Kennedy’s Endorsement of Obama Had Family Roots
There’s more to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama than meets the eye. Apparently, part of the reason the liberal lion from Massachusetts embraced Obama (Ill.) was a perceived slight at the Kennedy family’s civil rights legacy by the other Democratic front-runner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
A source close to the family says Kennedy was privately irate at Clinton for her praise of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kennedy felt Clinton’s comments were an implicit snub of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, who proposed the landmark civil rights initiative.
Sources say Kennedy was upset about the tenor of events late in the campaign in New Hampshire.
On Jan. 7, in Dover, a Clinton supporter introduced the former first lady by saying: “Some people compare one of the other candidates to John F. Kennedy. But he was assassinated. And Lyndon Baines Johnson was the one who actually” signed the civil rights bill into law.
The Kennedy insider says Sen. Kennedy was deeply offended that Clinton remained silent and “sat passively by” rather than correcting the portrayal of his slain brother’s civil rights record.
Later, a Clinton campaign spokesman distanced Clinton from the surrogate’s comments. Sources said Clinton called Kennedy the next day to apologize. The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the source close to the family, Kennedy also was upset that Clinton said on the same day: “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act. It took a president to get it done.”
The senator also was said to be furious with former president Bill Clinton for his “Southern strategy”-themed comments on the campaign trail. The senator didn’t hide his disdain for the nasty tone of the campaign during his endorsement speech at American University on Monday.
Kennedy’s spokeswoman, Melissa Wagoner, would not comment on whether the senator was angered by the New Hampshire comments. “Senator Kennedy knows that candidates can’t always be responsible for the things their supporters say. He’s proud of President Kennedy’s role in the civil rights movement and believes that it’s time to unify and inspire Americans to believe we can achieve great things again,” she said.
Lautenberg Rocks: Givin’ on a Prayer?
Leave the early-evening wine-and-cheese fundraisers to the youngsters who are up for reelection this year.
Octogenarian Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) will do it differently. With a lot more noise, and probably more tattoos, acid-washed jeans and black T-shirts. Lautenberg, who turned 84 last week, prefers rocking out while he raises money, as he will next month when his buddy Jon Bon Jovi performs at Verizon Center on Feb. 28.
“Rock out NEW JERSEY style,” says his Senate campaign’s “save the date” e-mail to donors.
It’ll cost you a little more than face value to watch Bon Jovi’s “Lost Highway” show with Lautenberg: $1,500 per ticket, $2,500 for a pair, or — total deal — $5,000 for four.
Lautenberg has told us before that he and Bon Jovi, a New Jersey native and power broker in his state, are personal friends. “He’s a wonderful person,” the senator says. (Bon Jovi’s wife has donated money to Lautenberg under the couple’s official last name, Bongiovi.) As for the show next month, Lautenberg says, “It’s not only an opportunity to show Jersey pride in D.C., but to raise money for a great cause.” That cause, of course, is his fifth Senate campaign.
Ah, to be young again.
McCain’s Conservative Front
The John McCain outreach project to the conservative wing of the Republican Party took another step yesterday with one of his leading surrogates making an impromptu case for the Arizona senator’s presidential bid to House conservatives.
Former senator Phil Gramm, the Texan who chaired the Banking Committee and is now an executive with UBS of Switzerland, met with the House’s Republican Study Committee at their annual retreat in Baltimore’s Intercontinental Harbor Court. Gramm, a top McCain adviser, was invited to speak by one of his former staffers, Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the RSC chairman.
Gramm was there ostensibly to talk about curbing spending. But the lawmakers instead peppered him with questions about his friend McCain, who seized front-runner status for the Republican nomination with his big win in the Florida primary the night before.
A source inside the meeting said many RSC members remained skeptical of McCain, particularly because of his opposition to President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts.
But Gramm kept his pitch focused on McCain’s lifelong opposition to those multimillion-dollar earmarks in congressional spending bills that have driven conservatives mad. And, in his one-of-a-kind Texas twang, Gramm kept the audience entertained by disparaging Republicans who don’t mind pouring millions of federal dollars into their own districts.
“That’s like feeding a dog that is trained to bite ya,” Gramm said.
Retreat, Take II
Fresh from cutting a key interest rate another half point yesterday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will serve as the star guest at the House Democratic issues retreat in Williamsburg.
Bernanke (who holds the job Gramm was once rumored to covet) will speak to the lawmakers Friday, just three days after the House overwhelmingly passed its version of a stimulus plan that includes rebate checks for lower- and middle-income taxpayers. No doubt the Democrats will want Bernanke to answer many questions about what he thinks of the Senate Finance Committee’s version of the stimulus plan, which would cost $11 billion more than the House version.
Schumer to Weiner: A Giant Omission
Don’t ask Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) who he’s betting on in this weekend’s Super Bowl.
He’s still steaming that his political acolyte, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), blew Schumer’s chance to win a few dollars — legally — on his beloved New York Giants in the NFC championship game against the legendary Green Bay Packers on Jan. 20.
The day before the game, Schumer was out riding his bike past Weiner’s apartment in Queens. Weiner was in Las Vegas, stumping for Clinton in the Nevada Democratic Caucus. Schumer had his “Aha!” moment, got out his cellphone, and told Weiner to put $50 on the Giants for him at one of the casino’s sports books. “The most I’ve ever bet on anything,” Schumer told On the Hill.
Two days later, Weiner had a confession. “I’ve got good news and bad news,” he said.
“Tell me the good news,” Schumer said.
“The Giants won,” Weiner countered, prompting Schumer to angrily respond that he knew that already.
The bad news: “I forgot to place your bet,” Weiner said.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama grew from ire over the Clinton campaign’s statements on the civil rights legacy of President John F. Kennedy.