect blend of passion, idealism, and toughness, a willingness to say and do the unpopular, to stand up for the little guy at home and fight the bad guys abroad. I was such an avid RFK supporter that when he died I persuaded my very Republican Mom to let me go to New York so I could stand in line to pass by RFK’s casket in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. She hopped the bus from Pennsylvania with me, of course, and the memory of spending six hours standing in line beneath a hot June sun to simply walk by and touch the flag-draped bier remains especially vivid.
A college professor of mine once gave a lecture in the early 1970s critical of some Kennedy-era policy. He was met with a barrage of criticism from the class. Shaking his head, he said the Kennedys would never be judged fairly until the last baby-boomer and the emotional tie to the Kennedy legend had died. Point taken. And I guess I should add in the interest of full disclosure at this point that my teen-age idealism about Bobby Kennedy still burning bright, I gave a hard-earned hundred bucks in my increasingly conservative adulthood to the RFK Memorial.
While I have long since been Reaganized, I still look to Kennedy family members to carry out their modern-day activism on behalf of causes with which I fervently disagree — and to do it with the clear-eyed dedication and honor that I perceived so long ago from Mr. Kennedy’s father.
So I look at the Vitter case, where a man who campaigns on family values visits prostitutes and I wonder: What possesses Robert Kennedy, Jr.? Here’s a sampling of his typically overheated rhetoric, beginning with the title of a book he has written:
* “Crimes Against Nature: How George Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy.”
* “I ask myself a lot of times, how did they get so many draft dodgers in one place? You know, the President; Dick Cheney, five deferments; John Ashcroft, six deferments; …these people that don’t understand the values that make America worth fighting for…”
* “Abraham Lincoln, the greatest Republican in our history, said during the height of the Civil War ‘I have the South in front of me and the bankers behind me. And for my country, I fear the bankers more.’”
* “[Corporations] are amoral, and we have to recognize that and not let them into the political process. â€¦they should not be participating in our political process, because a corporation cannot do something genuinely philanthropic.”
There’s plenty more out there, but you get the idea. Mr. Kennedy wants corporations out of politics, he despises the people and policies they support, and apparently believes in his soul that a corporation simply is incapable of doing anything genuinely philanthropic. He specifically accuses “George Bush and His Corporate Pals” of plunder and worse. While I disagree with all of this, RFK, Jr. is welcome to his world view.
THE PROBLEM: TAKE A LOOK at the website for the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, home to the legacy and papers of Mr. Kennedy’s father. Like all presidential libraries, it is nothing less than a shrine, in this case to both JFK and his younger brother Bobby.
But there is something else going on here. You will quickly find that the legacy and papers of former Attorney General and Senator Robert F. Kennedy are being promoted and housed by a library that boasts — boasts mind you — of its corporate sponsorship. One of those supporters is the Bank of America. You know — an institution that is not only an “amoral” corporation, but run by those “bankers” that RFK, Jr. quotes Abraham Lincoln as being so concerned about.
According to the JFK Library, the Bank of America has donated — annually — “above $25,000” to the Library, a donation that the Library says it is “grateful” for, lauding BA as a “Legacy Champion.” Meaning the Bank of America is a “champion” of the legacies of both John and Robert Kennedy. This money also entitles BA to a seat on the Library Foundation’s “President’s Council” headed by Caroline Kennedy and former Democratic National Chairman Paul Kirk.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?