The Nation had already been criticizing the Vietnam War for years before President Johnson’s effective abdication and Robert F. Kennedy’s entry to the presidential race brought the issue to the fore of national politics, so it paid close attention to his anti-war candidacy. Following RFK’s assassination in Los Angeles forty-seven years ago today, the magazine ran an editorial titled “Dogged by Fate”:
In essence, the single point in RFK’s campaign—as in that of Eugene McCarthy—was that America must come to its sense. And in that lies a tragedy that goes deeper than the bullet. It involves the whole situation of the Kennedy clan, of which only one son of Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy now survives. Robert always lived under the shadow of his brother, and much of the acclaim which greeted him wherever he went, and a large part of the votes which would have been cast for him, were an inheritance from the late President. Robert never stood entirely on his own feet, never entirely freed his own abundant talent from the memory of what John F. Kennedy accomplished and might have accomplished had he been spared. And now, in grim turn, we shall never know what Robert might have accomplished. This was not merely Robert’s personal problem; it concerned his relations to the Democratic Party and to the country as a whole…. It was Kennedy who, in one way or another, gave Johnson the opportunity to involve the United States in a great war on the mainland of Asia and thus by necessity to ignore all the problems, domestic and foreign, that today beset the most powerful of nations. And it was this whole mindless, cruel drift that Robert Kennedy was determined to stop. He was moved by impulses of the most responsible patriotism but he was also moved by family: the Kennedys are proud. He would secure his brother’s good name by defying, and if possible defeating, the evil consequences that had flowed from his brother’s brutally interrupted administration. And now a bullet has put a stop to that.
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