Matt Viser at The Boston Globe:
US Representative Patrick Kennedy has decided not to seek reelection, capping a dramatic year for the Kennedy family and probably leaving it without a member in Washington for the first time in more than six decades.
Kennedy made the decision based on “some personal struggles,’’ including the death in August of his father, Edward M. Kennedy, according to a Democratic official briefed on the decision. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because Patrick Kennedy has not yet made a formal announcement.
That announcement is expected to come Sunday, when a TV advertisement taped by Kennedy is set to air in Rhode Island. In that tape, circulated by the media last night, Kennedy says his “life is taking a new direction, and I will not be a candidate for reelection this year.’’
In the two-minute ad, with soft music playing in the background, he says he wants to continue working to help those with depression, addiction, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Maureen O’Connor at Gawker:
Patrick’s announcement showed up on his website late Thursday and will be broadcast as a TV ad in Rhode Island on Sunday. Kennedy invoked his family’s legacy and said he’ll remain committed to public service, but with “a new direction,” perhaps with non-profits. Though Patrick’s staff denies his retirement is related to his father’s death or last year’s stint in alcoholic rehab, the video alludes to “difficult” years, and a source told Politico “you can’t deny that it’s [his father’s death] had an impact on him.” Or maybe he’s just sick of politics—Patrick has held elected offices since the age of 21.
A representative told Politico Patrick “wouldn’t rule out” running for another office in the future. Though Patrick’s district is considered solidly Democratic, Republicans were grooming a strong challenger. Analysts and Rhode Islanders are left scratching their heads.
More to the point, though, the Kennedys represent the past, and not just because of their family name. For the first time in post-WWII history, the Democrats have a progressive in the White House while Democrats control both chambers of Congress. But when Democrats tried to force a progressive agenda of government control of health care, energy, and manufacturing through Capitol Hill, a funny thing happened: the country didn’t thrill to the dawning of Camelot Aquarius. Instead, the lurch leftward prompted a nationwide reaction of opposition to government control and skyrocketing debt and federal spending. Barack Obama has tried to pass himself off as a return to Camelot (with the help of certain so-called journalists eager to do the same), but as it happens, the country not only didn’t want a return to Camelot, they didn’t want to turn into Europe, either.
The Kennedy name no longer carries the cachet it once did, and the progressive agenda their family espoused has been exposed as the same old Euro-style socialism that failed over the last few decades on the Continent. Patrick Kennedy’s exit will be just the acknowledgment of a legacy long ago run down to empty.
Camelot of course ended a long time ago, with an assassin’s bullet, followed by a second assassination. Ted Kennedy, to give him his due as a dynastic flag-bearing pol, weathered the scandal of Mary Jo Kopechne’s death and his own failure to win his party’s presidential nomination, and came back as one of the nation’s top powerbrokers who, despite his flaming liberalism, actually managed to effect some bipartisanship. Patches, hurtfully described by a columnist at my newspaper as the “runt of the litter of the runt of the litter” (Howie Carr, “Hey Patches, Did You Hear The one About … ” Feb. 6, 2010) , showed no signs of having that kind of fight, skill or charm, and it didn’t help that he had the msifortune to have been handed his fiefdom in an era when substance-abuse-related incidents require swearing off. Party hacks cite the poor climate for Democrats and the Coakley loss. Patches himself cites the old man’s death last August, which in dynastic terms, is weird. “The King is dead!” lament is supposed to be echoed by a lusty “Long live the King!”
He wouldn’t have been the first Kennedy to lose. His dad did that to Jimmy Carter in 1980 … talk about low points … and so did his cousin, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, in the 2002 Maryland governor’s race. Nor is he the first to take a powder. His cousins Max and Joe did that, removing themselves from consideration in Massachusetts congressional and gubernatorial races in the 1990s when things looked dodgy. Then there was that senatorial trainwreck, when JFK’s daughter couldn’t even manage a handoff in New York. He is the first sitting Kennedy to say “uncle,” though, and cede a seat without a fight … before the fight’s even started … rather than have it taken from him, so that’s a new low for the clan.
So is that the last whimper of America’s power political dynasty, all off to good works at associated foundations? For the foreseeable future, though you never know if Joe II or RFK Jr. will want to take another stab at it in Massachusetts or New York. I wouldn’t put money on it. It’s easier at this point to imagine a Bush being elected. There’s the next Generation K … there was that plucky pre-teen at Ted’s funeral … and if anyone pops up, it will be interesting to see if the Kennedy charm, the trademark Kennedy chompers, the Kennedy smarts, and more than any of that, the Kennedy legend has any life left in it. Or if the lot of them are politically, as done as the Pendragons.
Daniel Flynn at American Spectator:
Rep. Patrick Kennedy has come out swinging against the man who now sits in the Senate seat his father held for 47 years. Telling a blog for the Hill newspaper that Senator Scott Brown was “in the tank for the Republicans,” the Rhode Island Democrat called Brown’s candidacy a “joke.”
The putdown is a familiar one for the Kennedy family. Forty-eight years ago, a thirty-year-old Ted Kennedy heard the same taunt from his primary opponent, Massachusetts Attorney General Edward McCormack: “If his name was Edward Moore, with his qualifications — with your qualifications, Teddy — if it was Edward Moore, your candidacy would be a joke. But nobody’s laughing because his name is not Edward Moore. It’s Edward Moore Kennedy.” Kennedy, after all, had never held a steady paying job, save for a two-year stint in the Army, prior to winning the Senate seat. At Harvard he had been kicked out for cheating and at the University of Virginia’s law school he had led police on drunken high speed chases. The young playboy’s appearance on the Senate floor a day after his election must have struck observers then the way Senator Paris Hilton would appear to us today.
Though the shoe fit for Ted Kennedy back in 1962, the “joke” tag seems an odd one for Senator Scott Brown. Brown’s father didn’t buy him the election. The president and the attorney general aren’t his brothers. His grandfather wasn’t the mayor of Boston. A family friend wasn’t appointed placeholder senator for his benefit. A product of a broken home, Brown and his mother briefly relied on welfare. He is a graduate of the public schools and used ROTC, and a much publicized semi-nude spread in Cosmopolitan, to help fund his education. Scott Brown is the anti-Kennedy.
Instead of the advantages of name and money enjoyed by the Kennedys, Scott Brown faced a 31-point deficit in the polls less than two months before his election. Brown could not look to his party for a single statewide or federal office holder from Massachusetts. So pathetic had the Massachusetts Republican Party become that it fielded opponents in just four of ten House races in 2008, not eclipsing the 30 percent mark in any of those contests. Both houses of the Massachusetts General Court have been in Democrat hands for more than a half century. Yet, Brown managed to paint the bluest state red (if for only one election).
Patrick Kennedy’s outburst seems less reflection of Brown’s candidacy than projection of the eight-term congressman’s own woes. In May of 2006, Kennedy infamously crashed his headlights-off Mustang into a Capitol Police barrier. Appearing drunk to some officers at the scene, the congressman claimed he was “late for a vote” — at 2:45 a.m. Kennedy nevertheless avoided a field sobriety test and received a ride home. The obligatory rehab stint followed, which was followed by yet another one last June. Atop bouts with cocaine, alcohol, and OxyContin, Kennedy has battled bipolar disorder.
Chris Good at The Atlantic
Karen Tumulty at Swampland at Time:
In retrospect, I think I should have figured out that something like this was in the works when I ran into Patrick Kennedy a few months back at a Capitol Hill restaurant. We talked a bit about Ted Kennedy’s funeral, and then he began to describe how he was struggling with the loss. It wasn’t getting easier, he said. He felt lonely in Washington in the absence of his father and mentor. He had tried hard to convince his cousin Joe to run for the Massachusetts Senate seat that had been held for so long by Kennedys. The weight of that political legacy was a burden he hadn’t expected–or wanted–to bear alone. As Patrick told Rhode Island magazine: “It’s pretty simple in this respect: I went through something that caused me a great deal of soul searching and self-reflection. Right now, a personal life is of greater value. Emotional connections that are real and loving and personal just trump everything else.”
He was a college sophomore the first time he ran for office; only 26 the first time an television interviewer asked him whether he would like to run for President. (He answered yes.) His father made no secret of his hope that someday Patrick would serve beside him in the Senate, as his brother Bobby once had. And yet, even though the Kennedy name had propelled Patrick, he never seemed to wear it with the ease of the earlier generation. Speechmaking still terrified him when he came to Congress in 1995. House colleagues recall they could see his hands shaking across the chamber. And he had to wage his struggles with mental illness and substance abuse in public, where they only seemed to confirm his family’s darker storylines.
This would not have been an easy re-election for him. A recent poll had showed him with 62% disapproval among Rhode Island voters, and only 35% saying they would vote for him again. But West notes that Patrick had already raised more than three-quarters of a million for his campaign coffers, and says, “I think he would have won.”
But what would he have lost? Perhaps his last chance to discover who Patrick Kennedy really is.