Wednesday, 6 June 2018

ROBERT F KENNEDY, THE LAST CAMPAIGN: MY LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS ESSAY

My essay on the 50th anniversary of the RFK assassination is on the LRB Blog, you can link to it here. It's a little different from the one I originally wrote. Partly in layout: I led with the John Stewart quote, then explained who Stewart was. But mostly in detail: I went in to a little more description of the three assassinations I mention, to draw out their similarities, but I can understand why LRB wanted to keep
the focus tighter on the story of that campaign as well as the what ifs had Bobby not been murdered.

The RFK assassination is in many ways the most perplexing of those three. On the face of it, the evidence of conspiracy is the most obvious, but in most ways it remains the hardest to prove. I had started to write a separate essay recapping where we stand, and another drawing the parallels in the modus operandi in all three murders, recurring themes of conspiracy and cover up, as it were. But each time I got bogged down in the minutiae of what remains a conundrum for most people.

My suspicion of Bobby was real at the time. My lack of enthusiasm for Humphrey was just as real. By 1970, and in the wake of the student strike, the futility of protest began to tempered by what seemed democratic political progress; eventually George McGovern would use changes in the primary and convention process (spearheaded by his campaign manager, Gary Hart) to capture the Democratic nomination. McGovern was the man who had stepped forward to lead the 1968 delegates already won by Bobby; that he and Eugene McCarthy could never reach an accommodation that would raise a viable challenge to Humphrey is, in a nutshell, the most lasting legacy of Bobby's death.

McGovern's nomination in 1972 was probably the high point, or the last high point, of Sixties protest. McGovern, of course, would be trounced by Nixon in the '72 election; no October Surprise was necessary, though the Watergate break-in, like Russian interference in 2016, was swept under the carpet until well after the election results were known. When Nixon was finally toppled, there was no danger a McGovern would replace him.

I probably should also have added a line about the idea that Bobby was convinced his brother's killing had been the result of conspiracy. He would have known who the likely suspects were, and where to look for them and their accomplices. That in itself may have put the target on his back.

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