By William Harvey, M.D.
I grew up in Boston. As a teenager, I worked on John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign and met both Bobby and Teddy many times. In 1962, I was still living in Boston when Ted Kennedy ran his first campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Massachusetts, in those days, had perhaps the best examples of “family political dynasties” in the country. Among the best known were the Lodges, an old New England Republican family whose fate would intertwine with the Kennedy’s. A famous ditty tells it all — here is the widely quoted, but incorrect, version:
The actual verse, as written (“Boston Toast” by John Collins Bossidy), references another Boston Brahmin family:
So, back to matters of Kennedy and Lodge. In 1916, Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. defeated JFK’s maternal grandfather, John F. Fitzgerald, for the U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts. In 1952, JFK defeated the two-term incumbent senator, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.–Henry Sr.’s son–to win his Senate seat; like the presidential election in 1960, it was a narrow victory (51.5 to 48.5 percent). JFK was re-elected to the Senate in 1958, and in 1960 won the presidency. To do so, he defeated the Republican Party ticket of Richard Nixon and–you guessed it–Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. Two years later, in his first-ever campaign for political office, Ted Kennedy ran against George Cabot Lodge (Henry Jr.’s son) for the Senate seat that John Kennedy had given up when he became president. Truth, indeed, is stranger than fiction.
Henry Jr., of course, went on to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam. He was appointed by JFK. But that’s another story.
What most people don’t know (or don’t remember unless they lived in Massachusetts at the time) is that before Ted could run against Lodge, he had to win the Democratic Party primary for the U.S. Senate nomination. No easy matter, because he was running against Edward McCormack, Jr., the very popular and competent Attorney General of Massachusetts and the nephew of John W. McCormack, the Speaker of the U.S. House. JFK, who had served three terms as a U.S. congressman before running for the Senate, knew McCormack (then House Majority Leader) very well, and as Speaker (starting in 1962), McCormack was pivotal in helping JFK–and, later, Lyndon Johnson–get his programs through Congress. Yet, here were the two families, facing off in an exceedingly bitter political battle in which there could be only one victor.
A great number of Americans will remember always that famous line from the 1988 vice presidential debate, with which Lloyd Bentsen dramatically put down the much-maligned Dan Quayle: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
How many Americans, however, remember the question that Ed McCormack presented in a 1962 debate when characterizing the candidacy of Edward Moore Kennedy for the Senate?
I say we need a senator with a conscience, not with connections. We need a senator with experience, not arrogance. And the office of United States Senator should be merited, and not inherited.
The entire exchange is available thanks to the remarkable technology of YouTube, and at 90 seconds is well worth watching — for the accents, as well as for Ted Kennedy’s reaction.
[The video can be found by clicking HERE, as it cannot be embedded. -- Jeff]
Massachusetts Democrats voted and chose Ted Kennedy by a 65 to 35 percent margin. Ed McCormack subsequently ran unsuccessfully for Massachusetts governor and, after that, left public life for good. He died in 1997 at age 73 from complications of lung cancer. With his death, the McCormack political legacy ended. We can only speculate on what our country would have been like had McCormack won; similarly, we can wonder what Ted Kennedy might have gone on to do, or what events may or may not have transpired.
The key take-away message here is one that Massachusetts politicians have known for centuries: politics is a “take no prisoners” sport — every election and every vote has clear winners and losers. That being said, John Kennedy knew that Richard J. Daley’s organization in Chicago could deliver the votes . . . for a price.
Looking ahead nearly a half-century, we see that Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel have been honed and trained in that political environment and almost unconsciously use that philosophy in delivering their agenda. Politics and family are often inextricably intertwined and have been since the days of Machiavelli’s “The Prince.”
It saddened me yesterday to hear a number of news commentators talk about the end of “the Kennedy political dynasty.” I don’t know whether it is the end, or simply the passing to the next generation. But the Lodges, Kennedys and McCormacks–as well as the Daleys, Rockefellers and Bushes–all knew the rules of the game and chose to play. It’s up to each generation to decide whether to play and how much to bet, and in all these years I’ve never heard anyone mourn for the McCormacks or the Lodges.
Ted Kennedy gave most his adult life to the service of his country. For that he deserves respect. Whether his choices and principles were correct will be decided by future generations looking back upon them with time. His pain, suffering and any guilt are at an end, and for that we can all be grateful to a merciful Higher Power.
William Harvey is a physician with extensive experience in drug research and development. He began as an academic researcher but has been a pharmaceutical executive in the global development arena for almost two decades. His current position involves the strategic use of comparative effectiveness research to speed drug development and to educate healthcare stakeholders: government, payors, prescribers, and patients. He lives in the greater Philadelphia area.