- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2003

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Not even a George Bush award for public service will soften up a Kennedy.

That’s what some said Friday night after a four-hour ceremony at Texas A&M; University where former President George Bush recognized Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s lifetime contribution to government. Mr. Bush recounted the Massachusetts senator’s longtime career and his family’s contributions to American politics.

“He can be controversial,” the host said, “as he was recently in comments directed at the 43rd president of the United States. As a father, let me say attacks like that upset me a great deal more today than they did when I was in the crosshairs — and yet as someone who has sat behind that desk, I know that tough criticism goes with the territory.”

An undertone to this politically unusual event was the expectation of some pundits that maybe this honor might dissuade Mr. Kennedy from strong anti-Bush administration criticism in the coming campaign. If the elder Mr. Bush felt that was a possibility, he didn’t mention it, even remotely.

“If I know tonight’s honoree,” said the former president, “Monday morning he will be back in Washington fighting with every ounce of passionate conviction for his long-standing beliefs.”

And Mr. Kennedy was well aware of the odd circumstance of the night.

“Actually, a few of my friends told me it might be a little awkward to be here right now, in light of my strong disagreement with George W. Bush over Iraq,” said the 71-year-old liberal Democrat.

“There is something I want to say plainly that goes beyond differences of party or policy,” he went on. “I have great respect for both President Bushes, and it’s been a great privilege to work closely with them on a wide range of issues.”

Others view the decision to award Mr. Kennedy as possibly a strain between father and son, at least as far as foreign policy is concerned.

“Actually, it is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen,” said Allen Saxe, political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

“This is an international award,” Mr. Saxe said. “It seems as though there were so many others they could have given it to.”

Mr. Saxe doesn’t buy the possibility that it might cause Mr. Kennedy to become lighter in his opposition to conservatives.

“Ted Kennedy can’t be softened up,” Mr. Saxe said.

Bob Mann, public relations counselor and lecturer at the University of Texas School of Journalism in Austin, agreed.

“You can’t get Ted Kennedy to compromise his beliefs by giving him an honor or patting him on the back. Just won’t happen,” Mr. Mann said.

A former newspaper reporter and Kennedy press secretary, Mr. Mann said he visited with the senator briefly Friday and that the senator had mentioned that his son Patrick, a congressman from Rhode Island, could not make the event because he was out of the country.

“I told him to convey my good wishes to Patrick,” the former Kennedy aide went on, “and he replied solemnly, ‘I hope I can. He’s in Iraq.’”

Kennedy family and extended family members present included Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Victoria, and her parents, four of his five children, niece Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, sisters Eunice Shriver, Patricia Lawford and Jean Kennedy and sister-in-law Ethel.

As the two elder politicians stood on a cool, blustery evening watching the Kennedy clan load into a bus en route to the airport, Mr. Bush repeated a phrase he had uttered a few minutes before: “Be kind to my boy, will ya?”

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