Chappaquiddick Ted's Last Hurrah?

Ted for Vice!

Everyone's heard about Senator Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Mr. Barack Obama for President.  Mr. Kennedy follows his niece in endorsing Mr. Obama rather than Hillary despite last minute pleading by the Clintonistas.  This brings up an interesting question - why?

There's no real reason for Mr. Kennedy to pick sides in this particular fight.  His Senate seat is secure, he's reached what Dr. Peter called his "level of incompetence," in that there are no further heights to which he could plausibly aspire.  Or are there?  Is there something that he could want beyond what he already has?

Let's think for a moment.  Some Democrats are afraid that if they nominate a black person, the racist remnant in America will decide "anybody but Obama" and vote the Republicans back in.  Mr. Clinton appears to be playing this "race card" in attempting to minimize Mr. Obama's victory in South Carolina and in issuing not-so-subtle threats about Mr. Obama's electability.

In reminding us all of a very nasty period in American history, Mr. Clinton has made Democratic politics all about Bill again.  As the Economist put it:

The Democrats are in the midst of making an historic choice between nominating their first female presidential candidate or their first black presidential candidate. And who is everybody talking about? A certain 61-year-old white male with a habit of waffling on about the old days, falling asleep in public and turning puce when crossed...

By most reckonings the Republicans should be doomed. But the Clintons' tactics are alienating blacks and young people. The Clintons are in the process of doing the impossible: making the 2008 election a referendum on them, rather than on the Republicans.

It appears that a significant number of Americans resent Mr. Clinton's suggesting that they're too racist to vote for Mr. Obama and that the nomination should go to his wife instead.  The media report that Mr. Clinton and Mr. Kennedy have had some heated telephone conversations over Mr. Clinton's approach.

Mr. Kennedy may agree with Mr. Rove's notion that the Republicans would run best against Hillary because most of the Republican base detests her.  As a loyal Democrat, he could be trying to defuse the offense and anger caused by Mr. Clinton's playing the race card by supporting Mr. Obama.  Or is there something more subtle at work?

It's a well-known tradition that whoever who wins the nomination should "balance the ticket."  The Vice Presidential candidate is supposed to be someone who has strengths where the nominee is perceived as weak and who has appeal in a region where the nominee isn't as popular.

What are Mr. Obama's weaknesses?  His perceived youth and inexperience.  Mr Kennedy balances those in that he's one of the oldest Democrats still in office and he has all kinds of experience in many different areas.  He doesn't have the foreign policy gravitas of Joe Lieberman, but it's not clear that Mr. Lieberman is really a Democrat anyway.  And as Obama is a Midwesterner of sorts, and of course a black man, Ted Kennedy epitomizes that other great Democratic constituency, the liberal Northeast.

Maybe Mr. Kennedy hopes to get one more pass at the biggest brass ring in politics which he came within one guardrail of achieving four decades ago.  If he can't be the president, being one heartbeat away might be nearly as good.

How does Obama-Kennedy for President sound?

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments
My theory is that *hick* Ted *hick* Kennedy was too wasted to know what was really going on. I think his handlers, young interns who liked Obama, just sorted pointed the fat windbag in the right direction and shoved.
January 30, 2008 8:35 AM
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