Well, it only took 38 years, but it seems The Sixties are finally over. A new Camelot has been declared, by the only people truly qualified to do so: The old Camelot, or what's left of it.
On Sunday, Caroline Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama in an emotional and eloquent New York Times Op-Ed, and on Monday her uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, followed suit with a blustery endorsement speech at American University, thunderous and full of high-flown liberal gravitas.
"It is time again for a new generation of leadership," the Massachusetts senator said, in a public repudiation not only of Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic nomination but of her husband's vision of himself as the party's elder statesman.
Such was the immaculate conception of Black Camelot: a re-birth announcement followed by an urgent invitation to join them on the New New Frontier. The Kennedys are talking to you, Baby Boomers, telling you to forget that grinning young man with the brush-cut, the one shaking JFK's hand. These people actually knew John Kennedy, and Bill Clinton, they are saying, is no John Kennedy.
In her Times endorsement, Caroline Kennedy argued that with all the Democratic contenders' positions on most issues being so similar, it's then appropriate to choose based on intangibles -- in Obama's case, his ability to inspire and his potential to be, in her words, "a president like my father."
Forget Oprah. In gaining not simply the political approval of the Kennedy clan but their emotional embrace, the stamp of "the symbolic Kennedy family thing," Obama now irrevocably wears the crown of Camelot, and people who grew up swallowing the Kennedy myth like Tang will hear Caroline Kennedy's op-ed like a message from the Boomer Planet. She does everything but remark as to how cute Malia and Natasha will look trick-or-treating in the Oval Office.
So why, in all of this talk about President Kennedy, can I not stop thinking about Michelle Obama? I can't help but wonder what Mrs. Obama is thinking today, since she reportedly has no desire to star in any fairy tales. It's important to remember, at moments like this, that Mrs. Obama is 43, like her husband too young to remember Kennedy's much-fabled 1,000 Days. And while he seems to have grown up happily basking in the popular portrayal of the Kennedys as American royalty devoted to public service, her attitude seems to be much more akin to that of a GenX cynic like me, who hears "JFK" and thinks "Marilyn Monroe" before "Peace Corps," or "advisers to Vietnam" as quickly as "ask what you can do for your country."
Never one to mince words, the potential First Lady has displayed a distinctly post-Boomer tendency to reject the Kennedy mystique. In a USA Today article last year, she cautioned against turning Barack into a political messiah, saying it's "important at this time for people to feel like they own this process and that they don't turn it over to the next messiah, who's going to fix it all, you know? . . . And then we're surprised when people turn out not to be who we've envisioned them to be."
"Camelot to me doesn't work," [Michelle Obama] says. "It was a fairy tale that turned out not to be completely true because no one can live up to that. And I don't want to live like that."
In so many words, the woman Caroline Kennedy just tapped to be the next Jackie is on record saying she'll pass, thanks. Maybe it's because we all know far more now about what JFK, his family, his sexual predilections, his mob ties, and the complications of his marriage than anyone did when the original Camelot was formed, or that she's bought into that unfortunate, but ubiquitous, "no black man will make it to the White House" meme.
More likely, it's because Michelle Obama isn't so swayed by the misty water-colored memories of the way the Kennedys were that she forgets how Camelot ended: With a First Lady in a blood-stained pink suit, crawling crawling across the back of a limousine. Don't let it be forgot.