Arguing that his presidential candidate possesses a unique combination of toughness and persuasive power, Robert Kennedy, Jr. electrified a tent-ful of fellow Hillary Clinton supporters on Monday night at a private home in Passaic.
“I was very skeptical at first because I knew she was coming in under the same charges as my father did, which were that she was a carpetbagger,” Kennedy, a Westchester, N.Y. resident, said of Clinton’s appeal to him when she first prepared to run for his father’s old Senate seat.
Kennedy said Clinton faced tremendous hostility, especially in traditionally Republican upstate New York – where a Senate candidate must win if he or she is to win the state, in Kennedy’s words.
“She was at that time probably the most embattled woman in American history,” Kennedy recalled. “She talked about a right wing conspiracy and people laughed at her. Well, there was a right wing conspiracy, and they spent tens of millions of dollars trying to destroy her reputation, year after year after year.”
Clinton not only won over upstate New York and got elected twice, but she has transformed the region into a Democratic Party stronghold, Kennedy said.
“And that’s what she can do,” he concluded. “She is capable of going to people who don’t like her and taking these negatives and changing them into positives, through political acumen, through patience, through persuasion, and through all these political talents that she has.”
An environmental lawyer and author, Kennedy stood with co-Clinton backers U.S. Congressmen Bill Pascrell and Frank Pallone, Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie, Essex County Democratic Chairman Phil Thigpen, Senator Paul Sarlo, and Passaic County Freeholder Bruce James.
Pumping up the crowd in the lead up to Kennedy’s remarks, “Who’s going to win tomorrow?” cried Giblin.
“Who’s going to be our next president?”
Pascrell wound up the crowd some more with a story about landing in New Hampshire last month and working and watching the Clinton campaign overcome a 13-point deficit to win the Granite State.
In his remarks, Kennedy slammed the American media as much as Bush, for rolling over in the face of an administration that has “illegally eavesdropped on hundreds of thousands of people,” and presided over torture at Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib.
“When I was a little boy, I went to Poland, England and Greece with my father, where we were met by 100s of thousands of people, who came into the streets because they wanted to be near an American politician,” Kennedy said. “They were waving American flags.”
But with Bush in the White House and “seven years of monumental arrogance and incompetence,” in Kennedy’s words, America has squandered goodwill built over decades.
“We need a fist-fighter who’s going to fight for American prestige,” said the Kennedy heir, making the case for battle-tested Clinton.
Several cries of, “We love you, Bobby,” punctuated Kennedy’s speech, which he delivered from a podium in a packed tent at the home of Clinton supporters Kenneth and Joanne Lucianin.
“I would say Bobby Kennedy offers a different perspective from the Kennedy view on what Hillary means to New York and to the New Jersey metropolitian area,” said Clinton fundraising Co-chair John F.X. Graham.
Although Kennedy questioned the effectiveness of Sen. Barack Obama’s rhetoric as a weapon against corporate interests, he also praised Obama and said he is proud to be in a party that fielded three of the best candidates he has seen in a presidential contest.
Some of the Democrats couldn’t resist taking a couple of jabs at the Obama campaign’s rally at the Meadowlands today.
“I heard he had a rally that was a flop,” said Thigpen.
“I talked to people who were embarrassed,” said Graham. “Embarrassed.”
The IZOD Arena fills up to 20,000, and the Obama campaign Monday night said their day notice rally drew a crowd of 4,500.
“We did the big event,” said Obama campaign director Mark Alexander. “We had thousands out, we had our candidate, Barack Obama, and Sen. Ted Kennedy. Sen. Obama today showed both his national strength and his commitment to the state.”
For the 200 people who attended the more intimate Kennedy event in Passaic, Clinton is the day-one candidate who can deliver on key issues, such as health care.
“My husband and I are owners of a small business,” said Wendy Sobczyk. “We pay $14,000 each year in health care costs, and I’m supporting Hillary Clinton because she has the best health care plan.”