Teddy Gets Fired Up for Obama

Senator Edward M. Kennedy (Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s uncle), rejecting entreaties from the Clintons and their supporters, is set to endorse Senator Barack Obama’s presidential bid today as part of an effort to lend Kennedy charisma and connections before the 22-state Feb. 5 showdown for the Democratic nomination.
Both the Clintons and their allies had pressed Mr. Kennedy for weeks to remain neutral in the Democratic race, but Mr. Kennedy had become increasingly disenchanted with the tone of the Clinton campaign, aides said.
He and former President Bill Clinton had a heated telephone exchange earlier this month over what Mr. Kennedy considered misleading statements by Mr. Clinton about Mr. Obama, as well as his injection of race into the campaign.

Mr. Kennedy called Mr. Clinton Sunday to tell him of his decision.

The endorsement, which followed a public appeal on Mr. Obama’s behalf by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, was a blow to the Clinton campaign and pits leading members of the nation’s most prominent Democratic families against one another.

Mr. Kennedy, a major figure in party politics for more than 40 years, intends to campaign aggressively for Mr. Obama, beginning with an appearance and rally with him in Washington on Monday. He will be introduced by Ms. Kennedy.

Mr. Kennedy then heads west with Mr. Obama, followed by appearances in the Northeast. Strategists see him bolstering Mr. Obama’s credibility and helping him firm up support from unions and Hispanics, as well as the party base.

The endorsement appears to support assertions that Mr. Clinton’s campaigning on behalf of his wife in South Carolina has in some ways hurt her candidacy.

Campaign officials, without acknowledging any faults on Mr. Clinton’s part, have said they will change tactics and try to shift Mr. Clinton back into the role he played before her loss in the Iowa caucuses, emphasizing her record and experience.

Mr. Kennedy, of Massachusetts, has worked closely with Mrs. Clinton, of New York, on health care and other legislation and has had a friendly relationship with both Clintons, but associates said he was intrigued by Mr. Obama’s seeming ability to inspire political interest in a new generation. For his part, Mr. Obama actively courted Mr. Kennedy for several years, seeking him out for Senate advice and guidance before making the decision to enter the presidential race.

Mr. Kennedy had been seriously considering an endorsement for weeks — a break with his traditional practice of staying clear of primaries.

He remained uncertain of his decision as late as the middle of last week. But, according to allies, when he learned that his niece’s endorsement would appear as an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times on Sunday, he decided to bolster that with his own public embrace of the campaign at a joint rally at American University in Washington on Monday, giving Mr. Obama, of Illinois a potentially powerful one-two Kennedy punch.

As Mr. Obama flew here on Sunday, he smiled when asked about his new wave of support from the Kennedy family.

“For somebody who, I think, has been such an important part of our national imagination and who generally shies away from involvement in day-to-day politics to step out like that is something that I’m very grateful for,” Mr. Obama said of Caroline Kennedy’s support. Ms. Kennedy declined requests on Sunday to discuss her endorsement.

Trying to dilute the impact of the twin endorsements by the brother and daughter of the late president, the Clinton campaign on Sunday issued a statement of support from Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former lieutenant governor in Maryland and a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy.

“I respect Caroline and Teddy’s decision, but I have made a different choice,” Ms. Townsend said in her statement, adding: “At this moment when so much is at stake at home and overseas, I urge our fellow Americans to support Hillary Clinton. That is why my brother Bobby, my sister Kerry, and I are supporting Hillary Clinton.”

But two years ago, Ms. Townsend’s mother, Ethel Kennedy, referred to Mr. Obama in an interview as “our next president” and likened him to her late husband.

The Kennedy endorsement grants Mr. Obama, who has been framed by the Clintons as being short on experience, the approval of one of the Senate’s senior members.

Before the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Kennedy had planned to stay out of the race, largely because he had so many friends in the contest, chiefly Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut. He also said he was waiting for one of the candidates to spark a movement.

“I want to see who out there is going to be able to inspire not only our party, but others, because I think we’re going to need the inspiration in order to bring a change in American foreign policy and domestic policy,” Mr. Kennedy said last year on ABC News’s “This Week.”

After Mr. Obama won the Iowa caucuses, associates to both men said, Mr. Kennedy concluded that Mr. Obama had transcended racial lines and the historical divisions the Kennedy family had worked to tear down. Mr. Kennedy was also impressed at how Mr. Obama was not defined as a black candidate, but seen as a transformational figure.

It was then, associates said, that Mr. Kennedy began talking with his children, nieces and nephews, including Caroline Kennedy, who had reached her own judgment some time ago independently of her uncle. They then agreed last week to move ahead with their endorsements, coordinating their decision before the Feb. 5 contests.

Mr. Kennedy has a long history of working with the former president and Mrs. Clinton on health, education and other social issues and, according to his associates, has a good relationship with both. While the Clintons were in the White House, the families socialized and sailed off Cape Cod.

Mr. Obama courted Mr. Kennedy as well, using late-night sessions in the Senate to get some tutoring about the intricacies of the institution. Conversations about the White House began more than a year ago, with Mr. Obama paying Mr. Kennedy a visit to seek his thoughts about whether he should run for president. Mr. Kennedy told him that he should because such opportunities rarely come along.

On the night of Mr. Obama’s national political debut at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, he was preceded on stage by Mr. Kennedy, a symbolic bookend of the party’s dean and its new generation.

A year later, near the end of Mr. Obama’s first year in the Senate, Ethel Kennedy asked him to speak at a ceremony for her husband’s 80th birthday. At the time, she referred to Mr. Obama as “our next president.”

“I think he feels it. He feels it just like Bobby did,” Mrs. Kennedy said in an interview that day, comparing her late husband’s quest for social justice to Mr. Obama’s. “He has the passion in his heart. He’s not selling you. It’s just him.”




Filed under election 2008, hillary clinton, JFK, John F. Kennedy, media, politics, president kennedy, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, the kennedys, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Teddy Gets Fired Up for Obama

  1. Pingback: Jim Rudy

  2. El Jefe

    The roll-out yseterday of Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement via a New York Times column had all the fingerprints of the Kennedy organization at work. (Some have countered it with RFK Jr.’s endorsement of Clinton, which is simply out of enlightened self-interest – if Clinton moves up and out, it sets him up to run for the US Senate seat his father once held: “Vote for Clinton, get her out of the way for me!”)

    But Caroline has never been a rogue agent in the Kennedy organization. The last presidential candidate she endorsed was… Teddy… in 1980. As the president of the Kennedy Library, she’s the voice of the family, its representative to presidential funerals and affairs of state. She would not have moved out in front without having strategized it first with the head of the family.

    Remember, also, that as much pride as John Kerry takes in having tapped Obama to make the keynote speech at the ‘04 Democratic National Convention, it was Kennedy operative Mary Beth Cahill that convinced Kerry to do that.

    Teddy Kennedy is not a lone wolf. He’s the team captain for a much larger organization. The movements happening like clockwork right now are signature Kennedy organization moves.

    My guess is that once Ted makes it official, the next steps – raiding the Clinton bases of elderly, Catholic and Hispanic voters – will be even more interesting.

  3. Tina

    I have read so much about the Kennedy clan that I don’t care to know what they do. One thing I do care about is that Jo Kopechne who died an unnecessary death when she shouldn’t have. Ted Kennedy, married, was an expert swimmer but left her in the sunken car becaue his thought were not on saving her but saving his own political career. Mr. Ted Kennedy’s opinion doesn’t mean anything to me.

  4. Chrisy

    I watched it on tv. I understand completly why they chose to support Obama.

    Will this impact how I will vote Tuesday in the Democratic Primary? No. As much respect as I have for Senator Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy I will not be voting for Obama. As much respect as I have for Bobby Kennedy Jr and Kathleen Kennedy I will not be voting for Clinton.

    I know that non Catholics might not be able to understand this, but Pro-life is very important to me. It is a large part of my faith as a Catholic. I am a Democrat. The thing I don’t understand is we as Democrats fight for the Civil rights of all people but we won’t fight for the right of babies in the womb to be born. Late term abortion is the killing of innocent life and is morally wrong. We speak out for the civil rights of all people but we won’t speak out about the civil rights of babies in the womb and in fact we have Democratic Senators who vote in support of late term abortions.

    I speak out and fight against the murder of all innocent life. Not just the lives that are being lost in Iraq over an unjust war.

    I would like to see our party speak out on this issue and not just allow the Republicans to hijack this issue. We too should have a voice against the murder of all life from the womb until death in this country.

    I believe very strongly in this as a Catholic and as a Democrat who loves my country. I may have to stay home next Tuesday and not vote in the Primary because there is no candidate who I as a Catholic Democrat feel good about voting for because of their stand on abortion.

    I don’t know what I will do in the General.

  5. Pingback: Raphael

  6. Chrisy


    You do know that Obama voted for partical birth abortion and for late term abortion. He is for the murder of infants who are part way out of the womb which is infantcide.

    I don’t know if you are Catholic but for those of us who are Catholic our church teaches us that we must fight and respect the civil rights of all people from the womb to the grave. To vote or support people who vote for partical birth abortion and late term abortion is considered a sin. We would be denied the right to take Holy Communion. That is an issue that the church considers so evil that I can not vote for Obama or Edwards because of their being pro infantcide.

    It doesn’t matter if on other issues I agree with him. He voted to make partical birth abortion legal in this country. That vote was morally wrong.

    Everyone has to do what they feel is right. For me my faith and church come before my political party. I will within my party to be a voice to be a party that speaks out for all civil rights including babies in the womb. Why should we let Republicans hijack the pro-life issue that is so important to so many Catholics and other Christians?

    Clinton is not perfect but at least she is not in favor of partical birth abortions and late term abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger.

  7. Pingback: Dave

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