CBS's Greenfield: Obama 'Legitimate Heir' to Kennedy Legacy

On Monday’s CBS "Early Show" Senior Political Correspondent and former Robert Kennedy speech writer, Jeff Greenfield, discussed Obama gaining the endorsement of Patrick, Caroline, and Ted Kennedy: "It is, Harry, a family affair, and it is loaded with political significance and more than a little irony. At its center, one of the most significant legacies in American politics."

Greenfield went on to gush over the Kennedy legacy and how Obama is now its "legitimate heir":

They are iconic images. The youngest elected president ever, whose violent death made him a permanent symbol of youth and energy. And so when another young man sought the presidency 32 years after John Kennedy, the Clinton campaign showcased this image of a teenage Bill Clinton shaking hands with JFK. During his presidency, the images of the Clintons sailing off Cape Cod with the Kennedys burnished that connection. But now as Senator Hillary Clinton seeks the White House, key members of the Kennedy family have designated her principal opponent as their legitimate heir.

Greenfield concluded the segment by suggesting that the Kennedy endorsement could somehow reverse Hillary Clinton’s "huge lead" in the Massachusetts primary on Super Tuesday:

...this Kennedy endorsement may have a practical impact. It means that with John Kerry, both Massachusetts Senators have backed Obama, as has the state's governor, Deval Patrick. That's a Super Tuesday state, Harry, with 121 delegates, where Senator Clinton has a big lead in the polls right now.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Backlash against Clinton. That's Bill, as South Carolina says no to Hillary, and Caroline Kennedy and her uncle Ted endorse Barack Obama.

7:02AM SEGMENT:

JULIE CHEN: And later this morning, Senator Ted Kennedy, despite Bill Clinton's pleas, is expected to endorse Barack Obama. Joining Caroline Kennedy, who wrote in The New York Times that she believes Obama inspires voters the way people say her father inspired them.

HARRY SMITH: That, a big blow to the Clinton campaign. And of course, criticism of the former president hitting a fever pitch right now. The question, does Bill Clinton help or hurt his wife was answered loud and clear by South Carolina voters this weekend. Barack had a 55% of the vote. Hillary, 27%. It was left to Bill Clinton to give a concession speech.

BILL CLINTON: We congratulate him. Now we go to February 5th when millions of Americans finally get in the act.

SMITH: We're going to talk about Super Tuesday, but right now we want to talk about this big endorsement over the weekend, Caroline Kennedy endorsing Barack Obama in The New York Times.

JEFF GREENFIELD: And a much bigger one to come today, as you heard. It is, Harry, a family affair, and it is loaded with political significance and more than a little irony. At its center, one of the most significant legacies in American politics.

JOHN KENNEDY: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

GREENFIELD: They are iconic images. The youngest elected president ever, whose violent death made him a permanent symbol of youth and energy. And so when another young man sought the presidency 32 years after John Kennedy, the Clinton campaign showcased this image of a teenage Bill Clinton shaking hands with JFK. During his presidency, the images of the Clintons sailing off Cape Cod with the Kennedys burnished that connection. But now as Senator Hillary Clinton seeks the White House, key members of the Kennedy family have designated her principal opponent as their legitimate heir. In Sunday's New York Times, Caroline Kennedy, President Kennedy's surviving child , endorsed Obama, saying quote, I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time I believe I have found the man who could be that president. Not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans. And yesterday CBS News learned that Senator Edward Kennedy, the clan's surviving brother, along with his son, Patrick, will endorse Barack Obama today. That news came just a day after Obama swamped Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina primary, amid signs that some Democrats were put off by Bill Clinton's efforts on his wife's behalf, including what sounded like an attempt to dismiss Obama's South Carolina showing in racial terms.

BILL CLINTON: Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice in '84 and '88.

GREENFIELD: Now, we should note that three of Robert Kennedy's children, Kerry, Kathleen, Robert Jr., are backing Senator Clinton, and this Kennedy endorsement may have a practical impact. It means that with John Kerry, both Massachusetts Senators have backed Obama, as has the state's governor, Deval Patrick. That's a Super Tuesday state, Harry, with 121 delegates, where Senator Clinton has a big lead in the polls right now.

SMITH: Really interesting stuff. If you're Hillary Clinton, do you wish Super Tuesday was today?

GREENFIELD: Absolutely. She has big leads in almost all of those delegate-rich states. But as we have seen, polls taken eight or nine days out can change much to our surprise.

SMITH: Yeah, we're going to have a lot more on this as the morning goes on. Jeff Greenfield, thanks. More on Caroline Kennedy's influential endorsement in our next half hour as well.

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