R. F. Kennedy Jr. Interview: Democracy in Crisis
Democracy in Crisis - Interview with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
BradBlog.com & Truthout.org
Tuesday 18 July 2006
An Exclusive Interview for The BRAD BLOG  as Guest Blogged by Joy  and Tom Williams…
"The Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, has been using old-fashioned, Jim Crow, apartheid-type maneuvers to steal the last two national elections."
- Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Recently, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., (bio ) , wrote the article: "Was the 2004 Election Stolen " where he examined the election fraud in Ohio that took place during the last Presidential Election. He also has written a book "Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush & His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy ". Mr. Kennedy, along with Mike Papantonio have filed a "qui tam" lawsuit  against some of the voting machines companies, in an effort to save our Democracy.
I've long had a deep respect for Robert F. Kennedy for his dedicated work as an environmental advocate. Tom and I enjoyed interviewing him and were moved by his passion and dedication to our country and our Democracy. We spoke to him via phone at his office at Pace University's Environmental Litigation Clinic in White Plains, New York, which he founded, about the election of 2004. This was an experience to remember...
BRAD BLOG: In your book, "Crimes Against Nature," you said that Bush won the 2004 election because of an information deficit caused by a breakdown in our national media. You go on to say that "Bush was re-elected because of the negligence of-and deliberate deception by-the American press." Your recent article in "Rolling Stone" seems to suggest that your opinion has changed, focusing more on the fraud and deception in Ohio with the computerized voting machines. What was the most important thing that made you suspect fraud and decide to investigate the 2004 election?
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: Well, my opinion hasn't changed, that the press has been negligent, and that the large amount of support for the President, and for the people that did vote for the President, that large numbers of them would not have done so, had they known the truth about his policies, and his record. You say my opinion changed, but it hasn't changed.
You know I've known this for many years, because of my anecdotal experience. I give about 40 speeches a year, in red states to Republican audiences, and I get the same enthusiastic responses from those audiences as I get from Liberal college audiences. The only difference is, is that the Republicans often say to me, "How come we've never heard this before?" I made the conclusion many years ago that there's not a huge values difference between Red State Republicans and Blue State Democrats. The distinction is really informational. 80% of Republicans are just Democrats who don't know what's going on. And my anecdotal conclusion was confirmed by a survey done immediately after the 2004 election called the PIPA  report, which tested Bush supporters and Kerry supporters based upon their knowledge of current events. It found that among Bush supporters, they were widespread in its interpretations, or there were factual errors in the way that they viewed Bush's major public policy initiatives.
For example, 75% of the Republican respondents believed that Saddam Hussein bombed the World Trade Center, and 72% believed that WMD had been found in Iraq. And most of them believed that the war in Iraq had strong support among Iraq's Muslim neighbors and our traditional allies in Europe, which of course is wrong. The Democrats as a whole had a much more accurate view of those events. And then PIPA  went back twice to these same people. The first time it went back to the people that had these misinterpretations, and asked them where they were getting their news, and invariably they said talk radio and FOX news. And PIPA went back a third time, and made inquiries about their fundamental values, and it did start with a string of hypotheticals:
"What if there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What if Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with bombing the World Trade Center? What if the U.S. Invasion of Iraq had little support among Iraq's Muslim neighbors and was largely opposed by Iraq's Muslim neighbors, and by our troops and allies in Europe? Should we have still gone in?" And roughly 80% of Dem and 80% of Rep said the same thing, "We should not." And so the values were the same. It was the facts, the information, it was the access to information that was different.
BB: Are you then adding a layer of suspicion about the direct manipulation and fraudulent counting through computerized voting?
RFK JR.: That also happened, that was another factor. Our democracy is broken. Our democracy is broken because of our campaign finance system, which is just a system of legalized bribery, which has allowed corporations and the very wealthy to control the electoral results. Let me go back and say our electoral system is broken for three reasons, in three large respects: The first is our campaign finance system, which is a system of legalized bribery, and which has allowed corporations and the very rich to control the results of our electoral process. Number two is the failure of the American press and that is also a function and result of corporate control, as I showed in my book. Number three is the election system itself, which is broken. We've privatized it and allowed four large corporations to count our votes on machines that don't work.
But also the Republican party has inculcated a culture of corruption. The Republican party has adopted a strategy of denying votes to blacks and other minorities, and to other people more traditionally Democratic, suppressing Democratic vote and fraudulently expanding Republican vote. And this is happening all over the country. I would urge you to read Greg Palast's latest book, Armed Madhouse . He does for the national elections what I did for the Ohio election, which is to synthesize the information that's out there into a readable document, in which he shows exactly how this election was stolen-not just in Ohio but in many other states as well.
BB: Have any of your expert witnesses or anyone referred to some of the stringent requirements in the gaming industry which uses computerized slot machines, poker machines and so forth involving the levels of certification and disclosure of the security requirements of its vendors?
RFK JR.: Well, you see this was just another corporate boondoggle that gave the most venal mendacious corporations charge of our most sacred public trust, which is the right to vote. These corporations were making hundreds of millions of dollars. The machines, as it turns out, were manufactured by wireless companies and were just a cheap piece of junk that cost less than $100 to manufacture, and they were selling them for $2400 apiece. And they were using Jack Abramoff and other corrupt lobbyists to persuade federal officials to pass the federal act to appropriate the money and then to persuade state and local officials to purchase the defective machines.
BB: Jack Abramoff was involved in this?
RFK JR.: Oh yes. Jack Abramoff, and Bob Ney (R-Oh), the principle figure in the Abramoff scandal and he's the author of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). And Diebold contributed millions of dollars to these guys, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to Abramoff to lobby on behalf of HAVA, and to lobby states like New York and the other states, to adopt the Diebold machines.
BB: So HAVA was "created specifically to disenfranchise voters and verfication"?
RFK JR.: HAVA was written specifically to require the states to buy Diebold machines. I mean one company basically had control of the whole legislative process. That's why HAVA has a provision in it that discourages vote verification by paper ballots. Both Republicans and Democrats tried to reform the HAVA, saying of course we should have paper verification of the vote. Paper verification would allow you to go in, make your vote on the electronic machine, and you get a receipt that is a copy of who you voted for and you are allowed to examine that receipt. You deposit it in a locked box in the voting area. That way, if there's ever any question, if you need to count, you can count the papers, and see if it compares to what the machine says.
But Bob Ney fought tooth and nail against that provision because Diebold made a machine that does not provide a paper ballot. And he went so far, because Diebold contributed a million dollars to an organization that purportedly protects the rights of blind people. And in exchange for that, that organization got one of its officers to testify on Capitol Hill at the HAVA hearings, that blind people in America did not want paper ballots - voter verified ballots - because it would deprive someone of the right to vote secretly. Now the other organizations that support handicapped rights and rights of the blind, do not take that position. This was a position that that organization adopted after accepting a million dollars from Diebold. The whole operation was corrupt and now Bob Ney is going to jail for it.
BB: Also, speaking of those guys, election officials in several states, most notably Ken Blackwell in Ohio and Bruce McPherson here in the state of California, appear to be be deliberately flaunting established law and procedures as well as direct court orders, and they seem to be just "getting away with it". How can that be?
RFK JR.: Well, again, it's because of the failure of the American press. This is the most important issue in American Democracy and the press isn't covering it. So the politicians who want to fix the elections, and who want these fraudulent machines, can get away with it, don't take a position because it gets no traction in the press.
BB: But then why didn't people like Kerry want to contest the results?
RFK JR.: You'd have to ask Kerry.
BB: Why hasn't the DNC done anything about this?
RFK JR.: You'd have to ask the DNC.
BB: We watched Howard Dean on television having a hack demonstrated to him by Bev Harris , and he doesn't seem to say anything... I guess we'll have to ask them! But there seems to have been a pattern here in the leadership of the Democratic Party....What I was getting to in those questions was not for you to interpret the actions of the those in the DNC and so forth, but there seems to be a pattern in the leadership of the Dem Party that shies away from direct conflict in this....
RFK JR.: The Democratic leadership on this issue has been abysmal. And particularly since this is a civil rights issue and it's a racial issue. The machines themselves are kind of a distraction because the machines are recent innovations. The Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, has been using, old-fashioned, Jim Crow, apartheid-type maneuvers to steal the last two national elections.
BB: Like in Georgia, who were trying to establish the Poll Tax again...
RFK JR.: And this has been happening all over the country. If you look at who's being denied the right to vote, on absentee ballots, on provisional ballots, it's Hispanics, it's Blacks and it's Native Americans, and the Democratic Party ought to be touting this as the biggest civil rights issue of our time. But they are ignoring it, and that really is shocking. It's shocking that the Republicans are not up in arms about this too, because this should not be a partisan issue. This is a fundamental basis of our American value system, which is representative Democracy. For a party that claims to speak for "American Values" to ignore the fact that other members of the party, that the leadership of the party is involved in an active national campaign to stop black people from voting, and to steal elections, shows the moral bankruptcy of everybody in that party!
Why aren't Republicans standing up and speaking on this issue? Why isn't Republican leadership standing up and speaking on this issue?
BB: California just recently went to Diebold machines, all over the state. If California "goes" Republican, do you think we will be able to say, ok, there's no doubt anymore?
RFK JR.: Listen: all I can say is that the Diebold machines are among the worst. They break down, they are easily hacked, Diebold uses fraudulent misrepresentations to sell the machines, and they should not be part of our voting system.
BB: Are there any plans on a national or state level to contest suspicious results this time around?
RFK JR.: They make it very difficult to contest crooked elections. Nebraska is one of several states that have now passed laws, and I believe Florida is one of those states, that prohibit counting paper ballots in votes that were originally counted by machines. The only way that you can count votes is the original way in which they were counted. And so, of course, that makes it easy to fix any election and make sure that nobody has the right to challenge it.
Many other states, including Ohio, have made it impossible for anybody to challenge an election, even if it was obviously fixed. And these kinds of initiatives are happening all over the country. Why would any state legislature vote for such a rule unless they were Republicans who felt that elections would be fixed in their favor? Why would any American vote for such a rule? It is completely anti-American and un-American. We should be encouraging Americans to vote and encouraging EVERY American to cast a vote and to make sure that every vote is counted. And both parties should be working toward that.
But instead you have a Republican party that is trying to suppress votes and trying to defraud the public. And you have a Democratic party that is like the deer in headlights. And the Democrats are never going to win another election if they don't fix this issue because they are starting out every election with a 3 million vote deficit, and those are mainly the black voters in this country and who no longer have their votes counted.
And you know, this may sound shrill, but look at the facts. And I challenge anyone who says that this is shrill and inaccurate to read Greg Palast's book, to read my article, to look at the facts, because the facts are infallible.
BB: Do you think we are going to need a reaction like they are having currently in Mexico?
RFK JR.: Well, I wish the Democratic Party had the cojones that the Mexican opposition party has! They're saying "We're not gonna stand for our elections being stolen anymore!" It's great for these (our) political leaders to stand up and say "I will gracefully concede" but what does that mean for the rest of us? We are getting stuck with these governments that are absolutely running our country into the ground.
BB: You said in your recent interview with Charlie Rose, that this is the worst Presidency we've ever had, and they've ruined our reputation in the world. So if you had your ideal President, what kind of things would he or she need to do to restore our credibility?
RFK JR.: Well the first thing we need to do is to restore American Democracy.
Number One: Fix the campaign finance system to get corporate money out of the electoral process. Corporations are a great thing for our country. They drive our economy but they should NOT be running our government because they don't want the same thing for America that Americans want. Corporations don't want democracy, they want free markets, they want profits, and oftentimes the easiest path to profits is to use the campaign finance system to get their hooks into a public official and to use that public official to dismantle the marketplace to give them monopoly control and a competitive edge and to privatize the commons-to steal our air, our water, or our public treasury, and liquidate it for private profits.
Number Two: We have to fix the press: restore journalistic ethics in this country, and that is by bringing back the fairness doctrine and strengthening the FCC. The Fairness Doctrine was abolished by Ronald Reagan in 1988, and it recognized that the airwaves belong to the public; that the broadcasters can be licensed to use them to make a profit, but they use them with the proviso that their primary obligation is to advance democracy and promote the public interest. They have to inform the public because a democracy cannot survive an uninformed public. As Thomas Jefferson said, "An uninformed public will trade a hundred years of hard-fought civil rights for a half an hour of welfare." And they will follow the first demagogue or religious fanatic that comes along and offers them a $300 tax break.
Number Three: We have to fix our electoral system so that every vote is counted. Those are the first three things that any President should do, Republican or Democrat, to restore American Democracy.
BB: Now all these state laws that are being put in place could be trumped by Congress...
RFK JR.: Of course, we should have a federal law that creates federal standards for elections. All federal elections have to be verified by paper ballots. Election officials, whose job is to ensure the integrity of federal elections, cannot simultaneously serve as campaign managers or candidates who are participating in that contest. Many states already have that rule, but Florida and Ohio do not. It's a formula for corruption!
BB: In summary, how optimistic or pessimistic are you about our ability to get our country back?
RFK JR.: Well, you know, my attitude is that I don't try to predict the future, I can only say that those of us who care about this country have to keep fighting, and whether you think you're gonna win or lose, you gotta just keep slugging and you gotta be ready to die with your boots on, because that's what our forefathers did, they started a revolution, and they put their fortunes and their lives at stake. And we need to summon the same kind of courage from our generation, and demand that kind of courage from our leadership.
BB: And we have to get that message out to the Democratic leadership as well.
RFK JR.: And that's what you guys are doing....
URLs in this post:
 The BRAD BLOG: www.BradBlog.com
 Joy: http://fancypantselitist.blogspot.com
 bio: www.waterkeeper.org/mainpresident.aspx
 Was the 2004 Election Stolen: http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10432334/was_the_2004_election_stolen
 Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush & His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy:
 lawsuit: www.bradblog.com/?p=3065
 PIPA: http://astro.berkeley.edu/~aleroy/Report10_21_04.pdf
 PIPA: http://astro.berkeley.edu/~aleroy/Report10_21_04.pdf
 Armed Madhouse: www.gregpalast.com/
 Jack Abramoff, and Bob Ney : www.bradblog.com/?p=2262
 Howard Dean on television having a hack demonstrated to him by Bev Harris: www.bradblog.com/?p=911
URL to article: www.bradblog.com/?p=3079