MAY THE MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR REST IN PEACE
Edward Moore Kennedy was named after his father's whoremaster, and things went downhill from there. Booted out of Harvard University for cheating on a Spanish exam, "Ted," as he was known, incurred the contempt of his classmates, one of whom was John Updike, who subsequently became a famous novelist.
The Korean War was then raging, but Joe Kennedy's connections landed his youngest son a cushy job in Paris, France. On his return stateside, Teddy would be readmitted to, and graduate from, Harvard.
He would thereafter enter the University of Virginia Law School. While a student there, he would lead the local police on a 90 mile per hour car chase. The description "reckless youth" applied to him and to all his brothers.
Thanks again to his old man, Teddy would ascend to the vacated Senate seat of brother John. When John and Robert were killed, Teddy's presidential ambitions heightened. But along came an automobile accident on Chappaquiddik Island. Teddy should have been convicted of vehicular homicide and sent to prison, but justice was hardly blind. He received a slap on the wrist instead. His political ambitions had to be placed on the back burner.
A few years elapsed. He thought he smelled blood in the political waters, and he believed himself ready to challenge President Jimmy Carter for the White House. It was then that television newsman Roger Mudd lobbed a softball question to him, by simply inquiring why he was seeking the presidency. For perhaps the first time in his life, he was truly transparent: he had no clue. It was as if, when looking into the eye of the camera, he wanted to respond, "So I can be someone and wield additional power too!" But he thought better of it and became brain-locked instead.
In the meantime, continued instances of his philandering would push his wife, Joan Bennett, deep into alcoholism, eventually fracturing their marriage beyond repair. Teddy would not be the first public figure to suffer from sexual addiction. His wife filed for divorce, and he sought an annulment of his 25-year marriage from the Roman Catholic Church. After that was granted, he would marry a woman young enough to be his daughter.
If this brief biographical profile does not impress you, then think about Kennedy's many legislative "triumphs." While an influential member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he addressed President Reagan's nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, proclaiming to all that "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy." As I have rolled these words over in my mind throughout the years, I can say without a hint of exaggeration that nothing ever spoken or written exceeds them in sheer demagoguery.
Kennedy also was instrumental in lowering the voting age from age 21 to 18. This expansion of democracy, which he championed, made many thoughtful people raise their eyebrows. Why enfranchise an 18-year old? Because he may serve as a soldier? It never seemed to occur to people, like the Senator, that the attributes which make a good soldier do not necessarily make a competent voter. For this reason, Emanuel Celler, a once high-ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, opined: "To my mind, the draft age and the voting age are as different as chalk is from cheese. The thing called for in a soldier is uncritical obedience, and that is not what you want in a voter." Or is it?
Kennedy recently proposed, and came close to passing, an amnesty bill for millions of illegal aliens. Anyone like Kennedy who leaned to the distant left would welcome myriads of impoverished illiterates, precisely because they do not think! Right? They make great Democrats! Their hands are out, and their vote goes to the highest bidder! They don't know English either, but – wait a second – Ted supported bilingual education as well! He was apparently empathetic and, recalling his first year at Harvard, felt that English might be as difficult to master for some Hispanics as Spanish is for some Anglos. Uhmmm.
At the moment, President Obama's health care bill, which seeks to socialize about a sixth of the United States economy, is on the ropes. Be sure that the battle cry, upon Congress's return, will be, "Let's pass this one for Teddy!" It might be the Senator's greatest posthumous curse upon the American people.
I do not regard Senator Edward M. Kennedy as a hero. Or can't you tell? If the Hollywood crowd and the media wish to honor him, that is up to them. I abstain. I think of him as a debauched patrician, who knew no more about the public good than he did his own. Like so many others of his ilk, his was a vain and uncritical pursuit of power and influence. His 46-year tenure in the Senate was a reminder of his narcissistic sense of indispensability.
The man is now dead. His battle with brain cancer was, indeed, spirited and brave. Even his detractors, like myself, can echo the words spoken by Malcolm of the Thane of Cawdor in Shakespeare's Macbeth, "Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it."
September 6, 2009