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OpinionColumnistsLeonard Levitt

Dems relying on a tarnished Kennedy legacy

Going back to the Kennedy well.

Joseph Kennedy III.

Joseph Kennedy III. Photo Credit: AP / Steven Senne

Democrats continue to give it the old college try. Going back to the Kennedy well.

Last week, they called on third-term Rep. Joseph Kennedy III of Massachusetts to deliver the Democrats’ rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.

As earnest and passionate as the 37-year-old came across, the Kennedy name may no longer be effective enough to inspire a younger generation of Democrats. The name has been badly tarnished.

Let’s count the ways. Just as President Bill Clinton, despite his accomplishments, may ultimately be defined by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Joe’s uncle, Ted, the longtime senator, may be defined by Chappaquiddick. While driving with passenger Mary Jo Kopechne in 1969, he said, the car went off a wooden bridge and into a pond. He said he escaped and tried to save Kopechne, but couldn’t.

Young Kennedy’s father, former Rep. Joseph Kennedy Jr., will be remembered for trying to annul his 12-year marriage to Sheila Rauch Kennedy so he could marry his second wife. Rauch’s best-selling book, “Shattered Faith: A Woman’s Struggle to Stop the Catholic Church from Annulling Her Marriage,” upended father Joe’s Senate bid; a decade later, the church reversed the annulment.

Then there’s cousin Robert Kennedy Jr. A man recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction, he has recently been in the news as a defender of his cousin, Michael Skakel, who was convicted in 2002 of murdering neighbor Martha Moxley in Greenwich, Connecticut. In a recent book, he proclaimed Michael’s innocence, and with no credible evidence, blamed her death on two black men from the Bronx. If that’s not racist, what is?

Last week, Senior Connecticut Assistant State’s Attorney James Killen filed a motion seeking Skakel’s return to prison, where he served 10 years before he was released on bail in 2013 while seeking a new trial.

Yet the Kennedys are apparently still not without clout. Ever wonder how or why the Triborough Bridge, constructed during the Great Depression, was renamed the RFK Bridge?

It turns out Robert Kennedy Jr. contacted then-Gov. Elliot Spitzer to make the request. Spitzer said RFK Jr. called him out of the blue and said the family was asking for the change.

Spitzer complied. “It was an easy lift,” he said.

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