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The new Kennedy generation: Service, ambition, bad behavior

January 1, 1998
Web posted at: 7:50 p.m. EST (0050 GMT)

From Congressional Correspondent Bob Franken

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While Sen. Edward Kennedy is the lone remaining political patriarch of his time -- carrying the liberal Democratic mantle for Massachusetts for 35 years -- there is a whole second generation of Kennedys who have followed in the footsteps of John, Bobby and Teddy.

U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, Robert F. Kennedy's oldest son, has represented a Boston-area district since 1987. His issues of primary concern -- banking and housing and how they relate to the poor and elderly -- are particularly well-suited to his liberal district.

vxtreme CNN's Bob Franken reports

His cousin, Patrick, the son of Edward Kennedy, was elected to the U.S. House in 1994 from a district in Rhode Island. His most passionate moment in Congress came during the debate over assault weapons in 1996.

"You'll never know what it's like because you don't have someone in your family killed," he thundered. "It's not the person who's killed, it's the whole family affected."


But the rising star of the family may be Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, another of Robert and Ethel Kennedy's children. She ventured out of New England to pursue a political career and is now the lieutenant governor of Maryland.

It was widely thought that Michael Kennedy, too, hoped to become a congressman. But the scandal surrounding his alleged relationship with an underage baby sitter derailed those ambitions and, at least temporarily, those of his brother, Joe, who abandoned plans to run for governor of Massachusetts in 1998.

"(The campaign) would have focused on very personal issues, and I don't think that would have been good for my family or the people of the state," he said.

John Jr.
John Jr.

Ironically, the person with the most raw star power in this generation of Kennedys is one who has not chosen elective politics -- John F. Kennedy Jr.

Though there is speculation that he might one day run for office, right now he is focusing on his political magazine, George, where he has often raised eyebrows.

Indeed, following the turmoil last year over Michael's alleged affair and Joe's dispute with his ex-wife over a Catholic church annulment, JFK Jr. described his cousins as "poster boys for bad behavior."

For the new generation of Kennedys, bad behavior and ambition are the mix that keeps the mystique of the political dynasty alive, even if its actual power has faded.


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