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Bill Clinton on RFK: The First "New Democrat"

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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 01:52 AM
Original message
Bill Clinton on RFK: The First "New Democrat"
Edited on Sun Jul-25-04 01:54 AM by ZombyWoof
Reading Clinton's memoirs provides some fascinating insight on public service, what motivates people to do it, how it is done, knowing how to campaign, and how to learn from one's mistakes. It's a fantastic political primer for aspiring office-seekers of any level.

He also provides first-person insight into the 1968 schism in our country that went beyond a divide in the nation - much like we are experiencing now - and into the divide within our party, which again, we have recurring difficulty.

The most original insight came from his take on RFK - whom Clinton eagerly and enthusiastically campaigned for his last year at Georgetown as an undergrad that tumultous spring of 1968. Recounting the Indiana primary, he said Kennedy kept his platform on opposing the war, securing more civil rights, and fighting poverty intact in this conservative-leaning state by using tough anti-crime rhetoric, and openly advocating welfare reforms that would help secure work. In other words, Kennedy knew as much as any master politician about the importance of knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and how to campaign locally. The lesson here is not just how Clinton was obviously influenced by RFK as a campaigner, or even as a Democrat, but as a stark reminder about how history is less kind than myth, and shines a harsher light on idealism than it sometimes wishes to bear. Kennedy the man is a more vital and important that Kennedy the myth, and whom Clinton dubbed the first "New Democrat". If that isn't a provocative thesis, then you must be one of the poor few who finds his book dull.

Reading these passages from Clinton made me inadvertently play a mental game of DU-in-a-time-machine. I can imagine the flame wars: "Kennedy is a sell-out!" "RFK is just a moderate pansy pretending to be liberal!", "His brother is rolling over in his grave!", "He is pandering to those rubes in Indiana!", and so on and so on... Throw in a few media criticisms too, just for consistency in the frothing and foaming.

And yet.

We know that beyond the Kennedy myth, one I have admittedly devoted lots of bandwidth tearing down, there IS much about the middle Kennedy brother worthy of emulation. That there is unmistakably an honorable man coming alive from Clinton's memories, our history books, the collective memories of those who were there - all too alive, before he was felled too soon by the assassin's bullet. That wrenching, shattering year of 1968, the cause of peace and a better America was also felled by that bullet, and so many more...

We pick ourselves apart on here over the minutiae of Kerry's message, his campaign strategies, what he should have voted on, what he should not have voted on, whether he is Republican-lite this, or flip-flopping that, that we are in danger of missing the grander scheme. No, not merely removing Bush from office, but that we have a rare chance to work again towards the ideals we have in common for our party, and more importantly, for America and the world. Kennedy would have wanted that. So too do you. Don't you?

Yes, I sound a little like the misty-eyed idealist there. Me, the hardened realist about politics! Yes, I do wipe away the occasional sweat I work up on my brow, or the tear from the corner of my skeptical eyelid. But you don't get to be idealistic, as Kennedy surely was, without firm grounding in the cold hard reality of campaigns and political deal-making. You cannot have one with the other. This is a dichotomy lost on the neophytes and self-righteous, as is all too a seemingly inevitable part of political drama.

One of the failures of 1968, and a potential failure for us now isn't so blas as "a lack of unity". It's the damage of sanctimony, on ALL sides, not just the far left, not just the moderates. All sides. The cycle of blame and criticism is self-perpetuating at the least, and self-defeating at worst.

I am not saying the way out of this cycle is to hold hands, and sing of peace and flowers. I must kick my idealist side in the ass. What I am saying is that we need to stress what we do have in common, fight for those things, win the Big Ring, and hash out deals on the rest later. All things in their time, in their order. While we squabble, the nation burns in Republican and neo-conservative fiddlin' hands.

Of course, I could be just playing to my audience on DU the way Robert Kennedy did so masterfully over 36 long years ago in the heartland.

Myself, I take no umbrage at Clinton's designation of Robert F. Kennedy as the first "New Democrat". There is more at stake than ideological games of purity and my-way-or-die. There is just us, and we're pretty damn powerful if we allow our ideals to work in tandem with our grounding. Let us try it, Democrats "Old" and "New", or whatever you choose to call yourself, as long as you are committed to the causes of equality, liberty, and peace, however hard it is to get them, no matter how many generations it takes.



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David Dunham Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 01:54 AM
Response to Original message
1. Edwards reminds me very much of RFK
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JohnKleeb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:03 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. The Edwards supporters said that and I didnt see that
but as I got to know John Edwards better, I happened to agree. Kerry and Edwards may not be perfect and I sure havent agreed with all their votes but I believe they will do good for America and I cant say the same about Bush-Cheney. Just simply amazes me that one vote makes the differance in how someone views a man, I have respect for those republicans who voted against the IWR, Ron Paul, Connie Morella, John Duncan, John Hoesteller, and Ano Houghton but one vote doesnt prove greatness, greatness is examplified over time and by and large those republicans havent examplified greatness now Kerry despite that vote has a voting history that I think any dem could appreciate. If Kerry's a bushlite, then I am a moderate and I am no moderate, if Kerry is simliar or the same thing to Bush, I must wonder what conservative democrats are to those who feel that way about Kerry, theres a big differance between the most conservative democrat and George Bush. Unity is what we need, we have to unite to beat Bush.
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JI7 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:04 AM
Response to Original message
3. i believe Kerry picking Edwards as his vp
Edited on Sun Jul-25-04 02:05 AM by JI7
had a lot to do with what is said in this post. the same goes for many of the other campaign strategies.
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creeksneakers2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:10 AM
Response to Original message
4. One of the best posts I have ever read here. n/t
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:19 AM
Response to Original message
5. I have to disagree with Clinton on this one
I can understand Bill wanting to project his own qualities onto a political hero of his. I do the same thing sometimes.

RFK was pragmatic and was effective at making arguments for liberal ideals in a way that appealed to moderate whites. Clinton was good at that too, but he didn't always follow through on action like RFK did. RFK spent a lot of time trying to move the nation to the left while Clinton spent more time triangulating.

For example, Clinton bowed to pressure and signed a destructive Welfare "Reform" Bill, which reflected the mood of the nation and Congress at the time. In contrast, RFK tried to change the attitudes of the nation and Congress by touring the south and holding hearings on poverty, a tour that Paul Wellstone retraced not long ago. Robert was also zealous in fighting what he saw as evil forces, weather it was the mob, communism, poverty or racism.
I think if you want to look for a modern RFK it was someone more like Wellstone, a pragmatic crusader who tried to move the nation instead of only responding to it. Clinton just didn't fit the bill.

I do agree with other posters in that Edwards reminds me of RFK a little. Certainly more than Clinton does.
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:33 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. like I said
It's a provocative thesis, and perhaps projection like you said, so I expect disagreement with it.

Just keep in mind, it is dicey to compare Clinton's style with RFK's. Kennedy had the luxury of never governing as president, nor dealing with an opposition Congress (and SCOTUS) for the better part of two terms. Part of that Kennedy myth I speak of is in large part due to his not letting people down as presidents are wont to do.

Also, consider my point that in the Indiana primary, RFK did get accused of triangulation and so forth by the supporters of Gene McCarthy, who resented RFK and his supporters for stealing their thunder.
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:54 AM
Response to Reply #7
14. RFK was not known for
getting a lot of legislation passed in the Senate. So who knows how successful he would have been at passing his agenda as President. You make a good point there.

I was born after '68, but I have read some of the old RFK campaign literature from Indiana. I was amazed by it. When I first read it I thought it was some of the most brilliant campaign literature from a progressive viewpoint I had ever read. I certainly think it sounded far more liberal than anything Clinton produced for his campaigns. At the same time, it made arguments in a very pragmatic way that might appeal to moderates as well, and I think it did so very effectively. I'm not surprised he got those kind of attacks from McCarthy supporters. I still have a hard time reconciling Clinton's style of governing and politics with Kennedy's.
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:02 AM
Response to Reply #14
16. the nation has moved right since '68
So you are not imagining things with what you read in that campaign literature. The best reforms since the New Deal were brand new, and the possibilities of progressive politics were quite mainstream.

I really recommend you read the pages Clinton wrote about that very notion. You may be surprised that although he is the center-leftist we know him as, he is still a liberal like us in many ways, and has insightful points about WHY this nation has moved right, and why the GOP is so good at sticking it to us.
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JI7 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:09 AM
Response to Reply #16
19. Clinton has a good understanding of the political mood
of the country and of specific people in the country. actually, he has a good understanding of the world. he also understands different cultures within america. not just liberal, conservative, moderate. but of immigrants from various nations, different religions etc.
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Kanary Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:23 AM
Response to Reply #5
25. A very thoughtful post. The issue of "leadership" is what I've been
saying for a long time now. I like the way you put it "a pragmatic crusader
who tried to move the nation instead of only responding to it. "

I didn't have the pleasure of knowing Wellstone, but everything I read about him certainly describes him as that kind of Leader you have described. Certainly, RFK was. He was almost like a crusader.

sigh..... that we had a leader like that now..........

Do you see much of that leadership/crusader quality in Edwards?

Kanary
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:35 AM
Response to Reply #25
27. All the candidates talked about
race, inequality, poverty and social justice at the Rainbow/Push and NAACP forums during the primary. Edwards went to elite private colleges in New Hampshire filled with white students from rich families and talked about poverty, racial injustice and his two Americas theme. That takes a little bit more courage and conviction. That's what I like about Edwards and that's what reminds me of RFK.

I'm not sure if he has reached the RFK/Wellstone level yet, but I'd like to find out if he does.
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Kanary Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:48 AM
Response to Reply #27
29. I have more on the line than most here,
so this is more important to me. I have been quite pessimistic about the outcome and your words therefore, got my attention.

While he wasn't even on my radar during the primaries, during the "pick" process, I found myself hoping for Edwards, for the reasons you list. I don't know whether he will progress in that direction as you describe, but I find myself hoping. However, since he is #2, a lot depends on whether Kerry even listens to him, *if* he does progress in that way.

This isn't a theory to me...... lots is riding on this for me.

I wish I knew of some magic way to push them both along this path! So much depends on them both developing a powerful leadership role, rather than following the winds.......

I really do believe RFK was at a different level than Clinton wants to admit to. Amazingly, given hindsight, the man was quite fearless. God, I miss him! That was such a horrible time, and I think it really screwed up my generation.

Thanks again for your insights!

Kanary
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:31 AM
Response to Original message
6. The big mistake of '68
is that the nation wanted someone who would end the war, and the party nominated someone who was still supporting it. The Party totally misread the wants and needs of the public. That caused disunity and a sad loss. Humphrey finally came around and supported withdrawal from Vietnam, but it was too late. Hopefully the party isn't making the same mistake by failing to adequately respond to a large movement against the war in Iraq. By having a ticket of two people who voted for the war, and by watering down the platform, I'm concerned that Kerry/Edwards might cause disunity by failing to represent the same kind of movement that the party mistakenly ignored in '68. This year is very different and if Kerry doesn't take the anti-war crowd for granted then I don't think there will be the kind of division there was in '68 (I hope).

On the other hand, I don't think the "New" v "Old" Democrat argument is necessarily about ideological purity. For me the debate is about moving the public to the left by informing people and making our case as liberals v. following polls and trying to appear moderate enough to get swing voters. Appealing to moderates might make sense in the short term of each election, but in the long term it guarantees that liberal principles and values will be the minority view as long as we fail to defend those values courageously.

RFK was typically daring and out front by trying to inform the public and move them to the left. I'm not sure that can be said of many moderate New Democrats who would trade short term victory for long term viability of progressive values.
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:42 AM
Response to Reply #6
11. the assassination caused disarray
Edited on Sun Jul-25-04 02:58 AM by ZombyWoof
Humphrey was the "safe" pick being VP and all, and I agree that it was a mistake for many of the reasons you cited, and more we could hash out all night. Kennedy was poised to win California, which probably would have cemented the nomination for him in August.

Humphrey wanted to come right out for withdrawal from Vietnam, and capitulated in the platform for the wrong reasons at the wrong time, as you also well know.

My best advice is to drop in the library or bookstore to read the passages yourself. Clinton explains better what he meant by the analogy himself than I do. Still, I felt there were lessons about '68 we could use reminding of. This time, the war is being waged by the Republicans, and they have their own divisions too. I say we exploit them.

I understand where you are coming from. I won't get into another round-robin of the IWR vote, other than I will say that it is unfair to Kerry to twist his vote (or Edwards's) into them advocating such a unilateral zeal and outright hunger for war, as Bush clearly demonstrated he had for many months prior. Their mistake was not just in believing bad or falsified intelligence, it was believing that Bush would not abuse the goodwill of the IWR supporters and transform it into a rubber stamp to wage war however he wants. Remember, the IWR (and my support of DK speaks for itself on this issue, so bear with me) said the US must allow the UN to finish its job, and if there are WMD's, then secure broad international support. So it was the wrong vote, but it irks me when people who hold it over Kerry or Edwards's head, as if they wanted the war with the same zeal and bloodthirstiness of Bush. As if they would have waged it themselves without observing the terms of the IWR to the letter. That's the elephant in the room some DUers won't acknowledge: Bush was going to wage the war regardless, and he broke the terms of the IWR as flagrantly as he has always flaunted the law all his life.

But that should be my last word on that subject for some time.
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:45 AM
Response to Reply #11
13. This is the point in the book I'm at too
I read the RFK line a night or two ago and I agree that it is a provocative statement. I was fairly surprised by it, but he does make an interesting argument.
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:07 AM
Response to Reply #13
18. oh cool
Never mind then. :-)

I will say that your arguments were just as sound to me before I knew you had read it, but I felt I was not doing a good enough job conveying what I read from him in relation to your points, and so I felt "go to the source and maybe that will clarify what I was getting at". Now if I have not confused this enough...lol.

Carry on.
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:18 AM
Response to Reply #18
24. No problem
I think I was so surprised by the statement that I may have skimmed through some of his supporting arguments. I may go back and re-read some of that chapter. It was a good one.

RFK is a big hero for me and I sometimes want to give him credit for being more liberal than he was. At least, he probably wasn't very liberal until later in his career on a number of issues. That's partly why I tend to think Clinton is projecting a little of himself onto Kennedy as well.
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:33 AM
Response to Reply #24
26. his "law & order" rhetoric
It can be said that RFK was being consistent there, for his record as AG shows he went after organized crime like none of his predecessors. It was something always in him.

Also, we must be careful not to project our own disappointment in what the DLC has wrought in hindsight to what Clinton is getting at. What Clinton is getting at is that RFK was a liberal who knew when to embrace the change at the heart of progressive philosophy, and when to stand pat without being reactionary. The willingness to shed or defy orthodoxy. The constant struggle to not let yesterday's progress become today's stagnancy and conservatism. Think about it. If we fight too hard to keep the old liberal reforms of the New Deal or Great Society as is, that makes US the reactionaries. The last thing we need, and I feel Clinton is cautioning, is to allow the Republicans to be the reformers as the inverse of our stagnancy. Look at what they have reformed since Reagan. Their version of reform or "progress" is orthodoxy of the worst sort - complete privatization. Yes, we need to reform Social Security, just not THEIR way, as an example. So if RFK was a "new Democrat", it was because he would keep the traditions we were best known for since the New Deal alive: civil rights, worker's rights, and social justice - then couple those with reforms with welfare, crime prevention, and so forth that went against orthodoxy, while not being defined with ideological convention. In a nutshell, RFK transcended ideological pigeonholing. Certainly a liberal, but not confined to safe or easy definitions of one. That is the way it should be - avoid orthodoxy, for it leads to reaction, from the left or right.


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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:46 AM
Response to Reply #26
28. When I read that passage
I remembered the "law and order" parts of the Indiana campaign literature I found at a flea market in Illinois. It was very smart considering all the turmoil of the time and his service as AG. Yes, it was an obvious appeal to moderates, but it sounded very different from the law and order rhetoric I hear today. Maybe I'll dig that out just for fun.

Your post reminds me that one thing I like about RFK was his willingness to look at new ways of doing things. He didn't always take the big government approach that Johnson was fond of. His work in Bed-Stye makes it obvious that he would have structured welfare very differently than LBJ or Nixon did. I'm still not sure that made Kennedy a New Democrat but your point is well taken.
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:09 AM
Response to Reply #11
20. In regards to the IWR
Obviously you're right about Kerry's lack of zeal for the war. I resent Kerry for making the wrong choice on IWR, but at least he distanced himself from what Bush was doing early on. I was also impressed with Edwards when he became the second primary candidate after Kucinich to say he would vote against the $86 billion appropriations to Iraq, even when Dean was still supporting it. That made me more comfortable with Edwards, and Kerry eventually voted against the bill as well.

It would have seriously disturbed had someone truly enthusiastic about the war been put on the ticket like Gephardt or Lieberman. That would have been a serious problem for me and I think many other voters. While I don't think we're in a '68 position with a totally pro-war candidate, I just hope Kerry does what he needs to do to not alienate the anti-war voters who want to support him.
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fujiyama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 06:19 AM
Response to Reply #6
33. Kerry shares some similarities with Humphrey
atleast in that both have had a liberal voting record. Humphrey strongly supported civil rights and was a liberal for the most part. Unfortunately Humphrey's support for the war, and the left's inability and or unwillingless to work with him for that reason, gave us one of the most corrupt presidents.

Fortunately, Kerry hasn't been in favor of the war in the way Lieberman has (or Humphrey was then). I don't see how a left leaning coalition of any sort would have held together had he been nominated. It would very likely have been a defeat. Probably the same goes with Gephardt. We also would have seen a much higher turnout for Nader.

As for Edwards and RFK, I think Edwards has done a good job talking about the inequalities of American life. This was something that was being discussed on NPR the other night, and they actually used the same term, "two Americas". This is the reality and it's unfortunate more candidates haven't spoken about it. Many democrats seem to have been frightened and or worried of being accused of "class warfare".



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JI7 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 06:27 AM
Response to Reply #33
34. Hubert Humphrey was Paul Wellstone's hero
he would often brag about how when he first got into the senate another more long term senator (Hollings i think) told him he talked too much and that he reminded him of hubert humphrey.

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IndianaGreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-26-04 03:28 AM
Response to Reply #33
52. Humphrey was a war criminal, period!
Have you forgotten his support for the murderous war we unleashed in Southeast Asia? The millions of dead and wounded? The birth defects caused by our use of chemical agents?

Sure, Humphrey was a jolly old fart, but so was Mussolini!
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AP Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:33 AM
Response to Original message
8. I thought about DU when I read the passages about RFK. What Clinton
Edited on Sun Jul-25-04 03:20 AM by AP
was saying -- in my opinion -- was that all the other Dems were ONLY talking about Vietnam. Meanwhile, RFK was looking at the big picture, which was that America was making some people rich by intentionally making other people poor, and right wingers were using race as part of that mechanism of holding almost all Americans back to make a very few very wealthy. RFK cared about race and poverty first and foremost.

The DU parallel to me was all those people arguing that Dean and Clark were the best candidates because they were talking the most about the one and only thing that mattered: Iraq. Meanwhile, there was Edwards and Kucinich whose lens for looking at American had to do with class and opportunity.

I guess I'm relieved that we got a candiate half-way between those extremes, so that we will avoid the mistake of '68. However, I do think if RFK had made it to the GE, he would have won, and I think an RFK-like candidate could win this fall too.
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JohnKleeb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:40 AM
Response to Reply #8
10. right!
and thats why Ive come to like Edwards, his resemblance to RFK in this point. I didnt get in to the other candiates who were against the war other than Kucinich, cant explain why really but they werent really talking about fighting poverty and injustice. I came to like Edwards through his concern for the "war" at home.
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:00 AM
Response to Reply #10
15. This is what people who
were confused by Kucinich's support for Edwards in Iowa were missing. Kucinich was not a single issue peace candidate. He shares a lot in common with Edwards in regard to their personal background and their focus on issues like poverty, race, trade, corporate power, injustice and so on.

As a matter of fact, I heard Kucinich compare this election to the '68 election several times. He suggested this was probably the most important election since that time in determining the course of the Democratic party and the nation. I never heard him say who he was supporting in the primary back then.
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JohnKleeb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:16 AM
Response to Reply #15
22. Yeah I remember that
They even went as far to call him a "sellout", "phony" but the truth of the matter is, Edwards was fighting for the same domestic issues Kucinich cared about, remember Edwards also dreams of free college for all. I think Kucinich supported Bobby in '68, he's said he grew up admiring his brother Jack. I personally prefer Bobby Kennedy to Eugene McCarthy honestly. Kucinich and Edwards had a very simliar background, they were for the little guy and I really liked that about them. ,
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:45 AM
Response to Reply #8
12. very good point
Clinton surely makes it clear that poverty and race were the pressing domestic issues of that time for RFK, and Vietnam exacerbated them - whether it was the disproportionate drafting of young blacks, or poor kids of any color - plus his going to South Africa to speak out against apartheid.
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mitchum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:35 AM
Response to Original message
9. Kick for a great post
My hat is off to you, Mr Woof. Well...I don't wear hats, but you know what I mean!
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yowzayowzayowza Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 04:43 AM
Response to Reply #9
30. Second that.
...hat part too.
:kick:
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Jim Sagle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:06 AM
Response to Original message
17. Clinton's old news. Fuck'm.
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:12 AM
Response to Reply #17
21. I was just waiting for an intelligent post on this thread!
and now we finally have one
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Jim Sagle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:17 AM
Response to Reply #21
23. Look, I defended him to the max WHEN they impeached him over
nothing. But now he's trying to say his way is the only politically astute way. But his success was due MUCH more to his own personality and political skills than any supposed New Democrat magic dust.
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cosmicdot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 05:45 AM
Response to Original message
31. it may be a provocative thesis ... but, so much more is involved ...
1968 ... Indiana ... Birch Bayh is Senator ...

2004 ... Indiana ... Evan Bayh is Senator ...

Have we become more conservative? Or has corporate power, money, Media ... and, corruption ... bought the politics, and brought it to what it's perceived to be today?

Instead of maintaining convictions and ideals ... politicians followed the money ... and polls ... whomever conducts them and whomever participates in them ...

1968 ... Corporate America had yet to take over the political system like it has today (see opensecrets.org), including Bill Clinton (like others, I, too supported Bill - especially during the coup against his Administration - but, his Newt Gingriching Contract on America issues; and, signing such legislation as the Clear Channel/GE empowering act: the Telecommunication Act, as an example, caused me for the first time to question my own Party ... and I was a life-long Democrat from a southern blue-dog, blue collar FDR Democratic family and, first time voter for McGovern (did McGovern evolve from RFK-Birch Bayh-Gene McCarthy or was he trending us .... setting the stage for the Joe Liebermans and Dianne Feinsteins?) ...

I hope Bill didn't spend too much time building on the suggestion ... it's like a book of its own. At a minimum, it should require a great big *


Something doesn't make sense, and requires more thought than typing extemporaneously here.

I think that the role of Corporate America on 3rd Way politics is essential to the story ... Corporate America's influence on modern-day Democrats and politics must be considered in a major way for any comparative history and/or distinctions which attempt to mark the eras; ergo, affecting any projections or comparative analysis or analogies ...

The use of polls today ... it seems polls are used to help a person to have a thought on a issue ... I'm not sure that convictions in 1968 were based on such polling data ... values do not come from polls ... leadership from polls isn't real ... it's pseudo ...

Polls have watered down one's ability to be a true vs. pseudo-leader.
Leaders lead through conviction, not polling data. Leaders use politics to persuade opinion, not let polls lead them.

Now, we have a generation of Hill, state and local politicians bought, brought and maintained by a system of good ol'boys; and, from them emerge 'our leaders'.


I saw the politics of Bill Clinton as more logistical than philosophical ... he couldn't be the RFK he wanted to be ... because of the influences in the system as noted above ... but ... he could be the person to help turn the corner away from that Reagan-Poppy-Pat Robertson thing ... Al Gore's victory in 2000, would have continued the tide change ... we would be trending to the 1960s where the torch was passed ... an Al Gore Administration would have gotten ~imo~ America back on the track of progress, and infrastructure improvements ...


The DLC/Al From/NDOL like to think that they made Bill Clinton ... I think Bill Clinton used whatever he had at his disposal to get elected ... I think he used self-made CEO of the Democratic Party Al From and his ego to get what he wanted ... and, because WJC was successful, the DLC believed it was 'them' who made Bill Clinton instead of the other way around ...

There wasn't candidate blackout like we've seen in recent years with corporate media manipulating coverage and emphasizing talking points and editing sound bytes ... how does Gene McCarthy's campaign against RFK in the Indiana Primary compare to Kucinich's campaign, for example, against the DLC candidates in 2004?


I don't think Bobby, Birch, Gene would want us to have trended to the gridlock and do-nothingness we've seen over the last 20 years ... for having 'trended' more conservative (or is that corporate).

Evan Bayh is DLC/NDOL ... Birch's own son is far from the politics of either RFK, Gene McCarthy ... even his father ...


The bottomline: It just seems more complex than what Bill Clinton is apparently suggesting ... which is likely more of an attempt to strengthen Bill Clinton ... but, by doing so, he may be doing injustice to Bobby, and the history of the Democratic Party ...


(Comments are made based on the thesis of RFK as early DLC (or New Dem which may be connotatively more appealing to the ear) and, not about winning and losing elections ... for, if that's injected, than we have to bring up the whole corruption, October Surprises, Watergates, etc., which further muddle fair analysis of events ... cheating changes reality.)
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 12:55 PM
Response to Reply #31
40. for people wondering
It was only 2-3 pages that Clinton devoted to the differences between RFK, Humphrey, and McCarthy. I felt it was an honest assessment of WHY he supported RFK's candidacy. The arguments he had with college friends sounds much like the bickering we had on DU during the primaries (well, maybe less heated, but just as passionate). Many of the same issues too - who was opposed to the war (Clinton honestly was), who cared about the big domestic picture, who could work with the middle from the left.

I share a lot of people's disappointment with what Clinton failed to accomplish, but the right-wing has gotten more virulent, better-financed, and in more control of the media than they ever did in RFK's day. The literal assassination of RFK was a sign of their fear and impotence to confront progressive change. These days, Scaife-financed, Fox News-propagandized character assassination is how this fear masks itself.

In any event, I believe Clinton was sincere in his support of RFK, and why he feels he himself tried, even if so incompletely, to live up to his promise. I am no fan of the DLC, but that is because I think it has deviated from its original intent. It wasn't supposed to just moderate the party or recast its image in the public mind - although that was elemental - it was to keep the party from doing the other thing I said: Not let the reform of old become entrenched beyond contemporary innovation. Gore Vidal was on to something when he noted the irony of hard-right Republicans becoming the reformers (although in a purely reactive way) and the Democrats becoming the party of the status quo.
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IndianaGreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 05:58 AM
Response to Original message
32. Clinton was no Bobby Kennedy
I can't imagine Bobby signing the welfare reform and the DOMA that Clinton signed, or coming up with Plan Colombia or the 8-year bombing and starvation campaign of Iraq.
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Tierra_y_Libertad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 08:18 AM
Response to Original message
35. Clinton was RFK? Yeah, and Bush is Lincoln.
I think not.
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 12:26 PM
Response to Reply #35
37. he didn't say he was
:eyes:
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ulysses Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 08:50 AM
Response to Original message
36. it seems a little facile to annoint RFK a New Dem in hindsight.
As always, this is where the idealist/pragmatist dichotomy breaks down. There are actually very few people on the "far" left who don't understand the necessity of compromise, but you have to look at what you get out of it. Advocating welfare reform that secures work in the service of furthering real, tangible goals in peace, civil rights and poverty is entirely different from pushing welfare reform that is punitive in nature and whose passage is used to gain no particular advances in other areas.

"Unity" may not be the root issue, but it's certainly one that derives from the sanctimony issue - in my view, the sanctimony coming from the DLC. We have an opportunity this year to move beyond that; most of the party unified in the goal of removing Bush, a candidate neither wholly centrist nor wholly liberal. We have a chance to move forward in *genuine* compromise. But the fact is that I don't trust the New Democrat movement as far as I can bodily throw Al From, and this RFK thing from Clinton, meaningless as it is at the end of the day, sounds like propaganda.
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leesa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 12:31 PM
Response to Original message
38. How I long for the old dems....those not in Israel's pocket and hell-bound
for endless war in the ME
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 12:42 PM
Response to Reply #38
39. RFK was pro-Israel
Edited on Sun Jul-25-04 12:42 PM by ZombyWoof
Radical Activist, in his excellent posts, suggested that Clinton may have been projecting a little with his idea, but I also see that projecting coming from the left of RFK.

We honestly DO NOT KNOW what he would have done had he gone on to be president - surely many great things domestically could have been accomplished. But to project his views on contemporary world affairs... well, isn't that more or less what some are accusing Clinton of doing?

For the record, RFK was pro-Isreal, as were most politicians of the day. They were the "good guys" in the 1967 Six Day War.

It goes without saying he would not likely have been for this war in Iraq, but I don't play what-if games with the dead. Obviously, I would want him to be as left-leaning as Teddy, or more so, but we shall not ever know.
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Selwynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 01:00 PM
Response to Reply #39
42. RFK was not anti-israel is a better way to say it.
Which is a good thing.
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IndianaGreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:31 PM
Response to Reply #39
46. Israel did not have settlements in Gaza and the West Bank in 1968
Had he lived, I think Bobby would have blasted the Likud and their surrogates in America as crypto-Fascists.

Bobby would have condemned the Occupation like Nelson Mandela and Archbisphop Desmond Tutu did.
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Selwynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 12:59 PM
Response to Original message
41. You can't unite polar opposites.
You may not take umbrage at the term, but I do. Why? Because new democrats represent values opposite to mine. Opposite, get it? Not complimentary, not congruent - opposite. Trying to find ways to unite old democrats and bitter progressives who have congruent views is hard enough. But I can't stand shoulder to shoulder with people who's views are opposite of mine. The DLC is in the lucky position where their opponent is someone I feel to be the worst president in my lifetime. So I will vote for Kerry against Bush. But you have to appreciate the fact that I don't accept the argument that "new" democrats are committed to peace, or liberty. They supported the war, they provided no checks and balances to Bush's tyranny, they rubber stamped the destruction of civil liberties and have failed to in any bold and honest way stand up for what's right.

To me new democrats means, democrats using kinder, gentler language to stand for policies and principles that are barely distinguishable from the right. That's not something I can stand behind in the long run. That's something I have to speak out against. Just as much as I am angry at third party progressives who can't seem to talk about what they are for or how they plan to do that, but only talk about what they are against and how much they hate democrats, I am not blind to the fact that I am a progressive and I do believe our party is going in the WRONG direction. We can't be a "big tent" with people who are headed opposite ways, and the imperialism-lite wing of the party is not going in the same direction as the traditional wing of the party.

There has to be a common ground unity point or no unity is possible. The only common ground traditional democrats (also known as just democrats or democrats for what's morally right!) and new Democrats have is that bush is the worst president in my lifetime and we need to get him out. I talk about how third party progressives should be more untied with the democratic wing of the democratic party because we do have commonalities, and because I wish more progressives would chose to work within the party for change rather than go without. But I can't find common ground with my political opposites. I can't say, hey you support the Iraq war and believe we should continue to occupy for years to come and I don't but hell we're all the same! I can't say, hey you supported the Patriot Act and you congressional new democrats have stay completely silent on every shredding of the constitutional protections of citizens to happen in the last four years, but hell we're all the same!

I can't say, you don't support a living wage, refuse to talk about the fact that social spending - regardless of whether or not the right likes to label it tax and spend or not - is *morally* right, you aren't willing to talk about the reality of intense class warfare that is only getting worse, you're not willing to call the President on the carpet for his total shredding of the EPA and withdrawal from Kyoto, in fact you removed mention of it from the platform, you're not willing to get serious about medical care in this country, you're not willing to stand up and be a party of opposition standing for a truly different way, you in congress have demonstrated no inclination to refuse support to Bush's war doctrines, preemptive insanity or imperialistic approach to world affairs, your answer to everything is to listen to what the neo-conservatives say and then say "oh we're for that too, just we say it a little different," but hell, we're the same!

The fact is we have next to nothing in common. The difference is that I believe that change within the party is possible. And I'm not an either or thinker - I believe that change will be easier to achieve with Bush removed from the White House, so I support the new democratic candidate this year. But after that, then I believe traditional democrats that remember what was just and right about the party need to spend the next for years just as active as if each one was an election year - campaigning for reform within the party and a return to strong traditional values that are simply just and right. I'd like to see more progressives come back into the party - the third party progressives and progressives within the Democratic party should be able to unite along with traditional liberal democrats.

Unfortunately however, I cannot unite with people who have fundamentally opposite beliefs from what I do. We can enter an unholy alliance to get Bush out of office, but I disagree with everything that is part of the DLC agenda. I used to get a newsletter called "The New Democrat" and I finally stopped because I don't agree with anything in it. It is just wrong. It is wrong, and our party can't stay divided forever. Either it will be the party of compassionate imperialism, and kinder, gentler class war, and loving corporatism, or it will be the party of democratic history, the party of FDR, the party of hope and commitment to social justice and equality. I think the next four years can go a long way to deciding that.
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 09:59 PM
Response to Reply #41
51. So you supported Lieberman in the primary, right?
haha :)
Actually I feel pretty much the same way you do. I'm supporting Kerry, but if we're still in Iraq and our trade policy hasn't changed in four years I'll be looking for a liberal to run against him in the primary. I hope he doesn't disappoint me too much.
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XanaDUer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 01:03 PM
Response to Original message
43. Excellent post!
Well siad, and it has inspired me to read Clinton's book.
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 01:07 PM
Response to Reply #43
44. *Pulls liberal epaulets off your shoulders*
;-) :hi:
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:27 PM
Response to Original message
45. ZombyKick
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wyldwolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:45 PM
Response to Original message
47. On Clinton, RFK, and myths
Edited on Sun Jul-25-04 02:46 PM by wyldwolf
I have a friend in the party whose wife's grandfather (sounds like soap opera already) was a big fundraiser for the democrats from the 40s to the mid 70s.

He has framed letters from Truman, Kennedy, and LBJ, personal correspondences with them - including one from FDR, etc.

He knows his stuff.

He says the Kennedy's weren't all they're cracked up to be these days but that the cream always rises to the top.

I guarantee the couple of purists here condescendingly saying "Clinton was no Kennedy" (well, duh!), this guy could really spoil your impressions of the Kennedys.

History usually shines on the good points - as it has with the Kennedys and as it seems to be doing with Clinton.

Years from now, some of you will be crotchety old men wondering why Clinton is still adored just as some today wonder the same about the Kennedys.

Oh, and good post, Zomby - and right on the money.
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 02:53 PM
Response to Reply #47
48. thanks!
Good reply too. Earned my crochety old man creds long ago. ;-)

I would love to talk to that grandfather!
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Tierra_y_Libertad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 03:00 PM
Response to Original message
49. "New Democrats" more like Rockefeller Republicans than RFK
Hopefully they will be consigned to the same trashbin that is full of the same tepid pablum they espouse.
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 07:09 PM
Response to Original message
50. Whoosh!
Everything is going as planned... WHOOOSH! Right over some heads...
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