Well, it only took 38 years, but it seems The Sixties are finally over. A new Camelothas been declared, by the only people truly qualified to do so: The oldCamelot, or what's left of it.
On Sunday, Caroline Kennedy endorsedBarack Obama in an emotional and eloquent New York Times Op-Ed,and on Monday her uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, followed suit with ablustery endorsement speech at American University, thunderous and fullof 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 theDemocratic nomination but of her husband's vision of himself as theparty'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 NewNew Frontier. The Kennedys are talking to you, Baby Boomers, tellingyou 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 Timesendorsement, Caroline Kennedy argued that with all the Democraticcontenders' positions on most issues being so similar, it's thenappropriate to choose based on intangibles -- in Obama's case, hisability to inspire and his potential to be, in her words, "a presidentlike my father."
Forget Oprah. In gaining not simply the political approval of theKennedy 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 upswallowing 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 shereportedly has no desire to star in any fairy tales. It's important toremember, at moments like this, that Mrs. Obama is 43, like her husbandtoo young to remember Kennedy's much-fabled 1,000 Days. And while heseems to have grown up happily basking in the popular portrayal of theKennedys as American royalty devoted to public service, her attitudeseems 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 Todayarticle last year, she cautioned against turning Barack into apolitical messiah, saying it's "important at this time for people tofeel like they own thisprocess and that they don't turn it over to the next messiah, who'sgoing to fix it all, you know? . . . And then we're surprisedwhen 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 thatturned out not to be completely true because no one can live up tothat. 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 originalCamelot was formed, or that she's bought into that unfortunate, butubiquitous, "no black man will make it to the White House"meme.
More likely, it's because Michelle Obama isn't so swayed by themisty water-colored memories of the way the Kennedys were that sheforgets how Camelot ended: With a First Lady in a blood-stained pinksuit, crawling crawling across the back of a limousine. Don't let it be forgot.