Bush, Kennedy Family Legacies: Bushes Wins Through 'Dullness'

July 7, 2008 - 8:29 PM

(CNSNews.com)- The Bush family political dynasty has eclipsed the Kennedy family's dynasty by projecting "dullness," according to one political observer. The Bush family continued to enjoy huge electoral success in 2002, while the Kennedy family suffered several political setbacks.

Larry Sabato, political scientist with the University of Virginia, told CNSNews.com "the Bushes have managed partly through creating dullness to convince people that they represent stability and effectiveness."

"Dullness is a very saleable political quality," he added.

Any battle over family legacies is now "being won in a landslide by the Bushes, just like the Florida vote and the national vote [on Tuesday.] It's not a close call," according to Sabato.

"The Kennedys have been on the other side of politics and life, they have had so many controversies and scandals, that people have tired of them," Sabato said.

President George Bush, who campaigned vigorously for GOP candidates in key states, watched election night as the Republicans took over the U.S. Senate and made gains in the GOP controlled House. The president's brother, Jeb Bush, easily won re-election as Florida's governor, despite being the number one target of the national Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D), the eldest child of Robert F. Kennedy, shocked many political observers by going down to defeat to GOP gubernatorial nominee Rep. Bob Ehrlich. Ehrlich is the first Republican elected governor in Maryland since Spiro Agnew in 1966.

Townsend lost despite her efforts to drape herself in the Kennedy mantle. She ran television ads featuring photographs of her father, Robert F. Kennedy, and linked herself to the family's history of public service.

Other members of the Kennedy clan also went down to defeat this year. Maryland State Del. Mark Shriver (D), the son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and 1972 vice-presidential candidate Sargent Shriver, also the nephew of Sen. Ted Kennedy, saw his quest for higher office fall short.

Shriver lost the Democratic primary for the U.S. House in Maryland, despite invoking the Kennedy name by enlisting Uncle Ted to produce pre-recorded telephone calls to Democratic voters before the primary.

And a Kennedy association by marriage (to Robert F. Kennedy daughter Kerry) didn't help former Clinton administration official Andrew Cuomo, who dropped out of the New York Democratic primary for governor that he seemed certain to lose.

The only bright spot for the family was Townsend's cousin, Patrick Kennedy, the son of Sen. Ted Kennedy, who won re-election to the House from Rhode Island.

'Skip A Generation'

The Kennedy political legacy began in 1938 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Joseph Kennedy as ambassador to Britain. Joseph's son, John F. Kennedy, began his political career in 1946 with as a Massachusetts congressman. He later moved on to the U.S. Senate and won the presidency in 1960.

Brother Robert Kennedy was U.S. attorney general, later a U.S. Senator and ran for president in 1968 before being felled by an assassin's bullet. Senator Edward Kennedy, the youngest of the brothers, was elected to the Senate in 1962 and failed in presidential bids in 1972 and 1980.

Since the three brothers made their mark, many Kennedys have entered political life, including Joe Kennedy II, who served six terms as a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts. Kennedy aspired to the governorship until he endured a highly public and messy divorce, effectively ending his political career.

Sabato believes the public is tired of what it sees as the tabloid lives of the Kennedys.

"The Kennedys need to skip a generation, get out of politics, devote themselves to public issues, and leave [the legacy] to the grandkids," Sabato said.

The Kennedy grandkids "will still have name and maybe public memory will have faded about all of the scandals and inadequacies," Sabato explained.

Jeb Bush for President?

The Bush family's politics began four generations ago with great-grandfather, Samuel P. Bush serving as a close advisor to President Herbert Hoover. Prescott Bush, the current president's grandfather, was a Republican U.S. senator from Connecticut. George Herbert Walker Bush was vice president for eight years under Ronald Reagan and served one term as president. The Bushes were only the second father and son elected to the presidency since John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Sabato expects the Bush family may eventually add another feather to its dynastic cap.

"I wouldn't bet against Jeb [Bush] being the Republican nominee [for president] in 2008," Sabato said.

E-mail a news tip to Marc Morano.

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