Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Kennedy family set to step up its efforts to help Biden’s campaign

By 37ci3 Mar20,2024

WASHINGTON – Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign. independent nomination looks like a potential political spoiler. But for members of the extended Kennedy family, the prospect of one of their own entering the race for Republican nominee Donald Trump poses a different risk — a tarnished legacy.

Some members of the extended Kennedy clan have already issued statements this fall declaring they stand by Biden. But last weekend’s gathering of dozens of Kennedys at the White House marked the beginning of the family’s more active efforts to boost Biden’s re-election bid and push back against one of their own.

“There was a point to everybody being there,” a senior Kennedy family member said of the St. Patrick’s Day White House gathering. The trip, captured in a photo with Biden on the steps of the Rose Garden, spanned three generations and four arms of RFK Jr.’s relatives.

As for potential future interactions with Biden, the senior Kennedy family member added, “I think timing is everything.”

People close to the family say the Kennedys have stepped up their involvement in the 2024 race, which could take many forms. Some family members, who are themselves involved in politics, expect to spend time on the campaign trail this fall, particularly in states where RFK Jr. qualifies for the ballot. For others, it might be speeding up media appearances or lending their venerable surnames to initiatives aimed at a relative’s campaign, or even potential legal challenges to a get-on-the-ballot campaign.

It’s an effort the White House and the Biden campaign have welcomed, if not directed themselves. Multiple sources familiar with the family’s advocacy say the Biden team is letting the Kennedys take the lead in helping the president run and then trying to back them up when needed.

Kerry Kennedy, the seventh of Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s eleven children and president of the family foundation, played a leading role in organizing the family’s political case against 70-year-old RFK Jr.

The Democratic National Committee just announced this week that Senator Ted Kennedy’s former chief of staff, Mary Beth Cahill, will serve as a senior adviser to the party’s efforts to challenge third-party candidates. The DNC was more than happy to show a photo of the Rose Garden, showing where most of the Kennedys stood.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” said DNC spokesman Matt Corridoni. “It says the people who know RFK Jr. best are with Joe Biden in this election.”

Members of the Kennedy family declined to comment on their potential campaign role, citing the sensitivity of the dynamic. White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement, “President Biden enjoys celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and the Kennedy and Biden families have been good friends for many years. President Biden is also proud to have members of the Kennedy family serving their country in this administration.”

Some members of the Kennedy family, people close to the family say, will be more comfortable with direct criticism than others, especially those closest in age and family to RFK Jr., who can only express support for Biden.

For example, Stephen Kennedy Smith, in a social media post with a Rose Garden photo, warned directly that his cousin could swing the election to Trump and “put our democratic process at risk.”

“This is a mistake we cannot afford as a country,” he said. “Our family has always worked together, so it is difficult to speak against one of the family members. But when RFK Jr. decided to run, he didn’t call me to ask for help because he knew I would oppose his candidacy because of his wrong positions on the issues, his poor judgment, and his poor relationship with the truth.

A person familiar with the dynamic noted that with such a large family, the coordination of the message, if not the mission, will never be fully aligned. But the “overwhelming majority” of Joseph and Rose Kennedy’s descendants — many of whom call each other “cousins” even if the term doesn’t quite apply — will step up to support Biden’s campaign, the person said.

Another person familiar with the dynamic said some members of the Kennedy family were “furious” with RFK Jr., adding, “They are legitimately concerned about what he is doing to their family name.”

It is not the first time that the younger RFK has faced public criticism from siblings, cousins ​​and other family members for his views and political activities. Their new rebuttal to the presidential bid builds on a similar public family feud that organically began during the COVID-19 pandemic, when relatives were surprised at how RFK, Jr. had emerged as the chief disseminator of misinformation about the deadly virus.

In the interview Speaking to NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard last month, Kennedy downplayed family rifts.

“I cannot agree with my family on many issues. I have strong family members who support me. There are 105 Kennedys,” he said. “I think there are very few Americans whose families agree with them on everything. Our family grew up in an environment where we argued. We would come home for dinner every night and we were encouraged to argue with each other and argue with each other about important things and still love each other. I love my family. They have the right to express their opinion.”

The potential power of the Kennedy family’s advocacy was seen in a photo of the Rose Garden, first posted by Kerry Kennedy and later shared by others of the family. Biden’s allies noted the photo’s significant coverage, helping to reinforce a key message for the president’s campaign in a potentially close election: Despite RFK Jr.’s brand name, he is an outsider in the family.

While campaign politics are inevitable, people familiar with the Kennedy family’s visit to the White House on Sunday said it was more personal for everyone, including the president.

In addition to welcoming them to a public reception celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, Biden said, “From one great Irish Catholic family to another, it’s wonderful to have the Kennedys here” — then he took them on a private tour of the West Wing. Including the Oval Office.

Biden displayed a bust of Robert F. Kennedy sitting next to the Decision Table, where President John F. Kennedy’s young children famously played when visiting their father. And he spoke of the significant influence not only of the former attorney general and New York senator, but of the entire family.

A person close to the Kennedy family said Biden was “incredibly generous, thoughtful and funny” during the visit. For today’s younger generation, it was the first time in the White House, a place of “incredible historical significance” for the family, the person added.

“He showed everyone around, he was patient with everyone, regardless of age,” said a person close to the Kennedy family. “It is humiliating that the President of the United States takes the time to acknowledge the influence of various members of the family.”

Although the Kennedy family gathers regularly at the family compound in Hyannis Port, they rarely get together in Washington, and visits to the White House have been infrequent in recent years.

“There were times when President Clinton kept us all there,” a family source said. The source added that this visit has a personal meaning in addition to the political message it sends. “Being in the White House was extraordinary and so it was really special. And it was really special because Joe Biden loves our family,” the source said.

Biden’s affinity for the Kennedy family runs deep.

JFK’s election in 1960 was a seismic event for his Irish Catholic family. Biden called RFK one of his two political heroes, along with Martin Luther King Jr., whose 1968 assassinations shaped his political activism. Biden worked alongside Ted Kennedy during his 36 years in the Senate, once calling him a “mentor” and “guide” when he joined the chamber in 1973, and supporting him after he lost his first wife and infant daughter in a car accident. after being selected.

Even during an interview with special counsel Robert Hurl, Biden digressed and said he hoped to create a “Biden Center” on the University of Delaware campus, similar to the Kennedy Center in Washington.

A person close to Biden said the president would be reluctant to publicly attack one of Ethel Kennedy’s children because he has long loved the family.

President Biden’s love for Ethel Kennedy in particular has been long-standing. He attended his 90th birthday in 2018, spoke to him on the phone and sent gifts as the president.

But a senior family member cautioned that Mrs. Kennedy is not involved in current politics, including the activities of her son Bobby, saying, “That’s not a discussion we’re having with her.”

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By 37ci3

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