Monday, September 12, 2016

Bobby Kennedy

Yesterday, I finished reading, "Bobby Kennedy - The Making of a Liberal Icon." It was the third book on Bobby Kennedy I have read, not including JFK and LBJ books.
RFK is one of my five historical heroes (see below). While his flaws and failings are easy to discern and discuss - a degree of support for Joe McCarthy, impatience, abrasiveness, a sense of entitlement in daily living, among others - there is no question in my mind that RFK was one of the greatest Americans, and possibly world figures in the last 250 years at least.
I could go on as to what he actually accomplished. But I found myself reflecting more on what might have been. I came up with the following list:
1. Wins the presidency in 1968. We never get Nixon or Watergate. In fact, that is the end of Nixon's political career.
2. Based on #1, we exit Vietnam in 1969. Many lives are saved. Vietnam ends up being what it became anyway. But we re-establish some contact many years earlier than occurred otherwise.
3. Ronald Reagan runs for president in 1976, possibly even 1972. Either way, he does not have the wind at his back and we are spared the Reagan presidency. This dramatically alters financial de-regulation and significantly lessens income inequality.
4. We still get the EPA and some detente with China. But working with his brother, Ted, and other powerful members of Congress, we get universal health insurance coverage by 1974. Not during his presidency, but in the following decade, we get to single payer care.
5. George H.W. Bush wins the presidency in 1980.
6. RFK is able to build upon his work in JFK's presidency and, despite his shared animosity with LBJ, the Great Society, and achieves meaningful and durable civil rights gain. The country gets to 1976 with a long road still to travel. But we are much further along in the trip.
As the above shows, I consider RFK's murder one of the worst moments in U.S. history. I know it can be viewed as dreaming and wishful thinking. Still, I can't help believing, given what I have read, that Bobby Kennedy was so special and unique as to have been able to achieve the kind of greatest I speak of.
On that note, my Top 5 Historical Heroes, in no order:
1. Thomas Jefferson
2. Nelson Mandela
3. Robert Kennedy
4. Abraham Lincoln
5. Malcolm X
Honorable Mentions: Ben Franklin, George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Gandhi. Aung San Suu Kyi had a shot to be included until she showed herself to be a bit too much a domineering leader while too weak regarding the Rohingyas.