Kennedy’s To Help Build Camelot II?

With the election over pundits have now turned to speculating about the composition of an Obama administration. The Kennedy name came up frequently during the campaign, both with comparisons of Obama to JFK and with the endorsements of some members of the Kennedy family.  The Politico speculates on some possible high profile cabinet picks, and mentions not one but two members of the Kennedy family.

They report that Caroline Kennedy, who led the vice presidential search, is being considered for ambassador to the United Nations. It is questionable if she would want the position and there might be questions as to her experience in foreign relations, but this might be a positive step considering that a top priority for U.S. foreign relations is to repair our image around the world.

The second possibility has many liberals concerned. Robert F. Kennedy being considered to head the Environmental Protection Agency or to be Secretary of the Interior. Jason Zengerle of The New Republic sarcastically calls this pseudoscience we can believe in:

This can’t be for real: Robert F. Kennedy Jr is being considered for EPA director? You mean the RFK Jr who wrote this? Really? I mean, really? I thought an Obama administration was going to be pro-science.

Orac at Respectful Insolence writes:

…when politics intersects my areas of medical interest, I can’t resist diving in, and unfortunately, Walter Olson gave me a reason to dive in today. In fact, to some extent he killed my election day buzz about the prospects for an Obama victory and a return to a government that respects science and tries not to manipulate it.

How did he do that?

Olson pointed out an article that suggests that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is being considered for Secretary of the Interior. Yes, that RFK, Jr. You know, the one who added rocket fuel to the fire of the entire scare about mercury in the thimerosal preservative that used to be in vaccines as a cause of autism back in 2005, with his pseudoscience- and misinformation-filled article Deadly Immunity. He’s also one of the key boosters of antivaccination fearmongering based on the claims that mercury causes autism, and has done numerous articles, public speeches, and media appearances supporting the now scientifically discredited idea that thimerosal in vaccines is a cause or “trigger” for autism. The source, an article at Politico outlining the shape of a potential Obama Administration based on canvassing of Democrats supposedly “in the know,” lists Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as the top candidates for the Interior spot.

I really, really hope that this is nothing more than a trial balloon or a bit of uninformed speculation by the sources at Politico and that Obama isn’t seriously considering a wingnut like RFK, Jr. for any position in his administration. I realize that Secretary of the Interior has nothing to do with medicine or vaccine safety, but putting an pseudoscience-boosting crank like him in any position of power in the federal government, much less at a Cabinet-level position, is not the kind of message that reassures me that an Obama Administration is dedicated to using good science as a basis for determining policy.

Say it ain’t so, Barack! If you’re elected, please, please, please, don’t pick RFK, Jr. for any position in your administration. It would be the single worse message you could send that I could think of regarding your commitment to science-based policies. The stench of his crankery and advocacy of the rankest pseudoscience would taint your administration instantly and irrevocably.

Even environmentalists have doubts about choosing Kennedy. David Roberts of Gist writes:

It might please Clinton and Kennedy, but by my count it will piss off just about everyone else. Enviros are still pissed about his opposition to Cape Wind. Sensible people are pissed about his naive acceptance of the phantom vaccine-autism connection. Many journalists are pissed that his overheated work on Republican vote theft in 2004 served to discredit more modest but verifiable theories. He’s also, to put it bluntly, widely considered considered kind of an arrogant jerk — which makes me like him more, but I don’t know how it will play in a delicate and highly constrained bureaucratic position.

Also, the guy’s run Waterkeeper, which is a great group, but not exactly training for running a huge government agency.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of RFK Jr.’s environmental work, but he strikes me as more of a strident activist voice than a careful, detail-oriented managerial type. His appointment would sure send an unmistakable message, though! I suppose I’m ambivalent and should give it more thought.


  1. 1
    Dom says:

    The time has come to stop reviving the Kennedy-Camelot Myth.

    The widespread promotion of this myth originated with the Dec. 6, 1963 issue of LIFE Magazine. The Kennedy-Camelot Myth was concocted by Jacqueline Kennedy, in an interview given to Theodore H. White (“For President Kennedy An Epilogue,” pp. 158-159). The following is from the top of page 159.

    “There was a thought, too, that was always with her. ‘When Jack quoted something, it was usually classical,’ she said, ‘but I’m so ashamed of myself–all I keep thinking of is this line from a musical comedy.

    ‘At night, before we’d go to sleep, Jack liked to play records; and the song he loved most came at the very end of this record. The lines he loved to hear were: Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.’
    She wanted to make sure that the point came clear and went on: ‘There’ll be great Presidents again– and the Johnsons are wonderful, they’ve been wonderful to me–but there’ll never be a Camelot again….'”

    The last line of the piece is: “For one brief shining moment there was Camelot.”

    Several years ago, on a TV program, a former editor of LIFE stated that White had telephoned the story to the editor, and that Mrs. Kennedy kept making changes while White was on the phone. The time has come to stop promoting the Kennedy-Camelot Myth and to expose the origins of this myth.

    More information about the interview and of White’s notes is at:

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    There’s nothing here which gives any reason not to continue the reference to Camelot. This stuck not because of anything Jacqueline Kennedy said but because of the feeling that the country changed for the worse after JFK when we went through LBJ and Vietnam, Nixon and Watergate…

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