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Opinion

Readers React: Remembering the real antiwar candidate of 1968: Eugene McCarthy, not RFK

June 1, 1968, San Francisco: Kennedy debates his Democratic primary rival, Sen. Eugene McCarthy of M
Eugene McCarthy, left, and Robert F. Kennedy debate prior to California’s Democratic presidential primary election on June 1, 1968.
(AP)

To the editor: Like op-ed article writer Mark Kurlansky, I was also a 19-year-old campaign volunteer in 1968. I worked for Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota.

It is understandable that the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy inspires nostalgia, and that a slain leader acquires a saintly quality. But the fact is that McCarthy was the only Democrat who had the courage to run against President Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War.

Kennedy announced his candidacy only after Johnson withdrew. If we are going to ask “what if” questions, perhaps we should wonder if the Vietnam War would have ended sooner if Kennedy hadn’t split the antiwar vote.

Stephen Reed, Diamond Bar

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To the editor: I was 14 years old in June 1968 when RFK was assassinated after winning California’s Democratic presidential primary. Part of his campaign was based on ending the Vietnam War, and we all know the end of that story.

In lieu of Kennedy we got President Richard Nixon. And we continued the stupidity of our Vietnam misadventure, with about 21,000 Americans dying there under Nixon. The cynicism of Nixon’s “secret plan” to end the war is a painful memory for me.

Now, 50 years later, we have gone from Kennedy’s idealism to President Trump’s pathology of materialism dressed up in the disguise of a “successful businessman.” America has far to go to realize what RFK thought this country could become.

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Bob Teigan, Santa Susana

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