He speaks in the patrician New England accent and nasal-honking intonations that conjure his father. He kept saying things like “I am entering a new phase of my life” and “I come from a family of public servants,” and it was perfectly clear what Ted Jr. had called me here to discuss. After a lifetime of entreaties, many from his father, the oldest son of Edward M. Kennedy was now, at 51, prepared to join the family business. In the musty parlance of his heritage, he was being “called to service.”
For someone so incubated in the heat of public life, Kennedy betrayed a surprising transparency, or maybe naïveté, in explaining to me how he had been preparing for this next phase. “I’ve been cultivating all sorts of friendships and relationships with people who can be helpful,” he said. And then he made clear how I came in. He also kept mentioning to me that “my father and brother had always spoken highly of you,” which carried a whiff of declaring me “reliable” within the family. (Was I, too, being called to service?) What he envisioned, Ted Jr. said, was “a foundational story” being written about him. “What’s this guy like?” he asked. “What’s he thinking?”
This was somewhat unusual. When someone decides to “come out” as a politician, it is typically in connection with a specific job — as in, “I will be running for such-and-such.” They don’t generally say, “I’m being called to service, please write a foundational story about me.” My immediate question involved exactly what service Ted Jr. was being called to. And where? Would it be in Massachusetts, where he purchased the former home of his Uncle Jack, behind the main family compound in Hyannis Port? Or in Connecticut, where he lives in the New Haven suburb of Branford with his wife, Kiki, a Yale psychiatrist, and teenage son and daughter (their oldest daughter is a freshman at Wesleyan)? There was also the possibility of an executive appointment from a president who regarded his father as a crucial Senate mentor and kingmaker. Ted Jr. wanted me to know that he was open to that.
Whatever the case, there was some urgency that the foundational story be done soon, presumably to help get his name “in play” for the imminent job openings.