Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teddy Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy against "Clean Gene" McCarthy

Teddy Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy against “Clean Gene” McCarthy

By Walter Haan,

The media is full of the death of Senator Edward Kennedy today. Not only that, memories of his brothers, President John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, are laced into the Teddy stories.

I went to my desk to pull out a file I hadn’t looked at since 2006: my collection of articles about Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota. McCarthy was the man who stood in the way of Bobby obtaining the Democratic nomination for president in 1968. McCarthy challenged President Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 New Hampshire primary over the Vietnam War. Bobby stood back, too afraid of challenging Johnson over Vietnam, worried that challenging Johnson at that time would hurt his chances of running for president later when it was safer.

McCarthy took 42% of the vote in that New Hampshire primary, only 7% shy of Johnson’s total. But it was viewed as a McCarthy victory because of the closeness: an unknown Minnesota senator and poet had almost beaten Johnson, a sitting president. By doing that, he had defeated Johnson.

Suddenly, Johnson bowed out of the race and Bobby announced his intention to run for president in the remaining Democratic primaries. The problem for the Kennedys now was to get rid of McCarthy. Part of that effort included sending Edward Teddy Kennedy to meet with Eugene McCarthy and his wife Abigail to convince McCarthy to bow out and the hope was that McCarthy might say something damaging to himself during their talk. Ted Kennedy was wired to catch any misstep McCarthy might make. Abigail threw Teddy out of the room.

The crux of the disagreement between McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy has echoed through the years: Kennedy’s followers considered him courageous. McCarthy’s supporters saw Bobby Kennedy as opportunistic. And Bobby wasn’t above using Teddy to get dirt on “Clean Gene,” as he was known. And Teddy wasn’t above participating in a McCarthy smear.

This is what I remember about Teddy Kennedy and Bobby.

McCarthy said the following about the Vietnam War on December 2, 1967: “…a war of questionable legality and questionable constitutionality, a war which is diplomatically indefensible…a war which cannot be defended in the context of the judgment of history…a war which is not defensible even in military terms…Finally it is a war which is morally wrong.”

Over 58,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War.

We needed a Republican McCarthy clone during the Presidency of George W. Bush and the Iraqi War. But there were no Republicans in the Federal government with the balls of Eugene McCarthy.

Nearly 5,000 Americans have died in the Iraqi War.

For the next few days the lionizing of Teddy Kennedy will continue. I hope I don’t throw up. –Copyright © 2009 by Walter Haan;


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