Expressing deep satisfaction -- almost relief -- with the election of Barack Obama yesterday, Robert Kennedy Jr., the longtime environmental activist and member of the Democratic Party's most cherished family, said he would serve the next president if asked.
"You know what, I would be of service in any way that the administration asked me to be," Kennedy told the Huffington Post. "But I am also very happy and I believe I am being effective doing the stuff I am doing currently."
On Wednesday, Politico reported that Obama was strongly considering putting Kennedy at the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The appointment would represent a major and early victory for environmentalists and would undoubtedly please Kennedy's cousin, Caroline Kennedy and uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy - who was an instrumental Obama backer during the primary and is in poor health.
Robert Kennedy downplayed the idea of any imminent announcement, saying,
"I haven't had that discussion with anyone in my family about" joining the Obama administration.
And yet he did not hide his pleasure with the election of the Illinois Democrat. Saying it would be great "just to have a President who can give a speech and who can write," Kennedy compared the sensation of Tuesday night to the "kind of feeling that the French had and the Belgium and the Scandinavians had when Europe was liberated."
Kennedy, who works as an attorney and officer for the environmental group Riverkeeper, said he saw in Obama's ascension to the presidency many of the political traits that defined his uncle and father's runs at the office.
"His disposition is very much like my uncle," he said, referencing President John Kennedy. "The intellectual passion and the coolness and the dry humor. And I think his obsession and his preoccupation with justice, and including all of the different members of our society -- he just understands that we have to go forward as a community... The extraordinary demonstrations on election night and through this morning, with young people, we didn't even see that magnitude of demonstration in 1960 when my uncle was elected."
Much of Kennedy's excitement, however, is linked not to the similarities between Obama and his family members but rather to the overhaul of the environmental agenda that the president-elect has planned.
"I think that Barack Obama understands that energy must be the centerpiece for his administration. That there really are two big issues, one is health care and the other is energy," he said. "And energy is intertwined with all other issues. If we can get off of foreign oil, for instance, we can save 700 billion a year. We can pay back the Wall Street debt we just ran up in just one year."
"That whole dark cloud of the Bush administration," he added, "has all the sudden been lifted."