Tales from the Trail

Political dynasties shift in election-year tremor

After the November election, there will not be a Kennedy in Congress for the first time in almost half a century because Representative Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, has decided to retire from his Rhode Island seat.

“My life is taking a new direction and I will not be a candidate for re-election this year,” Patrick Kennedy said in a video announcing his decision nearly six months after his father, the “Liberal Lion” of the Senate, died.

Of course there is still time for another Kennedy to step forward and declare intentions to run for office, but we haven’t heard any whispers.

On the other hand, Ben Quayle, 33, the son of former vice president Dan Quayle, has thrown the gauntlet down and plans to run for the Arizona congressional seat of retiring Republican John Shadegg.

“The big news is my son, Ben Quayle, today filed his papers for congressman of the third Congressional district here in Arizona,”  Dan Quayle announced on Fox News. “It’s the next generation of leadership. The Republican Party’s got to move on.”

Mindboggling in Massachusetts

The Republicans are coming, the Republicans are coming… to Massachusetts. USA-POLITICS/MASSACHUSETTS

The Senate seat comfortably held by Edward Kennedy for nearly half a century has gone to Republican Scott Brown. 

We can only imagine what the late “Liberal Lion” of the Senate would have thought if he were still alive.

Democrats politely congratulated Brown, who defeated Democrat Martha Coakley, knowing full well that the dynamics have changed. Democrats no longer have a 60-vote filibuster-proof Senate — and that can affect their plans for healthcare reform.

Kirk follows in Kennedy’s footsteps on healthcare, without the roar

If Ted Kennedy were alive, he would have been proud.

He also would have likely been counting votes.

And even raising his thunderous voice.

IRAQ-USA/CONGRESSOn Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Kennedy’s temporary replacement in the U.S. Senate echoed the fallen lawmaker’s call for Democrats and Republicans to work together and finally overhaul the U.S. healthcare system.

In his first Senate speech since being sworn in last month, Paul Kirk said: “Of all the issues on which he led the Senate and our nation, the one Ted Kennedy called the cause of his life was the battle for affordable, quality health care.”

“After decades of falling short of the mark … (it) is at long last within reach,” said Kirk, who was appointed by the Massachusetts governor to fill Kennedy’s seat until a successor can be elected in a special election in January. Kennedy died of brain cancer in August.

Kennedy successor joins Senate, takes up health reform battle

Former Democratic Party Chairman Paul Kirk has a few months in his new job to help accomplish what his friend, the late Senator Edward Kennedy, devoted much of his life to: Trying to provide affordable healthcare to all Americans.

Kirk was sworn in on Friday to take the Senate seat held for 47 years by Kennedy, his party’s liberal lion and leading advocate for healthcare reform.

KENNEDY-SEAT/The ascension of Kirk again gives Democrats, provided they stick together, the 60 votes needed in the 100-member Senate to clear Republican procedural roadblocks.

The First Draft: After the crash, pushing for financial reform

President Barack Obama tries to revive his push for financial reform on Monday.The president heads to Wall Street on the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers to try to make his case for stricter regulatory oversight of U.S. markets.OBAMA/He’ll also be discussing how he plans to wind up government involvement in the financial sector.The federal government took large stakes in banks and other firms over the past year as it tried to stabilize the economy in the midst of recession and financial collapse.Obama’s financial reform effort has hit resistance in Congress, as has his bid for an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.A new poll in The Washington Post on Monday showed public opposition to Obama’s healthcare reform is high but could ease a little if the president dropped his bid for a government-run public health plan to compete with private insurers.Obama argues a public plan is needed to ensure private insurers face enough competition to force them to control costs.The late Senator Edward Kennedy’s memoir “True Compass” is out on Monday and his sons, Representative Patrick Kennedy and Ted Kennedy Jr., spoke with the morning shows about their father and his book.Patrick Kennedy recalled the first time he became aware of the constant threats his father faced.KENNEDY/“On the campaign trail in 1980, I remember one time I was with my dad and someone took one of the (campaign) buttons … They took the pin out and they jammed his hand when he came by,” Kennedy said.”I remember the Secret Service after the event were wondering whether he’d gotten poisoned because they didn’t know it was a button he’d gotten stuck with. It was the first time that I remember ever feeling that this was something that was a daily part of his life that he had to worry about.”Patrick Kennedy said the book, completed over the past year as his father struggled with the cancer that killed him, was a revelation to him.”Everybody knows my dad wasn’t the most sentimental, emotive guy,” he said. “For us this was an enormous revelation, in a sense, because this book really was one where he talked about his feelings and emotions at various points in his life.”For more Reuters political news, click here.Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama meets with economic team in March); Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (People line up to sign condolence book at Kennedy’s Senate office after his death in August)

After death, Kennedy’s words still ring in healthcare debate

Two weeks after his death, Senator Edward Kennedy’s words on healthcare rang out before a joint session of Congress when President Barack Obama quoted from a letter that he received from the liberal Democrat posthumously. USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMA

Obama in seeking to turn public opinion his way in a primetime speech to Congress referred to Kennedy’s letter before an audience that included the late senator’s widow, Vicki, and two sons. The White House released it publicly after the president’s address.

The letter was written in May shortly after Kennedy was told that the brain cancer he was battling was terminal. The senator called healthcare reform “the cause of my life” and said he was optimistic that it would be achieved. USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMA

Democrats seem certain to retain Kennedy’s Senate seat

If history and emotion are any indication, Democrats seem certain to retain Edward Kennedy’s  Senate seat, which the Massachusetts liberal held for nearly a half century before succumbing last week to brain cancer.

Political analysts note that Massachusetts has traditionally voted Democratic, including in last year’s U.S. presidential election. The last time Massachusetts elected a Republican to the Senate was 1972 when it gave Edward Brooke a second six-year term. USA ELECTIONS

Analysts also point out that Kennedy’s death created a tidal wave of emotion, one that his party will likely ride to victory in a special election to replace him.

The Pope blessed Ted Kennedy

KENNEDY/As a divorcee who was pro-choice on abortion, the United States’s most prominent Catholic politician was not exactly in the Vatican’s good books.

Yet Pope Benedict XVI blessed the terminally ill Senator Edward Kennedy, according to correspondence made public at his burial in Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday.

Kennedy, whose political career was marred by scandal, asked for the Pope’s prayers in a letter that was handed to the pontiff by President Barack Obama in Rome on July 10.

Ted Kennedy Jr brings self, others to tears

Senator Edward Kennedy’s son, Ted Kennedy Jr., served up one of the most eKENNEDY/motional moments of his father’s funeral on Saturday when he recalled how the late senator stood by him while he struggled after losing his leg to cancer.

Calling his father “my best friend,” Ted Kennedy Jr told of a winter day – a few months after his leg was amputated — when his father urged him to go sledding on their steep driveway. 

“And I was trying to get used to my new artificial leg. And the hill was covered with ice and snow. And it wasn’t easy for me to walk. And the hill was very slick. And as I struggled to walk, I slipped and I fell on the ice. And I started to cry and I said, I can’t do this. I said, I’ll never be able to climb up that hill.  
 
“And he lifted me up in his strong, gentle arms and said something I will never forget. He said, ‘I know you can do it. There is nothing that you can’t do. We’re going to climb that hill together, even if it takes us all day.’”  
 
“Sure enough, he held me around my waist and we slowly made it to the top. And you know, at age 12 losing your leg pretty much seems like the end of the world. But as I climbed on to his back and we flew down the hill that day, I knew he was right. I knew I was going to be OK. ”
 
“You see, my father taught me that even our most profound losses are survivable, and that is — it is what we do with that loss, our ability to transform it into a positive event, that is one of my father’s greatest lessons. ”

Youngest Kennedys remember Ted Kennedy’s causes

In one of the most poignant moments of the funeral service for Ted Kennedy on Saturday,  the youngest members of the Kennedy clan offered up prayers for some of the causes dearest to the late senator’s heart.

Max Allen, one of Kennedy’s youngest grandchildren, offered up a prayer:

“For what my grandpa called ‘the cause of his life.’  As he said so often: ‘In every part of this land that every American will have decent quality healthcare as a fundamental right and not a privilege.’”

Other Kennedy children mentioned his work with the poor and to ensure that all people are respected for what they can do.