Sunday, September 28, 2008

For Obama, Is the Key to Success 'Be More than Irish than Harvard'? Will Poet's Inscription to JFK Hold a Key to This Year's Race?

This year, in places like Scranton Pennsylvania and other rust-belt locales, is the old inscription from poet Robert Frost to JFK at his 1960 inaugural still applicable: Be more Irish than Harvard?

Of course, readers of a certain biography, soon to be released as a Warner Bros. documentary, are very familiar with this phrase which held some of the key to Kennedy's success. But Catholic University professor Tim Meagher wonders in this essay if Obama's style on the stump might turn off Catholics who are pivotal in these swing states, pointing to Hillary Clinton's success with white Catholics over Obama during the primary season. That would very ironic given Obama's strong support from the Kennedy family during this election campaign.
But Meagher's essay really doesn't consider the changes in the institutional Church itself between JFK's time and now. Back in 1960, there was a lot obvious ethnic pride surrounding JFK's candidacy, becoming the first U.S. president from a minority background. The priests of this era of Pope John XXIII rallied to Kennedy's cause, at a time when priests and nuns were generally liberal on political matters and the church was a leader in the fight for racial equality. These days, church leaders tend to be more conservative and seem more concerned with Right-to-Life concerns than whether Catholics might not pull the ballot lever for Obama because of his race. McCain's appeal to white Catholics in places like Scranton might succeed in the same way as Hillary Clinton's --  benefitting indirectly from an underlying racism toward Obama dressed up as some cultural problem.
Obama's dilemma in overcoming long-held biases by some voters is much the same as was Kennedy's challenge as an Irish Catholic in 1960. But it seems unlikely many Catholics will see this historical connection and even more unlikely that parish priests in Scranton will address the immorality of voting against a candidate simply because of his race.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

God, Christian Right and Stephen Colbert -- Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Once and Possibly Future Md. Gov. Opines on Catholics, Democrats and Family

Talking about God and Democratic politics isn't the usual television fare. The Blue Party in recent years has let the GOP frame such eternal social questions like 'What Would Jesus Do?' But here on the Colbert Report, of all places, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Maryland Lt. Governor, bravely touts her new book tackling this subject.
I always liked her sense of humor. When I interviewed her for my bio, The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings, Townsend laughed heartily at herself and other foibles, but spoke eloquently about how the family's Catholic faith informed RFK's decisions on race, immigration and his view of life. In particular, Robert F. Kennedy's friendship with Cesar Chavez seems like an odd couple, unless seen through the prism of Kennedy's understanding of his own family's history.
After the interview, Kathleen invited me to sit in her father's old red leather seat from his days in the Justice Department as JFK's Attorney General. I generally like to keep my objective veneer in place, but what the hell, right? I plopped right in the seat and smiled next to the very gracious Townsend.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Review: Kerry Kennedy on "Being Catholic Now", Predicts Most Catholics Will Vote for Obama

It's nice to see that my book, The Kennedys; America's Emerald Kings," isn't the only one discussing the Kennedys and Catholicism in America.
In the Boston Globe, Kerry Kennedy discusses her new book "Being Catholic Now" which deals with much of the controversies of that past few years. She also told the NY Daily News that she think Catholics will largely vote this year for Barack Obama.
Here's a little of what she had to say to the Boston Globe:
"I was witnessing the mighty spirit, and the tremendous capacity of this institution which was so much a part of my history, and my family, and my sense of spirituality, and my vision of social justice . . . and then coming back and hearing bishops who were protecting their turf instead of protecting children and playing Three-card Monte with the pedophile priests and blaming it on people who are gay," she said. "So it was important to me to resolve that."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

VIDEO: Oliver Stone's "W" Followed by DVD Release of "JFK" Along with "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" documentary

Right after the much publicized release of Oliver Stone's "W" movie on the life our current president, Warner Bros will be re-releasing on DVD Stone's earlier film involving another president "JFK" along with a brand-new documentary "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" based on my biography published by Basic Books. The newly re-issued book looks at the impact of the Kennedys on the 2008 presidential races, their support of Barack Obama, and Ted Kennedy's battle with cancer. Here's the trailer for the new "W" movie.

ICONS Festival Outside Boston Celebrates Irish-American Music and Arts

The Irish Cultural Centre of New England was kind enough to host my talk about "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" a few years back. And now this coming weekend, the Centre is hosting ICONS, the Irish Music and Arts Festival, September 12-14, including such performers as the Boston Kiltics seen here in this video. I'm hoping to see return soon with the new Warner Bros. two-hour documentary "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" based on my book and debuting Nov. 10 at Boston College.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Alas, Conventions, We Hardly Knew Ye -- Now Give Me That Old-Time Entertainment, RNC and DNC Style!

For years, critics have bemoaned the death of entertainment on commercial television. Oh where, oh where have those old programs gone on the Big Three networks? Remember Omnibus, the Hallmark Hall of Fame Hour, even the Ed Sullivan show with Topo Gigot? Sadly the old softshoe, the variety skits and the June Taylor dancers have faded away. Now we have all these reality shows done on the cheap, featuring contestants eating bugs or trying Jackass stunts. (Where DO they get these folks?) As our mothers might ask, "So, mister, you call this entertainment???"
But fear not, this summer -- the season when TV traditionally tests new programming -- comes a new form of TV entertainment. What better to get your jollies than the new show called "Convention"? Think of it, each week a major party could be given their own network nighttime slot, with their own brand of entertainment. The Dems this year had a fondness for the soulfulness for Stevie Wonder, while GOP serenaded its troupe with the twang of Gretchen Wilson.
Of course, in the old days, conventions really had some drama (or least we thought so). Remember when Bobby Kennedy worked the floor of the convention, shoring up any strayers from the Kennedys cause. Ah for the old days of baited breath, cigar smoke and backroom deals! For more than 25 years -- since Reagan challenged Gerald Ford at the 1976 convention -- there hasn't been much drama at either convention. So bring on the music and comedy! It's the best thing on TV this summer.

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Jack" McCain More Like JFK Than Obama? John McCain's GOPers Jump Into "Compare-Alot", Say Kennedys More Like Their War Hero Than Ted and Caroline's

Everyone wants to get into the JFK comparisons, even supporters of John McCain. In this NY Daily News essay, Bartle Bull -- whose pedigree describes him as a former publisher of The Village Voice and New York State chairman of Democrats for McCain -- makes the case that McCain's background of service in the military is more like President Kennedy than the current Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, supported by JFK's daughter Caroline and brother, Sen. Ted Kennedy. Since we've written much about the Camelot comparison -- what we call "Compare-Alot" -- we were a sucker for this one too.
Like Jack Kennedy, McCain is grounded by heroic service as a naval officer. His patriotism requires no parsing. Like JFK, McCain understands that you cannot conduct foreign policy without understanding history. No person of that background could suggest a unilateral strike on Pakistan, as Obama did last year, apparently forgetting that this United States ally has nuclear weapons. Calling Obama's threat to Pakistan "misguided" at the time, Sen. Joe Biden also said the freshman Illinois lawmaker was unprepared to lead America. Calling McCain "my hero," Biden has stated that he would be delighted to share a ticket with the Arizona senator, whom he has suddenly begun to denounce.

But Bull's analogy may have even more significance regarding RFK, suggests Mr. Bull. As he writes about a Robert Kennedy-McCain comparison:
When Robert Kennedy ran for President in 1968, Eugene McCarthy was the darling of our party's "limousine liberals," as Obama is their cocktail today. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote that Bobby became "the hate object in sections of the intellectual left, at least in New York." RFK turned to the blue-collar Democrats, some of whom are now shifting their support from Hillary Clinton to McCain. As Robert Kennedy's New York campaign manager, I recall his concern about young voters who believed they saw inspirational "hope" and "change" in McCarthy.

Oliver Stone's New Feature "W" Followed Nov. 10 by Re-Issued "JFK" on DVD with New Kennedy Documentary