Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who wants to be this generation’s Kennedy, talks about the sense of history he had Wednesday night being in the Hickory Hill home of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy for a high dollar fund-raiser–$28,500 per person. The home–I was in it years ago–was then full of pictures of Kennedy family members–many familiar faces to many Americans. RFK children Max, Robert Jr. and Kathleen were at the Obama fund-raiser…Here’s a detailed pool report from Washington Post reporter Anne Kornblut.
The Pool Report
A mostly newsless but breathtakingly poignant event (especially, I am sure,for those who paid $28,500 per person to attend). Obama spoke, and took three questions. The visual of the night: watching him hop in Ethel’s golf cart and drive it down the hill, from the main house to the event. Audio/full transcript to follow, possibly not until the morning.
Here, then, is the tick-tock. From Hickory Hill, the fabled Ethel Kennedy homestead in McLean:
630 pm, when your pooler arrived: A golden retriever frolicked in the front yard while guests arrived by Lincoln towncar, Lexus and Subaru (one Hillary’08 bumper sticker spotted on a Subaru with Maryland tags parked in a long
line of donor cars on Chain Bridge road). Your pooler, not to be mistaken for one who had given $28,500 to the cause, was swept by Secret Service and quickly whisked off to the isolation of a remote poolhouse (unfussily
decorated with, among other things, a giant cardboard cutout of Obama, a mini air hockey table, many fading unframed photos of the Kennedys and a frozen-in-time poster of the Rory Kennedy movie “American Hollow”).
730pm. A duo of young (pre-teen) Kennedy cousins burst into the poolhouse
to fetch the Obama cardboard cutout and take it up to main house for the
cocktail hour, where the actual Obama was apparently shaking hands in the
“meet and greet” hour. But after dragging the cardboard figure out into the
rain, the cousins thought better of the plan, and brought fake Obama back.
A discussion of Miley Cyrus followed.
745p. Guests — viewed at a distance by your pooler, still imprisoned in
the poolhouse — gathered at the edge of the main house patio, apparently
watching Obama as he did or said something interesting. Camera bulbs
flashed. The drizzling rain let up. People began making their way slowly
down the hill (yes, there’s really a hill!) to a white tent set up for the
751pm. Max Kennedy wandered into the pool area, solo, reading a sheet of
paper. He appeared to be preparing a speech or a toast, and was pacing back
and forth. He eventually came into the poolhouse and asked to borrow a pen.
Informed that the pool reporter was not supposed to speak to the guests, he
reacted with great amusement, and seemed to revel momentarily in breaking
810 pm. An aide came to fetch the pooler!
815 pm. Max gave his toast/remarks. Lively, funny.
Money quotes: said that this event would produce “more money ever raised
for any candidate in the history of this household.”
He said his mother had told him at the 2004 at the convention: “The man who
just spoke is going to be president of the United States, and he is going
to change this country.
He said that for most people in the room under 40, there had never been a
chance to vote for “anyone but a Bush or Clinton for president of the
“There is nothing that ticks me off more in politics than someone trying to
get by on the basis of their family name.”
He told charming stories about growing up at Hickory Hill; mentioned
meeting John Lennon, Coretta Scott King, Amy Carter and every serious
candidate for president as a child there; and said that Obama was the
candidate he had always sought. “This is the kind of candidate that I’ve
been waiting for my entire life,” Max Kennedy said.
825pm. Obama took the mic. “Max’s been making me blush,” he said. “I can’t
take that much niceness. So many nice words.” He thanked the event’s many
hosts, then Howard Dean, then Ethel and the Kennedy family.
He remarked on how remarkable it is to be in the RFK household. “As you
wander through the house, you see American history on display. It’s so
casually woven,” he said. You can see “all the inner workings of an
American family and an American life….you sometimes forget how
extraordinary it is, and what an extraordinary family it is.”
“These are history makers,” he said. He got a rousing round of applause
when he summarized the Kennedy credo, and now his, as “We betray a poverty
of ambition if we’re only thinking about ourselves.”
Sen. Edward Kennedy was not there, but Obama said he had talked to him on
the phone “upstairs,” and that Kennedy had, in typical fashion, wanted to
talk only about the work he has to do when he gets back to the Senate – a
mental health parity bill – rather than his own health. “It was just a
reminder of a tradition that Teddy carried forward from his brothers Jack
and Joe and of course Bobby,” he said. He said it was amazing to “be in
this house and to be able to draw inspiration not from a distance but up
close, to be able to hold Ethel Kennedy’s hand” and to know that it was all
of their work “that allowed me to be here today.”
“Plus she let me drive the golf cart,” he said. “I don’t get to drive much
He went on. “We had an extraordinary primary in so many ways…people of
extraordinary achievement and skill and passion and nobody displayed those
qualitied more than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was a tireless
campaigner, an extraordinary debater, who helped to inspire not just women
but Americans all across the country.” The primary was a “signal of a shift
in America that I don’t think can be reversed.”
The goal now, he said, is “to unify–and win,” — a line that got huge
“Not just win an election but win back this country’s heart and soul.” He
cited examples: the single woman who can’t get health insurance; a laborer
whose job has been shipped overseas; the mother of a son who died in Iraq.
“There are stories like that all over the place,” he said, of people who
can’t afford the gas to job hunt, or afford food.
“It would be one thing if we were all experiencing this together,” Obama
said, referring to the Great Depression as such a time. Instead, he said,
“People suffer silently,” while some get rich from globalization, etc., and
others do not. His campaign, Obama said, is about “us standing p and
saying, ‘No, you’re not on your own. We can be in this together.”
“It’s going to take work. It’s going to take effort. Its not going to be
easy,” he said, naming universal health care first among his goals and
saying that “Teddy and Hillary and Barack and everybody is going to have to
be involved” in working on health care.
He said that there is great reason for hope because when Americans want to
do something, “somehow, some way, we do it.” More huge applause.
“We will not just win this election. We will inspire a generation,” he
said. “We will change the world.”
842 pm. Obama said he would take a handful of questions from guests. They
were not entirely audible. But I’ve done my best.
Q. From someone who identified himself as having been at (head of?) the US
Information Agency under Bush 41.
A. Obama said he had met with national security officials earlier in the
day to talk about “these issues” (couldn’t hear what they were), and
emphasized the importance of the Peace Corps, diplomacy. Most of all, sound
“The reason that, for example, Karen Hughes failed is not because Karen
Hughes is not a capable person; it’s because you can’t put lipstick on a
pig,” he said.
Q. From a young guy/kid: DC voting rights?
A “Well, I am a strong supporter of DC voting rights,” Obama said, saying
he had always been, and that it was routinely blocked because DC is so
heavily Democratic — but that he would work to elect bigger majorities in
Congress to achieve that.
Q. From a man named Josh: on secondary education.
A. Obama said it is an issue he plans to “spend a good deal of political
capital on if I become president. He said he was often surprised in the
primary — and knew Hillary and Chris Dodd had been frustrated — by the
lack of debate questions on education. He again promised to revamp NCLB,
pay teachers more — while maintaining standards.
854 pm. The End. Obama finished speaking. Your pooler was ushered out; the
party raged on.