Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr., near the very beginning of his April 19 announcement to run for President in the Democratic Party spoke these words:
"Fifty-five years ago last month, I sat as a 14-year-old boy behind my father as he now announced in a Senate caucus room in Washington, DC, his campaign for President of the United States. And my father at time was in the same, in many ways, the same position that I’m in today. He was running against a President of his own party. He was running against a war. He was running against – he was running at a time of unprecedented polarization in our country."
In this way the son tells us right away that he is "running against a war," Joe Biden’s cruel US proxy war against Russia using Ukrainians as cannon fodder.
He reminded us that his father was given very little chance of winning and felt he would likely lose. But on the day of his assassination, RFK had won the California primary, an urban state, and South Dakota, a rural state. The son is telling us that his is a candidacy not to be written off lightly. RFKJr was polling at 14% among Biden voters even before he announced. And nearly 44% of Democrats want anybody but Biden, with only 25% wishing him to run in 2024.
A video of the entire two hour long speech, impressive in many ways, is to be found here and a transcript here. Kennedy did not read from a prepared text although the speech appeared to be carefully outlined. It had a refreshing air of informality. And it deserves a careful listen.
Many of the points in the speech are summed up in the section on "Peace" in RFKJr’s campaign website, Kennedy2024.com, as follows:
"Annual defense-related spending is close to one trillion dollars. We maintain 800 military bases around the world. The peace dividend that was supposed to come after the Berlin Wall fell was never redeemed. Now we have another chance.
"As President, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will start the process of unwinding empire. We will bring the troops home. We will stop racking up unpayable debt to fight one war after another. The military will return to its proper role of defending our country. We will end the proxy wars, bombing campaigns, covert operations, coups, paramilitaries, and everything else that has become so normal most people don’t know it’s happening. But it is happening, a constant drain on our strength. It’s time to come home and restore this country."
"When a warlike imperial nation disarms of its own accord, it sets a template for peace everywhere. It is not too late for us to voluntarily let go of empire and serve peace instead, as a strong and healthy nation."
And on Ukraine:
"In Ukraine, the most important priority is to end the suffering of the Ukrainian people, victims of a brutal Russian invasion, and also victims of American geopolitical machinations going back at least to 2014. We must first get clear: Is our mission to help the brave Ukrainians defend their sovereignty? Or is it to use Ukraine as a pawn to weaken Russia? Robert F. Kennedy will choose the first. He will find a diplomatic solution that brings peace to Ukraine and brings our resources back where they belong. We will offer to withdraw our troops and nuclear-capable missiles from Russia’s borders. Russia will withdraw its troops from Ukraine and guarantee its freedom and independence. UN peacekeepers will guarantee peace to the Russian-speaking eastern regions. We will put an end to this war. We will put an end to the suffering of the Ukranian people. That will be the start of a broader program of demilitarization of all countries.
"We have to stop seeing the world in terms of enemies and adversaries. As John Quincy Adams wrote, ‘Americans go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.’"
Those are strong words and realistic categories like "empire," "proxy wars," "coups," "geopolitical machinations going back to 2014," all ugly imperial facts alluded to euphemistically or not at all in the mainstream media.
This is a candidacy that cannot be ignored or reduced solely to the pros and cons of mRNA vaccines or Kennedy family squabbles over the candidacy as the mainstream media has done. For example, in its brief back page coverage, the New York Times, the foremost mouthpiece of the imperial Establishment, there is nary a mention of war with another nuclear power now hanging over our heads!
This is not to say that we should accept all of RFKJr’s words at face value. But given the present enthusiasm for war in every corner of the Democratic Party’s political establishment and among much of its base, it is difficult to see RFKJr’s candidacy as opportunistic. His candidacy deserves to be treated skeptically like all candidacies but not cynically. The speech should be listened to carefully in that spirit.
John V. Walsh, until recently a Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at a Medical School in Massachusetts, has written on issues of peace and health care for the San Francisco Chronicle, EastBayTimes/San Jose Mercury News, Asia Times, LA Progressive, Antiwar.com, Consortium News, CounterPunch and others.