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Clintons V. Kerry

Tomorrow's Times has an interesting story about Clinton loyalists (of varying degrees) who've defected to Obama--and the hard feelings this has inspired in Hillaryland. My favorite story is the always-fascinating subplot between the Clintons and John Kerry:

This tension was neatly distilled in a heated conversation in January between a prominent Clinton supporter and Cameron Kerry, the younger brother of Senator John Kerry, who had just endorsed Mr. Obama.

In the telling of two Democrats familiar with the discussion, one from each camp, the Clinton supporter, a Democratic fund-raiser with close ties to both Mrs. Clinton and John Kerry, noted that Mr. Clinton campaigned for Mr. Kerry in 2004, even though the former president had just undergone bypass surgery.

To which Cameron Kerry parried that his brother had agreed to fly with Mr. Clinton on Air Force One after the impeachment vote “when no one wanted to be seen with him.” ...

Mr. Kerry had been cool to Mrs. Clinton after he believed she had “piled on” in criticizing him after his “botched joke” before the 2006 midterm elections in which he seemed to demean American soldiers in Iraq. But Mrs. Clinton visited Mr. Kerry at his home in Nantucket last September, checked in regularly and, for a time, seemed close to winning him over.

Mr. Kerry, however, endorsed Mr. Obama shortly after the New Hampshire primary. To this day, the Clinton and Kerry camps disagree over whether Mr. Kerry had made promises to intermediaries not to take sides.

He then publicly criticized Mr. Clinton’s conduct before the South Carolina primary. “And he was dead to us,” said one prominent Clinton supporter who is, in his words, “not authorized to trash Kerry on the record.”

The only key data-point the story omits is the famous hospital bed strategy-session between Bill and Kerry. I mentioned it in this piece:

After he clinched the nomination, Kerry was keen to enlist the former president's help. (He believed Al Gore had made a mistake by distancing himself from Clinton in 2000.) But the decision created headaches. "There was never a sense that [the Clintons] were less than one hundred percent committed to winning," says one longtime Kerry friend. "But there was a sense that, at key moments, their legacy or their role in the party was paramount." Not long after the GOP convention, for example, Kerry talked strategy with a bedridden Clinton. Kerry aides fumed when, a day and a half later, the ostensibly private conversation made the front page of The New York Times, bestowing a Yoda-like glow on Clinton while painting Kerry as a cipher.

I also had a bit more on the "botched joke" episode:

For many in Kerry's orbit, the final straw came in 2006, after the senator mangled a joke about lousy students getting "stuck in Iraq." (Kerry had intended to needle Bush for "getting us stuck in a war in Iraq.") The fallout helped dash Kerry's hopes of another White House run. In the minds of his supporters, that's precisely what Hillary Clinton intended when she piled on two days later, calling the comment "inappropriate." "A lot of us were rip-shit pissed off at Hillary for putting her boot on his neck," says one dedicated fund-raiser. Once Kerry officially bowed out, several of his most loyal money men decamped for team Obama.

People close to Kerry told me they were livid over both of these things. (Though Kerry himself apparently took them better than his inner circle did.)

--Noam Scheiber