Joe Six-Pack

Let’s get one thing straight
for everybody across the Joe K. radio network—from candle-lighting cult members Doris Kearns and Dick Goodwin to Kennedy hater/Joe baiter Howie Carr (who dubbed Joe “The Wizard of Uhs”). Joe Kennedy is running for governor.

The evidence? Kennedy’s free time is filled with out-of-district appearances, tending the grassroots. A recent weekend saw Joe attending a Saturday night party for the Cape Verdean community in Foxborough. He was in Worcester at 8 the next morning. This was followed by a jaunt to Springfield for a “secret” lunch—his staff declined to say with whom—with Peter Pan bus-lines owner and Springfield casino backer Peter Picknelly, who dabbles in western Massachusetts powerbroking. After all that, Kennedy then drove back to Worcester for a veterans’ event.

Meanwhile, just as that Gingrich guy was making Joe’s life as a member of the minority in Washington miserable, Kennedy’s prodigious campaign-finance operation (fourth fattest chest in the House for the last reporting period) has moved from Washington to Boston. Longtime Ray Flynn strategist Ray Dooley, who’s too bigtime just to make sure somebody’s grandma is getting her Social Security check, was recently hired to run his district office. Privately, members of his staff have gone so far as to tell Kennedy Nation that they are operating under the assumption Joe’s running.

And why not? For 50 years, Massachusetts has been the production company of the Kennedy miniseries. In last year’s episode, an out-of-touch, scandal-ridden, goutish Teddy destroyed a well-financed, well-groomed GOP candidate by 17 points—that’s a landslide— while the Republicans sacked the rest of the country. The 1998 show promises a well-financed, death-penalty-supporting, glad-handing Joe Kennedy running for the State House. And he will be stopped by…Scott Harshbarger? In a Massachusetts Democratic Primary? Yeah, sure. As for the general election: A dime-dropping, enemy-making Joe Malone? The uncharismatic Paul Cellucci?

Even pols who aren’t particularly fond of JPK don’t buy that. “I don’t think anyone can beat him, Democratic or Republican,” says Ed Jesser, political fixer and Tom Menino guru. Jesser, who ran press for Jimmy Carter in Iowa against Teddy in 1980, is no Kennedyphile, but after 40 years in Massachusetts politics, he knows the value of the name. “I could say it’s because of his record, and the fact he’s pro death penalty,” says Jesser. “But the truth is, he has the record and the name. He’s a fucking Kennedy, for Christ’s sake.”

Now, all you pathological Kennedy haters, chill. Think about it rationally. Would you bet your own house on any of 1998’s three amigos? Your car? How about that twice-used Stairmaster? Like it or not, all that hair and teeth is likely to be in your personal space as the century says good night.

The funny thing is, Joseph Patrick Kennedy II is not Kennedy-esque. A graduate of UMass/Boston with the help of correspondence courses, Joe possesses intellect and speaking skills that pale before the myth. He leaves the elite acolytes muttering about watered-down genes. Conversely, he’s the Kennedy with a common touch. In his essence, Joe is a Big Mac–eating regular guy with a hair-trigger temper, a foul mouth, and a big heart. He loves Don Imus and—trend alert—laughs uproariously when he hears about the drunken man who defecated on an airline cart. Ask him about the intricacies of legislation, and you’ll get a string of well-meaning and somewhat baffling non sequiturs. But if you need someone to twist arms for your bill or raise money for an empty war chest, Joe Kennedy’s your man. What modern president does he take after politically? Family nemesis Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Has he read Profiles in Courage? Probably the Cliffs Notes. (Then again, JFK didn’t write it.) Have a beer and change your vote from nay to yea? Sure. Just call him the Un-Kennedy.