Kennedy takes sides
January 28, 2008
Democratic icon Ted Kennedy is endorsing Barack Obama, following a Sunday New York Times op-ed in which his niece Caroline Kennedy compared Obama to her father, John F. Kennedy. The endorsement, a blow to Hillary Clinton, was reportedly sealed by Kennedy’s frustration at racially tinged comments by the Clinton campaign and supporters, especially from Bill Clinton. “This is the biggest Democratic endorsement Obama could possibly get short of Bill Clinton,” said an unidentified high-level Democrat. (Politico)
What the commentators said
Endorsements don’t usually matter, said Mark Haplerin in Time’s The Page blog, but “Edward Kennedy’s does.” Kennedy’s stamp of approval should help Obama with some of his “weaknesses”: Hispanics, working-class Democrats, and union members. The “ginormous” press coverage will help, too. And if other “senators and superdelegates” want to support Obama, now “they don’t have to be afraid of the Clintons.”
The left does seem “ready to throw the Clinton era into the dustbin of history,” said Tom Bevan in the RealClearPolitics blog. And the Kennedy endorsement just adds to the anti-Clinton “flood.” But watch out, “the Clintons will not be shoved aside easily, if at all.”
The Clintons may prove no match for the Kennedy “torch,” said John Nichols in The Nation. And even though Bobby Kennedy’s children have backed Clinton, the “Caroline and Ted” one-two punch “effectively delivers” the “revered” family name to Obama. And Obama gets more than “a taste of Camelot” out of this—the elder Kennedy is a "prodigious and popular campaigner.”
The Obama-JFK comparison “makes me feel very uncomfortable,” said Steve Clemons in The Huffington Post. Aside from the “ethereal mysticism” of the analogy, it whitewashes troubling parts of the Kennedy legacy. JFK was a “Cold War hawk” who “approved of regime change” and nearly got us in “a nuclear catastrophe with the Soviet Union.” So as “compelling” as he is as a candidate, Obama has to understand that “gravity operates even in the White House.” American will not become great again on “mysticism and gut.”
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