Tuesday, 15 April 2008 15:36

An Open Letter to Jane Hamsher and Markos Moulitsas re: Caroline Kennedy and "Dynasties"

Jim DiEugenio excoriates these figures from the progressive blogosphere for their treatment of Caroline Kennedy's interest in the open Democratic Senate seat of Hillary Clinton.

Dear Jane and Markos:

Being an avid reader of the blogosphere I could not help but note the recent round of columns that was started by Jane and taken up by Markos. I am referring to Jane's December 7, 2008 post about Caroline Kennedy's interest in the open Democratic Senate seat of Hillary Clinton. (First entered at Jane's Firedoglake and then cross-posted at Huffington Post.) Jane's post was entitled: "Caroline Kennedy: Thanks but no thanks". It essentially had two beefs about Kennedy's interest in a possible appointment by Governor Paterson: 1.) That she was not around for the last eight years or so while you and Markos were fighting the good fight, and 2.) She has never run for public office before. Therefore we do not know what kind of candidate she would be when she has to maintain the office in a primary and general election. (Hmm you didn't hold this against Ned Lamont did you?)

Your post was picked up with relish and gusto by Markos at Daily Kos on December 8th. His post was self-righteously entitled "This country isn't a monarchy." He quoted some of your original entry and then added, "I hate political dynasties. Hate them." He added that if Paterson would appoint her it would be an act of "fiat". The main concept that that you and he were touting was you were "saviors of the common man". And somehow Caroline Kennedy would be an insult to all the wonderful work you and Markos had done. Markos has now gone off almost every other day on the issue. Even once comparing Caroline Kennedy with, of all people, Sarah Palin. (Whew)

As I said, I read the blogs daily. I don't comment on them or write any "Diaries". I guess you could say I am a lurker. One of the reasons I only lurk is that I find many of the posters to be very young. Therefore most seem to lack any sense of history and perspective. This includes both of you. Jane was about one year old when Caroline's father, President Kennedy was elected. Markos was yet to be born when her uncle, Senator Robert Kennedy, was murdered at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968. And apparently, none of that matters to you, since you never mention any of what happened in between or afterward. Markos just says indiscriminately : I hate political dynasties! Sort of like saying: I hate three-piece suits!

The problem is that some of us were around back then. And further, some us have studied what happened in those intervening years--and afterwards. So lumping the Kennedys with say, families like the Rockefellers or Bushes in the dynasty category is, at best, indiscriminate. At worst, it is ignorant, insulting and irresponsible. (For all that it means, why not throw in the Colbys?) Yes, there are some political families that should be avoided. Since it has been proven that they have little interest in providing for the common good. But to lump the Kennedys in with them is utterly preposterous.

Let me briefly explain to you two why that is so. When Congressman John Kennedy was first running for the Senate, he took a trip to Vietnam. He quickly dumped his official French escorts to seek out the best information he could on the war then raging between the French and the forces of Ho Chi Minh. (For your information, Ho was the leader of the north Vietnamese and the rebel group in the south called the Viet Minh.) After educating himself on this, he then returned to America, and won his Senate seat. He then began making speeches in the Senate about how the USA needed to stop backing French colonialism in north Africa, i.e. Algeria. He warned that if we did back it, we would lose the allegiance of the rebel groups there. This would be unfortunate because, according to Kennedy, they eventually would triumph. One reason for this was their cause was not what Richard Nixon and John Foster Dulles (then Eisenhower's Secretary for State) said it was: communism. It was really nationalism. He actually said these words on the floor of the senate in 1957. And he was roundly criticized for it. Especially by Vice-President Nixon.

When Patrice Lumumba, nationalist leader of the Congo against the colonialist Belgians, was attempting to keep his country independent, then President Eisenhower sided with the Europeans. And Allen Dulles OK'd a CIA plot to help in his murder. The CIA hurried this plot in the interval between Kennedy's election and his inauguration since they knew JFK would not back it . His sympathies were on Lumumba's side. The plot succeeded. (Remember Markos, the CIA is the agency you wanted to join before you took up blogging. Maybe you missed this episode.) But Kennedy still supported the cause of independence for the Congo all the way until his assassination. Against Belgian advocates like William Buckley and Thomas Dodd. (This is Sen. Chris Dodd's disgraced father. You two should read up on him)

Let's switch to the domestic side briefly. One of JFK's first acts as President was to increase the minimum wage. Although he wanted balanced budgets, he was a Keynesian in economic theory. And in just three years, he doubled the rate of economic growth and increased GNP by about 20%. I could write pages about his civil rights program, but just let me note the following. In 1963, A. Philip Randolph was organizing the legendary 1963 March on Washington. (You two probably thought it was Martin Luther King.) The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King's group, signed on. But they could not get a white politician to endorse the demonstration. In July, about six weeks before it began, President Kennedy did so at a press conference. He then called in his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He essentially told him that he was entrusting the project to him and it had to come off very well, in fact, perfectly. If not, their enemies would use it to their detriment. It did come off perfectly.

Which leads us to Caroline's uncle, Bobby Kennedy. A man who, as Attorney General, led what was probably the most unrelenting campaign against organized crime in American history. A campaign that once started, eventually brought the Mafia to its knees. And at this time, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI would barely recognize that there even was such a thing. RFK also forced Hoover into recognizing the fact that the Klan operated a murderous terrorist group that killed civil rights workers. As Attorney General he sued the steel companies when they tried to conspiratorially rig prices to gouge the American consumer. He also actually placed the executives ofelectric companies in jail when they tried to cheat the government.

Now, do I really have to educate you about Ted Kennedy? The liberal lion of the senate? The man who is always there for unions, education, the mentally afflicted, the poor? The one member of a disgraceful panel who actually spoke up for Anita Hill? Surely you remember that episode?

One last mention: Caroline's cousin, Robert Kennedy Jr. He is probably one of the leading environmental attorneys in America. A man who is not afraid to take on corporate polluters no matter how big they are. Or to go on the radio to denounce the horrible things they have done. A guy who was probably too radical and militant in that regard for Obama to appoint as EPA administrator.

So my question to you two is this: Did you know any of the above? If so, did it matter to you? Markos: This is the kind of political family you hate? Hmm. Did you also hate Al Gore and his dad then? How about the Gracchus brothers? (You can look them up on Wikipedia.)

To even put Caroline Kennedy in the same sentence with Sarah Palin is ridiculous. This is a woman who helped to raise 350 million dollars for New York public schools. Who graduated from Harvard and then got a law degree from Columbia. She has co-written two books concerning serious questions about the Constitution. Do you think she would know more than one famous Supreme Court case?

While Jane was backing Hillary Clinton, Caroline Kennedy decided to back Barack Obama. One reason for that is probably something you two aren't aware of. Because of President Kennedy's interest in the struggle of African nations to be free from European colonialism, he became a hero in large parts of the continent. Many young men tried to get into contact with his office in order to study in America. Barack Obama's father wanted to do so. He got into contact with more than one agency. They turned him down. He finally contacted John Kennedy. JFK helped arrange the financing for his voyage to America.

So when Caroline bucked the Clinton Machine in January of 2008 -- a machine which Jane backed -- she understood the dynamics in play. And when she and her uncle set up the announcement of their support for Obama at American University, they conveyed to millions -- except maybe you two -- that they understood the symbolism of the moment. For it is there, in June of 1963, that President Kennedy made his famous, "We are all mortal " speech. The speech that mapped out his official quest for dÈtente with the Soviets and an end to the Cold War. This is why thousands of young people slept on the grass there that night to see the rally. They instinctively understood what was happening. And there is little doubt that this gave Obama a rocket boost. Just ask the Clintons. Question: Does this count for "fighting the good fight"?

I think there is little doubt that one reason Caroline supported Obama was because he opposed the Iraq War from the start. Which Hillary Clinton did not. She understood that this was something her father and uncle would never have supported. In fact, there is a poignant story in Robert McNamara's book, In Retrospect, where Caroline's mother, Jackie Kennedy, had McNamara over for dinner one night. The widow understood that what President Johnson had done was a reversal of what President Kennedy had planned for at the time of his murder. That is, a withdrawal from Vietnam. As the dinner progressed, Jackie brought his issue up because she objected to what McNamara had done under President Johnson. To quote McNamara "...she became so tense that she could hardly speak. She suddenly exploded. She turned and began, literally to beat on my chest, demanding that I "do something to stop the slaughter." I can see how you two could hate people like that.

Let me also tryand answer the query as to why people choose to do the things they do in life. It's true that Caroline and her late brother, John Jr., did not enter the public square as far as political office went. But I think you overlook a rather important detail. If I was a young child who stood by and had to watch my father's brains being blown out -- and had to relive that moment every time someone showed the Zapruder film--I think I would have qualms about entering the public arena. But, as many know, after John Kennedy's murder, Bobby Kennedy then became a surrogate father to John and Caroline. And he ran for the presidency five years later. Something that Jackie Kennedy was not all that excited about. To then have your surrogate father have his brains also blown out in public ... Well, that might swear me off from political life also.

You two like taking credit forgrappling with the forces of conservatism after the new millennium began. Yet you ignore the fact that the rise of the New Right really began in this country after that murderous night in Los Angeles which I just described. That is, when the death of RFK allowed the election of Richard Nixon and the extension of the Vietnam War. A war which RFK had pledged to halt at all costs. Many questions remain about what happened in both Dallas and Los Angeles. Questions, which you two do not debate or entertain on your sites. Because they necessitate the use of the "C" word: Conspiracy. And you want to become part of the dialogue inside the Establishment. But suffice it to say, one of the unspoken reasons as to why the New Right took over was because they shot their way into power over the bodies of that "dynastic" family. If you two don't, those forces sure understood who the Kennedys were and what they represented. And they decided to play hardball. There was a lot at stake.

The Kennedys know this of course. They can't talk about it. Because they have to play the game. Just like you two do. But as David Talbot's book Brothers reveals, RFK understood what happened to his brother immediately. He even told the Russians. And this is why I think Caroline knows also. Which is one reason I like her. See, I like people who have suffered, who have felt desolation and abandonment. To have lost first, your father, to unknown regressive forces, and then your foster father to probably the same, that to me is to understand pain. Those are the kinds of shocks that no amount of money can cushion. They are the kind of experiences that build character and empathy. It's the kind of thing that no amount of political campaigning can instill. Maybe you two have never felt that. Few have.

But that's no excuse for not understanding them. It's strange, I think, that a member of the family that fought what turned out to be a fatal battle against the forces of conservatism and regression is now being persecuted by the new Liberal Establishment. It almost makes me think that you don't really wish to replace the MSM. But just to tweak it a bit.

It's an irony you are both too young to appreciate. And maybe too arrogant. You actually wanted someone who had endured all that to come to you for approval first.

Wow. We need another RFK. There's a new Mafia in town.

Go to Part Two

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