The Courting of Ted Kennedy, 2008

Created: August 26, 2009 16:59 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

I’ve been re-reading “Clash of Dynasties,” the twelfth chapter of Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson’s campaign history “The Battle for America,” which is all about the negotiations between Kennedy and the leading candidates for the 2008 Democratic nomination — negotiations that ended in Kennedy’s pivotal endorsement of Barack Obama, without which it’s hard to imagine him winning the nod. It’s a fascinating first draft of history with several revelations.

Revelation one: John Edwards, who at that point was several months into his career-killing affair with Rielle Hunter, told Kennedy that it would be “right for the party” if he endorsed him.

I know you’ll do that and when you do what’s right for the party you will be with me. It can make all the difference. We can win this. I’ll win Iowa.

Revelation two: Bill Clinton definitely lost Kennedy after his attacks on Obama, but what really got Kennedy angry was when Clinton claimed that his wife was not really voting for a war in Iraq by voting for the 2002 resolution. Clinton “cited the support for the resolution by Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.”

Kennedy, who had led the opposition to the war, was furious. “It was a vote for war,” he said firmly. “I was there. I said it at the time. That resolution was a vote for war. Everybody understood it.”

Revelation three isn’t as big of a surprise. When Kennedy endorsed Obama, “his endorsement came with conditions. Kennedy wanted a commitment from Obama that as president he would push for universal health care. He wanted it to be a first priority of an Obama administration. Obama agreed.”