Posts tagged Kennedy
Posts tagged Kennedy
HAVANA — The world stood at the brink of Armageddon for 13 days in October 1962 when President John F. Kennedy drew a symbolic line in the Atlantic and warned of dire consequences if Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev dared to cross it.
An American U-2 spy plane flying high over Cuba had snapped aerial photographs of Soviet ballistic missile sites that could launch nuclear warheads with little warning at the United States, just 90 miles away. It was the height of the Cold War, and many people feared nuclear war would annihilate human civilization.
Soviet Ships carrying nuclear equipment steamed toward Kennedy’s ”quarantine” zonde around the island, but turned around before reaching the line. ”We’re eyeball-to-eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked,” U.S Secretary of State Dean Rusk famosly said, a quote that largely came to be seen as defining the crisis.
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, historians now say it was behind-the-scenes compromise rather than a high-stakes game of chicken that resolved the faceoff, that both Washington and Moscow wound up winners and that the crisis lasted far longer than 13 days.
Declassified documents, oral histories and accounts from decision-makers involved in the standoff have turned up new information that scholars say provides lessons for leaders embroiled in contemporary crises such as the one in Syria
Another modern standoff is over Iran, which the West accuses of pursuing a nuclear weapons program. “Take Iran, which I have called a Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion,” said Graham Allison, author of the groundbreaking study of governmental decision-making “Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
“This same process is looming on the current trajectory, inexorably, toward a confrontation at which an American president is going to have to choose between attacking Iran to prevent it becoming a nuclear weapons state or acquiescing and then confronting a nuclear weapons state,” Allison said.
“Kennedy’s idea would be, ‘Don’t let this reach the point of confrontation,’” he added. “The risks of catastrophe are too great.”
Among the common beliefs about the Cuban missile crisis that have been reevaluated:
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: The crisis was a triumph of U.S. brinkmanship.
REALITY: Historians say the resolution of the standoff was really a triumph of backdoor diplomacy.
Kennedy resisted pressure from aides advising that he cede nothing to Moscow and even consider a preemptive strike. He instead engaged in intense behind-the-scenes diplomacy with the Soviets, other countries and the U.N. secretary-general.
Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy met secretly with the Soviet ambassador on Oct. 27 and conveyed an olive branch from his brother: Washington would publicly reject any invasion of Cuba, and Khrushchev would withdraw the missiles from the island. The real sweetener was that Kennedy would withdraw Jupiter nuclear missiles from U.S. installations in Turkey, near the Soviet border. It was a secret pledge known only to a handful of presidential advisers that did not emerge until years later.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Washington won, and Moscow lost.
REALITY: The United States came out a winner, but so did the Soviet Union.
The Jupiter missiles are sometimes described as nearly obsolete, but they had come online just months earlier and were fully capable of striking into the Soviet Union. Their withdrawal, along with Kennedy’s assurance he would not invade Cuba, gave Khrushchev enough to feel he had saved face and the following day he announced the imminent dismantling of offensive weapons in Cuba.
Soon after, a U.S.-Soviet presidential hotline was established and the two nations initiated discussions that led to the Limited Test Ban treaty and ultimately the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: The crisis lasted just 13 days.
REALITY: This myth has been perpetuated in part by the title of Robert F. Kennedy’s posthumous memoir, “Thirteen Days.”
Indeed it was 13 days from Oct. 16, when Kennedy was first told about the missiles, to Oct. 28, when the Soviets announced their withdrawal.
But the “October Crisis,” as it is known in Cuba, dragged on for another tense month or so in what Kornbluh dubs the “November Extension,” as Washington and Moscow haggled over details of exactly what weapons would be removed.
Conference today at JFK Library
The JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston will host a conference at 12:30 p.m. today to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis. Participants include Sergei Khrushchev, Brown University senior fellow and son of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, and Jack Schlossberg, President Kennedy’s grandson.
Michael Kennedy, a grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, was married to Mary Campbell on Nantucket yesterday.
Mr Kennedy, 29, is the son of Michael LeMoyne Kennedy, who died in a 1997 skiing accident in Aspen, and Victoria Gifford Kennedy, the daughter of football great Frank Gifford.
Miss Campbell is from Juneau, Alaska, attended American University and Harvard University, and works at National Public Radio.
Kennedy attended Georgetown University and Stanford University, where he graduated with an MBA last summer.
The wedding was held at The Westmoore Farm, a compound that includes a private home and a country club, and included about 155 guests
The 10-minute ceremony opened with a traditional Scottish song accompanied by bagpipes, according to the Daily News.
Miss Campbell wore a white backless gown and carried a bouquet of lilies, while her bridesmaids wore eggplant-coloured dresses.
On Friday night a party was thrown for all the guests at Cru, an upscale Nantucket restaurant which boasts a waterfront oyster bar.
The restaurant was entirely taken over by the Kennedy clan and their friends.
The couple registered for gifts at Bloomingdale’s - with their wish list ranging from an $8 washcloth to a stainless steel blender costing $440.
One family member who could not attend was Mr Kennedy’s father Michael LeMoyne Kennedy, who died aged just 39 when he skied into a tree during a family vacation in Aspen, Colorado in December 1997.
Michael Jr came to national attention when he served as a pallbearer at his father’s funeral in Centerville, Massachusetts.
Michael Sr was the son of Robert F. Kennedy, the senator for New York and U.S. Attorney General who was assassinated during his presidential campaign in 1968.
The wedding last month of Mr Kennedy’s sister Kyle was upstaged when Taylor Swift and her boyfriend Conor Kennedy apparently crashed the nuptials uninvited.
Ms Swift was said to have texted Victoria asking to come to the event in Boston, but was rebuffed.
John was so much more than those long ago images emblazoned in our minds. He was a boy who grew into a man with a zest for life and a love of adventure. He was a pied piper who brought us all along.’
~ Ted Kennedy, July 1999
WASHINGTON — It’s a rare glimpse of the introspective John F. Kennedy — unsure of his political skills; worried about what he might do if he lost the race; and surprisingly honest about his poor health and his attempts to deceive the press over it.
Three days after he declared his candidacy for the presidency, the man who would leave a near-mythical imprint on America’s political identity seemed decidedly unsure of his own.
That revelation comes from a recently unearthed audio recording made during a private dinner party that the Massachusetts senator and his wife, Jacqueline, hosted in their Georgetown home on Jan. 5, 1960. The tape was given to the JFK Library and Museum in Dorchester last year and was recently discovered by a Brown University historian.
At the dinner party, the recording reveals, Kennedy said he never dreamed of the presidency when he entered politics as a scrawny candidate for Congress in 1946.
“Never. Never. Never,” the future president insisted. “I thought maybe I’d be governor of Massachusetts one day.”
What was irresistible about the decision to seek the presidency, the Harvard alumnus explained to his three guests, was the excitement and challenge of the race itself — “like playing Yale every Saturday, in a sense” — and his unabashed desire to be at the center of the nation’s momentous decisions.
The guests were Newsweek correspondent James M. Cannon and Washington bureau chief Benjamin Bradlee, who later ran the Washington Post, and his wife, Antionette. Bradlee and Cannon were longtime friends of Kennedy and did not report on the conversation.
Cannon’s family gave the tape to the library, and the content will be featured in next month’s Smithsonian magazine. Bradlee did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.
Ted Widmer, the Brown University historian, said Tuesday that when he came across the tape in his research, “I was just knocked out by it.”
“I thought it was very visceral and immediate, and quite personal. JFK was one of the most successful politicians of the 20th century but he is candid about his liabilities and his inhibitions,” he said. Widmer also said Kennedy’s explanations for why he was seeking the presidency seem strikingly honest.
At one point in the conversation, for example, Kennedy makes another football analogy.
“Johnny Unitas, he might find it interesting to play in a sandlot team, in front of four people, but he’s playing for the Colts, the best team in the United States, for the world championship,” he said. “I’m not comparing the presidency with that, but I’m just saying that, how could it be more fascinating than to run for president under the obstacles and the hurdles that are before me.”
Kennedy “is interested in being at the center of the machinery of government, the center of the action,” said Widmer, rather than seeking the presidency for the lofty goals he outlined in his campaign to secure the Democratic nomination and ultimately defeat Vice President Richard M. Nixon.
The recording portrays a JFK not so sure of himself as he set out on his historic quest, hoping that the electorate sought a new kind of leader who was not necessarily the back-slapping campaigner like his grandfather, the former congressman and Boston mayor John Fitzgerald.
“I think I personally am the antithesis of a politician as I saw my grandfather who was the politician,” Kennedy said. “What he loved to do was what politicians are expected to do. Now I just think that today… . I’d rather read a book on a plane than talk to the fellow next to me, and my grandfather wanted to talk to everybody else. I’d rather go out to dinner.”
He later added: “I had not regarded myself as a political type. My father didn’t, he thought I was hopeless.”
But politics attracted him in part, he said, because the alternatives for someone of his social and academic station were so unappealing.
“If [I] went to law school, and I’d gotten out, which I was going to do [unclear] and then I go and become a member of a big firm, and I’m dealing with some dead, deceased man’s estate, or I’m perhaps fighting in a divorce case … or some fellow got in an accident … or let’s say more serious work, when you’re participating in a case against the DuPont company in a general antitrust case, which takes two or three years, can you tell me that that compares in interest with being a member of Congress in trying to write a labor bill, or trying to make a speech on foreign policy?’’ Kennedy said. “I just think that there’s no comparison.”
Throughout the discussion, Kennedy’s famous flowing public voice is instead choppy and often inarticulate. Also, he sounds uncharacteristically vulnerable.
For example, the possibility of losing the election weighed heavily on him.
“I wouldn’t like to try to pick up my life at 45, -6, or -7, and start after 20 years of being in politics, and try to pick up my life then,’’ he said, adding, “Maybe need a different degree. I mean, it’s like having your leg up to your ankle or to your knee amputated, it’s still disturbing.”
Antionette Bradlee asked Kennedy, who had already written two books, if he might pursue a career in writing if politics didn’t work out.
“No, I couldn’t, because I’ve lost the chance. I mean, I’m sure it takes 20 years to learn to be a decent writer,” he responded. “You have to do it every day.”
When a recently published photo of him as a young man looking sickly came up in the discussion, Kennedy spoke of his personal medical problems, which became known publicly years after his 1963 assassination. Such problems would probably have been disqualifying if known to voters.
“There’s a picture that the Boston Globe ran Sunday, which had the veterans rally [in 1948] … Franklin Roosevelt [Jr.] and I, and I looked like a cadaver,” Kennedy recalled, noting his unusual pallor.
When asked about what was wrong with him, he responded, “Addison’s disease, they said I have.”
He then noted that a reporter “asked me today if I have it.” He denied it to the reporter, saying he was just sun-tanned. “I said no, God, a guy with Addison’s disease looks sort of brown and everything,” Kennedy told his guests, who burst out in laughter. “Christ! See, that’s the sun.”
But natural politician or not, Kennedy said he thought the ingredients to win were not all that complicated.
“You have to be able to communicate a sense of conviction and intelligence and rather, some integrity,” he said.
An American Icon: Jack Kennedy
Kennedy, Before Choosing the Moon: ‘I’m Not That Interested in Space’
The language was, almost literally, soaring. “We set sail on this new sea,” President Kennedy told the country, “because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people.” We choose exploration, he declared, for ourselves and for all nations. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
And, of course, we found what we sought. We came in peace for all mankind, and we set foot on the moon. In light of our success, that step took on a sheen not only of epicness — Homer, into the heavens’ wine-dark sea — but also of inevitability. A man on the moon, its image plunged into the public imagination 50 years ago, came to symbolize striving and dreaming and insisting with a power that still captivates us today.
So it’s easy to forget how ambivalent Kennedy was, initially, about the space program. It’s easy to forget how ambivalent he was, initially, about space itself. As the president put it, bluntly, in a 1962 meeting with advisors and NASA administrators: “I’m not that interested in space.”
And that was, it seems, a longstanding apathy. When Kennedy was a Massachusetts senator in the late 1950s, Richard Collin writes in John F. Kennedy: History, Memory, Legacy, he and Robert Kennedy agreed to meet the MIT professor and aerospace pioneer Charles Draper at a Boston restaurant. During the dinner, Draper later recalled, the brothers essentially ridiculed his pitch for space exploration — not cruelly, but with the kind of patient disbelief usually reserved for those who hold hopeless dreams. The politicians, Collin reports, “could not be convinced that all rockets were not a waste of money and space navigation even worse.”
That attitude would continue into the Kennedy presidency. Hugh Sidey, Life magazine’s White House correspondent, emphasized space exploration as Kennedy’s weakest area during his first few months in office. The new president understood less about that field, Collin notes, than about any other issue he’d been confronted with when assuming office. And Jerome Wiesner, Kennedy’s own science adviser, confirmed that view: When it came to space, Wiesner said of his boss, “he hadn’t thought much about it.”
If Kennedy wasn’t inspired by space itself, though, he was inspired by political victories. In April of 1961, just months after the president’s inauguration, the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to venture into space. Less than a week after Gagarin’s orbit came the Bay of Pigs. Kennedy, in need of a political victory both for his administration and against the Soviets, turned to his vice president — who, unlike Kennedy himself, had been a longtime space advocate. (“Control of space,” Johnson had put it in 1958, “is control of the world.”) Johnson, at the time, was serving as chairman of a newly reorganized Space Council. Kennedy asked him for recommendations on how to accelerate the U.S. space program — not in the name of heavenly exploration, but in the name of a slightly more earthly goal:
Do we have a chance of beating the Soviets by putting a laboratory in space, or by a trip around the Moon, or by a rocket to land on the Moon, or by a rocket to go to the Moon and back with a man? Is there any other space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win?
The president asked for a response “at the earliest possible moment.” A week later, Johnson — basing his assessment in part on a Defense Department suggestion that “dramatic achievements in space … symbolize the technological power and organizing capability of a nation” — responded with a five-and-a-half-page memo. It emphasized, among Kennedy’s list of potentially Soviet-shaming projects, the manned trip to the moon:
… As for a manned trip around the Moon or a safe landing and return by a man to the Moon, neither the United States nor the U.S.S.R. has such a capability at this time, so far as we know. The Russians have had more experience with large boosters and with flights of dogs and man. Hence they might be conceded a time advantage in circumnavigation of the Moon and also in a manned trip to the Moon. However, with a strong effort the United States could conceivably be first in these accomplishments by 1966 or 1967 …
The moon, it’s worth noting, was selected with geopolitical as well as technological strategy in mind. And it was selected not by Kennedy himself, but by his space agency. In 1959, NASA administrators were tasked with choosing a space exploration goal that would best utilize American potential in space — and the agency determined that a manned lunar landing would make the most fitting and practical successor to Alan Shepard’s planned orbit of Earth. The Apollo program, true to Kennedy’s rhetoric, was finally implemented not as a proactive measure against the Soviets, but as a reactive one. “Kennedy was interested in space as a symbol of political power,” the historian Dwayne Day writes, “but it was only after the Soviet Union increased the political stakes that Kennedy approved the lunar landing program.”
And it was through a process of negotiation that the program’s timetable was determined. Responding to pushback from NASA, Kennedy would publicly amend Johnson’s aspirational lunar timetable — from five or six years, starting in 1961, to ten. The president had crafted a goal that would serve his political if not personal interest: to go to the moon. And to go “in this decade.” Not because it was easy, but because it was expedient. “The Soviet Union has made this a test of the system,” Kennedy would later tell a group of advisors and NASA administrators. “So that’s why we’re doing it.”
On May 5, 1962, Shepard repeated Gagarin’s accomplishment, becoming the first American in space. On May 25, Kennedy gave a speech to Congress asking the country to commit itself “to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Already, Kennedy’s ideological argument was taking the soaring tinge so familiar in his subsequent discussions of space. “If we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny,” he argued,
the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take …. Now it is time to take longer strides — time for a great new American enterprise — time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.
From expediency to enterprise. From steps to strides. From earth’s muddy present to its gleaming future. That might complicate the story of aspiration and exploration that we’ve come to associate with Kennedy and with Earth’s earliest forays into space. It might emphasize the way the dullest features of humanity — competition, vindication, pride — helped propel human soles to the lunar surface. Then again, it doesn’t change the impact of the all-too-earthly decisions made those fifty years ago. We chose, either way, to go to the moon. Not because it was easy, but because it was hard.
Editor’s note: Jack Schlossberg is a New York resident, a sophomore at Yale University, a contributor to the Yale Daily News and The Yale Herald. He is the grandson of President John F. Kennedy.
(CNN) — It’s just another coming of age story — one we’ve all heard before — but now it’s about us.
Just as Holden Caulfield awoke to the excitement of the adult world around him and wanted to escape the phonies, youth voters brought a novel and intense energy to the world of politics during the 2008 election in an effort to escape the phonies we’d been listening to our whole lives.
Our debut into the world of politics was significant: The candidate with overwhelming youth support, Barack Obama, came out on top. I was too young to vote in that election, but after volunteering for the Obama campaign, I felt what many first-time voters and volunteers felt after the last election: proud, accomplished and significant.
Four years later, what was once to us the novel and exciting adult world of politics now seems bitter and partisan. We’re a little bit older, less bright-eyed and a little more cynical.
It is not surprising that a generation not tempered by past disappointments, that had hoped its representatives would work in good faith to fix America’s problems, might be less enthusiastic this time around. The percentage of youth voters who plan on voting fell from 78% in 2008 to just 58% this summer. We’re the least likely of any age group to vote in November.
Opinion: What Democrats need to do in Charlotte
But what a mistake it would be for us to throw in the towel now. Just because our politics and government can disappoint us sometimes doesn’t mean we should forget how far we’ve come.
President Obama understands what our generation contributed in 2008. He knows where we stand on issues and he agrees with us — he’s been our biggest ally in Washington since the start of his presidency.
The president’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, allows us to stay on our parents’ health plan until we are 26. That means we’ll have health insurance when we graduate from college, which more and more of us will be able to do thanks to the president’s push to double funding for Pell Grants and his insistence on keeping interest rates low for the 7.4 million students taking out student loans. Because of Obama’s repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” anyone can join the military, regardless of sexual orientation, an issue important to our generation.
When Congress refused to pass the DREAM Act, Obama changed policy administratively, enabling immigrants who came to the country as children to avoid deportation.
Opinion: Can Obama convince voters to turn to him again?
Our president showed both political courage and moral responsibility when he stood up for women across America under attack from extreme Republican rhetoric and aggressive legislation curtailing women’s rights and threatening women’s health. Obama’s swift, bold action to fix the broken American economy bequeathed to him by President George W. Bush has preserved homes and jobs for our parents and has preserved the possibility for home ownership and jobs for us.
Obama has acted aggressively on the issue most important to my generation: climate change. Our generation believes in healing the Earth. Between 2010 and 2011, the United States cut its foreign oil imports by 10%, or 1 million barrels a day. Domestic natural gas production has increased during each year of the Obama presidency, providing jobs and a cleaner source of energy.
After saving the American auto industry, the president then set out to strengthen it by demanding that car companies stay competitive in a global market and meet a 54.5 miles per gallon standard by 2025. Finally, in addition to investments in clean energy projects and jobs, Obama agrees with the 97% of scientists who recognize humans as the cause of climate change, while Mitt Romney “isn’t sure.”
John King: To win, Obama must make history again
To be sure, none of this has come easily or without opposition.Part of growing up is realizing the frustrating, heartbreaking truth that intense and sustained long-term effort is needed to effect change.
The difficulty of the obstacles that must be overcome and the scope of the fight that must be won make our accomplishments all the more impressive. Electing the first African-American president was a tremendous accomplishment, but it hasn’t erased racism. Electing the first Catholic president, my grandfather, in 1960, did not mean that religious intolerance disappeared from our land. Whether it was the American Revolution, the Civil War or the civil rights movement, change has never come easy, and Americans have always had to fight for change we believe in.
If we can appreciate the long strides our country has made since 2008 instead of dismissing them as imperfect attempts, we will prove that not only are we quick learners but we’re in it for the long haul. Participation in the democratic process is not only a right: It’s a responsibility we all share.
Voting is something we can all do for our country. If we turn out to re-elect this president, we will prove that 2008 was not an anomaly, and that our generation and its concerns cannot be dismissed. Instead, 2008 will be seen as just the beginning. This fall let’s display a deep commitment to our country, its ideals and provide a preview of the America we intend to build
Joseph Patrick Kennedy, III (31), first of the new generation of his famous family to seek elected office.
BOSTON — Joseph Kennedy III, the first of his famous political family’s generation to seek elective office, defeated two little-known Democrats in Thursday’s primary in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District.
Kennedy, 31, will face Republican Sean Bielat in the November election for the seat currently held by longtime liberal Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, who is retiring.
Kennedy is the son of Joseph P. Kennedy II, who represented the state’s 8th Congressional District for six terms from 1987-1999, and the grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, the younger Kennedy served in the Peace Corps, worked as a prosecutor in Massachusetts and in 2006 co-managed with his twin brother Matt the final campaign of their great-uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, who died of cancer in 2009.
Unofficial early returns from Thursday’s primary gave Kennedy around 90 percent of the vote. He was facing Herb Robinson, a software engineer and Rachel Brown, a follower of perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche.
Kennedy, with the acknowledged help of family connections, raised more than $3 million for his campaign through mid-August, more than any incumbent in the Massachusetts House delegation. He has said he is proud of his family’s legacy but determined to earn votes on his own.
“I got into this race because I believe this country was built on a simple promise: that each of us deserves a fair shot,” he said in a statement Thursday night. “Nothing extra, nothing excessive — just the chance to make the most out of their own talent and hard work.”
The past two years marked the first time since the election of his great-uncle John F. Kennedy to the House in 1946 that a member of the Kennedy family had not served in elective office in Washington.
Democrat Hoit Nelson, who voted for Kennedy in Brookline, said he didn’t know much about the candidate but recognized the last name, and that was enough.
“Based on his being a member of the family, I can trust in him having, as part of his family culture, a commitment to public service,” Nelson said.
Kennedy’s victory came shortly after his cousin Caroline Kennedy addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., telling delegates that the re-election of President Barack Obama is as important to the future of the country as the 1960 election of her father.
Bielat, a Norfolk businessman who won plaudits from Republicans for a spirited campaign against Frank two years ago, will again be the decided underdog in the November election. He beat Elizabeth Childs, a former state mental health commissioner from Brookline, and David Steinhof, a Fall River dentist.
Bielat said Thursday he would counter Kennedy’s family legacy and huge fundraising advantage with retail politics.
“He hasn’t gotten out and talked to people,” Bielat said of Kennedy. “He’s going to drop a lot of money on TV, but he has a very thin resume.”
Bielat, who had raised about $476,000 through mid-August, also said he had agreed to a handful of debates with Kennedy.
Republicans point out the southern portion of the district includes several cities with large numbers of independents and conservative-leaning Democrats who voted for GOP Sen. Scott Brown in a January 2010 special election following Ted Kennedy’s death.
Joe Kennedy said he was ready for the inevitable bumps and bruises that will come with the fall campaign, but in a recent interview he also sounded an echo of his great-uncle’s legendary ability to reach across the aisle.
“Republicans aren’t bad people,” he said. “They’ve got some views that are legitimate … and I’d like to think they believe the same of me.”
Joe Kennedy III and the Neverending Kennedy Magic
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — We may never stop measuring our lives in Kennedys. The Jack guys are all gone, and the Bobby guys are fewer by the years. For better or worse, for Democrats and Republicans, they have been the dynastic metric of the second half of the 20th century and, most amazing of all, of a good chunk of the beginning of the current one. They redefined public service. They redefined political celebrity for a new media age, and they lived within that context, for good and for ill, for the unbearably tragic and, occasionally, unbearably unbearable. Theirs is a history of public service unrivaled by that of any other family save (perhaps) the Windsors, and they get formally dragooned into it from birth. Theirs is a family history of public scandal and public political murder unrivaled by that of any other family save the Borgias. The Kennedys are our sacrifices and our scapegoats, and they stubbornly insist on volunteering for both jobs generation after generation. Sooner or later, one thinks, at least one of them has to chuck it all and live as a beachcomber clipping coupons in Palm Beach.
On Tuesday night, Joseph Kennedy III, grandson of a murdered senator and grand-nephew of a murdered president, introduced a video tribute to yet another of his grand-uncles, Senator Edward Kennedy, who passed away between the last Democratic convention and this one. He is impossibly young, red-haired, and he favors his mother, Sheila Rauch, a formidable woman who, when she was divorcing his father, former Congressman Joe Kennedy, took on the Archdiocese of Boston in a noisy battle over her ex-husband’s desire to annul their marriage, sinking the first real dent into the armor of the predator-enabling, conspirator to obstruct justice, Bernard Cardinal Law. It’s a pretty safe bet that, for all the “Kennedys Don’t Cry” family lore, there is a toughness to this Kennedy that he did not get from his father’s side of the family.
He’s running for Congress now, seeking to replace the retiring Barney Frank. People who have worked with him both in the campaign, and in his day job as an assistant district attorney, talk about how humble and decent he is, the kind of guy who volunteers to take the real grunt work of a public prosecutor, weekend DUI busts and tangled cases of domestic violence. Under their breath, so as not to upset The Family, many of these people make the point that, “He’s a Rauch, He’s not a Kennedy.”
“It’s like recombinant DNA,” said Congressman Ed Markey. “You’ve got both those strands twining together.”
(The video was a delightful combination of elegy and attack ad. A lot of it was taken up with clips from the debate between Edward Kennedy and Willard Romney during their 1994 Senate race in which Romney came off looking very badly. In fact, I’d forgotten how much of an obviously snippy lord of the manor type he was back in his younger days. This prompted some Twittery whinging from obvious anagram Reince Priebus, as though that pipsqueak was the true custodian of Edward Kennedy’s legacy, and as though Edward Kennedy himself wouldn’t have been twice as tough in person as he was on film.)
He was a Kennedy on Tuesday night, because that was what the hall was looking for. “Make no mistake,” he said of his late grand-uncle, “he is here with us tonight. You can see it in the passion of our delegates and the character of our candidates. For my uncle Teddy, politics was all about people. he measured things by promotions won and jobs lost, new homes and broken hearts, baptisms and funerals, every precious moment in between…. It guides us in the tough campaign ahead as we fight for the middle class, an economy that’s built to last, defend a woman’s right to choose, protect our seniors’s retirement security, and ask every American to do their part to safeguard the promise of this country.” Three generations of delegates pretended to be young again.
It was quick and it was modest and it was over very quickly. “It’s still magic,” said Congressman Jim McGovern, who has been campaigning with Kennedy because some of McGovern’s old congressional district now belongs to the district Kennedy wants to represent. “He’s got the ideals of his great-uncle and his grandfather, but he’s also very thoughtful and level-headed, a normal guy.”
It has taken four generations for the Kennedy family to get back to normal again. Who knows what they’ll find there now that they have?
Remember those rumors that Taylor Swift was dating Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son, Patrick? Forget ‘em. The latest rumor has the star involved up with Conor Kennedy, the grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy.
A witness told the New York Post that Swift and the young Kennedy were seen canoodling last weekend at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Mass. According to the source, Swift arrived at the Kennedy’s last Friday and soon afterwards, she and Kennedy were seen jumping on a trampoline and attending a house party. Next they went to beach, where they were allegedly spotted holding hands. They later joined a group of people at a pizzeria.
The Post added that on Saturday, the couple went sailing and Swift was seen talking to Ethel Kennedy, matriarch of the Kennedy clan, with whom the singer has become friendly. Sunday, Swift and Conor Kennedy reportedly attended church together.
According to the Post, the two have been seen together three times in the past month. A rep for Swift did not immediately respond to ABCNews.com’s request for comment.