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Opinion: Vanity Fair Overlooked Kennedy Family’s Brightest Star

EDITOR’S NOTE: The latest issue of Vanity Fair features an article called “Ted Kennedy’s Final Battle,” which is an excerpt from Ed Klein’s new book on the liberal lion. The article speculates heavily on which member of the Kennedy family will eventually pick up the torch of leadership – Patrick? Caroline? Joe? Kathleen? Christopher? – but seems to overlook the one believe to be the best qualified…Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

One of of our longtime bloggers wrote to voice her amazement at Klein/Vanity Fair’s out-of-hand dismissal of RFK Jr.’s capabilities, expressing the dismay many of Bobby’s supporters felt after reading the article. We’d like to share her Letter to the Editor with you below:


By Susanne Silverstein


Dear RFK Jr. News-Staffers:
It’s been a while since I’ve visited the web site but my heart still gets tugged when I read articles like this month’s Vanity Fair
I feel the article is totally unfair to RFK Jr. in it’s perception that he is not one of the heirs most likely to be active in this or next generation.  The article goes on to hype Joe Jr & Caroline as being the two new leaders of the Kennedy clan.  They discuss how RFK Jr. has a speech impediment that makes running for office a serious challenge. 
I beg to disagree!  He has been out there speaking in public for years, never letting his spasmodic dysphonia stop him from getting the message across. He hosts a weekly radio show on Air America and does numerous television interviews. In my opinion, he’s a better speaker than all the other Kennedy kids put together! 
I have also been aware that he has had to work with a speech impediment, but Bobby is nothing less than an electrifying speaker.  It is a shame what his family is pulling.  They are only hurting our country by their selfish short-sighted behavior.  All of us face some dysfunction in our immediate families and I just chalk this nonsense up to petty jealousies.
I hope the members here can convince him that he is beloved by millions.  That there are millions more longing to hear him speak; and that he will be able to sort out his family’s nonsense for what it is.  Just a histronic reaction to the sad scenario of Ted Kennedy’s illness and probable prognosis. 
Bobby Jr; has accomplished so much more in public life than most of his cousins, brothers and sisters put together!  I once did admire Joe Kennedy’s prowess, but he seems to be truly happier working on his energy company.  He has kept a low profile until now.
We need to get more letters over to Vanity Fair to set them straight about Bobby Jr’s real promise and qualifications as a real leader for the next generation of Americans! 
Thank you,



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Brief Health Scare for Ted Kennedy



Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy was back at home this morning after a health scare Friday. The liberal icon, who is being treated for a malignant brain tumor, was briefly hospitalized yesterday after suffering a seizure.

He was rushed to Cape Cod Hospital after a call was received at about 5:12 p.m. from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. His representatives issued a statement saying doctors believed the incident was “triggered by a change in medication.” He returned home by 8 p.m.

Boston Globe photographer John Tlumacki caught a picture of Kennedy, stepping out onto the front porch of his home at the compound and looking at the pea-soup fog that enveloped the waterfront.


Story from the Boston Globe.

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Sen. Kennedy Introduces National Service Initiative

still working despite brain tumor

Senator Ted Kennedy: still working despite brain tumor



From the Boston Globe

September 12, 2008

NEW YORK – Senator Edward M. Kennedy, sidelined from the Senate as he undergoes treatment for a malignant brain tumor, plans to introduce a sweeping new national service bill today to recruit 175,000 Americans of all ages to do service work in health, education, environmental protection and anti-poverty programs, with their work partly subsidized by the federal government.

The plan, meant to build on national service initiatives that began under former President John F. Kennedy and expanded under former Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, would provide an estimated $5 billion over five years to encourage citizens from kindergarteners to retirees to get involved in community organizations – including faith-based groups – on a series of programs targeted at national problems.

The new corps members would be paid modest salaries to spend a year working on specific national problems. Employers would be eligible for tax cuts for giving workers time off to do community service, while a new venture capital fund would also be created to boost the creation of new service organizations.

The measure is the first major piece of legislation the ailing Massachusetts lawmaker has presented since being diagnosed with a brain tumor in May. While the senator does not plan to return to Washington full-time until January, staff and colleagues say he has been working assiduously from his home in Cape Cod, following legislation, talking to fellow senators, and sponsoring amendments to bills.

The service plan – crafted by Kennedy over the past eight months with Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah – is meant to marry the two parties’ often competing approaches to community service, encouraging the volunteerism advocated by many Republicans while providing federal financial assistance requested by some Democrats.

“What this bill is saying is, we need both,” said Alan Khazei, co-founder of City Year, a Boston-based youth community service group and a chief advocate of the new bill.

The measure will be unveiled in concert with a national symposium on national service in New York. Former President Bush – who initiated a “1,000 Points of Light” program to encourage volunteerism – and former President Clinton, who helped create AmeriCorps, a federally funded program to encourage national service – are set to appear in videos touting the benefits of community work. Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President Kennedy, is scheduled to be at the event along with Queen Noor of Jordan, dozens of military officials and numerous members of Congress and community activists.

Current national service programs are working well, Kennedy staffers said, and the new plan would build on them. The Peace Corps, President Kennedy’s program to help developing countries with basic needs, would also be expanded.

But the new plan, staffers said on condition of anonymity, would be aimed at people of all ages. While many volunteer programs now attract young college graduates willing to work for low salaries before settling into better-paid job, the Kennedy-Hatch plan would give older Baby Boomers an opportunity to take time off for community service, perhaps transitioning into a second career.

Retired people generally not sought out by community service organizations would be encouraged to get involved and eligible for an “Encore Fellowship” to extend their tenures beyond one year. Schoolchildren, meanwhile, would be taught to incorporate a “lifetime of service” into their lives, starting with smaller efforts such as food drives, aides said.

Kennedy has been absent from Washington since May, except for a single appearance to cast a dramatic, determinate vote on a measure to block scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. The Massachusetts lawmaker also made a powerful speech at the Democratic National Convention last month in Denver.

But Kennedy has continued to work despite his illness, issuing dozens of statements and signing onto several bills and amendments since he became ill.

Khazei said Kennedy has been working on the national service plan consistently since January.

“He hasn’t missed a day. He gets more done from the Cape than most of us do in a week,” Khazei said. “He’s a hero.”

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Teddy’s Return to the Senate Elicits Cheers and Tears

Teddy\'s Back!

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., followed by Caroline Kennedy, enters the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 9, 2008. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)


Senator Edward Kennedy got a standing ovation from his colleagues as he returned to the US Senate Wednesday for the first time since being diagnosed with brain cancer.

The Democratic icon showed up for a vote on the Medicare state health program for seniors during a break from radiation and chemotherapy treatment, after undergoing surgery on a brain tumor last month.

He walked slowly from a car into the US Capitol building, then was greeted with a standing ovation from Republican and Democratic senators standing in the well of the Senate as he cast his vote.

“Aye,” the 76-year-old Kennedy said in a loud voice, smiling broadly and making a thumbs-up gesture as he registered his vote.

Spectators in the galleries that overhang the chamber burst into cheers — a violation of decorum that drew no complaints.

Kennedy made his way into the Senate on his own power, appearing little the worse for his illness. A patch of scalp was clearly visible through his familiar white hair, although it was not clear whether that was a result of surgery he underwent or the effects of chemotherapy or radiation that are part of his treatment.

He walked into chamber accompanied by Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, his party’s presidential nominee-in-waiting, as well as fellow Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Kennedy’s son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island.


“I return to the Senate today to keep a promise to our senior citizens and that’s to protect Medicare,” Kennedy, the patriach of the Kennedy political dynasty, said in a written statement.

“Win, lose or draw, I wanted to be here. I wasn’t going to take the chance that my vote could make the difference.”

Seated in the Senate gallery were Kennedy’s wife, Vicki, and Caroline, his niece. As the tourists and senators alike rose in a standing ovation, Vicki Kennedy wiped away tears.

So did many of Kennedy’s colleagues and several Senate clerks.

Kennedy’s dramatic return gave Democrats the impetus they needed to free Medicare legislation from gridlock. It had received 59 votes on an earlier test, one short of the 60 needed to advance. Kennedy made 60, and when Republicans saw the outcome was sealed, several of them joined Democrats to pad the margin.

Obviously, Teddy’s vote did make the difference today. After taking care of Senate business, Kennedy flew back to Boston for his scheduled weekly cancer treatment.

Doctors at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina said last month that Kennedy’s brain surgery had been successful and was a first step in a treatment plan.

Kennedy was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on May 17 after suffering a seizure at his family’s compound in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod.

Following results from a biopsy, doctors diagnosed Kennedy with a malignant glioma in the left parietal lobe, an area of the brain which controls speech, among other functions.


Doctors have not publicly offered a prognosis for Kennedy. But the US National Cancer Institute has said the outlook for such a diagnosis is poor, with average life expectancy depending on the stage of the tumor, from a few months to up to five years.

About 13,000 Americans die annually from malignant tumors in the brain or spinal cord, comprising 2.2 percent of all cancer-linked deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Survival has improved over the past decade due in part to new drugs.

The tumor kills 50 percent of patients during the first year after diagnosis and few live beyond three years. Without treatment the tumor grows back between two to three months after being surgically removed.

The brain tumor diagnosis sent shockwaves through the US Congress, where Kennedy has been a dominant figure for nearly half a century and is a champion of causes such as health care, education, workers rights and immigration reform.

Kennedy’s eighth six-year term in the Senate expires in 2012. The Senator’s nephew, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., has been mentioned in recent weeks as one family member who might eventually pick up the liberal lion’s torch in the U.S. Senate.


AFP and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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