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Steve Lopez: What if Robert Kennedy had not been assassinated?

Kneeling again next to RFK

Rigo Chacon, who arranged for his friend Juan Romero to visit the grave of Bobby Kennedy Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery, tells me Romero seems to be a changed man since the visit.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4150cbe970b-pi"I think it made a world of difference," said Chacon, a retired TV newsman who met Romero the same way I did -- while working on a story about the busboy who tried to help Kennedy after he was mortally wounded by an assassin at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968.

Kennedy had just won the state's presidential primary. As I related in my Sunday column, Romero has been haunted by the ordeal all these years. In an instant, Kennedy's life was snuffed out just as Romero, 17 at the time, felt a sense of great hope for the country and for immigrants such as himself.

To keep Kennedy's spirit alive, Romero has been speaking up in recent years about tolerance and social justice, believing that it is his duty to do so. Still, he remained deeply troubled, and Chacon had talked him into visiting the grave to confront his ghosts. 

"I'm not a psychologist, but it seemed to be something he needed, and he was relieved and more talkative on the way home," Chacon said. Chacon runs a nonprofit called Abrazos and Books, which presents scholarships to Santa Clara County students.

The scholarships are named for inspirational local leaders, including Romero. For more information, go to Abrazosandbooks.com. Romero has often wondered what course history might have taken if there was no assassin named Sirhan Sirhan, and RFK's win in California led him, rather than Richard Nixon, to the White House.

Tell me what you think.


Kneeling again next to RFK

Framework: The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (70)

What if Lincoln had not been assassinated? What if JFK had not been assassinated? What if Dewey had defeated Truman? What if Gore had won in the Supreme Court over Bush?

How pointless it is to ask "what if's".

Beyond a doubt, Robert Kennedy would have kicked Richard Nixon to the curb and possibly prevented the downstream drift to the right that gave us Ronald Reagan that gave us, well you fill in the blanks.

I don't recall reading anywhere that this was the first act of Middle-East terrorism that happened in the U.S., but then no one has really probed all that much into why Sirhan Sirhan did what he did.

Jerry w

Bobby Kennedy was a brilliant man, focused on the common good. He was another Jefferson, another Lincoln, another FDR. I was only a young boy when he died. To this day when I see pictures of him or read his words, I am struck with his depth and intellect. And to this day when I think of him and what could have happened in this world with him as President, I get tears in my eyes and a catch in my throat. I will always be saddened by his death.

Interesting question of course. Both RMN and RFK would have had to deal with a Congress of Hawks...as far as Viet Nam was concerned...RFK would have tried to stop it with more verve. Success? Hmmm. But he would never have done the Agnew thing...the guy was a jerk...or the Watergate thing...RFK had some clear visions and cheating wasn't his style. Dirty tricks would have been out...RMN had some evil deamons in his noggin. RFK might have pushed through Health Care and was a Civil Rights advocate. Roger

Robert Kennedy would almost certainly gone on to become president if he had not been gunned down. This scenario offers an interesting alternative to the escalation of the Viet Nam war and the breathtaking political corruption of the Nixon administration, as uncountable people have already considered.

But RFK had his own peccadilloes, and my guess is that the corporations and the military establishment (not to mention J. Edgar Hoover), which wanted an all-out war, would have used Kennedy's shortcomings to control him, and the Viet Nam war would have escalated exactly as it did.

President Obama, who promised to rein in our sins at Guantanamo, Bagram, Iraq and Afghanistan, turned out to be just another painted courtesan of the military and the corporations. His liberal rhetoric was used to court our votes and whet our appetites for change, but of course there was no change. I'd like to think that Bobby had more substance, but being a Democrat he was probably just another lackey.

America would be a decent more gracious and progressive place had honest men that tired to make it that way not been assassinated by the nefarious and evil forces that have had America in their grip for the last 30 years. The once stoic and admirable values such as personal ethics, morals, social responsibility, conscience, integrity , that people like JFK, RFK, MLK, and others embodied have long since been sold out for a few bucks by this sad, short-sighted, Faustian nation of money-hungry and savage desperadoes.

It is most likely that none of the subsequent Presidents since 1968 would have been elected. This was one of the most influential moments of the last 50 years.

What if Marilyn Monroe had not been murdered?

Plato, Christ, St. Stephen, John Wycliff, Joan of Arc, Thomas More, MLK, Malcom X. I'm wondering if JFK and RFK fit in here as bona fide martyrs.

Q: Were they leading the people to higher ground, despite their obvious flaws?

A: I'm leaning toward 'yes.'

I have thought about this subject frequently, especially during the election of President Obama.
I think our culture, our society, our planet took a sharp turn the day we lost Bobby. My heart breaks when I contemplate the opportunities lost. But, I appreciate Mr. Lopez asking the question. For some of us, the dream never does die. Envisioning the world we may have had can become the genesis of what we wish to create now.

Correction: make that first one Socrates... again I've mixed the student with the teacher.

I think RFK was the greatest candidate for president having a real chance to win that I have seen in my life. With his death, we really lost something.

Tragic loss.....And amazing how only one person tries to render aid, while everyone else stands around.

What if Jesus was not crucified?

RFK as president: He would have ended the Vietnam war earlier (don't know if that would have been less of a mess than Saigon in 75), but probably not have helped open up China as Nixon did. We can't really say with any assurance at all. An earlier poster said there would have been no dirty tricks ala Nixon. Really? That's a romanticized view. Bobby Kennedy had Martin Luther King, Jr wiretapped and was passing Marilyn Monroe back and forth with his brother. Get real, people. That said, I liked Bobby Kennedy and think he had more intellect than any of our current leaders---by far. He'd quote Shakespeare, Greek philosophers---it was another world. Now we've got potential candidates who do reality shows and a president who...well that's another topic.

I was truly saddened and disheartened by RFK's assasination, as I believe the country was. Bobby--I call him that, because he had a way of making us all feel close to him--would have taken on the Vietnam hawks and ended that debacle sooner.

He may not have confronted the Soviets as directly as did Reagan, but he certainly would have made nuclear non-proliferation a priority.

Most importantly, he would have reached out to the Third World in ways that would enrich their lives, and not at the expense of the standard of living we USED to enjoy here!

RFK would have been the best President this country ever had; he was truly one of the best and brightest.

It was both his death and what his death represented-

He was a man for the coommon good- which realy seemed to disappear from politics altogether just about then too.

He was certainly an orator with both a calm style and a substance to his words- trustworthy words- that is no longer found.

I was only 14 but even by then, in those times, hoping that his inevitable election- would bring an end to the war and a better nation and world.

I can't stand to see how he's frequently been portrayed in ficticious plays- as some kind of whiny contentious adversary. He was a calm voice with healing words of sanity.

What if's are nonsense. At that point, it was still very uncertain who would come out of the Democratic Primary. It's really non-sense, what if John Kerry won? Then Obama many not be President today, everything is a moot point.

What if's are nonsense. At that point, it was still very uncertain who would come out of the Democratic Primary. It's really non-sense, what if John Kerry won? Then Obama many not be President today, everything is a moot point.

I didn't know Jefferson, Lincoln or FDR, but I know Kennedy wasn't anything like them. Granted, he was a smart guy imbued with a mystical legacy, but he also irritated, and was disliked by, most politicians of the day, Democrat and Republican, which would have limited his effectiveness. I'm sorry he was killed, but it's doubtful that his presidency would have stood out.

JFK was the original Obama: continue the American Imperial Mission, but put a likeable face on it. Give us a romantic story ("Camelot") for the warm fuzzies.

I would like to think the world would have been a better place under President Robert Kennedy. The key word is "under". The United States would not have forfeited its worldwide power projection.

Under RFK, the US would have had a sweeter, gentler veneer as it continued to pillage the world. This is one of those dark cases where we might actually be better off without "nice" Bobby Kennedy, since we are now forced to see the naked, brutal face American foreign policy; and feel its rapacious economic system on ourselves, as the world has felt all along.

How soon do you want to know about the Vampires in your house...sooner or later?

Chances are great that RFK would have been elected president over Richard Millhouse Nixon and we may never have seen the tragedy that is "ABORTION ON DEMAND"

RFK had 11 or 12 children. What does that tell you?

do your research, RFK was clearly killed by a conspiracy.
woman with the polka dot dress, anyone?

It is very possible that the assassinations of that era intimidated liberal leadership. The effects can be seen even today in Washington.

Perhaps that is why the murders were committed, to eliminate and intimidate the opposition, and not because of crazy lone shooters. At the time, the country was moving forward, and certain parties did not want that to happen.

Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, desegregation, liberation and progress were real threats to the wealthy and powerful. Still are today.

How would RFK handled Viet Nam?

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