Tag Archives: Ted Kennedy

Do the expedient thing

I am genuinely puzzled by a statement from U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano’s Senate campaign, reported in the Boston Globe. Capuano’s campaign treasurer, Bruce Percelay, was asked to comment on the fundraising advantage state Attorney General Martha Coakley has built. The Globe’s Matt Viser writes:

“Our hats go off to our competitors who were able to raise that much money,” said Bruce A. Percelay, treasurer for the Capuano campaign. He added that Coakley’s campaign had “a significant jump on us” because she declared earlier, while Capuano “made a conscious decision not to begin any fund-raising until Joe Kennedy made his decision.”

“If it temporarily puts us a little behind the starting line, then it was a small price to pay for doing the right thing,” Percelay said.

Yes, we all know that Capuano waited until Kennedy decided not to run for his uncle’s seat. No news there. What puzzles me is that the Capuano campaign wants everyone to know that.

Does the congressman want us to think he really does believe the Kennedys have a hereditary right to the seat? Does he honestly expect us to think Coakley disrespected the sainted memory of Ted Kennedy by jumping into the race while various and sundry Kennedys were pondering whether to run?

The outpouring of public affection for Ted Kennedy was genuine. In general, though, I think voters would like to see the Kennedys take their place in line like everyone else. You may have noticed that public reaction to Gov. Deval Patrick’s appointment of Kennedy coatholder Paul Kirk as interim senator wasn’t exactly enthusiastic.

Regardless of Coakley’s merits as a potential senator, I think her decision to jump in and not wait for the Kennedys can only help. As for Capuano, I would like to hear him explain directly why he apparently believes that Joe Kennedy would make a better senator than he would.

Patrick should announce his interim choice

Not that Gov. Deval Patrick is looking to Media Nation for advice. But if there’s one way to break the impasse over an interim senator to replace the late Ted Kennedy until the Jan. 19 special election, it’s this: Patrick should announce his choice now.

It seems pretty clear that the state Legislature in 2004 did the right thing in taking away the governor’s right to name a successor and the wrong thing in not allowing for an interim. Once you get past the partisan squabbling over who’s the bigger hypocrite, the only real issue is whether Patrick might appoint someone who’d then have a leg up in the special election.

Kennedy, in his letter to Patrick, released shortly before his death, asked that the interim be someone who would promise not to run. Patrick has said that would be his goal. All that’s missing is a name. As I and others have said, former governor Michael Dukakis would be a fine choice, but I’m sure he’s not the only possibility.

With the health-care debate reaching a critical moment in Washington, Massachusetts deserves to have full representation.

Anyone want to bet against Martha Coakley?

Martha Coakley

Martha Coakley

State Attorney General Martha Coakley is in a commanding position to succeed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy now that former congressman Joe Kennedy has announced he won’t run.

I doubt many people are surprised by Kennedy’s decision. Last week, WBZ-TV (Channel 4) political analyst Jon Keller and Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh both gave Kennedy a taste of what he could expect from the sensible center had he chosen to jump in. Needless to say, conservative talk radio would have savaged him.

Who would want to bet against Coakley? Not me. While several congressmen ponder whether they should give it a try, Coakley is already off and running. She’s won statewide, and the times would suggest that voters may be looking for something a little different. As a woman and as someone who’s not part of the Capitol Hill gang, Coakley can position herself as an outsider.

As for the Republicans, so far the party has been unable find someone willing to be a human sacrifice. Former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, who at least would have been well-funded, has decided against running.

Call this a gut sense rather than a prediction, but barring a major unexpected development — like Victoria Reggie Kennedy getting in — this race may be over before it even begins.

Photo (cc) by weinbergagain and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Ted Kennedy and the Mormon temple (II)

Paging Kevin Bacon! There’s a heretofore unreported connection between the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and the Mormon temple in Belmont: communications consultant Scott Ferson, president and CEO of the Liberty Square Group.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Ferson was press secretary and Massachusetts issues director for Kennedy from 1990 to 1995. Later, as senior vice president of McDermott/O’Neill, he provided assistance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its efforts to build a massive temple in Belmont, a matter of some local controversy.

Ferson, in a comment he posted on Blue Mass. Group about an unrelated matter involving Republican gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos and Lieutenant Gov. Tim Murray, writes:

[T]he Mormon church was a client of mine, and … I joined Mitt Romney as he gave a tour of the Boston Temple in Belmont to my former boss, Ted Kennedy. Coincidence? Are there really any coincidences in this city?

It remains unclear precisely what Kennedy might have done to help local Mormons, who were finally allowed to build a spire with the Angel Moroni on top after winning a case before the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. But it is a fact that Kennedy was close to Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who claims Kennedy took credit for the Mormons’ success.

I should point out that Ferson is (was?) also involved in the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s efforts to build a gigantic gambling casino in Middleborough — efforts that, fortunately, have bogged down in scandal and controversy, through no fault of Ferson’s.

(Thanks to an alert Media Nation reader for passing this along.)

Ted Kennedy and the Mormon temple

Anthony Schinella has an interesting piece in the Belmont Citizen-Herald examining claims by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch and former Hatch aide Jared Whitley that the late Ted Kennedy was somehow responsible for ensuring that a sculpture of the Angel Moroni could be built on top of the Mormon temple in Belmont despite local opposition.

But as Schinella notes, it’s hard to see what Kennedy could have done, unless he somehow interceded with the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. It’s a worthy addition to the Kennedy mythology, but unproven as yet.

Michael Dukakis on Ted Kennedy

Dukakis_20090902The public-relations office at Northeastern just sent out a Q&A it conducted with Michael Dukakis on the life and legacy of Ted Kennedy. Dukakis, a Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Northeastern, is a former governor of Massachusetts and a former presidential candidate, and has been mentioned as a possible interim senator. It’s a pretty interesting interview, and I’m presenting it here in full.

Q: How would you sum up Ted Kennedy as a politician?

A: He was the whole package for me, a remarkable combination of personal commitment and passion for the job, and skills, legislative ability. He never would start a policy initiative without getting a Republican cosponsor.

You know, after Bill Clinton went down to defeat on his 1993 health care plan, he and Ted got together to see what could be done, and decided, OK we’ll start with the kids, so they came up with this children’s health plan. And Kennedy, as you might guess, was the principal cosponsor in the Senate.

[Republican Senate Majority Leader] Trent Lott knew that Kennedy was looking for a Republican cosponsor. Kennedy had this long-standing personal friendship with [Utah Republican] Orrin Hatch, and when Lott found out that Hatch had agreed to cosponsor the bill, he was just furious. But they put it through-raised the federal cigarette tax from 24 cents to 67 cents and put it through. That was Kennedy.

Q: Do you remember the first time you worked with him politically?

A: I’m sure we probably did some things together in the Sixties. But people ask me, “What are your favorite Kennedy stories?” and I’ve got two.

I was first elected governor in ’74, I was defeated by Ed King in ’78, so there was the great rematch in 1982, in the Democratic primary. King was the incumbent Democratic governor, albeit a conservative one; he later switched parties. Still, there was no reason for Teddy to come out 10 days before that election and endorse my candidacy, but he did.

Q: Did you ever ask him about it?

A: He just thought it was the right thing to do, very similar to when he endorsed Obama in 2008. He was close to the Clintons, and I know they were very hurt and disappointed, but he did it anyway. And I know his endorsement was just as crucial for Obama then as it was for me in 1982.

My other favorite memory came about when I signed the universal health care bill in 1988. I’ll never forget when Teddy called me, he was just so proud-of me, of Secretary of Health and Human Services Phil Johnston, of the state.  He was incredibly proud that his state was the first in the nation to enact universal health care.

Q: You served as governor for 12 years while Ted was in the Senate, so the two of you must have worked together a lot. Does anything in particular come to mind?

A: On public transportation, which I’m slightly obsessive about, he was absolutely terrific. This was in my first term, and at the time, you could not bust the highway trust fund, the gasoline tax, you could not use it for public transportation.

I was one of the leaders to fight the so-called Master Highway Plan, which would have … created a California-style freeway system, eight lanes of elevated highway going right through Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, down Ruggles Street and three feet from the Museum of Fine Arts.

And meanwhile, the “T” was just a basket case, it was awful, it would break down three days out of five when I took it to work.

So after a 10-year debate, we had killed the Master Highway Plan, and we had given up hundreds of million of dollars in federal highway money, but we thought, why can’t we use that for public transportation?

And Ted and [former House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr.] were largely responsible for making it possible for Massachusetts to become the first state in the nation to be able to use federal highway money for public transportation.

We ended up with $3 billion to invest in the “T.” We acquired the entire commuter rail system in eastern Massachusetts for $35 million, stations, parking lots, tracks, … and we could not have done it without Kennedy and Tip’s leadership.

Q: What will Ted Kennedy’s legacy be — what do you think he’ll stand out for above all?

A: In a general way, that he was somebody who knew where he stood, and he lived it, practiced it, did it. He had a very strong philosophy, which at times was not in vogue. And yet he never wavered at all. I think subsequent events demonstrated clearly that his values and his approach to public service made a lot more sense than some of the folks who were critical of him.

The one piece he wasn’t able to achieve was his goal of health care for everyone, and I hope we’re going to do that.

Q: You see people at [health care] rallies holding signs, saying “Do It 4 Teddy.” How do you think his passing will change the health care debate?

A: No question we’d be on our way to a health care bill if Ted Kennedy had been healthy, engaged, and involved. If, for example, there had to be some compromising on a pure public option, because it was Kennedy, the liberal community would accept it because his credentials there were so strong.
I’m not saying we can’t get a health care bill, but there is no one with the unique set of skills and the respect that he had.

My own view is that the Democrats will have 60 votes for cloture, assuming Massachusetts changes the law and gets someone down there to vote. So what the Democrats have to do-not that you don’t keep reaching out to Republicans-is to put together a bill that has solid Democratic support, and then you use the 60 votes to close out debate.

But there is going to be some very hard work to do among Senate Democrats. Kennedy certainly would have been the glue to hold them together and get this thing passed. Now, other people will have to step up to try to do it.

Unwarranted speculation

Speculation, the bane of political journalism, is even more out of place when it comes to covering religion. For instance: a piece by Jeff Israely about the late Ted Kennedy and the Catholic Church, posted on Time.com last Friday and revised as events proved Israely’s sources to be misguided.

Israely reported that, during the summer, President Obama delivered a letter from Kennedy to Pope Benedict XVI, the contents of which were secret, but which likely made the case for a papal blessing. Quoting conservative sources, Israely suggested that such a blessing was unlikely, given Kennedy’s pro-choice stand on abortion rights. Israely wrote:

One veteran official at the Vatican, of U.S. nationality, expressed the view of many conservatives about the Kennedy clan’s rapport with the Catholic Church: “Why would he even write a letter to the Pope? The Kennedys have always been defiantly in opposition to the Roman Catholic magisterium.”

As it turned out, the contents of Kennedy’s letter were revealed at a graveside service, as was the Vatican’s response. According to the Boston Globe:

The Vatican reply came two weeks [after Obama delivered Kennedy's letter]: “His Holiness prays that in the days ahead you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the will of God our merciful Father.”…

The Vatican response was strikingly pastoral in tone, expressing the pope’s “concern and his spiritual closeness’’ to Kennedy, and bestowing on the senator an apostolic blessing from the pope. That the Vatican responded at all is news — conservative bloggers have for days been claiming that the alleged lack of a response was evidence of the Vatican’s antipathy to Kennedy.

Israely also indulged in speculation as to whether Cardinal Seán O’Malley would decline to preside over Kennedy’s funeral because of the late senator’s pro-choice policies. O’Malley didn’t preside — but the prominent role he nevertheless played would seem to prove that bit of speculation wrong as well.

To be sure, Israely wasn’t predicting the future so much as he was reporting the speculation of conservative church officials as to what might happen. But he still managed to leave the mistaken impression that the church would use Kennedy’s death to send a stern message to pro-choice politicians.

(Thanks to Steve Burgard, director of the School of Journalism at Northeastern, for helping me think this item through.)