Kennedy Election Loss, Heavy Hearts For Believers In Camelot

The election loss last night in Massachusetts for Joseph Kennedy III was more than just a political happening.  For many who have journeyed in spirit and through history with this famous family, in good times and bad, it was far more than just a campaign loss.  It was as if a part of our larger family had been impacted with a major setback.

I never shook a hand of a Kennedy at a whistle-stop or was able to stand in the back row at a campaign rally for anyone with the famous Irish name, and yet I was always able to feel like a part of the show,, the drama, the humor and broad, beaming smiles.  After all, their politics was mine, too.  Liberal Democratic values.

And the family knew precisely what they were fighting for, as they had also experienced it in their own generations and wanted the government to even the playing field for all the ones yet to come up from hardship–no matter how that hardship manifested itself. I have read the books of this family since high school and recall a term that almost punched from the pages when reading of immigrants packed on “coffin ships”.  It was an image from my teenage years that speaks to the hopes immigrants had for their new home, and the risks they took to reach it.

That is how the Kennedy family made their way to these shores, and as we know in three generations Jack Kennedy would be sworn into the presidency of our country.  What has always alerted me to the family’s pull on the nation was, following the assassination in 1963, a landslide proportion of citizens told pollsters they had voted for Kennedy in 1960.  But we know that 1960 was a squeaker election outcome.  Yes, some of the responses after Kennedy’s death was due to national grieving, but let us be clear about another fact. Politics did not always matter as the Kennedy family had passed above being just a partisan name.   They were a part of the larger family for millions in the nation.

The tales of Camelot and the beautiful and handsome faces of generations of Kennedys have left their mark on the hearts and minds of millions of my fellow citizens.  Their fame and feats have been the stuff of headlines and history, their times of crisis and funerals have showcased family solidarity and steadfastness.  The family of doers and dreamers also faced frailties and human shortcomings, which also made the headlines, and in the end, proved how very much they were like every other family in America.

So yes, today there is a real sadness in the nation among those who still know the value of history and nostalgic touchstones.  Our nation needs to have those moments from history that still evoke passion and energy and bring forth the best of us.  The Kennedy family and Camelot was such a marker.

We still love them.




Humphrey’s History Video: Green Bay Packers And Ted Kennedy

During Wisconsin’s Stay At Home order, so to combat COVID-19, I am recording a series of 60-second grand stories from history.  Today I tell a story of the Green Bay Packers and Ted Kennedy which will bring a smile.

And I nail this video in precisely 60 seconds!  That makes former radio guys smile…..


Senator Ted Kennedy’s Wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Writes About John McCain

Senator John McCain and Senator Ted Kennedy were very close friends.  John died 9 years to the day as his close friend Ted, and of the same type of brain cancer.

Today Victoria Reggie Kennedy wrote an article for the Boston Globe.  It was especially well done and as such is reprinted in full.

John McCain was a warrior, a patriot, and a man of immeasurable courage. What a privilege it was to know him.

An unabashed conservative who relished the opportunity to do battle against his more liberal Democratic colleagues, he was also a willing and able legislative negotiator, unafraid to buck his own party to achieve a goal he thought important. Because of his uncompromising love of country, John was able to be a dealmaker, a true legislator, as he fought for a more perfect union and to advance policies for the public good. He was the maverick who refused to be boxed into a political position merely for the sake of party. For him, it was always country first.

I first met John through my late husband, Senator Edward Kennedy. Over the years, John and Ted became good friends, but, as they both loved to say, they had not been instant friends.

Indeed, I recall a moment on the floor of the US Senate in the early 1990s when John and Ted found themselves on opposite sides of an issue. Ted had just been recognized to speak when McCain burst out of the Republican cloakroom and charged onto the floor. Teddy and John then got into a tense, but private, verbal exchange off the floor.

In an odd way, it was perhaps that heat that began a thaw in their relationship. As those two old bulls walked off the Senate floor, they patted each other on the back and started to laugh. “That was really something,” one of them said. “Pretty good,” the other retorted. In that moment, all tension dissipated, and the seeds of a friendship were sown.

As Teddy used to say, John “took issues seriously, but never took himself too seriously.” His laughter could fill a room, or the entire Senate chamber. He could lose his temper, but afterwards, he always cooled off and attended to the enduring bonds of friendship. Above all, he believed in solving problems, not exploiting them — in charting a way forward wherever possible.

Whether they were on opposite sides of an issue and engaged in spirited combat or working together on the same side, John and Ted respected each other. As John once said, if you’re going to like someone, you have to respect them first. And as he and Ted grew to respect, trust, and like each other, they were able to accomplish important things.

In one memorable moment during an Armed Services Committee hearing on torture, Ted’s allotted time was up before he was able to complete his questioning of a witness. John was up next and, seamlessly, it seemed, took Ted’s notes and completed the questioning. At that moment, the nation saw how much more was possible when senators worked together, keeping the nation’s interests in mind without worrying about who got the credit.

John and Ted also worked together on immigration, and each lamented the failure of Congress to find sufficient common ground to support a comprehensive proposal for reform. They shared a commitment to campaign finance reform as well. Ted was proud to sign on to the McCain-Feingold bill that ultimately became law and earned for John, an Arizona Republican, and Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, the 1999 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

John loved the Senate and believed in its power to impact lives in a positive way. And he was unafraid, even in his last months, to stand up for a return to comity and decency and regular order. Indeed, he declared from the floor of the Senate that the proudest and most satisfying moments of his career were when he worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the great challenges facing our nation.

As we all know, John’s willingness to stand up for what was right was not confined to his work in the Senate. As a prisoner of war in Vietnam, that son of a Navy admiral denied his captors the opportunity to use him as a pawn for propaganda by courageously refusing to be released earlier than his peers. Because he took that stand, John was brutalized in captivity for more than five years, nearly half of which were in solitary confinement.

But doing the right thing, and not the expedient one, was a hallmark of John’s life and career. As the nominee of his party in the heat of a presidential campaign, he demonstrated his character yet again by rebuking a supporter who assailed the integrity and patriotism of his political opponent, Barack Obama. How much we miss that kind of honesty today, and how much we miss the man who showed such valor and demanded that kind of decency.

When he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same dreadful disease that took my husband’s life, John reacted to the news exactly as Teddy had — no self-pity, only concern for his family and a renewed drive to complete his work. In his reaction to adversity, we again saw the true mettle of the man.

John’s example summons us, in his memory and for the sake of our democracy, to live up to what is best in ourselves and to honor what is best in others. In word and deed, he taught us to be valiant in the truest sense — faithful to our ideals and principles, but never demonizing those who differ, always remembering that in the next battle, they could be on our side.

I think now of what he said in his eulogy for Ted: “We disagreed on most issues, but I admired his passion for his convictions, his patience with the hard and sometimes dull work of legislating, and his uncanny sense for when differences could be bridged and his cause advanced by degrees.

“He was a fierce advocate, and no senator would oppose him in a debate without at least a little trepidation, often more than a little. We all listened to him, of course. He was hard to ignore. When we agreed on an issue and worked together to make a little progress for the country on an important issue, he was the best ally you could have.”

Those words honored Ted Kennedy, but they also perfectly describe John McCain himself. Even if we disagreed with him on some issues, even some big issues, we know in our hearts that he has left us just when we most need his kind of leadership — a leadership of strength, decency, and unbending bravery.

John McCain was a great hero, a great senator, and a great American. He was my friend, and I will miss him, profoundly.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy, an attorney, is cofounder and president of the board of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Senator Ted Kennedy’s Home On Market—-For $22 Million

Gorgeous home.

But out of my price range.

A sprawling Georgetown estate that was once home to Sen. Ted Kennedy is coming on the market for $22 million.

Mr. Kennedy and his first wife, Joan Kennedy, rented the property, which is located in the East Village area of Georgetown, some time after his election to the Senate in the 1960s, according to the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., and reports from the time. The home was formerly part of the neighboring Evermay Estate, a historic Georgetown property which sold for $22 million in 2011 to biotech executives Sachiko Kuno and Ryuji Ueno.

The current owner of Mr. Kennedy’s onetime home is Cathy Brentzel, a former securities attorney, who bought the home with her family in 2008 for $11.8 million, property records show. Ms. Brentzel said she is selling the property, which has been shopped off-market several times in the last few years, to be closer to her 15-year-old daughter, who is attending boarding school in Switzerland.

The original Edwardian-style home dates back to 1887, but an addition was added in the 1950s, bringing the home to around 10,000 square feet. More recently, a previous owner renovated the home to better blend the older portion with the addition. The interior of the home was demolished and taken down to the studs, while new structural support, plumbing and electric wiring was installed.

Vicki Kennedy Finds Her Way Back In Life

The wife of Senator Edward Kennedy, Vicki Kennedy, is making her comeback into life eight years after the death of the man known as the Lion of the Senate.

In 2015, she returned to work at a law firm after a nearly 20-year hiatus, renewing a career she left to avoid the appearance of conflicts with her husband’s Senate work. As a senior counsel in the corporate practice group at Greenberg Traurig, an international firm she had worked for in the 1990s, she advises business clients, while shuffling between the law firm’s Boston and Washington, D.C., offices. It’s the kind of legal work that generally stays out of public view, which seems to fit a lawyer comfortable advocating for a client or a cause, but who is reluctant to talk publicly about herself.

“I think she may be one of the better-kept secrets,” said Jeri Asher, cofounder and executive vice president of Jibo Inc., a robotics company Kennedy represents. “In Boston it takes people a while when they know you in one role to recontextualize you in another. I can see there would be a little transition, and then people rediscovering Vicki completely on her own merits.

In Ted Kennedy’s absence, Vicki Kennedy has remained active in civic life. She serves on boards for charities, such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Most prominently, she is president of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, a kind of classroom in governance and homage to American democracy next to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Biden, who thinks of Vicki Kennedy “like a sister,” said she has an abiding personal commitment to the institute, which Biden illustrated with a story:

Among the thousands of condolences Biden received after the death of his son, Beau, in 2015, one of his most treasured came from Vicki Kennedy, Biden said.

In her note, Vicki recalled that every time Ted Kennedy would feel down, he’d reread a letter his father, US Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., had written to a friend about losing his son Joe Jr. in World War II. Vicki sent Biden a copy of the elder Kennedy’s letter.

“He said, ‘I realize I could make no sense of why this happened,’ ” Biden recalled, paraphrasing Joe Sr.’s letter. “ ‘Then one day, because life has to continue to be lived, I thought to myself, what would Joe do if he were still alive? And decided to devote my life to doing what he would have done.’ ”

Notable Tombstones From Arlington Cemetery

Just a few of the countless tombstones that deserve recognition to be found at Arlington National Cemetery.

Charles Peter L’Enfant.

Senator Ted Kennedy.

Former justices and family of the Supreme Court

Senator Ted Kennedy Still Touches Our Political Soul

My political hero, Senator Ted Kennedy, passed away on this date in 2009.  He was 77 years old.

Today Caffeinated Politics pays tribute to the man with a portion of his 1980 Democratic convention speech which electrified the party and a young man from Hancock.


Jeb Bush Made The Ted Kennedy Mistake

As I watched the Jeb Bush train wreck take four days to play out this week I thought back to November 1979.

At about the same time the Iranian hostage crisis was starting to happen CBS newsman Roger Mudd sat down with Senator Ted Kennedy who was planning a race for the White House.  Mudd had a question that anyone with a day of experience in politics should have been able to expect and then answer.

“Why do you want to be president?”

The rambling and quite remarkably awful answer from a man I admired and always felt had the makings of presidential leadership left many stunned.  There was no one to blame other than Kennedy for the embarrassing performance.

Speed forward to this week’s awful attempts to answer a most basic question that was posed to potential GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush.  In short the question was how would you have acted regarding the invasion of Iraq, what would you have done?

There is no way in heck Bush did not know this would be one of the first questions he would have to deal with when running for the presidency.  With any level of political experience a person this many years removed from the war, along with the mood of the nation in relation to the decision to go to war, meant it would take a real effort to screw up the response.

But Bush did screw it up royally.

Not once.

Not twice.

Not three times.

If took Bush four days and four different times at bat to finally address the question and move the answer past his lips.

This whole event over the past days has been bizarre because we are not talking about a political novice who made the errors.

I am stunned because I think Bush is the most capable of the people running or planning to run for president from the Republican Party in 2016.   I am stunned too because I did not buy into the narrative from many who think Bush has not been on the political stage for so many years that he is out of practice and therefore will stumble and make mistakes.  I did not subscribe to that view and have stated he would ultimately become the GOP nominee.

I still hold to the nominee prediction but am re-thinking how tough the nomination fight might become.  Not only were his answers way off base but there seemed not be any safety net of advisors who could blunt the mistakes or quickly guide him to answering coherently in short fashion.   Instead Bush was left to flounder for four days, and it looked awful.

What played out this week was what one might expect from a novice.     All Bush can be thankful for today is that the primary contests are many months away.