At Nixon Library, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. advocates for scaling back America’s military presence

Third-party presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. advocated for scaling back America’s military presence abroad as he addressed supporters in Yorba Linda Wednesday evening, June 12, about his foreign policy approach.

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 Richard Nixon Presidential Library, 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 resulted in large protests on college campuses.

Related: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. points to housing affordability in pitch to Southern California voters

“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 U.S. should reduce its military presence abroad. 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 $1.2 trillion.

“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 unproven conspiracies, particularly on vaccinations, 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 in many states, including California.

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 Cornel West, who also recently touched down in Orange County.

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 analysis by FiveThirtyEight, but poses a threat to President Joe Biden among Latino voters.

A new poll from Vote Latino showed Kennedy doing fairly well among Latino voters. 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.