Kennedys to Bill Clinton: You Are No John Kennedy

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Bill Clinton’s legacy is slowly unraveling. He certainly took offense when Barack Obama said, “I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.” Obama went on to say, “I think Kennedy, twenty years earlier, moved the country in a fundamentally different direction.” Bill Clinton certainly felt insulted by being lumped with Richard Nixon as opposed to Reagan and Kennedy. His overreaction to this interview and other attacks on Obama have only acted to tarnish his reputation and hurt Hillary in the South Carolina primary.

Meeting John Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden as a student has always been an important part of the legend which Clinton wished to portray. Clinton has used the photo above as a symbolic passing of the torch as he wanted his presidency to be seen as the successor to Camelot.

Comparing oneself to John Kennedy can be dangerous. Nobody has forgotten how Lloyd Benson demolished Dan Quayle in the debate when he said, “I knew John Kennedy, John Kennedy was a friend of mine, and you Senator, are no John Kennedy.”

Now the Kennedy family is telling Bill Clinton that “you are no John Kennedy.” In endorsing Barack Obama, Caroline Kennedy said, “I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them.” This clearly excludes former President Clinton from being such an inspirational figure.

As many predicted, Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement was a lead in to the endorsement of someone else who knew John Kennedy well. His brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, will be endorsing Obama on Monday. The Boston Globe reports that Kennedy will appear along with Obama and Caroline Kennedy at the American University in Washington tomorrow morning to announce his support:

Kennedy believes Obama can “transcend race” and bring unity to the country, a Kennedy associate told the Globe. Kennedy was also impressed by Obama’s deep involvement last year in the bipartisan effort to craft legislation on immigration reform, a politically touchy subject the other presidential candidates avoided, the associate said.

The coveted endorsement is a huge blow to New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who is both a senatorial colleague and a friend of the Kennedy family. In a campaign where Clinton has trumpeted her experience over Obama’s call for hope and change, the endorsement by one of the most experienced and respected Democrats in the Senate is a particularly dramatic coup for Obama.

“The America of Jack and Bobby Kennedy touched all of us. Through all of these decades, the one who kept that flame alive was Ted Kennedy,” said Representative Bill Delahunt, A Quincy Democrat who is also backing Obama. “So having him pass on the torch [to Obama] is of incredible significance. It’s historic.”

Endorsements are not enough to win a nomination, but having Kennedy’s support was a great help to John Kerry, who has also endorsed Obama. Kennedy’s endorsement will help in Massachusetts and beyond. Each major endorsement takes away from Clinton’s main advantage of being perceived as the candidate of the Democratic establishment and the inevitable winner. Endorsements from veteran Senators such as Ted Kennedy and John Kerry also help negate the issue of whether Obama is too inexperienced for the job. Clinton has sometimes done better than Obama among long time Democratic voters. This endorsement might cause some to reconsider. This might also be a sign that more of the party’s super delegates are beginning to see Obama as the party’s future, which could tip the balance should neither candidate be able to win enough delegates to clinch the nomination in the primaries.

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10 Comments

  1. 1
    Luv says:

    DING!

    Kennedy’s endorsement gives “permission” to other skittish Senators, Congressmen and Governors who are SICK of the Clintons and their lording over the party to go with Obama.

    It is simply the bell tolling…for the Clintons.

  2. 2
    Christopher says:

    Massachusetts will go to Obama!

    Remember, for many of us on the left, the Kennedys, particularly John F. Kennedy, hold a mythical place in our lives and in our heart.

    But expect the California senators, DiFi and Boxer to now come out for Hillary. California is solidly Clintonland which means Barack will have to keep racking up delegate victories in smaller and medium sized states to offset the huge Golden State delegate prize.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Fortunately California isn’t winner take all for the Democrats any more. I expect Clinton to win there, but hopefully Obama will keep it close enough that the state doesn’t give Clinton a significant advantage in delegates.

    It is interesting that the vast majority of Senators who have endorsed a candidate have endorsed Obama and not Clinton. Perhaps her fellow Senators aren’t all that enthusiastic about her and just maybe Feinstein or Boxer will decide against making an endorsement.

  4. 4
    Luv says:

    I think Thursday’s debate will be ultra-critical for Obama. Now that the Clintons know that the veil has been pulled back on their Atwater/Rove tactics, it may make them hesitate to use it there.

    And now that Obama showed he can fight, he knows he doesn’t have to get “in the gutter” with Hillary when she goes there. He can deflect and counter and dismiss. Appear completely presidential and in control and STAY. ON. MESSAGE.

    If he crushes her in that debate, Cali may be a lot closer than you think…

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    I wish the debate wasn’t competing with the season premier of Lost for television attention on Thursday.

  6. 6
    plum says:

    Remember how badly Obama did with Hispanics in NV? Kennedy is widely respected by Hispanics and is going to stump for Obama:

    Kennedy plans to campaign actively for Obama, an aide said, and will focus particularly among Hispanics and labor union members, who are important voting blocks in several Feb. 5 states, including California, New York, New Jersey, Arizona and New Mexico.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    I was wondering about that. Is there a particular reason that Kennedy would be influential among Hispanics beyond his general position in the party?

  8. 8
    Christopher says:

    It was on a November day in 2005, near the end of Barack Obama’s first year in the Senate, when he was asked to deliver a keynote address at a ceremony commemorating the 80th birthday of Robert F. Kennedy.

    The invitation was extended by Ethel Kennedy, who at the time referred to Mr. Obama as “our next president.”

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

  9. 9
    Luv says:

    Ron, Lost won’t be on as the same time as the debate in California itself, which is all that matters.

    Besides, DVRs are your friend.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    The two overlap in the east, and the debate could impact voters in all the Super Tuesday states. I’ll be using a DVR, but lots of people aren’t likely to do so.

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