Robert Caro: His Appearance on Behalf of Ted Kennedy

Historians in the News

<>Charles Babington and Brian Faler, in the Wash Post (July 29, 2004):

Historian Robert Caro is most widely known for sharp critiques of politicians, especially President Lyndon B. Johnson.

So it was a little surprising when Caro appeared on the podium of the Democratic convention on Tuesday evening to give a gracious introduction of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

"His brother President John F. Kennedy wrote a famous book, 'Profiles in Courage.' Edward Kennedy's decades in the United States Senate -- his four decades in the Senate -- have been a profile in courage," Caro said. "If you're a historian, you realize as you look back over the long sweep of American history, how few individuals have left a mark on that history that will endure."

Caro's appearance was a sharp departure from the usual procession of politicians and interest group officials who have addressed the delegates. The speaking slots are usually doled out in accordance with the political calculus of the day: what message the party wants to send, which constituency groups it wants to woo, which party honchos simply must be allowed to speak.

An aide to Kennedy said that the senator had grown fond of Caro's work on the history of the Senate and wanted to highlight that story at the convention. Caro rejected suggestions that his speech was partisan, noting that it focused on the history of the chamber and Kennedy's role and made no mention of either Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) or President Bush.

Caro said he wrote the speech with only minimal changes from Kennedy's office and that he would not have given a partisan speech if he had been asked. "No way," he said in an interview.

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