Scott Galindez: The Torch Is Passed
The Torch Is Passed
There are moments in American politics when you know you are witnessing history. When Ted Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy and Patrick Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama Monday it was one of those moments. In front of a packed house of mostly college students at Bender Arena on the campus of American University, the Kennedys passed the torch to the person they believe will transform American politics.
As she introduced her uncle, Caroline, the daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy, told the cheering crowd: "Over the years, I've been deeply moved by the people who've told me they wish they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This longing is even more profound today. Fortunately, there is one candidate who offers that same sense of hope and inspiration, and I am proud to endorse Senator Barack Obama for president."
Senator Kennedy told the crowd that he "respected the strength, the work and dedication of two other Democrats still in the race: Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. They are my friends; they have been my colleagues in the Senate. John Edwards has been a powerful advocate for economic and social justice. And Hillary Clinton has been in the forefront on issues ranging from health care to the rights of women around the world. Whoever is our nominee will have my enthusiastic support."
But the senior senator from Massachusetts went on to say: "I am proud to stand here today and offer my help, my voice, my energy and my commitment to make Barack Obama the next president of the United States."
Countering criticism of Obama's qualifications, Kennedy had the following to say:
I know that he's ready to be president on day one. And when he raises his hand on Inauguration Day, at that very moment, we will lift the spirits of our nation and begin to restore America's standing in the world. There was another time, when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a New Frontier. He faced public criticism from the preceding Democratic president, who was widely respected in the party. Harry Truman said we needed "someone with greater experience" - and added: "May I urge you to be patient." And John Kennedy replied: "The world is changing. The old ways will not do.... It is time for a new generation of leadership."
Senator Kennedy also made a series of thinly veiled references to clashes with the Clintons over recent weeks. He said that Barack Obama would represent a break with "cynical" tactics of "demonizing" opponents.
"With Barack Obama we can turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion," he said; "we can close the book on the old politics of race against race."
Mr. Kennedy is understood to have been repulsed by Mr. Clinton's alleged use of racial politics.
Even Sunday, Bill Clinton compared Obama's victory in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson's win there, reminding everyone that Jackson didn't get the nomination. Stephanie Wilson, a supporter of Obama, said she wonders why Clinton didn't mention that John Edwards or Al Gore won South Carolina. She went on to say that "we know the real answer to that; they weren't black, and Bill Clinton is trying to say that Obama only won because he is black. Is that why he won Iowa too?"
The Kennedys' endorsements follow other key Massachusetts endorsements. Senator John Kerry and Governor Deval L. Patrick have already endorsed Obama in a state that will be one of the major contests next Tuesday. Other key states Tuesday will be California, Missouri, Georgia, Minnesota and New Jersey, along with Senators Obama and Clinton's home states of Illinois and New York.
Another state with a contest next Tuesday is Kansas, where Governor Kathleen Sebelius is expected to endorse Obama perhaps as early as today. Sebelius delivered the Democratic response to Bush's State of the Union address Monday night. According to ABC News, she made up her mind to endorse Obama over the weekend.
This will be a crucial week in the campaign. To date, Barack Obama has earned 34 delegates, Hillary Clinton 21 and John Edwards 12. Those numbers do not include "super delegates," who can change their mind anytime they want, or Iowa and Nevada delegates who won't be selected for a couple of months. On February 5, there are 2,064 delegates up for grabs, and 2,022 is the magic number for securing the nomination.