Family Fued: Why Bob Casey Jr is Backing Obama
by John Wesley Hardin was a Friend to the Poor, Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:13:57 PM EDT
PITTSBURGH -- Senator Bob Casey, bypassed Clinton to endorse Barack Obama today, the latest swipe between two warring dynasties whose battles have defined the Democratic party's search for a modern identity.
"This is about all of us, of all ages, across this state and across America," Casey said at a rally at an auditorium here, where he attributed his endorsement to the enthusiasm Obama's candidacy has generated among Casey's four daughters.
Casey's endorsement not only assuaged his children but avenged slights against his father -- a popular two-term governor Pennsylvania -- at the hands of Bill Clinton, with whom he feuded throughout the 1990s as the two emerged as figureheads for competing wings of a party in transition.
The father, also Bob Casey, a pro-life Catholic elected in 1986, rallied the blue-collar white ethnic voters -- socially conservative, New Deal economic liberals -- who became known as "Casey Democrats" to back him when he pursued new limits on abortion.
In 1992, as Clinton was coasting to the party's nomination, Casey encouraged his party to dump the Arkansas governor and use the convention to pick a new nominee, citing "the character issue" around Clinton and his "tiny, fly speck of support." Casey, who had enacted a tough state-level anti-abortion laws then under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, suggested that Clinton could have trouble winning the presidency due to his pro-choice views.
When Pennsylvania held its primary days later, Clinton lost only two counties in the state: Casey's home of Lackawanna and neighboring Luzerne, both carried by former California governor Jerry Brown, who barely campaigned in the state.
Their fight continued through the party's nominating convention that year, when Clinton kept Casey from addressing the party about abortion and banished the governor's contingent to the rafters of Madison Square Garden.
After leaving office in 1995, Casey set out immediately to run in the following year's Democratic primaries as a challenger to Clinton, who Casey wrote in his memoir had failed to "identify with the basic values and economic interests of ordinary Americans." Casey launched an exploratory committee for a campaign designed largely to legitimize a pro-life agenda within the party, but abandoned the challenge after being rediagnosed with a genetic condition that had forced him to earlier undergo a heart-liver transplant.
Robert P. Casey from Wikipedia
Casey first sought the office of Governor of Pennsylvania in 1966, losing the Democratic Party primary. He tried on two other occasions without success, in 1970 and again in 1978.
Dubbed "the three-time loss from Holy Cross" by detractors, Casey hired James Carville and Paul Begala to his campaign staff, two then-generally unknown political strategists.
Unlike his three previous tries, Casey won the Democratic primary, defeating Philadelphia district attorney (and future governor) Ed Rendell.
In 1989 Casey pushed through the legislature the "Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act," which placed limitations on abortion, including the notification of parents of minors, a twenty-four-hour waiting period, and a ban on partial-birth procedures except in cases of risk to the mother's life.
Because he considered abortion a key social issue for the 1992 presidential election, Casey sought a speaking slot to give a minority plank on the topic at the 1992 Democratic National Convention. He was not given a speaking spot and in a series of news conferences he said the party was censoring his pro-life views since he agreed with the party on nearly all other issues. Convention organizers said that Casey was not denied a spot because of his views on abortion, but because they wanted speakers to have endorsed Bill Clinton ahead of time, which Casey had not done. After the convention, Casey went on vacation rather than campaign for Clinton in Pennsylvania, which was a key swing state.
Casey and Wofford came into conflict during the early Clinton administration, when Wofford refused a personal plea by Casey to support an amendment similar to a provision in Casey's Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act. Casey made it very clear that if Wofford opposed the amendment, the Governor would withhold his support in Wofford's next Senate election. Wofford supported the amendment, and was defeated in the 1994 election by upstart conservative Congressman Rick Santorum.
In 2002, Bob Casey, Jr., followed in his father's footsteps and sought the Governor's office, but was soundly defeated in the Democratic primary by Ed Rendell.
In 2008, Rendell supports Hillary and Casey Jr. continues his Dad's bitter war on the Clintons.
In 1996, Bob Casey Sr told conservatve reporter Nat Hentoff that he believed he should have been made the keynote speaker as the 92 Dem convention and expected the offer.
But according to those who actually doled out the 1992 convention speaking slots, Bob Casey Sr (aka Zell Miller Jr.) was denied a turn for one simple reason: his refusal to endorse the Clinton-Gore ticket. "It's just not factual!" said James Carville, over Casey's claims. "You'd have to be idiotic to give a speaking role to a person who hadn't even endorsed you."
The man best able to explain the decision was the late Ron Brown. He addressed the topic during a roundtable discussion of Clinton campaign veterans (published as Campaign for President: The Managers Look at '92). He explained:
We decided the convention would be totally geared towards the general election campaign, towards promoting our nominee and that everybody who had the microphone would have endorsed our nominee. That was a rule, everybody understood it, from Jesse Jackson to Jerry Brown.... The press reported incorrectly that Casey was denied access to the microphone because he was not pro-choice. He was denied access to the microphone because he had not endorsed Bill Clinton. I believe that Governor Casey knew that. I had made it clear to everybody. And yet it still got played as if it had to do with some ideological split. It had nothing to do with that.
Furthermore, a slew of pro-life Democrats, including Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley Jr., Senators John Breaux and Howell Heflin, and five governors, did address the delegates in 1992. Though the speakers didn't dwell on abortion, party officials say they weren't barred from mentioning the issue.
Casey, for his part, offered little evidence for his version beyond his unswayable conviction that the party was out to get him. "I'm sure they were chagrined that I didn't endorse the ticket," he says. "But the overriding reason was that I was going to go up there and make the pro-life case." As he tells it, on July 2, 1992, he wrote to Ron Brown, then the party chairman, and on July 13 to Ann Richards, the chairwoman of the delegation, asking to give a pro-life speech at the convention. He never heard from either one.
Casey also sought to speak against the platform when it was presented for a vote. This wouldn't have entailed a prime-time speech. But in response all he received was a copy of a letter sent by the convention's general counsel to its parliamentarian, explaining that, according to platform committee rules, his request was "out of order." Casey found the perfunctory dismissal demeaning. He called it "the kind of letter they might have sent Lyndon LaRouche."