Robert Kennedy on Israel

Today, we are introducing a new contributing RP to The Recovering Politician, former U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

OK, maybe Bobby Kennedy is not a new contributor.  Although his daughter, Kathleen, occasionally writes for this site.  

But we are proud to post articles that were published in the Boston Post after Kennedy’s March 1948 visit to the Middle East, with thanks to

Jews Have a Fine Fighting Force

Make Up for Lack of Arms with Undying Spirit,
Unparalleld Courage — Impress the World
By Robert Kennedy, June 4, 1948

The Jewish people in Palestine who believe in and have been working toward this national state have become an immensely proud and determined people. It is already a truly great modern example of the birth of a nation with the primary ingredients of dignity and self-respect.
Malca and her family to me are the personification of that determination. She is a young girl of the age of 23 and her husband and four brothers are members of the Haganah. She herself is with the intelligence corps and worked on the average of 15 hours a day, which evidently was not unusual. She had seen and felt much horror and told me the story of a case she had just handled.
A Jewish girl in her teens was picked up by some members of the Haganah on the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and, as she was injured, she was taken to the Hebrew Hospital in Jerusalem. They believed that she had somehow been separated from a Jewish convoy which had just gone through and which had had a scrap with the Arabs.
She was particularly noticed because of the strange people who were her visitors and by the fact that she insisted on being moved to the English hospital. Malca was sent to question her. She was turned away gruffly by the girl after the girl admitted that she had in reality been in a British tank with a boy friend and wanted nothing to do with the Jews.
The Jewish Agency offered to send the girl out on a farm in order to let her regain her health and give her a new start, but she just demanded her release which they were forced to give her. She continued consorting with the British police despite warnings from the Stern gang.
Brother Shoots Sister
One night the Stern gang followed the tactics of the underground forces in the last war. They shaved all the hair off the girl’s head. Two days after Malca told me the story the sequel took place. The girl’s brother returned for leave from duty with the Haganah up in Galilee and, finding her in such a state, shot her.
Malca’s youngest brother is only 13, but every night he takes up his post as a sentry with the Haganah at a small place outside of Jerusalem.

His mother and father wait up every night until midnight for him and his older brother, 15, to return home. The other two brothers, both younger than Malca, give full time duty with combat troops.
An understanding of the institutions it contains, and of the persons that run these institutions, is most important if one would make up one’s mind as to the worth of this “de facto” Jewish state.
I visited and inspected a community farm through the kindness of a Jew who 40 years ago was in Boston making speeches for my grandfather, John F. Fitzgerald, when he was a candidate for congress. A third of the agricultural population live in such community farms which were set up originally to help newly-arrived refugees who had no money or prospects.
They are in reality self-sustaining States with a State and all the people in common undergo arduous toll and labor and make great sacrifices in order that their children might become heir to a home. An example of this is that when a child is one year old he is placed in a common nursery, with the result that all but the sick and infirm are able to devote their talents to the common cause. They get paid nothing for they need no money. Everything is financed by a group of elected overseers who get their money by selling what the farms produce. In our country we shrink from such tactics but in that country their very lives depend upon them.

Read the rest of…
Robert Kennedy on Israel

RP Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Other Catholic Dems, Push Same Sex Marriage

From The Washington Post:

The group leading Maryland’s same-sex marriage campaign is highlighting Catholic supporters, including former lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D)…

The Maryland Catholic Conference, the official lobby for the church, was among the more vocal opponents of Maryland’s same-sex marriage legislation this year and is also working for its repeal in the November election. Among other arguments, the group stresses the importance of having both fathers and mothers in children’s lives.

But Catholics are not of one voice on the issue in a state where the church played a central role in its founding.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who sponsored this year’s same-sex marriage bill, is a practicing Catholic. He has argued that all families should have the same legal rights. House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) also broke with the church in shepherding the legislation through his chamber.

More recently, both O’Malley and Busch have appeared at fundraisers to benefit Marylanders for Marriage Equality…

Townsend, the oldest child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, has written and lectured in recent years on the role of faith in public life.

Click here to read the full article.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: The Spirit of America: Promise & Reality

The following speech was addressed on May 9, 2012 to the Denver Forum by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

It’s great to be with you and I am delighted my good friend George Mitrovich asked me to speak to The Forum today.

I came to Denver to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Migrant Workers Health Act at the Community Health Center Convention. Celebrations are a wonderful time to look at what our country valued a half century ago – and to compare it to the values of our own time.

In the anti-immigrant fervor, it is hard to imagine, that a nation would decide to protect the health of migrant workers.  And yet they did.

So today, at The Forum, I would like to talk with you about what is going on in our country, to suggest we need to renew our faith in one another.

A nation works best when all of its people feel that they have a role, when all can fully participate, when each is inspired by an ideal greater than one’s own desires; for everyone needs to be part of a compelling mission. The Framers of our country believed that, President Kennedy believe that, as did my father and Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Obama.

America was founded as a “mission into the wilderness.” And in that wilderness, we have explored new frontiers – in science, business and politics. We accomplished the most when we had a sense that we were connected to one another. Sometimes that happens because in fact we are. Americans feel World War II was the good war – in large part because all participated – fought, worked in factories, accepted wage and price controls. Sometimes we feel connected because we feel enlarged by the mission of a few – putting a man on the moon. Or connected to the courage of a small but determined group – the Civil Rights Movement in the early sixties and protesting the war in Vietnam.

Read the rest of…
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: The Spirit of America: Promise & Reality

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: The Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church

On St. Patrick’s Day I had the pleasure of speaking to about 350 Catholics who gathered together to attend a conference put on by New Ways Ministry, which is an effort to support the LGBT community in the Catholic Church. The women and men I spoke to included nuns and priests, children who had come out and parents who wanted to be supportive. Two female priests gave me special blessing and I left the meeting inspired by the devotion of those who attended.

New Ways Ministry has a critical mission, since changing the Church will help those who suffer from ill treatment not only here in the United States but around the world, where the Church has so much clout. The Church has millions of members in Africa and South America, where being gay or lesbian can lead to a death sentence.

Worse, the Church’s own teaching encourages bigotry and harm. Just last year, my father’s memorial, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, gave its human rights award to Frank Mugisha, a gay activist in Uganda whose good friend had just been brutally killed in his own home. American missionaries have encouraged the discrimination Mugisha suffers. Refuting their religious arguments is critical, and so is making a moral and religious case for gays. What we need is a transformation of hearts and minds, not merely a change of laws.

The Catholic Church’s attitude towards homosexuality is at odds with its tradition of tolerance and understanding. The actual practice of the Church is true to this tradition. What other institution separates men and women and encourages them to live together in monasteries and convents where they can develop deep relationships with those who share their kind of love?

The fight for the dignity of the LGBT community is a fight for the soul of today’s Church. Some conservatives see the hierarchy’s current, traditional teaching on sex as the Church’s defining position. They don’t really like to talk about, or even be reminded of, the Church’s teachings on immigration, or protection of the environment, or the greed that produces financial meltdowns, all of which they would find distastefully liberal. 

Read the rest of…
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: The Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church

The Best of The RP 2011

Happy New Year!

I hope 2012 brings you joy, laughter, love, happiness, and many pints of tasty hummus.  Here at The Recovering Politician, we plan some exciting new features that we will share with you in the weeks ahead.

For now, as you rest and recover from your New Year’s Eve celebration — and recharge your batteries for a busy January — I wanted to share with you some good reading material.

The first nine months at The Recovering Politician have seen more than 1200 posts from over three dozen contributors.  I share my favorites below; please let me know what I missed in the comments section:

We’ll start with Me because, well…uh…I paid for that microphone. I started the site by explaining Why March Madness Matters and ended the year arguing that Adam Sandler Saved the Jews. In between, I made The Liberal Case for Israel, I outlined Debt Ceilings and Credit Downgrade for Dummies, and shared my Top Five lists for about everything. (My favorite – Jew-ish Gentiles in Pop Culture).  All and all, I can’t thank you enough for indulging my part-time, unpaid writing career.

Our most popular writer, hands down, has been contributing RP and former Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith.  Jeff’s first piece — the story of his rise into national celebrity, his dramatic fall that resulted in a prison term, and his hopes for redemption — put the RP on the national map, earning recognition from New York magazine’s “Approval Matrix.” Jeff’s followup — about love and sex behind bars — drew in nearly 100,000 readers, literally crashing the Web site.  Jeff’s become a national sensation — expect much more from him in 2012.

Contributing RP Michael Steele was already a national sensation before he joined the site — you know him as the former Lt. Governor of Maryland, as well as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Now a regular contributor to MSNBC, Michael shared with RP readers his vision of the new American Dream, and assessed both President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Over the next few days, Michael will report from the Iowa caucuses; and in the year ahead, he will share his lively take on politics — and other subjects as well.

Another familiar face at the site in 2011 was another former Lt. Governor of Maryland, contributing RP Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.  Kathleen elucidated  her well-versed take on faith and politics, while slamming a then-ascendant Rick Perry for misusing faith, defended Sarah Palin(!), and shared her unique perspective as a member of the nation’s most iconic political family. Her most popular piece was on, of all things, home births. Expect the same kind of wide variety from Kathleen at The RP in the coming months.

One of the RP’s most prolific contributing RPs was former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis.  Artur wrote a fascinating, insightful piece about political authenticity, plunged into the centuries-old debate on race and politics, and explored the Democratic Party’s faith gap. Some of his most popular pieces were book reviews, taking on new works about Harry Truman and Bobby Kennedy. Artur’s not been shy about controversy, angering conservatives by attacking his home state’s “ugly” immigration law, and riling liberals by supporting its new Voter ID law.  Don’t expect Artur to pull any punches in 2012.

Contributing RP and former Missouri state House Speaker Rod Jetton is also one who is not a stranger to controversy. At the peak of his power, Rod was charged with ethics and criminal violations, and while he was cleared of everything, he stepped down to begin his second act.  Rod’s 3-part series about his “Success, Scandal and Change” was one of the site’s most widely read, and he concluded the year with a touching 4-part series on his best friend, a fallen Marine. In the middle, he showed off a wry sense of humor in a video interview with his unlikely pal, contributing RP Jeff Smith (you have to see Rod’s imitation of Jeff).

Jason Atkinson, an Oregon State Senator and contributing RP, underwent a different kind of political recovery — he had to withdraw from a promising gubernatorial campaign after he accidentally shot himself while hunting. He writes about the experience — with graphic charts — in “A Real Political Recovery,” but also created an Internet sensation with short films he directed on more successful outdoor adventures fishing for trout in “Big Mo” and “Half Pounder.” He also showed off his own wicked sense of humor, imitating Abe Lincoln and citing the wisdom of Homer…Simpson that is.

Our newest contributing RP, former Virginia Congressional Democratic nominee Krystal Ball, has already generated considerable reader interest with her first piece about Why We Need More Women in Politics.  Krystal should know; her first campaign for office was interrupted by a ridiculous media inquiry into pictures taken of her in college; PG-13 pictures that caused a mini-national-sensation only because of Krystal’s gender. As a regular contributor to MSNBC and here at The RP, Krystal will help us view politics in a much different way.

Finally, I feel very fortunate — and so is the RP Nation — to have convinced my good friend, contributing RP, and former Kentucky Secretary of State, John Y. Brown, III to share his incisive social and political commentary, along with his uproarious sense of humor, at The RP.  John Y. helped set the theme and tone of the site with his early piece, “What Do We Do Now?,” in which he offered a 20-question quiz to help readers determine if they were in need of political recovery. More recently, we’ve launched a regular feature, John Y.’s Musings from the Middle, in which he shares his wit and wisdom on topics varying from fruitcake to the death penalty to Lindsay Lohan.  We guarantee a lot of laughs, as well as thoughtful advice, in the year ahead.

Thanks for joining us in 2011.  Stay tuned for a wild and wonderful 2012.




Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Out of Step With the Flock

Even though 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women use birth control during their reproductive years, U.S. bishops are fighting it

Last month, the Vatican issued a clarion call to all people of conscience. It wasn’t about contraception or masturbation or gay marriage or any of the other aspects of peoples’ love lives have drawn religious ire through the ages. Instead, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace stepped forward to question the morality of a global economic system that relentlessly enriches a privileged few while the rest of humanity struggles to keep their heads above water.

The council reaffirmed the notion highlighted in Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical on the economy, arguing that open markets — usually the engines of prosperity — can foster poverty and inequality when unscrupulously exploited for selfish ends. As a counterbalance, the council called for international standards and safeguards to stem the world’s worsening inequities in the concentration of wealth.

With millions of Americans looking for jobs and struggling in this economy, you might expect the nation’s Catholic bishops to join the Vatican’s quest to level the economic playing field. However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have other priorities. They are consumed just now with the subject of birth control. The bishops’ leadership is unhappy about a new national policy that includes birth control under preventive health care: a designation that requires new health plans to cover it in full, without the co-payments and deductibles that keep many women from using it effectively. This policy, which was adopted last summer and goes into effect next August, is both laudable and common-sense.

With yesterday, the 8th day of December, marking the Feast of the Immaculate Conception — which refers to Mary’s being conceived free of original sin, not the conception of Jesus — it would be wise of the bishops to realize that the conception of Mary by her human parents, Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, is a reminder that woman are people of conscience and can decide for themselves when it is best to conceive. In fact, birth control use is universal, even among Catholic women: 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women use birth control during their reproductive years.

Read the rest of…
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Out of Step With the Flock

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Why I Agree With Sarah Palin

While I admire Sarah Palin for breaking ground as a woman candidate, we don’t agree on many policy issues. But her tirade in Iowa a few weeks ago against what she called “corporate crony capitalism” captured my attention. She said, “It’s not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts and influence peddling and corporate welfare.”

Good for Sarah Palin.

Naturally she singled out President Obama, but, to her credit, she also took on her own party. Republican candidates “who raise mammoth amounts of cash,” she said, should be asked what their donors “expect in return for their investments.”

I admire Sarah Palin for speaking out loudly and forcefully against crony capitalism. It’s all too common for the rich and powerful to bend government to their own purposes and get contracts, tax and legal breaks, and other preferential treatment through their political connections. This cronyism distorts our markets and promotes distrust of Washington.

People with less money can’t get these special privileges. This at a time when the richest 1 percent already receive 25 percent of all income and control 40 percent of the country’s wealth.

In her speech, Palin blamed the president for the help he gave the auto industry and for the bank bailouts that actually occurred under George Bush. As far as the auto industry goes, I think President Obama made a gutsy call that saved thousands of jobs and one of the most important businesses in our country. Eventually the government will be paid back in full. 

Read the rest of…
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Why I Agree With Sarah Palin

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Renewing the U.S.-Latin American Alliance For Progress, 50 Years Later

By 2060, the Americas are projected to have a larger population than China, so shouldn’t we direct more attention to our southern neighbors?

A great nation defines itself not by what it fears and opposes but by what it believes in and champions. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Alliance for Progress, President Kennedy’s visionary effort to promote social justice and economic development in Latin America. The Alliance had a short ten-year life, but its influence was real, and its vision of the Americas is still relevant today.

The Alliance was a wager on the capacity of progressive democratic governments to carry out a peaceful revolution with the help of political support and carefully designed economic assistance.

The idea for the Alliance grew from my uncle’s capacity to listen to the leaders of Latin America, and from his openness to what he heard. The leaders said, “The United States in all its power and wealth and influence should be our partner as we build a more just society for all our citizens.” They added, “This partnership must be built on respect for the values and vision of the southern hemisphere.” John Kennedy took their arguments seriously.

In launching the Alliance, he built on the work of Douglas Dillon, who in 1958 had attended a three-week meeting in Brazil as a State Department employee. Dillon was impressed by Latin America leaders, particularly those from Brazil and Mexico, who were urging a new coffee agreement and a new development bank for the Americas. He eventually prevailed on President Eisenhower to take up the cause and to create the Inter-American Development Bank. He also piqued the interest of the Democratic presidential candidate from Massachusetts.

As Arthur Schlesinger recounts it, Senator Kennedy read a memorandum from ten leading Latin American economists, and, impressed with the urgency and energy of their ideas, conceived of a new approach to inter-American development.

He had an idea but no name.

Read the rest of…
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Renewing the U.S.-Latin American Alliance For Progress, 50 Years Later

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Is Rick Perry as American as He Thinks He is?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece asking whether Governor Rick Perry could call himself a Christian given his opposition to government actions to help the hungry, aged, and ill. Not surprisingly, many challengedmy view of Christianity. In letter after letter they pointed out that Christ spoke to individuals, not government. My observation that He was speaking to a conquered people, not free individuals who could use their power to make a more just state, was not convincing. My reference to the prophets Micah, Amos, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, each of whom called on governmental leaders to help the poor, was dismissed as being from the “Old Testament.”

I will surely return to the issue of Christianity again, but I devote this piece to Rick Perry’s character and the character he would nurture in American citizens. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” So what is the character that Perry embodies? What is his view of the American citizen and the citizen’s responsibility to our country and to one’s fellows?

First, Perry himself.

His persona evokes the rugged individualist. His warning to Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, not to come to Texas so that he can avoid being subjected to “real ugly” frontier justice evidences a character antithetical to one of the crowning achievements of the United States — a nation under law, not men. In a phrase, he dismisses the Bill of Rights — due process, trial by jury, the right to confront one’s accuser.

The real question is not what character he would make of the United States but whether he believes in America at all. He has threatened to secede. Central to his campaign is his pledge to shrink the federal government — making it impossible for our noble nation to lead the world, to serve as the “city on the Hill.” 

Read the rest of…
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Is Rick Perry as American as He Thinks He is?

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Ayn Rand vs. America

Ayn Rand has a large and growing influence on American politics. Speaking at an event in her honor, Congressman Paul Ryan said, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”

A few weeks ago, Maureen Fiedler, the producer of the weekly radio show, Interfaith Voices, asked me to participate in a debate with Onkar Ghate, a senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute. I eagerly accepted. I wanted to hear how a follower of Rand would defend proposals to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps while exempting the wealthy from paying their fair share.     

Ayn Rand

In one sense there was agreement. Maureen, a Sister of Loretto, argued that Republican budget proposals turned their back on Christ’s admonition to care for “the least among us,” the hungry, the sick, the homeless. Ghate did not dispute that. Rand, he said, was an atheist who did not believe in government efforts to help those in need.

Ghate countered Sister Maureen’s religious position with a moral argument. He maintained that redistribution of wealth was unfair to the rich and weakened the ambition of the rest. I wasn’t surprised by this position, since I’d heard it repeatedly during the fight on welfare reform.

What I did find startling was Ghate’s insistence that just as there should be a separation of church and state, so there should be a separation of economics and state. That notion really got me thinking. 

I’ve always understood that one’s loyalty to God should take precedence over one’s patriotic duty. Churches are exempt from taxation, and conscientious objectors aren’t required to serve in war. Our high regard for the First Amendment shows the preeminence of faith in the American consciousness. 

But to place economics on the same level as religious freedom seemed to me almost blasphemous. Are we really to believe that the freedom to make money should stand on the same level of religious liberty? Are the words of Milton Friedman equal to the Sermon on the Mount?  I don’t think so. But maybe in the eyes of Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan, they are.

Read the rest of…
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Ayn Rand vs. America

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s Book: