July 27, 2004,
Boston, Mass Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., son of the late senator and nephew of the late president, told an audience in Cambridge, Mass. Monday that President Bush has brought fascism to America.
Kennedy appeared at a forum, "Books, Politics, and the Culture War," sponsored by the Harvard Book Store and the Progressive Book Club. A longtime environmentalist, he delivered an extended criticism of the Bush administration's environmental policies before alleging that the president has, in effect, created a fascist system of government in America.
"I was taught that Communism leads to dictatorship and that capitalism leads to democracy," Kennedy told the audience at the First Parish Church. "Well, it's not that simple." Free-market capitalism, Kennedy explained, does in fact lead to democracy, but "corporate, crony capitalism," which Kennedy said is practiced by the Bush administration, "is as antithetical to democracy in America as it is in Nigeria."
"You have to understand the difference between free-market capitalism...and the kind of corporate crony capitalism where you have large corporations running our government," Kennedy said. "There's a name for that, and the name is fascism."
The overwhelmingly left-leaning crowd, many of whom had come to Boston for the Democratic National Convention, began to cheer loudly. Kennedy finished his point by citing the American Heritage Dictionary, which he said "defines 'fascism' as the control of government by large corporations with right-wing ideology, driven by bellicose nationalism." That, Kennedy said, is the situation America is in today under the Bush administration. The crowd broke into even louder cheers the most enthusiastic of the event.
Monday was not the first time that Kennedy has suggested the Bush administration has fascist tendencies. Last December, in an interview with the left-wing website Buzzflash, Kennedy said, "A farmer sent me a copy of the American Heritage Dictionary's definition of fascism the other day, and the definition is roughly that the control of government by large corporations with right-wing ideologies, driven by bellicose nationalism. That has a familiar ring these days."
For the record, the American Heritage Dictionary, as available on the web, includes the phrase "belligerent nationalism" but does not include references to corporations or "right-wing ideology."
At the First Parish Church, Kennedy's fellow panelists were novelist Toni Morrison, Clinton loyalist Sidney Blumenthal, and anti-Bush radio host Al Franken. The discussion was moderated by Joe Conason. Although the session was advertised as an examination of the role of books in politics, much of the time was devoted to denunciations of the Bush administration, coupled with admonitions for the audience to vote for John Kerry this November.
For example, during the question-and-answer part of the program, a woman rose to say that she had been very involved in the presidential campaign of Dennis Kucinich. She was now trying to decide whether to vote for Kerry, she said, but "Since I got here [Boston], I feel worse and worse about making that choice." She was particularly unhappy with Kerry's position on the war in Iraq.
"What am I going to do?" the woman asked.
"You're going to vote for Kerry," Franken told her.
"You should make the correct choice, and it's a very simple and easy one," added Conason.