If someone told you that Beto O’Rourke was Bobby Kennedy’s son, on looks alone, you would not doubt it.
Look out Ted Cruz, there’s a ghost gaining on you. The latest Texas Senate race poll has him just one point behind.
Irish ghosts are powerful. They refuse to go away.
It seems the ghost of Bobby Kennedy is now residing deep in the heart of Texas.
The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator in Texas is named Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke. He has a lot in common with Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy. Kennedy was dead at 43, four years before Congressman O’Rourke was born. Still, the resemblances are eerie.
They are both liberal Democrats, they are both Irish, and they even look like each other. If someone told you that O’Rourke was Bobby Kennedy’s son, on looks alone, you would not doubt it.
But they also share a special gift. They can, like Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, speak off-the-cuff and make powerful statements to the American people. Lincoln wrote his world-famous Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope on his way to the battlefield while riding on a train. Bobby Kennedy had just set down in Indianapolis when he gave a speech that has been compared to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address because of its naked power.
It was April 4, 1968, and Kennedy just got off his airplane when he heard that Dr. King had been shot dead. He immediately told the assembled crowd of the tragedy, most of them black, and a hush of grief went up.
He went on to say “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”
Kennedy concluded, “My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: ‘In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.’ ”
Sixty-three days later, Bobby Kennedy would join Dr. King in martyrdom.
O’Rourke takes a knee for democracy
Donald John Trump is a very good magician. Every time another scandal hits him, he pulls another rabbit out of the hat. Magicians call it “misdirection.” Look at that bright light up there, while I pull that card out of my sleeve! So, one of his most brilliant tricks was to take on NFL players—overwhelming black, by the way—and their constitutional right to take a knee to protest the murder in cold blood of many of their fellow black Americans by police around this country. Trump called the players “sons of bitches,” which is a heartwarming way of calling out the players and their black mothers. Some people would call this bigotry. Others would call it good Trumpian politics. It became a great Trump talking point among the Fox TV crowd. Let’s face it, it’s outright bigotry and Trump knew exactly what he was doing—stirring up his base.
Well, El Paso Congressman O’Rourke is running for U.S. Senate in very red Texas. He is running against Ted Cruz who doesn’t have a friend in the world. Even his dog hates Ted Cruz. Cruz has been compared to Senator Joseph “Tailgunner Joe” McCarthy, the guy “McCarthyism” is named after. In fact, as much as O’Rourke looks like Bobby Kennedy, Ted Cruz looks like Joe McCarthy. Proving, once again, God’s great sense of humor.
Cruz is also an admitted coward. Trump accused his father of being part of the conspiracy to murder President John F. Kennedy. Trump also had less than admiring things to say about the looks of Cruz’s wife. Most men would tell Trump to perform an unnatural sex act on himself, but Cruz, the tough guy, said all was forgiven and eventually endorsed Trump for president. Some man. By the way, Joe McCarthy’s buddy in his hunt for commies was Roy Cohn, Donald Trump’s favorite lawyer. Cohn, who died of AIDS in 1986, was perfect for Trump—neither of them had any morals or scruples and they were proud of it.
Recently, O’Rourke was asked about Trump’s NFL kneeing remarks by a crowd he was romancing in his tour around Texas. Was taking a knee un-American or disrespectful? His response was stunning.
“My short answer is no, I don’t think it’s disrespectful,” said O’Rourke.
“Here’s my longer answer, but I’m gonna try to make sure that I get this right because I think it’s a really important question. And reasonable people can disagree on this issue, let’s begin there. And it makes them no less American to come down on a different conclusion on this issue, right? You’re every bit as American all the same.
“But I’m reminded that somebody mentioned reading the Taylor Branch book—you did—Parting the Waters: [America] in the King Years. And when you read that book and find out what Dr. King and this nonviolent, peaceful movement to secure better—because they didn’t get full—civil rights for their fellow Americans, the challenges that they face—those who died in Philadelphia, Mississippi, for the crime of trying to be a man, trying to be a woman, in this country, the young girls who died in the church bombing, those who were beaten within an inch of their life crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, with John Lewis, those who were punched in the face, spat upon, dragged out by their collar at the Woolworth lunch counter for sitting with white people at that same lunch counter, in the same country where their fathers may have bled the same blood on the battlefields of Omaha Beach or Okinawa or anywhere that anyone ever served this country.
“The freedoms that we have were purchased not just by those in uniform, and they definitely were. But also by those who took their lives into their hands riding those Greyhound buses, the Freedom Riders in the deep South in the 1960s who knew full well that they would be arrested, and they were, serving time in the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Rosa Parks getting from the back of the bus to the front of the bus. Peaceful, nonviolent protests, including taking a knee at a football game to point out that Black men, unarmed; Black teenagers, unarmed; and Black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement, without accountability and without justice.
“And this problem—as grave as it is—is not gonna fix itself, and they’re frustrated, frankly, with people like me and those in positions of public trust and power who have been unable to resolve this or bring justice for what has been done and to stop it from continuing to happen in this country. And so nonviolently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem and ensure that we fix it. That is why they’re doing it, and I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”
Of course, Cruz was furious with faux anger, tweeting, “Most Texans stand for the flag, but Hollywood liberals are so excited that Beto is siding with NFL players protesting the national anthem that Kevin Bacon just retweeted it,” Cruz tweeted. “That means all of us can now win Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon!”
But the cheers for O’Rourke far outweighed any support Cruz garnered. Steve Schmidt is no flaming liberal. In fact, he is a long-time Republican strategist who worked for George W. Bush and ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign for president. He was a Republican until he declared his apostasy earlier this summer.
Here’s what Schmidt had to say on Twitter: “Take a minute to watch a Political Leader with conviction and integrity address a divisive issue. A rare example of persuasion in this era of incitement. Texas can do a lot better than the conniving and opportunistic Ted Cruz. Anybody else see a little bit of RFK in Beto?”
Take a minute to watch a Political Leader with conviction and integrity address a divisive issue. A rare example of persuasion in this era of incitement. Texas can do a lot better than the conniving and opportunistic Ted Cruz. Anybody else see a little bit of RFK in Beto? https://t.co/pJlk7svM6k— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) August 22, 2018
Soon Schmidt was joined by NBA superstar Lebron James, a favorite Trump target. King James tweeted: “A Must Watch!!! Salute @BetoORourke for the candid thoughtful words!”
Words of encouragement even came from south of the border, Trump favorite whipping dog—Mexico—was represented when former Mexican President Vicente Fox said: “Long time I haven’t heard such strong, compelling message,” he tweeted.
“This is it, this is what we need today in USA & the world.”
Others also chipped in. Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres simply tweeted: “I would like to meet you, @BetoORourke.”
NFL Super Bowl-winning QB Kurt Warner tweeted: “Every past & present fan of NFL—please please listen—I believe he hit the nail on the head & he did so not by dividing the 2 sides but by joining them together in realizing the freedoms of our country have been forged by soldiers but also by many others who have fought in diff ways!”
Steinfeld actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus tweeted: “So perfectly articulated. I would vote for @BetoORourke if I could.”
Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy chipped in with: “If you want some insight into the National Anthem kneeling controversy, watch this. If you’ve already made up your mind that kneeling is disrespectful and facts and history won’t change your mind there’s no need to watch.”
Golden State Warrior championship coach Steve Kerr also tweeted: “Please watch this and be reminded of what thoughtful leadership looks and sounds like. Thank you @BetoORourke for giving us a glimpse of our future. Things will get better!”
O’Rourke, like RFK, is not perfect
Of course, O’Rourke isn’t perfect—just like RFK.
For years, liberals wouldn’t trust Bobby Kennedy because he was a friend of Senator Joe McCarthy. He worked for McCarthy in the Senate before going over to the Democratic side to work on the same side as counsel Joseph (“Have you no sense of decency, sir?”) Welch in the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954 which took McCarthy down. It is said that Kennedy switched sides because of his dislike of Roy Cohn. Still, when McCarthy drank himself to death in 1957, Kennedy attended his lonely funeral.
What are Beto O’Rourke’s sins?
It seems they are youthful indiscretions, but I’m sure Senator Cruz will embrace them, much as he embraced Trump. After all, Cruz is a confessed poltroon.
According to Politifact Texas, O’Rourke had two brushes with the law.
“Separately,” Politifact reported, “we ran a background check of O’Rourke using the LexisNexis service. According to the results, O’Rourke’s May 1995 misdemeanor arrest on the UTEP campus was later declined and his September 1998 misdemeanor DWI arrest in El Paso was dismissed.”
Politifact went on to elaborate on the charges: “The check gave us case numbers for the arrests enabling us to fetch an El Paso County record stating that O’Rourke was initially arrested in May 1995 and that case was disposed of in February 1996. We saw too that after the DWI arrest, according to another county record, O’Rourke was referred to a misdemeanor diversion program in March 1999 and completed ’DWI school’ in May 1999. That document’s last entry, dated Oct. 20, 1999, says: ‘Misdemeanor diversion completed successfully.’”
These charges came to light when O’Rourke first ran for Congress. He was upfront about them, declaring at the time, “More than 20 years ago, I was arrested—not once, but twice. So you should know that and we should all own that if asked.”
He also admitted that he made a “far more serious mistake: I drove under the influence of alcohol. There’s no justifying that.”
So, there is no smoking gun here, only honesty, something voters may be shocked about. Whatever the outcome of the Texas senate race, America has been presented with a different kind of politician—a man of sense, compassion and blatant self-honesty, who also has a few warts, much like another young senator, Robert Francis Kennedy.
Win or lose, Beto O’Rourke—like the ghost of Bobby Kennedy—will apparently be with us for a while.
Dermot McEvoy is the author of the The 13th Apostle: A Novel of Michael Collins and the Irish Uprising and Our Lady of Greenwich Village, both now available in paperback, Kindle and Audio from Skyhorse Publishing. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.dermotmcevoy.com. Follow The 13th Apostle on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/13thApostleMcEvoy/