44 The Obama Presidency
Obama in Boston in Advance of Kennedy Eulogy
By Michael D. Shear
OAK BLUFFS, Mass. -- President Obama and his wife flew on a private Gulfstream V jet to Boston late Friday night to be in place to deliver a eulogy that aides described as a deeply personal attempt to talk about Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's life and legacy.
Advisers said Obama largely crafted the eulogy himself, with some long-distance help from his speechwriters who had not accompanied him to Martha's Vineyard for his weeklong vacation.
Early this morning, Obama had a private, 10-minute meeting with Sen.
Kennedy's widow, White House officials said. The president emerged from his hotel at about 7:20 in drizzling rain and wearing an overcoat. He walked across the road to the Fairmont Hotel where he met with Mrs. Kennedy. About 15 minutes later, he walked back across the street, hands in his pockets.
"It is something that he obviously takes very seriously," Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said of the eulogy. "He's been working on it. He's obviously got a great team of speechwriters who he works with, but this is going to be a very personal statement."
Officials familiar with the eulogy said Obama will not offer "a bunch of anecdotes" about his relationship with the senator over the years.
Instead, he plans to focus on Kennedy's impact on the country, his humor and the "politics of meaning" that he practiced.
Senior adviser David Axelrod said the president will seek to shed some light on the special connection that Kennedy had with so many people in the country after more than 40 years in the legislature.
"He'll talk less about the extraordinary accomplishments, which are well known, and more about the extraordinary personal qualities that made him such an enduring and impactful figure in our politics and our history, and a beloved friend to so many -- including the president,"
The president's aides have recoiled at the suggestion that Obama or congressional Democrats might use Kennedy's death to advance the health care debate. In a briefing on Thursday, Burton said it was far too early to discuss that kind of political strategizing.
"He's not going to make a comment on what every single person does to memorialize or remember or talk about Senator Kennedy and his passing," Burton said. "There will be a time when it's appropriate to have discussions on different ramifications, but I don't think anybody thinks that now is it."
White House officials described Obama as personally affected by Kennedy's death, calling the late senator "a giant" in Obama's life.
That sentiment reflects the importance of Kennedy's endorsement of Obama over Hillary Clinton last year, but also several years of mentoring in the Senate.
Obama plans to return to Martha's Vineyard to complete his vacation immediately after the funeral service, though aides warned that bad weather from the approaching tropical storm might delay his return by several hours.
Posted at 12:33 AM ET on Aug 29, 2009
44 The Obama Presidency
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