Opinion: Hillary Clinton plays a Kennedy card of her own


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The effort by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to mitigate the hoopla surrounding the endorsement of Barack Obama by Ted Kennedy and his niece, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg (a losing effort, but one that had to be attempted) included trotting out Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Townsend -- daughter of Robert Kennedy, niece of Ted, cousin of Caroline -- actually has been periodically campaigning for Clinton for months in the Democratic presidential campaign (along with two of her many siblings, Robert Kennedy Jr. and Kerry Kennedy). Without mentioning that, Clinton’s website on Sunday posted a statement of support from Townsend, no doubt causing some to assume it just happened. (The statement read in part: ‘As a woman, leader, and person of deep convictions, I believe Hillary Clinton would make the best possible choice for president. She shares so many of the concerns of my father.’).

After the boisterous rally in Washington Monday where her two far better known relatives bestowed their political blessing on Obama, Townsend also showed up on MSNBC to defend her choice.


And with her brother and sister, she has penned an Op-Ed piece for our paper in which they detail their reasons for backing Clinton. (Their bottom line: ‘We need a leader who is battle-tested, resilient and sure-footed on the shifting landscapes of domestic and foreign policy. Hillary Clinton will move our country forward while promoting its noblest ideals.’ You can read the entire piece here and in Tuesday’s print edition.)

Townsend is smart and well-spoken. Like many in her extended family, she has spent much of her adult life in public service; currently, she is chair of an institute at the University of Maryland dedicated to fighting chronic viral diseases. Her own political chops, however, leave something ...

to be desired.

Townsend, like Clinton, hoped to make a gender breakthrough -- in 2002, she sought to become the first woman elected governor of Maryland. She seemed well positioned to do so, having put in two terms as lieutenant governor. But after a desultory, poorly managed campaign, she accomplished something very hard to do in heavily Democratic Maryland: Losing a statewide race to a Republican.

Order was restored four years later, when the fellow who beat Townsend was easily whisked out of office by a different Democrat. Townsend has remained on the political sidelines in her home state, her days as a candidate presumably over. We also presume that the help she is providing the Clinton camp doesn’t include much in the way of political strategizing.

-- Don Frederick