Should Justice Dept. Have Been Named After Bobby Kennedy?

January 2002

Washington lawyer Larry Klayman will not be popular in much of Massachusetts.

Klayman, who is head of Judicial Watch, opposed the naming of the Justice Department after Bobby Kennedy as proposed by President Bush. However, an article in the New York Times reports that he was not alone in his opposition. 

We report the Press Release from Klayman and the article from the New York Times. 

Other observers say they are concerned that Kennedy was a big hawk on Vietnam and encouraged us to send our teenagers to that war but then changed his mind a few years later and started to attack those boys when he ran for president against Lyndon Johnson in 1968. 

If you want to tell the President what you think, you may do so at president@whitehouse.gov.

 Judicial Watch Press Release
Bush to Name Justice Department After Lawbreaking Robert F. Kennedy

‘Friend’ Ted Kennedy Convinced G.W. to Honor Brother

(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch, the non-partisan public interest law firm that investigates and prosecutes government abuse and corruption, was astonished to learn today that President Bush intends to name the Justice Department after the late Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

“The ethical and legal standards of the Bush administration will sink low if the President carries through with his plan of naming the nation’s top law enforcement agency after someone who spent his tenure in the Justice Department trampling on the civil rights of all Americans. It is widely known that Kennedy urged then FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to misuse FBI files to blackmail members of Congress to “overlook” his brother, President John F. Kennedy’s, affair with an East German spy. With the possible exception of John Mitchell and Janet Reno, I cannot think of a worse choice,” stated Judicial Watch Chairman and General Counsel, Larry Klayman.

The Justice Department’s own mission statement says “the Department represents the citizens of the United States in enforcing the law in the public interest” and, yet, Kennedy is perhaps remembered most for three things, the ‘Get Hoffa’ campaign, which ran roughshod over all legal procedures in a personal vendetta against one man, the wiretapping of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., along with the aforementioned silencing of a congressional investigation into President John Kennedy’s affair with alleged East German spy Ellen Romisch.

Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio reportedly refused to shake Kennedy’s hand at Marilyn Monroe’s funeral because of his belief that he and his brother had something to do with her untimely death. Klayman opined, “Joltin’ Joe was right then and George W. Bush is wrong now. As for reports today in The Washington Post that George W. Bush has become a close friend of Senator Ted Kennedy- a politician who many believed murdered Mary Jo Kopeche and was instrumental in convincing Bush to name the Justice Department after his brother Robert…the President should learn to choose better people to be associated with,” Klayman added.

 

New York Times Reports on Bush’s Idea

The New York Times reported about the honoring of Bobby Kennedy in an article last month. It also noted that there are some who were not happy about the event.

It wrote, “President Bush reached out to the nation’s most prominent Democratic political family today in a ceremony to name the Justice Department headquarters in honor of Robert F. Kennedy, who has become an unlikely hero to the current administration.

“‘America today is passing through a time of incredible testing,’ Mr. Bush said at a ceremony attended by dozens of Kennedys, including Mr. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel, who sat at Mr. Bush’s side. ‘And as we do so, we admire even more the spirit of Robert Kennedy, a spirit that tolerates no injustice and fears no evil.’

“But if Mr. Bush had hoped for an equally bipartisan response from all of the Kennedy family, he was disappointed. Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, a daughter of Robert Kennedy, the former attorney general, criticized the Bush administration earlier in the day for what she said were policies that undermined civil liberties.

“‘My daughter Cara is here today,’ Mrs. Kennedy Cuomo said at a ceremony on Capitol Hill honoring Darci Frigo, a Brazilian lawyer who won this year’s Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. ‘Cara, if anyone tries to tell you this is the type of justice your grandpa would embrace, don’t you believe it.’

“Mrs. Kennedy Cuomo was referring to sweeping new powers the administration has assumed in its fight against terrorism, including orders that allow for military tribunals to try foreigners accused of terrorism and that also permit the monitoring of communications between some people in federal custody and their lawyers.

“Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who has been carefully wooed by the White House, raised questions today about the administration’s methods only moments after Mr. Bush ended his speech.

“‘We have been enormously critical of the use of military courts in other countries when they have tried Americans,’ Mr. Kennedy said in response to reporters’ questions. ‘I think we have to look through and find out whether under these current situations that this kind of a process is in the best interest of justice.’

“Today’s ceremony, in the Great Hall of the Justice Department, the culmination of four years of lobbying by friends and supporters of Robert Kennedy, was a rich pageant of American dynastic politics and political maneuvering by experienced offspring, with both families having much to gain.

“Democrats noted that it was the most public display so far of Mr. Bush’s courtship of the Kennedys, who until today have responded by avoiding attacks on his policies. Former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy 2nd, Robert Kennedy’s eldest son, strongly praised Mr. Bush in a speech just before the president’s.

“‘Mr. President, your strength since Sept. 11 has been a profile in leadership,” Joseph Kennedy said. ‘You deserve the thanks of all who are committed to freedom from fear, and for all of us as Americans, we stand behind you and with you at this time.’

“Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has praised Robert Kennedy in recent speeches, returned the compliments from one family to another. Robert Kennedy, he said in his remarks at the event, ‘led an extraordinary campaign against organized crime that inspires us still today in the war against terrorism. He was unafraid to call his enemy evil and unapologetic about devoting all his resources, his energy and his passion to that evil’s defeat.’

“Some Democrats said the Republicans had seized on the prosecutorial side of Kennedy as a justification for their current actions, and recalled that as attorney general Kennedy had aggressively pursued enemies and authorized the wiretapping of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“‘For most of his life, Robert Kennedy was hardly the best friend of civil liberties in this country,’ said Victor Navesky, publisher and editorial director of The Nation, the liberal weekly, and the author of Kennedy Justice, a book about Robert Kennedy’s years as attorney general. ‘It’s a reaching out that has an obviously cynical dimension to it.’

“The Bush administration, Mr. Navasky added, is ‘honoring the darker side of the Kennedy legacy.’

“The idea to name the Justice Department’s main building in honor of Kennedy was proposed in 1997 by Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, a civil rights leader who was severely beaten in Montgomery, Ala., in 1961, after which the Kennedy White House took action.

“‘If it hadn’t been for Robert Kennedy and President Kennedy federalizing the National Guard and placing the city of Montgomery under military order, I probably wouldn’t be here today,’ Mr. Lewis said.

“He later met Robert Kennedy, who would have been 76 today, at the Justice Department, and a friendship was born. ‘I loved him like a brother,’ Mr. Lewis said.”

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