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Walter Rodgers

Political dynasties (Romney, Bush, Kennedy) betray basic American values

Families like the Kennedys, Bushes, and Romneys will likely ever seek political power – and the public may well respond with a certain star-struck awe. But hereditary ambition and home-grown royalty run counter to the American Revolution premise ‘that all men are created equal.

By Walter Rodgers / April 11, 2012

Mitt Romney meets with former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush to receive their endorsements March 29 in Houston. Columnist Walter Rodgers says of modern American political dynasties: 'like kings of old, today’s royals seek to maintain position and power by plying supporters, friends, and family with gifts, whether they be tax breaks or cabinet posts.'

Pat Sullivan/AP

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Once again, America’s leading political dynasties are holding high the family standard in an election year.

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In Massachusetts, another Kennedy is racing toward Congress. This time, it’s Democrat Joseph P. Kennedy III, the grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy, hoping to fill the vacancy of retiring Rep. Barney Frank

“I’m very proud of my family’s record of public service to the Commonwealth and the country,” the young Mr. Kennedy has said. I don’t doubt his desire for service, but he’s also trading on the family name – and fundraising and other powers and privileges that go with it. That’s not what the Founders envisioned for the new republic.

Meanwhile, in Texas and Florida, the Bushes are using their endorsement clout in an attempt to wrap up the messy Republican primary. It’s time for “the party to get behind” Mitt Romney, former President George H.W. Bush says.

His wife, Barbara – who referred to her son George W. as “the chosen one” before he even became president – has recorded a robocall for Mr. Romney’s campaign. Jeb Bush, another son and a former governor of Florida, has also endorsed Romney. 

(A reasonable question: If Romney loses to Obama, will Jeb run in 2016? It’s a job he has said he has wanted since he was a kid.)

The United States has seen its share of political families: the Adamses, at the beginning, and in modern times, the Browns of California; the Cuomos of New York; the Daleys of Chicago; Ron Paul and his son Rand, now a US senator from Kentucky; not to mention Romney and his late governor father, George.

But over the past half century, no two families have been as powerful as the Bushes and Kennedys. They share deep New England roots and a seeming sense of entitlement to the White House.

The Kennedy taste for dynastic prerogative has at times been shameless. Sen. Robert Kennedy challenged a sitting president of his own party and tried to seize the presidential nomination – seeking to recapture his brother John’s lost legacy and rekindle the myth of Camelot. (Parallels can be drawn with the younger Bush president in attempting to finish off his father’s war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.)

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