Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bobby and Carey

My daughters and I saw Bobby yesterday here in Palm Desert. It has a few things going for it, including a kind of Altmanesque structure and an ending that sneaks up on you emotionally. Of course, the film leaves out everything that doesn't mesh with the Kennedy myth, and some of that omitted stuff helps explain why Carey McWilliams wasn't a Robert Kennedy fan.

First, there was the fact that Bobby served briefly as counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950s. Second was Bobby's efforts to "get Hoffa," which worked against McWilliams's labor sympathies. Then there was JFK's plan to invade Cuba, which McWilliams exposed and decried in The Nation well before the invasion failed miserably. Let's not forget, too, that JFK speechwriter Arthur Schlesinger Jr. had called McWilliams a Typhoid Mary of the left in the early 1950s, when that kind of accusation could do a lot of damage. For these and other reasons, McWilliams was pulling for Eugene McCarthy, not Bobby Kennedy, in 1968.

But aside from McWilliams's misgivings about the Kennedys, there's no denying that Bobby's 1968 campaign touched a lot of people, or that his assassination was a searing experience for the nation. Much of Bobby doesn't work all that well, but I recommend it anyway because it successfully captures--or rather, surrounds--those two big points.

And now it's time for a family plug: My uncle (Dr. Roderick Richardson) gave Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, a battery of psychological tests and testified at his trial.

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