The Kennedys Were Always Bad
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., far from being a black sheep, fits well within his family's long tradition of sucking.
I’ve been reluctant to write about RFK Jr. because he and the people who hype him up are relentlessly full of shit and I’m unsure there’s any productive way to talk about him.
What’s wrong with him is obvious: he is — as he has been for his entire career — a lunatic and a crank. He not only believes that vaccines cause autism; he believes that antidepressants have driven the surge in mass shootings; that poppers cause AIDS; that herbicides cause children to be gay or transgender; that wifi causes “leaky brain,” whatever that is; that cellular signals cause cancer and “break” our DNA; and that 5G signals in particular are an instrument in a plot to “harvest our data and control our behavior.” (As David Remnick writes, he’s the sort of person you’d try to avoid talking to on a train.) Even as a purported climate activist, his primary achievement is that he fought, successfully, to close the Indian Point nuclear power station outside New York, thus ensuring that carbon emissions from electricity generation would go up.
Now, as a presidential candidate, he is hitting rhetorical notes that primarily appeal to Republicans even as he putatively seeks the presidency as a Democrat. This approach has drawn a tiresome crowd of supporters to him: a mix of cynics and cranks, some of whom stand opposed to the longstanding environmental causes around which he supposedly built his career. For example, this week he addressed a dinner hosted by weirdo PR consultant Doug Dechert, who became so angered by one attendee’s suggestion that climate change is real that he erupted in literally flatulent anger.
The New York Post reports:
The gaseous exchange — to which Page Six bore reluctant witness — began after a guest asked Kennedy, founder of the ecological organization Waterkeeper Alliance, about the environment.
And it seems that the mere inquiry was enough to set off apparently drunk gossip columnist-turned-flack Doug Dechert, the host of the event, who became enraged and screamed at the top of his lungs: “The climate hoax!”
Meanwhile, octogenarian art critic Anthony Haden-Guest, who appeared to have been sleeping happily for most of the dinner, was roused by the abrupt rumpus.
He suddenly opened his eyes and denounced his longtime pal Dechert, calling him a “miserable blob.”
“Shut up!” implored Haden-Guest.
Haden-Guest tells us he was not asleep. “I was just thinking,” he told us, and says he is the one who asked the question about the environment.
Dechert continued to scream wildly about the climate change “scam” while Haden-Guest peppered him with verbal volleys from across the table, calling him variously “f–king insane” and “insignificant.”
Meanwhile, Kennedy, a prospective president of the United States, watched calmly.
Here, it seems, Dechert sensed the need for a new rhetorical tack, and let rip a loud, prolonged fart while yelling, as if to underscore his point, “I’m farting!”
The room, which included a handful of journalists as well as Kennedy’s campaign manager, former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, was stunned, seemingly unsure about whether Dechert was farting at Haden-Guest personally or at the very notion of global warming.
(Regrettably, we may assure readers that there was no room for doubt that the climate changed in the immediate environs of the dinner table.)
The candidate maintained a steady composure in the face of the crisis.
So why are we even talking about RFK Jr., a man whose presidential “campaign” has us reading about figures this marginal? The proximate reason that people such as David Sacks and Elon Musk are boosting his campaign for president is that they hope to damage Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. But the ultimate reason that anybody has ever cared about what RFK Jr. has to say is that he is a Kennedy. That is his core qualification — he is part of a family that contains other important people.
Addressing that fact is where I, as a former Republican, can add some value in this tiresome discussion. Because I want to talk about how absurd the very concept of a Kennedy dynasty is.
The Kennedys are bad
If you’re going to have dynastic politics, you should have dynasties built around good families who share positive traits, like sobriety, thrift, and public-spiritedness. You know, families like the Romneys. The Kennedys are the opposite of this — they are a cadre of reckless, womanizing, substance-abusing mediocrities of middling IQ, who have produced a staggering array of displays of bad judgment and poor character over the decades, often leading to the deaths of themselves or others. I would not get in a car driven by a member of this family, let alone let them run the government.
You are surely aware of how RFK Jr.’s uncle Ted killed a woman. After a party on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha’s Vineyard in 1969, Ted drove his car off a bridge, leaving his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne in the car to die and waiting hours to report the accident to authorities. It’s less likely you know that RFK Jr.’s brother, Joe Kennedy II, also caused a serious car accident near the beach, in his case on Nantucket in 1973. He was driving a Jeep-like vehicle with four seats but seven passengers — “people were hanging all over, some were standing up,” one witness would later tell a court — which he overturned, injuring several of them, including his brother David. Unlike Ted, he didn’t kill anyone, but one of his passengers, Pam Kelley, was paralyzed from the chest down.1 Joe II was convicted of negligent driving and fined $100. Later, he would be elected to six terms in Congress.
Another one of RFK Jr.’s brothers, Michael — who had served as campaign manager to both Ted and Joe II — died in a ski crash at Aspen Mountain in 1997. Why did he crash into a tree? Because he and two of his other siblings were playing a game of ski football. As the New York Times reported, this was a tradition in Robert Sr.’s branch of the Kennedy family — a dumbass, dangerous thing they’d been doing for decades:
His friends and relatives knew him as a fearless and expert skier. But when Michael L. Kennedy, the 39-year-old son of Robert F. Kennedy, died in a skiing accident here on Wednesday, he was pressing conventional limits by playing a game that Kennedys have engaged in for generations, football on skis.
Friends and witnesses said today that when Mr. Kennedy crashed into a tree on the mountain that overlooks the center of town, he had been tossing around a small rubber football with several relatives and had lost control of one ski…
[A] family friend who is an expert skier said he had once been invited to play the football game, but after watching, he said, he was scared off.
''It is very, very dangerous,'' said the friend, who declined to be identified. ''They divide the mountain into fields with the next goal being a tree or a sign. Whoever gets to the ball, gets a point and gets to throw the ball again. They don't play with poles; they give them to somebody else.
''They hang at the top of the mountain till everybody is off the hill, so they don't endanger anybody else,'' the friend continued. ''It is Kennedyesque. There is a lot of laughing, vigor, excitement and a big rush.''
There’s one other thing I should note about Michael. 1997 was a busy year for him: Before his Darwin Award-worthy ski incident, he was in the news for having an affair with his family’s underage babysitter. His defense to this accusation was that he did not, as his neighbors had been telling reporters, start having sex with her when she was 14. No, he had waited until she was 16, and therefore had not committed statutory rape under the laws of Massachusetts. Setting aside the fact that Michael was probably lying, I’d also note it’s really not great, as a person of middle age, to be in any situation where it’s important to know the precise age of consent in your state.
Speaking of criminal mistreatment of women — we shouldn’t forget RFK’s Jr.’s cousin, Michael Skakel, who was convicted of killing his neighbor Martha Moxley, and then got out of prison when the Supreme Court of Connecticut decided, in a 4-3 decision, that his attorney had been incompetent. And there’s his other cousin, William Kennedy Smith, who — well, maybe he really didn’t rape any of the half-dozen or so women who accused him of raping them. He did, after all, get acquitted in a criminal trial in 1991.
Okay, okay, you say, these people aren’t why people love the Kennedys. What people love is John F. Kennedy. Well, I’m sorry to report that he was bad, too.
Why do people think JFK was a great president? It was Lyndon Johnson who got all the important legislation of the 1960s passed. JFK spent much of his presidency high out of his mind on drugs prescribed by a quack doctor, and it’s a damned good thing he didn’t get us into a nuclear exchange while whacked out on barbiturates and amphetamines. No, people love JFK because he was sexy, young, and murdered; alas, none of these things are accomplishments.
One weird thing about JFK being a sex symbol is that his wife, Jackie, was publicly beloved, and he was constantly cheating on her, but instead of liberals being mad at JFK for his philandering, or at least finding it embarrassing (as they did with Bill Clinton), it only seemed to cause them to find him more glamorous. There he goes, fucking Marilyn Monroe again; what a ladies’ man! Maybe this had to do with infidelity being an inescapable part of the “Kennedy mystique”; as his biographer Mark Updegrove wrote, “In the hypercompetitive, testosterone‐infused Kennedy family, unbridled womanizing seemed as much about keeping score as it did the thrill of the conquest.” But I will say this for JFK: at least he never drove Marilyn Monroe (or Jackie) off a bridge into a watery grave.
By the way, JFK also appointed his brother, Bobby Kennedy (RFK Jr.’s dad), as attorney general. How would you have reacted if Donald Trump had named a member of his immediate family to the cabinet?
If I seem to have a strong opinion about this family, remember that I grew up as a Republican in Massachusetts. Being a Republican in Massachusetts is pain, because not only does your side usually lose, it often ends up losing to these people — this family of scoundrels that, unlike the Clintons, really does have a body count. I am pleased to report that, in recent years, the thrall has faded. After Ted died, Mass Dems started allowing themselves to admit that it was quite a bad thing that he had killed a woman. In the 2020 Senate primary, Senator Ed Markey dared to point out that his opponent, RFK Jr.’s nephew Joe Kennedy III, was an entitled brat who believed his family’s name and money should get him a Senate seat, and that argument carried the day. But that wasn’t how it worked when I was a kid.
One silver lining of the RFK Jr. presidential campaign is that it’s giving Democrats all over the country some personal experience with hating a Kennedy. Maybe having to watch Kennedy run for president against all the things they hold dear, from vaccines to Ukraine, is what it will finally take to drive the Kennedy mystique headfirst into a tree. It wouldn’t be the family’s first casualty,2 or the last.
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Did I mention that RFK Jr.’s cousin, Patrick, while he was serving as a congressman, crashed his Ford Mustang into a barrier near the Capitol at 2:45am while under the influence of prescription drugs and probably also alcohol? He told police he was late for a vote. Again, do not let these people drive you anywhere.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the conspiracy theories about John F. Kennedy Jr.’s death. These are insane — what kind of “mystery” could be less in need of “explanation” than a member of the Kennedy family dying in a single-vehicle accident?