Ted Kennedy’s Final Round
On June 4th, the day after the last primaries, after eight months of struggle, the expenditure of about $30 million (excluding such off-budget items as seven RH-53 helicopters and one C-130 lost in Carter’s primary spectacular, politely described as the Rescue Mission), the withdrawal from the Moscow Olympics, the shelving of the Salt treaty and such other lesser events as a presidential flight over Mount St. Helens, the victor in the battle for the Democratic nomination was declared by most of the American press to be Jimmy Carter.
June 5th was a beautiful day in Washington, the sun hot and the west wind cool. By four p.m. a small crowd had begun to gather round the northwest gate of the White House. At 4:30 the throng of reporters inside the fence had grown to 200. The northwest gate swung open. To campaign-trail veterans it looked like the last campaign stop: the candidate’s car, the secret-service car, the van with the traveling press, doors opened, cameras out. Ted Kennedy jumped out with his long-time aide Eddie Martin and disappeared inside the White House.
The minutes crept by.
The White House doors opened at last, and Kennedy strode out amid shouts and clamor. “I welcomed the opportunity to tell the president of the United States what I expressed on television the other evening, that is, that I have every intention of continuing this campaign as a candidate to press the issues…. I am a candidate for the nomination.”
There it was. No swift bandaging of party wounds. Kennedy wasn’t quitting.
Within a few days Hamilton Jordan, the president’s chief of staff and now campaign overlord, was leaking his master plan of how Carter had beaten Kennedy to Martin Schram of the Washington Post. Amid the long, self-justifying memos there was one line, ascribed to a senior White House aide, that stopped everyone: “Fuck the Fat, Rich Kid.” Pondering the line a few days later, a Kennedy aide suggested the mood at their campaign headquarters on Twenty-second Street: “Fuck the Cracker.”
The question: is there the slightest chance the Cracker can be fucked?
Part I: “He Lied to Me”
The spine of The Democratic party is labor, not a peanut farm in Georgia. And so far as labor is concerned, the main achievement of the candidate they so enthusiastically endorsed in 1976 has been to bring down upon them, all in the name of inflation fighting, a fierce recession that is throwing their members out of work.
The Democratic party has a convenient receptacle for the very understandable spleen and discontent of many of its constituents, including labor. It is called the platform, a document hallowed in reputation and read by none. Every four years the party goes through the worthy process of compiling this platform, which enshrines the principles and standards to which the leaders of the party are expected to adhere. The 1976 platform was splendid, liberal in content, uplifting in purpose and ignored by Carter.
On a Saturday morning in mid-June, in a cavernous basement room of the new Sheraton Washington Hotel, about thirty Democratic delegates forming part of the platform committee sat in studious boredom listening to the recommendations of some of the country’s most powerful labor leaders. Among them was William Winpisinger, head of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which has nearly a million members.