Sen. Edward Kennedy last week draped both himself and the tattered mantle of Camelot around the neck of Sen. Barack Obama, the “future is ours” Democrat vying with Sen. Hillary Clinton for the nomination of their party for president. The gesture made it possible for usually timid North East politicians to abandon the Clinton ship and run up their Jolly Rogers.
So far in Connecticut, Reps John Larson, Rosa DeLauro and Chris Murphy have joined the Kennedy-Obama ship; hanging back in the wings, but ready to rejoice, are Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Joe Courtney.
Kennedy’s enthusiastic embrace has had some unfortunate repercussions. The reaction to Kennedy’s defection from the Clinton camp in the New York sector of the feminist jungle has been somewhat intemperate.
“Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal,” the president of the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter wrote in a press release:
“Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, the Family Leave and Medical Act to name a few. Women have buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. We have thanked him for his ardent support of many civil rights bills, BUT women are always waiting in the wings.
“And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one)…
“This latest move by Kennedy, is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation - to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’”
The reaction to the reaction of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s defection has been one of mock-shocked surprise.
“So, that's it—an endorsement of any candidate but Hillary is a betrayal of the feminist cause?” says Slate, an online magazine, noting with some bemusement, “Lots more fury follows—enough to prompt John to wonder if the name Mary Jo Obama Gets Endorsedwas in the original draft of NOW's press release."
The hubbub forced Kim Gandy. NOW’s president, to issue a clarification:
“The National Organization for Women has enormous respect and admiration for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D- Mass.). For decades Sen. Kennedy has been a friend of NOW, and a leader and fighter for women's civil and reproductive rights, and his record shows that.
“Though the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee has proudly endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for president, we respect Sen. Kennedy's endorsement. We continue to encourage women everywhere to express their opinions and exercise their right to vote.”
Into this maelstrom now rides Rep. Rosa DeLauro, whose husband, Stan Greenberg once was a pollster for the Clintons. Before her assent to congress, DeLauro was the director of EMILY’s List, a money raising racket for the kind of feminists in New York who deplored Kennedy’s defection. And, as if the waters were not muddy enough, Stakonovite anti-corporationist Ralph Nader is pawing the ground, anxious to enter the Democrat lists for president. It is hoped – apparently by Nader and no one else – that the consumer advocate will be able to fill a gap caused when Sen. John Edwards bowed out of the race, all of which will make it more difficult for Dodd and Courtney to come out of the shadows and show a little courage.