The Kennedy-Obama Bond

Commentators explore the ties between the nation's first black president and the deceased liberal warrior.

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The political bond between Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama has been widely chronicled, from Kennedy's mentoring of Obama during his first days in the Senate, to his early endorsement of the presidential candidate, to his counsel, in recent days, on health care. But the language of columnists, and even news reporters, suggests a relationship that runs deeper. What was their bond?

  • Kennedy Paved the Way for Obama, say Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin at Politico. "Kennedy's endorsement may have won Obama the nomination." At CNN, Thomas Maier takes it even further. He says "America's greatest immigrant story" made it possible for Obama to be elected. "Many historians routinely ignore, or give only a passing nod, to the underlying forces of ethnicity and religion that so often influenced the Kennedy family's actions and outlook," he writes. 
  • Obama Is Heir to Camelot, Chris Matthews told NBC's Anne Curry on The Today Show. "Barack is now the last brother," he said. Rush Limbaugh was disturbed. "Do you know what would happen to me if I said of President Obama, 'He's the new brother?' he quipped. But an editorial in The New York Times today seemed to suggest that Kennedy had passed the torch to Obama as well. Kennedy's "mantra, forged in tragedy, and expressed most eloquently to the Democratic National Convention when he abandoned his presidential quest in 1980, was simple and ennobling: 'The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.' In his final speeches, he explicitly handed on this mantra to President Obama."
  • They Were Brothers of Another Kind, declared Jimi Izrael at The Root. "When he cosigned Barack Obama last year, Ted Kennedy helped assuage a lot of fears among white and black Americans: his "ups" signified to many that Obama could be trusted to uphold what was important to this country." Izrael says black Americans trusted the Kennedys because of their compassion. He said Senator Kennedy was "the kind of white man you sometimes find at black barbecues and barbershops, enjoying a drink, a plate or a laugh. The only white man at your wedding, the only white person your grandparents ever let in the house because he was at ease. He was at home."
  • Obama Should Be More Like Teddy, writes Reihan Salam at The Daily Beast. Salam says Kennedy, "may well have seen his dramatic and fulsome endorsement of Obama as his last chance to restore Camelot," but warns that Obama will have to use some of Kennedy's firebrand liberalism to win on health care reform. "It is insane for Obama to be intimidated by a Republican opposition that is still in disarray. He needs to be more aggressive, not less."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.