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Can Patrick Kennedy Carry the Torch?

The death of Ted Kennedy has many lamenting the passing of Camelot. And many suggesting the next generation of Kennedys is not up to carrying the legacy forward.

But Jason Zengerle, a senior editor at the New Republic, suggests that Patrick Kennedy - if often awkward - could mature into the role. Indeed, his father Ted had an awkward beginning to his own career.

I’ve been thinking about Patrick Kennedy these last few days, not only for the obvious reason that his father Ted has just died, but also because, in reading some of the tributes to Senator Kennedy, I’ve been reminded of the similarities between father and son. As Timothy Noah noted, “Teddy was the runt of the Kennedy litter”- the one who was suspended from Harvard for cheating and served as a private first class in a Paris-based NATO honor guard, in stark contrast to the brainy Bobby and the PT-109 hero John. And, unlike his brothers, Teddy wasn’t a natural politician, either. In his piece reflecting on his four decades of covering Senator Kennedy, Joe Klein recalled:

I spent a fair amount of time with him in the 1970s, and most of the circumstances involved pain or awkwardness. I watched him work a supermarket in New Bedford when he ran for re-election in 1976. He accompanied a woman who was shopping for her family. It was total agony. He simply had no idea what to say or do. "So, uh, your family, ah, likes ... meat?" he asked. "Oh, yes, Senator," the woman replied, and that was that. No question about the high price of chuck. He stared at her, unable to figure out what came next. Contrary to received wisdom about him, contrary to the joyous Irish bull he later became, he seemed to have no political instincts at all in those days.


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more by David Scharfenberg
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