Do we think a certain former president might still be smarting over Ted Kennedy’s decision to endorse Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton?
Bill Clinton tried hard to land the endorsement of the senator from Massachusetts for his wife. Plenty of cajoling and calling was expended in the effort during the hectic month of January. But Kennedy, offended by Bill Clinton’s racially-tinged campaigning in South Carolina, finally went for his younger colleague from Illinois.
With the senator’s move came much of the Kennedy clan — including, most recently, Ethel Kennedy, the widow of the first family of liberalism’s most iconic campaigner, Bobby Kennedy — and a critical boost for Obama going into the Super Tuesday primaries.
Bill Clinton could have been gracious.
Instead, he’s now slipping digs at the senior Kennedy into his remarks while campaigning before Democratic audiences in key states.
On Thursday in Arizona, the former president said, “I want you to think about this, and I have to say, this was a train wreck that was not intended. No Child Left Behind was supported by George Bush and Sen. Ted Kennedy and everybody in between. Why? Because they didn’t talk to enough teachers before they did that.”
No Child Left Behind — the Bush administration’s federal education initiative that mandated much new testing but offered scant new funding — is exceptionally unpopular with teachers and other prime Democratic voting blocs.
In case anyone thought that the complaint about Kennedy was an off-hand reference, Bill Clinton voiced a similar dig on the Massachusetts senator Friday at a campaign stop in Arkansas, which will hold its primary on Tuesday. Speaking to 400 educators and students in Texarkana, the former president said No Child Left Behind exists in its current form because “the President made a deal with Senator Kennedy…”
Kennedy, long a key player on education issues in the Congress, did indeed play a role in shaping and passing No Child Left Behind.
But in a campaign season that has not been without its cynical statements, these comments by the former president stand out.
It’s not just that, after trying so hard to secure Kennedy’s endorsement for his wife, Clinton is now linking the senator with Bush in front of Democratic audiences.
What Bill Clinton fails to spell out on the campaign trail is that Hillary Clinton was an ally of Ted Kennedy in promoting No Child Left Behind. She voted for the No Child Left Behind Act when it passed the Senate in 2001, and has declared that, “I believe that every child should be taught by a qualified teacher and that schools should be accountable to the parents of the children they serve. That is why I supported the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 and continue to believe in the principles behind the landmark law.”
Both Kennedy and Hillary Clinton are now complain about the Bush administration’s failed implementation of the education reforms.
And what of Obama?
When he campaigned for the Senate in 2003 and 2004, Obama did so as a critic of No Child Left Behind, telling Illinois voters that the law “imposes new requirements on our public schools while failing to provide the resources so that schools can meet the new requirements.”