Paul  Kengor

Editor’s note: This article first appeared at American Spectator.

This year marks not only the 50th anniversary of the shooting of John F. Kennedy but also the 45th anniversary of the shooting of Robert F. Kennedy, which occurred in June 1968. Was there a common source motivating the assassins of both Kennedys—that is, Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan?

That renowned political philosopher Mick Jagger speculated on a source. “I shouted out ‘Who killed the Kennedys?’” asks the lyrics in the 1968 song by The Rolling Stones. “When, after all, it was you and me.” The song was titled, “Sympathy for the Devil.” It was, The Rolling Stones suggested, the Devil who had killed the Kennedys, along with his accomplices.

I must say I can’t disagree with that one—a rare area of agreement between me and Mick Jagger.

There is, however, a more earthly answer. And it was provided, surprisingly, by a rising political star in the immediate hours after the shooting of Bobby Kennedy. That star was the new governor of California, Ronald Reagan.

RFK was shot in Governor Reagan’s state. Reagan was no stranger to Bobby Kennedy. He had debated him a year earlier on national television, which didn’t go well for RFK, with Reagan clearly outshining him. Kennedy told his handlers to never again put him on the same stage with “that son-of-a-b----.”

That debate occurred five years after Bobby Kennedy had intervened to get Reagan fired from his long stint as host of the top-rated GE Theatre on CBS—a fact unknown until it was revealed by Michael Reagan in his excellent book, The New Reagan Revolution. Typical of Reagan, he harbored no bitterness toward RFK. That was quite unlike Bobby Kennedy, a man who personally knew how to hold a grudge.