Saturday, December 13, 2008


Michael Barone, like every other card-carrying right-wing apparatchik, wants you to believe that Barack Obama is tainted by the Blagojevich scandal, even though, like all of his compatriots, he can't exactly explain how. Gray eminence that he is, Barone reaches back into history and tries to use JFK to shame the president-elect:

Obama fans can point out, truthfully, that other revered presidents had seamy associates and made common cause on their way up with men who turned out to be scoundrels. Franklin Roosevelt happily did business with Chicago Mayor Ed Kelly, though warned that he was skimming off money from federal contracts. John Kennedy no more thought to deny a request from the Mayor Daley of his day than Obama has thought to buck the Mayor Daley of his.

But as Kennedy supposedly said of a redolent Massachusetts politician, "Sometimes party loyalty asks too much." The man in question was the Democratic nominee for governor and was not elected. Until Patrick Fitzgerald released his tapes, Barack Obama never said the same of Rod Blagojevich.

That's a well-known Kennedy line. The problem is, he said it at a time when he wasn't addressing what he believed were problems in his state's Democratic Party -- which would suggest to me that he was behaving precisely like Obama.

The line comes from A Thousand Days by Arthur Schlesinger. It's the summer of 1960, sometime before the Democratic convention:

We talked a bit about Massachusetts politics and the anticipated senatorial contest between Leverett Saltonstall, the Republican incumbent, and Governor Foster Furcolo, whom Kennedy had detested for many years. When Galbraith said that he would probably vote for Furcolo, Kennedy said, "The thing I like about professors is their party regularity." He then asked me how I planned to vote. When I hesitated a moment, he said, "Say it, say -- of course you're going to vote for Saltonstall. Sometimes party loyalty asks too much." (The Democratic voters of Massachusetts evidently agreed, because Furcolo was denied the nomination in the primaries in September.) He spoke gloomily about the Massachusetts Democratic party: "Nothing can be done until it is beaten -- badly beaten. Then there will be a chance of rebuilding." He added, "If I were knocked out of the Presidential thing, I would put Bobby into the Massachusetts picture to run for governor. It takes someone with Bobby's nerve and his investigative experience to clean up the mess in the Legislature and the Governor's Council."

So Barone has the facts somewhat wrong -- and the apportionment of the moral high ground completely wrong. Kennedy didn't say this at a moment when he was taking steps he thought would clean up his party; he said it at a moment when he wasn't, because he was busy running for president -- which is, um, precisely what Barack Obama was doing until very recently.

Anyone see a difference? I don't.

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