Echoes of 1968 RFK race in 2008 Obama bid

(WVLT) -- If the delegate count is correct, Barack Obama is set to make history by breaking the color barrier to become the first black person to win a major party's nomination for president.

His claim comes even as another senator's promises of change would end at the point of a gun 40 years ago.

Hillary Clinton's first hand experience, might tell us that putting Barack Obama and Bobby Kennedy in the same sentence is asking for controversy.

But compare the times, and then ask how much they made both men.

Robert F. Kennedy said, “I run because I am convinced our country is on a perilous course.”

The perils have changed. But has the pitch?

Obama says, “America, this is our Moment.”

In January 2008, or 1968, few would have predicted Barack Obama or Bobby Kennedy, could be the Democrats’ possible -- let alone probable -- Presidential nominee.

On the stump, RFK said, “These are not ordinary times, and this is not an ordinary
election.”

Crowds replied, “We want Kennedy!”

Carol Young with the Democratic women of Knoxville says, “I felt that he was a people's candidate.”

Betty Reddick with the Democratic Women of Knoxville says, “He was a young man, full of vision, and had a lot of hope for this country.”

Kennedy's vision hinged on ending, what he called, the “moral wrong of Vietnam”.

40 years later Knoxville Attorney Dennis Francis says, “The analogy would be that we are now seeing people who supported the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and are now saying well-we need to think this thing through.”

Francis attended the '68 Democratic Convention Kennedy wouldn't live to see.

He says, ‘That's where Obama may have the rock start quality that
Kennedy --he appealed to people that never voted, never registered to vote--and got out the youth vote.”

Neither's worst critics would deny Obama's or Kennedy's charisma. But for some East Tennessee Democrats of Bobby's era, like Carol Young, “There won't ever be another Robert Kennedy.”

Dennis Francis says, “Kennedy decided to take on organized crime, and he took on the heavyweights, there wasn't much backing up with Bobby Kennedy--he had guts.”

Some question Obama's counting of his delegates before they vote as he proclaims, “I will be the Democratic nominee for the Presidency of the United States of America.”

RKF announced in his campaign, “Now it's on to Chicago and let's win there.”

Minutes after conceding his California win still would force him to fight for the nomination, the news came that “Senator Kennedy has been shot --is that possible?”
He would die within hours.

Knox County Criminal Court Judge Ken Irvine says, “That whole era was lost with him being shot, and it was a time in our country when a number of things like that happened-- wasn't far removed from Martin Luther King Junior's assassination.”

Carol Young says, “There's a sadness that comes over me, still today--every time I think about their deaths.”

Of Bobby's improbable candidacy we now can ask only, what if?

Of Obama’s still possible run, Francis says, “Now the hard times are coming, the questions can't be dodged… When you ask somebody for their vote, you'd better have an answer for them.”

Historians debate whether any democrat could have kept his party in the White House in '68.

Some question whether a continued fight over delegates would hurt Obama if he becomes the nominee -- or show that he's tough enough to take on a former prisoner-of-war for the toughest job in the world.


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