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Kennedy Clashes With Environmentalists

* Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the New York Times and on

Kennedy testifies at the House Appropriations Committee Energy Hearings last December

Kennedy testifies at the House Appropriations Committee Energy Hearings last December




SAN FRANCISCO — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is no stranger to hardball politics.

The environmental attorney has confronted polluters of the Hudson River, been arrested in Puerto Rico for trying to block U.S. Navy training operations and scrapped with oil companies looking to drill in remote parts of Alaska.

Along the way, he has worked for environmental groups large and small, lending his famous name to a burgeoning movement fighting to bring attention to macro-issues like climate change while protecting local wildlife habitat. In 1999, he was named a Time magazine “Hero of the Planet” for his work with the advocacy group Riverkeeper.

But in California’s emerging battle over renewable energy development, Kennedy has gained new enemies: fellow environmentalists.

Kennedy, the son and namesake of the late Attorney General and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), is at the center of a nasty dispute among environmental groups, energy developers and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) over the future of federal lands in the sun-soaked Mojave Desert.

The Mojave’s 22,000 square miles straddle California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. Given its elevation, heat, aridity and proximity to population centers on the California coast, the region is viewed by many as the ideal venue in North America for building a new generation of large solar-thermal power plants, especially in a state where utilities are required to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010 and likely 33 percent by 2020.

Among the leaders in a group of aggressive solar prospectors is an Oakland-based company called BrightSource Energy Inc., which has been making a splash lately for its plans to build 2.6 gigawatts of power for California’s investor-owned utilities, much of it to be located — on paper, at least — in the Mojave Desert.

But some California-based activists are worried that solar developers like BrightSource are getting a free pass in a headlong rush to build clean energy and capitalize on federal stimulus dollars now available for such projects. These activists have enlisted Feinstein to push for the declaration of a national monument in the desert and intend to unveil legislation with the senator in September that would apparently protect 1 million acres in the eastern Mojave to limit development.

Enter Kennedy, who calls the national monument, as it is likely to be drawn, a bad idea. To Kennedy, the instinct to protect local ecosystems has collided with the goals of a progressive national energy policy.

“I respect the belief that it’s all local,” Kennedy said in an interview. “But they’re putting the democratic process and sound scientific judgement on hold to jeopardize the energy future of our country.”

But here’s the rub: Kennedy has a stake in BrightSource through VantagePoint Venture Partners, a venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley that was instrumental in raising $160 million in financing for the solar startup. Other investors include Chevron Corp., and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

That Kennedy is a senior adviser at VantagePoint, and an open promoter of BrightSource in public speeches, is an irony not lost on David Myers, an activist who charges Kennedy with shilling for a company intent on using his political clout. To Myers, the lure of profit if BrightSource makes it big is why Kennedy, a cousin of California’s first lady, Maria Shriver, wants to stop the national monument before it ever gets off the ground.

“I’m getting pretty tired of BrightSource using their Kennedy connection,” said Myers, executive director of the Wildlands Conservancy. “BrightSource [is pursuing] the worst projects in the worst locations, but they have the best PR firm, because Robert Kennedy is involved.”

Feinstein’s monument

Next, enter Feinstein, a longtime advocate of desert conservation and lead appropriator for the Interior Department in Congress. Her office is working on a bill to be released this month that some sources said will cut off 1 million public acres in the desert — up from a previous estimate of 600,000 acres — to protect a threatened species of desert tortoise and preserve its habitat.

Feinstein, according to several sources who spoke anonymously, is livid about the pace of development on public lands and has bluntly told the solar developers not to challenge her on the national monument designation. Calls to several solar companies seeking comment seemed to bear this out, as none would take a position on the measure.

Myers has been instrumental in developing the boundaries of the monument, sparking rumors that he is cozy with Feinstein and is dictating the terms of the legislation. The boundaries would stretch from Joshua Tree National Park to Mojave National Preserve, including nearly 100,000 acres of National Park Service lands and 210,000 acres spread across 20 wilderness areas controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.

That area includes lands previously owned by Catellus Development Corp., a real estate subsidiary of the former Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroad. Myers insisted that the purchase was made years ago in the name of conservation, a promise that he says Feinstein takes seriously.

And though he would not release details of the bill, Myers said none of the land would come from the federal energy zones marked by the Interior Department for development. Nor does he believe solar companies will have trouble finding land to build on elsewhere in the region.

“The land in the monument is minuscule,” Myers said. “There are so many other places where solar is being proposed throughout the state.”

But Kennedy still disagrees with the national monument push. He points out that BrightSource and 18 other companies have petitioned BLM and the California Energy Commission (CEC) to build in areas that overlap the Catellus lands, which would likely be closed to development under the Feinstein bill. Those applications represent about 10,000 megawatts of power, or 30 large-scale solar power plants; and though much of that would never get built, Kennedy says closing down Broadwell is a significant blow to the companies that have invested there under the guidance of federal land managers.

“This area is probably one of the best solar areas in the world,” Kennedy said. “All that the solar industry has said is, ‘Look, let’s respect the robust process in place,’ a process that is among the most transparent in the world through the CEC and BLM.”

That process is still proceeding. BLM has received 66 applications for solar, totaling 577,000 acres, most of which would be located in the desert, an agency spokesman said. BLM is also processing 93 wind applications, representing 815,000 acres.

Yet the monument bill may have already produced a chilling effect. John White, a renewable-energy policy expert at the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, says the proposal has cast a “shadow” over these projects just as they are vying for financing and federal stimulus dollars only available until 2010. To White, setting aside 1 million acres in the eastern Mojave would mean “less land for solar than for off-road vehicles … in the very best land that has the highest solar radiation.”

“I’m astonished that nobody’s said that,” said White, who refused to comment further on the political wrangling.

Myers countered that most of those 19 companies have agreed, in private discussions with Feinstein, to build elsewhere. Florida Power & Light Co., Cogentrix Energy LLC and Stirling Energy Systems Inc., among others, have informed Feinstein that they filed “shotgun applications” in the Broadwell area and are more than willing to drop those and find other areas, he said.

“They’re fine going outside the monument,” Myers said. “BrightSource is the laughingstock of the industry right now.”

Kennedy vs. Myers

For his part, Kennedy was unfazed by Myers’ allegations or his harsh take on BrightSource, calling the political heat familiar territory, given his family’s unique place in U.S. history. In the same breath, he urged Feinstein to take a step back before proceeding with the monument.

“I don’t think it does anybody any good to start making personal attacks,” Kennedy said. “Let’s argue this on the merits. I think if we argue this on the merits, I think BrightSource and 19 other companies are going to win the debate.”

Kennedy added that he has a “limited stake” in VantagePoint and denied asking for special treatment through Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) or anyone else in the state government.

“I don’t care enough about BrightSource to compromise my integrity or the national interest,” Kennedy said. “I’ve never talked to anyone about choosing BrightSource over anybody else. I’ve never asked for any favors from any politician or any regulator or any human being, ever.”

In the next breath, Kennedy went negative himself and questioned Myers’ relationship with a competitor to BrightSource, Pasadena-based eSolar Inc. Like BrightSource, eSolar is a solar-thermal outfit whose business model is built around reflecting radiation from mirrors into a large tower to convert steam into electricity. Unlike BrightSource, eSolar has no stake or planned projects in the Broadwell region.

Myers, Kennedy pointed out, has his own overlap issues with Silicon Valley money through eSolar. A major donor to the Wildlands Conservancy is the venture capitalist David Gelbaum, who has poured his own funds into eSolar and reportedly owns a fat stake in the company. eSolar would stand to benefit from the national monument, several sources said, because it is not involved in the Broadwell area.

Adding to the fire is Myers himself, who recently appeared at an eSolar press event in person to praise the company for siting projects on industrial lands near power lines in Lancaster, Calif. Yet Myers denies an inappropriate relationship and blamed Kennedy and BrightSource for stoking the rumors.

Gelbaum, Myers said, donated $45 million seven years ago to help acquire the Catellus lands. Myers said the donation and pledge to keep the lands off-limits took place well before BrightSource came into being.

Not stopping there, Myers slammed Kennedy for opposing a wind project off the coast of Nantucket, Mass., and questioned his recent environmental credentials. He said Kennedy is hiding behind the local versus national environmental debate when his real motivation is turning a profit through VantagePoint.

“Bobby Kennedy told us they did not want to see windmills in Cape Cod, that they had to put it all in the California desert,” Myers said. “The real story here is, Bobby Kennedy is on the side of major industrial development, and he’s against distributed generation.”

Kennedy responded in kind. “He is very focused on a narrow piece of land, which I respect,” he said of Myers. “All I’ve ever asked for is a rational process that is democratic, that is transparent, that is robust. That process is in place.”

View from the bleachers

Spectators on the sidelines were hesitant to comment on the flare-up between Kennedy and Myers or the shape of the monument designation. Most said they could not take a position on the forthcoming Feinstein bill until it is publicly available, which a spokeswoman said has not been finalized.

Officials at BrightSource, who contacted Kennedy for an interview after receiving a call for this article, said the focus had been placed unfairly on their company when the future of the entire solar industry is at stake.

“The debate over renewable development and desert protection is not adversarial,” said Keely Wachs, a spokesman at BrightSource. “We all have the same end goal of protecting the environment.”

White, whose organization is meant to bridge industry and environmental groups, said “a little bit of land rush” followed the stimulus frenzy and perhaps led to tense feelings on both sides. He urged the players to learn from the experience, even as he cautioned that the political process has yet to play out.

“It’s one thing to introduce a bill and another thing to get it through both houses,” White said. “I think that this really is the beginning of a long conversation about where and how to put solar in the desert.”

Elden Hughes, a former chairman of the Sierra Club’s California-Nevada Desert Committee, blamed BLM for promoting lands bought from Catellus years ago and said officials there should have respected a promise that those lands be conserved. He said BLM has only recently changed its tune.

Calling BLM officials “two-faced SOBs,” Hughes said, “For some months, they were telling us they were protecting the land, while at the same time they were taking developers out there.”

BLM spokesman John Dearing would only say that the agency’s job is to process applications. BLM has no right to block any entity from seeking a right of way on the Catellus lands, he said, adding that the agency will pursue “high-level reviews” for any proposed impacts to lands meant for conservation.

“They might want to steer away from that area,” Dearing said of the developers. “But they’re not prohibited from making an application.”


Copyright 2009 E&E Publishing. For more news on energy and the environment, visit



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Ted Kennedy Loses Battle With Cancer



“For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”


Edward M. Kennedy, one of the most powerful and influential senators in American history and one of three brothers whose political triumphs and personal tragedies captivated the nation for decades, died late Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., at age 77. He had been battling brain cancer.

His family announced his death in a brief statement released early Wednesday. “We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever,” the statement said. “We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all.”

President Obama released a statement Wednesday morning, pointing out that “virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts. . . . Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time. . . . Our hearts and prayers go out to” the Kennedy family.

Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, was the last male survivor of a privileged and charismatic family that in the 1960s dominated American politics and attracted worldwide attention. His sister, Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, died two weeks ago, also in Hyannis Port. One sibling, former U.S. ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, is still alive.

As heir through tragedy to his accomplished older brothers — President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), both of whom were assassinated — Edward Kennedy became the patriarch of his clan and a towering figure in the U.S. Senate to a degree neither of his siblings had been.

Kennedy served in the Senate through five of the most dramatic decades of the nation’s history. He became a lawmaker whose legislative accomplishments, political authority and gift for friendship across the political spectrum invited favorable comparisons to Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and a handful of other leviathans of the country’s most elite political body. But he was also beset by personal frailties and family misfortunes that were the stuff of tabloid headlines.

For years, many Democrats considered Kennedy’s own presidency a virtual inevitability. In 1968, a “Draft Ted” campaign emerged only a few months after Robert Kennedy’s death, but he demurred, realizing he was not prepared to be president.

Political observers considered him the candidate to beat in 1972, but that possibility came to an end on a night in July 1969, when the senator drove his Oldsmobile off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, Mass., and a young female passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned.

The tragedy had a corrosive effect on Kennedy’s image, eroding his national standing. He made a dismal showing when he challenged President Jimmy Carter for reelection in 1980. But the moment of his exit from the presidential stage marked an oratorical highlight when, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, he invoked his brothers and promised: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on. The cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

Instead of a president, Kennedy became a major presence in the Senate, which he had joined in 1962 with the help of his politically connected family. He was a cagey and effective legislator, even in the years when Republicans were in the ascendancy. When most Democrats sought to fend off the “liberal” label, the senior senator from Massachusetts wore it proudly.

In a statement issued early Wednesday, Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate’s majority leader, called it the “thrill of a lifetime” to work with Kennedy, describing him as a friend, the model of public service and “an American icon.”

He said Kennedy’s legacy “stands with the greatest, the most devoted, the most patriotic men and women to ever serve” in the Capitol.

Reid said that in addition to mourning his loss, “we rededicate ourselves to the causes for which he so dutifully dedicated his life.”

For decades, Kennedy was at the center of the most important issues facing the nation, and he did much to help shape them. A defender of the poor and politically disadvantaged, he set the standard for his party on health care, education, civil rights, campaign-finance reform and labor law. He also came to oppose the war in Vietnam and, from the beginning, was an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq.

Congressional scholar Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, described Kennedy’s mark on the Senate as “an amazing and endurable presence. You want to go back to the 19th century to find parallels, but you won’t find parallels. It was the completeness of his involvement in the work of the Senate that explains his career.”

Republicans repeatedly invoked Edward Kennedy for fundraising causes. They portrayed the hefty, ruddy-faced Massachusetts pol as the ultimate tax-and-spend liberal, Big Government in the flesh.

Despite that caricature, he was widely considered the Senate’s most popular member and was on congenial terms with many of his Republican colleagues. On a number of issues, he searched for compromises that could attract GOP votes.

He collaborated with a Republican president, George W. Bush, on education reform, with a Republican presidential candidate; Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), on immigration reform; and with arch-conservative senator J. Strom Thurmond (S.C.) on major crime legislation. Only Thurmond, who died in 2003 at age 100, and Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), served longer in the Senate than Kennedy.

Kennedy’s congeniality and his willingness to work with the opposition were at the core of his legislative ability. “He was fun; he was considerate to his colleagues,” Mann said. “He would take a 20th of a loaf compared to getting nothing.”

Kennedy and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) forged a lasting friendship that began in 1981, when Hatch became chairman of what was then the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. With nine liberals and seven conservatives on the committee, Hatch knew he needed Kennedy’s help — and he got it.

“We have passed so much legislation together,” Hatch told a Salt Lake City reporter in 2008. He noted having worked with Kennedy on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, an effort to prevent undue governmental burdens on the exercise of religion, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Long before he fell ill, Kennedy made health care a major focus of his career, terming it “the cause of my life.” His legislation resulted in access to health care for millions of people and funded cures for diseases that afflicted people around the world. He was a longtime advocate for universal health care and was instrumental in promoting biomedical research, as well as AIDS research and treatment. He was a leader in the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and the 1996 Kennedy-Kassebaum Bill — with Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.) — which allowed employees to keep health insurance after leaving their job.

Health care reform is “a defining issue for our society,” Kennedy told fellow senators during a 1994 debate. “Do we really care about our fellow citizens?” It was a question he asked countless times, in one form or another, during his long Senate career. He faced opposition from most Republicans — and more than a few Democrats — who insisted that Kennedy’s proposals for universal health care amounted to socialized medicine that would lead to bureaucratic sclerosis and budget-breaking costs and inefficiencies.

Receiving a diagnosis in May 2008 of a brain tumor, Kennedy rose from his hospital bed that summer and cast a dramatic vote on the Senate floor in favor of legislation preventing sharp cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. Several Republicans were so moved by his presence that they switched their earlier votes on the bill, giving it a veto-proof majority.

His family had been touched by cancer even before he got his own diagnosis. His son, Edward Jr., lost a leg to bone cancer at age 12 in 1973. His daughter, Kara Anne, was told she had lung cancer in 2003.

A list of major laws bearing his imprint, in addition to health care, fills pages. In 1965, he led the successful Senate floor battle that passed what was popularly known as the Hart-Celler Act, landmark legislation that abolished immigration quotas and lifted a 1924 ban on immigration from Asia.

“This bill really goes to the very central ideals of our country,” Kennedy said on the floor of the Senate. The legislation, the most significant immigration reform in four decades, passed both the House and Senate by overwhelming margins.

He was long the Senate’s leading voice on civil rights, including the 1982 Voting Rights Act extension, as well as efforts to advance the concept of equality to include the disabled and women in the workplace.

In 1972, he was a key supporter of Title IX, an amendment requiring colleges and universities to provide equal funding for men’s and women’s athletics. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, he played an important though indirect role in the 1973 investigation of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation. In 1996 and again in 2007, he was the lead Senate sponsor of legislation increasing the minimum wage.

In the 1980s, when a Republican president and Senate mounted a major campaign to roll back programs he had championed, he led the fight to save them. Even in the minority, he worked to expand government’s role in providing health care to children, making loans available to college students and extending civil rights to the disabled, among many other embattled initiatives.Known as Teddy, the youngest son in a powerful family, Kennedy was first elected to the Senate as a 30-year-old. Despite a reputation for callow recklessness and immaturity, he seemed destined for higher office from the beginning. Such a fate seemed even more assured after the assassinations of his brothers in the 1960s.

His oldest brother, Joseph, who was probably headed for a political career, died in a plane explosion while serving in World War II. Brothers John and Robert were killed in their 40s. So it was that the youngest Kennedy, and the last Kennedy brother, was thrust into the role of family patriarch and, ultimately, of elder statesman.

Overcoming an early reputation as a vacuous young man of privilege, as well as a string of debilitating personal tragedies and burdensome expectations that he would fulfill his brothers’ broken legacies, Kennedy became his own man in the Senate.

Edward Moore Kennedy was born in Brookline, Mass., on Feb. 22, 1932, the ninth and last child of Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. His maternal grandfather, John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, was a mayor of Boston. His paternal grandfather, Patrick J. Kennedy, served in both houses of the Massachusetts Legislature.

His father made millions in real estate, banking, Hollywood films and Wall Street, as well as in liquor during Prohibition. The elder Kennedy served under Franklin D. Roosevelt as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, then as head of the Maritime Commission.

His mother, a devout Roman Catholic, was exposed to the boisterous world of Boston Irish politics early, campaigning as a young girl with her father, the mayor, and meeting presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley. Decades later, she became an accomplished campaigner for her sons.

Joseph Kennedy was away during much of his young son’s early years, and Ted stayed with his mother in New York, where the Kennedys had moved in 1926. The family was reunited in London in 1938 when Joseph Kennedy was named U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, where — as legions of Kennedy haters would never forget — he was an outspoken opponent of America’s entry into World War II.

From his mother, Ted Kennedy learned the core values of the family’s Catholic faith; from his father, he learned to compete. “We don’t want any losers around here,” Joe Kennedy would tell his children. “In this family, we want winners.”

As the Kennedy family shuttled between London, Boston, New York and Palm Beach, Fla., Ted Kennedy studied at a number of private boarding schools before enrolling in 1946 at Milton Academy outside Boston. He was an undistinguished student, although he was an excellent debater, a good athlete and popular with his classmates.

From Milton, he enrolled at Harvard University. Joe Kennedy once warned his youngest son to be careful, Kennedy biographer Adam Clymer wrote, because he was the kind of person who would always get caught. The warning went unheeded. As a freshman, Kennedy asked a friend to take a Spanish examination for him, Spanish being one of his weaker subjects. Both students were expelled.

Afterward, Kennedy enlisted in the Army and served two years in Europe during the Korean War before his discharge in 1953. Jack Olsen, author of “The Bridge at Chappaquiddick” (1970), observed that Kennedy volunteered for military service “with much the same attitude as a European youth joining the French Foreign Legion.”

Welcomed back to Harvard, he was able to indulge his passion for football and was a first-team end in 1955, his senior year. Kennedy received an undergraduate degree in history and government in 1956 and received a law degree in 1959 from the University of Virginia.

He plunged into politics in 1958, managing his brother John’s successful campaign for reelection to the U.S. Senate. Two years later, he coordinated his brother’s presidential primary campaign in 13 Western states.

After John Kennedy’s election to the presidency in 1960, Edward Kennedy became an assistant to the district attorney of Suffolk County, Mass.; he was paid a dollar a year. He also began laying the groundwork for his own political career. Traveling at his own expense, he accompanied members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a fact-finding tour of Africa in 1960.

Before taking office in January 1961, John Kennedy urged Massachusetts Gov. Foster Furcolo to appoint Benjamin Smith II to his vacated Senate seat until a special election scheduled for November 1962. Smith, the mayor of Gloucester, Mass., and the president-elect’s college roommate, was immediately labeled as a placeholder until Edward Kennedy reached 30, the minimum age for a U.S. senator under the U.S. Constitution.

That was exactly what happened. The youngest Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination three weeks after his birthday, and Smith stepped aside.

His chief rival for the nomination was Edward J. McCormack Jr., the state attorney general and nephew of John W. McCormack (D-Mass.), speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time.

Although Kennedy avoided a potentially damaging campaign issue by revealing his expulsion from Harvard before his opponent could mention it, the primary campaign was bitter. McCormack repeatedly reminded voters that Kennedy had never held elective office and questioned his judgment and qualifications to be a U.S. senator. In the first of two “Teddy-Eddy debates,” McCormack tried to turn the Kennedy name against his opponent. “And I ask you,” he said, pointing a finger Kennedy, “if his name was Edward Moore — with your qualifications, with your qualifications, Teddy — if it was Edward Moore, your candidacy would be a joke. Nobody’s laughing, because his name is not Edward Moore; it’s Edward Moore Kennedy.” McCormack’s attacks backfired, and Kennedy won by a margin of more than 300,000 votes. He went on to defeat the Republican nominee, George Cabot Lodge, and was sworn into office in January 1963.

3239923.jpg image by mikesamerica

As a freshman senator, Kennedy deferred to his more venerable peers, concentrating on legislation of local interest. That approach began to change on Nov. 22, 1963. He was in the chair, in the absence of the vice president, presiding over a desultory debate concerning a library services bill.

A press aide ran to the floor with a bulletin he had ripped off a teletype machine in the lobby and handed it to the first senator he reached, Spessard Holland (D-Fla.). Then the aide cried out to Kennedy: “Senator, your brother has been shot!”

Kennedy turned pale, gathered his papers together and rushed out to the lobby, where he began making phone calls to the White House and to his brother Robert, the attorney general. Confirming the news of the shooting, Edward Kennedy hurried home to Georgetown and told his wife Joan, who had heard nothing.

That night, he and his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, flew from Washington to Hyannis, Mass., where their father lay half-paralyzed with a stroke. The family had not told him; in fact, they tried to keep the news from him. Only when he asked that the television be turned on the next morning did Kennedy tell his father that his eldest surviving son was dead.

John Kennedy’s assassination helped make his youngest brother’s reelection almost inevitable, despite his relatively sparse Senate record, but he almost lost his life in the process. Flying to Springfield, Mass., to accept the nomination of the state’s Democratic convention, his twin-engine plane crashed in an apple orchard seven miles short of its destination. The pilot died instantly, and Kennedy was pulled from the mangled wreckage with a broken back, three broken ribs and a collapsed lung. An aide to Kennedy also died in the crash.

The first doctor who saw him cautioned that he might be paralyzed for the rest of his life. After a few days, doctors determined that he had suffered no permanent nerve damage.

His wife, mother and Kennedy family functionaries campaigned for him as he spent long months of recovery lying on his back. After his fellow Democrats nominated him by acclamation, he won the general election against a relative unknown, by 1,129,000 votes.Kennedy’s initial foray into health care issues came in 1966 after he became aware of the difficulties facing Boston public-housing residents who had to rely on the city’s teaching hospitals. Although they lived only four miles from the hospitals, it took them up to five hours to get there and back on buses and subways, including the time it took to wait in an emergency room.

In August 1966, he visited a community health clinic opened by two Tufts University medical school professors on two renovated floors of an apartment in the housing project. Within a couple of months, Kennedy managed to get money through Congress for a program of community health centers. By 1995, there were more than 800 centers in urban and rural areas, serving about 9 million people.

As a brother of a president on the front lines of the Cold War, he initially expressed “no reservations” about the American military commitment in Southeast Asia. That support began to wane after two trips to Vietnam and as U.S. involvement escalated toward the end of the decade.

He said years later, as quoted in Clymer’s 1999 biography of the senator, that a trip he made to Vietnam in 1968 was the turning point. It left him troubled, he said, by the casualties the United States was causing and “the failure of the Vietnamese to fight for themselves.” He came to believe that the Vietnam War was “a monstrous outrage.”

By 1968, his brother Robert, then the junior senator from New York, had become the standard bearer of the antiwar movement. Some antiwar Democrats were urging Robert to run in Democratic primaries against President Lyndon B. Johnson. Edward Kennedy, who had grown close to his brother during their time in the Senate together, advised against it. He argued that a run in 1968 could not succeed and that it would damage his brother’s chances for the 1972 nomination. Privately, he also was afraid that his brother would be assassinated.

On March 15, 1968, Robert Kennedy announced that he was running not “merely to oppose any man but to propose new policies.” On June 5, 1968, Sirhan B. Sirhan, a Christian Palestinian outraged by Robert Kennedy’s support of Israel, shot him in the head in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

After the assassination, Edward Kennedy temporarily withdrew from public life. He delivered the eulogy at his brother’s funeral in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then spent the next 10 weeks sailing, often alone off Cape Cod, brooding about the loss his family had endured. He considered leaving politics altogether.

Returning to his senatorial duties in August 1968, he made ending the Vietnam War his top priority. He offered a four-point plan that included an unconditional bombing halt in North Vietnam and unilateral reduction of American forces.

Over the next few years, he made scores of antiwar speeches around the country. He condemned President Nixon’s “Vietnamization” strategy — in which the South Vietnamese took over more responsibility for military operations — as “a policy of violence” that “means war and more war.”

He supported every end-the-war resolution that came before the Senate until the U.S.-backed Saigon government fell in 1975.

In 1969, he wrested the post of Senate majority whip from Russell B. Long, a powerful Senate veteran from Louisiana. Winning by five votes, Kennedy at 36 became the youngest majority whip in the history of the Senate.

He lost the position to Byrd of West Virginia in 1971, in part because tallying votes and tending to tedious detail were not among his strengths, but also partly because of his preoccupation with a scandal two years earlier that claimed the life of a young womanand changed forever the arc of his political career.

On July 18, 1969, Kennedy attended a small get-together of friends and Robert Kennedy campaign workers on Chappaquiddick, a narrow island off Martha’s Vineyard.

Late that night, the car he was driving ran off a narrow wooden bridge and plunged into a tidal pool. His only passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, one of the “boiler room girls” in Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign, drowned.

Kennedy, who failed to report the incident to police for about nine hours, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident. He received a two-month suspended sentence and lost his driver’s license for a year.In a televised speech on July 25, six days after Kopechne’s death, Kennedy confessed to being so addled by the accident that he was not thinking straight. “I was overcome, I’m frank to say, by a jumble of emotions: grief, fear, doubt, exhaustion, panic, confusion and shock,” he said.

Kennedy’s public statement did little to quell rumors about what actually happened. For years, speculation about the multilayered mystery was almost as intense as that surrounding the assassination of his brother, the president.

Although Kennedy denied rumors of intoxication or a “private relationship” with the young woman, lingering doubts about the incident ended, at least for a few years, any presidential ambitions the senator might have had.

He easily won reelection to the Senate in 1970, and by the late 1970s, the Chappaquiddick incident had faded enough that Democrats were again talking about a Kennedy challenge to a faltering Carter presidency. A 1978 Gallup poll showed that rank-and-file Democrats preferred Kennedy over Jimmy Carter the incumbent by 54 to 32 percent. Kennedy decided to run, but his brief, inept campaign managed mainly to wound the Democrat already occupying the White House.

The fatal wound to Kennedy’s presidential hopes came during an hour-long interview with Roger Mudd on Nov. 4, 1979, when the CBS journalist asked him the most basic of questions: “Why do you want to be president?” His muddled, stammering response — Kennedy “made Yogi Berra sound like [Israeli statesman] Abba Eban,” columnist Mark Shields observed — made the question moot from that moment on.

He stayed in the race until the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York’s Madison Square Garden, where the party faithful got a glimpse of the candidate who might have been when he delivered one of the great speeches of his career. In powerful, ringing tones, his “dream shall never die” speech called on the party to recommit itself to vintage Democratic values.

“Programs may sometimes become obsolete, but the idea of fairness always endures,” he proclaimed. “Circumstances may change, but the work of compassion must continue. . . .”

He congratulated Carter and then concluded his speech with the passion and defiance that had become vintage Kennedy: “For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

Delegates leaped to their feet. Their uproarious demonstration lasted more than half an hour.

With the White House out of reach, Kennedy gave himself to the Senate and relied on a staff that most observers considered the best on Capitol Hill. His aides stayed longer than most assistants in other offices, in part because Kennedy entrusted them with responsibility and relied on their expertise. Occasionally, he supplemented their salaries from his own funds to keep them from leaving.

In 1987, he took the lead in opposing President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court. Kennedy portrayed Bork, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as a right-wing activist and helped doom the nominee. “In Robert Bork’s America,” Kennedy said, “there is no room at the inn for blacks and no place in the Constitution for women; and, in our America, there should be no seat on the Supreme Court for Robert Bork.”

His unsuccessful opposition to the high court nomination of Clarence Thomas in 1991 was less vocal, partly because he was preoccupied by an incident in which a nephew, William Kennedy Smith, was arrested and charged with rape in Palm Beach, Fla. (Smith was acquitted.)

The senator and his wife, Joan Bennett Kennedy, who struggled with alcoholism for many years, divorced in 1982 after 24 years of marriage. Tales of public drunkenness, womanizing and loutish behavior dogged him for the next decade. At the same time, he conscientiously carried out his role of family patriarch. As the oldest surviving Kennedy male, he was not only father to his own three children but also surrogate father to more than two dozen nieces and nephews.

In a 1991 speech at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Kennedy made an apology of sorts for his personal misconduct. “I recognize my own shortcomings, the faults in the conduct of my private life,” he said. “I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them.”

Kennedy seemed to regain his footing, personally and politically, after his marriage in 1992 to Victoria Anne Reggie, a lawyer from a Louisiana political family. She survives, along with Kennedy’s sister; three children from his first marriage, Kara Anne Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy Jr. and Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.); two stepchildren; and four grandchildren.

In 1994, Edward Kennedy defeated a Senate challenge by Republican businessman Mitt Romney and never faced another serious battle for his seat.

Although his party lost the White House six years later, Kennedy remained in the thick of the legislative action. President Bush’s signature piece of domestic legislation, the No Child Left Behind bill, was going nowhere in early 2001, when Kennedy, who had put his mark on nearly every education law since the 1960s, declared his support. He considered the bill a worthy effort to increase public-school accountability through rigorous standardized testing.

With Kennedy and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) corralling skeptical Democratic votes, the most important education legislation in decades became law in early 2002.

Six years later, the law’s renewal faced widespread opposition from those who considered No Child Left Behind a balky and unworkable intrusion into local control of schools. Kennedy again came to its rescue, despite his deep and bitter opposition to the Bush administration on a number of issues. He argued that the law had made schools better but that it had flaws that needed to be fixed.

On most other issues, most notably the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Kennedy was bitterly opposed to the Bush administration. He once said that his proudest Senate vote was his 2002 vote against authorizing Bush to use military force against Iraq.

“There was no imminent threat,” he said in a 2004 speech at the Brookings Institution. “This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud.”

In January 2008, at a rally at American University, Kennedy endorsed the presidential candidacy of another early opponent of the war, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Declaring that “it is time for a new generation of leadership” in America, he passed over his friend, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who also sought the Democratic nomination for president. Kennedy campaigned for Obama until suffering a seizure that May.

Three months later, Kennedy left his hospital bed and flew to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Slowly making his way to the podium to the cheers, and tears, of 20,000 rapturous fellow Democrats, he proclaimed, in a voice still strong, “a season of hope.”

Delegates of a certain age heard echoes of his brother’s 1961 inaugural address and of his own impassioned speech in Madison Square Garden nearly three decades earlier.

“This is what we do,” he proclaimed. “We scale the heights; we reach the moon.”


Story by Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 6:17 AM

Staff writers Robert Kaiser and Martin Weil also contributed to this report.


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JFK’s Sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver Dies



Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver, who used her stature and wealth as a member of the storied political dynasty to found the Special Olympics and fight for the disabled, died early yesterday morning at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis after a lengthy illness. She was 88.

The Special Olympics said that Shriver was with her husband, R. Sargent Shriver, 93, five children and 19 grandchildren at the time of her death.

“She was a living prayer, a living advocate, a living center of power. She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more,” a Shriver family statement said.

Her passing leaves U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, 77, and Jean Kennedy Smith, 81, as the last surviving siblings of the nine children born to the late Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Sen. Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, recalled how Shriver was inspired to found the Special Olympics by their sister, Rosemary, who was institutionalized through most of her life because of mental disability and a failed lobotomy.

“The seeds of compassion and hope she planted decades ago in her backyard summer camp were inspired by her love for our sister, Rosemary,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Over the years, she grew those seeds into a worldwide movement that has given persons with disabilities everywhere the opportunity to lead more productive and fulfilling lives.”

President Obama issued a statement extending his condolences.

“She will be remembered as the founder of the Special Olympics, as a champion for people with intellectual disabilities, and as an extraordinary woman who, as much as anyone, taught our nation and our world that no physical or mental barrier can restrain the power of the human spirit,” he said.

Shriver was born in Brookline on July 10, 1921, the fifth of nine Kennedy children. Her ambition was evident, even in games of touch football, the family’s favored pastime.

After graduating from Stanford University in 1943 with a bachelor of science in sociology, she helped former prisoners of war adjust to civilian life at the State Department’s Special War Problems Division. Shriver became a social worker at the Penitentiary for Women in Alderson, W.Va., before moving to Chicago to work with the House of the Good Shepherd and the Chicago Juvenile Court.

From January 1947 to June 1948, she worked as a special adviser on youth problems to the Justice Department. Her salary: $1 a year.

But it was her love for her sister Rosemary that led Shriver to the passion of her life: fighting for the mentally disabled.

“Rosemary could swim better than any of us,” she told the Sunday Herald in 1965. “These abilities kept her close to the family.”

Seven weeks after her younger brother Robert was assassinated in 1968, Shriver presided over the first-ever Special Olympics Games, when a paltry crowd of 100 showed up to watch 1,000 intellectually challenged athletes, a competition that grew out of Camp Shriver, a retreat at her home in Maryland.

Undeterred, Shriver predicted that some day, a million of the world’s disabled athletes would some day gather and compete. Today, at least 3 million athletes participate in the games’ 30 sporting events.

Her son, Timothy P. Shriver, chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, said yesterday that his mother possessed “relentless determination, passion (and) courage.”

“I challenge each of you to further my mother’s work and vision – reach out to a person with intellectual disabilities who every day is looking for hope, love and opportunity,” he said in a statement. “For as my mother said, ‘As we hope for the best in them, hope is reborn in us.’ ”

Shriver wrote passionately of her quest to stamp out societal prejudices against the intellectually challenged.

“They should and must be helped,” she wrote in an article for Parade Magazine in 1964. “We of the bright, real world must reach out our hands into the shadows, not with trembling emotion but with sure-footed, level-headed assistance,”

Shriver married R. Sargent Shriver in 1953. In him, she found a partner in service. He was the the first director of the Peace Corps and was a 1972 vice presidential candidate.

Fiercely loyal to her family, Shriver actively campaigned for the political careers of her siblings and husband, who now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Guided by her Catholic faith, she was adamantly against abortion, advocating for more programs to aid teenage mothers. Colleges showered Shriver with honorary degrees, including Yale University, the College of the Holy Cross and Princeton University.

President Ronald Reagan awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, in 1984.

On May 9, a portrait of her was unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington – the first commissioned portrait of an individual who has not served as president or first lady.

Shriver is survived by her husband, R. Sargent Shriver; a daughter, Maria Owings Shriver, a television newscaster, and her husband, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; four sons, Robert Sargent Shriver III, Timothy Perry Shriver, Mark Kennedy Shriver and Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver; a brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy; a sister, Jean Kennedy Smith; her grandchildren and her nieces and nephews.

A public wake will be held from 1 to 7 p.m. tomorrow at Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis at 10 a.m.Friday.

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Opinion: Vanity Fair Overlooked Kennedy Family’s Brightest Star

EDITOR’S NOTE: The latest issue of Vanity Fair features an article called “Ted Kennedy’s Final Battle,” which is an excerpt from Ed Klein’s new book on the liberal lion. The article speculates heavily on which member of the Kennedy family will eventually pick up the torch of leadership – Patrick? Caroline? Joe? Kathleen? Christopher? – but seems to overlook the one believe to be the best qualified…Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

One of of our longtime bloggers wrote to voice her amazement at Klein/Vanity Fair’s out-of-hand dismissal of RFK Jr.’s capabilities, expressing the dismay many of Bobby’s supporters felt after reading the article. We’d like to share her Letter to the Editor with you below:


By Susanne Silverstein


Dear RFK Jr. News-Staffers:
It’s been a while since I’ve visited the web site but my heart still gets tugged when I read articles like this month’s Vanity Fair
I feel the article is totally unfair to RFK Jr. in it’s perception that he is not one of the heirs most likely to be active in this or next generation.  The article goes on to hype Joe Jr & Caroline as being the two new leaders of the Kennedy clan.  They discuss how RFK Jr. has a speech impediment that makes running for office a serious challenge. 
I beg to disagree!  He has been out there speaking in public for years, never letting his spasmodic dysphonia stop him from getting the message across. He hosts a weekly radio show on Air America and does numerous television interviews. In my opinion, he’s a better speaker than all the other Kennedy kids put together! 
I have also been aware that he has had to work with a speech impediment, but Bobby is nothing less than an electrifying speaker.  It is a shame what his family is pulling.  They are only hurting our country by their selfish short-sighted behavior.  All of us face some dysfunction in our immediate families and I just chalk this nonsense up to petty jealousies.
I hope the members here can convince him that he is beloved by millions.  That there are millions more longing to hear him speak; and that he will be able to sort out his family’s nonsense for what it is.  Just a histronic reaction to the sad scenario of Ted Kennedy’s illness and probable prognosis. 
Bobby Jr; has accomplished so much more in public life than most of his cousins, brothers and sisters put together!  I once did admire Joe Kennedy’s prowess, but he seems to be truly happier working on his energy company.  He has kept a low profile until now.
We need to get more letters over to Vanity Fair to set them straight about Bobby Jr’s real promise and qualifications as a real leader for the next generation of Americans! 
Thank you,


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The Ghost of John F. Kennedy


by Ernie Mannix

“Strange…”  he blurted, on feeling that familiar pain in his lower back. “I’m just vapor and thought, and I still need a chiropractor.”

The handsome man instinctively brushed aside the hair barely hanging down on his forehead as he pressed on towards the residence portion of the house.

“Ah… I am here to see Obama” he told the secret service guard inside the residence. The guard did not react at all.  John Fitzgerald Kennedy knew right off that his presence would be seen only by his intended audience and the guard saw nothing. “Fix your tie pal.” Kennedy joked as he walked passed the oblivious sentry.

“You must be President Kennedy”, Obama sheepishly asked the figure now standing above him as he lay in bed.  ”Thesevisits are getting quite regular, are you the last?” 

“Well, Teddy Roosevelt wants to come and see you, but ahh… we talked him out of it… well okay we restrained him.  Well,  I wouldn’t worry too much about that… for now.

Obama turned and looked towards his wife.

“Don’t worry Mr. President, your wife will hear and see nothing… time is standing still.” Kennedy mentioned, as he pointed to then tapped his watch.

Obama moved to get up, and President Kennedy interrupted; “Please don’t get up on my part, what I have to tell you won’t take too long, and you will be needing your rest for the coming months and years my friend.”

“Well, here it is Barack;

 I’m all for social programs that really work, and I know you need money to pay for them, but when you create bureaucracy that can only barely pay for its own fat self with those hard earned tax dollars, burdening the government itself and of course the poor taxpaying citizen, well son, then you are on the road to socialism.

You are creating agencies and bureaus that exist to feed themselves, and how the hell is that going to help a nation that is in deep debt? The state is not always the answer Obama, American know-how, and the unfettered creativity that powers it almost usually is. Yes, tighten the belt on business cheaters and scammers, but don’t choke off the growers and the doers. It’s real simple Barack, if you turn each and every time to bureaucracy, well, let’s just say you’ll be turning our country in the wrong direction.

We aren’t Europe. We aren’t communists. We aren’t socialists. And we sure as hell aren’t in the business of making the latter two of those particular groups stronger.

For you to raise a communist island that enslaves it’s people up to equal our democracy with so called talks is just nuts son. They are rotting away faster than their ‘57 Chevrolets and you want to bring them into a dialogue? You notice how Fidel’s brother said that the prerequisite is that you talk as equals? This guy is now gonna dictate the talks? Instead of trying to ‘understand’ what every other country is about, I suggest you study and understand what we are all about. Not every one on this earth is worth being friends with.

“Mr. Kennedy, you are a Democrat!” Barack exclaimed incredulously.

“Don’t give me that crap Barack. Your party does not even resemble the Democratic party of my day. You’re acting like a teenager that thinks he knows everything there is to know, and all that came before him was so ‘uncool’. Come on, the only ones you won’t talk to are the people in your own country who are hopping mad at you and your policies. For instance, you can ignore that Tea Party all you want, but it sure is a group I’d be talking to, before the seeds they are sowing start taking root. Those are Americans for God’s sake, and you got that Pelosi out there belittling them. That is just silly. I don’t hear her even saying one cross word to the despots and dictators you both are facing.

“President Kennedy, I ‘ve gotta say, on that note sir, you once said: ‘Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.’

“Yes I did Barack, but there must be some kind of a goal there. Cuba? Iran? Chavez?  Unless you are now in the business of helping communists and terrorists, what are we as a democracy to gain from them?  And I think you really need to think about the first part of that quote and search your soul Obama.  You might think you are making it easier to be liked, but what you might just be doing is making it easier for us to be beat. Obama, understanding who your real enemies are is much more important than being nice to everyone. And for goodness sake, start using the word terrorist again. 

Listen, I’ve got to go, but let me leave you with another one of my quotes; ‘The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.’ 

Well, I wish you luck son, .. oh and I’ll try to dissuade Teddy Roosevelt from charging on in here” 

With that he smiled that million dollar smile, turned, and disappeared into the golden light beaming through the bedroom window.



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RFK Jr. Attacks ABC for “Inaccurate, Purposefully Provocative” Story

EDITOR’S NOTE: Interesting little kerfuffle last week between Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and ABC News‘ investigative reporter Brian Ross. Seems that Kennedy may have criticized the Obamamessiah’s support of “Clean Coal” a bit too harshly in an interview he gave to ABC, lumping the president in (like an old lump of coal, as they say) with other politicians who are “indentured servants” of the coal industry. 

Needless to say, the political ramifications of this statement were far-reaching and caused Kennedy considerable embarassment. Envirobloggers and the party faithful were outraged, blaming ABC for shoddy reporting and misrepresenting what Kennedy actually said..or meant to say. Calls for an apology from Brian Ross were made. The next day, RFK Jr. then issued a statement taking issue with ABC’s presentation of his Obama remarks. (ABC continues to defend their story, offering no apologies. They also posted a transcript of the interview as a response to RFK Jr.’s denial.)

In an effort to clear up the confusion and set the record straight, Kennedy claimed that no, he wasn’t actually talking about Obama, but some other politicians on Capitol Hill, and that when he said he was “including” Obama with the rest of these corrupt officials, he didn’t really mean that Obama…um, must’ve been some other Obama. Also, when he said that “everybody” who carries water for the coal industry, including President Obama “should be ashamed of themselves,”…he didn’t really mean that, either. Well, okay, actually he did mean it, but he was only talking about those other corrupt politicians (the Republican ones, presumably), but not the President and leader of his own political party.

So in other words, it depends on what your definition of “including” is.

Kennedy says that furthermore, when Ross asked him to clarify his statement about political leaders being “indentured servants” to industries like Big Coal (“Are you saying that about President Obama?” Ross asks, to which Kennedy replied, “Yeah.”)…his response in the affirmative was taken out of context. 

Whew…got all that? More confused than ever now about who said what and what Kennedy really meant to say? And what is the definition of “including,” anyhow? What does “everybody” mean?

The original interview transcript of Kennedy and Ross is below – as it happened, word-for-word – so you can see the context of Kennedy’s remarks for yourself and decide whether or not you think he was talking about that Obama. You know, the only dude in American politics with the name Obama. Who also just happens to be the President. Yeah, that one.

ABC News

Interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

ABC News’ Brian Ross talks to RFK Jr. on the Issue of Clean Coal

April 14, 2009—


ROSS: So what’s going on here then with these extensive campaigns and all the candidates in the presidential election last year endorsing this?


KENNEDY: The coal industry and the carbon industry in general are the largest contributors to the political process. So, you know, you have politicians who have essentially become indentured servants to these, and adopt the talking points of these industries. And that’s really, it’s not in the best interest of the American public certainly but it’s one of the sad fallouts of having a lackadaisical campaign finance system in this country, which really compromises, ultimately American democracy. Because you don’t have politicians representing the American public, but rather the people who finance their campaigns. And that’s the coal industry and the oil industry, who are the primary funders.


ROSS: So when you watched last fall with all the candidates, including President Obama talking about clean coal, what were you thinking when you watched all that?


KENNEDY: Oh, not only was I dismayed to see that, but also, if you looked at the presidential debates, the networks were allowing the coal industry to sponsor the debates. So that every single one of the presidential debates was sponsored by clean coal. So it’s not just that it’s corrupted the political process, but it’s corrupted essentially the American media as well.


ROSS: Have you seen the commercials they’re running now with President Obama, “Yes, we can” talking about clean coal? What’s your reaction to that?


KENNEDY: Well, again, I think it’s sad when political leaders feel that they are so indebted to these industries that they, and so fearful of them, essentially, that they have to endorse conditions that clearly are wrong.


ROSS: And you say that about President Obama?



Anybody who looks at this understands that the term “clean coal” is a dirty lie. That coal is neither cheap nor clean. It’s devastating to our country, it’s bad for our economy, it’s devastating towards our communities, and we have wonderful alternatives in this country if we’d only invest in them.


ROSS: And you see in the stimulus package that there’s $3 billion plus for clean coal. When the White House went for that did you raise an objection or do you object now?

KENNEDY: Well, we raised the objection when they were trying to put $17 billion dollars worth of stimulus for so-called “clean coal”. We, so at the end, by the time we got to $3.6 billion it was looking pretty good. But it’s much less than they asked for at the beginning. And I think in truth that this country is going to be moving away from carbon, because carbon, coal simply cannot compete in the marketplace. This morning I cut the ribbon on a new plant by a company called Abound, which is producing solar thermal panels in Colorado. And it’s the largest production of solar, thin filmed solar panels in Colorado. It’s the largest solar panel production in the world today, and it opened today. And they are producing solar panels for people’s roofs at grid parity. That means they are producing it cheaper than you can produce coal.

So even with all of the subsidies that are going to the coal industry, the coal industry receives almost a trillion dollars in subsidies every year from our country, and yet even with those huge subsidies that allow them to sell their energy at 6 cents a kilowatt or 11 cents a kilowatt, we can still beat them in the marketplace. Even though they have all these subsidies, these distorted advantages, we’re still beating them in the marketplace. And so their time, I think, is limited.


ROSS: Do you think President Obama‘s been hoodwinked or has there been political pressure? What do you think accounts for his continued endorsement of clean coal?


KENNEDY: As I said, I think that it’s a sad testament to the impact of campaign contributions in our system and the political clout of this industry that you have very sensible politicians, including great men like Barack Obama, who feel the need to parrot the talking points of this industry that is so destructive to our country, to the communities of Appalachia, to the millions of Americans who’d like to take their kids fishing.


You know, we’re living today, truthfully, in a science fiction nightmare. Our country, where my children and the children of most Americans can no longer engage in the seminal primal activity of American youth, which is to go fishing with their father in the local fishing hole and then come home and safely eat the fish. Because somebody gave money to a politician and poisoned more than half of the fish in this country with mercury. And it’s the coal industry, and they are privatizing a public trust resource, the fish of our country, which belong to us, they belong to the people. But now the coal industry owns them and the utilities. Because they poison them so much we can’t use them anymore.

ROSS: But is it unusual for you? You’re speaking out against the leader of your party, the President of the country. That’s not going to help your chance of a job in this administration.


KENNEDY: My loyalties are to my country and not to any particular politician. And you know, I’ve been non-partisan. I’ve been 25 years as an environmental advocate, I’ve been non-partisan and bi-partisan. I don’t believe in partisanship. If somebody does something wrong, I’m going to say it whether they’re Democrat or Republican.


ROSS: And do you think President Obama should reverse his course on this?


KENNEDY: Absolutely. There’s no such thing as clean coal, we’re destroying the Appalachians. And I guarantee you if we could get President Obama to fly over the Cumberland, to fly over the Appalachian mountains and see the destruction that’s occurring there, he would…

ROSS: And what do you think this $3.6 billion will mean to the clean coal push?

KENNEDY: What will $3.6 billion mean? I don’t think it’s really going to make a big difference in terms of a lot of coal plants being built. We’ve been able to shut down 40 proposals for coal plants over the past two and half years. People are understanding that nobody wants a coal plant in their community because they don’t want the autism rates to climb because of the mercury contamination. They don’t want to be getting sick. The University of Texas just published a study that shows that people who live in the plume downwind of a coal burning power plant have much greater, in their schools, they have much greater special education needs because of the damage it’s doing to our children. So nobody wants one of these in their neighborhoods, so I think more and more people across our country are just saying no to coal. They’re saying we want alternative forms of energy, we know they’re out there.


We’re building them today, the companies I’m involved with are building them and we don’t have to be hookwinked by the coal industry anymore. And the politicians who are continuing to carry the industry water and to parrot the industry talking points ultimately should be ashamed of themselves.


ROSS: Including President Obama?


KENNEDY: Everybody.


ROSS: This must be one of the great propaganda campaigns of all time.

KENNEDY: Well, there’s a lot of propaganda campaigns by big industry. Look at the tobacco industry which was able to for 50 years, while it was killing one out of every five of its customers that used its product as directed, was able to persuade the political process, the political structure that there was nothing wrong with tobacco. I remember seven years ago that seven heads of the tobacco companies swearing under oath before Congress that they did not believe that tobacco was bad for public health. Well, the tobacco industry is tiny compared to the coal industry. And you saw that the destruction, the lies, the creation of these phony scientists, these tobacco scientists, and the coal industry has its own tobacco scientists. We call them “biostitutes”, and they keep them in these phony think tanks on Capitol Hill and they’ve got their slick PR firms and they’ve got their indentured servants in our political process who, and they’ve got their toadying corporate toadies on talk radio who are mouthing the talking points that there’s such a thing as clean coal.


And they’ve got a huge advertising campaign, a propaganda campaign, and we know that propaganda works. You know, It actually works. And that’s unfortunate, but it does, and they will succeed in persuading some members of the American public there’s such a thing as clean coal. And they’ll be able to provide cover for some of their indentured servants in our political process who feel that they need to mouth the talking points of the coal industry. But I think most Americans are not going to be fooled. Nobody wants a coal plant in their backyard, and everybody now I think understands that clean coal is a dirty lie.





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Where Do You Stand? Time To Choose.


(in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)


I stand for TRUTH.

I  stand for FREEDOM.

I stand for LIBERTY.

I stand for the CONSTITUTION.

I stand for THE REPUBLIC.

Do you? 

Time to choose, people!




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