Researching a class paper on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, years ago in upper floors of the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library — around a corner from its “Touchdown Jesus” mural — I acquired a couple of personal heroes who represented our country” better angels.”
They were Representative William McCulloch of Ohio, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and senior Democratic Representative Dick Bolling of Missouri. Bolling was strategist as the 1964 Civil Rights Act was marked up in committee. Along with fellow Republican members Charles “Mac” Mathias of Maryland and John V. Lindsay of New York, McCulloch insisted the bill contain a strong guarantee of public accommodations.
McCulloch was, in President Lyndon Johnson’s words, “the most important and powerful force” in getting a meaty bill.
The Judiciary Committee, nearly sixty years later, could be cited as proof that Darwin was wrong. Its Republican ranks are dominated by the most extreme ultra MAGA Republicans, with the panel chaired by the nasty, shouting Representative Jim Jordan, also of Ohio.
Representative Suzan DelBene, D‑Washington, found herself confronting the extremists some years back when Judiciary created a “special subcommittee’ to probe allegations that Planned Parenthood was dealing in body parts of former fetuses. The “evidence consisted of heavily spliced edited tapes made in secret recordings by Project Veritas and far-right dirty trickster James O’Keefe.
The panel was chaired by Representative (now Senator) Marsha Blackburn, herself a dealer in misinformation and disinformation.
The Republicans, back in narrow control, convened a hearing Thursday to talk about “Weaponization of the Federal Government.” They produced as witness a ringer, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorist who is challenging President Biden for the 2024 Democratic nomination.
RFK Jr., was given a national platform to complain about TV networks, the Biden administration and COVID-19 vaccines. No family members accompanied him: The Kennedy clan has repudiated his theories, and even Kennedy’s latest wife says she disagrees with him. Instead, his backup was ex-Representative Dennis Kucinich, who was gerrymandered out of his House seat but then signed by Rupert Modoch’s FNC as a leftist foil. Kucinich is managing Kennedy’s campaign.
The purpose of the hearing was to have Kennedy carry the torch for the political right, and he was happy to oblige. He came through with a litany of their favorite targets, from the mass media to big tech companies. He declared himself the victim of “malinformation” by a sinister alliance of government officials and tech giants. Facebook and Instagram, in 2022, restricted the accounts of Kennedy’s front group, the Children’s Health Alliance, on grounds of misinformation.
More than one hundred House Democrats signed a letter last weekend urging Republicans to yank their invite for Kennedy to appear. They cited remarks by REFK, Jr., at a New York fundraiser in which he said – without evidence – that the COVID-19 virus was “targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people” while “the people who are most immune are Ashkenazi (European) Jews and Chinese.”
He suggested groups had been “deliberately targeted” and speculated that Chinese scientists are developing “ethnic bioweapons… so we can target people by race.”
On a party line vote, committee Republicans voted down a motion by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D‑Florida, to end the hearing and go into executive session. Kennedy was left free to vent, and repeatedly, shamelessly identify himself with his father and uncle President John F. Kennedy – and also Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president.
“You are here for cynical reasons to be used by that side of the aisle to embarrass the current President of the United States: You’re an enabler of that effort and it brings shame on a storied name that I revere,” Representative Gerry Connolly, D‑Virginia, told RFK, Jr.
Once an achieving environmental lawyer – he directed efforts to clean up New York waters – Kennedy has gone off the deep end.
He has likened the suffering of unvaccinated Americans to victims of the Holocaust, and evoked comparisons with Anne Frank. (He did later apologize.)
He has even speculated that chemicals in water turn kids transgender.
Kennedy has repeatedly pushed a now-debunked study, published in and later retracted by The Lancet, which claimed that mercury in common vaccines caused an increase in childhood autism.
Our Washington last saw RFK, Jr., in 2019. The state had experienced a measles outbreak in Southwest Washington, largely among unvaccinated Russian emigree children. The Legislature took up a bill to remove personal/philosophical exemptions from school vaccination requirements.
Kennedy spun his conspiracy theories at a hearing crowded with anti-vaxxers. The legislation passed, but with near-unanimous Republican opposition.
Having spent years covering RFK Jr’s personal life in salacious detail, the Murdoch media have turned into his cheerleaders.
RFK Jr. left Thursday’s hearing for an appearance on FNC.
Sean Hannity has him booked for a “town hall” next Tuesday. He has made common cause with Laura Ingraham denouncing U.S. aid to Ukraine.
Other signs he is a Republican ringer? One Jason Boles is listed as treasurer of the Kennedy super PAC called “Heal the Divide.” Democrats pointed out at the hearing that Boles is also listed in FEC filings as treasurer of committees for Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, Laure Boebert and George Santos, and that he was involved in Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign in Georgia.
The Kennedy family has spoken out in sorrow and anguish. Kerry Kennedy has described RFK Jr’s remarks on COVID as “deplorable and untruthful.”
His nephew, former United States Representatives, Joseph P. Kennedy III tweeted: “My uncle’s comments were hurtful and wrong.”
Jack Schlossberg, a grandson of our thirty-fifth president, was even blunter: “Trading on Camelot, celebrating conspiracy theories and conflict for personal gain & fame… I’ve listened to him, I know him, I have no idea why anyone thinks he should be president. What I do know is his candidacy is an embarrassment.”
As for our Commander-in-Chief, the thirty-year-old Schlossberg described our incumbent Democratic president as the country’s “greatest progressive president we’ve ever had. Joe Biden shares my grandfather’s dream for America that we do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
“Let’s not be distracted again by somebody’s vanity project.”