MSNBC Frets Over No More Kennedys in Congress: Who Will 'Fill the Void' at This 'End of an Era?'

While the rest of America might not be mourning the departure of the troubled Patrick Kennedy from Congress, MSNBC on Tuesday lamented "the end of an era" that saw at least one member of the Kennedy family serving in Washington for 63 years. The network featured three segments on the topic in the span of an hour.

Jansing and Co. Guest anchor Richard Lui wondered, "...Will we see a family that will be able to take up the mantle here?" Talking to Democratic strategist Karen Finney, he repeated talking points from the Rhode Island Congressman who, in 2006, crashed his car while driving under the influence of prescription drugs at 2:45am: "...Patrick Kennedy was saying, you know, a public service versus public office. It's about public service."

Referring to his other guest, Michelle Bernard of the Independent Woman's Forum, Lui added, "So, when we take a look at that, Michelle, what more might we see going forward in terms of a family that might, again, fill in this void that we're now seeing?"

A follow-up segment by Contessa Brewer in the 12pm hour featured the graphic, "An End of an Era." Brewer recited, "When the new Congress is sworn in next week it will mark the end of an era for one of America's most powerful and storied political families. For the first time in 63 years there will be no Kennedys serving in elected office in Washington."

The usually conservative Bernard offered an odd analysis of the Kennedy legacy. She asserted of the President: "And so I think what we have to ask ourselves today is by handing that mantle over to Obama and looking at the type of President that President Obama is, one has to ask the question, can the type of liberal that the Kennedy family historically been actually be elected in Democratic politics in this era?"

Bernard continued, questioning Obama's liberalism: "And I think the answer is probably no. President Obama has turned out to be a lot more of a centrist and probably to the right of Senator Kennedy than many members of the Kennedy family."

A third segment ran in the 11am hour and featured historian Alan Lichtman. He highlighted the Kennedy family's "clarion call for liberalism."

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 11:24am EST on December 28, follows:


RICHARD LUI: Karen and Michelle are back with us right now. Let's start with you, Karen, here. Will we see a company [sic], excuse me, will we see a family that will be able to take up the mantle here?

KAREN FINNEY (Democratic strategist): You know, at this point it doesn't appear so. You know, the Kennedy legacy is such a unique part of American history. The other thing, just to listen to Alan that we're losing with this generation is that real sense that, you know, it is a call to service. If you listen to the way, particularly the GOP, has attacked, you know, public sector employees, that's how we talk about people who go into government work instead of this idea that it is being called a service, being called to serve one's country just as one might serve in the military that this is another way to serve. And I think part of what we lose in this transition is this idea that that's a part of what being part of government is about. And I think we've, you know, lost some of that and I don't see another family on the horizon that has that same kind of heartfelt commitment to this country.

LUI: And you make a good point there, Karen, as you take a look at this because Patrick Kennedy was saying, you know, a public service versus public office. It's about public service. So, when we take a look at that, Michelle, what more might we see going forward in terms of a family that might, again, fill in this void that we're now seeing?

MICHELLE BERNARD (Independent Women's Forum): Well, Richard, you know, I think if you take the pulse of most of the nation I don't think that the American public is looking for what we saw with the Kennedys and, frankly, even with the Bushes. If you really take a look at where the American public is, I don't think that they're looking for that any more. I think what the more interesting question is, frankly, what is the future of the Democratic Party? If you go back to the 2008 election, you know, Senator Kennedy was the lion of the Democratic Party and he had a big decision to make. Was he going to endorse Barack Obama or was he going to endorse then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. And by endorsing Obama, I think he handed the mantle over of the Democratic Party and of the Kennedy legacy to the President. And so I think what we have to ask ourselves today is by handing that mantle over to Obama and looking at the type of President that President Obama is, one has to ask the question, can the type of liberal that the Kennedy family historically been actually be elected in Democratic politics in this era? And I think the answer is probably no. President Obama has turned out to be a lot more of a centrist and probably to the right of Senator Kennedy than many members of the Kennedy family.

LUI: Karen, Michelle, thank you for that. Many marking the moving on of Patrick Kennedy in different ways. Thank you, both, for your perspective on that.

— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org