Exactly one year before he died:

On my drive up from New Orleans this morning, I was thinking about health care and how meaningful it would be if Senator Kennedy could live to see the passage of health care reform. I didn’t know he had already passed away.

This is a sad day for America and for the State of Louisiana, whose native daughter Vicki lost her husband yesterday.

I wasn’t in the room when Ted Kennedy delivered his speech at last year’s DNC; I was camped out in the blogger’s tent, watching the entire event with bloggers and journalists from all over the world. And I can vividly recall how his presence and his speech deeply moved so many of the people around me, some of whom openly wept as Kennedy spoke.

This summer, I read The Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy, which I highly recommend, and today, I am particularly struck by the truth of the book’s central thesis: That Ted Kennedy fell before he rose, that he redeemed himself in our country, and that, because of his redemption, tens of millions of Americans, myself included (he sponsored the Americans with Disabilities Act), benefit from a country with less tolerance for bigotry, with more opportunities for minorities, the disabled, the working class, and the poor.

We are a better country because of the contributions given to us by Edward Moore Kennedy.

9 thoughts

  1. Lamar:

    There wasn’t a dry eye in the arena that night either. People were openly weeping and cheering at the same time. I hope and pray that the Congress gets its act together, and passes H.R. 676, the Medicare For All bill in Mr. Kennedy’s name. After all, it is what he spent the last 40 years of life fighting for.

    1. Ryan, I completely agree. Rename the bill after Kennedy, and rename the “public option” as the American Insurance Plan.

      I doubt our country will ever see an arena filled with people carrying KENNEDY signs again. It was a special night.

  2. As someone who was opposed to most of his legislative agenda, I had a lot of respect for Senator Ted Kennedy. Jack, Bobby and Teddy all seemed to have glaring holes in their character (and none among us are perfect), but all three seemed to be able to put the country above party and ideology.

    But for Sirhan Sirhan, Bobby would have at least been favored to beat Nixon (and it’s very difficult to say in hindsight, but I remain convinced that he would have beaten Nixon, but it would have been nearly as close as ’60), and without Chappaquiddick, Teddy would likely have been President, possibly as early as ’76, but certainly between ’76 and ’92.

    I understand the drive by liberals/progressive to literally and figuratively “lionize” Edward Moore Kennedy. The baby brother of JFK and Bobby Kennedy was a compelling media figure. However, personally, I don’t understand what separates him from Strom Thurmond or Robert Byrd, or what makes this particular even “tragic”. (JFK and Bobby were assassinated in their 40s; Tedddy, after a life of excess has died of natural causes at 77.) Maybe I’m jaded on the heels of the media excesses of Michael Jackson’s passing.

    I don’t see any justification to use the passing of Teddy Kennedy as some sort of political crowbar to change people’s minds in the health care debate. It’s just a little bit distasteful (but not unexpected) that it is being used by some on the left for this very purpose.

  3. My grandmother just told me a good Ted Kennedy story. In the late 60s, my grandparents and my aunt (who was around six at the time) were in DC, touring the Senate, when Ted Kennedy spotted them, walked up with a look of amazement on his face, and told them that their daughter looked “exactly” like his daughter Kara, who would have been around the same age. She said Kennedy was warm, personable, and humble.

    Ace, if you need someone to explain the differences between Strom Thurmond and Ted Kennedy, I suggest you consult with the Wikipedia entries on both Kennedy’s and Thurmond’s legislative accomplishments.

    You seem a little confused. Strom Thurmond? Robert Byrd? Michael Jackson????

    And if you don’t understand why some people believe health care reform was the biggest cause of Ted Kennedy’s life and how now, more than ever, his life’s cause is already in the epicenter of American political discourse, then, again, consult with the Power of the Google.

  4. Lamar,

    I’m not confused – the recent example of media excess in coverage of the passing of an American Icon (Michael Jackson) should be still fresh in the memory. You might not agree, but you should certainly understand the parallel I’m drawing. And, I used Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd as people who had far-too-long careers in the Senate. Jesse Helms could certainly been included in there, although he didn’t have the tenure of the other three. For that matter, our own, beloved Russell Long, but again, didn’t push 50 years of senate service.

    A senator is 1 of 100. While I admire Kennedy for some of his initiatives, and certainly his courage on civil rights, I disagreed with a significant portion of his agenda (as I said in the very first line of my first post in this thread). Like many on the far left, I think he was weak on defense, too eager to tax, too eager to spend. I have heard the many anecdotes of personal connections he made – all politicians do that. It was probably sincere, as much of those didn’t get publicity while he was alive and campaigning (one can’t imagine most politicians having this storehouse of personal stories and not use them at any opportunity).

    However, just because he was a nice guy and changed his evil ways over the last 20 years, that doesn’t make his death, after a full, very privileged life of 77 years a “national tragedy”. I specifically contrasted that to his brothers, Jack and Bobby, who were assassinated in their 40s.

    But, again, I understand what Teddy represents to liberals and progressives. There certainly isn’t anybody left in the movement with anything approaching his stature. Similar to Reagan’s status (although his long battle with Alzheimer’s dimished his status while he was still alive) as the leading conservative of the post-civil rights movement era.

    And I know you are a younger guy, Lamar, but what do you know about Strom Thurmond, other than he was the Dixiecrat candidate for president in 1948 and filibustered the Civil Rights Act?

    1. My point is – Trent Lott said something nice about Strom Thurmond at the old codger’s 100th birthday, and the far left (and all of the media) lost it’s collective mind. Strom Thurmond landed in a glider, behind enemy lines on D-Day, while still serving in Congress. He was the first southern senator to have an African-American aide. For all of his flaws, he was a giant in the U.S. Senate, a larger-than-life figure, and his death barely registered with the media.

      Byrd – a former Klansman, by the way – is now considered a progressive. However, he was rightfully characterized as a Dixiecrat. He cast his 18,000th vote in the U.S. Senate last year. Another giant, but why do I believe that his passing will get somewhat more favorable press than Thurmond, but not nearly the accolades of Teddy?

      First off, my problem starts with the adulation of the Kennedy family. We broke away from England to get away from the notion of royalty or nobility, and these Irish bootleggers (a significant portion of my ancestry is Irish, by the way) have been elevated to that status, primarily by the media. Secondly, no one seems bothered by the fact that Teddy succeeded JFK because Joe engineered a placeholder, Kennedy family friend who would not run as an incumbent, and on his deathbed, tried to accomplish the exact same thing, presumably so the Kennedys can handpick his successor. If those are the habits of royalty and nobility, I don’t know what is.

      Of course, this is the state of the Longs, Edwards, Landrieus, Morials, etc. And many Democrat stronghold states seem to have them (Illinois, for example). Why are there rarely Republican families with these kinds of dynasties (the Bushes being a notable exception)?

  5. Robert Byrd is 91 and still in office, and Strom Thurmond died shortly after retiring from the Senate at age 100.

    Kennedy died at 77.

    Aristocracy in this country is a bipartisan tradition; for 12 of the last 20 years, we were led by the Bush father/son combo. I’m not suggesting this is a good thing, but politics can be a family business for both Democrats and Republicans.

    I don’t have a problem with temporary appointments (or “placeholders,” as you call them), particularly when they are only asked to serve less than a year and when they are appointed by the Governor. In the case of Ted Kennedy’s seat, we’re talking about 145 to 160 days. I don’t find that unreasonable.

    That said, I think the Kennedys have given a lot to our country, personally and professionally. The people of Massachusetts chose Ted Kennedy to represent them in the United States Senate for 47 years. That can’t be denied.

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