RFK Jr. Revisited
Writing at National Review Online, Marlo Lewis discusses Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s recent Live Earth comments. Mr. Lewis begins by quoting Kennedy's now infamous remarks:
The most important thing you can do is to get involved in the political process and get rid of all of these rotten politicians that we have in Washington D.C.—who are nothing more than corporate toadies for companies like Exxon and Southern Company. These villainous companies that consistently put their private financial interest ahead of American interest and ahead of the interest of all of humanity. This is treason and we need to start treating them now as traitors.
Lewis ably points out the absurdity of Kennedy's comments:
The Constitution defines the crime very narrowly: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort” (Art III, Sec. 3, emphasis added).
Kennedy is trying to silence his political adversaries by driving the marketplace (politically incorrect energy companies) out of the marketplace of ideas. That may be disloyal to the spirit of the Constitution, but it is not treason. To be guilty of treason, for example, Kennedy would have to become an “American Taliban,” pledge allegiance to Bin Laden, or give aid and comfort to Al Qaeda.
For the same reason, Kennedy’s charge of treason against ExxonMobil and Southern Company is absurd calumny.
However, it would be a mistake to write off Kennedy’s rant as mere bombast or rhetorical excess. It is more likely a window into his belief system. Calling your political opponents traitors makes perfect sense if you see yourself as a combatant in a war. And many eco-activists do seem to view the global warming crusade as a holy war to save the planet, our democracy, even our very souls. Thus, they naturally regard their opponents as villains and traitors.
In my view, Lewis is dead on in his analysis of Kennedy's worldview. In January 2002, just four months after 9/11, Kennedy proclaimed large hog farms to be a threat "greater than that in Afghanistan". This is just one example among many of Kennedy's willingness to use hysterical rhetoric, gross exaggeration, and highly dubious evidence in support of his radical environmentalist agenda. Like so many true believers, Kennedy seems to think that mere factual accuracy is unimportant when compared to the higher "truth" that he knows to be absolutely correct.
On the other hand, though, you do have to consider Kennedy's occasional willingness to shelve his principles when they conflict with his personal interests, as with his opposition to a Nantucket wind farm project that would have marred his beautiful seaside vistas while on vacation.
To the best of my recollection, Kennedy never used the word "traitor" in his June ALA keynote address, though terms like "criminal", "thugs", and even "fascism" were used quite freely. To my particular ire, he even concluded by trotting out the "Chickenhawk" canard. So progressing to use of the word "treason" was not too much of a stretch for Kennedy.
In short, inflammatory, ad hominem rhetoric is par for the course for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.