RFK Jr. could and should run for POTUS
I was at his speech last week. Here's what I saw and heard...
RFK Jr. appeared at St. Anselm College to argue for New Hampshire to remain atop the primary schedule. What we heard was a riveting stump speech.
Last Friday (3/3/2023) the New Hampshire Institute of Politics hosted Children’s Health Defense founder, chairman and chief litigation counsel, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who spoke for 90 minutes at St. Anselm College. The limited seating event was sold out. There were about 150 people in the audience. I was one of them. Here are my impressions…
Why did Bobby come to NH?
On January 31, Kennedy penned an open letter to the DNC urging it to reconsider a motion to reorder state primary elections for the upcoming 2024 race for the presidency of the United States. Several days later the members of the DNC voted to proceed with the change of schedule.
New Hampshire has held the first primary contest since 1920. The new adjustment was driven by an appeal by the leader of the Democratic Party, sitting President, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., who also wrote an open letter to the committee two months previously.
The first primary election is key. Although NH sends only 24 delegates to the party’s national convention where the party’s nominee is anointed, the state’s primary election gets disproportionately more national coverage. A strong performance in the first primary will often funnel more funding to a campaign, sometimes propelling lesser known candidates to meteoric rises in popularity. All candidates, whether they are fringe or establishment-backed lifetime politicians, must necessarily invest the time and resources to get off to a good start by performing well in the Granite State.
Biden believes that NH no longer deserves to be first in line. The issue, he argues, is around diversity.
“We must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window….For decades, Black voters in particular have been the backbone of the Democratic Party but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process. We rely on these voters in elections but have not recognized their importance in our nominating calendar. It is time to stop taking these voters for granted, and time to give them a louder and earlier voice in the process.”
Minorities’ opinions, the POTUS argues, should have a greater impact in determining the viability of candidacies early on. Racial minorities make up less than 12% of NH’s population. Biden continues:
“My commitment when I ran for president was that my Administration would look like America, and it does. My Administration has the most diverse Cabinet in history and the most diverse group of presidential appointees in history. My nominee to the Supreme Court was the first Black woman – and most qualified candidate – to ever be nominated.”
The DNC has chosen the state of South Carolina to lead the primary contests in the next presidential election. One quarter of SC’s population identifies as Black or African American with 78% of this minority leaning Democratic. Notably, Biden scored his first primary victory in SC in 2020 after poor showings in NH and the Iowa caucuses.
In his letter to the DNC, Kennedy contends that racial diversity isn’t a factor and that “New Hampshire reflects the fabric of America as well as any state.” He echoed JFK’s sentiment that the state deserved to hold the first primary because it played an important role in granting the people the power to decide their candidates. In 1832 NH became the first legislature to call for a national convention to select the presidential nominee of a major political party.
What he said…
In the first part of his address, Kennedy took his argument further, alluding to the state’s large segment of free-thinkers. NH boasts the fourth largest percentage (41.55%) of unaffiliated voters of any state in the nation. NH is also one of a handful swing states which are key to winning a general election.
Doesn’t it make sense that the first primary take place in a state that is fiercely independent and untethered by party affiliation? Aren’t these the voters that a political party needs in order to put their nominee in the White House?
In any case, his points were moot as the DNC already made their decision last month. This introduces an intriguing question, why would he make the trip to the snowy North to argue a closed case? I, like others in attendance, suspected that he had more on his mind than defending NH’s lead position in the primary line-up.
A Stump Speech?
Speaking without notes or teleprompter, Kennedy summarized the key events and epiphanies in his life that steered him on his long path to where he is today. He spent the next hour detailing his efforts and remarkable successes in environmental protection, primarily in the Hudson River Valley which suffered immense damage in the 1960’s from NYC’s unmitigated dumping of raw sewage into the river. Paint deposited from a General Motors plant in Tarrytown, NY changed the color of the river every week. Penn Central was openly dumping oil into the river from a rail yard in Croton, NY.
Justice was eventually meted out, Kennedy explained, not through protests or violence but through legal channels, specifically the enforcement of a nineteenth century statute called the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1888, which made it illegal to pollute American waters and granted a reward to anyone who reported it. The Hudson River Fishermen’s Association (HRFA) was the first organization to collect the bounty afforded by this law.
In 1984 Kennedy became HRFA’s chief prosecuting attorney, and eventually helped merge it with an organization called Riverkeeper whose mission was to protect the Hudson River and its tributaries from generations of industrial degradation and civic neglect.
He offered the audience some interesting insights:
Pollution is waste. Waste is the product of inefficiency. Why are we so quick to assume that pollution on this scale is unavoidable? We should expect and demand better.
Capitalism, when done correctly, raises the standard of living of everybody, not a select few. Instead we have a system that permits or encourages short term profits at the expense of the environment and the less fortunate.
Kennedy explained to the audience what the underlying problem was: agency capture. Regulatory agencies are doing the bidding of the industries they are purportedly keeping in check. In other words, there isn’t any real regulation going on. Agency capture is not unique to environmental issues. It is precisely the same scourge that exists within the pharmaceutical industry.
The making of a Vaccine Critic
Exposing this fact, Kennedy said, cost him dearly. At the time he was not interested in fighting another multi-billion dollar industry. Ultimately it was the persistence of the mothers of vaccine injured children who regularly appeared at his environmental speeches who compelled him to look deeper. Though he has no formal scientific background, he had taught himself how to interpret data and scientific studies through his decades-long battle with the energy industry. After reluctantly looking at the voluminous evidence, he knew he could not look away.
He brought public scrutiny upon vaccine manufacturers who had once been using thimerosal, a form of mercury (one of the most toxic elements to the human body) as an adjuvant in their products. High levels of mercury in fish from unregulated pollution of our water would eventually end up in people who ate them. Kennedy was held in high regard by his party and environmentalists around the world for his dogged determination to expose the problem and impel polluters to rectify it. Suggesting the same element could also be linked to vaccine harm was paradoxically unforgivable to the same people who supported him in his crusade against big energy.
Kennedy recounted how overnight he lost political support and his connections in the corporate controlled media. When the Covid pandemic struck he went from an outspoken critic of the vaccine industry to a pariah. He continued undaunted, writing “The Real Anthony Fauci”, a detailed and damning critique of the former NIAID director and his unscrupulous means through which he amassed enormous funding and control over medical research that has been used to tell crooked stories about vaccine safety and efficacy.
Over one million copies of the book were sold, but it received no coverage from the mainstream media. Kennedy claims that to date, no one has been able to contest any of the mind-blowing facts contained in it. How could they? With over 2,200 citations from peer-reviewed papers, challenging its conclusions would be an attack on science itself. The media’s abject refusal to grant the book legitimacy can only be seen as evidence of their complicity and active participation in a devastating misinformation campaign.
For those new to Kennedy’s message, this speech must have been eye-opening. One wing of corporate media never contextualizes Kennedy’s controversial stance on vaccine safety. These platforms that appeal to the heart of the Democratic party incessantly paint him as an anti-science misinformation spreader. Kennedy’s response is simple, “show me where I got it wrong.”
He didn’t get it wrong. As a person who has devoted his adult life to medical and scientific study and pursuits, I believe Kennedy has been right, over and over again. Like him, I have invited my colleagues in medicine to show me where I have been wrong. Refusing to even engage over these topics isn’t scientific nor is it a sign of irreproachability; it belies the reality that there is no legitimate counter argument to the fact these products have never been sufficiently tested for safety and that their utility is marginal at best.
He ended his address sentimentally, recounting the somber train ride to Washington D.C. he made with his father’s remains that were eventually laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery a few feet from those of his slain uncle. Two million people from all walks of life lined the tracks, heads bowed with hands on heart in silent acknowledgement of the murdered senator who tirelessly fought for the poor and marginalized swaths of America.
The young Kennedy learned an important lesson four years later when he saw so many of his father’s ardent supporters throw their weight behind George Wallace and not George McGovern in the 1972 Democratic primary. McGovern’s message was aligned with his father’s. Why the shift? The 18 year old Kennedy gained another insight: It’s easier to garner support by appealing to the darker aspects of humanity like fear and hatred. He may be right, but doing things the easy way is not part of the Kennedy legacy.
His speech ended with a standing ovation, one of several he received. I was seated next to a close friend who happened to have held several advisory positions in national campaigns for other democratic candidates over the years. He had been nodding his approval dozens of times during Kennedy’s delivery. He now stood and applauded with me. “So? What do you think?” I asked him.
He nodded again, “He’s the real deal.”
A run for the White House?
Did Bobby Kennedy come to St. Anselm college, an institution steeped in politics, having hosted several presidential debates in years past, to advocate for NH’s position in the primary schedule? I don’t think so. I believe we heard a stump speech, one that I hope we will hear again.
Someone in the audience finally asked him to address the elephant in the room. Does he have his sights set on the oval office?
“I passed the biggest hurdle, which is that my wife has green-lighted it…”
As of today, Kennedy has not registered with the U.S. Federal Elections Committee. He is not presently running for POTUS. He has, however, assembled an exploratory committee to examine this possibility.
Some political pundits will undoubtedly regard a potential Kennedy presidential run as a hopeless endeavor or even worse, as an inconvenient detractor from a selection process designed to glean the most viable nominee from the chaff of wannabes. Why would the DNC ever get behind a candidate that they have spent the last eight years not just ignoring but vilifying? It wouldn’t just be improbable. It would be an enormous risk. How would the party contend with the obvious criticism that they are a bunch of capricious flip-floppers that can’t get their story or their facts straight?
On the other hand, it was only sixteen years ago when a freshman senator with little experience beyond community organizing named Barack Obama defeated a veteran politician with deep pockets and political ties in Senator Hillary Clinton. Both were facile at connecting with a crowd. The difference, ultimately, came down to a single vote cast by Senator Clinton in support of the invasion of Iraq.
It was a hugely unpopular war at the time, but Clinton stuck to her guns. “Given what we knew at the time, it was the right thing to do.” That argument wasn’t good enough for the American people then, and it isn’t now either.
The Covid-19 pandemic response is getting more unpopular by the day. As the mainstream media begins to admit that mistakes were made by their chosen authorities we are hearing similar platitudes, weak apologies and pleas for “pandemic amnesty”. These anemic calls for decorum in the face of growing discontent from voters on both sides of the aisle may backfire.
Clinton got it wrong with a single vote cast as a Senator in 2002. Current Democratic bigwigs like President Biden and California Governor Gavin Newsom have been wrong over and over again. Their decisions have resulted in an inestimable number of lost lives and livelihoods. Early treatment suppression. Shutdowns. Lockdowns. Masking. School closures. Mandated vaccines to travel, to work, to go to college. Elimination of religious and medical exemptions. Gaslighting the vaccine injured. Delicensure of physicians. Perhaps worst of all, governmental collusion with media platforms to censor any dissenting opinion.
In his book, “A Letter to Liberals”, Kennedy reminded us that the etymology of the word “liberal” is from the Latin word liber, which means freedom from restraint in speech and action. He writes:
“Conventional FDR/JFK liberalism prided itself on its open-minded tolerance of contrary opinion, its implacable protectiveness of the right to dissent, its embrace of new ideas and its fearless love for contention and disputation.”
Democrats seem to have completely lost their bearings and their identity. ”Cancel Culture” and every flavor of censorship has been sanctioned by the sitting president and his lapdogs in his cabinet and corporate funded media.
The party may very well soon be in its death throes. They may need a savior more than a nominee. In the end there will be one candidate that has gotten it right from day one and every day after. Kennedy never backed down or abandoned his principles. Democrats should feel lucky that he hasn’t abandoned them.
Best news I've had all day. Go, Bobby!
Thank you Madhava for sharing your experience. Grateful to be brought into the room.