Kennedy and I were fellows in the same class for the 1990-91 Loyola University New Orleans Institute of Politics. At the time, he was the studiously centrist (with the barest tinge toward center-right) special counsel to conservative, then-Democratic Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer. (Roemer switched to the Republican Party in March 1991.)
Kennedy had a mild Southern accent but still sounded rather patrician, befitting his record both at Oxford and as former executive editor of the University of Virginia’s Law Review. His folksy, exaggerated Southern-cornpone accent now is an affectation, mere political theater to stand out among the Senate’s bevy of stuffed shirts. It’s about as authentic as a cow in a camel costume.
Kennedy’s transmogrifications don’t end with his faux-folksiness, though. Far more remarkable is how peripatetic his ideology has been. From his centrist roots, Kennedy first moved rightward, to serving as revenue commissioner for conservative Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster. In 2004, he swung hard left, running as a decidedly liberal Democrat in Louisiana’s “jungle primary” for Senate. He endorsed John Kerry for president over George W. Bush, while being endorsed by liberal New Orleans then-congressman William Jefferson and other state liberals, as centrist Democrats such as retiring Sen. John Breaux spurned him.