Joe Kennedy III, a four-term Democratic congressman representing basically the same part of Boston his family has dominated politically since the late 1940s, decided to run for the Senate against long-serving incumbent Senator Edward Markey.
Kennedy’s family legacy of political activism is seen by most of the current crop of Kennedys as a birthright. They win elections because their grandfather or uncle was president or a presidential candidate. They were unchallenged in Massachusetts, although the Kennedy magic did not extend much past the border of New England. Several attempts by fringe family members at gaining public office have met with limited success.
Joe Kennedy is the last Kennedy standing — the last family member who holds high public office. And Markey looks like he’s going to humiliate him in the Democratic primary next month. But despite the family history of political success, Kennedy after Kennedy was unable to answer the most basic question of public service.
Why are you running?
Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter, was only the latest of her family to fumble a response.
“In interviews over the weekend,” the AP reported back then, Caroline “offered explanations for running that included the 9/11 attacks on Manhattan” plus “Obama’s encouragement and the commitment to public service by her father, President John F. Kennedy, and others in her family.”
Caroline’s “um … like … you know” interviews are the stuff of legendary political bumbling. Even the New York Times couldn’t back her. Paterson threw her under the bus.
Not “ready for prime time,” his team told CNN. “She clearly has no policy experience and couldn’t handle the pressure.”
For a long four seconds, Kennedy hesitated, his eyes sliding to the ceiling. “Well,” he said, “uh. Were I to make the announcement to run, the reasons that I would run…” and thus commenced a rambling answer which may have derailed his entire candidacy.
But the answer from every Kennedy to the question “why” is always the same.
Voters aren’t stupid. They know the reason. The Kennedys think Massachusetts is their fiefdom, the Oval Office their birthright.
Kennedys run because they are Kennedys.
Kennedy hagiography was assisted by an army of PR flaks who managed over the years to turn the womanizing, weak, indecisive, callow JFK into a world-historical figure. The family has been living on that manufactured fame for decades, becoming political celebrities. They are rich, reasonably good looking, and have projected a noblesse oblige that many in the public find charming.
So yes, it’s a good thing that Joe is headed for a massive defeat against a radical incumbent Democrat. The legend will live on, the myth will survive, but as political players on the national stage, their day has come and gone.