Death of RFK: Dogged By Fate | The Nation


Death of RFK: Dogged By Fate

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'For God's Sake'

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If any example were needed of the corrupting monotone of voice and thought that Robert Kennedy was intent upon replacing, it was provided by Lyndon Johnson's television appearance on the night when the Senator was dying. He opened his brief talk with a perfunctory and platitudinous expression of shock, dismay and sympathy for the Kennedys. On this score he is not to be much criticized. It is difficult for a public man to utter convincing words of condolence, and Johnson's task was the more difficult because he could not pretend to any love for the man.

But we have been told ad nauseam that LBJ, however ignorant his opinions and ill-considered his actions, truly loves his country. So he went before the country on that tragic, perilous night, and what did he say? He called for an end to violence in the streets and appointed a commission to investigate the causes thereof. Did he mention Vietnam, or poverty, or life in the ghetto, or the frustrated aspirations of every minority group in America? Did he refer to the waste of our resources, the contamination of our environment, the arrogance of our colossal stance on this earth? He cited none of these things: "My fellow citizens, we cannot, we must not, tolerate the sway of violent men among us." Was there nobody in his retinue to tell him that he indicted himself?

He appointed a commission to acquaint him with the causes of violence. If it were sincere, what could such a commission tell him except truths about his own Administration so bitter that he has long since proved himself unable or unwilling to accept them? But this commission will not attempt to drive home any such hard facts: it is itself made up overwhelmingly of men who have supported his policy in Vietnam, men who believe that we can kill without scruple in Southeast Asia and by moral unction and police implacability suppress the consequences at home. No President who had read with seeing eyes the report of the Kerner Commission could possibly require the services of another such body, let alone that of the Milton Eisenhower Commission.

But Johnson does not see; his eyes are turned inward to a reality of his own invention, and he responds to events with programed jerks that are faithfully echoed in the articulated gestures of his platform delivery. That is what Robert Kennedy was fighting, and Eugene McCarthy is fighting. So, to borrow one of the President's favorite apostrophes, "let us, for God's sake," put an end to it. And let us remember that Humphrey is its heir and Nixon its only too loyal opposition.

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