By Doug and Myriam Wead
Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama may carry more clout than dismissive television pundits are giving it. Yes, Caroline has been out of the public eye and does not command a huge following. But oh what a following it is. Caroline may just have opened the door to further elitist cultural and political and pop endorsements that will have that huge following the pundits are talking about. Hers will be the imprimatur that makes it okay.
And yes, many are saying, she is only one of many Kennedys who can make their endorsements too. But oh, what a particular kind of Kennedy she is. And anyway, the news is now out, Ted Kennedy will endorse him tomorrow.
Caroline’s endorsement will be immediately seen by some as an anti-Clinton statement, and she surely knew that well before she issued it. The Clinton’s carefully cultivated their JFK credentials, endlessly showing the picture of a grinning, teenaged, Bill Clinton shaking hands with his hero, President Kennedy, in a Rose Garden receiving line. And when stories of Clinton’s infidelity became public, Clinton apologists were quick to point to the popular President John Kennedy, who also had his moments of indiscretion. “Boys will be boys.” Clinton was trying to use Kennedy’s invisibility cloak, evidently passed on from a friend at Hogwarts.
But Caroline Kennedy has sent a message. “I know John Kennedy. He was my father. And you and your wife are no John Kennedys.”
This whole process may reveal as much about the ongoing evolution of Caroline Kennedy as it does about Obama and the Clintons. Her mother, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, had long recoiled at the tacky, Irish pub, culture of her husband’s family with its Mafia links and wink, wink, infidelities. With memories of her own beloved, rascally father, she personally loved old Joe Kennedy, who cared so dearly for his son and her husband, the president, but was also repulsed by stories of him roaming the halls of the Ambassador’s residence in London, looking for the bedrooms of his daughter’s overnight guests.
Caroline is a grown woman now, in a good marriage and may have come to terms with her father and his reputation and how it hurt her mother. Her choice of an older man as husband is instructive. Caroline may now be rejecting her father’s indiscretions, treated as glorious adventures by some of her mindless cousins, something she might have dared not do while her brother was still living. And at the same time, Caroline may be protecting the memory of her father at his best. The Clinton’s recent attempt to turn white against black in this political race would have certainly encouraged her in that decision. Her father, whatever his personal failings to his wife, would never have betrayed his own political supporters to gain an advantage, especially the poorest and most disadvantaged of those supporters. It grates like finger nails on the blackboard and shames the memory of RFK as well.
Many in the country want a woman president and are bending over backward to try to allow it to happen but the Clinton’s cannot help being what they are and the John Kennedy side of the family, led by the classy Caroline Kennedy have long been heading in another direction.
From a political standpoint, the decision to endorse Barack Obama is a risky thing to do, both for Caroline and her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, as it was for John Kerry. Obama has much vetting to yet endure before he will ever be handed the keys to the White House. And the Clintons we know already. But Caroline and Ted’s decisions will hurry the process along. And their endorsements have finally ended the implied link between the Clintons and the Kennedys. They are on their own now, Bill and Hillary, where they have really always been. But it’s not over. And they know it.