Farewell, John (Time Magazine Retrospective)

JFK Jr. TIME Cover

Time Magazine

Read TIME’s special cover story on JFK Jr., who died 15 years ago today: A nation and a family mourn and wonder what might have been

To be a Kennedy is to lead two lives–the official one the family seeks with bright idealism and ruthless ambition, and the private one it tries to preserve behind the hedges of a seaside estate. But to be a Kennedy is also to understand how those two worlds can reinforce each other. Camelot stands not just for the elegant touches of the Kennedy presidency–an exhortation at the Berlin Wall, a journey into the hollows of Appalachia–but also for the carefully selected moments of the family at play. John F. Kennedy Jr. was urban royalty with a public conscience, a black-tie aristocrat who took the subway.

Last week, when he again stepped up to a pulpit, this time to eulogize his nephew behind the closed doors of the Church of St. Thomas More in New York City, we could not hear the quiver in his voice. And we didn’t have to. It was there in the practiced cadences, the defiant wit, the stubborn Catholicism that insists on seeing all the way to the gates of heaven. “He and his bride have gone to be with his mother and father, where there will never be an end to love,” Kennedy said. And he promised that this family, at least, this old and bruised and sturdy family, would stand by in an eternal wake. “He was lost on that troubled night, but we will always wake for him, so that his time, which was not doubled but cut in half, will live forever in our memory and in our beguiled and broken hearts.”

But there is one thing he did not promise, and that’s what separated this day of mourning for the Kennedys from all the others. There was no rhetoric of the kind Ted Kennedy used at the 1980 Democratic Convention, when he said, “The dream shall never die.” A Kennedy friend who was there told TIME, “I’ve seen this family in other sad circumstances, and I’m telling you, this was different. This gang is shell-shocked, blown away. This wasn’t, ‘Let’s have 10 family members get up and say the torch is passed, time for a new generation.’ None of that. This was a funeral.”

On the day that he would help launch a frantic search for his nephew, Ted was leading a fight in the Senate for a more expansive Patients’ Bill of Rights. But by nightfall on that Friday, when no one in Hyannis Port had heard from John and Carolyn, it was Ted who called John in Manhattan, hoping he had not left. But he got only the voice of a friend whose air conditioning had broken down and who, at John’s invitation, was staying in his Tribeca apartment. Yes, John had left. No, he had not been heard from. The Senator reached Hyannis Port the next day and began the vigil. On Sunday, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Richard Larrabee switched to a search-and-recovery effort. This put an end to the hope that anyone would be found alive. Ted issued a statement of the family’s “unspeakable grief,” lowered the flag to half-staff and then went to the side of the person he knew would be suffering most.

He flew by helicopter to Caroline’s country house in Bridgehampton, N.Y., to comfort the niece he treats like a daughter over the loss of her brother, whom he loved like a son. There was a torch being passed after all. In the ’60s, Ted Kennedy’s generation orchestrated the death rituals. Now the old Senator was going to let Caroline, a member of the new generation, take charge. There were terrible decisions to be made, but not before Uncle Ted shot baskets with Caroline’s kids until they could be heard squealing with delight behind the hedge.

On Wednesday he climbed back into a helicopter for the return to Hyannis Port, where he took his two sons Teddy Jr. and Patrick, a Congressman, on a gruesome chore. Seven miles from shore, they boarded the salvage ship Grasp and then watched as three bodies were raised from 116 ft. under water. The cameras were far away, and Ted wore his dark glasses, but one picture captured the crumpled grief on his face. He had never looked so old.

Back in Bridgehampton, Caroline was calling the shots. She remembered how happy John had been to have engineered his wedding on Cumberland Island in Georgia in near total secrecy, and she wanted to make sure the ceremony marking his death would be no less private. So, with Ted’s help, she arranged to have John buried even farther from the mainland, his ashes and those of Carolyn and Lauren Bessette committed to the deep from the deck of an American warship. Seventeen relatives arrived at Woods Hole at 9 a.m. to be taken by the cutter Sanibel to the U.S.S. Briscoe, which had steamed up from Virginia overnight by special request of the Secretary of Defense. The only things those left onshore could see were the bright whites of the officials, the black of the mourners and a puff of smoke as the Briscoe motored out to the point at which the most powerful telephoto lenses could register just the silhouettes of the mourners. The family bore their loved ones’ ashes, three wreaths and three American flags. Caroline held her husband’s hand as he clutched a canvas bag. Red, white and yellow blossoms trailed the ship as it headed back to shore.

It seemed entirely right that the young boy with the salute should be buried by the Navy at sea, not far from the beach of Hyannis, where he and his father had built sand castles, and just west of the rocky shore of Martha’s Vineyard, where he had spent quiet summers after his father was gone. It would have been too much for the country to watch Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis bury her son, but she was there, nonetheless, in her daughter Caroline. “It was as if Jackie were orchestrating these ceremonies,” said Kennedy social secretary Letitia Baldrige.

Caroline was five years old when she clung to Jackie’s gloved hand at her father’s funeral. Jackie had known that her black veil and a riderless horse were right for the slain President. So when it came time to think about how to lay her brother to rest, Caroline sensed that she should take her brother to sea, not to a plot at Arlington National Cemetery, and not to a cemetery that might be transformed overnight into another Graceland.

She was also determined to keep the family’s deliberations–and its sorrow–out of view. When she found out that someone from the family was offering reporters details of life inside the compound, she asked Ted to shut that down. One of John’s closest friends, former Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow, said he “paid dearly” for appearing on TV. Though he’d already booked a flight from New Orleans to New York for the memorial service, he pointedly wasn’t invited.

Some reports said Ted, as curator of the Kennedy political legacy, had urged a service that would satisfy the public need to say goodbye–something in a cavernous cathedral befitting cardinals and Presidents–even if the sad truth was that a piece of the dream had died for him this time. “You could just see this was a father-son relationship,” said Senator Alan Simpson. “I’m sure it’s ripped the very fabric of Ted’s life.” John was the little boy Ted imagined could grow up to be President. He’d taken John under his wing from the moment his father was killed, staying in the White House after the Kings and Prime Ministers and generals had left, to celebrate John’s third birthday. He had led the singing of Heart of My Heart late into the night.

Caroline chose St. Thomas More, a small, neighborhood Roman Catholic church a few blocks from their mother’s Fifth Avenue apartment, where she and John had gone to Mass as children. Despite reports of family friction over the choice of venue, a source familiar with the arrangements told TIME, “From Day One, it was always going to be at this church.” The church, with its English pastoral, beige-stone sanctuary, is plain, and for the ceremony it was furnished simply. Two white hydrangea flower arrangements sat on either side of the altar on the floor. To gain access, almost every guest–from Senators to George magazine staff members to Kennedy White House veterans–had to show an invitation about the size of an index card with the guest’s name printed on it. The family was so set on privacy that not even the church staff could attend the service.

On Thursday the Senator stayed up past midnight working on his eulogy and, after flying from Hyannis Port to New York, polished it at his sister Pat Lawford’s apartment. Plans were so last-minute that when staff members turned in for the night, it was still unclear whether Caroline would speak; the program was not printed until 1 a.m. It was her decision to ask Ted to deliver the eulogy. But even if she didn’t eulogize John, it was she and her children who became the emotional center of the service. She reminded the mourners about the love of literature that her mother had bestowed on her and John, and then read Prospero’s speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a play in which he had performed. It was an acknowledgment that her brother had lived on a big stage but had understood that its “insubstantial pageant” would fade. “We are such stuff as dreams are made on,” she quoted, “and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” There were muffled sobs as Caroline’s husband Edwin and her children Rose, 11, Tatiana, 9, and John, 6, lit candles and hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean sang, “It was time for me to go home/ And I’ll be smiling in paradise,” from the Jimmy Cliff reggae song Many Rivers to Cross.

There were also tears down mourners’ faces when fashion-industry executive Hamilton South, in his eulogy for Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, praised “her graceful bearing, her special allure” as “a physical expression of an inner fact.”

But Caroline was the focus of the service’s most wrenching moment. Ted came close to breaking down when he reached the part in his eulogy that celebrated the closeness between her and John, the brother who, even as a grownup, would reach out naturally to grab his sister’s hand. “He especially cherished his sister Caroline,” Ted said in his eulogy, his voice trembling, “celebrated her brilliance and took strength and joy from their lifelong mutual-admiration society.” Caroline stood up to hug her uncle as he descended from the pulpit.

The memorial service was a somber reminder that for patriarch Ted, the grandest unseen achievement has been in finding a way to be a genuinely loving presence in the hearts of so many Kennedy children left fatherless. Weddings, graduations, birthdays, christenings–Teddy is always there with his booming voice, his animal imitations, his begging anyone who can pick out a tune at the piano to keep the music going. He gave Caroline away at her marriage to Edwin Schlossberg in 1986, and when it was all over, Jackie hugged him on the steps outside Our Lady of Victory on Cape Cod and beamed, as if to say what a job we have done. He toasted John at his intimate island wedding in 1996. He took John and Caroline on rafting trips. He kept vigil with them at the bedside of their mother, who succumbed to cancer at 64, and gave a eulogy at that funeral.

With such a large family, it has been a miracle that he could be so many places at once. On the day he gave away in marriage his brother Bobby’s daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, he went to the hospital where his eldest son Edward had had a cancerous leg amputated. Soon after, the Senator went skiing with young Teddy, who quickly took to the slopes on one leg. When Teddy beat him to the bottom of the hill, the Senator made a fast turn to spray the boy with snow while wiping away tears. Last Friday, at the reception following the memorial service, it was Kennedy again who helped lift the spirits of those around him. He told stories and jokes, and found his voice to sing the hymn Just a Closer Walk with Thee.

As he rose to the occasion one more time, Ted became the public man his elder brothers would have been proud of and the private one that untimely deaths in his family have required. Whether from too much tragedy or too little character, for a while every good thing Ted did was erased by a bad one like Chappaquiddick. But when he married Victoria Reggie in 1992, he found a partner who would change his life.

He now drinks club soda and runs off during the Senate’s official dinner window to be with his stepchildren Curran, 16, and Caroline, 13. He’s a constant presence at their plays and sporting events, and has even been known to get personally involved in pulling a loose tooth.

If his private life is shaped by his love for children and stepchildren, his public one is still shaped by his concern for the little guy, the one who parks your car, rings the cash register at the convenience store, catches the early bus. As he left town he was trying to expand health care, and when he comes back from burying his nephew, he will be fighting to raise the minimum wage. Leaving the Coast Guard cutter that brought the family and friends back to Woods Hole after the burial, he shook hands formally with the officers in their dress whites but gave the crewmen in working blues a slap on the back. It was a gesture that surely would have made his nephew smile.

With reporting by Melissa August and Ann Blackman/Washington

Gingrich: Republicans Will Oppose Any Immigration Plan Backed By Obama Because They Hate Obama

Someone dragged Newt Gingrich from behind the woodwork to give his opinion on immigration issues.  This time, there might even be a modicum of truth to what he’s saying…

Think Progress

During an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) admitted that Republicans are likely to oppose any immigration reform proposal introduced by President Obama because they personally dislike the Commander-in-Chief.

“An Obama plan led and driven by Obama in this atmosphere with the level of hostility towards the president and the way he goads the hostility I think is very hard to imagine that bill, that his bill is going to pass the House,” Gingrich said. “I think that negotiated with a Senate immigration bill that has to have bipartisan support could actually get to the president’s desk.”

The Senate-backed framework for immigration reform, which enhances security on the border and includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, shares many similarities with Obama’s own proposal, though the president has repeatedly said that if Congress fails to make progress, he will introduce his own reform legislation.

That plan, obtained by USA Today, “mirrors many provisions of the bipartisan 2007 bill” spearheaded by Ted Kennedy and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and would allow unauthorized immigrants “to become legal permanent residents within eight years.” “The plan also would provide for more security funding and require business owners to check the immigration status of new hires within four years,” the paper reports.

Despite its bipartisan nature, the draft proposal was immediately panned by Republicans. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — a member of the Senate group working towards producing comprehensive legislation — called it “dead on arrival,” while Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said it demonstrated that Obama is “looking for a partisan advantage and not a bipartisan solution.”

Scott Brown Touts Praise For Ad From Conservative Blog That Claims Obama Is Muslim

Scott Brown: What About All The Rich Schoolteachers?

This really dumb Senator who won Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat  needs to stop pandering to right wing radicals…unless of course he  is a right-wing radical.

The Huffington Post

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is raising money off praise from a conservative blogger who believes that President Barack Obama is Muslim.

In an emailed pitch last week, the Massachusetts Republican boasted that his latest ad — which seeks to tie Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren to Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comments — has been “cheered across the nation by patriots.” He then lists several positive reviews, including one from the conservative blog Libertarian Republican that claimed Obama is a Muslim as recently as last week.

“It has been called ‘powerful,’ ‘devastating,’ and ‘quite possibly the greatest ad for 2012 by any candidate in either party,’ ” Brown wrote in the fundraising appeal, which ends with a request for $100, $50, or $25 donations.

The third accolade comes from Libertarian Republican, which has suggested or stated that Obama is a Muslim on several occasions, although the president has repeatedly described himself as a Christian. As recently as Saturday, Libertarian Republican editor Eric Dondero wrote a blog post about the start of Ramadan under the headline “America’s Muslim President celebrates Islamic holiday.”

Dondero told The Huffington Post on Friday that he was pleased to hear the Brown campaign was promoting his endorsement of the blockbuster ad.

“I think Sen. Brown has always had an appeal to the libertarian wing of the GOP,” Dondero said. “He’s a fiscally conservative, socially tolerant Republican, kind of like a William Weld-type from the 1990s, and we love him.”

Dondero added that it is a “fact” that Obama is Muslim, pointing to a 2008 interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in which the president references “my Muslim faith” while acknowledging that his opponent then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain had denied such rumors.

The implication that Obama was proclaiming his own Muslim alliance was rated“false” by the urban legend-vetting website Snopes.

A Brown spokeswoman declined to comment Friday.

A Pew Research Center survey released Thursday shows that some Republicans continue to wrongly name Obama’s religion. Among the most conservative respondents, 34 percent said Obama is Muslim, a 14-point increase since Pew asked the same question in October 2008.

Warren’s campaign deferred to the Massachusetts Democratic Party when asked for comment.

“Scott Brown’s decision to cite praise from an extreme, far-right-wing website like this in a personal fundraising appeal speaks for itself,” spokesman Matt House said in a statement.

Dondero’s views on religious affiliation are not limited to Obama. Earlier this month, Dondero called Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) a member of “America’s Muslim Brotherhood,” echoing a controversial claim by some Tea Party lawmakers that the Islamic terrorist organization is trying to infiltrate the federal government.

In a live chat with Boston.com readers Friday, Brown kept the spotlight on the Dondero-backed ad. “The people of MA will have a very real choice this November,” Brown wrote in response to a submitted question about his major differences with Warren. “I would refer people to my ad ‘Let America Be America Again.'”

Romney In 1994 Said Bain Created 10,000 Jobs; Romney In 2012: 100,000

Can we believe anything that “Mittens” says?

Alan Colmes

The number of jobs Romney claimed he created at Bain has changed between 1994 and now.

In 1994 Romney countered similar attacks from Ted Kennedy in his ill-fated Senate race with this ad claiming he created 10,000 jobs. Romney now claims his time at Bain created 100,000 jobs, a number that has been attacked by Democrats.

Democrats point out how Romney is playing fast and loose with the facts.

It’s The Politics, Stupid

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesn’t want to give details on his budget plan in terms of what he will cut because it wouldn’t be politically expedient… OK!


Romney won’t get specific for fear of criticism

Mitt Romney has made big promises to reform Washington, but his proposals have mostly lacked specifics. In a recently published interview with the conservative Weekly Standard, Romney explained why his promises to cut federal spending by slashing government programs and even whole agencies lack detail: it’s too politically risky.

“One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education,” Romney told the magazine, recalling his 1994 run for Kennedy’s Senate seat.

It appears Romney doesn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

“So I think it’s important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So for instance, I anticipate that housing vouchers will be turned over to the states rather than be administered at the federal level, and so at this point I think of the programs to be eliminated or to be returned to the states, and we’ll see what consolidation opportunities exist as a result of those program eliminations. So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now.”

As the Weekly Standard’s Stephen F. Hayes points out in his piece, this isn’t what conservatives are looking for in a candidate. “Romney’s answer goes a long way to explain why some conservatives have been reluctant to embrace his candidacy,” writes Hayes. “They want a list. They want it to be long, they want it to be detailed, and they want a candidate who is not only willing to provide one but eager to campaign on it.”

As Romney’s answer does make clear, though, he will look for ways to turn government-run programs — like Medicaid — into block-grants for states so that they can run the programs themselves. His Medicaid plan, which he has repeated on the trail for months, is a good example of one detail he does divulge. And if Romney is looking to appeal to both conservatives and independents, block-granting programs is a good way to appeal to conservatives by taking them out of federal hands. In this case, it’ll shrink and transform Medicaid without offering Democrats the political shock-value of eliminating the program outright.

Romney’s hesitance to get specific isn’t uncharacteristic. The former Massachusetts governor has a tax plan that, in his own words, “can’t be scored” because it lacks the details that would allow the plan to be critically evaluated. He was happy to divulge that he would lower taxes for most Americans, but opted not to explain how he would make up for the lost revenue. Those details, he said earlier this month, should be worked out with Congress.

On the foreign policy front, Romney has criticized President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy but said he won’t put forward a plan until he hears from generals on the ground. As he said last week, “before I take a stand at a particular course of action, I want to get the input from the people who are there.”

For conservative voters wary of nominating an Etch-A-Sketch candidate, the GOP frontrunner has broadly wedded himself to the Republican agenda of gutting federal spending on domestic programs, telling Hayes, “Actually eliminating programs is the most important way to keep Congress from stuffing the money back into them.” But, as with his other big plans, voters may have to wait until he gets into office to find out which ones. The difference is that this time, Romney has openly chalked up the lack of details to political considerations.

Romney’s Inexplicable Debate Fibs

This is typical of Mitt Romney.  It’s just that this time more folks paid attention to his lies.


Why not just tell the truth? The odd, small shadings of truth were the talk of the spin room in Concord after Sunday’s debate.

Mitt Romney’s generally strong debate performance was marred by two small and inexplicable shadings of fact — moments that left reporters, rivals, and allies shaking their heads and wondering why he he couldn’t just give a straight and obvious answer to relatively trivial questions.

Early in the debate, Rick Santorum pressed Romney on why he hadn’t run for re-election in 2006, when his first term as Governor expired. Romney suggested it was because politics isn’t his calling:

I think it’s unusual, and– and perhaps– understandable, that people who spend their life in politics imagine that if you get in politics that that’s all you wanna do. That if you’ve been elected to something, well, you get– wanna get reelected and reelected.

I went to Massachusetts to make it different. I didn’t go there to begin a political career, running time and time again. made a difference. I put in place the things I wanted to do. I listed out the accomplishments we wanted to pursue in our administration. There were 100 things we wanted to do. Those things I pursued aggressively. Some we won. Some we didn’t.

Run again? That would be about me. I was trying to help get the state in best shape as I possibly could. Left the– the world of politics, went back into business.

This is, as Newt Gingrich pointed out, ridiculous. Romney left the governor’s office for a presidential campaign that hasn’t stopped since.

You had been out of state for something like 200 days preparing to run for president. You didn’t have this interlude of … citizenship while you thought about what to do. You were running for president while you were governor. You were gone all over the country. You were– you were out of state consistently.

You then promptly reentered politics. You happened to lose to McCain as you had lost to Kennedy.

The second apparent fib came when Romney was asked about the ads attacking Newt Gingrich aired by Restore our Future, the Super PAC that supports Romney.

“I haven’t seen the ads,” he said.

Seconds later: “The ad I saw said you were forced out of the speakership.”

Romney went down to list attacks from the ad in question, which could be any of (or some combination of) the Restore Our Future spots.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said after the debate Romney meant to say he hadn’t seen all the ads. “He described the one ad he did see,” he said.

Mitt Romney Explains His Inconsistency as Being ‘Human’

Addicting Info

Macy’s store mannequin and Republican frontrunner (just don’t tell Republicans that), Mitt Romney,  is notorious for taking a position, tergiversating on that position, and then choosing a new position on which to tergiversate to reflect the latest poll or Republican talking point de jour.

As Governor of a liberal blue-state, Mitt Romney was pro-choice (or multiple choice as Ted Kennedy once derided during a debate). He was also one of the lone moderate Republicans to actually heed the advice of celebrated climatologists (instead of the janitor at Exxon) regarding climate change, only to repudiate his belief in man-made activities contributing to climate change. And, most notorious, Romney has devoted most of his time on the stump –and debates– meticulously renouncing his mandate health plan he created in Massachusetts, which served as a template for Obama’sAffordable Care Act.

Regarding his abrupt change in philosophy, Romney said “‘What works in one state may not be the answer for another.”  It looks like the Gordon Gekko candidate is more like Gordon Chameleon, carefully changing and saying anything and everything that teabagger republicans want to hear in order to get elected. The Obama relection campaign has publicly cited plans to devote a portion of its campaign strategy on this very phenomenon.

Realizing his flip-flopping is an Achilles heel, Romney finally addressed this problem earlier today.

When pressed by a New Hampshire editorial board about his  famous vacillations on kep political issues over the last decade, Romney  this to say:

 ”I’ve been as consistent as human beings can be.”

Are you serious, Mittens? That’s the type of verbal gymnastics and philosophical expostulating one would expect from former president Bill Clinton when confronted with the meaning of blow jobs.

Romney has formally said that “corporations are people,” and since humans are prone to err, is he saying that he is about as consistent as a corporation. Or, is he making a commentary on human beings’ inability to be consistent.

I don’t think Lao Zsu himself could wax philosophical on the intrinsic meaning behind Romney’s justification for lying and changing his position on everything under the sun, including the sun. Then again, Romney can pretty  much say anything with the pizza perv receiving so much media scrutiny over his past sexual shenanigans.

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Better Angels and Killer Angels – (Re- Post)

A century and a half after Abraham Lincoln was elected, some truths go marching on. Take heed, Obama.

11-27-2010 As we approach the last two full weeks of 111th Congress, I felt this article should be re-posted.

Newsweek’s article on President Obama’s recognition and frequent use of Abe Lincoln’s term “better angels” brings to light, the unnerving fact that Obama also needs to realize what Lincoln understood: that there may be better angels in the nature of some people, but there are others who are willing to weaken, even destroy a nation to serve their own self-righteous self-interest, and they will do it in the name of the Constitution…


President Barack Obama loves to quote the lyrical closing lines of Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, calling on “the better angels of our nature” to overcome partisan hatreds and political divisions. Obama cited those words in his own inaugural proclamation and rested his hand on Lincoln’s Bible when he took the oath of office. He has come back to those angels again and again ever since. A search of Google and the White House Web site turns up half a dozen examples. He used the phrase to eulogize Ted Kennedy, to chide a would-be Quran burner in Florida, and to say goodbye to chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Obama, it seems, sees better angels just about everywhere. Even as he traveled in India this week he talked about his efforts to live up to the example of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and, yes, Abraham Lincoln.

But in light of today’s real-world politics, Obama should think a little harder about the context in which Lincoln summoned those better angels on March 4, 1861. Led by South Carolina (now home to Sen. Jim DeMint), seven of 33 states had already seceded from the Union to form the Confederacy at that point. Only days before Lincoln took office, he had to sneak into Washington in the lonely hours before dawn because of an assassination plot. The month after his inauguration, the South fired on the federal garrison at Fort Sumter to begin the Civil War in earnest.

If, in the end, Lincoln did manage to hold the Union together, it was not because of the better angels of human nature, but because he finally found the killer angels among his generals who could, and did, and at enormous cost, crush the secessionists.

These basic facts about a moment of history that Obama obviously holds dear are worth going over again right now because, in fact, the secessionists of 1860 are the ideological forebears of the Tea Party movement today. No, the United States is not on the verge of another violent breakup, not close at all, even if Tea Party icons like Gov. Rick Perry in Texas or some of Sarah Palin’s friends and relatives in Alaska may toy with the notion of secession. But there is in American politics today a discourse of such cupidity, bigotry, and self-delusion about the role of government that it would have been familiar to anyone following the rhetoric of the Southern “fire-eaters” pushing the country toward a conflagration 150 years ago.     Continue reading…

Oprah Fails to Question Bush on Important Aspects of His Legacy


If someone were to ask you what the dominant political issue is at the moment, you’d probably say the national debt or extension of the Bush tax cuts. The most controversial political fight of the last two years? Surely health care reform. So, when former President George W. Bush granted a long televised interview to promote his new memoir — which is to say, as Bush attempts to polish his tarnished reputation, you’d think he would be asked about his budget-busting tax cuts and the creation of a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

You would be wrong. Like Matt Lauer Monday night, Oprah Winfrey, in her gauzy interview with Bush on Tuesday afternoon, did not ask a single question about those policies. Today conservatives argue that the budget reconciliation process is being exploited when it is used to pass the sidecar of amendments to health care reform that could have fallen prey to a filibuster after Ted Kennedy’s death. In 2001 Republicans used reconciliation to pass Bush’s tax cuts. What does Bush make of the precedent he set? We don’t know, because Winfrey, like Lauer, did not ask him. Today conservatives complain about deficit-spending, and that health care reform was passed by bribing and bullying fence-sitters, but we have no idea what Bush makes of the infamous arm-twisting by his allies in the GOP House leadership to whip the votes for Medicare Part D, an unfunded expansion of the welfare state. Does Bush regret the way he governed now that Democrats are free to do the same? Apparently no one thought to ask him, or his handlers laid out ground rules prohibiting it.   Continue reading…

Sirhan Sirhan, man who assassinated Robert Kennedy, plotted to kill Ted Kennedy, too: FBI

The New York Daily News

Sirhan Sirhan, the man who assassinated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, may have tried to take out his brother Ted, too.

A fellow inmate at the federal prison in Soledad, Calif., told the FBI that Sirhan offered him “a million dollars and a car” to kill Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1977, according to a report in Kennedy’s newly-released FBI file (read PDF of report).

The Mexican-American inmate, whose name is redacted, told agents he didn’t know Ted Kennedy was a senator, but recognized that he was the brother of slain President John Kennedy and New York Sen. Bobby Kennedy.

The inmate, who was in the cell next to Sirhan’s for 18 months and befriended the assassin, said Sirhan told him to contact his mother for more details if he decided to take on the hit.

“He advised he declined the contract,” the report states.

The inmate said he didn’t think Sirhan made the offer to anyone else at the prison.

The FBI alerted Kennedy’s office, the Secret Service, the Boston Police Department and the police chief in Barnstable, Mass, near the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod.

The seriousness of the threat, and the reliability of the inmate informant, were never determined.

Sirhan, a mentally unbalanced Palestinian Christian, shot Bobby Kennedy the night he won the California primary – sealing the Democratic nomination – because the senator had promised military support for Israel if elected President.

Sirhan is serving life in prison in California.