Up late, watching the Kennedy Coverage on CNN.

Those of you who don’t have Massachusetts roots — you probably won’t be able to relate to the video you’re going to see coming from the Land of the Cod over the next few days. Ted Kennedy was much, much loved.

The older folk were around for the full dynasty and losing Teddy is like finding out that a friend of theirs had just lost a son. The middle-younger folk like me came to know him during the Seventies and Eighties. We were perversely proud of the fact that all of his disgraces were personal ones, and all of his triumphs were on behalf of Americans in general and the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in particular.

The Younger-Younger folk got to know him after he’d sobered up. They knew perhaps the last living example of the true Distinguished Senator, an ardent fighter advancing the working and living conditions of those with the fewest friends in national politics, one of the few to correctly call “Bull****” on the case for war against Iraq.

Every disagreement I have with the concept of Term Limits, I owe to Ted Kennedy. Kennedy was a fantastic Senator; we could have had no greater advocate. He had a true passion for public service, he seemed incorruptible, and after 20, 30, 40 years in the Senate, he knew how the entire system worked and how to get things done.

What sort of blight-sighted system would use “he has too much experience” as a reason to boot such a man out of his job?

And what a story Ted Kennedy represented. Here’s the pitch: you’re the youngest child of a man who’s frustrated by the fact that despite his wealth, despite his connections, and despite marrying well, he’d never be thought of as anything more than a Useful Irishman by those high in power.

Your father earmarks your oldest brother to get into politics. He’s killed in World War II. So he lines up your oldest surviving brother and he becomes President! And then he’s assassinated. Again, your oldest surviving brother is lined up; again, your oldest brother is shot.

And now you’re next in line.

Oh, and you’re in a near-fatal plane crash that kills two other people, including your personal aide, and spend months convalescent from severe injuries.

Okay…NOW what do you do?

It would seem as though the death of Kennedy’s presidential ambitions gave him new life. It’s a great illustration of the importance of finding your place in the world. If he’d been elected in 1980, he might have been a great President or he might have been a middlin’ one. He might have won a second term, or he might have retired to Hyannisport after four years. Either way: what a terrible loss that would have been. We all would have been denied what were probably Kennedy’s most productive and vigilant 25 years of public service.

We knew his death was near. I’m a little sadder than I figured. Mom loved the Kennedys. When there were arguments about the Kennedys — inspired by a fresh scandal and usually instigated by Dad, who was from out-of-state and thus not necessarily a fan — she would end the discussion definitively.

“When you have suffered, as the Kennedys have suffered…”

And there were no more words after the ellipses. I sort of stopped wondering what those words might have been, after hearing the phrase enough times.

I imagine that there’ll be a public memorial…some sort of opportunity for the people of Massachusetts to pay their respects. I’ll try to be there. The anniversary of Mom’s death is coming up and I’ll attend her memorial mass of course. But I think it’d have pleased her even more to know that her duly-appointed deputy was paying respects to a Senator whom she loved and admired.

15 thoughts on “Up late, watching the Kennedy Coverage on CNN.

  1. Bob Parker

    You know what, nevermind. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have posted that last comment. It was in poor taste. I apologize for my insensitivity.

  2. Tim H.

    From Missouri, it looks like the public service more than paid for the screw ups. Whoever replaces Christopher Bond will have an easier time than the next senator from Massachusetts. BTW, have you seen what leopard spellcheck gives as a possible spelling if you misspell “Massachusetts”?

  3. Raymond Dionne

    Ted Kennedy will be sorely missed, another 99 Ted Kennedy’s could not bring this country back from its slide into oblivion, third world country? If we could be so lucky.

  4. Suzanne

    I’ve lived most of my life in Texas and never been anywhere in Massachusetts, so I’m sure I don’t feel it as deeply, but I’m sure sad to see him go, too. He’s been one of my most respected politicians and even though he never represented me directly, I always knew he was in there fighting for me, anyway. That’s a good feeling since so many politicians from my state aren’t.

  5. Pingback: Ted Kennedy Died | Faraway, So Close

  6. Patricia Haughney

    Thanks for a great piece of writing. It really summed up my feelings about Teddy Kennedy. He was a true public servant, a tireless civil rights proponent, and the original health care reformer. We all regretted his personal lapses and hoped he would be remembered for the good things he did.

  7. Roast Coffee

    Teddy will be greatly missed, he stood by the things he stood for. You may not have agreed with him all the time or thought him to liberal, but for a man with all the money he has he worked on what he thought was best.

  8. William

    Andy, I think you captured the mood in Massachusetts perfectly. At the very least, you’ve captured mine. Like you, I was sadder than expected when I heard news of his death. It’s only after someone is gone that you really appreciate all that they’ve accomplished, and I think that point is especially true in the case of Ted Kennedy. He was one of the few politicians I could point to and say, “He has my best interests at heart.” I wish there were more like him…

  9. victor

    I am a Bay Stater, born and raised, and you have distilled all the best things about Ted Kennedy here. I have had many arguments with friends and in-laws about the Kennedys, and have never been able to make a really concise explanation about why TK was so important. It is only a scratch on the surface, but your statement that, “…all of his disgraces were personal ones, and all of his triumphs…on behalf of Americans…and the people of Massachusetts [sic]”, really puts the man in perspective. He was a great human being, a statesman, and we in the west end of the state will miss him greatly.

  10. Michael

    I am a born and bred Bostonian. I have lived in Massachusetts my entire life except for 1 year studying abroad. Count me among the many Bay Staters who are more than happy to finally be rid of this evil man. Chappaquiddick aside, he was the country’s most powerful and effective opponent of clean, renewable energy, specifically wind power. He helped to flood this country with criminal aliens in order to suppress the wages of American workers, and when it failed to stop the problem, he tried to do it again. At a time when thousands of high tech workers were out of work, he fought for more H1-B visas for foreign high tech workers. He inherited his wealth and power and looked his nose down at the working man. — Good riddance, Ted.

  11. Ihnatko Post author

    @Greg – I was unaware of this item. But before I believe that the truth of the letter, the alleged meeting, and Kennedy’s intentions are as presented in the article, I need to ponder a few things:

    1) Is there a more conventional reason why a prominent Senator would be encouraging a Soviet leader to visit the United States, or even to maintain a backdoor channel for diplomacy?

    2) At the time, were Reagan, his administration, and operatives within the Republican party in a weakened and vulnerable state? Were voters turning against him? IE, would Kennedy (a highly shrewd political mover, who had other skilled people on his payroll) have had a reasonable expectation that a visit from Andropov would have had an appreciable effect upon the 2004 election?

    3) In 1983, did Kennedy have any realistic Presidential ambitions left…for 1988 or any other year?

    4) During an era in which disintegrating Soviet/US relations was a daily headline, would Andropov have had difficulty getting interviews and airtime with US media outlets without any sort of outside help? More to the point, would Kennedy have thought so?

    5) Assuming that the memorandum is genuine, has any second source commented on this meeting and its contents?

    6) And what is the basis of this memorandum? Is it a firsthand report of a meeting, or is it three sources removed? IE, if such a meeting took place in any form, did Tunney approach a known senior official, take him into a private room, and convey the Senator’s offer point by point…after which the official immediately composed and dipatched a report? Or was Tunney in with a group of people, spoke of how Kennedy’s concerned with Regan’s Soviet policy, and expressed a desire for Andropov to speak to the American media and people directly, and word of the conversation somehow made it to someone outside the room who then passed it on?

    As-is, this article doesn’t seem like journalism.

  12. Greg Wyatt

    Andy, you are a brilliant guy. Reading your response is like hearing Clinton’s remark about the definition of “is”. You know better than this. Clearly the main stream media will never look at this issue in depth as it should have been when first reported now that Kennedy is dead and surely what the author writes about if not true in its very clear context would have been easily proven or at least argued otherwise. Let’s face it, this guy was willing to do harm to the security of this country for a political quid pro quo. Kennedy did nothing for you and any other successful individual. You worked hard and earned your success. Kennedy’s life was always about power and status. He was simply one of many who never saw the individual as the key to his/her own success in life but as a potential lifelong supporter if he could keep them dependent on government and absorbed with a victims mentality. His actions as a US Senator led to a woman’s death because he was more concerned about his own political career and the damage to the Kennedy family name (go back and read the report of this incident and the delay in reporting and showing up to report the incident with his attorney). Go back further and look at his college cheating and the years and years of abuse directed at women. Kennedy as he has been eulogized is a projection of what many wanted him to be but what even more know him to have fallen far short of. Lets just remember the man as he truly was. Weak in character and fortunate at birth.

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