In Age of Donald Trump, Jews Battle Over Legacy of RFK

What would Bobby do?

This question suddenly has two Jewish former aides of Robert F. Kennedy on competing side of the argument. One, former speechwriter Adam Walinsky, shocked Democrats in announcing his decision to side with Donald Trump, while the other, former Senate aide Peter Edelman, strongly rejected the mere idea of comparing Trump to Kennedy.

Walinsky’s rationale for backing Trump is based primarily on foreign policy. Stating that the Democratic Party has become “the Party of War,” the lifelong Democrat made his case for viewing Trump as the candidate upholding the Kennedy mantle of world peace.

Writing in Politico Wednesday, Walinsky tried to explain why he is turning his back on the Democratic Party, which he now views as “a home for arms merchants, mercenaries, academic war planners, lobbyists for every foreign intervention, promoters of color revolutions, failed generals, exploiters of the natural resources of corrupt governments.”

Walinsky served as RFK speechwriter in the Senate and on the presidential campaign trail, until his assassination. Later he ran for office in New York State and headed the National Committee for the Police Corps.

Clinton, he argues, is in no way a leader of peace as the Kennedy brothers would have liked to see. “She has pushed America into successive invasions, successive efforts at ‘regime change,’” Walinsky wrote. He listed Clinton’s refusal to engage with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, her willingness to go to war in Syria, and warned that Clinton’s shadow cabinet is made up of “the neocons who led us to our present pass, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, in Ukraine, unrepentant of all past errors, ready to resume it all with fresh trillions and fresh blood.”

While acknowledging that Trump is “crude, often vulgar,” Walinsky noted that “John Kennedy admired political courage” and that Trump “marks himself as a man of singular political courage,” since he is “willing to defy the hysteria of the Washington war hawks, the establishment and the mainstream media who daily describe him as virtually anti-American for daring to voice ideas and opinions at variance with their one-note devotion to war.”

It was another Jewish RFK hand that took Walinsky to task for his statement of support for Trump.

Peter Edelman, who served alongside Walinsky in Kennedy’s Senate office, wrote a forceful rebuttal in Politico stating that his former colleague “chose the wrong side” in this political battle.

“Of all the ways to misappropriate the memory of John and Robert Kennedy, two of our greatest public servants, this is the most egregious I have ever seen,” Edelman wrote. He rejected Walinsky’s description of Clinton as “overwrought” and as a “dark view” not only of Clinton, but of all Democrats.

“To compare John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy to Donald Trump is — well, I won’t finish the sentence,” Edelman wrote. “Yes, Robert Kennedy turned against the Vietnam War, but not because he felt that America should retreat from the world.”

Contact Nathan Guttman at or on Twitter @nathanguttman


Nathan Guttman

Nathan Guttman

Nathan Guttman staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Contact Nathan at, or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman

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In Age of Donald Trump, Jews Battle Over Legacy of RFK

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