Kennedy’s En­dorse­ment of Obama Had Fam­ily Roots

The Washington Post - - In The Loop -

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.

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