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Kennedy Clan Embraces Its Republican In-Law

Family trumps politics as Democratic relatives rally behind Marie Shriver's husband.

October 09, 2003|Elizabeth Mehren | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — Overlooking party differences, the large and famously Democratic Kennedy family on Wednesday rallied behind its most prominent Republican in-law, California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I called Arnold and Maria last night to congratulate them and wish them well," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, pater familias of the legendary political dynasty and doting uncle of California's next first lady, Maria Shriver.

Although Kennedy had issued a statement during the campaign opposing the recall election and supporting Gov. Gray Davis, the Democratic senator on Wednesday was downright diplomatic toward Schwarzenegger.

"I look forward to working with him on the many issues where we agree, especially in improving the quality of education and expanding opportunities for all our people," Kennedy said.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 10, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 75 words Type of Material: Correction
Kennedy family -- A front-page article in Wednesday's Section A incorrectly reported that Bobby Shriver is Maria Shriver's younger brother. He is Shriver's older brother. In addition, the story said that Bobby Shriver did not return a phone call asking for comment on the election of his brother-in-law, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as governor of California. In fact, Shriver did return a reporter's phone call late Tuesday night but the story was not updated to reflect that.

From Capitol Hill, the senator's son Patrick, a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island, also offered warm words to the incoming governor.

"I would like to congratulate Gov.-elect Schwarzenegger on a hard-fought victory in yesterday's election," said Patrick J. Kennedy, after whom one of the governor-elect's sons is named.

"I would also like to congratulate my cousin, Maria Shriver, for all the work she did on her husband's campaign," said Kennedy, who too had voiced opposition to the recall and support for Davis.

But Rep. Kennedy also observed, in a faintly veiled caveat to Schwarzenegger, that "there are many difficult issues facing California and the nation in the coming months."

"Because of federal cutbacks, governors across the country are being forced to deal with an increasingly bleak economic forecast," the congressman said.

Both Kennedys' remarks echoed the conclusions reached at an August gathering of the notoriously loyal clan at the family compound at Hyannis Port, Mass., said Laurence Leamer, author of the forthcoming book "Sons of Camelot: The Fate of An American Dynasty."

"The family got together and talked about how they were going to support Arnold," said Leamer, who learned of the meeting from a family member.

"Everybody is behind him," Leamer said, noting: "Blood trumps politics with the Kennedys. It always has."

Yet on Wednesday, some family members kept their views to themselves.

A call to Bobby Shriver, Maria's younger brother, was not returned. Former six-term congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III, Maria Shriver's cousin, was unavailable for comment, as was Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, another Shriver cousin who last year lost a bid to become Maryland's governor.

Schwarzenegger's California victory comes on the heels of two other recent political setbacks for the Kennedy family: Mark Shriver, another of Maria's brothers, lost a congressional bid in Maryland.

And Max Kennedy, a son of the late Robert F. Kennedy and a Shriver cousin, pulled out of a recent Massachusetts congressional primary campaign.

"So this victory energizes the Kennedys. Arnold is the first new candidate for office even vaguely affiliated with the Kennedys who has won in a while," Leamer said.

"Not that Arnold is a new Kennedy," he quickly pointed out. "He is a Schwarzenegger. I think people have exaggerated the Kennedy connection."

The branch of the Kennedy family into which California's incoming governor married is among the least-known factions of the highly public clan. The Shrivers also are among the most idealistic of all the Kennedys.

Maria Shriver's father, Sargent Shriver, helped launch the Peace Corps. And her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, created the Special Olympics. Like most members of the Kennedy family, the Shrivers are practicing Roman Catholics.

Special Olympics is now headed by Tim Shriver, another of Maria's brothers.

Her brother Anthony runs a charity called Best Buddies, which pairs college students with mentally challenged adults and children.

Mark Shriver started a Baltimore-based organization called Choice, helping incarcerated teenagers adjust to life after jail.

Through their intense activism, the family set an example that may have helped to inspire California's incoming governor, Leamer said.

"What Arnold picked up on is the Shriver family's belief that it's fun to do good -- that is what the Shrivers are all about," he said. "People think you have to be ultra-serious to do good deeds, but they find it fun. And Arnold found it fun too."

Brown University political science professor Darrell West, author of a biography of Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, said the support the family showed Schwarzenegger was unsurprising.

"The family has always liked Arnold, even though he is a Republican," West said. "They like him not just because he married one of their own, but because he is a celebrity and shares some of the fundamental values of the family. Patrick, I know, is very close to Arnold."

At a Brown University luncheon just a few weeks ago, West said, Patrick Kennedy "mentioned that Arnold was going to straighten out the mess in California. It was a very friendly reference."

For his part, the Kennedy family's elder statesman on Wednesday chose to laud Schwarzenegger's victory in California as an optimistic endorsement both of basic American democracy and of his family's principles of expansiveness.

"What better proof could there be that America really is a nation of immigrants?" asked Sen. Kennedy. "The Kennedy family has its own big-tent policy."

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