Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why Kennedy Really Supported Obama

Clinton's LBJ Comments Infuriated Ted Kennedy

Posted by Mary Ann Akers at The Washington Post at "The Sleuth "

There's more to Sen. Edward Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama than meets the eye. Apparently, part of the reason why the liberal lion from Massachusetts embraced Obama was because of a perceived slight at the Kennedy family's civil rights legacy by the other Democratic presidential primary frontrunner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Sources say Kennedy was privately furious at Clinton for her praise of President Lyndon Baines Johnson for getting the 1964 Civil Rights Act accomplished. Jealously guarding the legacy of the Kennedy family dynasty, Senator Kennedy felt Clinton's LBJ comments were an implicit slight of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, who first proposed the landmark civil rights initiative in a famous televised civil rights address in June 1963.

One anonymous source described Kennedy as having a "meltdown" in reaction to Clinton's comments. Another source close to the Kennedy family says Senator Kennedy was upset about two instances that occurred on a single day of campaigning in New Hampshire on Jan. 7, a day before the state's primary.

The first was at an event in Dover, N.H., at which Clinton supporter Francine Torge introduced the former first lady saying, "Some people compare one of the other candidates to John F. Kennedy. But he was assassinated. And Lyndon Baines Johnson was the one who actually" signed the civil rights bill into law.

The Kennedy insider says Senator Kennedy was deeply offended that Clinton remained silent and "sat passively by" rather than correcting the record on his slain brother's civil rights record.

Kennedy was also apparently upset that Clinton said on the same day: "Dr. [Martin Luther] King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Ac. It took a president to get it done."

Both comments that day, by Clinton and her supporter, were meant to make the point that Clinton would be better equipped to get things done as president than Obama, her chief Democratic rival. Sources say Clinton called Kennedy to apologize for the LBJ comments. But whatever she said clearly wasn't enough to assuage Kennedy, who endorsed Obama earlier this week.

Kennedy insiders say the Massachusetts senator has also been angry with former President Bill Clinton for his "Southern strategy" themed comments on the campaign trail. The senator didn't hide his disdain for the nasty tone of the campaign during his endorsement speech at American University on Monday.

Kennedy's spokeswoman, Melissa Wagoner, would neither confirm nor deny that the senator was angered by Senator Clinton's LBJ comments. She simply said: "Senator Kennedy knows that candidates can't always be responsible for the things their supporters say. He's proud of President Kennedy's role in the civil rights movement, and believes that it's time to unify and inspire Americans to believe we can achieve great things again."

The Clinton campaign hasn't responded yet to our evening-time request for comment on Clinton's telephone apology to Kennedy. On the day of the LBJ rhetoric, however, a Clinton campaign spokesman was quoted on the New York Times' politics blog distancing Clinton from the surrogate who made the inappropriate assassination comment.

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