THE DIVIDE DEEPENS
In recent weeks, we’ve been watching the fireworks on the Hyannisport lawn as members of the Kennedy family split onto opposing political teams.
In what promises to be the roughest touch football game of the year, JFK’s daughter Caroline, brother Teddy, and nephew Patrick have taken up the ball for Obama. They were soon joined by Maria Shriver, who promised to run it all the way to the goal line at a Los Angeles Obama rally last weekend. (Her husband, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, formally endorsed Senator John McCain the following day.)
Meanwhile, Team Clinton seemed to have the formidably large family of RFK on her side. With star players like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Kerry Kennedy all suited up and ready to rumble, it naturally stood to reason that all of the Robert Kennedys would stand together and present a united front for Senator Clinton.
But the truth of the matter is another story entirely, as we are all now witnessing.
RFK’s widow Ethel was actually one of Barack Obama’s staunchest supporters from the early days of the campaign, and now her children are splitting into opposing camps, too. Son Maxwell Kennedy was spotted at an Obama campaign event in east L.A. last week, although he has yet to make any formal endorsements. Now the divide grows deeper still.
In a surprise play, Robert Kennedy’s daughter Rory just switched teams from Clinton to Obama. Although she has been a strong advocate for the Clintons in past years, and even as recently as December was reported to be supporting Hillary, Rory apparently was listening closely last weekend when Oprah Winfrey commented that “every free woman has the right to change her mind.” And so she has.
Rory’s endorsement of Barack Obama was published this week in the San Francisco Chronicle, no doubt sending shockwaves through the ranks of the Clinton faithful, and even perhaps within her own immediate family. We’ve reprinted the complete text below:
TWO FINE CHOICES, ONE CLEAR DECISION – OBAMA
By Rory Kennedy
Last Monday, I was very moved to see my uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, and my cousin, Caroline Kennedy, publicly endorse Sen. Barack Obama. I thought their statements of support were brave, intelligent and responsible. Given the importance of this election, and the remarkable strength of our candidates, it’s not an easy decision for anyone looking to cast a vote for a new direction in this country.
Sen. Hillary Clinton is a truly remarkable leader. She has given an enormous amount to our country as a public servant and to my family as a friend. Not only does she stand ready to be president, but she would be the first woman to hold the highest office in the land.
All that makes her very appealing. As a woman, a mother, and feminist, I can fully appreciate the symbolic power of a woman in the Oval Office. I have dedicated my life to making documentaries, many of which focus on women’s issues. I would love to have my daughters see a female president in our lifetimes. And still, that is not enough of a reason for me to vote for Senator Clinton.
I empathize with Senator Clinton. In her run for president, she has been forced to walk a difficult line. She is scrutinized not only for her political positions, but also for her clothing, hair and make-up. When she is tough, she is called cold, when she is emotional, she is labeled weak. It can’t be easy. I have an enormous amount of respect for the way she has handled this near-impossible balancing act. And still, that is not enough of a reason for me to vote for her.
I am concerned about women getting equal pay for equal work and breaking through the glass ceiling. I care about policies regarding health and education, issues that affect me personally. I have no doubt of Senator Clinton’s commitment to these issues. And still, that is not enough of a reason for me to vote for her.
Times are far too dark, the price of failure too steep and the road ahead too perilous for us to vote on identity politics. I would love to see a woman be president. I would love to see an African American be president. But right now, what I would love most is to elect the best person for the job.
I believe that person is Sen. Barack Obama. As a leader, he has inspired generations of Americans to look beyond reductive categories like gender or race. Instead, he calls on us to think past our own individual interests, to envision a world that is better for every person in it.
Like Senator Clinton, I have no doubt of Senator Obama’s commitment to the issues I care about. But, his unique ability to unify this country and transcend partisan gridlock means that we can finally get something done.
In my years making documentaries, I have traveled to remote regions, from small villages in South America, to townships in South Africa, to the hollows of Appalachia. Every trip, every film, I meet people who still keep photographs of my family on their walls. They cry when they meet me, simply because they were touched by my father, Robert Kennedy. In part, this is because my father supported policies and legislation that helped the disenfranchised. But it is also, and perhaps more importantly, because they felt that my father understood their pain. Senator Obama has that quality too. He has an open heart and an energizing spirit.
Recently, my mother, Ethel Kennedy, said of Obama: “I think he feels it. He feels it just like Bobby did. He has the passion in his heart. He’s not selling you. It’s just him.”
I agree. Obama is a genuine leader. We Americans – women included – desperately need that kind of leader now. Not a president of a particular gender or a specific race, but a president with a different vision, one who inspires a sense of hope.
To elect Barack Obama is to choose a new direction, set a new course – to steer America toward a better place, better for women as well as men, better for us all.
Rory Kennedy, a documentary filmmaker, won an Emmy for her production and direction of “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib.”