Like a natural athlete who has had to take a few years off, Kennedy has instincts that are still sound. He was sharp enough to let Joan answer the question about her role in the coming campaign. He also gained some points by thanking Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne again for her yeoperson's effort in keeping Cook County's graveyards safely in the Kennedy camp. But, as with the athlete after a layoff, the sound instinctual moves were often marred by an almost palpable moment of hesitation, or an attempt to overreact. It is not enough, for example, to state "broad principles" that should be defended in the situation of the American hostages in Iran, particularly when those principles, once enumerated, appear to envelop every option available to the president anyway. Neither is it consistent, having prefaced your response with an admission that you are "not privy to all the information available to the president and the other members of the administration," to proceed to ask why the administration did not have contingency plans suited to do this type of emergency. It was the kind of question a campaigning challenger cannot really answer, and thus the kind he should be the first to admit he cannot answer.
Kennedy tried, and thus did little to diminish the rapidly growing impression that, if he is ever asked about oil drilling off Georges Bank, he might well grow scales before answering the question. He is not president yet, and he will not be allowed to campaign as though he were. He cannot appear to be faking it – or, worse, to be panicked. He has been in and out of presidential politics for so long that everything he says and does now is going to be evaluated in the light of what went on during those years when non-candidacy was as well-organized as most ward committees.
He left Faneuil Hall through the middle doors, stopping at the top of a small flight of stairs to address the crowd outside, a crowd that has now swollen into several shops and trendy bars. "Tell me," he shouted at them through a portable microphone, "how many of you think it's time to put America back to work?"
A huge roar went up, feeding back the microphones.
"How many of you," he shouted again, "think it's time that the national leaders started to deliver?"
Another roar, this time louder than the first.
He was playing them now, Honey Fitz's grandson to a fault, the third of them to run for the presidency, and the first whose faults were common knowledge even to the most adoring of the followers.
As he left the mall, aids began handing out blue "I was There!" campaign buttons. It turned into feeding time at the llama cage. Soon, the buttons were being tossed by the handful to the back of the crowd.
These were the people who had laughed and sun with Jack, Bobby, and Teddy. They had agreed and argued with John, Robert, and Edward. And their lives had gone through the sea changes with John F. and Robert F. Kennedy.
They were waiting to see the ninth persona. With his considerable family preceding him toward the waiting motorcade, Edward Kennedy left for New Hampshire after four days during which he was finally forced to assume the burden of being both a candidate and a Kennedy simultaneously. He had begun to seek not only the presidency, but that middle initial as well.