Rauschenberg’s integrity, while unimpeachable, never had much to do with high standards of art. (Johns and Twombly far outshine him in that regard.) It was a commitment to sheer activity, with friends at hand, if not involved.
He was a performance artist, first and last. You respond to his works not with an absorption in their quality but with a vicarious share in his brainstorming excitement while making them. For a time, momentously, what he did caught a wave of history and drove it farther inland than could otherwise have been the case. But even when he was reduced to being a beachcomber of his own legacy, the world was a better place with him in it than it is without him, now.Related: I've always been proud of my old post about bobrauschenbergamerica, which you can find here (with a bonus post here).