Was Kennedy the Democrats' sal(i)vation? SOTU response curse strikes again

The Kennedys have salivated after power for decades, but rarely have we seen it so literally. Billed as Joe Kennedy III’s premiere in national politics, the three-term Congressman gamely took on the task of providing the official party response to the State of the Union address. Oddly, however, Kennedy’s speech offered a dark vision of an America that is “forcefully rigged for those at the top.”

Er … did anyone ever introduce Kennedy to his family? And did anyone ever tell him to wipe his mouth? Shininess at the corners of Kennedy’s lips made it appear that he was drooling during the speech:

We are bombarded with one false choice after another:

Coal miners or single moms. Rural communities or inner cities. The coast or the heartland.

As if the mechanic in Pittsburgh and the teacher in Tulsa and the daycare worker in Birmingham are somehow bitter rivals, rather than mutual casualties of a system forcefully rigged for those at the top.

We’ll get back to that shortly. The New York Post reports on the immediate takeaway from Kennedy’s speech:

Congressman Joe Kennedy III gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union — and drew comments both about his policy ideas and for what was dripping off his lips.

The 37-year-old Kennedy family scion — who is the grandson of RFK — appeared to have large, bizarre wet spots at the corners of his mouth as he talked after President Trump’s speech, prompting people to wonder if it was drool or an abundance of Chapstick.

“Marco Rubio had dry-mouth during his #SOTU response in 2013. Joe Kennedy has drool-mouth,” tweeted GOP pollster Frank Luntz, as he compared Kennedy’s speech to the disastrous 2013 Republican response by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) in which he awkwardly reached for water.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you about The Curse, Congressman. Even beyond the moisture, though, the choice of a third-generation dynast like Kennedy to deliver a class-warfare message seems all wet. International Business Times correspondent Suman Varandani reminds readers that Kennedy is no working-class hero, nor even a self-made success story like Donald Trump:

Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), who gave the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech on Tuesday, has an estimated net worth of $43 million, which includes investments and trust funds. The estimate value was based on an analysis of financial disclosure forms.

The 37-year-old lawmaker is a member of the famed Kennedy political clan, a great-nephew of former president John F. Kennedy. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, his average net worth makes him the 24th richest elected official (out of 585), and the 16th richest member of the House (out of more than 400). …

Kennedy, who took a jab at the president following his SOTU address, invested in pharmaceuticals and health, and electronics manufacturing in 2015. His top assets included a trust find worth $19 million, reports said.

Jim Geraghty argues that it’s not just dynasts in general that have become anachronisms, but that the Kennedys, in particular, belong to the past:

Last night, the congressman contended, “The [administration’s] record is a rebuke to our highest American ideal, the belief that we are all worthy, that we are all equal, that we all count, in the eyes of our law and our leaders, our God and our government.”

The Kennedy family spent the better part of two generations fighting for equality in the eyes of the law for everyone not named Kennedy. As a review of the forthcoming film Chappaquiddick declared, “The fact that the Kennedy family — the original postwar dynasty of the one percent — possessed, and exerted, the influence to squash the case is the essence of what Chappaquiddick means. The Kennedys lived outside the law.”

Let us also acknowledge that when someone from a clan that has been touted as “America’s Royal Family” since at least 1962 sings the praises for equality… it rings hollow.

Joe Kennedy III may be an absolute gentleman with women and I hope he is. But when he salutes America’s women for “bravely saying, ‘me too,’” some of us can only think of John F. Kennedy bedding 19-year-old White House interns and Ted Kennedy making a “waitress sandwich” with Chris Dodd. For a long time, the Kennedy men embodied everything that #MeToo opposes. Some people may object to this point, declaring it unfair to hold past generations’ sins against the Congressman. Of course, if his name was Smith or Jones, would he be giving the response to the State of the Union? Last night Democrats wanted to cash in on the benefits of the family legacy without acknowledging the dark side of that legacy.

To be fair, Democrats didn’t risk much in that choice. Kennedy has been a non-entity for the better part of three terms in the House, so an embarrassing performance last night wouldn’t have cost them much. They didn’t want to risk damaging one of their truly rising stars like Kamala Harris or Kirsten Gillibrand, or any of the other 2020 hopefuls. A bit of drool won’t drip on their ambitions now.

But it wasn’t saliva, Kennedy tells George Stephanopoulos — it was lip balm that made it look like he was salivating. Kennedy laughed it off, joking that he went “a little bit light on the Chap-Stick this morning” after last night’s performance. Give him credit for being able to laugh at himself a bit, a quality that will no doubt endear his constituents to him, even if last night’s performance was otherwise a car wreck. Speaking of which, whose bright idea was it to pose a Kennedy in front of a car as Chappaquiddick nears its release date? Come on, man. 

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