By Joseph A. Palermo
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Extra resources for In his own right: the political odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy
F. ” Humphrey drew a domestic analogy by boasting that he helped “to purge the liberal movement of any Communist influence. You didn’t have any coalition with Commies” in the Americans for Democratic Action, he said. ” Feel- A Critique of the War 27 ing burned by the experience, he retreated. F. a political voice. However, Kennedy received support for his February 19 statement from diverse sources. F. S. ”104 28 on h i s own A day before the controversy began, the octogenarian pacifist A. J. ”108 The defense Kennedy received from citizens and public figures for his February 1966 stand illustrates the important role he played in broadening the debate about Vietnam, and publicly ventilating issues that the Johnson Administration would have preferred to keep foggy.
60 Kennedy was ready to make a statement on Vietnam which reflected his frustration with the Fulbright hearings. The day after the hearings concluded, he decided to raise some of the issues he felt the committee had neglected. On Saturday morning, February 19, 1966, Kennedy called a brief press conference to address the crucial matter of the political role of the National Liberation Front. This public statement on Vietnam, like his earlier criticisms of the Administration, would exhibit caution and restraint, and avoid singling out Johnson for blame.
He reiterated his concern that the war drained resources from antipoverty programs. Although he made it clear he did not advocate a unilateral withdrawal from Vietnam, calling such a move “a repudiation of commitments undertaken and confirmed by three administrations,” he nonetheless challenged the Administration to live up to its oft-stated desire for a negotiated settlement. As he had done in May 1965, Kennedy searched for a third course for the United States in Vietnam, between unilateral withdrawal and military victory.
In his own right: the political odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy by Joseph A. Palermo