The Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Now the Bushes?
Contrasting the second inaugural of George W. Bush and some controversial speeches by Teddy Kennedy, WaPo has an odd feature today entitled, “The Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Now the Bushes.”
One of the 43rd president’s achievements in winning reelection, according to Bush family friends and historians, is to ease the sting of the 41st president’s failure to do so a dozen years earlier. The president’s victory also establishes firmly a fact that earlier was open to dispute: The Bushes now belong in the top tier of political families in U.S. history.
There may not be a distinctive “Bush style” that other politicians try to mimic, as they did with JFK’s appearance and wit. The family has yet to capture the romantic fancy of fiction writers and Hollywood producers. The incumbent is launching a second term, according to polls, with nearly as many Americans scornful of his presidency as supportive of it. No matter. By any objective measure, political scholars say, Bush is a name that belongs next to Adams, Kennedy and Roosevelt as a force whose influence spans decades.
As Hugh Hewitt correctly points out, though, there is no Kennedy dynasty:
Let’s review the history. TR and FDR were on a total of seven national tickets, and they served 20 years as president. The Bushes –to date– have been on six national tickets, with eight years as president completed and four more beginning this week, as well as eight years for 41 in the vice-presidency. The Kennedys have been on a total of one national tickets, with JFK’s term as president lasting under three years, Bobby’s campaign for the presidency uncertain of the nomination when he was murdered, and Teddy’s 1980 campaign a failure as was his surrogate’s John Kerry’s.
There is a Kennedy dynasty in Massachusetts and vast Kennedy affection in the Democratic Party and among liberal media. But there is no Kennedy dynasty in America, just an interesting family that wished for a dynasty and could never figure out that Jack’s politics might have pulled it off, but never Teddy’s.
Quite right. Certainly, the Kennedys have been important in American politics, especially if one counts the extended family, including in-law Arnold Schwarzenegger. But, to the extend democracies can have “dynasties,” the presidency or premiership is the only place that can happen. Perhaps, absent two assassins’ bullets, there would have been a second JFK term and one or more RFK administrations. Or perhaps not.
Regardless, the Kennedys don’t belong on the conversation with the Roosevelts, Bushes–or Adamses or Harrisons, for that matter.