Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Joe Kennedy III May Play Coy With Credulous Reporters... But He's Running


ProgressivePunch rates him a "B." A "B" isn't bad, ProgressivePunch isn't always a precision tool, and his 91.43 crucial vote score this session is more progressive than several of his colleagues who can boast A's. Jared Huffman (D-CA) has an overall "A" with an 85.29 crucial vote score this year. Fellow Massachusetts congressman Mike Capuano, also an "A" has an 85.71 score. Like Capuano, Joe Kennedy III, is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. His colleagues elected him regional vice chair of the DCCC for the northeast, although he doesn't seem to be doing much in that position. Many in DC say that Kennedy doesn't say "Good morning" until he's calculated how that may or may not impact his future run for the presidency.

After college (Stanford), Kennedy-- the grandson of RFK-- enrolled in the Peace Corps and served in the Dominican Republic for two years. Afterwards he went to Harvard Law and eventually became Assistant District Attorney for Middlesex County. When Barney Frank finally retired from Congress in 2012, Kennedy moved to the 4th district (Brookline) and was immediately endorsed by the AFL-CIO, frightening off potential primary challengers. He beat Republican Sean Bielat 61-36%. and was unopposed in 2014 and then beat some random Republican, David Rosa, 70-30%, a resounding vote of confidence from a district that gave Obama 58% in 2008 and 57% in 2012 and then backed Hillary 59-36% over Trump. He'll be 37 in October-- and you only have to be 35 to be president. Several Beltway insiders have told me he's running for president in 2020. Elizabeth Warren, who is also considering running for president, was one of his professors at Harvard Law-- Kennedy and his wife met in her class-- and Warren campaigned for him when he ran for Congress.

The Kennedy family was more moderate than progressive. His great-great-grandfather, Joseph Kennedy, was actually a pretty nasty right-wing Democrat and JFK was more on the conservative side on many issues. RFK was in the process of turning more liberal when he was murdered-- I was a teenager when I worked for him as an elevator operator and used to talk with him about issues on the way up or down-- and it really wasn't until great uncle Teddy came into his own that the Kennedys were identified with the liberal wing of the party. Ideologically, Kennedy seems more about positioning himself to win support and votes in a presidential race than about any set of issues. And, yes, of course he endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary season. Wasn't that where all the smart Beltway money went?

Over the weekend, Politico ran a throw-away piece about him by Heather Caygle, The Next Kennedy weighs His Next Move. Her brain-dead approach was that "Democrats are in search of new leaders to take on Donald Trump, and Rep. Joe Kennedy could fit the bill. But it's not clear he wants the job."

I guess compared to a standard Beltway political hack, Kennedy might seem-- at least to a standard Beltway media hack-- a grassroots kind of guy. And Caygle starts form that silly presumption. Kennedy's net worth is around $50 million so, he may be a swell guy... but a grassroots activist... excuse me if I'm still a little skeptical. Caygle sees him as someone who "could help fill the party’s leadership vacuum." Other Americans are less impressed with political dynasties than Caygle, who has managed to string together every shopworn cliché imaginable that could bolster Kennedy: "It’s a shift for someone who, despite his famous last name and wavy red mane, has kept a low profile on the national scene since being elected to the House in 2012. Loath to be seen as a political celebrity, the 36-year-old from the outskirts of Boston has put in the work of a relative back-bencher and focused on delivering for his district. But the fact is, he’s no ordinary lawmaker. He’s the grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy, a member of Democratic royalty. And his decimated party could use an infusion of young talent. As Trump continues to undermine the ideals Kennedy holds dearest, he’ll have to decide whether and how to take a larger role in the party and fight back." She also through in the obligatory "much more than a notable last name."

Yes, this passes for journalism-- at least at Politico... on a long Labor Day weekend. "Kennedy," she wrote, "has already proved he has the ability to harness his star power, after gaining national prominence for blasting GOP efforts to dismantle Obamacare earlier this year." He has? To whom?

So despite Kennedy telling political operatives that he plans on running for president in 2020, she reported that he told her that "Somewhere down the road, if a Senate seat were to open, yeah, it’s something I’d certainly take a look at... But that’s got to be right in time for me and my family." and he was on The Daily Show last month.
Many Democrats say Kennedy could easily assume a spot in the party’s leadership ranks, if he wants. Beyond the family legacy, Kennedy is unfailingly polite, whip-smart and well-spoken, admirers say. And he’s young, a coveted commodity as a cadre of septuagenarians are among the party’s 2020 presidential prospects and House leaders.

But unlike the crowded field of ambitious Democrats itching to be the next face of the Democratic Party-- making high-profile appearances across the country and poking Trump at every turn-- Kennedy can seem too cautious, even borderline boring.

“I think Joe is playing the long game, and good for him. Even though politics moves much more quickly, he can make his opportunities in a way other people can’t,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a longtime Democratic consultant in Massachusetts. “His coming-out party was the health care debate.”

Kennedy pierced the public consciousness in March after calling out Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a speech about the merits of the GOP’s health care plan during an otherwise-ignored committee markup on the bill to repeal Obamacare.

The minute-long video of Kennedy rebutting Ryan-- the GOP bill was an act of “malice,” not “mercy,” Kennedy said-- garnered more than 10 million views on Facebook alone.

In some respects, defending the law is in his bones. Universal health care was the life’s mission of his larger-than-life great-uncle the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. But several people around the Capitol said they were shocked by how pointed the Massachusetts lawmaker was in his remarks.

Still, those who have known Kennedy for years say the speech and several others since then, including one viewed more than 15 million times touting diversity after white nationalists’ violent Charlottesville rally, represent the person they have always known, the man who finally seems to be coming into his own on Capitol Hill.

“Joe has really consciously chosen to keep your head down, do the work, learn the committee and get really in-depth on the issues,” said Doug Rubin, who worked as a senior strategist for Kennedy’s first congressional campaign and Elizabeth Warren’s successful Senate bid. “I think Joe’s very patient; I think he’s comfortable doing the work he’s doing now.”

In interviews with more than two dozen lawmakers, staffers, consultants, advocates and others who know Kennedy, all said they see him one day as the state’s next senator and maybe even president. And those who have tracked the Kennedys for years say he is this generation’s best chance of returning the family to its glory days as a political dynasty.
He doesn't want to challenge Warren or Markey for their Senate seats or even Republican Charlie Baker for the governor's mansion... so why not run for president instead. Other relatively young and unaccomplished Democrats thinking exactly the same way are moderates Seth Moulton, Jason Kander, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tim Ryan, Kamala Harris and Eric Garcetti. Maybe some solid accomplishments first-- one that impress someone beyond media imbeciles-- and a run for the presidency afterwards, boys and girls?

She closes her piece with a little tale about how polite Kennedy is and how one of the most far right extremists in Congress, Oklahoma lunatic Markwayne Mullin considers Kennedy one of his closest friends. "And Mullin," she writes, "like others, is bullish about Kennedy’s future. 'Joe is capable of running for the highest office if he’d like to,' he said. 'But when you talk to Joe about it, he’ll tell you I’m young, and I enjoy where I’m at right now.'"

I just called an operative who told me recently that Kennedy had asked him to work on his presidential campaign to confirm that I was remembering this right. "Yes, that's right, but don't use my name. He wants to run in 2020 if Elizabeth Warren doesn't. Is he progressive at all?... I can set you up with a dinner with him if you want."

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