- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 10, 2009

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said President Obama invoking the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in his prime-time TV speech to win health-care reform was “bad form” and a “political tool.”

“I’m sorry, but I just felt a bit unnerved by it, in the sense he just passed,” Mr. Steele told The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show on Thursday.

Mr. Steele was not surprised when Mr. Obama began talking Wednesday night about a letter Mr. Kennedy wrote to him in May that was to be delivered after his death. But hearing excerpts was tough, he said, because Mr. Kennedy’s grieving wife, Vicki, sat crying in the audience.

Mr. Obama delivered his speech to a joint session of Congress about two weeks after Mr. Kennedy died from brain cancer.

“His wife was still clearly emotional,” Mr. Steele said. “I just thought that was bad form. We all understand and appreciate the role Sen. Kennedy has played in this debate and the passion he brought to health care. I just thought that was a little bit much for me, so soon after his death, using that as a political tool.”


The president paraphrased Mr. Kennedy’s letter, in which he called health care the cause of his life.

“This cause stretched across decades,” he wrote. “It has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. … In the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me — and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.”

Mr. Kennedy closed by saying he wanted to stand with the president “one last time for change and the America we can become.”

The moment also caused Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to wipe tears from his eyes.

• Joseph Weber can be reached at jweber@washingtontimes.com.old.

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