The Son of Joe Biden’s Political Hero Mounts a Primary Challenge - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Son of Joe Biden’s Political Hero Mounts a Primary Challenge
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on April 8, 2023 (Hillsdale College/YouTube)

Joe Biden called Robert Kennedy one of his two political heroes. He showed this by plagiarizing the former senator from New York’s words during his first run for president 36 years ago.

The man who once took Robert Kennedy’s words now does not utter his name. The cause? RFK’s namesake announced a run for president.

The campaign’s emphasis on how mutually enjoyed corruption makes politicians rich and corporations richer places crosshairs upon the president’s vulnerabilities. The Democrat said at his official announcement Wednesday in Boston:

My mission over the next 18 months of this campaign, and throughout my presidency, will be to end the corrupt merger of state and corporate power that is threatening now to impose a new kind of corporate feudalism in our country, to commoditize our children, our purple mountains majesty, to poison our children and our people with chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs, to strip-mine our assets, to hollow out the middle class, and keep us in a constant state of war.

One prays that it ends better than his father’s run. One concludes that it cannot result in securing the Democratic Party nomination. The candidacy thus reminds not of his father’s, which aimed to win not a moral victory but a victory victory, but of the campaigns of Republicans John Ashbrook and Pat Buchanan — protest candidacies against sitting presidents that aimed to reorient the party without hope of representing it in the general election.

The president’s team describes their mood as unconcerned. A CNN article repeating this message divulged, “To the confident advisers in the Biden orbit and their wider circle of supporters, the Kennedy challenge only serves to reinforce the president’s strength.”

Still, the last time two times a Kennedy primaried a sitting Democratic president, the Republicans won the subsequent general election. Journalists representing outfits with the strongest ties to the Biden administration look upon his quixotic bid as a real threat and act accordingly. In headlines, he morphed from a man into an “anti-vaccine activist” (CNN) and “vaccine critic” (Reuters). A headline in the New York Times on the eve of his announcement read: “Robert F. Kennedy, Soon to Announce White House Run, Sows Doubts about Vaccines.”

Democrats, in their headlines, demonstrate the degree to which their party’s cult of Kennedy became a cult of COVID. This emphasis says much about political taboos, given that the candidate’s past offers much in the way of discrediting information.

A Royal Tenenbaums quality colors his generation of the family line. What Alec Baldwin narrated about the fictional “family of geniuses” — “Virtually all memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums had been erased by two decades of betrayal, failure, and disaster” — could as easily apply to the Kennedys.

The Kennedys: An American Drama by Peter Collier and David Horowitz portrays a young Robert Kennedy Jr. as a self-destructive and just-plain-destructive character: “The family regarded him as somewhat like the falcons he kept—hooded in intent and conveying a suggestion of danger.” Schools periodically expelled him. In 1971, a year after police nabbed him for marijuana possession, the teenage terror, confronted by a policeman while in a car with a girlfriend in Hyannis, “spat his ice cream in the cop’s face and was arrested on the spot,” according to Collier and Horowitz. The New York Times reported upon his conviction on this man-bites-dog story of disgusting ice cream. He continued into a darkness that enveloped others around him. In 1983, after it appeared he had overdosed in an airplane bathroom midflight, police in South Dakota discovered a gram of heroin in the baggage of the Manhattan assistant district attorney.

The fact that his father’s assassination, occurring when was 14, affected adult strangers in profound ways understandably engendered empathy for his poor choices as a boy and young adult. And everyone likes a redemption story, which, by overcoming his chemical demons four decades ago, he certainly became.

Robert Kennedy Jr. has seen worse days. His family/political brand has seen better ones.

From 1947 until 2021, a Kennedy served in federal elected office in all but two years. Kennedys once ruled as royalty in the Democratic Party. With the loss of RFK Jr.’s nephew to sitting U.S. Sen. Ed Markey a few years back, the family lacks a politician holding major office. The party that once created a de facto religion surrounding his relatives — hanging pictures of his father and uncle in the family room as though saints — soon forgets they ever existed in a convenient case of temporary amnesia.

Perhaps this amounts to justice of a kind especially understood by extreme partisans. In 1956, Robert Kennedy Jr.’s father voted for Republican Dwight Eisenhower because Democrat Adlai Stevenson bypassed his older brother when selecting a running mate. His uncle Ted had skipped voting in 13 of 16 elections when he first stood for office. Significantly, the three ballots he cast all contained his older brother’s name. Ted later primarying President Jimmy Carter came as one link in a long chain of family clashes with Democratic presidents that included Bill Clinton, Lyndon Johnson, and Franklin Roosevelt.

Robert Kennedy Jr.’s behavior in youth conformed to the public’s increasing regard for his family as party animals. His behavior this week at 69 more easily conforms to his line’s embraced role as party cannibals.

Daniel J. Flynn
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Daniel J. Flynn, a senior editor of The American Spectator, is the author of Cult City: Harvey Milk, Jim Jones, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco (ISI Books, 2018), The War on Football (Regnery, 2013), Blue Collar Intellectuals (ISI Books, 2011), A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, New York Post, City Journal, National Review, and his own website,   
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