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Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining his foreign policy vision at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining his foreign policy vision at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Hanna Kang
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Third-party presidential candidate advocated for scaling back America’s military presence abroad as he addressed supporters in Wednesday evening, June 12, about his foreign policy approach.

  • Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining...

    Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining his foreign policy vision at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining...

    Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining his foreign policy vision at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Michael Maxsenti of Irvine listens as presidential candidate Robert F....

    Michael Maxsenti of Irvine listens as presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining his foreign policy vision at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining...

    Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining his foreign policy vision at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining...

    Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining his foreign policy vision at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining...

    Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining his foreign policy vision before a gathering of 300 people at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining...

    Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining his foreign policy vision at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining...

    Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivers a speech outlining his foreign policy vision at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Criticizing U.S. foreign policy, which he described as “stuck in a world that doesn’t exist,” Kennedy said the country seems to think that “we’re still the world’s only superpower and can bend any nation to its will.”

Kennedy, in the midst of a long-shot bid for the White House, detailed his foreign policy platform at the , part of the foundation’s Presidential Policy Perspective series. But while he advocated for scaling back the country’s foreign interventions, there was no mention of the current war in Ukraine or the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East, which has rocked local communities and .

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“The foundation of a nation’s strength is the sound of its infrastructure, the integrity of its government, economic strength … and respect of choices abroad,” Kennedy said. “We have to accept the emergence of other great powers in the world.”

Kennedy has stated before that the . He said the U.S. should “vastly scale back the military budget,” most of which he said has no role in defending the homeland. He said he’d propose a 50% reduction in military spending while he’s in office, if elected, which he said would engender a “stronger, smarter, better targeted national defense.”

Those dollars should be redirected to the infrastructure, education and building small businesses, Kennedy said.

The primary issue he’d focus on as president is the national debt, which he cited as “one of the reasons why we have to cut back from our military budget.”

The national budget deficit currently hovers at around .

“Every dollar we spend on weapons could create new jobs,” he said.

With a nod to former President John F. Kennedy, his uncle, Kennedy said, “My uncle spent three years in office battling the military-industrial complex … he understood the primary job of the president is to keep the country out of war.”

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“I foresee a day when America will lead the world by example and not by force, a day when America stands for peace and not for war,” Kennedy said.

Before delving into his foreign policy speech, Kennedy, who’s espoused , harped on the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He criticized the decision to close down businesses “with no due process and public hearings.” In an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, nonessential businesses were shuttered and stay-at-home orders were put into place in early 2020 .

Ahead of the evening program, Irvine resident Michael Maxsenti, among the 300 or so visitors who paid up to $75 a ticket for Kennedy’s remarks, said he was impressed by the environmental activist’s commitment to peace around the world.

Maxsenti, who leads volunteer efforts in Orange County and around California for Kennedy’s campaign, said he agreed with Kennedy’s foreign policy approach, namely his plans to reduce American military presence overseas.

“We have to project our strength and power through economic means, not military means,” he said.

Maxsenti, who said he was a “Reagan conservative Republican” until 2010 when he switched to “no party preference,” said he felt then, that neither of the two major parties — when given the opportunity to lead the country — delivered results they had promised.

Maxsenti said he believes Kennedy, as president, would “approach other countries from a place of understanding and always try to seek peace.”

Kennedy, who’s so far on the ballot in only six states — California, Delaware, Hawaii, Michigan, Oklahoma and Utah — is running as an independent, as is political activist .

While an independent candidate has never won the presidency, well-known independent candidates could potentially spell trouble for major party candidates, especially in battleground states, by siphoning away their support.

Kennedy, who’s recognized by his last name and longstanding family heritage — aside from being the nephew of the former president, he is the son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy — is polling a distant third in California, per an , but poses a threat to President Joe Biden among Latino voters.

A  showed Kennedy . One in five Latino voters surveyed said they’re considering a presidential candidate other than Biden or former President Donald Trump, according to the poll, with Kennedy receiving the biggest support among candidates not from major parties.

While the poll was not conducted in California (it surveyed voters in five swing states: Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, Texas and Pennsylvania), the phenomenon seen in those states among Latino voters would hold for California as well, said UC Irvine political science professor Louis DeSipio.

DeSipio said there may be more appeal for third-party candidates in California because it’s not a battleground, thus an “easier vote” for voters. Plus, there is frustration among Latino voters, who are younger than average, with both Trump and Biden because of their “age and perception that neither of them understands the experience of young working Latinos,” said DeSipio.

The Kennedy name may also evoke positive memories for many in the Latino community, DeSipio added, who may recollect his father’s alliance with striking farmworkers in the sixties and fight for civil rights issues important to the Latino community alongside the late labor leader Cesar Chavez. (Chavez’s family, however, on the campaign trail.)

Whether the findings of the poll will still hold true in November, DeSipio said he isn’t sure.

“Often the pattern is that voters in general are more positively inclined toward third party candidates months out from the election, but as the elections gets closer, they go back into their normal partisan silos,” he said.

In Yorba Linda, where the Nixon Library is located, Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly double, 47.9% to 26.5%, and two in 10 voters have no party preference. The city boasts one of the highest shares of registered Republican voters in Orange County, second only to nearby Villa Park, where over half of registered voters are Republican.

But the hundreds of people who packed the spacious East Room on Wednesday evening didn’t show much of an appetite for Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, giving Kennedy a standing ovation before and after his speech. Several people in the audience flashed him a thumbs-up or heart hands at the end of the evening.

Several cars in the parking lot had bumper stickers and signs that read “Kennedy 2024.”

Kennedy’s speech was part of the Nixon Library’s 2024 Presidential Policy Perspectives series, for which every major party declared presidential candidate was invited to visit the Nixon Library and “deliver remarks in any format, on any topic,” according to the Library.

Other presidential candidates who have spoken at the presidential library include former 2024 GOP contenders,, and.

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