The content of their character
With broad agreement on issues, Senate race gets personal
MICHELLE OBAMA’S BLISTERING takedown of Donald Trump during the opening night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday was noteworthy because she largely steered clear of the president’s policy record and focused instead on the character of a man she deemed wholly unfit for office.
In an odd parallel, the same issue-free attacks on character are now animating the closing days of the Democratic primary showdown between Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy.
Sure, they have traded charges on policy points. But such exchange have often fallen down rabbit holes of congressional arcana, such as Kennedy’s charge that Markey was the only member of the state’s congressional delegation to vote for a bill setting “bed quotas” for immigrant detainees, something Kennedy also later voted for — though in a very different context, his campaign says.
The squabbling and seeming hair-splitting over such votes underscores what’s been true since Kennedy first declared nearly a year ago that he would take on Markey for his seat: The two liberal lawmakers are pretty closely aligned on most major issues.
Kennedy’s most pointed attacks on Markey’s character now center on how he responded — or didn’t — to two families in crisis who came to him for help.
Kennedy has been hammering Markey over a meeting the senator had with the parents of DJ Henry, an Easton resident killed by police in an encounter near the college he was attending in the suburbs outside New York City. Henry’s father has said Markey was dismissive of the family’s efforts to seek further review of the police shooting. This week, Kennedy raised the story of another father who says he was blown off by an “aloof” Markey in a moment of crisis, a man whose wife had fled to Egypt with their two young sons.
“The difference that we can make in this position is that you help when people are in need,” Kennedy said of Markey’s inaction in last night’s final debate of the campaign. You almost expected him to steal Amy Klobuchar’s devastatingly simple attack on eyebrow-raising Trump behavior during the Democratic presidential primaries: “Who does that?”
For his part, Markey has been pounding Kennedy over attack ads from a super PAC that he charges is being organized by Kennedy’s twin brother and funded in part with the campaign account of his father, former congressman Joseph Kennedy II. Markey has slammed the surge of so-called “dark money” spending and implored Kennedy to call off his father’s spending. Finance reports that would show whether Kennedy’s dad is, in fact, dipping into money left in his campaign account to fund the super PAC aren’t due until after the primary. Kennedy is quick to point out that Markey refused to sign a so-called “People’s Pledge” against outside spending, as he did in his 2013 race to win the Senate seat.Markey has zinged Kennedy by posting a TikTok, set to the Hall and Oates song “Rich Girl,” with its reference to relying on “the old man’s money,” reinforcing the idea that the 39-year-old congressman is largely riding on his family’s fame and fortune. Markey has also gotten under Kennedy’s skin with a new ad that plays off Kennedy’s great uncle John F. Kennedy’s call for Americans to “ask what you can do for your country.”
The bottom line with less than two weeks until what many will probably consider a merciful ending to the race: Those looking for riveting policy discourse and a campaign with candidates debating the great issues of the day have had to look elsewhere.