Archive | June, 2008

RFK Jr. at Green Our Vaccines Rally in D.C.

17 Jun

Kennedy Speaks Out at Green Our Vaccines Rally in DC

RFK Jr. Green Our Vaccines rally, Washington, DC, June 4, 2008

(If you don’t mind us sayin’ so, Sir, you’re lookin’ mighty Presidential there…)


On June 4th, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. joined with Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and a crowd of several thousand at the “Green Our Vaccines” rally on the Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C. — and his words obviously made quite an impact.

Over the past week, our website has been flooded with new visitors who heard him speak at the rally and were deeply moved. Signatures on the “Kennedy for President” petition have also spiked dramatically. We notice that many of the latest signers adding words of encouragement and pleas for leadership are autism mothers, and we heartily welcome them.

Parents of autistic children are tired of being lied to. They’re tired of being ignored in Washington. They’re tired of being told by media decision-makers that their issue is not newsworthy and therefore does not merit any substantial coverage. They’re tired of hearing that their concerns about toxic vaccines are scientifically irrelevant. They’re tired of watching their kids suffer while politicians flap their lips.

Above all, they want to elect leaders who understand and actually care enough to do something about this issue. When the vaccines we give our kids to keep them well make them sick instead, something is terribly wrong. All these parents ask for is a real investigation. And some real action.

Who we put in the White House is going to have a lot to say about the direction of the autism/vaccines debate in years to come. The President will steer the legislative and public agenda on this issue. That’s why it is so critically important that we elect someone who is informed and willing to listen. Someone who will advocate for this cause and act in the best interests of children. Someone who isn’t in Big Pharma’s back pocket.

To the minds of many in the autism awareness movement, RFK Jr. is exactly that kind of leader. After hearing Bobby speak at the autism rally a week ago, the answer to their leadership question seems clear: they want to put him in the White House where he can help their families!

RFK Jr. in D.C. Green our Vaccines Rally 2008

RFK Jr. addresses the “Green Our Vaccines” rally in Washington, D.C., June 4, 2008.

If you missed Kennedy’s tremendous speech, you’re not alone – the mainstream media didn’t bother to cover it – (surprised, much?), but several video versions are quickly spreading across the web and RFK Jr.’s speech is certainly garnering a lot of rave reviews.

We highly recommend you check it out. Highlights from the rally are available on YouTube, and the Age of Autism website also posted Bobby’s complete speech in 3 parts.

YouTube Video link here:

“We have been inspired by Mr. Kennedy’s support of mothers’ positions on vaccines and his ground breaking article, Deadly Immunity,” Jenny McCarthy told press of Kennedy’s appearance. “His continued efforts are greatly appreciated.”

According to a Sun Herald report, Jim and Jenny have said that they “do support immunization, like many parents and experts in the medical community, although they and their many allies feel that children are receiving too many vaccines, too soon, many of which are toxic. Their goal is to demand a safer vaccine supply and schedule for children.”

RFK Jr. at Green Our Vaccines 2008. Photo by elizabeth cary

RFK Jr. delivers a passionate speech on the Capitol grounds.

Bobby must have brought that “Kennedy weather” with him. A heavy rain fell on D.C. last Wednesday morning, threatening to postpone the march. But just about the time Bobby arrived on scene, the sun came out and shone down on the rally for most of the afternoon. No sooner had the speeches ended, the sky opened up as if on cue — unleashing furious severe thunderstorms and dropping tornados. Ironically, several meetings between autism activists and their Congressmen had to be quickly and unceremoniously adjourned because tornado warnings evacuated the Capitol!

And to think…I used to believe all that talk about “Kennedy weather” was rubbish. Guess it might be true after all.

RFK Jr. at Green Our Vaccines Rally, Washington DC June 4, 2008

Kennedy greets the demonstrators, Green Our Vaccines rally, Washington. June 4, 2008.

(Photos by Elizabeth Cary and Lighthouse Studios, who have some wonderful photos from the rally on their website.)


Story copyright Used with permission.


Op-Ed: There’s Just No Excuse for This

9 Jun

Op-Ed: Whoops, They Did It Again


The mainstream media continues to fail us day after day (just ask Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who regularly reports stories establishment media won’t go near) – and here lately their reporting on the Kennedy family in particular has gone from bad to worse to positively abysmal.

If you’ve been reading this blog in recent weeks, you know we’ve been highly critical of the media’s hysterical coverage of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s illness, and the endless, pointless pontificating on Hillary Clinton’s recent comments about the RFK assassination.

We’ve also given `em hell (and rightfully so) when they failed to demonstrate a basic ability to spell and fact-check stories about the Kennedys prior to publication — and then for not printing corrections once the damage was done. 

We’re not complaining about trivial little errors here. We’re talking whoppers, the kind of stuff that makes you scratch your head and wonder what qualifications one needs to become a journalist, or a copy editor, these days.

We’re not talking about small newspapers or independent bloggers making mistakes – oh, no – we’re talking about the biggest names in media: The New York Times, CNN, NBC, CBS, Fox News…you name it, they’ve mucked it up.

Most recently, we tore ABC News a new one for printing perhaps the most absurd wonder blunder we’ve ever seen – a story which asserts that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is, quite incredibly, the son of John F. Kennedy. (See related story, “ABC News Can’t Keep Their Kennedys Straight.”)

And we’re not just bitching about isolated errors popping up every once in a while. What we’ve witnessed over the past month alone in the media sphere of nonstop Kennedy coverage is an epidemic of poor research and reporting, combined with sloppy editing and irresponsible choices at the top levels of these newsroom hierarchies.

To run stories chock full of inaccuracies — when it’s so damned easy to catch and fix these massive screw-ups before they wind up embarrassing you (and your illustrious news organization) in print — is a transgression these great bastions of American journalism should have to answer for. But so far, no one is holding them accountable.


Latest infuriating case in point: The Boston Globe’s May 11th review of Ted Sorensen’s new White House memoir, “Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History.” (The book itself is a marvelous read, by the way. If you don’t have it, get it!)

The book review was penned by Douglas Brinkley, distinguished author, history professor and ”presidential historian.” Not that he doesn’t have the academic cred to back up that fancy pants title – he does – which leaves him absolutely no excuse for the colossal faux pas he committed in his recent Globe article. (Brinkley is a former director of the Theodore Roosevelt Center for American Civilization and taught history at Tulane University before he was “relocated” to Texas by Hurricane Katrina. Now we have to contend with him.)

By far the most astonishing thing about this latest media mistake is that it appeared in the Boston Globe, for crying out loud, the Kennedy clan’s hometown newspaper.

To my mind, and to that of many Americans, no U.S. news publication should bear a greater responsibility than the Boston Globe for accurately reporting All Things Kennedy. Of course, we expect every news organization to do their homework, but the Globe has only to look in their vast archives of Kennedy coverage — or even out their own back door — to get the story straight.

This time, they didn’t even bother. Not only has the Globe damaged its’ credibility among readers in Boston and elsewhere (who do know better) with this foul-up, they have also done a disservice to history; to Theodore Sorensen, and to the memory of President Kennedy.

JFK and Theodore Sorensen in the late 1950s

John F. Kennedy (left) and Ted Sorensen in the late 1950s. Sorensen began working for Kennedy as a research assistant in 1953. (PAUL SCHUTZER)


Upon reading the lede of the Globe’s book review, a smoking, flaming bomb of a boo-boo flies right up and smacks you in the face. (Hey, if you’re going to goof, do it big. And always make sure to put it in the first paragraph.)

Here’s the intro as originally published. How many of you can spot what’s wrong with this version of events?

When Ted Sorensen first heard the news on Nov. 22, 1963, that President John F. Kennedy had been shot, he fell into a state of zombie-like mourning. Struggling to control his emotions, he rushed to the Fish Room – the lounge across from the Oval Office – to watch CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite grimly report on the tragedy. Earlier that morning Sorensen had chatted with JFK near the White House helipad just before the president left for Dallas. Now, watching TV in a sullen trance, Sorensen doubted whether he would ever laugh again. The assassination had hit the 35-year-old special counsel harder than even his father’s death. “The news kept showing clips of the president delivering a speech earlier that day at a breakfast in Texas,” Sorensen recalled, “the same speech I had gone over with him in the Oval Office on the morning of his departure.”

Anyone who has ever done more than a cursory study of President Kennedy’s last day on earth know that he was not at the White House on the morning of November 22, 1963.

The President of the United States had been in Texas since the previous day on a goodwill tour, working to reunite warring factions of the state Democratic party and raising funds for the `64 campaign. Kennedy awoke that morning in Suite 850 of the Hotel Texas to a steady rain and 5,000 hardy souls standing in the parking lot beneath his window — all of them hoping for a smile; a word; a wave from their president.

Kennedy did brave the weather to address the crowd that morning, uttering that now-famous line: “There are no faint hearts in Ft. Worth!”

Apparently, the Boston Globe editors never heard this story, despite the fact that it is told in every printed account of Kennedy’s Final 24.

Don’t the copy editors up in Beantown at least have a copy of William Manchester’s JFK Assassination primer, The Death of a President, sitting on a reference shelf somewhere? All they had to do was hit the index.

Or maybe they could just read Ted Sorensen’s book. You know, the one they are reviewing here. Had anyone bothered to actually read it, there is no implication whatsoever from Sorensen that he spoke to Kennedy in person on Friday morning. As he describes that awful day in Counselor:

“The news kept showing clips of the president delivering a speech earlier that day at a breakfast in Texas,” Sorensen recalled, “the same speech I had gone over with him in the Oval Office on the morning of his departure.”

The morning of Kennedy’s departure was Thursday, November 21st, the previous day. I’d say that’s a rather important date to Mr. Sorensen. He remembers well the last time he saw the president – his dear friend – alive.

Nope, one doesn’t forget memories like that. But the Boston Globe does.

President Kennedy speaks at the hotel Texas, Fort worth. Nov. 22, 1963

Have no doubt: photographic proof of the President’s whereabouts on the last morning of his life. JFK (with Vice President Lyndon Johnson and Texas Governor John Connally behind him) addresses the crowd at Fort Worth’s Hotel Texas, November 22, 1963.


While your head may still be reeling from a goof like that ever making it into print, hang on to your helmet because here comes another one.

Following right on the heels of the first flub, the second paragraph goes on to say:

With a writing style as smooth as ice cream, Sorensen’s “Kennedy” focused on such Cold War flashpoints as Cuba, Laos, Berlin, and Oxford, Miss. It recounted the famous “Ask Not” inaugural address that Sorensen had so brilliantly written.

Oh, brother…do we have to go through that again?

Sorensen did not write JFK’s inaugural address. His role would be best described as that of collaborator (actually, there were several cooks in Kennedy’s literary kitchen whose suggestions made the finished draft). The record on this has been clarified time and time again by none other than Sorensen himself.

For example, in his 1969 book The Kennedy Legacy (guess the Globe editors never read that one, either), Sorensen states that “the final shape of every text was always the President’s decision alone.”

Furthermore, we know that oftentimes throughout their decade-long collaboration, Kennedy would frequently carry a Sorensen speech to the podium only to ignore most of it, delivering instead his own extemporaneous oration. Sorensen was probably the greatest presidential speechwriter of the 20th Century, but his greatest skill lay in channeling Kennedy’s intellect. He himself has admitted this, writing that “in the vast majority of cases” Kennedy did not follow the speech he had prepared.

Sorensen has always loyally affirmed Kennedy’s authorship of the inaugural address. In Kennedy (Sorensen’s 1965 book noted above in the Globe’s review, which no one at the Boston Globe apparently bothered to speed-read), he insists that “the principal architect of the Inaugural Address was John Fitzgerald Kennedy.”

Could the man be any clearer than that? Then why does the mainstream media continue to get it wrong year after year, decade after decade?

JFK's handwritten notes for the 1961 inaugural address

Don’t Believe the Hype: one of JFK’s early drafts of the inaugural address, in his own practically illegible but nonetheless distinctive handwriting. Clearly a work in progress at this point, Kennedy is still toying with the language of “ask not what your country is going to do for you” instead of “can do for you.” (Larger images available for study at the National Archives’ website.)


If you might be tempted to think all this is much ado about nothing, think again. The issue of whether Kennedy composed his own inaugural address, or simply delivered Sorensen’s beautiful words, is not some arcane historical footnote. The speech is generally acknowledged to have been the greatest oration of any twentieth-century American politician. To deny the rightful author (JFK) full credit for it not only diminishes his legacy and weakens his claim on the hearts and minds of future generations, it also distances him, and us, from a speech that is a distillation of his experiences, philosophy, and character.

Erroneous assertions that Sorensen wrote JFK’s inaugural address have appeared frequently in the popular media through the years. In 1988, for example, Time magazine essayist Lance Morrow described Sorensen as “the author of so many of Kennedy’s speeches, including the inaugural.”

Even as late as 2002, PBS’s Great American Speeches series instructed U.S. schoolchildren everywhere that “John Kennedy’s inaugural address has been praised as one of the best public speeches ever…Kennedy, however, did not write the speech himself. Ted Sorensen did.”

None of these writers — including the illustrious Dr. Brinkley — offer any evidence that Sorensen wrote the Kennedy inaugural (but we offer clear and convincing evidence to the contrary; see image of Kennedy’s handwritten draft above). Instead, one detects the assumption that since speechwriters wrote the inaugural addresses of other presidents, one must have written Kennedy’s too, and that because Sorensen was the author of so many other Kennedy speeches, he must have been the author of this one as well.

But just because so many other media outlets made the same error before you is never an excuse to continue to perpetuate a falsehood, especially when there is clear documentary evidence to the contrary readily available. If a media outlet should do so knowingly, they might be well considered part of some elaborate conspiracy to undermine President Kennedy’s historical importance and intellectual abilities.

Now of course, we know the mainstream media has too much integrity to ever engage in such a thing, let alone an eminent historian like Douglas Brinkley, so therefore we must conclude that errors like these are not made out of any sense of spite or jealousy, but are rather the result of either laziness or ignorance.

That’s no comfort to me. How about you? What does it say about us as a society if our “best and brightest” historians and news editors are so ignorant of basic facts regarding any American president? And what kind of future historians, journalists and editors will we be sending into the workforce of the Fourth Estate in years to come? Isn’t that a scary thought?

Here’s an even scarier one: Douglas Brinkley is not only an esteemed “presidential historian,” he also is a Professor of History at Rice University in Houston. He’s a Senior Fellow at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and was asked by former U.S. Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher to be part of a commission studying Presidential War Powers. Obviously, Professor Brinkley has friends in very high places, and is often called upon to “interpret” history for them.

And if that doesn’t sufficiently frighten you, he’s also the staff historian at CBS News.

Douglas Brinkley charicature from slate


Now let’s throw another log of irony on this already-searing fire: Brinkley was once a friend of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s and a contributing editor at Kennedy’s George magazine. But in the days immediately following JFK Jr.’s 1999 fatal plane crash, Brinkley quickly became “the William Ginsberg of the Kennedy Death Circus” (so said Slate’s David Plotz), appearing on MSNBC, Late Edition, Meet the Press, Good Morning America, Dateline, Today (twice), and NPR (twice). He also penned columns about his relationship with Kennedy for Newsweek and the New York Times, and was quoted everywhere else ink touches paper.

According to the Washington Post, Brinkley cut a $10,000 deal with NBC for a week of exclusive Kennedy commentary after JFK Jr.’s death, but then agreed to provide it pro bono. Editors at George were reportedly so annoyed about Brinkley’s death punditry that they dropped him from the masthead.

But Brinkley somehow managed to work his way back into the family’s good graces after that, and over the next near-decade became known as some sort of Kennedy authority; the talking head to call for analysis whenever something happened in the Kennedy kingdom.

He even won the prestigious 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for “The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” a work which was highly praised by his fellow presidential historian and Kennedy aide Arthur Schlesinger before his death. 

Brinkley has been touted as one hip history professor, an historian for a new generation of Americans. He believes Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson are the giants of American literature. He quotes Ramones lyrics. He’s an idealist and a Democrat who by all accounts loves the Kennedys. So how could he make such glaring, easily avoidable mistakes in this Globe piece? What kind of reputable historian and “authority on the Kennedys” could let those elephants silp quietly by?

And why on earth didn’t the Boston Globe editors catch them before the story was allowed to be printed?

I’ll leave that question to our readers. I’m quite certain you will have a few thoughts to add on the swift deterioration of our intellectual and journalistic standards in America, of which this is just another shining example.

For those who actually do care about what our children and grandchildren will be taught as “history,” it’s enough to make you want to home school. And for those in the news profession who still care about accuracy, credibility and earning the people’s trust, it’s enough to make you want to go out and start your own media empire, dammit.

With the explosion of independent media and the blogosphere, these new contemporary documentarians often do a better job of reporting the news than their overpaid brethren over at World News Headquarters in New York, Washington D.C. or even Boston.

Perhaps fortunately for Brinkley, the Boston Globe did not open his book review to public comments, or they likely would have been besieged by a rein of rotten virtual tomatoes over the past two weeks. But you can still write a Letter to the Editor through their website if you’d like to let them know of your displeasure.  We heartily encourage you to do so.


If you’re looking for unfiltered coverage of news and events the mainstream media won’t touch (or perhaps because they screw up everything they touch) – such as important testimony before Congress, how your elected reps are voting, or the libertarian party convention, C-SPAN is the only place you’re going to get it. 

And if the mainstream media’s butchering of the Kennedy legacy is starting to get tiresome; if you’re weary of all the nonstop, fawning punditry we’ve had to tolerate lately in the wake of Sen. Kennedy’s cancer diagnosis, Clinton’s “Assassingate,” and the 40th anniversary of RFK’s murder, you might want to keep an eye on C-SPAN over the next couple weeks. They will be broadcasting several programs to remember RFK’s legacy in a low-key, respectful manner.

The first of which we caught live last week; a special symposium and panel discussion on the 1968 campaign of Robert F. Kennedy. Hosted at Washington D.C.’s Newseum, the program featured many of Kennedy’s closest surviving friends sharing their memories of him and was deeply moving to watch.

“To Seek a Newer World: A Symposium on the Life and Legacy of Robert F. Kennedy” was sponsored by the Freedom Forum, Vanderbilt University and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. Kennedy’s widow Ethel and daughter Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend also attended the panel discussion, and were on hand to present the annual Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards later that evening.

Former Kennedy associates John Doar, Peter Edelman, Frank Mankiewicz, John Nolan, John Seigenthaler, James E. Tolan, William Vanden Heuvel, and Charles McDew spoke at length about RFK’s 1968 campaign and the transformative effect his all-too-brief bid for the presidency had on America.

C-SPAN will most likely rebroadcast this program in the days ahead, so keep an eye out for that. You can also watch the video online for free once it has been added to the C-SPAN Archives website.

And just thank your lucky stars (or your cable/satellite provider) for C-SPAN. In the barren desert wasteland of cable news these days, C-SPAN is an oasis, the only network we have left which still serves the public interest, not corporate interests.


* Copyright The opinions expressed in this editorial are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the Kennedy family, or the owners of this website.

Midnight in Dealey Plaza

5 Jun

Midnight in the Plaza of Good and Evil

Dealey Plaza by night,  Dallas


Ever stood on the Grassy Knoll at midnight? Only the truly brave dare. But there’s no reason to fear (despite all you hear about Elm Street, it’s perfectly safe to walk, even at that late hour). Actually, you might find it a perfect moment to visit the Scene of the Crime and do a bit of quiet reflecting.

At midnight, Dealey Plaza is silent, almost strangely serene but for the occasional car whizzing by en route to Stemmons Freeway. The old School Book Depository (now the 6th Floor Museum, as it’s called) building sits dark. The tourists, museum visitors, downtown businessmen and County office workers who keep this public park a bustling beehive of activity won’t be along for a few more hours yet. No street vendors or conspiracy buffs to disturb your thoughts, sell you something, or try to engage you in a debate about Who Shot John.

No – at midnight in Dealey Plaza, it’s just you, the night, the place, the memories, and God.

In the stillness, you can’t help but wonder why someone picked such a beautiful spot to do such an ugly thing. How could anyone want to destroy a nation’s highest hopes and dreams in a lush and lovely green tree-lined square, surrounded by Art Deco edifices, statues and a historic marker which informs all who come here that on this very spot, the city of Dallas was founded. This bluff selected because of its’ exquisite natural beauty.

And you wonder why more people don’t seem to care. The average Dallas citizen drives though this plaza several times a week, if not every day. They’ve passed over the “X” marking the spot where JFK lost his life so many times in their normal daily commute, most of them honestly don’t even realize or notice anymore. They just walk or drive on by; going about their lives with nary a thought as to how many tears have watered the ground beneath their feet.

Looking around, you’d never know this place is one of the most historic killing zones in American history. The locals enjoy concerts and events here; families gather on Sunday afternoons; downtown dwellers walk their dogs around, and occasionally you’ll even see some young office boy trying to impress an attractive coworker with a picnic lunch. (Strange place for a date, one can’t help but think…)

Enjoying a day in the park, Dealey Plaza


I just returned from a weekend in Dallas, and can only write of this experience because I had it myself. As it turned out, the hotel my employer had arranged was located two blocks from Dealey Plaza and to make matters even a bit stranger still, my window overlooked the Plaza with a Bird’s Eye View of History.  That in itself was enough to give me the creeps.

They say you should always do the things you are afraid of, and then you won’t be afraid anymore. Although I’ve visited Dealey Plaza many times through the years during daytime hours, I always wondered if I had the guts to try it at midnight. All by myself. Alone. Somehow, I summoned the courage and am glad I did. The moments of insight I experienced there at such a quiet hour could never be equalled during the hustle-bustle of day. 

Not that it wasn’t a little strange, mind you. Imagine strolling through a Civil War battlefield or walking around Pearl Harbor late at night. Imagine sitting in Lincoln’s box at the Ford Theatre after hours. An experience not for the faint of heart, or for anyone who is afeard of ghosts.

On this warm, breezy, moonless early June night, my thoughts turned to President Kennedy’s life, even while I sat here in the place where he died. In those quiet moments of reflection I thought that this November will mark 45 years since that awful day in Dallas, and what have we done since then?

This is not the world JFK envisioned for future generations. In those solitary moments of meditation, I felt the urgency of Robert Kennedy’s efforts; how hard he worked to bring about more enlightened world, and recalled that he too was prevented from that goal by an assassin’s bullet exactly 40 years ago this weekend.

On the 40th anniversary of his father’s murder and being in the place where President Kennedy was assassinated nearly a half-century ago only stressed to me the central point of why this generation must continue their work.

Because people are starting to forget…what the Kennedys lived, fought and died for…and we can’t let that happen.

Some say that the Kennedys are already forgotten relics of an earlier age; that they hold no real power in American politics anymore – and perhaps in some circles that’s true. But just ask those college kids (and younger) at a  Barack Obama rally why they’re “fired up” and “ready to go!” – they’ll tell `ya “because Barack is the black JFK!” – and you begin to hope anew again.


Obama Taps Caroline Kennedy To Lead VP Search

4 Jun

Sen. Barack Obama and Caroline kennedy, April 21, 2008

The presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee: now that it’s all but official, Senator Barack Obama is getting down to the business of selecting a running mate. Today he announced that Caroline Kennedy will be part of a three-member team who will help him choose a VP.


WASHINGTON (AP) – Barack Obama turned in earnest to the general election and the hunt for a running mate Wednesday, embraced by Democratic leaders who signaled forcefully and sometimes impatiently to Hillary Rodham Clinton that her marathon duel with Obama was over. Clinton kept her silence in public, while supporters made a case for her as Obama’s No. 2.

Obama himself moved to link himself more closely with a young Democratic hero of a half-century ago, picking President Kennedy’s daughter Caroline to help him choose a vice president.

While Clinton still wasn’t conceding, even after Tuesday’s primaries and a flood of “superdelegate” endorsements of Obama sealed the nomination, there were signs aplenty that she was closing shop. She began bidding campaign staff members farewell, and a number were told not to come to work after Friday. Last paychecks were expected to go out June 15.

The primary rivals ran into each other backstage at a hall where both spoke to Jewish leaders, but Obama said there was no mention of how or when she would formally end her long campaign to become the nation’s first female president.

Obama showed no impatience, merely smiling and accepting congratulations from colleagues in both parties as he returned to the Capitol for a Senate vote. But other Democrats urged her to get out of the way.

“I don’t see why we don’t get on with it and endorse” Obama, said Rep. Charles Rangel, a congressman from Clinton’s home state of New York. He said it was only a matter of time before he and other Clinton supporters formally back Obama.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, an Obama supporter, said Clinton’s non-concession “creates a pretty delicate situation here, an awkward situation.”

“I don’t want to push her. Nobody is going to push her,” Durbin said on MSNBC. “But the sooner she does, I think the more likely we’re going to be organized and ready to win in November.”

Obama began focusing on who will join his ticket in the fall. His campaign said the vetting of potential running mates was to be managed by a three-person team of Caroline Kennedy, former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder and longtime Washington insider Jim Johnson.

Clinton has told lawmakers privately that she would be interested in the vice presidential nomination. Obama was noncommittal after his chat with her behind the scenes at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“We’re going to be having a conversation in coming weeks, and I’m very confident how unified the Democratic Party’s going to be to win in November,” he told reporters after a vote in the Senate where he received congratulations from all sides.

RFK Jr. campaigns for Hillary in NJ

RFK Jr. on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton earlier this year in NJ.

(Well, if an Obama/Clinton ticket ain’t gonna happen: Pssst…Caroline! if it wouldn’t be too classic a case of Kennedy nepotism, we’d like to nominate your cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for the VP selection committee’s consideration.)


Update: As of late this afternoon, CNN is reporting that Senator Hillary Clinton will officially end her campaign Friday.

Meanwhile, the dam holding back endorsements broke from coast to coast on the day after the primary elections concluded.

Seven senators who had stayed out of the matter said they were giving Obama their commitment and would work toward uniting Democrats for the election, now exactly five months away.

In Nashville, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen was joined by two other superdelegates to say they hoped to bring the party behind Obama even though Clinton won their state. Former Vice President Walter Mondale, who had been a Clinton supporter, announced he was backing Obama.

It hardly mattered in terms of delegate math – after months of struggle, Obama had more than enough to prevail at the party convention in Denver in August. But Obama’s new backers were also sending a message to Clinton that her race was over.

Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, was lobbying members of the Congressional Black Caucus to urge Obama to place Clinton on the ticket. He said he was doing so with her blessing.

Rangel, a founding member of the caucus, expressed doubts that Johnson’s approach would work. “I don’t really think that the way to get Obama to (choose) Clinton would be to put pressure on him. I think it would have the opposite effect,” Rangel said.

The Obama camp’s disclosure about the three-person veep vetting team was an effort to change the subject from the long, divisive primary campaign toward the general election.

Kennedy’s name came as a surprise, although she endorsed Obama at a critical time last winter, saying he could be an inspirational leader like her father. She also campaigned for Obama.

Holder is a former federal prosecutor and District of Columbia Superior Court judge who held the No. 2 job at the Justice Department under President Clinton.

Johnson is widely known among Democrats for having helped previous candidates, including John Kerry four years ago, sift through vice presidential possibilities. He is a former chief executive officer for the mortgage lender Fannie Mae.

Clinton visited her campaign headquarters in suburban Arlington, Va., where she thanked staff members for their work. Aides said she was also phoning superdelegates and supporters, and planned to host an 89th birthday celebration at her Washington home for her mother, Dorothy Rodham.

Several high-dollar fundraisers who had spoken to the former first lady described her as upbeat and realistic about what she faced.

“She’s very resolved, but open minded about whatever’s coming. She’s going forward with an optimistic eye,” said Susie Tompkins Buell, a San Francisco-based fundraiser who flew from New York to Washington early Wednesday morning.

Some lawmakers showed deference to Clinton, an indication of the political and fundraising power that she and her husband still wield.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, an uncommitted superdelegate, said he will be supporting Obama but declined to make a formal endorsement. “I expect Mrs. Clinton to say some things over the next couple of days and I think that’s appropriate for her to do. And I expect her to say that, at which time I may make a more formal” announcement, Hoyer said.

Associated Press writers Devlin Barrett, Laurie Kellman, Beth Fouhy and Jesse Holland contributed to this report.
06/04/08 18:05 © Copyright The Associated Press.

Ted Kennedy Undergoes Brain Surgery

3 Jun

Sen. Edward Kennedy


DURHAM, North Carolina (AFP) — US Senator Edward Kennedy underwent “successful” brain cancer surgery Monday, his doctor said, as the political icon vowed a return to work and to campaigning for presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

“I am pleased to report that Senator Kennedy’s surgery was successful and accomplished our goals,” Duke University Medical Center doctor Allan Freidman said in a statement.

“Senator Kennedy was awake during the resection, and should therefore experience no permanent neurological effects from the surgery,” said Freidman, one of the country’s top brain surgeons.

The delicate three-and-a-half hour surgery, Freidman said, was “the first step” in the Democratic party giant’s treatment plan. After a brief recuperation Kennedy is due to begin targeted radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston followed by chemotherapy treatment.

Kennedy, 76, is the last surviving brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

He reportedly told his wife, Victoria, afterward: “I feel like a million bucks. I think I’ll do that again tomorrow,” said the senator’s office, cited by US media.

The liberal lion of the Senate said he was eyeing an eventual return to Capitol Hill and to campaigning for Obama, whom he endorsed earlier this year.

“After completing treatment, I look forward to returning to the United States Senate and to doing everything I can to help elect Barack Obama as our next president,” the senator said.

Kennedy was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on May 17 after suffering a seizure at his family’s compound in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod.

Following results from a biopsy, doctors diagnosed Kennedy with a malignant glioma in the left parietal lobe, an area of the brain which controls speech, among other functions.

Doctors have not publicly offered a prognosis for Kennedy. But the US National Cancer Institute has said the outlook for such a diagnosis is poor, with average life expectancy depending on the stage of the tumor, from a few months to up to five years.

Gliomas often begin with genetic changes in the brain’s glial cells — cells which support neurological activity — although the source of such changes remains a mystery, according to experts.

A key challenge for doctors is removing such tumors without harming healthy brain tissue.

About 13,000 Americans die annually from malignant tumors in the brain or spinal cord, comprising 2.2 percent of all cancer-linked deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Survival has improved over the past decade due in part to new drugs.

The tumors kills 50 percent of patients during the first year after diagnosis and few live beyond three years. Without treatment the tumor grows back between two to three months after being surgically removed.

The brain tumor diagnosis sent shockwaves through the US Congress, where Kennedy has been a dominant figure for nearly half a century.

He is a champion of causes such as health care, education, workers rights and immigration reform.

While he has been a fierce critic of President George W. Bush, he has also reached out to work with Republicans.

Kennedy, whose eighth term in the Senate expires in 2012, once seemed destined for the White House.

But his career was rocked by the death of a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, in his car late one night in 1969 after he drove off a bridge near Chappaquiddick island.

He did run for president in 1980 against incumbent Jimmy Carter. Kennedy lost the Democratic nomination but politically damaged Carter, who lost the general election to Republican Ronald Reagan.

Kennedy’s latest health crisis came six months after he had surgery to clear a blockage in a major neck artery, a common procedure to prevent a stroke.

His brother, late president John F. Kennedy Jr. was shot and killed in 1963, and brother Robert Kennedy was shot dead while campaigning for the presidency in 1968.

Ted is the youngest of nine children in the famed Kennedy clan. His eldest brother Joseph died in a plane crash during World War II.

Kennedys Still Shape Our History

2 Jun

The Kennedy Brothers


 The last brother is gravely ill, prompting an outpouring of acclaim, even from precincts that seldom have praised him. The Democratic Party is in a swivet over remarks Hillary Rodham Clinton made about the second brother, whose June triumph in the tumultuous year 1968 was undone by his June assassination. A sad spring anniversary — 40 years ago this week — approaches, dreaded by many of the victim’s aging acolytes, their idealism undiminished, their hero’s promise never realized. Who says the Kennedys are in eclipse?

For years the Bushes have been the American dynasty in the ascendancy. They’ve served three terms as president (about 5 percent of the time the United States has existed), been elected governor four times (of two of the four biggest states, comprising almost one-seventh of the nation’s population), served in the House, the Senate and the vice presidency, and at the United Nations, the Central Intelligence Agency and in an important diplomatic post in China.

The Bushes may be the family that defines the nation in its third century. Today the Kennedys have almost no political power — but they still retain immense power over all of us. Right now we are again in one of those Kennedy moments.

It began when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor. The Massachusetts Democrat is often called the “lion of the Senate,” and his roar has given voice to those without health insurance, without economic prospects, without education or training. He is a liberal — the liberals’ liberal, you might say — but often his hand extended across the aisle, meeting Sen. Orrin Hatch‘s to craft legislation on children’s health insurance and hate crimes, meeting George W. Bush‘s to shape education law.

In the days since Mr. Kennedy’s diagnosis, Republicans and Democrats alike have said that they cannot imagine the Senate without him. That is in part because Mr. Kennedy is the third longest-serving senator in history, after Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. (He has been in the Senate a third longer than the entire life expectancy of a person born the year the Constitution was written.)

The Kennedys have been a prominent part of American history since the senator’s father was appointed the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a span that covers about a third of the nation’s history — and that does not account for the political lineage on Mr. Kennedy’s mother’s side, which includes John F. Fitzgerald, who more than a century ago became the first American-born Irish-Catholic mayor of Boston.

All three Kennedy brothers — the fourth brother, the oldest, Joe Jr., perished in World War II — served in the Senate and ran for president. Ted’s older brothers inspired two generations of Americans with their intelligence, wit and eloquence. But Ted, perhaps the least quotable but surely the most approachable of the three, is still, at 76, building a formidable legacy. His brothers’ words are in large letters on the sides of buildings and in the hearts and memory of a nation. But the youngest brother is the fine-print Kennedy. His words are in the fine print of the nation’s laws.

Few who met the new senator in 1962 (or who watched him in the frantic days after Chappaquiddick) thought he’d become a heavyweight legislator. Nine presidents later, Mr. Kennedy is arguably one of the leading dozen senators of American history. His colleagues include Webster, Calhoun and Clay.

Dynastic politics are difficult politics, which is why anything involving the Kennedys and such powerful families as the Bushes or Clintons is fraught with difficulty. Sen. Clinton’s remarks about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy likely were made in the spirit of saying that presidential nomination fights, like operas, aren’t over until the fat lady sings. But with her opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, provided with early Secret Service protection and with Ted Kennedy facing a serious health challenge, she found herself apologizing for what seemed like a crass reference to Friday’s anniversary of the death of Robert Kennedy.

It was 40 years ago, and somehow that day still seems raw, with the flush of victory erased by the tragedy of an assassin’s bullet. That was one of those moments when history stood still, and, having paused, changed direction. We do not know whether Kennedy would have been elected president, but it is unlikely that Hubert H. Humphrey would have won the Democratic nomination, and it is unlikely that there would have been blood on the streets in Chicago during that tension-filled convention had Kennedy not died after the California primary.

This year’s twin anniversaries of the deaths of Kennedy and of Martin Luther King Jr. fill us with a sense of loss even today — more than that, a sense of unrealized opportunity. What died with both of them was a very powerful sense of possibility. It was sickening and horrible then. Somehow it seems even more sickening and horrible today.

That is because we don’t know what these men might have done. We know only what was done by those who were left behind. (In fairness, we also do not know what errors they would have made, what enduring problems they would have created. But the mind does not work that way. It freezes the dead in their posture of possibility.) So in a few days we will remember, yet again, what happened in 1968 and how much that year shaped America. It created, to start, anger and apprehension, but it created much more than that.

No one living in that year would have guessed the ferociousness of the backlash it created, nor the sheer energy and creativity of the conservatism that it spawned. We are marked equally by them both.

That is the irony of this Kennedy moment. It reminds us, to be sure, of what we have lost. But it also reminds us of how different are our politics and our lives, not just because of what was done to Robert Kennedy, but also because of what Ted Kennedy has done.


David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Shribman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 1995 for his coverage of Washington and the American political scene.