August 25, 2014

Remembering the Real Ted Kennedy, Five Years After His Death

This post is an annual BizzyBlog tradition.

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Chappaquiddick_Kennedy_Car_25First, excerpts from Doug Patton’s barn-burner of a column in 2009, followed by a telling remembrance relayed by a close friend of Kennedy’s (the remembrance is that he liked to hear jokes about Chappaquiddick):

Let Us Not Confuse Longevity with Statesmanship
September 2, 2009

It was almost nauseating to watch the media fawning over Ted Kennedy’s corpse as though he were the last brother of King Arthur, and his passing was signaling the end of a real place called Camelot. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that Chris Matthews and company actually believe in that mythical kingdom.

… Even one of my formerly favorite columnists, Cal Thomas, had glowing, gooey things to say about his “old friend Ted Kennedy,” the most laughable of which was that Kennedy never personalized his politics. Tell that to Robert Bork. Remember Kennedy’s ridiculous speech on the floor of the United States Senate, wherein he hyperventilated that “Robert Bork’s America is one in which women will be forced into back-alley abortions and blacks will be sitting at segregated lunch counters”?

… what we have witnessed in his passing is the near-deification of a man merely because he came from a rich, powerful family, because he lived a long time and because he managed to bamboozle his gullible state into re-electing him simply because his name was Kennedy. What has been sorely missing in all this is a sense of perspective. This was more than just a flawed man. This was a man who cheated, lied and undermined his family, his friends, even his own country.

Perhaps Ted Kennedy’s most contemptible moment — many consider it treasonous — came in 1983. President Ronald Reagan was in the process of bringing the Soviet Union to its knees. In one of the hotter moments of the Cold War, Kennedy sent word to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov through an old friend and former senator offering Kennedy’s help in undermining the Reagan administration in its dealings with its old arch enemy in exchange for Andropov’s help in defeating Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. Think of that. A United States Senator offers to help our sworn enemy in exchange for political propaganda to win an American election.

This country is not better off because Edward Moore Kennedy sat in the United States Senate for 46 years. He was unqualified when he was first elected. He disgraced himself, his family and our nation throughout his long, tedious career. But the event for which Ted Kennedy will be remembered by most Americans — and by historians, if they are honest — is Chappaquiddick. Forty years ago this summer, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne died in the drunken senator’s Oldsmobile when he drove off a bridge and left her to drown.

You or I would have gone to prison for the negligence he displayed that night. Kennedy went on to become “the lion of the senate.” He lived a life of power and luxury, and was even arrogant enough in 1980 to think this country would elect him president.

Ted Kennedy served a very long time in the U.S. Senate, but let us not confuse longevity with statesmanship. He died a death none of us would wish on anyone — a brain tumor at age 77 — but I’m guessing Mary Jo Kopechne would have preferred to die at age 77 of almost anything.

Now to a 2009 remembrance of Ted Kennedy ‘s alleged sense of humor. I’ll never forget it, and I intend to make sure readers here don’t either.

It came in an interview between Katty Kay of NPR and former Newsweek editor Ed Klein shortly after Kennedy’s death:

Former Newsweek Foreign Editor: Chappaquiddick One of Ted’s ‘Favorite Topics of Humor’

… Klein: Well y’know, he, I don’t know if you know this or not but, one of his favorite topics of humor was indeed Chappaquiddick itself. And he would ask people, “have you heard any new jokes about Chappaquiddick?”

I mean, that is just the most amazing thing. It’s not that he didn’t feel remorse about the death of Mary Jo Kopechne (background music begins building), but that he still always saw, um, the other side of everything and the ridiculous side of things, too.

Kay: Ed Klein, former foreign editor of Newsweek, and author of a new book on Ted Kennedy.

Audio of the full interview is in the YouTube that follows (direct link):

What a guy.

Too bad Mary Jo Kopechne was never available to join in the laughter.

It is mildly comforting to know that what the Democrats called “Ted Kennedy’s seat” really wasn’t.

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UPDATE, August 31, 2010: An example of the type of pathetic attempts at historical revisivionism we’ll probably be seeing for the next hundred years –

Rewriting History on Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick Accident

… Now, a year after Kennedy died, his lifelong biographer Burton Hersh, armed with fresh interviews with Kennedy’s mistress at the time, tells Whispers that the whole July 1969 episode should have been handled as a simple crash, leaving the senator’s legacy untainted. “It was a car accident,” he says. “Ted was a terrible driver. He never paid much attention to where he was going.”

“He took a tremendous blow on the head,” says Hersh. In interviews following the crash, Kennedy displayed confusion and amnesia, he says.

“If the thing had been handled properly, the first thing they would have done is put him in a hospital. Then they would have said he was a victim of an auto accident and didn’t know what he was doing and couldn’t be held responsible for anything that happened really after that, which would have been a fair explanation,” says author-journalist Hersh, who knew Kennedy since they were classmates at Harvard. “But instead, he felt terribly guilty about the whole thing … tried to take responsibility and … just confused the issue.”

Horse manure.

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