A Kennedy-Clinton Tale

Shortly before Kennedy died, I read the new Balz/Johnson book on the 2008 Presidential campaign. It has a whole chapter, essentially, on the Kennedy endorsement, which they think was one of the key turning points for Obama winning the nomination. Whether or not that's true, they've got fascinating reporting on a series of many phone calls in which Bill Clinton tries to persuade Ted to endorse Hillary. One thing that fascinated me was an exchange late in the process in which Clinton

...went after Obama for distorting the Iraq war resolution. That vote wasn't a vote for war, Clinton said.... [Kennedy] was furious. "It was a vote for war," he said firmly. "I was there."

Assuming the reporting is accurate, I find it fascinating first of all that Clinton would try to feed this BS to Kennedy. In fact, the whole section of the book makes it seem that Bill actually believed a bunch of BS that the campaign was saying about a number of things -- things that I understood why, politically, they were using as their spin, but I would never have imagined anyone in the campaign actually believed.

But more fascinating to me is Kennedy's umbrage. Remember, Kennedy was a driving force behind John Kerry's campaign in 2004, and Kerry made the same vote. But I've always been under the impression (indeed, have been told this flat-out by People Who Cannot Be Revealed) that Kerry was pretty clear behind the scenes at the time that he knew it was a bad vote, but it was a vote he had to make politically.

What I read into all this is that Kennedy could understand, and live with, someone who made a bad vote for political reasons. He could not countenance someone who tried to defend a bad vote on faulty merits. I'm sure that many, if not most, would say that it's worse to make a crass political decision with lives on the line. But I think Kennedy, a political creature through-and-through, understood that things aren't always that simple. Sometimes you do what you have to do politically to live and fight another battle, another day.

Anyway, there's the little tale while you wait for the motorcade to come. Oh, and the book is worth reading -- except that they completely fail to credit me with single-handedly preventing Mitt Romney from becoming President. Which is how I would greatly prefer the history of that campaign cycle to be written, whether it's true or not.

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