Born on November 20, 1925 in what a family that became America’s First Family and political dynasty, Robert F. Kennedy was the 7th of 9 children of Joseph P. Kennedy, who was the 44th US Ambassador to the UK. Robert rose to powerful positions in Washington, D.C. along with his brothers be being bolstered from the wealth of their fathers. However, he had always been a different person for his principled approach that surpassed even that of his father and brothers. He evolved quickly from a backstage manager of John F. Kennedy’s rise to power into a frontline man in the limelight to take up the good fight against the establishment to convey and do what the wishes of the majority of the Americans had been. The following are 10 charges thrown on his personal and professional character over the years, which all have no factual bases:
1. Misused the Position of Chief Counsel:
He is alleged to have misused his power as an assistant counsel of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, where he worked under the Republican Senator, Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin. The charges are against his personal and professional conduct. He resigned from the committee after six months only because he did not like the red baiting of McCarthy and Roy Marcus Cohn, the chief counsel, which was going on and wrote a commission report on Army-McCarthy Hearing for the Senate. The allegations are that he was very much into red-baiting himself and liked Joseph McCarthy as he considered communists as evil men. He worked with the Hoover Commission as his father’s assistant, but was called back to the committee staff but this time as chief counsel for the Democratic minority. Then he became the chief counsel (1957-59) of the Senate Labor Rackets Committee under Chairman John L. McClellan, during which he fought against Jimmy Hoffa to bring him down and was successful in doing so. In this position as well, his critics say that he was trying to show-off his position by being ruthless in his approach against the labor union leader. However, he was right in judging the crimes that Hoffa was committing under the guise of being a union leader, which could be compared to an organized crime set-up under him.
2. Inexperienced to Be the US Attorney General:
Robert F. Kennedy has not tried a case in either state or federal court before in his life and worked only as a chief counsel of the Senate Labor Rackets Committee. Hence, when President Kennedy appointed his campaign manager as the US Attorney General, it was not only taken as pure nepotism, but was generally conceded to be a folly to give an inexperienced man such a responsible post. The President joked saying, “I can’t see that it’s wrong to give him a little legal experience before he goes out to practice law.” But when he became the Attorney General he helped to highlight the menace of organized crime which was being denied by the FBI and he forwarded the efforts of the Civil Rights leaders. No one could say that he was inexperienced at what he did. The press that initially termed him nepotistic began to praise him within a few weeks.
3. Wiretapped Dr. King and His Associates:
Robert F. Kennedy was very passionate about the civil rights cause and wanted to help all he can to give equality in status to the African Americans and other communities. The FBI director, Hoover, was not on the same line of thought and wanted to do everything in his evil power to stop the Civil Rights Movement from succeeding. He asked for wiretapping Dr. King and his close friends in order to get evidence of their involvement with the communists. Robert F. Kennedy had been denying him this permission, but finally had to give up when Hoover threatened to leak out personal information of President Kennedy’s womanizing to the press. Under the pressure of saving his brother from impeachment and more so for the matters of the Civil Rights Movement going out of his hands, he allowed the wiretap only for a month, but Hoover extended the period much longer on his own as he wanted to more dirt on Dr. King’s misconduct. Many people dislike Robert for such a step, but they lose sight of the fact about how he diverted the whole movement from being hijacked by Hoover and other racist power-mongers.
4. Planned to Invade Cuba and Assassinate Fidel Castro:
The Kennedy administration had inherited the military plans of not just the invasion and attacks on Cuba, but also to get militarily involved in Vietnam. Being the superpower, the foreign policy directives are made almost a decade earlier about what has to be done as the prime mover in world politics. Often this role of the US has been in the negative with its involvement in various conflicts rather than in humanitarian activities. Being the President’s advisor, Robert oversaw the CIA’s anti-Castro activities when the Bay of Pigs invasion did not succeed. But his involvement was about to oust Castro out of power and not to murder him. In fact, he had been specific along with President Kennedy that it should be made sure that Castro should not die, because it will be a political blunder. Being a pacifist in nature, Robert never advised such assassination measures, which are not only against his personal moral ethics, but also against his political approach. The historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. had said that Robert was unaware of such death plans earlier and later when he judged by the unbound freedoms that CIA covert operatives enjoyed, he asked them to stop with such politically fatalistic plans that placed the whole country under direct threat from the USSR. He spearheaded Operation Mongoose that was meant to create revolution in Cuba by supporting anti-Castro men and not to murder him. The entire information is now available in 2007 declassified documents “Family Jewels”.
5. Rumours of Affairs with Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis:
Even though there was a lot of hush-hush talk about President Kennedy rumours of affairs with Marilyn Monroe, but none of them had an inkling of truth in them. The exaggeration of the rumours took Robert F. Kennedy into their fold and people made all kinds of stories that suited their fancies. The fact is Robert F. Kennedy met Marilyn Monroe to ask her to stop calling the President and that meeting took place in his Hollywood-star brother-in-law Peter Lawford. But since the FBI director wanted nothing short of a career threatening scandal against the Attorney General to end his chances of having any political ascension, he went to the extent of forging reports of calls made by Marilyn Monroe to the Justice Department where he worked. The bizarre rumours of his extra-marital affairs do not end here, but end with his death. It is still rumoured that he had an affair that might have begun when President Kennedy was still alive, with his sister-in-law Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Again it is contrary to the truth of the matter. Both Robert and Jacqueline had a respectable close relationship and after their mutual loss, Robert took care of his brother’s children as any acting family patriarch would. Jacqueline Kennedy said of his brother-in-law that he was least like his father amongst his brothers and that comment was made in a complimentary way.
6. Plotted Marilyn Monroe’s Murder:
The outrageous of all the rumours about Robert F. Kennedy is that of him being involved in the murder of Marilyn Monroe. It is rumoured that he was present at her house when she died along with two other FBI agents who went there to give her the lethal injection of death and then made it appear as if she committed suicide with an overdose of drugs. The reason for killing her is that he wanted to protect his brother’s presidency as Marilyn Monroe was threatening to go public and call a press conference to tell everything about her affairs with both the brothers supposedly. Now, no one should doubt the integrity of a man like Robert F. Kennedy on whose credentials there is no fault. The problem in defending him amidst much philandering from his father and brothers is that his own character is his only line of defense. The dilemma is very much there. Ethel Kennedy however is testament to her husband’s loyalty over the matter. Regarding the murder of Marilyn Monroe, she might have been murdered, but not by Robert or for the alleged reason, but may be by the mafia or the FBI or even by Hollywood star-makers who thought that she was better dead than alive. Robert F. Kennedy was at a friend’s house on the day she died and there were witnesses to his presence there with his family. Who is guilty or not is very much clear from the whole situation.
7. Being a Carpetbagger:
This is now a confirmed fact that Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of Robert F. Kennedy, bribed the mafia leaders to rig the elections in favour of John F. Kennedy. In return he offered they would not face such a hard time during his son’s presidency. But what happened actually was on the contrary to Joseph’s words as both the President as well as the Attorney General, and more so the latter, went against the organized crime big time in a hard way. People said that Robert is showing off his power as an Attorney General, a position which he got through shear nepotism. However, his performance got much praise from the press and the public alike, but when President Kennedy was assassinated, the same hard hand of his became powerless as none of the cases against these mobsters were tried and they were released of any charges. Robert lost his power against crime and injustice and lost his interest because of which he decided to run for New York Senate seat. For this, a lot of the people called him a carpetbagger because they had never seen him in the fore front and now that he came out in the open, they said that he is riding on the dead shoulders of his assassinated brother. But he quieted all voices criticizing him when he delivered more than expected from him in all of his positions.
8. Became New York State Senator Through Political Maneuvering:
With his performance as a New Senator, despite having not lived in the state for more than 13 years and being registered as a voter from Massachusetts, his birth state, he became famous and favoured amongst the people. When he was asked why had he chosen to run from New York as a senator, instead of Massachusetts, where he was born, or from Virginia, where he lived, or from Florida, where he had also spent a considerable time of his life, he simply replied that he wants to serve in the United States Senate and the voters should not judge him by his accent or age or where he had lived a large part of his life, but should choose him for his record of performance and what he could do regarding the issues of importance for the state of New York. When he was asked questions about his knowledge of the issues facing the state, he answered them all efficiently and shared ideas about how he would resolve the problems. Seeing all this, there is no doubt that him serving the state of New York as a senator, in his own words “New York does not lose anything by”, but of course rather gained during his tenure. He also mentioned the fact that he does not plan to “jump off” to any place, not at least to the presidency, and said that possibility will take place only in 1972 from where he stood in 1964.
9. Was Late to Speak Against the Vietnam War:
His critics say that he spoke against Vietnam War much later and that he waited for someone else to make the stand. When Dr. King publically went against the Vietnam War condemning America’s military involvement, straight away the other day Robert came out with his views about the war in opposition to it. For the elections of 1968, people were urging him to join in the race to the presidency, but he said that he had no such plans. Just when Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy came out against the Vietnam War as his main campaign strategy, Robert joined in with the same agenda within few weeks declaring his candidacy for the presidency on March 16, 1968. The reason he said he delayed declaring his presidency was to establish the fact that he is running not just merely to oppose any man, but to propose new policies. He was convinced that the US was on a perilous course and that he strongly felt he should do all that he can and all that must be done.
10. Was a Talker Rather Than a Doer:
Those who still continue to dislike Robert F. Kennedy say that he was a merely a sweet-talker and had no intentions of doing whatever he promised. They say so especially about stopping war in Vietnam. Since his main stand in the election campaign of 1968 was against war, though a fellow democrat was running along the same line, he had promised strong and immediate actions to deescalate the war. Not only that, but he promised that he will create a budget that would support issues of better education, healthcare, reducing pollution and making other environmental efforts, alleviating poverty, providing equal employment opportunities for all the workers, and to seek a newer world for the next generation. All this was of course a huge task to accomplish, but the kind of passion that Robert F. Kennedy is known to have, it does not seem impossible for him to have had achieved these things. Not only did he believe, but those who supported him, and there was a majority that did, he would have won the Archimedean position he was looking for, which was the presidency of the United States. His presidency would have not only been a hope for a better world for America, but for the rest of countries too, that then came to suffer under President Nixon, especially Vietnam. Besides, Watergate would have never come to pass had his life been saved that fatal night.