09/09/05 - politicians and parents

In today's excerpt - the relationships between politicians and their parents:

"There does seem to be a preponderance of distinctly type A superdetermined parents—mother or father or both—behind the people who achieve prominence in Washington ..."Harry Truman wrote his mother ('Dear Mama ...') almost every day while he was president.  Rebekah Johnson is generally credited with having assiduously propelled her son Lyndon up the ladder to making himself a public somebody.  George Bush's [The forty-first president] ... senator father is the one generally credited with imbuing the son with what he saw as the better-off person's duty to participate in public life.  There were other driving dads, albeit fewer than driving moms.  The hurricane-force determination of John F. Kennedy's father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., is notorious. ...

"I don't count such responsiveness as something totally exotic or peculiar to Washington. ... After all, the ability of doddering parents everywhere ... to reduce even their aged offspring to kidlike anxiety ... is universally understood and, to most of us, a matter of rueful amusement. ...

"I remember witnessing one such classic encounter in Washington between Rose Kennedy, then well into her nineties, and her fifty- or sixty-something children, Edward Kennedy and Eunice Shriver. ... After dessert at a large, fancy dinner party Senator Kennedy gave for his mother during one of these visits, when Eunice Shriver had already made an affectionate, lighthearted toast, referring to her mother's undiminished ability to terrorize them on such matters, and while her son, the Senate committee chairman, was still on his feet delivering his speech of welcome, Rose Kennedy, apparently provoked beyond endurance by what she considered yet another lapse, interrupted him in mid-sentence to hiss in reproving tones heard by all, 'Teddy, the coffee should have been served by now.' "


Meg Greenfield




Public Affairs Press




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