Robert F. Kennedy was born on November 20, 1925 and was the Attorney General of the United States from 1961 to 1964 under both President John F. Kennedy’s and President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s administrations. He belonged to the Democratic Party and was also the New York Senator from 1964 till his assassination by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan on June 5, 1968. He was running for the presidency and had just won the California Primary when assassinated. The following are the ten reasons, besides many more, which make Robert F. Kennedy the coolest, or in other words one of the most deserving, presidential candidates ever in the history of the United States:
1.Debatably the Best Attorney General in the History of the United States:
He was made the Attorney General by President John F. Kennedy amidst much controversy generated from the press. Since the privilege of appointment rested with the President, he chose his devoted brother for political reasons of having his back protected. There had been a precedent in the US history of an appointment made to the position of Attorney General merely because the President needed that person as a trusted advisor. In this case, President Kennedy put his trust in no one more than on his successful campaign manager and passionate brother. The controversy was because of his inexperience in never having tried a case in any state or federal court. He was the most powerful US Attorney General having his say in all areas of policy-making in the Kennedy administration. He was the right-hand man of the President, who looked for his wise and honest counsel on every issue. President Kennedy said of his brother’s role, “If I want something done and done immediately I rely on the Attorney General. He is very much the doer in this administration, and has an organizational gift I have rarely if ever seen surpassed.” Despite such a privilege of being looked up to and being trusted on, he never misused his powers and tried his best to direct the enquiry to relevant officers in the administration as he did not believe in overlapping the powers of the two institutions.
2. Ruthless Against Organised Crime and Injustice:
His performance against organized crime is certainly undeniable with his staunch stand against the mafia. Before his fight against it, the FBI was not willing to accept that organized crime existed in the US and continued to deny it as much as possible. The FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, who had his own self-interest in such a denial, let the power of the mafia to grow and their roots to spread wide and deep. Because of this, there arose many differences between the FBI director and him as they disagreed on the strategies of dealing with the menace of the mafia. But due to his constant efforts as the Attorney General, the convictions against organized crime went up by 800%. This fact alone is a testament to his great dedication for uprooting the evils against the odds when it was being supported by the leading crime-fighting organization’s director.
3. Fought Against Jimmy Hoffa:
His fight against James Riddle “Jimmy” Hoffa had been the stuff of which Hollywood movies are made. It has inspired many a films on the subject, especially the 1992 biographical film, Hoffa, starring Jack Nicholson as the title character. Hoffa was the General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labour union, and was corrupt to the core with illegal financial and electoral activities. Hoffa used all that was in his power to remain at the top and to manipulate his organization to the best of his advantage. The Attorney General’s fight against Hoffa began in 1954 as a chief counsel for Senate Labor Rackets Committee and ended during his tenure as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer. The fight was much reported in the press and gained favours for his intolerance against such crooks. But one thing that happened fighting this evil man not only resulted in Hoffa getting convicted for jury tampering, but Robert incurred his wrath of hatred for life. Hoffa might very well have supplied the means for Sirhan Sirhan to assassinate him in 1968. A documentary made on the assassination case showed that Sirhan Sirhan, who is still passing his life sentence in Pleasant Valley State Prison in California, has over the period of years received millions in checks that have all been traced to the Teamsters. Hoffa expressed no sorrow over the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and instead said that the latter got what he deserved.
4. Helped the Cause of Civil Rights Movement:
His fight for the cause of Civil Rights Movement to succeed is again exemplary and heroic. The FBI Director, Hoover, was not in favour of civil-rights and being a racist was especially against the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. For this reason he pressurized to the extent of almost pestering the Attorney General for granting permission to wiretap Dr. King and other leaders from Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The allegations that he came up with against Dr. King were that of his confidants having ties with the communists. Red-baiting was an old trick in the book those days and he was always successful in applying it against those he despised. In order to protect Dr. King from public humiliation on the matter and to shield its effects on Civil Rights Movement, Robert allowed FBI to wiretap his phones for only a month on a trial basis. Had he not done so, Hoover had made full plans to terminate any hope of the blacks getting equal rights. Prior to all this, the Attorney General warned Dr. King’s associates that they were under surveillance from the FBI. He knew that Dr. King was innocent from any alleged involvement with the Communists, but had to listen to Hoover’s demand of wiretapping because he would not have it any other way. Secondly, Hoover had information on President Kennedy’s philandering. Under such blackmail and to protect the President from impeachment; the Attorney General did what was best for the President, for Dr. King and most importantly for the Civil Rights Movement. Hoover also extended this permitted wiretapping on his own in order to gather other personal information regarding Dr. King that ended around June 1966 and the collected information came out just days before Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in June 1968.
5. Stopped Riots in Indianapolis After MLK Jr.’s Assassination:
He was due to address the gathering of the African Americans in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968 regarding his candidacy for the United States presidency and his plans and passions for the issues concerning the black community. But due to the unfortunate events of the day, he became the deliverer of this sad news of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He gave a passionate speech extemporarily and asked for peace as it was what Dr. King stood for and asked for reconciliation between all the different races in America. Although he was advised not to go in a dominant black community with the circumstances of the night, he persisted never the less with a sense of duty to inform them by himself as a leader for the poor and neglected communities. His speech became known as one of the greatest speeches in history and the best part of it was that it was all extempore and not rehearsed or pre-written. With the assassination of Dr. King riots broke out in 60 cities, except anywhere in Indianapolis and this was all due to the humane approach and incredible speech of Robert F. Kennedy.
6. Worked As a New York Senator in Neglected Areas:
After about nine months of President Kennedy’s assassination, he left the Cabinet to run for a seat in the US Senate representing New York. The reason for him leaving the position of the US Attorney General was plain and obvious. It was due to his bitter relations with President Johnson whom he despised from day one and this hatred was shared mutually. The second reason was the FBI director Hoover who was not very helpful anyway and was always trying to hinder his works. And more than all of this, it was because he suspected the people close to President Johnson, Hoover and these men themselves to be responsible for his brother’s assassination. In such a situation it was but natural for him not to find any concentration in his work in the department he had shaped with his devoted leadership and cause of serving justice. He thought of executing his abilities for the same purpose in another capacity as a public servant and that was as the Senator from New York State. However, President Johnson supported him during his campaign and helped him elect to the office. He did this more out of saving face in front of the public than for the man himself. The best part of his senatorial tenure is that he began a successful redevelopment project in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, which was a poor neighbourhood. He was a champion for African Americans and other immigrant workers in America and supported the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He took stands for anti-poverty social programmes, better education and desegregation in all areas of public life, employment and health care for African-Americans.
7. Was Anti-War and for Positive Global Leadership of the US:
He is most remembered for his legacy of peace activism and non-violence, especially during the whole Vietnam War blunder. The history itself misses the kind of leadership he had in him. Historians believe that he would have changed the entire rhetoric of politics and would have given the US a positive leadership role in the global politics which it clearly has been lacking. Though the United States establishment would like to convince the world otherwise regarding its pivotal role as a superpower as being significantly humanitarian and people-oriented, but the history as well as present times stand witness to what exactly is the truth of the matter. This is one reason that Robert F. Kennedy was not only the last best hope for America, but even more so the last best hope from America for the world. His anti-war stand was not just to end the war in Vietnam, but to end all and every useless American war and to spend billions instead in making progress for the people and for mankind. He asked President Johnson as early as 1965 not to commit to any ground troops in Vietnam as President Kennedy would have never done that, but President Johnson went away with the military escalation of the war. He even asked President Johnson to be made a special envoy to Vietnam to negotiate peacefully with the Vietnamese, but that was declined too. He came out openly against the Vietnam War in 1967 when Dr. King took a public stand against it. He waited for someone else to make a public statement against the War so that his opposition does not get mistaken as an opposition to President Johnson for personal enmity. His central focus for US foreign policy was human rights and struggles for such across the world.
8. Was a Great Ambassador and Diplomat for the US:
During the Berlin Crisis of 1961, he played an essential role by using a private backchannel through the Soviet spy, Georgi Bolshakov, and relayed diplomatic communications between the US and the Soviet Union. This whole connection then led to setting up of Vienna Summit in June 1961 and eased tensions between the two superpowers at the brink of a clash at Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie in October. During Cuban Missile Crisis, he was the voice of sanity and moderation and humane approach to a conflict unnecessarily escalated by the military strategists. He secured the blockade that helped averting military engagement between the two superpowers. When the Crisis were over President Kennedy remarked “Thank God for Bobby”. He was amongst the first foreign dignitaries to raise his voice against apartheid in South Africa. In 1966, he toured that country for supporting the anti-Apartheid movement, though it was a difficult issue to get involved in and rather an unpopular one at that. But due to his moral commitment to the cause against racism, he took the step of speaking for the native black population. Because of this moral courage he was liked everywhere he went and the speech he gave at the University of Cape Town on the Day of Affirmation is considered to be one of his best speeches where he talks about Ripples of Hope that can tear down the mightiest walls of oppression and injustice.
9. A Good and Decent Family Man:
He was always by the side of his brother, who considered him as morally incorruptible for his determined Catholic values. The rumours about Robert having affairs are not true of course, but are attempts to assassinate his character. They were launched to end his political career by ruining his reputation for life. Unlike his father and brothers, he was religious, moralistic and a good family man. The best decision he said he ever made was to marry Ethel and she said that she is the luckiest woman because she married him. After so many years of their marriage, she thought that it was a miracle that they stayed together considering the Kennedys’ family history. The worst of the rumours, more than that of being associated romantically with Marilyn Monroe and with his widowed sister-in-law, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, was in having a hand in a plot to murder the former. Jacqueline married Aristotle Onassis, a Greek shipping magnate, who might have had a hand in actually assassinating Robert because Aristotle was in deals with the Mafia. Robert advised her sister-in-law not to marry him for he was a corrupt man, but since Aristotle was willing to provide her the financial security that no one else was giving her, she made the financial deal, but later regretted her decision.
10. Was a Man With Humour, Humility, Wisdom and Compassion:
He was known to have a good sense of humour, like his other brothers, that came at his own expense and was self-deprecating. Once when a reporter was trying to ask him about an image of “careless” that he had built about himself, he immediately corrected him and said that no it is of being ruthless. The reporter found it funny and getting impressed wrote how kind and humble he is. He used to say that he is not ruthless and joked that he shall “destroy” the one who said this about him in the first place. He was a tremendous reader of books and shared them around with his family and friends. He had a habit of annotating and whenever he used to read good lines in a book, he would underline them and a few weeks later quote them in a speech. He was also a good listener and many people came up to him for their personal and professional counseling because he had the best advice and support to give. He was the first person to summit Mount Kennedy, which was the highest known mountain at the time in Canada which the country’s government had dedicated to in memory of President Kennedy.