Bobby’s Appeal? He Speaks the Truth

Bobby’s Appeal? He Speaks the Truth
David Talbot | February 29, 2024

The pundits at The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and the rest of the mainstream media are increasingly puzzled these days. Why is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – the presidential candidate they once dismissed as an “anti-vaxxer” and “conspiracy freak” – still in the race, when Nikki Haley – a woman they hailed as a Republican Party “savior” – is fading fast?

Writing in the January–February 2024 magazine of the Deseret News, Salt Lake City’s leading daily, Michael J. Mooney tried hard to fathom Bobby’s appeal, deciding “these days the political landscape in America is a little – for lack of a better phrase – upside down.” Mooney then went on at great length to analyze the source of Kennedy’s high poll numbers in this topsy-turvy world. Kennedy, he surmised, speaks to “disaffected” young, white male voters who are “dissatisfied with both political parties” and – even more disturbing – “don’t get news from traditional media sources.”

In a February 22 opinion article on the MSNBC website, Darryl Robertson worried about Kennedy’s “bizarre” appeal to young black voters. According to Robertson, during a recent visit to Killer Mike’s barbershop in Atlanta, Kennedy actually took the rapper’s policy ideas about uplifting the black community seriously. If you don’t know (apparently Robertson doesn’t), Killer Mike (aka Michael Santiago Render) has won wide respect for his political commentary and activism.

And New York Times columnist Paul Krugman doesn’t understand this brave new political world at all, wondering incessantly and forlornly why President Biden is so unpopular. In his column this week (“The Mystery of White Rural Rage”), Krugman simply threw up his hands in despair about this widespread political disaffection. “I have no good ideas how to fight it,” Krugman gloomily concluded. By the way, Krugman – a reliable advocate for the Biden White House – has become a millionaire over the years, not just because of his Times platform but from his academic positions at Yale, MIT, and Princeton, his books, speeches, and corporate consulting.

At least the mainstream media no longer treats Kennedy as a fringe nutcase. Their general disparagement has taken on a new tone. Call it the fear factor. Or shock and awe. He won’t go away. He now has the highest favorability rating among the presidential contenders. And he might tip the election the wrong way. (Credit the Democratic National Committee with this new anti-Kennedy trope.)

Writing in the February 18 edition of the MSNBC website (which is now treating the Kennedy campaign seriously, even if its TV counterpart still blacks him out), Natalia Mehlman Petrzela noted Kennedy’s “distinct appeal” to young male voters. “Failing to take seriously what Kennedy represents,” she darkly concluded, “could give us another four years with the biggest bully our nation has ever known – and that is only the most immediate consequence of such ignorance.”

So, call it progress, of sorts. Kennedy has gone from lunatic to boogeyman in the corporate media.

Matt Taibbi got it right this week in his Substack column about Nikki Haley’s “$100 million faceplant” in the Republican primaries. We are witnessing a “great realignment” in American politics, the increasing irrelevance of candidates anointed by the political establishment and its loyal news outlets.

“A rational person watching American election results across the last 20 years,” Taibbi wrote, “would conclude the economy no longer works for most people, becoming dysfunctional enough that traditional ethnic coalitions are breaking down and even young college graduates are drifting from the status quo. It makes sense that as fewer people plausibly describe themselves as upper class – if you expect to never own a home and feel lucky to sniff health insurance, a B.A. won’t make you feel upscale – you’ll see more middle-finger voting. It isn’t rocket science. If things mostly suck, politicians who win lots of mainstream plaudits will get fish-slapped in polls.”

But if you want to really know why Kennedy is connecting with so many voters, listen to one of the long interviews he regularly gives to podcasters and other “marginal” media outlets. As Bobby has told me and others, he is relying on podcasts to get his unabridged message out, as Trump used Twitter during his 2016 campaign and presidency and as his uncle, President Kennedy, turned to the relatively new medium of television.

RFK Jr. addresses the hottest topics in these digital interviews – issues often considered “taboo” in mainstream discourse, like how the widespread dispensing of antidepressant drugs, especially to young people, might contribute to outbursts of mass gun violence, which have become routine in America. Kennedy always comes across in these interviews as thoughtful, intelligent and honest, even if you don’t always agree with him.

During a February 16 interview with Riz Khan of Al Arabiya News, a Saudi state-owned international TV channel (Kennedy has said he’ll go on any show that invites him), Bobby held forth on a variety of topics, including his youthful heroin addiction, the US empire, abortion, the border crisis, Israel, Ukraine, and even his legal campaign against the 5G cell phone, which he argues causes harmful radiation. Topics that many political handlers would advise should be avoided or soft-pedaled. Kennedy was forthright on every subject, even to the point of alienating some of his viewers.

After the “mass medical experiment” conducted on the American people during the COVID lockdown, Kennedy told Khan, he decided to do his own mass experiment on the public – “an experiment in truth-telling.” If his honesty pays off at the polls, he will happily declare his experiment a success. If it doesn’t, Kennedy added, he’ll go home, knowing he tried.

Few people relish a rematch between Presidents Biden and Trump, “the two most unpopular candidates to run for president in American history, since polls started,” Kennedy said during the Al Arabiya interview. “Americans should have more of a choice than simply the lesser of two evils…. They’re entitled to someone who can inspire them, make them believe in their country again.”

Kennedy is riding a new wave of voters, a growing group that says “none of the above” to the political duopoly’s choices. Do these independent thinkers now represent the majority of Americans? Do most Americans want the truth – or the same old Bidenomics bullshit and MAGA swill?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is not just banking on people’s frustration, as the pundits claim. He’s relying on their intelligence and character.

David Talbot is the author of Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy
and The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, books which have shaped the American narrative about the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.

American Values 2024 © All Rights Reserved 2024