Thursday, June 5, 2008

Marking RFK's Death

The fortieth anniversary of Robert Kennedy's death has prompted numerous articles in the media, including an interview with me in my old college newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student. I also was interviewed by Ralph Hipp of WIBW television in Topeka, Kansas, about RFK's legacy.

Also of interest is David Greenberg's assessment on Slate of how Kennedy's death, and Eugene McCarthy's reaction to the loss of his bitter rival, crippled the Democractic Party in the 1968 general election. Greenberg notes the following: "Kennedy's death, of course, did not leave McCarthy alone in the race. All along, many party regulars had preferred Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who announced his candidacy in April but sat out the primaries, instead building his delegate base in states without primaries—which back then constituted a majority."

It's a point I always try to bring up when I'm asked by journalists what would an RFK presidency have been like? Even Kennedy's own advisers believed that RFK had only a 50-50 chance of capturing the nomination from Humphrey at the August 1968 convention in Chicago.

Talking privately with Richard Goodwin after squeaking by McCarthy in the California primary, Kennedy said while he and McCarthy were battling one another, Humphrey had been picking up delegate after delegate around the country. Kennedy did not want to have to spend his time the next few weeks campaigning on every street corner in New York in hopes of winning the primary there. “I’ve got to spend that time going to the states, talking to delegates before it’s too late,” Kennedy stressed to Goodwin. “My only chance is to chase Hubert’s ass all over the country. Maybe he’ll fold.”

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