Tales from the Trail

Name-recalling in healthcare fight: Wellstone, Kennedy

The healthcare fight has turned into a power struggle over names.

Conservatives have the sirens out warning about the “Wellstone effect” in a jab at trying to knock out any inclination Liberals may have to capitalize on the Kennedy name in pursuing healthcare overhaul, one of  Senator Edward Kennedy’s signature issues. MEMORIAL WELLSTONE

Trouble is that the Wellstone analogy doesn’t automatically jump out for everyone.

It takes a bit of digging into the memory banks (or perhaps Googling) to refresh the brain cells that the reference is to the 2002 memorial service for Democrat Senator Paul Wellstone which was criticized for turning into a political event. Backlash contributed to Democrats losing that Senate seat.

Conservatives may be worrying that the emotional effect from Senator Edward Kennedy’s death may swing the healthcare debate toward the left, especially after Senator Robert Byrd proposed stamping Kennedy’s name on the legislation.

But analysts say while the Kennedy name is powerful, it is unlikely to shift the balance in the healthcare debate.

The First Draft: Drag out that vacation a bit

For some Americans — including the president – there’s just one last week of summer before work and school get back into full swing. 

OBAMA/President Barack Obama found out that as president, sometimes a vacation isn’t always a break from work. So he decided to extend his time off a bit by going to Camp David next week after returning from Martha’s Vineyard.

While on the Vineyard Obama interrupted his family holiday a couple of times. First, to announce his renomination of Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve and then to speak after his friend, Senator Edward Kennedy, died of cancer.

The First Draft: Economy steadying?

Slowly but surely, more economists and experts are expressing some optimism about the economy, saying the worst might be over. New indicators released this morning support that sentiment.USA-UNEMPLOYMENT

Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker told the Danville Register & Bee newspaper that he thought the economy was leveling out and there was “reason for hope.”

Government data released today showed the U.S. economy contracted more slowly than expected in the second quarter of the year. Other figures showed the number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits dropped last week and those collecting long-term unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level since April.

U.S. conservative talk radio: little fondness for Kennedy legacy

Ted Kennedy’s polarizing political legacy was on full display on Wednesday as some U.S. conservatives showed little restraint in their hostility for the veteran liberal senator who died late on Tuesday. 

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Conservative talk radio hosts blasted away at the policies of Kennedy, a towering figure in the Democratic Party and a standard bearer of liberal causes who died at age 77 after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.

Nationally syndicated talk show host Rush Limbaugh said the political left was “exploiting his death and his legacy” to advance President Barack Obama’s agenda for healthcare reform, which was also one of Kennedy’s signature issues.

Lionizing the Lion: tributes to Kennedy

KENNEDY/Tributes to Senator Edward Kennedy are pouring in after the 77-year-old pillar of the Democratic Party lost his battle with brain cancer. A schedule of events to remember the “Lion” of the Senate will be posted on www.tedkennedy.org as arrangements are finalized.

Here are some of the tributes and lessons learned from Kennedy’s statesmanship.

Crossing party lines: “The Kennedy name is synonymous with the Democratic Party.  And at times, Ted was the target of partisan campaign attacks.  But in the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle,” President Barack Obama said. “He could passionately battle others and do so peerlessly on the Senate floor for the cause that he held dear, and yet still maintain warm friendships across party lines.”

Sen. Kennedy’s notable speeches

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The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy prompted Politico to compile a list of some of his best and most notable speeches.

Here is a selection, with video found on YouTube:

1968 Robert Kennedy eulogy:

1980 concession speech at the Democratic National Convention:

1987 Robert Bork Supreme Court confirmation hearing:

2008 Endorsing Barack Obama:

2008 Democratic Convention

The First Draft: Kennedy dies of cancer at 77

Focus in Washington turned to memories of Edward Kennedy, the third longest serving U.S. OBAMA/senator, who died late Tuesday night after a 15-month battle with brain cancer.

Friends, former colleagues and people who never knew him were offering words of praise for the man who took the helm of one of America’s most fabled political families after two older brothers — President John Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy — were assassinated.

“An important chapter in our history has come to an end,” said President Barack Obama. “Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States senator of our time.”

First draft: From singing to stem cells

OBAMA/After making a surprise appearance on stage to lead a star-studded cast and audience in the Kennedy Center in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Senator Edward Kennedy on Sunday night, President Barack Obama returns to his day job on Monday.

The main item of the day — stem cells.

Obama will fulfill a campaign vow and reverse another Bush decision at 1145 a.m. (1545 GMT) when he lifts a restriction on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. He will also give the National Institutes of Health four months to come up with new rules. The NIH will decide when it is ethical and legal to pay for stem cell research.

He will also be stressing the need to put science above ideology. Former President George W. Bush was accused by scientists and politicians of injecting politics and sometimes religion into scientific decisions.

‘Sir Edward’ cheered at Obama healthcare summit

Senator Edward Kennedy showed up at President Barack Obama’s healthcare summit Wednesday and got a welcome befitting his new title.
 
“Sir Edward Kennedy,” Obama said, gesturing toward the Massachusetts senator, a longtime leader on the healthcare issue. The crowd at the White House event applauded warmly.
 
“That’s the kind of greeting a knight deserves,” the president said.
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The British government announced Tuesday that Kennedy had been awarded an honorary knightood by Queen Elizabeth in recognition of his service to U.S.-British relations. The announcement came as Prime Minister Gordon Brown was visiting Washington.
 
Kennedy, who turned 77 on Feb. 22, has brain cancer and has spent little time in Washington this year.
 
He underwent surgery last year to remove a malignant tumor and suffered a seizure Jan. 21 at Obama’s inaugural luncheon.
 
Kennedy was an early supporter of the president and chairs one of the Senate committees that oversees healthcare.
 
“It is thrilling to see you here, Teddy,” Obama said. “We are so grateful for you taking the time to be here and the extraordinary work that your committee has already started to do.”
 
Kennedy praised Obama for bringing the diverse group together.
 
“I’m looking forward to being a foot soldier in this undertaking,” he said, “and this time we will not fail.”
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Kennedy receives warm welcome at healthcare summit)