Stop and think about all the ways that President Obama has missed Ted Kennedy.
Imagine the large, consistent impact Kennedy might have had on Obama’s often-too-solitary presidency. Often, this sort of speculation seems like guesswork of limited meaning, but, not in this particular case.
Kennedy epitomizes the kind of political support that Obama has lacked in Washington.
Obama has lacked true, steady political allies. When the President has faced one storm after
another, often, it’s been striking how few political leaders or, strong, bold surrogates have
spoken up to defend him. I think Teddy would have stood with Obama through thick and thin.
It’s not hard to imagine Kennedy’s forceful reaction to some of the unfair, unsubstantiated,
“loaded” criticisms leveled at Obama by Tea Party members or “birthers” or former Vice
President Dick Cheney. Kennedy would have had more than one sharp retort to US Sen. Mitch
McConnell’s ludicrous, ill-intentioned pledge, a year ago, that the Republican leadership’s top priority was to prevent Obama from winning a second term.
Kennedy died in August, 2009, during Obama’s first year in office. But, what if Senator Kennedy had lived on a bit longer? He had already become a unique partner of Barack Obama’s from the moment he endorsed him during the 2008 presidential campaign.
If Kennedy had been around, how would the entire health care reform debate been different? It’s hard to say, but his voice and support would have been welcomed by Obama, who often appeared alone in a storm.
Kennedy would not have sat back and witnessed the negative, damaging distortion caused by the Tea Party-dominated, obstructionist Republican Party. He would have helped Obama and his colleagues hold Republicans accountable.
At the same time, Kennedy could have helped Obama to try to build support and mend fences with members of the US Congress, even with more partisan Republicans.
Kennedy was as effective as anyone at that and Obama has suffered from a failure to maintain a genuine connection to US representatives and senators.
Obama has needed a heavy dose of wisdom from more experienced national leaders. Kennedy could have offered insights that matched some of the difficult hurdles faced by this young President.
The President has needed to hear more candid views and constructive criticisms from those around him. Ted Kennedy could have shared his views directly with Obama, but done so with a tact and context unavailable to others.
Kennedy and Obama were joined, in a very special way, from early in Obama’s inspiring 2008 presidential campaign. It’s hard to forget the extraordinary, ringing endorsement that Teddy gave to Obama at that pivotal moment not long before Super Tuesday in the primary campaign. Kennedy gave one of his roaring, enthusiastic speeches that not only boosted Obama, but knocked down a few campaign barbs that had been thrown at Obama by then-opponent Hillary Clinton. Caroline Kennedy had just written a piece in the New York Times titled “A President Like My Father,” and, indeed, it seemed the Kennedys were “passing the torch” to Obama.
Kennedy’s health began to fail, of course, but he courageously pushed himself to give a short speech for Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Then, during Obama’s first year as President, Kennedy’s health declined further before he died in August, 2009.
President Obama gave memorable remarks at Kennedy’s memorial service about Kennedy’s unique contributions to the country.
What Obama didn’t know then is how much he’d miss Kennedy during his rocky first term as President.
I post opinions at least once a week here. Often I write about politics or media coverage of politics -- two subjects I have followed closely for more than 30 years.