2009/08/29

Senator Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy

I was in Massachusetts from about 1965 to 1991, after which I joined the Navy. I guess the time when I was most aware of Senator Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy (D-MA, lived from February 22, 1932 to August 25, 2009) was when I was in the cab going to my Navy "A School" (Training following boot camp in my "rate" or speciality) from the Meridian, MS airport.

A fellow Seaman from a deep South state thought he'd amuse his new buddies by telling tales about how awful that Senator from Massachusetts was. I politely informed him that I was from Massachusetts. He continued to disrespect Senator Kennedy. I informed him again that Kennedy was MY Senator and that I really didn't appreciate people disrespecting him.

He switched to Senator Kerry. I again reminded him that I was from Massachusetts and REALLY didn't appreciate it when people disrespected my Senators. Obviously, he was used to people freely & cheerfully disrespecting these two for his entire life. Finally I could see the gears in his head grinding and enlightenment dawning and he switched the subject to women. Never saw the guy again.

On Friday, a Daily News columnist brought up Mary Jo Kopechne and Chappaquiddick and insists that we remember "that sad footnote" amid our celebrations of Kennedy's life. A buddy of mine agrees that, yes, Kennedy was a "
flawed human being" and that Chappaquiddick was indeed a good reason to not to vote for Kennedy for President in 1980. However,

Kennedy remade himself from that troubled time, and rededicated himself under his second marriage to a new life. I honor the Senator who repented and returned.

No, Kennedy never specifically referred to Kopechne, but I don't consider it a stretch to think that part of the time and energy he devoted to public service was indeed a reaction to her death and to the role he played in it. As a side note, the people who held up signs telling O.J. Simpson "We forgive you" during his 1995 low-speed chase showed that they had no idea what forgiveness truly means. Forgiveness is something one gives in return for repentance. Simpson had not repented, so he had done nothing to earn forgiveness. Forgiveness isn't free, it isn't something one just hands out.

As my buddy points out, members of the Bush Administration have done far less to warrant forgiveness than Kennedy has done through the many, many bills he has gotten through the Senate that have improved the lives of American citizens. If Kennedy never formally repented, he at least devoted the remainder of his life to good works.

Was his desire to do good genuine? Apparently so,

[Kennedy:] "There was a lot of resistance to No Child Left Behind - on that point, even. Unbelievable. But it was put in, and it got funded, and . . . I met the parents today and saw the direct results. I met the mothers out there, and I saw what a difference that's going to make. That's enough for me today, I'll tell you."

His voice changes on those five words: I met the parents today. His identification with them is nearly a physical thing. You can see their images in his eyes. You can hear their voices in the way that his changes.

The piece makes the point that Kennedy was excited by the good that the NCLB bill did in the real world, to real people. The left blogosphere is as one in insisting that Kennedy had no use for simply passing bills just to get legislation passed with his name on it. He was in it to make a difference in people's lives.

Has the left "politicized" Kennedy's death? That is, has Kennedy's death been used inappropriately to boost support for health care reform along lines that progressives would like to see? Perhaps, but the left was accused of politicizing the deaths of Senator Paul Wellstone (D-WI) and of Coretta Scott King and yet, Republicans never had to take any grief for politicizing the death of 40th President Ronald Reagan, when the speakers at his funeral came entirely from one party. Those speakers didn't include a single Democrat, as though Reagan represented only Republicans.

Some right-wingers are reacting with hysterical, bile-filled rants. Interestingly, one of them is a prominent editor at the Drudge Report, a website that many, many people in our press corps cite as their go-to source. Eric Stanger, a director at ABC Radio and Premiere Radio Networks has made similarly unhinged and hateful comments. Somehow, I'm guessing that many anti-Kennedy talking points will make their way into the nations' political discourse.

Frankly, the best idea I've heard so far is not to name the whole health care bill after Kennedy, but just the public option portion of it!


List of newspaper obituaries of Ted Kennedy.
Summary of legislative accomplishments.
People at Daily Kos and Media Matters post their thoughts on Kennedy.
President Obama's eulogy.

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