Monthly Archives: July 2007

JFK’s Best Friend Saw A Future President in RFK Jr.

Book Cover - Jack and LemIn Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Lem Billings saw a combination of both Jack and Robert Kennedy. Billings, best friend to President Kennedy, strongly felt that RFK Jr. had presidential potential, even when Bobby Jr. was only a young man of 14.

So writes author David Pitts in Jack and Lem – The Untold Story of an Extraordinary Friendship. This new book explores the 30 year friendship between President John F. Kennedy and Kirk LeMoyne “Lem” Billings.

From the time they first met the Choate School for boys in 1933 until that fateful day in Dallas in 1963, Jack and Lem always remained best friends.

And yet so little is known about Lem Billings in the larger context of Jack Kennedy’s life. He is sometimes portrayed as a relatively minor figure in the various JFK biographies since he never served in any official capacity at the White House, was never an Ambassador, Senator, or elected representative. He wasn’t a movie star, sports hero, or anybody the paparazzi would particularly want to chase around. His only claim to fame was that he was Jack Kennedy’s oldest and dearest friend.

History has often overlooked him, but the fact is that Lem was the one person Jack confided his deepest secrets to, the man who knew JFK better than anyone in the world. That in itself should make him a fascinating subject for biographers, and I’ve often wondered why we didn’t yet have a book on the shelf about this man whose company Jack obviously never tired of.

There are probably two reasons: First, Lem Billings was gay. This was known to JFK from the time the boys were teens, and it is truly remarkable to read how open-minded and accepting of Billings’ sexual orientation Kennedy was in a very homophobic 1930s American society.

Again, this seems a subject ripe for further exploration by historians, but one only has to remember the social and political climate of 20, 40, 60 years ago to realize why Lem Billings had to stay hidden in the closet – and in the shadows of history. Only in the year 2007 can we finally have a book that is a frank and honest examination of the President’s close friendship with a man who was a homosexual.

THIS STORY COULD NOT HAVE BEEN TOLD WITHOUT RFK JR.

Another reason it has taken so long for such a book to be written is that an 815-page oral history Billings (who died in 1981) gave to the John F. Kennedy Library in 1966 has been restricted to researchers for four decades. It was only with the kind permission of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that Jack and Lem author David Pitts was allowed to access and  quote from this invaluable document.

RFK Jr. also allowed Pitts unrestricted access to the Lem Billings Collection, donated to the JFK library in 2003. Now we can finally gain an understanding of the deep bond between these two men through Lem’s diaries, letters, photographs and scrapbooks which document 30 years of love, laughter and tears.

“Together, they really had everything,” says Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in the book’s first chapter. “They loved each other and they got satisfaction out of the successes that each of them enjoyed.” For Billings, who had built his whole world around Jack Kennedy since they were both boys, the loss of his best friend was more devastating than most of us could ever imagine.

Billings was by all accounts never the same after that day in Dallas. And then just five years later, the assassination of Robert Kennedy drove Lem into a deepening state of depression, which he tried to combat by making himself a sort of surrogate father to the children Jack and Bobby had left behind.

“LEM AND I WERE ALWAYS FRIENDS” – RFK JR.

On the night of June 4, 1968, Ethel Kennedy had been by her husband’s side at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when he was shot. At the time, the children were back in Virginia at Hickory Hill or scattered around New England at their various boarding schools. Lem did his best to help in the hours following the shooting, gathering Bobby and Ethel’s kids together for the sad, inevitable journey to California.

He felt he had to be especially strong for young Bobby Jr., who had always been his favorite. Lem tried to console Bobby, Joe and Kathleen on the flight to L.A. on a private plane provided by Lyndon Johnson, but their hopes were soon dashed when they arrived at the hospital and saw just how dire the situation truly was. Within a few short hours, Robert F. Kennedy was gone.

Lem started spending more time with the children, especially Bobby Jr. Determined to take him under his wing, the time he spent with young Bobby during those crucial months after his father’s assassination was likely as theraputic for Lem as it was for Bobby Jr.

In the late summer of 1968, Lem took Bobby on a trip of Africa, where the young Kennedy could revel in his lifelong love for animals. By all accounts, the two bonded on their African adventure. When they returned to the United States, young Bobby began spending a lot of time in Lem’s Upper East Side Apartment. Lem mentored Bobby, helped him with his problems in school, and reassured him by telling him that he and Jack had their troubles when they were young, too, and had once been viewed as rebels by their families and teachers.

“He helped Bobby a great deal during that terrible time and in the years after that,” said singer Andy Williams, a close family friend. “He was very good with Bobby.”

Young Bobby and the other kids loved being around him. He wasn’t as strict as their own family, and he regaled them with stories of Jack and Bobby only he could tell. “Lem was the most fun person I had ever met in my life,” said Bobby Jr. “Lem’s house was more like a fun house; it was a museum, a library, a classroom. Books lined the walls throughout. They were all histories, biographies, and art books.”

Recalling Lem ten years after his death, Bobby added, “Whenever I felt lonely, or sad, or left out, I would call Lem and laugh.”

“The stories he told and the examples he set gave us all a link to our dead fathers and to the generation before us,” says Robert F. Kennedy Jr. While older members of the Kennedy family often found the subject too sad to discuss, Lem felt that the older generation had an obligation to pass on the legacy to the younger Kennedys.  For the Kennedy boys, Lem was filling a void their parents either couldn’t or wouldn’t fill, according to the author.

There was never any doubt amongst the children that Bobby Jr. was number one in Lem’s heart. David Kennedy and Christopher Lawford sometimes resented all the attention showered upon Bobby, and both spent many years trying to compete for Lem’s affection. Despite this, none of them seem to harbor any such negative feelings towards Billings or RFK Jr. today.

“BOBBY JR. HAS IT IN HIM TO BE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES”

“He did an incredible amount for young Bobby,” recalls Sigrid Gassner-Roberts, Lem’s live-in caretaker and friend from 1969 to 1974. Interviewed for this book, she was particularly outspoken about his concern for Bobby Jr.’s welfare, especially in the year after his father’s death. “He (Lem) would say Bobby has it in him to be president of the United States. He wanted to groom him for the presidency.”

Lem transferred a lot of his feelings for President Kennedy to young Bobby, Sigrid said. He saw so much of Jack in him. She remembered on one occasion, “Bobby ran away from college and joined a commune. Lem searched all night for him…Eventually, he came back at ten the next morning and said, `He’s now back in school.’ He was totally, totally devoted to that kid.”

Young Bobby Jr. turned to drugs and alcohol for a time to ease the pain of losing his father. While Lem tried to help the troubled teen, he too had fallen victim to the lure of intoxicants in the aftermath of the string of tragedies that seemed without end. Sigrid remembered that Lem would sometimes make deals with Bobby. “I’ll stop drinking if you’ll stop smoking pot,” and kept to them for as long as he could before his resolve would wilt again.

Since Lem was a good thirty years older than the Kennedy kids, he has been blamed by some for their involvement with drugs. But the truth is, as Chris Lawford confirmed in his recent book, the kids were doing drugs before they ever did them with Lem and almost certainly would have continued doing so whether Lem was there or not. It was the `60s, after all, and in actual fact it was the kids who turned Lem on to drugs, not the other way around.In this respect, Chris and Bobby were no different from millions of other young Americans during this period who regarded drug use as a rite of passage.

LEM KNEW BOBBY WAS THE NEXT BEARER OF KENNEDY GREATNESS

By 1975, young Bobby had grown into an impressively intelligent, handsome young man and was now clearly the leader of the Kennedy/Billings inner circle. Lem once again found himself playing the role of Bobby’s number-one supporter, just as he always had with Jack. Bobby “got a lot of magnetism from Lem’s fixation,” said Chris Lawford. “Lem had decided that Bobby was the next bearer of Kennedy greatness – and none of us were about to argue. These facts gave him gravitas. Lem’s attachment and anointing of Bobby defined him as the second coming.”

One might be tempted to think that all this fawning and adoration may well have resulted in overinflating Bobby’s ego or given him a sense of entitlement and arrogance. But those who knew Bobby Jr. then say that Lem’s influence over him actually made him more down-to-earth and humble, in spite of all the pressures put upon him to carry the Kennedy torch.

RFK Jr. summed it up years later by saying that Lem “taught me to love and appreciate people and things and how to be grateful for every day of my life.”

In the last few years of his life, Lem Billings did not talk as much about Jack Kennedy as he used to. At that point, says Sigrid Gassner-Roberts, “he was more concerned with Bobby and whether or not Bobby was doing all right, whether he was making the right decisions, who he was dating, where he was going with his life.”

Lem began spending more time alone in his Manhattan townhouse, which had once been such a lively beehive of activity and was still an informal JFK museum of sorts. He still had his memorabilia and his memories of those years, but nothing could fill the void that had been left by Jack’s absence. Each day was a day without him. In so many ways, his attachment to Jack’s brother Robert Kennedy, and then to young Bobby, was a way of reliving his life with Jack, because he saw so much of Jack in them.

“There was a lot of love in him that he bestowed on many people,” Sigrid said of Lem Billings, “but the one person he loved most was torn away from him by an assassin’s bullet. He transferred this love on to Bobby.”

“He was overjoyed with, and totally devoted to, young Bobby, whom he expected to carry on the torch of the Kennedys,” Sigrid wrote in a letter to the author David Pitts.

At Lem’s funeral in 1981, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said of Lem: “He felt pain for every one of us – pain that no one else could have the courage to feel…I don’t know how we’ll carry on without him. In many ways Lem was a father to me and he was the best friend I will ever have.”

Copyright 2007 by RFKin2008.com. All Rights Reserved.

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RFK Jr: “Americans Are the Most Entertained and Least Informed People On the Planet”

During his recent speech in Minneapolis, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. sharply criticized the Bush administration’s environmental policies and emphasized the duty of citizens to keep themselves informed on issues. 

RFK Jr. was the keynote speaker of Walden University’s Third Annual Conference on Social Change. The theme of this year’s conference was “Sustainability and Social Change.” Organizers said more than 2,000 people attended.

“There’s nothing radical about protecting the air and water for our children,” Kennedy said. “Our children are going to pay for our joyride.” Sustainability is a commitment to community, said RFK Jr., who signed copies of his book, “Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy,” after his lecture.

“The Bush administration has torn the ‘conserve’ out of the word conservative”, Kennedy wryly observed.

He localized vast pollution concerns when he talked about mercury levels in Minnesota fish. Many fishermen read warning advisories but fail to see the connection between pollution and President Bush, he said. The president should do more to hold large corporations responsible for their waste emissions, he said, and part of that means not letting anyone buy their way out of the cleanup process. “Bush is too comfortable with corporate influence dictating environmental policy.”

Looking at the rest of the country, Kennedy talked about rivers and streams in the Appalachian Mountains that have been buried by the coal mining industry. Visiting West Virginia and Kentucky two weeks ago, RFK Jr. drew more attention to the issue of mountaintop removal mining by appearing at local town hall meetings, speaking out in the press (see related story, RFK Jr: If The Press Reported What’s Really Going On, “There Would Be A Revolution In This Country'” below), and taking film footage for a new documentary film which will highlight the subject. 

Kennedy, who has sons with asthma, said poor air quality should be a front-page headline every day.

Although Kennedy vocally criticized the Bush administration, he emphasized the need for Americans to come together to solve environmental problems. Generally, people have the same values, he said. Kennedy even applauded the environmental work of one particular Republican: his cousin, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.

One person who appreciated Kennedy’s approach was Marian Angelica, director of Walden University’s Center for Social Change. “He emphasizes the fact that (environmentalism) is not a partisan issue, it’s a human issue,” Angelica said.

Kennedy emphasized the duty of citizens to inform themselves, a part of which means paying attention to the media. And that goes beyond the attention-grabbing headlines, Kennedy said. “Americans know more about Tom Cruise than global warming,” he said, eliciting audience laughter. “We’re the most entertained and least informed people on the planet.”

On a more serious note, Kennedy warned that the public’s lack of knowledge leads to considerable consequences. “You cannot have a democracy for very long if you don’t have an informed public,” he said. 

Kennedy’s lecture inspired at least one person. Michael Rhubee, a doctoral student at Walden University and Minneapolis resident, said he wants to get more involved in his community. He even mused about Kennedy and the upcoming presidential election.

“I wish there were more candidates like Kennedy,” he said.

Source: Minnesota Daily

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Kennedy Says Toll Roads Are A Bad Economic Choice

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.Robert F. Kennedy Jr.Robert F. Kennedy Jr.Robert F. Kennedy Jr.Robert F. Kennedy Jr. stopped in California yesterday to offer an Orange county lawyers’ group his thoughts on the brewing brouhaha over proposed toll roads in the area and a strong dose of his trademark environmental activism.

Before his speech at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Irvine to members of the Public Law Center, which helps low income Orange County residents obtain legal help, Kennedy spoke briefly to a reporter about Orange County’s environmental future:

“Good environmental policy is always identical to good economic policy, 100 percent of the time,” Kennedy said. “You measure the economy by how it produces jobs and how it preserves value, assets of the community.– “On the other hand, if we do what they’re urging us in Washington to do — treat the planet as if it’s a business in liquidation, convert resources to cash as quickly as possible — a few years of pollution-based prosperity can generate cash flow, but our children are going to pay for our joy ride with denuded landscapes and huge cleanup costs. It’s a way of loading the cost of our prosperity on the backs of our children.”“A good example is the (proposed Foothill South) toll road. It’s going to enrich a few developers by impoverishing the population of California, diminishing the quality of life. But it’s also going to impoverish the state. It’s a bad economic choice, for the reason that it’s a bad use of resources.”

The toll road would slice through the middle of San Onofre State Beach park, and has provoked strong opposition from activists, surfers and State Parks. Toll road builiders say they will mitigate any environmental damage.”Those parks generate billions of dollars every year,” Kennedy said. “There are 80 million visitors to California parks (each year), $6 billion in returns for merchants, businesses and the state of California. This is one of the most visited parks in the state. To convert it to pavement is a crime.”

Kennedy was skeptical of the toll road builders’ contention that Foothill South would ease traffic problems, and said Orange County should look for other solutions.”There are lots of ways to solve traffic problems,” he said. “We need to start being imaginative, not just the same formula again and again — destroying life in California.”

Source: Orange County Register

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CNN-YouTube Debate: “Who’s Missing From This Picture?”

CNN YouTube Debate in South Carolina, July 24, 2007

WHO IS MISSING FROM THIS PICTURE?

RFK Jr. supporters who follow this blog surely feel my anguish when I say that last night’s CNN/YouTube Democratic debate was at times painful to watch.

Although many of the homemade videos submitted through YouTube were just plain silly, some of the evening’s most important questions – the Iraq war, global climate change, election integrity, healthcare, the current culture of corruption in Washington – were left for the most part sufficiently unanswered by the mainstream Democratic candidates.

These just happen to be the issues that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is most passionate about. He could speak honestly and specifically to the issues and propose real solutions, as he often does in his magazine articles, editorials, interviews, and speeches. And it’s a damn shame he wasn’t up there on that podium last night, because he most likely would have stolen the show.

As reflected in the candidate’s placement onstage (and in the above photo), CNN’s coverage predictably gave the most airtime to the frontrunners, effectively squelching dissenting voices like Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska senator Mike Gravel. These two maverick crusaders were relegated to the outside edges of the stage, seemingly by design, to make them appear as “fringe” candidates, tinfoil hats barely worth listening to.

And yet, Kucinich and Gravel were about the only two candidates who gave us the straight talk we crave in last night’s debate. The sad news for their supporters is that they don’t seem to stand a chance of winning the party’s nomination. Or so the number-crunchers keep telling us.

If the convention were tomorrow, Democrats would likely choose Hillary Clinton as their nominee. Maybe a Hillary/Edwards ticket. Or a Hillary/Obama ticket, as many pundits now predict.

(Yawns)…But a lot of us just aren’t feeling that excitement for the old tried-and-true ticket this time around. Another Clinton (or Clinton/Gore?) administration after 8 years of King George II’s reign feels like going backwards. We’re not ready for a 90s nostalgia craze just yet, at least not when it comes to our politics.

Surveying the rest of the candidates upon that stage last night, we saw two former senators, four current senators, one governor, and one congressman. Each a representative of this country’s power structure. These are the people who run our government, supposedly the best and the brightest we have to offer. If that’s so, why are the American people so dissatisfied with them?

And why should we vote for them again when it is clear that most of them aren’t currently doing the job we elected them to do in the first place? Why should we be asked to believe that old dogs can learn new tricks, leopards can change their spots, and pigs can fly? When will we demand better choices and expect more from our presidential candidates?

THE *SECOND* SENATOR KENNEDY OF NEW YORK?

There are many who say that maybe RFK Jr. should run for the Senate seat in New York when/if Hillary vacates it, that he should have a few years of Congressional experience under his belt before running for President.

This has long been the conventional wisdom for aspiring candidates, but I think the times we live in require us to think outside the box. Voters want to see some honesty back in the oval office — and the *last* place we look for honesty these days is Capitol Hill. We tend to distrust Washington insiders, and often for good reason. They haven’t done much to inspire our confidence.

Recent approval ratings for Congress are lower than they have ever been in our nation’s history. I’m not so certain that being a member of Congress is such a big plus in the eyes of voters anymore. The fact that RFK Jr. is not a professional politician may actually turn out to be his greatest selling point to so many voters who are at wits end with business as usual.

Not that he wouldn’t make a great Senator from New York (guess his supporters would all just have to move to NY!), but in that case, only one state of the union gets to benefit from his leadership. The whole country needs a man like him now.

2012 or 2016 may be too late. America is on such a perilous course. There is no time to waste, our country’s future is too important. The old approaches, names and familiar faces just aren’t serving us well anymore. After sitting through the entire excruciating CNN/YouTube debate last night, it was more clear to me than ever that Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s time is now.

* Copyright 2007 by RFKin2008.com. All Rights Reserved.

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RFK Jr: If the Press Reported What’s Really Going On, “There Would Be a Revolution in This Country.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in West Virigina, July 18, 2007

More strong words from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. this week, directed at a complacent media and corrupt politicians.

During a three-day tour of mountaintop removal mining sites in West Virginia, Kennedy spoke at rallies and town hall meetings. He gathered footage for a new documentary film to be based on his best-selling book Crimes Against Nature. He also gave several interviews (see associated story below) with local print and broadcast media outlets in which he took direct aim at them, asking why they are not doing a better job of informing the people.

In one particular interview with West Virginia Public Radio, RFK Jr. really gave `em hell.

He offered such a scathing critique’ of the media’s poor job performance that the reporter, clearly taken off her guard, was literally left speechless (a rare occurrence with radio hosts, who are windbags by nature). When he began to question her directly, she could only stutter this reply: “Well, I…I don’t editorialize.”

He was speaking about the practice of mountaintop removal mining and said: “The problem is, we have a press that doesn’t cover it, and if we did there would be a revolution in this country. If the press were doing what it ought to be doing, we’d have a revolution in this state. People wouldn’t stand for it.”

“But you go out on the street in Charleston, and most people out there have no clue what’s happening.” He added. “And then you have politicians who have been corrupted though our campaign finance system, so it’s just a system of legalized bribery. They are owned by coal industry, and as they say, ‘West Virginia has the best politicians money can buy.'”

“It is corruption and there is no other word for it.” Kennedy stated. “It is criminal.”

“I think the people of this state have become so accustomed to being so powerless in the face of corrupt government officials, this coalition of corporate power and corrupt government officials, that it’s really going to take something revolutionary to stir the people.”

Although this comment was about the people of West Virginia, RFK Jr. could have been just as easily talking about the feeling of Americans in every state in the union.

Kennedy was also asked his thoughts on John Edwards’ poverty tour of the south this week, so reminiscent of Robert Kennedy’s efforts there 40 years ago. “I commend him for it.” RFK Jr. replied. “I think he’s running a great campaign, and he’s appealing to the intrinsic populism that is part of the American experience.”

While this blogger is pleased that RFK Jr. graciously gave John Edwards a much-deserved pat on the back, I feel that no one could carry on the anti-poverty campaign his father started than Robert F. Kennedy Jr. himself. And he should do it himself, as a candidate for President in 2008.

If you agree, please take a moment and SIGN THE PETITION  – join the growing movement to Draft RFK Jr.  – and let’s put him in the White House where he belongs!

Everybody should hear this interview Bobby gave West Virginia Public Radio – it’s one of the best I’ve ever heard from him: http://www.wvpubcast.org/av/0719wvm2.mp3

*Copyright 2007 by RFKin2008.com. All Rights Reserved.

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“We Need to Impeach Bush as a Civics Lesson” Says RFK Jr.

RFK Jr. in Charleston, WV, July 18, 2007

“It’s important to impeach Bush as a civics lesson — to say to the American people that America doesn’t torture people. We do not intercept the telephone conversations of hundreds of thousands of American citizens illegally.

You can’t just tear up the Bill of Rights. 

He has to be impeached. The American people have to remember how sacred the Constitution of the United States is.”

   
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wants to send a message

Author lists mountaintop removal among ‘Crimes Against Nature’
   
By Ken Ward Jr.
   
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. flew over the West Virginia coalfields this week to get a better view of mountaintop removal mines.

Kennedy lunched with West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney, and listened to coalfield residents during a staged town meeting at a Raleigh County church.


The three-day tour was all part of Kennedy’s effort to get a wider audience to hear his message about the “Crimes Against Nature” — the title of his 2004 book — that he says companies commit and governments ignore.

Filmmaker Angus Yates and writer Clara Bingham are turning Kennedy’s book into a movie, a move that has drawn comparisons to the Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” about Al Gore’s famous global warming slide show. And as it did in the book, mountaintop removal in West Virginia is expected to be among Kennedy’s examples of environmental outrages. Parts of the film, for example, will focus on the battle over a huge coal processing plant and waste impoundment near Marsh Fork Elementary School near Sundial.

“It’s more than a sound bite,” Kennedy said during an interview Wednesday in Charleston. “It’s the destruction of a resource.”

Kennedy had seen mountaintop removal from the air before. After a May 2002 flight, he recounted the view in his book as “a sight that would sicken most Americans.” After this week’s flyover, Kennedy said the damage had only gotten worse.

“Even if they stop today, they’ve done so much damage,” Kennedy said, his voice trailing off. “This is the worst stuff  I’ve seen anywhere.”

Kennedy is an environmental lawyer and the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and a nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy. Even before his book was published, Kennedy was speaking out about mountaintop removal. During an October 2001 speech at the University of Charleston, he called the practice “the worst example of what human beings can do to their environment when they behave irresponsibly.”

And in Kennedy’s view, it is pollution — not environmental regulations that restrict pollution — that amounts to a legal “taking” or a crime against society. “If you pollute a creek and a child gets sick, that’s child abuse,” Kennedy said. “If you pollute air and a child has an asthma attack, that’s assault and battery.”

Above all, Kennedy says that blowing up mountains and burying streams is taking precious resources that rightly belong to the public and to future generations. “They are stealing historic landscapes,” Kennedy said. “They are stealing an entire state.”

And like Gore, Kennedy also connects environmental problems to large issues in society. He favors campaign finance reform, thinks newspapers and other media need to do more investigative reporting, and wants to impeach President Bush.

“It’s important to impeach Bush as a civics lesson — to say to the American people that America doesn’t torture people,” Kennedy said. “We do not intercept the telephone conversations of hundreds of thousands of American citizens illegally.

“You can’t just tear up the Bill of Rights,” he said. “He has to be impeached. The American people have to remember how sacred the Constitution of the United States is.”
   

Story from the Charleston Gazette.   

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Glenn Beck Finally Airs UNEDITED RFK Jr. Interview

After a week of sifting through angry viewer mail over the July 11, 2007 interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Glenn Beck finally did the right thing.

He aired the entire interview tonight, unedited, and now we finally got to see how well RFK Jr. handled Beck, the “corporate toadie,” as the original interview really happened.

RFK Jr. with glenn Beck on CNN, July 11, 2007 

Three minutes were cut from the original 9-minute interview with RFK Jr., “due to time constraints,” Beck explained tonight. Although the primary viewer complaint this past week was that the interview seemed to be poorly edited on purpose, in order to make Kennedy look as bad as possible.

Seeing the full unedited interview at last, it is now clear that RFK Jr. doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and hearing his comments in their intended context sets the record straight once and for all…or does it?

Beck just couldn’t help himself. He had to take a few more digs at Kennedy in a follow-up segment tonight after the interview. Since he had to admit that he actually LIED to his viewers when he claimed to have read the IPCC report (turns out he only read the summary), Beck then changed the subject to a debate over the definition of fascism instead.

He questioned RFK Jr.’s definition of the word, whipping out both the Webster’s and American Heritage dictionaries trying desperately to prove that Kennedy didn’t know what he was talking about. While RFK Jr. didn’t have the American Heritage directly in front of him during the interview, his off-the-cuff reply to Beck’s question was a paraphrase of Benito Mussolini’s famous quote:

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”

Regardless of whether or not you accept the accuracy of this quote (Wikipedia says the Mussolini quote is a hoax), this is RFK’s belief and he’s sticking to it. He has often used this quotation in his articles, speeches, and interviews, knows it by heart, and isn’t backing up off of it just because Glenn Beck confronts him with a copy of Webster’s.

On page 193 of his book “Crimes Against Nature,” Kennedy writes that “my American Heritage Dictionary defines fascism as `a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership together with belligerent nationalism’.”

In one 1935 English translation of what Mussolini wrote, the term “corporative state” is used, and it appears, at least to me, that El Duce meant exactly what he said. This was one man who knew what the hell he was talking about when defining “fascism.” After all, he invented it.

So if we’re now going to get into a debate over what the definition of “is” is, perhaps we should more properly examine it as “corporatism” instead of the much more menacing-sounding f-word. Maybe then we can talk about the real issue here (the corporate shadow government in America), instead of throwing dictionaries at one another.

This article is copyrighted material and may not be reproduced without the following legal notice: “Copyright 2007 by http://RFKin2008.com. All Rights Reserved.”

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RFK Jr. To Visit Minneapolis July 19

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will discuss our environmental destiny at the Conference on Social Change hosted by Walden University on Thursday, July 19.

RFK Jr. will give the keynote address and head the list of prominent speakers at this year’s conference, “Sustainability and Social Change: Uncommon Vision for the Common Good.”

Nearly 40 workshops and presentations, hosted by Walden University faculty and national and community leaders, will address a variety of sustainability issues such as new technologies for sustainability, sustainable globalization, population growth’s effect on the environment, sustainable development and the climate change’s impact on war and peace. The conference will also feature a documentary film series, performing artists expressing social change issues and tours of sustainability activities in the Twin Cities.

Kennedy will talk about how regulatory rollbacks have threatened our health, our national security, and democracy as we know it. He will examine how the administration has orchestrated these rollbacks almost entirely outside of public scrutiny and in tandem with the same industries that these laws are meant to regulate. He will be signing copies of his book, Crimes Against Nature, following the discussion.

WHEN/WHERE: 8:30 a.m. at Northrop Auditorium, 84 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis; 612-625-6000; FREE tickets available at the U of M Bookstore at Coffman Memorial Union, 300 Washington Ave. S.E., Minneapolis.

For more information, please visit Walden University’s website.

Read the MySpace blog of one of the conference attendees who was moved to tears by Kennedy’s speech!

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RFK Jr. Making New Documentary Film

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert Kennedy, Jr., In Charleston to Shoot Documentary

New Film to be based on his book, Crimes Against Nature

Story by Kristen Sell

CHARLESTON — Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. met with the president of the West Virginia Coal Association Monday while working on a documentary on mountaintop removal mining.

Kennedy spent the afternoon flying over mountaintop removal sites.

Monday evening, he and West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Rainey met at The Grill on the city’s West Side to discuss the issue.

“It really is one of the hugest acts of theft in history,” said Kennedy of the mining practice.

He engaged in a heated discussion with Rainey about Mountaintop removal, and both held their ground.

“Clearly he doesn’t agree with anything that I purport or stand for and I don’t agree with much he said either,” said Rainey.

Kennedy said the coal industry is destroying West Virginia.”They’ve cut down already 460 mountains in West Virginia, some of the largest mountains in the state. They’ve buried 1,200 miles of streams. Within five years, they’ll have flattened an area of Appalachia the size of Delaware,” Kennedy said.

Rainey said the issue is more complex than that and there is a human element to mining that environmental activists often fail to see. “It just needs to be put in a very human perspective as it involves our people that spend every day of their working life mining coal in a very professional manner,” said Rainey.

Those managing to catch a glimpse of the action were impressed.

“Just like all the other Kennedys. He spoke just like his father,” said Charleston resident Phyllis Rutledge who came to The Grill after hearing Kennedy would be there.

With pros and cons on the table, both hope the documentary will strengthen the state. “I’m trustful and hopeful that it’s going to be beneficial,” Rainey said.

“I would like to see West Virginia look at other ways to employ it’s people,” said Kennedy of his goal of the documentary.

*The above report comes to us from West Virginia Media.

Local TV news station WOWK-TV in Charleston caught up with Kennedy during his visit yesterday. You can see the video here.

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Some Final Thoughts on Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson Funeral Service, Austin, TX, June 14, 2007.

PHOTO CAPTION: Funeral service for Lady Bird Johnson, Austin, TX, July 14, 2007.(L to R) Former first ladies Nancy Reagan, Rosalyn Carter,  former President Jimmy Carter, first lady Laura Bush (who seems to have something pesky in her eye), former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. JFK’s daughter Caroline can be seen in the second row, seated next to former first lady Barbara Bush.

(* Full Disclosure: I worked for the Johnson family during the 1990s and had always tremendous admiration for Lady Bird. Therefore, my account below should not by any means be considered entirely unbiased or objective.)

Lady Bird Has Flown

Here in Austin, Texas, we are slowly emerging from a long weekend of funeral services and public gatherings in honor of the late Lady Bird Johnson, who passed away last week at the age of 94.

To most Americans, she will be remembered as the former first lady and wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, a woman who brought remarkable calm to both her husband and the nation during the turbulent 1960s. Perhaps she will be best remembered for her tireless efforts to protect and beautify our natural environment, as a pioneer of the modern-day “green” movement.

It wasn’t easy being green in the `60s. At the height of the urban renewal era, our inner cities were in a state of rapid decay. Our air was thick with pollution from factories and gas-guzzling Oldsmobiles, our highways littered with trash. So many of Lady Bird’s efforts were directed not only at making America a more beautiful place, but in the words of her granddaughter Catherine Lewis Robb, at the “beautification of the human spirit.”

While her husband was dropping bombs on Vietnam, Lady Bird was out planting flowers all across the country. This in itself was a political statement, albeit a subtle one. In a decade marked by so much civil unrest and senseless violence, those who would come to be known as the “flower power” generation quite often regarded Lady Bird’s efforts as a sign of silent solidarity to the cause of peace.

Liz Carpenter, Lady Bird’s longtime press secretary, believed the former first lady “was the crucial catalyst… she led a rebellion against ugliness.” Carpenter wrote that Lady Bird’s efforts “lifted the stature” of environmentalists, writing, “she put the environment on the agenda of every person in public life — where it remains.”

On Earth As It Is In Austin

Austinites will always hold a special place in our hearts for Lady Bird Johnson. In a city devoted to conservation and living in harmony with nature, she was a kind of Mother Earth to us, the true “first lady of Austin”.

Ask almost anyone who has lived here any length of years and chances are they have a personal “Lady Bird story” or two to tell. This past weekend, we gathered in various spots around the city, places Claudia gave us — the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail (which she spearheaded an effort to beautify in the 1970s), her Wildflower Research Center, the LBJ Library and Museum — to share our memories, pay our respects, and say our final farewells to a woman who did so much for the city she loved.

This citywide period of mourning lasted three full days, prompting an outpouring of support from locals the likes of which we haven’t seen since the passing of LBJ 34 years ago.

Austinites turned out in record numbers Sunday morning, lining the streets to watch, wave and throw flowers as the ceremonial cortege carrying Mrs. Johnson to her final resting place passed slowly by. With lots of laughter and very few tears, it was just exactly the kind of farewell party we think Lady Bird would have wanted in her adopted hometown.

Friends, Family, Former Leaders Gather to Say Goodbye

It all started with a private family Eucharist at the Wildflower Center on Friday, followed by a larger funeral service Saturday afternoon attended by nearly 1,500 of Lady Bird’s friends, family, and dignitaries from around the world. Among them were former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, former First Ladies Rosalyn Carter, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Reagan, as well as Barbara and Laura Bush (whose husbands were noteably absent from the proceedings).

Former President Ford’s daughter Susan was in attendance, as were JFK’s daughter Caroline and Maria Shriver, a longtime personal friend of LBJ’s daughters Luci and Lynda. Members of the Robert F. Kennedy family did not attend the service, but considering the relationship between RFK and LBJ was never a friendly one, this came as no great surprise.

One of the most memorable moments came during a speech by former LBJ White House aide Tom Johnson. When he said that Lady Bird’s “magic” had touched so many souls, a heavy downpour began — out of a clear blue sky — thundering so loudly on the roof that the audience could barely hear his words. In their remarks, longtime family friends Bill Moyers and Rev. Patsy Chaney also seemed to interpret the rain as a sign that Lady Bird’s spirit was present and apparently, pleased.

As if on cue, the rain stopped just as the service was ending. The hot Texas sun re-emerged, banishing those dark storm clouds for the remainder of the weekend.

Moments of Quiet Reflection

More than 12,000 people passed by Lady Bird’s casket while she lay in repose for 22 hours at the LBJ Library, and I was one of them.

I went by early Saturday morning, a time when the museum seemed peaceful, even serene, affording visitors more private space for quiet contemplation. The line was short at that time of day. No one felt rushed passing by the casket. Many stopped to bow their heads in prayer, sometimes for several minutes, before moving on.

Lady Bird Johnson Lies In Repose at the LBJ Library

PHOTO CAPTION: Former LBJ press secretary Liz Carpenter (left, in wheelchair) joins members of the Johnson family at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, where Lady Bird lay in repose for 22 hours, allowing the public a final chance to say goodbye.

I placed a single rose for Lady Bird in a basket that was already overflowing with Texas wildflowers brought by her many admirers. Particularly moving was a crayon drawing of colorful flowers that had been placed inside the basket by a small child.

Surveying the assembled crowd, I took notice of how many young children were there, and while few, if any of them ever had a chance to meet Lady Bird Johnson, they seemed to understand and respect her importance somehow.

As they walked hand-in-hand with their parents, I observed the great curiosity and interest on the children’s faces while they listened to their grandparents tell first-hand stories of the LBJ years, and of the Lady Bird they knew and remembered so well. It made me feel profoundly grateful to hear members of this swiftly-disappearing generation passing oral histories to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, in essence saying:

“Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”

Historical Perspective

Her passing of Lady Bird Johnson marks the symbolic close of  “Camelot,” an era presided over by four powerful personalities embodied in two charismatic first couples: President John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson.

She outlived them all by many years. Even in advanced age and poor health, Lady Bird never seemed to tire of relating her stories of what those years in the White House were really like.

There are some who say that “Camelot” ended on that day in November 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. Or when Bobby was killed five years later. At the time of Lyndon Johnson’s death in 1973, the Vietnam war was still raging on. With so much bitterness in the air over the mess in Southeast Asia, it was indeed difficult then for the country to unite and remember him fondly, even at his funeral.

Although Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis lived until 1994, she declined to discuss the subject at any length in interviews. While the public certainly understood and respected her reasons, Jackie’s silence did frustrate some Kennedy scholars who had hoped to clarify the historical record before she passed away.

Only with the hindsight of history can we finally come to see events in their proper perspective. And so it seems somehow fitting that Lady Bird lived on so many years beyond her Camelot contemporaries. Her willingness to share information through numerous candid interviews and the declassification of documents, as well as her sense of fairness and objectivity (she was trained as a journalist during her college years at UT) may well be what history will ultimately thank her for the most.

The End of An Era

Strolling through the LBJ Library and Museum at 7:30 a.m. on the Saturday morning of Lady Bird’s funeral, it is still rather quiet. The only background noise is the ever-constant rhythm of people ascending the main staircase up to where she lay in repose on the second floor. But the exhibits are open, so I begin to browse through the impressive collection of memorabilia documenting LBJ’s long political career.

At the end of a hallway, nestled in a somewhat dark corner next to a page from Johnson’s desk calendar during the Cuban Missle Crisis, one document in particular caught my eye. It was a letter from Jack Kennedy to LBJ inviting Lyndon to join him on the podium to accept their party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention. The date of the letter was July 14, 1960.

Then it hit me: this was when it all began. What we call “Camelot” was born in Los Angeles the moment that LBJ and JFK stepped up to that podium on the last night of the convention as the future President and Vice President of the United States. July 14, 1960.

And this is when it all ends, I thought to myself. Perhaps it was just a coincidence today’s date was July 14, but it was a strange feeling indeed to realize, while standing in the halls of history at that moment, that the era of “Camelot” ended exactly 47 years to the day after it had begun.

* Copyright 2007 by http://RFKin2008.com. All Rights Reserved.

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