In a newly released interview with Yahoo Finance, activist and environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr. asserted that President Donald Trump has tarnished the reputation of the U.S. around the world.
The criticism from Kennedy Jr., a nephew of President John F. Kennedy, came in response to a question from Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer regarding his view on whether it’s a “good or bad thing” that Trump has so many family members working with him.
Kennedy Jr. belongs to another notable American family deeply involved in politics — his father, Robert Kennedy, served as attorney general under his brother, JFK, before Lyndon Johnson signed a law interpreted as barring presidents from appointing relatives to their Cabinet.
While Trump doesn’t have any family members in his Cabinet, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, both serve as senior advisers. Kennedy Jr., however, says it’s not a “good thing or a bad thing” that Trump has family members with him in the White House.
“I don’t think that’s the problem with the president,” he said. “I think the problem is, number one, he is a bully. And you know, I don't like bullies. And I don't think ... that that's part of America's tradition. I think, in many ways, he's discredited the American experiment with self-governance.”
Kennedy Jr. made the comments during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
For over three decades, Kennedy Jr. served as a chief prosecuting attorney for top environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Riverkeeper, an organization dedicated to the protection of the Hudson River. More recently, Kennedy Jr. has questioned the safety of vaccines and campaigned against their use.
No longer a model of democracy
In relaying his concerns about Trump, Kennedy Jr. noted that he’d worked all over the world and in China for many years. Just a decade ago, Kennedy Jr. noted, China looked to the U.S. as a model of democracy — but that’s not the case anymore, he says.
“If you go to China today and ask them, do you want a democracy like America has? You ask anybody in the world this, they will say no because why would we want a form of government that can produce leadership of a person who doesn't read books, who's not thoughtful about issues, who's bullying, who ... employs all the dark alchemies of demagoguery?” he said. “And it's, you know, it's destroying so much about the things about America that I admire and that make us an influence, that make us an exemplary nation.”
Since his election in 2016, Trump has antagonized China as well as other parts of the world, at one point calling China’s president, Xi Jinping, his “enemy.” He has pulled out of both the Paris climate agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal with a dozen Pacific Rim countries signed by President Barack Obama. Indeed, Trump’s policies have sparked worldwide protests, most recently over his administration’s decision to launch a drone strike killing Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
Kennedy Jr. contrasted Trump’s reputation overseas with that of his uncle, who was largely beloved both domestically and abroad. While his foreign policy contributed to the Vietnam War, JFK also eased certain foreign tensions during his presidency. Notably, he resolved the Cuban Missile Crisis before it escalated into a full-blown nuclear war.
“If you go to any capital in the world, you'll see there is a boulevard named after John Kennedy. There are hospitals, schools, or universities. The biggest statue in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is one of my uncle,” he said. “...You will not find ... any boulevard in any nation in the world, named Donald Trump.”
Additional reporting by Max Zahn.
Erin Fuchs is deputy managing editor at Yahoo Finance.