The Kennedys and Their Magical Common-Man Friends

Never worked for a living? "You haven't missed a thing." Wild coincidence, or self-serving Kennedy family folklore?

The following isn't specifically Times-related, but might interest political historians.

Kennedy family folklore?

The Kennedy political dynasty has certainly been blessed with blue-collar friends awaiting them at the start of their political careers. There never seems to be a shortage of horny-handed sons of toil to assure fledgling Kennedys that being rich is no impediment to being a friend of the working man.

In the course of Times reporter Robin Toner's web-only column absolving rich Democrats from feeling guilty for preaching about poverty while making millions, Toner delivered the better-documented version of the Kennedy family folk tale.

As the story goes, Ted Kennedy was campaigning for his first Senate seat in 1962 when he was confronted by a blue-collar worker who provided the future senator his absolution.

Toner: "In fact, when Mr. Kennedy ran for the Senate in 1962, he was attacked by his opponent as being privileged, unaccomplished, and for having 'never worked for a living.' A burly worker approached him one day and said, 'Ted, me boy, I understand you've never worked a day in your life.' He paused, then added, 'You haven't missed a thing.'"

Times reporter David Halbfinger repeated a similar story in February 2004 (Times Select $ possibly required), during that year's Democratic primaries pitting Sen. John Kerry against Sen. John Edwards.

Except this tale, which Halbfinger forwarded from Kerry without comment, involved John F. Kennedy, and allegedly occurred while JFK was campaigning for the1960 Democratic presidential nomination in West Virginia coal country.

Halbfinger: '"'Jack Kennedy was in front of a mine in West Virginia - it's a famous story - and Hubert Humphrey was trying to bang away at him,' Mr. Kerry said, 'and a guy came up to him and said, "I understand, according to your opponent, you never worked a day in your life." And he said, "Well, don't worry - you haven't missed a thing." '"