What’s the Big Deal About RFK Jr?

AP Photo/Hans Pennink

I don’t get it.

Ever since Robert F. Kennedy Jr. threw his hat into the ring as a Democrat challenging President Joe Biden during the primaries, I have noticed that some on the right are fawning all over him. For some reason, some conservatives and libertarians are acting as if Kennedy is someone to be respected and admired because he is somehow “different” from other Democrats. Even former Fox News host Tucker Carlson gave RFK Jr. a boost. But even more than a cursory glance at Kennedy’s stances should give any liberty-loving person pause.

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Much of Kennedy’s appeal to some on the right appears to be related to his stance on the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines, and foreign policy. He believes the U.S. government shares responsibility for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and has advocated against getting involved in the conflict. He also warned of the dangers of reckless escalation and nuclear brinksmanship.

The candidate has been an ardent critic of U.S. foreign policy, and accused the West of intentionally sabotaging peace talks and seeking to remove Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. He has argued that the U.S. government has contributed to the circumstances leading to Russia’s invasion through repeated provocations since the 1990s. However, his views on this issue have been widely rejected by politicians from both parties and military leaders, who continue to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

The candidate has also taken aim at COVID policies – specifically lockdown orders and vaccine mandates. He has been a proponent of the theory that there is a link between vaccines and autism. Kennedy’s vaccine skepticism and claims about the pandemic have drawn criticism from experts, who view his stance as a significant threat to public health.

Other than these issues, I don’t understand the appeal for anyone else on the right. He has expressed some rather abhorrent views in the past that he has yet to address directly. Instead, when asked about his stances on climate change and the Second Amendment, he gives the usual politician answer and does not even bother to acknowledge what he has stated in the past.

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Let’s take the climate change issue first. On this matter, Kennedy appears to be little better than an older, male version of Greta Thunberg. Having been an environmental attorney, he wrote in a 2014 blog post that big oil companies should be subject to capital punishment:

The post, titled, “Jailing Climate Deniers,” was a response to claims made at the time that Kennedy said “all climate deniers should be jailed.” He denied ever saying such a thing, writing, “I support the First Amendment which makes room for any citizen to, even knowingly, spew far more vile lies without legal consequence.”

“I do, however, believe that corporations which deliberately, purposefully, maliciously and systematically sponsor climate lies should be given the death penalty,” Kennedy wrote for EcoWatch.

He named Koch Industries and ExxonMobil as the supervillains behind “a successful multimillion dollar propaganda blitz to mislead the public about global warming using the same techniques honed by Big Tobacco in its campaign to hoodwink the public about smoking.”

In his EcoWatch article, Kennedy asserted that state attorneys general could use a legal process he called “charter revocation” to dissolve companies that “put their profit-making before the ‘public welfare.'”

In 2018, while speaking with reporters, Kennedy called for imprisoning climate change deniers:

Think they should be in jail. I think they should be enjoying three hots and a cot at the Hague with all the other war criminals who are there … I think they’re selling out the public trust. I think those guys who are doing the Koch Brothers bidding and who are against all the evidence of the rational mind are saying that global warming doesn’t exist, that they are contemptible human beings, and that I wish that there were a law you could punish them under. I don’t think there’s a law that you can punish those politicians under, but do I think the Koch Brothers should be prosecuted for reckless and dangerous? Absolutely. That’s a criminal offense and they ought to be serving time for it.

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Apparently, RFK Jr. wasn’t a huge fan of free speech. Doesn’t that go against everything we on the right stand for?

But wait! There’s more!

Let’s talk about one of my favorite subjects: Gun rights. As much as he seemed to despise the First Amendment, Kennedy isn’t too fond of the Second either. He has been a passionate supporter of gun control laws designed to punish lawful gun owners. Indeed, in a now-deleted tweets, he blamed the National Rifle Association (NRA) for the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Luckily, the internet is forever, folks.

Some have defended him by claiming he has changed his stance on these matters. They refer to a recent Twitter Spaces, which Kennedy participated in, as proof. Folks are quoting him as saying that he would not move to take people’s guns. The problem is that their quotes leave out two important words: Right now. He said:

And I know as President that you are going to expect me, and I’m going to do everything I can to reduce gun violence in this country. I think one of the tools that has been taken out of my hands is taking away people’s guns. I don’t think it’s the right thing right now because it will just polarize our country. I’ve lived in rural areas of this country. I know how integrated gun culture is in those areas and how important it is to them in the way they view the Constitution.

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Don’t believe me? Take a listen:

So, if he doesn’t want to take our guns “right now,” when exactly would Kennedy deem it appropriate? That’s the question folks like ourselves should be asking.

To be fair, there is a chance that he made a sincere change of heart when it comes to locking people up for disagreeing with the progressive narrative on climate change, shutting down businesses that don’t toe the line on the environment, and confiscating our firearms. But can we really trust him? As I said previously, he has never even acknowledged making these statements in the past, which leads me to believe that he’s simply saying what people want to hear.

Even more than that, he has the typical big government stance on other issues. He emphasizes the need to rebuild industrial infrastructure, maintaining the welfare state, and supposedly ensuring a living wage for all Americans. While he may have some stances that folks on the right might find favorable, RFK Jr. has shown himself to be nothing more than a big government Democrat. So again, why would any of us find him appealing?

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