Monthly Archives: December 2007

Op-Ed: Give Peace A Chance in `08

PEACE ON EARTH

(Unless you happen to live in Iowa or New Hampshire, that is…) 

Over the holidays, voters in Iowa and New Hampshire will no doubt be bombarded with political advertising and nonstop lobbying from candidates in last-minute efforts to convert them.

Imagine your phone ringing off the hook with campaign calls during holiday meals, or while you are trying to spend some quality time with visiting relations. 

So much for Silent Nights. Peace on earth, you say? Try living in Iowa or New Hampshire, where a moment’s peace from the political onslaught can’t seem to be bought for any price.

The people of Iowa and New Hampshire are the guinea pigs in this experimental process of moving primary elections ahead to early January for the first time in history, and they certainly have our sympathies. Over the course of the next few days, voters in these key early primary states will be making their final decisions as to which candidate they will vote for, setting the stage for what follows in the national political arena.

But after nearly a year of presidential politicking, these battleground state voters are divided among the leading candidates, and more than half are still undecided, according to recent CBS/New York Times polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

That makes the race up for grabs in the opening weeks of 2008, and things could get really interesting. It’s all going to depend on what the “great undecided” choose to do.

For your consideration, we would like to present a recent editorial that speaks to the undecided voter and makes a mighty compelling argument that if you want change, if you truly want peace on earth, it is time to stop voting for the lesser of two evils.

PUT PEACE BEFORE PARTY

By Kevin Zeese

Peace voters have choices in 2008, but will they have the courage to support peace candidates?

In recent debates the candidates were asked whether they will support the nominee of their party. Despite increasingly harsh rhetoric between the candidates only two candidates had the courage to put peace before their party and refused to issue blanket support for their party nominee. Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Dennis Kucinich responded they would not support the nominee unless the nominee opposed war as an instrument of foreign policy.

This deserves loud applause from the peace movement. No doubt both candidates will pay a political price for taking such a stand. They may get the “Gravel Treatment” – presidential candidate Mike Gravel was harshly critical of the top tier candidates of the Democratic Party and now is excluded from the debates because the Democratic National Committee no longer considers him a serious candidate and the corporate media, which walks lock-step with the corporate parties, has refused to invite him to any debates. His campaign has all but disappeared.

Kucinich and Paul face other potential repercussions for putting the life and death issue of war and peace before party loyalty. Both are incumbent congressmen and if they are unsuccessful in getting their party’s presidential nomination will seek re-election to Congress. Will they find themselves with a well-funded primary challenger? And, if elected, will they find their committee assignments downgraded? Will they be appointed to subcommittee or committee chairmanships or passed over in favor of party loyalists? There are many ways for a political party to punish lack of party loyalty. So, Kucinich and Paul deserve a great deal of credit for publicly standing up for peace before party.

And, Kucinich and Paul did not just come out in opposition to the current disastrous occupation of Iraq. They came out more broadly for an end to the aggressively interventionist U.S. foreign policy that is dominated by militarism. This is the type of paradigm shifting policy change that is needed in U.S. foreign policy.

The fact that the U.S. spends as much as the whole world combined on the military ensures that every other aspect of American civil life is underfunded. It is why the debt is increasing, infrastructure is failing, the U.S. remains addicted to oil, college is overpriced, health care for all unachievable, and pre-school for children widely unavailable. If the U.S. wants to build economic security at home it needs to stop spending half the federal government’s discretionary spending on the military. If we want to build security from terrorism the U.S. needs to stop creating enemies faster than we kill them. If the U.S. wants “them” to stop hating “us” we need to stop behaving like an empire.

Sadly, at least one peace group, Friends Committee on National Legislation, is turning its back on these real peace candidates. FCNL whose slogan is “War is Not the Answer,” has published a voter guide that excludes Kucinich, Paul and Gravel – the three candidates who really believe war is not the answer. FCNL readers will not learn about these peace candidates in their on-line voter guide. Why? FCNL decided on an arbitrary cut-off point in polling that excludes these candidates. All the candidates that are included keep the military option for Iran on the table and do not advocate cutting military expenditures, only one (Bill Richardson) calls for complete withdrawal from Iraq. Are these “war is not the answer” candidates?

For Kucinich and Paul this stab in the back from a peace group comes at a bad time. Kucinich recently won a straw poll by the progressive Democracy For America and in early returns Kucinich is leading in the Progressive Democrats of America straw poll. Paul has been doing extremely well in straw polls around the country as well as in fundraising and in some polls is bettering candidates like John McCain. Both seem to be getting some traction but if the peace movement is not going to even report on their positions – a movement which should be the base of their support – then what hope do they have?

Sadly, the FCNL view is not uncommon among peace voters. Too many look at which candidate is most likely to win. Peace voters need to learn that voting for peace candidates is the way to increase their power. Voting for candidates who support the occupation or waffle on whether they will remove the troops in their first term is voting against the interests of peace. It is voting for war as the primary instrument of foreign policy and empire as the goal of U.S. policy – because that is the view of the candidates covered by FCNL. Peace voters need to have the courage to vote for peace candidates.

Paul and Kucinich differ on many issues – Paul is a free-market thinker who sees the solutions to economic disparity, lack of access to health care, poor education, the environment and the housing crisis in less government and more market-based solutions. Kucinich, while agreeing with Paul on bolstering civil liberties and individual rights, sees the solution to health care as ending the for-profit dominated health insurance industry and replacing it with a non-profit single payer system provided by the government. Similarly on environmental issues Kucinich favors a major government investment in alternative energy that is clean and sustainable, Paul doesn’t. Kucinich favors abortion rights, Paul opposes federal government involvement in abortion.

Peace voters have a choice between two solid peace candidates with two very different views of government and the economy, but they have more. Mike Gravel is another long-term peace advocate who has been active against war since the Vietnam era. Some peace voters may also see a candidate in Governor Bill Richardson who favors a complete withdrawal from Iraq, but is keeping the military option on the table for Iran and does not advocate shrinking the U.S. military.

And, in the General Election, peace voters will have other options no matter what the two establishment parties decide. The Green Party recently acquired a new member in Cynthia McKinney. The former Member of Congress recently registered as a Green in California and filed with the FEC to seek the Green presidential nomination. She has been strongly anti-war for her whole career and during her last congressional term sought impeachment of President Bush for his illegal invasion of Iraq.

Ralph Nader, the long-time consumer activist and former presidential candidate who has been working against the Iraq invasion and occupation since before the war began, is also considering a run for the presidency, possibly as a Green or as an independent. He has tirelessly worked to end the Iraq occupation and throughout his career has been an advocate for less spending on the military and more spending on the necessities of the people. Nader has also been a long-term advocate for impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney for their deceptions and manipulations that led to the Iraq invasion.

Another Green candidate worthy of mention is Jared Ball. He is an assistant professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore, has a radio show in Washington, DC, and is founder of FreeMix radio which puts together a monthly hip-hop compilation. He is a veteran of Desert Shield/Desert Storm and an opponent of the Iraq occupation.

The Libertarian Party also has several candidates running and they are likely to nominate a peace candidate as well. The LP’s official position on the Iraq occupation is: “It is time for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq as quickly as possible in a manner consistent with the safety of our troops.”

Peace voters will have choices in 2008. There are several candidates who oppose both the Iraq occupation and the use of aggressive military force as the dominant approach to foreign policy. Peace voters make up the majority of Americans, but will they have the courage to vote their convictions or will they be manipulated by the two parties and the corporate media? Will they work and financially support peace candidates? It is a test for the peace movement to see whether it as the courage to put peace first.

Kevin Zeese is executive director of Democracy Rising (DemocracyRising.US) and Voters for Peace (VotersForPeace.US).

*DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in the above editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or the owners of this web site.

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New Kennedy Books for the Holidays

For many of us, the holidays are a perfect time to catch up on our reading. All that time spent traveling or relaxing at home is often accompanied by a good book. There’s nothing quite like curling up under a blanket on a cold winter night with a new book you’re eager to devour, and for readers of this blog, a favorite subject is the Kennedy family.

2007 saw the release of several interesting new books by and about the Kennedys. If you’re out doing a little last-minute Christmas shopping this weekend, here are a few recent titles in print we’d like to recommend:

A Family Christmas by Caroline Kennedy

The Kennedys: Portrait of a Family by Richard Avedon

American Hero: Joshua Chamberlain and the American Civil War, by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Bobby and J. Edgar Hoover by Burton Hersh

Failing America’s Faithful by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years by David Talbot

Jack and Lem: The Untold Story of an Extraordinary Friendship by David Pitts

I think that’s probably enough to keep you occupied for a while. If you have a favorite new (2007) Kennedy book you’d like to recommend, let us know about it by posting a comment below. We’ll try and add as many of your suggestions as possible to the list.

Wishing you happy holidays (and endless hours of enjoyable reading) from all of us at RFKin2008.com!

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Kennedy Family Split On Endorsements

Interesting story from Politico this week:

KENNEDY FAMILY SPLIT ON ENDORSEMENTS

By Carrie Budoff Brown

Like any other American family, the Kennedys are a house divided when it comes the 2008 presidential race.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and her sister, Kerry, have hit the trail for Hillary Rodham Clinton. So has their brother, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Old hands to President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy dote on Barack Obama, in part because he reminds them of the charismatic brothers.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver and a half-dozen other family members put money on Christopher Dodd.

And everybody wants to know where Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) will go. Yet he isn’t talking — or likely to endorse.

A tangle of longstanding political ties, friendships and gut feelings has caused the Kennedys and those closely identified with them to scatter across the primary field.

But the Democratic pursuit of their endorsements and their cash underline how the presidential candidates still chase the Kennedy imprimatur like it is their party’s seal of approval, automatically transferring warm feelings of the family’s legacy to them.

“There is certainly a romantic aspect to it,” said Eric Smith, a press aide to former Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Miss.) during his 2004 presidential campaign, which picked up support that year from U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) of Rhode Island.

“That period in the Democratic Party is one of great optimism. It is one that Democratic activists think of very fondly. So an association with that time is a positive in the eyes of Democratic activists.”

Ted Kennedy is the biggest catch.

The senator reeled in Iowans for John Kerry in 2004, drawing crowds that only Howard Dean could muster. Democratic activist Bonnie Campbell, who was backing Dean, recalls walking into her Des Moines precinct on caucus night, spotting Kennedy in the doorway, and hearing her husband say: “We are screwed.”

With a field this year that includes his Senate buddy (Dodd) and two members of his Senate committee (Clinton and Obama), Ted Kennedy appears ready to sit this one out.

“Senator Kennedy has no immediate plans to endorse a candidate,” said a statement released by Kennedy’s office. “He has very strong relationships with many of these candidates personally, and he has a lot of respect for them. Senator Kennedy believes that any one of them would make a great president. He looks forward to the campaign and seeing a Democrat elected to the White House.”

His family is definitely picking sides, however.

But the former Kennedy aides are the ones drawing the most attention for their bold comparisons. Obama received an email from Harris Wofford, 81, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and adviser to President John F. Kennedy, soon after his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention. The message: “Do not let this moment pass.”

“He touches my soul, and I think he has touched the soul of America,” said Wofford in an interview after endorsing Obama this month. “For me, no one has done that since John, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I waited a long time to have that feeling.”

For George Stevens Jr., the longtime producer of the Kennedy Center Honors who worked in the Kennedy administration, Obama “captures the spirit” of Bobby Kennedy. Stevens, too, wrote Obama a letter to tell him so. And Stevens later signed on as an informal adviser to the campaign.
 
Theodore Sorensen, 79, a former speechwriter to President Kennedy, traveled to Iowa in October to endorse Obama and challenge the criticism of him as not yet ready, citing JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis as evidence. “That young president who had been accused of being too inexperienced and too young successfully steered the country through that crisis,” Sorensen said of Kennedy, who was 43 years old when he took office.

Obama, who would be 47 at his inauguration, seemingly does his part to encourage the link.
There was the February announcement speech, when he went hatless and gloveless on a frigid morning, stirring comparisons to President Kennedy’s inaugural address. He talks of a new generation of leadership and moving past the political fights of the 1990s. And he invokes the former president on the trail, usually as he defends his intention to talk to enemy states: “John F. Kennedy once said you should never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate.”

But if Obama is the new JFK, the late president’s family hasn’t received the memo. None has endorsed Obama, although several have donated to his campaign, with their contributions adding up to at least $9,000, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Kennedy family, including Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and her husband, Edwin, has sent more than $15,000 to Clinton. Dodd has received more than $17,000 from members of the family, such as Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of the late president.

On endorsements, Clinton and Dodd have received $4,000 apiece from the family. None carry the heft of Sen. Kennedy, but each can claim their own constituencies.

In Clinton’s camp is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a well-known environmentalist; Kerry Kennedy, a human rights activist; Rory Kennedy, a documentary filmmaker; and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former Maryland lieutenant governor and recognized female political leader.

On Dodd’s side is Rep. Patrick Kennedy Jr.; Ted Kennedy Jr., an advocate for people with disabilities; Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics; and Bobby Shriver, who works with U2’s Bono on AIDS and debt relief.

In endorsing Dodd, they talked about his work on behalf of children, his stint in the Peace Corps and his support for foreign assistance. But they always came back to the personal — and who best embodied the Kennedy legacy.

“When my uncle Jack asked people in the country in 1960, ‘ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,’ Sen. Dodd answered that call,” said Ted Kennedy Jr., “ and that’s exactly the kind of inspiration that is needed in this country today.”

 

TM & © THE POLITICO & POLITICO.COM, a division of Allbritton Communications Company 

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RFK Jr. Interviews Hillary Clinton

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for nearly an hour on his Air America radio show this weekend. In a Ring of Fire exclusive interview with the candidate Bobby has formally endorsed for president, he compared those who engage in Clinton-bashing to the Roosevelt haters of the 1930s and `40s. (See related story: “Kennedy Attacks the Hillary Haters.”)

 Kennedy and Clinton discussed the ironic fact that the same people who often attacked FDR for his “socialist” New Deal economic recovery policies also benefited greatly from them. Reflected by the growth of their own personal income, stock portfolios and investments, one might think these Roosevelt haters should have been some of FDR’s greatest supporters.

He applied this logic to the Clinton presidency, as well as Senator Clinton’s candidacy, arguing that the Clintons ushered in a time of economic prosperity after a recession, just as FDR brought an end to the Great Depression. And that they too were harshly attacked.

IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID

Without argument, Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992 primarily with “it’s the economy, stupid.” He had the answer Americans wanted to hear at a time when we’d suffered quite enough of trickle-down Reaganomics, thank you.

Considering the shape our economy is in today after nearly 8 years of the Bush administration (who wiped out the Clinton-era budget surplus and plunged the country into unimaginable debt), it’s fair to speculate that Hillary would win in `08 if this disastrous economic trend continues.

Why? Because she is the only candidate (of either party) who is proven and experienced when it comes to fixing another fine mess some Bush has gotten us into. Love or hate Hillary, few will quibble with the fact that she and her husband’s administration repaired the American economy after Reagan and George H.W. Bush wrecked it in the ’80s.

ANOTHER FINE MESS ANOTHER BUSH HAS GOTTEN US INTO

No doubt Mrs. Clinton is already making “it’s the economy, stupid” the basic message of her campaign. This tried-and-true formula has served the Democratic party perfectly well from the days of Roosevelt; it worked like a charm in 1992, and if the bottom falls out between now and next November, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will work again in 2008.

Might as well bet your bottom dollar on Hillary. By this time next year, it may well just be the last dollar you have, so what do you have to lose, right?

Your freedom? Your Constitution? A son or daughter in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Iran?

These issues, which have been in the forefront of our minds during the long dark night of the Bush years, are already starting to take a back seat to economic issues in recent polls. Historically, the larger foreign policy issues, even matters of war and peace, quickly fall behind major domestic problems in an election year.

Perhaps that means we Americans are indeed selfish creatures, always thinking about ourselves. How quickly we forget the poor Iraqi and Afghan people’s plight as soon as we start losing our own jobs, our mortgages, our cherished standard of living. We’re worried about gas reaching $4/gallon and how that will affect our purchase of some new high-priced gizmo this Christmas.

But at least we don’t have to dodge bombs in our streets every day and witness the carnage of war up close and personal. So long as the war is “over there,” we Americans usually figure we’ve got bigger fish to fry right here on the home front, thus pushing foreign policy to the back burner.

WHY A CRAPPY ECONOMY SPELLS V-I-C-T-O-R-Y FOR HILLARY

At this point, sadly, it seems doubtful that any candidate can win on an anti-war platform, or even to focus their campaign strategy on reversing our disastrous foreign policy. The audience “reaction-o-meter” clearly shows that eyes begin to glaze over when a candidate talks too much about the hard realities of Iraq — but we quickly perk up again when talk turns to the exportation of American jobs, the mortgage crisis, the credit crunch, the war on the middle class, unchecked illegal immigration, and other hot domestic issues.

I may not agree with Senator Clinton’s voting record, her past performance as First Lady, or her current stand on many of the issues I value most, but I will say she’s got one thing right:

“It’s the Economy, Stupid.”

I predict this road-tested mantra will take her directly back to the White House. That doesn’t mean she’s got my vote. But if my prediction of a landslide is correct, she certainly won’t need it.

Until then, hang on to your jobs, America! (That is, if you’re still fortunate enough to have one…) And by this time next year, we might just be singing some of those old songs from the 1930s like “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?”

Or is it “Happy Days Are Here Again?” Well…hey, it worked for Franklin!

 

Listen to the Ring of Fire Radio interview here. (Hillary Clinton appears in Hour 1, about 15 minutes into the broadcast.)

Or if you prefer visuals, watch it at GoLeft: http://www.goleft.tv/?id=802

Text copyright RFKin2008.com. Audio/Video courtesy of Air America and GoLeft.tv

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Kennedy Attacks the “Hillary Haters”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had a few choice words for “Hillary Haters” this week.

In a Dec. 12th article he blogged at The Huffington Post, RFK Jr. compared Clinton-bashing to the intense hatred many Americans felt towards President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s and `40s. He argued that this same “vast right wing conspiracy” is still alive and well in American politics and is now working overtime against the Clintons.

While the historical comparison of the Clintons and the Roosevelts is fascinating and Bobby certainly presents a very interesting argument in this piece, it seems that much of the Huffington Post’s membership wasn’t buying it. The comments section quickly exploded with reaction; at last count, over 700 HuffPo members have weighed in on the subject. Hint: Things really heat up on pg. 3)

The point many are making is: “I’m not a Hillary hater. I just hate the things she’s done.”

Before we simply dismiss this point of view as “hating” on Mrs. Clinton, perhaps we should remember that unlike the attacks on FDR, the ABH (Anyone But Hillary) alliance is composed of Democrats as well as Republicans. A sizeable number of Democrats at that.

To my mind, the key difference between HRC and FDR is that FDR was being fired upon by Conservatives, not Liberals. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, inspires tremendous distrust and division among members of her own party. This worries me.

To the Republicans she’s a “socialist” — to progressives, she’s “Bush Lite.” (Never was a woman so misunderstood, eh?) Many within her own party say she prefers the comfort of the fence to forging a bold New Frontier. Others believe she’s a corporate puppet deviod of principles, an empty pantsuit standing at the podium.

And as for the much-prized female vote in 2008, a large number of Democratic women say: “I’d love to see a woman president. But not this woman.”

With the Iowa Caucuses and the first primaries now only a few short weeks away and her poll numbers slipping, we shall soon see how all this plays out for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail.

In his latest blog post, RFK Jr. feels confident that the tide will turn in Hillary’s favor because he’s seen her win over the dubious masses before. Just as with Roosevelt, he says, Hillary knows how to turn intense hatred into fervent support — and Kennedy still believes that she will.

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Waterkeeper Benefit/Celebrity SkiFest Airs on CBS Dec. 16

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

CELEBRITY SKIFEST TO BENEFIT KENNEDY’S WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE

Several members of the Kennedy family will gather in Park City, Utah this weekend as Deer Valley Resort kicks off its winter ski season with a celebrity ski race to benefit Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Waterkeeper Alliance.

The Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest takes place place December 8 and 9, and will be filmed by CBS for rebroadcast next weekend. The invitational ski event pairs former Olympic ski legends with television and film celebrities for a weekend of skiing, live music and fundraising for the environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance. The Waterkeeper Alliance is an international coalition of citizen advocates who patrol and protect their local waterbodies, fighting for clean water and strong communities.

Some of the best-known legends of U.S. skiing will compete in the year’s event, including Steve Mahre, Tommy Moe and Deer Valley’s own Ambassador of Skiing Heidi Voelker.

Celebrities scheduled to attend at this time include: Buzz Aldrin, Kevin Costner, Tim Daly, Carlos Bernard, Larry David, Julia Louis- Dreyfus, Rob Morrow, Scott Wolf, Kelsey Grammar, Sam Waterston, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Chris Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Maxwell Kennedy, Rory Kennedy, Penelope Ann Miller, Matthew Modine, Mike Richter, Gloria Reuben and Patrick Warburton.

CBS Sports will once again broadcast a recap of the annual Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest, which is set to air Sunday, Dec. 16, at 5 p.m. EST.

According to Variety, the Celebrity Skifest was created by Bob Horowitz, who now runs Juma Entertainment (NBC’s “The Singing Bee”). Juma is on board to produce the CBS special, with Horowitz as exec producer.

“Waterkeeper Alliance is an outstanding cause, and we are thankful to all the participants who donate their efforts, time and money for their benefit,” Horowitz said. 

While in town for the event, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will also give a speech at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Park City High School. He will speak at 5:30 p.m. on December 9th. (For more information, please see our “Upcoming Events” sidebar.)

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RFK Jr. Feels The Chill In Iowa (And Everywhere Else)

RFK Jr. autographed photo 

IOWA AIN’T THE ONLY PLACE THAT’S GETTIN’ COLD 

The good news is: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has recieved more ink in the past week for his endorsement of Hillary Clinton than in the five months since his headline-hogging speech at LIVE EARTH.

The bad news is, much of the ink was thrown on him. From the New York Times to the Des Moines Register to the blogosphere, this was everybody’s week to hurl a few tomatoes at RFK Jr. And while smears from the likes of Dick Morris and Sean Hannity always come with the dinner, this time the liberal and progressive left got into the act as well.

Now Kennedy’s taking a beating from the very base of supporters he will have to count on if/when he decides to run for public office someday. He’s been called everything from “traitor” to “sellout” by the same people who up until recently thought of him as a saint.

All things considered, it’s been a rough week for Bobby, with slings and arrows coming from every direction, perhaps even some unforeseen.

While stumping for Hillary in Iowa, things got even uglier. Mother Nature, perhaps as unmoved by this horserace as we are, decided a massive winter storm might spice up the proceedings a bit. Letting loose a barrage of ice and snow which forced the closure of airports and the cancellation of campaign rallies across the state, she surely must have watched the candidates’ mad scramble with some measure of amusement.

Rather than focusing on Kennedy’s endorsement of Clinton, most media outlets chose instead to dredge up some controversial remarks RFK Jr. made in Iowa five years ago as the angle of their coverage. (For those who may not remember, he had told an Iowa crowd that “large-scale hog producers are a greater threat to the United States and U.S. democracy than Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network.”)

The New Snark York Times was probably the worst offender, managing to work the old hog farm fracas into both the headline and the lede paragraph of what should have been an article about Kennedy endorsing Hillary Clinton for president. (“Will Kennedy’s Remarks Hog The Attention In Iowa?” NYT, Nov. 29, 2007) And of course, the paper was quick to remind readers that RFK Jr.’s comments were once denounced as “idiotic,” “ridiculous,” and “one of the crudest things ever said in Iowa politics.” Ouch.

FROSTBITE

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., january 2007

After a week like that, have we any positive words to offer him? What counsel would we give RFK Jr., who dipped one toe tentatively into these troubled political waters only to get it scalded? Is there anything we can say that might buck the guy up a little and encourage him to not abandon the idea of a future candidacy?

All the usual advice sounds cliche’: “Keep your chin up.” “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” “Keep fighting the good fight.” “Stay focused on the big picture,” etc…and so forth…just doesn’t cut it. It’s a struggle to find the right words.

But if I had the chance to offer Mr. Kennedy a bit of my own high-priced advice (which is always dispensed here free of charge with a money-back guarantee if not completely satisfied) — were he to consult me as his own personal Oracle, Swami, and Magic 8-Ball all rolled into one and ask, “O Merlin, how do I extract the sword from this f%*&in’ stone?” — I would tell him:

Somewhere in the world is a tree that has been struck by lightning in such a way that the scorch marks show your initials. Find that tree.

Somewhere in this world, there is a treasure that has no value to anyone but you, and a secret that is meaningless to everyone except you, and a frontier that possesses a revelation only you know how to exploit. Go in search of those things.

Somewhere in this world, there is a person who could ask you the precise question you need to hear in order to catalyze the next phase of your evolution. Do what’s necessary to run into that person.

And if all of the above just sounds like a load of pagan New Age claptrap to you, well… maybe it is. Let me rephrase this cosmic message in more earthly terms:

Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, who was the supreme commander of U.S. troops in Iraq from June 2003 to July 2004, thinks his government has made tragic mistakes. Citing “a catastrophically flawed war plan,” he said, “There has been a glaring display of incompetent strategic leadership from our national leaders.”

Think of Sanchez as your role model for the coming year ahead, Bobby. I hope he inspires you to do the following things: (1) raise a critique of a group or institution you’ve been an instrumental part of; (2) rebel against the faulty execution of an idea you support; (3) put your service to moral truth above blind loyalty.

I think you’ll easily catch the not-so-hidden meaning in this metaphor.

Do what’s inside you, not what others expect of you. Stay true to yourself and you can’t lose!

But the best advice I can think of comes from one of your Uncle Jack’s favorite poems. Written during his first year in Congress, he took these words to heart and would quote them for the rest of his life:

So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

 — Robert Frost, “Choose Something Like A Star” (1947)

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