Wednesday, August 26, 2009



The most fitting tribute to Ted Kennedy, I think, would be the series that appeared earlier this year in the Boston Globe.

Ted Kennedy was neither saint nor evil. Like all of us, he was a combination of both. Unlike most of us, however, he was able to affect change in the lives of tens of millions of people - both for good and ill - although far more for the former than the latter. Any acts of ill were - for the most part - the unintended consequences that we all have caused in our own lives to one extent or another.
The irony, of course, is that Little Teddy became a man of far, far more consequence than his three brothers combined. While Joe died before entering politics, and JFK and RFK are both political icons, it was Little Teddy who served longer than all but two Senators in U.S. history. Indeed, with his death, for the first time since 1962, there is no Kennedy in the United States Senate this morning.
Had Ted Kennedy died in the 1980s he would be viewed as a tragic - dark - figure, with a legacy that was dominated by binge-drinking, waitress-grabbing, and Chappaquiddick. Since the 1991 trial of his nephew on rape charges, however, Kennedy has undergone a metamorphosis into elder statesman that few could have predicted at the time of that awful trial. With the help of his second wife, Victoria Reggie, he quit drinking and embraced the role of political colossus.
The last two Democratic occupants of the White House both owe their positions to Ted Kennedy. It was Bill Clinton who was readily and warmly embraced by Kennedy late in 1991. With Kennedy's help, the Arkansas governor bested Massachusetts's Native Son Paul Tsongas and went on to the nomination. And, were it not for Kennedy's early endorsement, it is debatable as to whether President Obama could have held off Hillary Rodham Clinton in last year's primaries.
So, while Ted Kennedy is now gone, his ability to impact the American power structure will continue in the years to come. If there is a heaven, and if we really do get to go there almost irrespective of what we've done in our lives, then Ted has been reunited with his brothers. Unfortunately, he's also been reunited with his lunatic father.
I'm not really convinced there is a heaven anyway. More likely, Kennedy has gone into that ether that eventually claims us all.
RIP, Teddy.

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