DC Miscelleneous: The Kennedy Clan, SOTU, Cuba, Hagel, and More


kennedy obama.jpg
I went off of my computer for just a day and a half while up in Montreal — and tons of stuff breaks, including Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama. This is quite significant but for reasons that may not seem as obvious as the press is promoting.
First of all, Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama was inspirational to many clearly — but it did not move me. I wrote the other day that I thought that the qualities she was celebrating in her iconic and impressive father left some significant pieces of his global perspective out of the picture. But her endorsement is hers to give, and I respect that. Of all the comments that impressed me after my post — James K. Galbraith‘s caught my eye the most and made me think.
Galbraith, of course, is the son of famed Kennedy adviser and teacher, John Kenneth Galbraith. Jamie Galbraith, as friends call him, is one of the nation’s sharpest economic minds, a progressive, and an adviser to John Edwards. He suggests that Kennedy, had he lived, might have taken steps to end the Vietnam conflict and to take America’s direction in global affairs an alternative route. Arthur Schlesinger has suggested the same in his writings — but while I acknowledge the possibility, much more of Kennedy’s actual written commentary and his policy decisions seem to be consistent with him being a Cold War hawk. He was not as far over as Nixon or a John Foster Dulles — but he was a hard-edged warrior when it came to the perceived battle going on globally between communism and democracy.
But back to the Kennedy clan.
Ted Kennedy has the largest machine in the Democratic Party. When I used to work in the Senate, I marveled at the Kennedy franchise — at the number of people who had started with Kennedy, who then went on to different positions in government and the private sector, and then came back for his annual “friends only” Holiday Party at which he and his wife always showed up in some extremely cool but outrageous attire (I was there for Beauty and the Kennedy Beast). There were thousands upon thousands at this close friends’ party.
The Clintons have a franchise of course. So does Joe Biden and Daschle and John Breaux. But the Kennedy empire is enormous — and when Tom DeLay tried to stop the hiring of Democrats by K Street, it was Ted Kennedy’s machine and his acolytes that he was really trying to hurt.
So this endorsement by Kennedy does have magnitude — and bolsters Obama’s position. The Clinton machine remains formidable and nationally deployed — and may still have an edge. But there is no doubt that Kennedy’s endorsement is not about Massachusetts nor about an aging white liberal — it is about the thousands and thousands of followers who owe their careers to Ted Kennedy.
This is also about machine politics — and Kennedy wants his machine to continue to thrive and to have major impact on the course of American policy and politics (and also wants his people to get jobs).
The Clinton franchise could never really be true to the Kennedy machine — Bill and Hillary have their own many thousands of followers beholden to them.
Obama is fresh enough and new enough that he doesn’t have such a machine; now Kennedy has gifted Obama an enormous vehicle which Kennedy hopes Obama will take as his own and keep intact.
On the State of the Union, I’ll be watching. I’ve already been directed to one piece of pandering that I’m not thrilled with regarding the mother of a prisoner in Cuba. This is meant to remind the more fanatical Cuban-Americans in Miami who their patron in Washington is.
The reference (with all due respect to Mrs. Gonzalez referenced below who in my view is being exploited by Bush and other politicians) is to one of President Bush’s guests tonight at the State of the Union. This from the White House press release:

— Blanca Gonzalez, who lives in Miami, Fla. She is the mother of Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, a Cuban political prisoner arrested in He has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for reporting on the conditions of Cuba’s state-run services and for criticizing the government’s management

These kinds of emotional push-buttons are designed to keep the entire United States of America from doing what is in its national interests, and its a disturbing trend in politics — complete pandering.
In other news, Lou Ann Linehan — the very capable Chief of Staff to Senator Chuck Hagel and former high-powered liaison between the State Department and Congress — is stepping down from her position to survey the political landscape. I happen to know that Hagel supports her and wanted her to stay. But Mike Buttry, Communications Director for Hagel, will now become Chief of Staff — and Rexon Ryu, formerly one of many on a long roster of victims of John Bolton’s harassment at the State Department Intelligence & Research Division, is the new Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Foreign Policy Adviser.
The last thing I’ll add is that DC has yet another political rag to work through — and this one looks interesting. It’s called The Washington Independent.
I know nothing about it yet — other than it is allegedly progressive and already features the work of Holly Yeager, a great writer who previously worked with the Financial Times and whose husband is the well known political oracle Mark Schmitt.


14 comments on “DC Miscelleneous: The Kennedy Clan, SOTU, Cuba, Hagel, and More

  1. rollingmyeyes says:

    “People who do not make enough to pay taxes but had at least $3,000 in earned income would get $300. Those earning less than that would be disqualified, as would the wealthiest. Older people living solely off Social Security checks would not get the rebate.”
    This is the absolutely most vile thing I have heard of recently. Anyone who knows of such sad people who must live only on Social Security should join in the streets with pitch forks! The people who do this should be driven from this country.


  2. Paul Karpfen says:

    Wouldn’t Abraham Lincoln count as a “rational skeptic” too …. ?


  3. Paul Karpfen says:

    The James K Galbraith comment made me think also as in the landscape of political blogs yours (Steve Clemens) sits with me the most acceptably … and I would consider the “rational skeptic” label would apply to me also (though not necessarily the one of “policy wonk”).
    I think the fact that Kennedy’s Whitehouse was referred to as “Camelot” — gives a sense to the hope and mythic qualities referred to that would make believers of anyone.
    But I also had the thought that Abraham Lincoln seemed to fit the mold of a “rational skeptic” – and HE understood politics (though psychology hadn’t been invented yet…).
    As for Obama? I guess I’m a fence-sitter. I just think during the next presidency could be the rockiest time in the world since some time, and … who best to navigate it?


  4. Sandy says:



  5. MLS says:

    Why the constant obsession with Chuck Hagel? Nobody except for you cares about his staff turnover, especially when he is a lame duck Senator with eleven months left in office. Seriously, can you stop kissing up to Hagel? He talks the talk on Iraq, but votes with the President on every Iraq vote, with a few rare exceptions.


  6. Paul Norheim says:

    Why do any sane person actually want to become the president of America just after George W.?
    The eight years with Bush/Cheney rule has represented a huge distraction from both urgent tasks, and long term adjustments to a geopolitical landscape that is undergoing enormous transformations. The slogan of the democratic candidates is “Change”. I am afraid all of that will boil down to one thing: trying to deal with the unintended consequenses of the former administration`s political and military adventure in the Middle East and Central Asia.
    Cleaning up. Trying to stop the fire from spreading. If there is any time left after dealing with the day to day challenges in those regions, they will have to spend it trying to deal with the crisis in the housing marked, the crisis in the financial system, the recession, debt…
    This means that the US will not only suffer the eight years of distraction represented by Bush, but that this period of mistakes and abuses will be extended by the years it will take to clean up the mess he left after his years in office.
    2001-2016: THE BIG DISTRACTION?
    Of course this is a very optimistic estimate. It could take 20, 30 or 50 years.
    In the meanwhile, America will continue to suffer an identity crisis concerning its post imperial role in the world. A lot of brilliant thoughts will be produced by bright brains from the best universities concerning this crisis, suggesting possible directions etc. But no one in the Obama or Clinton White House will have time to read the stuff, or reflect seriously upon any long term issue or consequense of actions. Instead they will be stuck, month after month, year after year, in a confusing and chaotic landscape, occupied with a kurdish revolt here and a turkish respons there, some dramatic events in Libanon, Pakistan or Yemen, or some domestic consequenses of Mr. Greenspan not taking the alarm signals serious during his time at the Fed.
    Unless, of course, some huge catastrophe will occur somewhere else, as they have a nasty habit to do when nobody expect it.


  7. Mr.Murder says:

    Out with old, in with the Daley-Kennedy machine.


  8. Linda says:

    One of the main reasons for Kennedy endorsement is that Kennedy was among the very few Senators who voted against giving Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq—same position Obama had.


  9. NewAge vs. SewAge says:

    Obama is pure goodness, a wonder to behold. Who would have thought that we would once again see such a leader in our beloved country. It is always the darkest before the dawn, and the sun will be full up come election night eve next November. The cleansing has begun in our hearts but come inauguration day a Great Work will begin, and it will be hard work as many of the corrupted decrepit won’t go without a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. Start packing now demons of todays Washington politics, Obama the Incorruptible, the Redeemer of the American Soul, will be sweeping in and sweeping all you up before him. Yes, Barack says he will unite the Nation, but he will not embrace the Evil ones within who will not go without a fight, a fight in which they will use every evil to thwart themselves being extinctifyied. Yes!, extinctified! ‘Cause we can only stand for Evil around here for so long!
    Out with the Old, and In with the New.


  10. Robert Morrow says:

    The problem with Hillary and there are many, many, many such problems – one of which is in regards to Hillary’s so-called policy positions. My response to anything she says is “So what?” because she is almost the pathological liar that Bill is.
    So who cares what Hillary SAYS her policy positions are. Her real position position is to DO or SAY anything that will put her in power. A perfect example is Hillary voting FOR the Iraq War because she was trying to polish hawkish credidentials on foreign policy – and also because it was the POPULAR thing to do, voting for the Iraq War. Then it becomes the POLULAR thing to be opposed to the Iraq War when things are not going well, Hillary wants to get out and besides Condi Rice lied to her when she said that Bush was really just trying to get leverage to get more UN inspectors in.
    Blah, blah, blah … excuse me just more meaningless self-centered jibberish coming out of Hillary’s mouth.
    I am enjoying the Clinton implosion immensely.


  11. Carroll says:

    File this under DC miscelleneous too.
    And tell me if I am reading the rebate scheme correctly.
    “People would not have to work to receive a rebate. A retired couple owing $4,000 in taxes would get the full $1,200; if they owed no taxes, they would receive only half that. If the couple earned less than $3,000, however, they would be ineligible. That includes 20 million older people whose only income is their Social Security checks.”
    Because if this is correct it makes me even more furious. I am going to give my tax money to a retired couple who has enough income to pay $4000 in taxes, but nothing to the retired people whose sole income is less than $3,000 from SS? What the hell is this?
    Rebates could be in your hands by May
    By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, Associated Press Writer Sat Jan 26, 3:07 PM ET
    WASHINGTON – Most taxpayers could expect a rebate of up to $600 starting in mid-May under the economic aid plan set to go through Congress within weeks.
    Couples could get twice as much, with even more for most families with children. All that, however, depends on smooth sailing at the Internal Revenue Service, and the agency already is up to its eyeballs in filings and refunds.
    The Treasury Department says that despite the strains of tax filing season, the IRS will be able to begin delivering the payments within 60 days after President Bush signs the plan into law, and complete the process in approximately 10 weeks, possibly sooner. The payments would come separately from regular tax refunds.
    “The IRS has already begun trying to prepare for this,” said Andrew DeSouza, a Treasury spokesman. “They’ll be ready to go.”
    But figuring out if you qualify — and for how much — can be complicated, thanks to confusing rules designed to get the money to middle-income workers and ensure it also benefits low-income people who are most likely to spend the cash.
    “Almost everyone who earns income will receive some benefit,” said Douglas W. Elmendorf, an analyst at the Brookings Institution. “The idea is to target the money on the people who will spend a large share of it, and to target it on people who are likely to be hurt by an economic downturn.”
    People who do not make enough to pay taxes but had at least $3,000 in earned income would get $300. Those earning less than that would be disqualified, as would the wealthiest. Older people living solely off Social Security checks would not get the rebate.
    Individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000 and couples with income exceeding $150,000 would get smaller checks. Contributions to individual retirement accounts, 401(k) retirement accounts and health savings accounts would not count toward the limits.
    About three-quarters of those eligible for the checks are working people. About one-quarter would qualify solely through pension or interest income, such as retirees or people who are unemployed. Eligible people would get at least $300.
    For middle-class people, the rebates are fairly straightforward. Most individuals would get a $600 rebate, couples would get $1,200, and those amounts would rise with the size of their families. High- and low-income people, however, would get only a partial benefit.
    People with income less than $75,000 would get a rebate equal to the taxes they paid in 2007, up to $600. Couples with income less than $150,000 could get up to $1,200. Those who earned more than $3,000 but owed little or no taxes would get a flat $300, or $600 per couple.
    So a low-income family of four — with $35,000 in income and virtually no tax liability — would get $1,200. That includes the flat $600 per couple and $300 for each child.
    A single person earning minimum wage would receive the lower rebate, $300.
    A single parent of two with income of $38,000 and a tax bill of $433 would get $1,033 — a $433 tax rebate plus $300 per child.
    To focus the payments on middle-class people, the plan includes rules that reduce the rebates for those with higher incomes. For each dollar over the limits, the payment goes down by 5 percent.
    That means that while a family of four with income of $95,000 would get $1,800 — $1,200 for the couple and $300 for each child — a family of four with income of $160,000 would get less, and the same family making $200,000 would get nothing.
    Income of $160,000 would put a family $10,000 above the income threshold, reducing the benefit by $500 for a rebate of $1,300. The wealthier family, which falls $50,000 above the threshold, would see its rebate vanish under the formula.
    Similarly, a single person with no children who had $16,000 in income would get $600, while the same person making $85,000 — $10,000 above the limit — would get just $100.
    People would not have to work to receive a rebate. A retired couple owing $4,000 in taxes would get the full $1,200; if they owed no taxes, they would receive only half that. If the couple earned less than $3,000, however, they would be ineligible. That includes 20 million older people whose only income is their Social Security checks.
    The plan would allow people who do not qualify for a rebate this year to get one in the spring of 2009 if they become eligible based on their income level or tax liability in 2008. That has been a standard feature of past rebates, although it does nothing to stimulate the economy.
    Some 40 million people who file their tax returns online could start getting payments by direct deposit in May. Congressional tax analysts say the government can send out up to 9 million paper checks a week. The IRS will have to reprogram its computers to calculate who gets the rebate and how much they will receive.
    “They sort of learned how to do this last time,” said Jason Furman, a Brookings economist, referring to the last round of rebates in 2001.
    “It’s definitely complicated if you’re trying to understand it, but it’s not actually going to be complicated for people because they’re going to get a check from the IRS without having to fill out a single form.”
    Still, the agency is already working overtime processing tax returns, and rebates will have to take a back seat come April, when it will be overwhelmed in the run-up to Tax Day.
    “The two final weeks of tax filing season are very, very high-traffic weeks for the IRS,” DeSouza said. “We’ll just have to see what capacity they can handle.”


  12. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks, Steve. You responded to two of my internal questions: 1) What is the current state of Kennedy relevancy with Ted and Caroline for Obama and Kathleen, Kerry and Robert Jr. for Clinton, and 2) what’s going on in the Chuck Hagel camp. Alas, I still have no one to vote for, but at least we may still have a race beyond Super Tuesday for a change.


  13. Carroll says:

    “These kinds of emotional push-buttons are designed to keep the entire United States of American from doing what is in it’s national interest, and it’s a distrubing trend in politics—complete pandering.”…………………
    This stands out as one of the truest things you have ever written Steve. And it is more than a trend, it has become the premiere political tool.
    I see the Obama campaign style and the endorsement by Kennedy today as an example of this.
    Giving us a carthic emotional exprience as a candidate so they can “fog up” the real issues and “gloss over” the failures of the dems and government in general and get people to vote their “feelings” so they can win the WH power.
    If either party cared more about the country than themselves we would have different candidates
    I am more disgusted, if that’s possible, every day…BWTTGASO.


  14. JohnH says:

    What happened to all those Senators who “highly respect” Hillary? With numbers of Senators endorsing Obama, it sounds like Hillary’s “experience and stature” is more hype than substance.


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