Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Making of the President (Kennedy-style)

Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Special to the Washington Social Diary

Tuesday January 22nd, Teddy calls former President Clinton and asks him to cool it with the racial rhetoric against Obama in the South Carolina primary. Keep in mind that Obama has carefully and deferentially courted Kennedy for advice since 2006. Senator Hillary Clinton and President Clinton have always assumed they would eventually get Ted’s endorsement. On the call, Mr. Clinton basically tells Teddy to mind his own business (actually it was blunter). TK hangs up the phone furious. To date TK has stayed out of the Democratic primary.

Wednesday, niece Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg calls Uncle Ted to tell him about her New York Times Op-Ed piece supporting Obama for President. This is a big deal for three reasons: first, Caroline is basically nonpolitical; second, she is widely respected by women for her quiet charitable work; and third, she has the grace of her mother and the smile of her father. Ted recognizes that he has to move quickly.

What the general Obama campaign doesn’t know is that on Thursday, Ted calls Barack to tell him that he will endorse and work for him. They pick Monday for the announcement. Only Barack and his campaign manager, David Axelrod knows of the endorsement. The campaign staff is told that Obama is returning to D.C. for the State Of The Union address. A few people ask “what’s the big deal about the SOU and why should we take the day off?” not knowing that the Kennedy endorsement event is being planned for Monday at American University.

Sunday, Bill Clinton makes his remark about comparing the Obama victory to the Jesse Jackson victory in 1988 furthering inciting the racial rhetoric. This comment further infuriates Ted, who not only delivers a speech rebuking the racial remarks on Monday, he plans the next 8 days to campaign (including Arizona and California) to pursue the Hispanic vote for Obama, thereby blunting any union endorsements Hillary Clinton has garnered.

The sad part of this is that Senator Clinton never made the call to Senator Kennedy to plead her case, and he truly likes and respects her.


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