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August 27, 2009

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Sorry Publius, I ABSOLUTELY disagree with you about Teddy Kennedy. He was one of the worst and most disastrous of US Senators. His political views retrograde in the sense that he favored a forever expanding role for the state. And his stand on moral issues like abortion were revolting and disgusting. And his ruthless and brutal treatment of Judge Bork was appalling.

As for Teddy Kennedy PERSONALLY, the less said the better. I'll simply hope he died repentant.

Sincerely,

If Ted Kennedy was "one of the worst" Senators, I shudder to think who Mr. Brooks admires. Coburn? Inhofe? Kyl?

Kennedy was someone who recognized noblesse oblige and lived up to its demands.

Ignoring the troll, I am dumbfounded by one thing:

YOU WERE A REPUBLICAN?!?!?

Bloody hell.

What, if you don't mind my asking, precipitated the change? Did you smoke pot in your 22nd year?

It has been said too many times that he never lived up to his potential, that he will forever be overshadowed by his two brothers. I disagree. Given the limited time that fate would allow them, their legacies are decidedly eclipsed by their little brother's. As John Meacham said this morning on the Morning Joe program, "He certainly belongs in the company of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster." As legislators, Jack and Bobby aren't even in Teddy's league. It's not even close.

So many "red state Americans" who regarded him with suspicion if not outright hatred, will probably never even realize how much they owe Senator Kennedy. It's kind of sad that a lot of the people Kennedy worked the hardest for despised him with a passion born of decades of anti-Kennedy propaganda. Nothing was handier for a Republican running in a conservative district than the image of Bogeyman Ted in a campaign ad. It usually worked.

TEDDY KENNEDY'S GONNA GET'CHA IF YA DON'T WATCH OUT!

I wonder how these people would react if tomorrow - just for a day, mind you - every law Teddy Kennedy is responsible for were made null and void. Call it a hunch but I have a strong feeling that more people than you might suspect are going to miss him now that he's gone.

Teddy, they hardly knew ye!

We're a better country because for seventy-seven years Teddy Kennedy walked amongst us. His impact on the country he loved so much will be felt for generations. The loss his passing means to progressive politics in the United States is incalculable. We need him at this moment in history more than we ever needed him before. It's so unspeakably sad. He's gone and he's not coming back. Now he belongs to the ages.

In the good old Irish Catholic tradition, tonight I'll be drinking a toast or two (or twelve) to you, Ted. Sleep well and thanks.

http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

one thing Kennedy's death has illustrated is just how petty, ignorant and spiteful the average "conservative" is.

A fitting epitaph for Senator Kennedy, taken from Tom Degan's blog:

"To speak for those who have no voice; to remember those who are forgotten; to respond to the frustration and fulfill the aspiration of all Americans seeking a better life in a better land . . . for all those whose cares have been our concern, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."


Edward Moore Kennedy, 8/12/80

Plenty of conservatives have found nice things to say about Kennedy, and many are too polite to go into the details of the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. No problem there, we have a long standing tradition along the lines of 'if you can't say something nice about someone, then say nothing' upon their passing. Others, not so much, and you could find the same thing on the when Reagan died. So, bad manners are a universal constant. Big deal.

I take issue with Publius' main theme, i.e. Kennedy could have taken the easy way out, but he didn't--instead he dedicated his life to helping those less fortunate. I do so because he put it out there, necessarily inviting comment.

A couple of counterpoints:

1. Being a progressive liberal with the last name of Kennedy in Massachusetts is not exactly swimming against the current. There are many well-to-do Christians who strut their stuff as do-gooders. My point to them is that it is easy to be a generous, sharing Christian when you are sitting on a big pile of money, have not one but several great houses and the last thought on your mind is holding a job or caring for your family. The same holds for Kennedy.

2. The measure of a person's character is what they do when no one is looking. There is ample evidence that Kennedy's private life had an underside that would not bear the light of day. Most of our idols have feet of clay, left and right. The left should no more deify Kennedy than the right should elevate Newt Gingrich.

3. The left leads with its chin when it holds Kennedy up to standards he never met. He was reliably progressive, got great press, started his career in the reflected glory of his older brothers and the family name and had great speech writers. But in reality, he never actually sacrificed anything, he never put himself at risk.

4. To his credit, he was, by all reports, a decent adversary on a personal level. This is a fact not sufficiently well recognized. Also to his credit, he faced the end with courage and dignity.

5. But, he was also a hyper-partisan, displaying exactly the kind of attitude that Publius and his adherents find so distasteful in those they disagree with.

Just to quickly respond to a few of these:

1 & 3: The point, I believe, is that the man dedicated his political career to helping the underprivileged and under-represented - basically, people on the exact opposite of the social hierarchy. He did it vigorously and without apology. He's truly a stand-out among current progressive politicians in that sense.

2: This is all true of course. No excusing bad behavior. But to the extent we can judge his professional accomplishments as distinct from his personal life, the latter doesn't diminish the former.

4 & 5: A hyper-partisan, sure. But as about 90 Republican politicians have noted over the last 24 hours, Kennedy was willing to make concessions and compromises. That's what Publius and myself find so distasteful about the opposition in the current healthcare debate - we just don't get the sense that they're "negotiating" in good faith, if they're "negotiating" at all. And that's an important distinction.

to the end of my days, I will never truly understand social conservatives like SMB. On the one hand, he objects to government programs such as the Civil Rights Acts, Medicare and Medicaid, OSHA, SCHIP, WIC, etc. (all programs that Kennedy supported).

And on the other, he wants government to prevent women from having abortions, a govt role which would be (if implemented equally across all members of society) far FAR more intrusive than anything that Kennedy did.

The measure of a person's character is what they do when no one is looking.

Wait, I thought the measure of a person's character was how much good they did? Or how much good they tried to do, actual effects notwithstanding? Or what religion they belong to? Just consider for a minute that there are multiple measures of a man.

But, he was also a hyper-partisan, displaying exactly the kind of attitude that Publius and his adherents find so distasteful in those they disagree with.

I think you should cite a source for this. Just according to Wikipedia, he supposedly had a good personal relationship with Reagan, and as much as conservatives hate him he had more than his share of bipartisan moments, like finding common ground with Orrin Hatch on AIDS policy and Bush himself on NCLB.

The only thing you need to know about the "small government" shtick of today's modern conservatives is that it is a cover for allowing a massive power grab by large corporations. Basically, everything liberals would like to see done by, or regulated by, collective social agreement (the government) conservatives propose to leave to unelected, unaccountable, profit seeking, indifferent and even multinational corporations. Labor laws? don't need 'em. Leave the individual at the mercy of a large, multinational corporation. Public education? don't need it. Let each individual family struggle to raise the money to educate our future citizens. Clean air and water? If you can't buy it bottled from a large conglomerate you and your deserve to die sipping cholera infested water from a ditch. Free speech and discussion? Even that they would see given over entirely to trademark and intellectual property law so long as the rights of corporations to own information were protected.

The only place they recognize the utility of government action is in the enforcement of arcane, theocratic, minority beliefs. That's because they know the free market would never support the restrictions of sex and reproduction that our last little living medievalists would enforce.

But the real reason conservatives back off of direct, factual criticism of Kennedy and rely on the old "big government/ big spender" tag is that he embarrasses them. Really down to their bones embarrasses them. Conservativism in this country claims that it doesn't have different ends from liberalism (which is just another word for humanism) it claims it has different means. Conservatives want health care, and education, and clean air they just pretend to believe that laissez faire capitalism can create those things. They claim to believe in the idea of government (proclaim the policy, get the votes, act collectively and legally to do things in the world) they just prefer to delegitimize and attack all political actors and actions but their own partisan side.

Kennedy actually *did stuff* politically to make the world a better place. He didn't do it to prove some ideological point. He did it because laissez faire capitalism and the imaginary free market weren't doing it for people in need. He didn't wait for someone else to do a charitable act--he did it himself. He didn't imagine that private charity could take up the slack in, say, funding health care for the worker. He knew that we could all choose to do it if we got together and agreed to co-insure each other. While conservatives blathered on and on about christian virtues, charity, progress, education, etc... Teddy walked the walk. And that is mighty embarrassing to them. He beat them all hollow and they can only hope that time will obscure this fact to their voters.

As for the absurdity that he doesn't deserve any credit because he came from "liberal" Massachusetts? Please. Get over yourself. The man had principles which he shared with the well educated population of his native commonwealth. And he worked hard every day to make those principles work in people's lives. He didn't have to do it, he could have afforded to do something else, and if he had he wouldn't have had to associate with some of the world's most god awfully self centered, corrosively selfish, bought and paid for corporate hacks---that is, his right wing Senatorial colleagues. I'd love to have a Senate seat and fight like Teddy did. But I'd spend half the time puking my guts out at the thought of having to work with Arlen Spector, the late lamented Strom Thurmond, and I'll throw in joltin joe lieberman for make-bait.

aimai

aimai

Ted Kennedy's greatest accomplishment, and the one for which he earned the thanks of a grateful nation a thousand times over, was that he single-handedly defeated the nomination of Robert Bork who, if he had been confirmed, likely would have been the Chief Justice today.

I too was a late convert. For a long time, Kennedy seemed to me to be someone who owed nearly everything to his family connections and nothing to his own efforts and abilities. At the same time, as a person, he was in many ways highly unattractive: spoiled, careless and heedless at best. I'm still not convinced I was wrong about most of that. But for at least the last twenty or twenty five years he did a fine job and was very impressive. That's a full career's worth of time for most people, and of course far longer than his brothers had. This country is better because of his service. All in all, he was a great man and a great senator.

Ted Kennedy's greatest accomplishment, and the one for which he earned the thanks of a grateful nation a thousand times over, was that he single-handedly defeated the nomination of Robert Bork who, if he had been confirmed, likely would have been the Chief Justice today.

Brrrrr. Chills down the spine, and back up again.

It's always outraged me to see and read anti-Kennedy screeds, and I've never known how to counter them effectively.

The thing I love about the Kennedys - their constant and consistent battle to make life better for the downtrodden - is exactly what the Kennedy haters hate about them. So there's no use pointing out how brutish and cruel life for the poor and working poor would be without the Kennedys - "brutish" is exactly how the Kenendy haters like it, esp. aimed at people who are not them.

I've been non-religious (anti-religious, if truth be told) my entire life, even though I was sent to Hebrew school and temple by my parents. Yet, despite its contradictory and bloody history, I've always had a soft spot for Catholics and Catholicism, and that is directly because of the Kennedys, who did their best to live the positive aspects of their faith every day of their lives.

I'm heartsick over his death, because he is irreplaceable. "Kennedy liberalism" was specific to a particular era, background, and upbringing - the supreme contradiction of a Joe Kennedy teaching his kids that because they were wealthy and fortunate themselves, they had a moral duty not only to help people who were not as fortunate as they were, but to excel at it - and there just isn't anyone like that anymore.

Plenty of conservatives have found nice things to say about Kennedy, and many are too polite to go into the details of the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about.

I just have to say, this is one of the finest displays of passive aggression I've seen in some time. Seriously, I feel like a round of applause is in order.

"Ted Kennedy's greatest accomplishment, and the one for which he earned the thanks of a grateful nation a thousand times over, was that he single-handedly defeated the nomination of Robert Bork who, if he had been confirmed, likely would have been the Chief Justice today."

For better or worse, this was also the first time we excluded a justice based on purely ideological reasons. That precedent has created an ongoing controversy over whether that litmus test is valid for justices on either end of the spectrum. In the Sotomayor case it probably created an environment wher a much more liberal justice wasn't even considered.

"I too was a late convert. For a long time, Kennedy seemed to me to be someone who owed nearly everything to his family connections and nothing to his own efforts and abilities. At the same time, as a person, he was in many ways highly unattractive: spoiled, careless and heedless at best. I'm still not convinced I was wrong about most of that. But for at least the last twenty or twenty five years he did a fine job and was very impressive."

This is true. People forget that he was a Senator at 30. Much younger than the vats majority of people entering that office with all of the youthful challenges you might expect. As he grew up and matured under extraordinarily difficult personal circumstances it took him a long time to deal with life.

The result that he was an incredibly effective Senator for all those years most Senators are at best good at it.

But in reality, he never actually sacrificed anything, he never put himself at risk.

Yeah, it's not like politicians named Kennedy were being assassinated or something.

"He didn't have to do it, he could have afforded to do something else, and if he had he wouldn't have had to associate with some of the world's most god awfully self centered, corrosively selfish, bought and paid for corporate hacks---that is, his right wing Senatorial colleagues. I'd love to have a Senate seat and fight like Teddy did. But I'd spend half the time puking my guts out at the thought of having to work with Arlen Spector, the late lamented Strom Thurmond, and I'll throw in joltin joe lieberman for make-bait."

And, of course, his real strength is tthat he didn't look at the world or these people that way. He was politically left or liberal, but he respected and understood the views of others which allowed him to create compromise and attain things on the issues about which he was passionate.

People and politics were different for him.

For better or worse, this was also the first time we excluded a justice based on purely ideological reasons. That precedent has created an ongoing controversy over whether that litmus test is valid for justices on either end of the spectrum. In the Sotomayor case it probably created an environment wher a much more liberal justice wasn't even considered.

Getting OT, but it's worth noting that while this may have been the first time we excluded a justice on ideological grounds, it was /not/ the first time a baldly ideological justice was nominated. Scalia, nominated the year before that, is for all his bleating about originalism and textualism one of the most results-oriented justices to ever hold the title--and is quite open in his contempt for anyone's ideology but his own. And he wasn't the first or the last.

What was significant about the defeat of Bork's nomination was not that it was the first time a justice was voted down on ideological grounds, but rather that it was the first time the Senate did away with the delusional pretense that justices are non-ideological dispensers of legal reasoning. They're not and never were--it was the Senate that had been largely abdicating its "advice and consent" duties for the last 200 years based on the polite lie of non-partisanship.

What Hogan said:

What was safer for a Kennedy than to go into national politics?

What was safer for a Kennedy than to go into national politics?

A fair point, up to a point. If the Kennedy family, as a discrete and unique entity, was the object of some loosely related group of crazies whose goal was to kill Kennedy's in public life, there would have been more of what we saw in the sixties. Public life, in general, produces a certain amount of risk from the fringe's far fringe. Victims of this phenomena include Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan. Gerald Ford was shot at, George Wallace was shot. In this context, Kennedy's risk was, in some sense, slightly greater as a senator because of his family name, but the single most common denominator--if there could be such a thing--- was candidacy for the presidency or the office itself. Your point proves too much.

Again, mckinneytexas, do you have a source for your claim that Kennedy was hyper-partisan?

But even if it was dangerous merely by virtue of its inherent qualities, it would still be...dangerous. Not safe.

Your point doesn't prove much.

mckinneytexas : 5. But, he was also a hyper-partisan

I think I can translate.

When a Republican calls a Democratic politician "hyper-partisan", it means "Will not do exactly what the Republican party says".

"Non-partisan", in Republican-speak, means "Obedient to the will of the Republican party".

In the particular sense in which these terms are used by Republicans, Mckinneytexas is quite right to say that Edward Kennedy was "hyper-partisan": for example, he was one of only 16 Senators hyper-partisan enough to vote against the Republican Party's DOMA in 1996.

If you're a loyal Republican, a Democrat who is "hyper-partisan" is obviously a very bad thing: enough "hyper-partisan Democrats" and the Republican party can have a harder time than it likes governing the US.

Being a progressive liberal with the last name of Kennedy in Massachusetts is not exactly swimming against the current. There are many well-to-do Christians who strut their stuff as do-gooders. My point to them is that it is easy to be a generous, sharing Christian when you are sitting on a big pile of money, have not one but several great houses and the last thought on your mind is holding a job or caring for your family. The same holds for Kennedy.

What this means is that it was easier for Ted Kennedy to do what he did than it would be for, say, me. What it doesn't mean is that it was easier for Ted Kennedy to do what he did than it was for Ted Kennedy to do innumberable other things he could have done. The comparison is between different things Ted Kennedy could have done, not between what Ted Kennedy did and what some less well-off person could have done. You're not suggesting that Ted Kennedy should have become someone else, right, mckinneytexas?

The measure of a person's character is what they do when no one is looking.

Wait, I thought the measure of a person's character was how much good they did?

Yes, exactly. My understanding is that Ronald Reagan was a lovely human being, but - while others' viewpoints may differ - I believe that his accomplishments in public life amounted to a nearly unmitigated disaster for this country. When Bob Novak, a truly appalling man in public life, recently passed we were treated with many testimonials to the sterling qualities of his private life and how deeply intimate and even loving his relationships were with assorted liberals against whose careers he'd never have hesitated to unleash the sleaziest and most dishonest of tactics. Tim Russert was, in his less malicious way, an utter disaster for those of us who aspire to a serious, policy-based discourse in this country, and yet on the occasion of his death we were treated to a solid week about how his personal life was above reproach.

History is littered with people who accomplished or at least attempted great things despite being weak, hypocritical, dishonest, or downright venal in their private life, or even in separate aspects of their public life. And there is no paucity of people who inflicted terrible damage throughout their careers, which cannot be excused by citing the saintly qualities of their personal lives. No-one is saying that Kennedy's failings, either in his private life or in his professional life, should go unmentioned or not be considered - especially the events of Chappaquiddick, which were no mere personal failing. But I am no more solely interested in the allegedly egregious private life of the late Senator Kennedy than I am solely interested in the spotless private life of the late Robert Novak, or for that matter than I am solely interested in the disappointing private life of Thomas Jefferson.

bad grammar day - sorry

The thing about Kennedy was that he grew immensely over the years. Early on, I don't know how much there was to be said for him. Certainly Chappaquidick was horrific, and a lot of the rest of his personal life wasn't any great shakes either. And if it were true that by, say, 35 one's character is set in amber and will never be changed, Kennedy would have been largely a lost cause.

But it's not. He got much, much better over the years, especially after he got out from under the idea that he'd have to run for President someday.

"Kennedy liberalism" was specific to a particular era, background, and upbringing -.... and there just isn't anyone like that anymore.

If he ran from scratch today, DailyKos would raise money for a primary opponent.

If he ran from scratch today, DailyKos would raise money for a primary opponent.

Really? Maybe, I don't know. Admittedly, he has/had plenty of bipartisan moments. (Mckinneytexas, I'd still like to see a source for your claim, please.) But that was a less partisan era, wasn't it? Southern Democrats still existed, and Northeastern Republicans were more liberal than them.

The best examples of hyper-partisanship would be the Bork hearings, and judicial confirmations generally. I concede, and to a point recognized earlier, that he had a pragmatic side. Hyper-partisanship, BTW, is a bi-partisan phenomena. Ted Kennedy was hardly unique. I am also open to the fact that people do change over time. My beef is that someone whose public/private persona is as checkered as was Ted Kennedy's merits a balanced appraisal. I think Hilzoy and the NYT hit it about right.

On the subject of partisanship generally, I live in Houston, like Publius. The Republican bigshots are as hard to deal with, as intransigent and as unreasonable as the Democratic true believers I know. Still, both parties produce, on balance, high quality trial judges (our appellate bench is considerably more doctrinaire). Some few, on both sides, have an agenda, but the majority from both parties call them down the middle.

"Wait, I thought the measure of a person's character was how much good they did?"

No, not at all. The measure of someone's good works is their good works, nothing more, particularly since the 'good' we are talking about is highly subjective. The motivation underlying the act defines the character. The 'good' that Ted Kennedy did assured him of the adulation of his supporters and coasting to victory in election after election. His 'stands for the downtrodden' did not set him back one penny. You are conflating your view of public policy with objective good character.

Put differently, people who do not buy into your program have bad or no character.

To illustrate: George McGovern was a decent man with whom I disagreed on almost everything. Ted Kennedy was a man whom I disagreed on almost everything. I sense that he was a man of integrity when dealing with his peers. What has been reported about his treatment of women, including his wife, suggests a very significant character flaw.

It is easy to be magnanimous when you have no downside, none whatsoever. What little we know about Ted Kennedy under fire, so to speak, is not cause for encouragement. The exception, as I noted in the beginning, is his courage and grace in the face of his impending demise.

The 'good' that Ted Kennedy did assured him of the adulation of his supporters and coasting to victory in election after election.

And the ire of many of his colleagues and a significant segment of the country's population.

If winning elections allowed him to help others, why should wanting to do so be held against him? It's a bit circular: "He did good things in office so he could win elections to, um, do good things in office." (How selfish)

His 'stands for the downtrodden' did not set him back one penny.

Because pennies are the only thing one can sacrifice for the good of another.

The best examples of hyper-partisanship would be the Bork hearings
This may not be the time or the place to debate this somewhat ancillary question, but surely the reason to fiercely oppose Bork wasn't the scoring of partisan points by inflicting a defeat on the Republican president's forward momentum, but the repugnance of Bork's candidacy on its own merits, the sheer abhorrence of having Robert Bork on the Supreme Court?

Lest we forget, Bork was the person willing to fire the special Watergate prosecutor for Richard Nixon, after the first two people of whom Nixon demanded this abomination refused. Bork believes that the fourteenth amendment (equal protection) prevents racial discrimination, but does not prevent discrimination on the basis of gender. Bork opposed the 1964 civil rights act and the 1965 voting rights act. These are only the problems with Bork's candidacy that I recall at this moment, and I am sure there were others. With the caveat that his rejection by the Senate could have unhinged him, Bork has spent the last quarter-century publicly displaying a temperament and a rigidly partisan viewpoint utterly unsuitable for any level of the federal bench.

and judicial confirmations generally
This is rather vague. Certainly the pro-authoritarian, pro-law-enforcement, pro-industry, anti-downtrodden biases of Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, completely obvious now and no great secret at the times of their nominations, would to my mind have justified great zeal in opposing their nominations. But I don't recall much about Kennedy's role (indeed, I think he, like most Democrats, was rather supine when Roberts and Alito were up for consideration), and I certainly don't know anything about Kennedy's role with respect to less prominent nominations.

.

Look, Kennedy was a politician and wanted his party to succeed, if only to advance his policy agenda or, less charitably, his personal agenda. I'm sure he was as partisan as all get-out, and the squabbling over the term (mostly inspired, I think, by the adjectival prefix "hyper") is a bit silly. But his efforts to defeat the nomination of Robert Bork were completely justified by the facts then in everyone's possession and look positively prescient in hindsight. They needed no motivation by "partisanship", of the hyper variety or any other. The question of "hyper-partisanship" with respect of the Bork nomination would better be put to those Republicans who, knowing better, voted to confirm that madman.

As another former Republican, I began my migration to the light by joining a union, and they educated me on what Teddy Kennedy meant to working people.

I have no time for his critics because I've never found one who was a better person than Teddy. The only ground for criticizing this Kennedy is that his opponents were and are unworthy foes for so great a man.

But to address the most recent assbiting commenter directly, George McGovern has become smaller and more petty as he grows older, while Teddy Kennedy became more giving, more adamant, more liberal.

The motivation underlying the act defines the character.

Were you a friend of Kennedy's? Did he ever share his thoughts with you on why he did the things he did?

If you want to say that Kennedy was a flawed, even seriously flawed, guy, you probably won't get much of an argument.

But you really have no way to know why he did any of the things he did. None.

And as hairshirt points out, money is not the only thing that people might sacrifice in order to do whatever it is that they do.

You don't like his politics, and you don't like aspects of his private behavior.

Noted.

Maybe you should just leave it at that.

"The thing about Kennedy was that he grew immensely over the years. Early on, I don't know how much there was to be said for him. Certainly Chappaquidick was horrific, and a lot of the rest of his personal life wasn't any great shakes either. And if it were true that by, say, 35 one's character is set in amber and will never be changed, Kennedy would have been largely a lost cause.

But it's not. He got much, much better over the years, especially after he got out from under the idea that he'd have to run for President someday."

My take on Senator Kennedy's career both public and private is that what he did at Chappaquidick was a crime, in all likelihood (although neither I nor anyone else who wasn't at the actual scene of events will ever know for sure) a crime deserving of a somewhat harsher sentence than the 2 months suspended sentance he received for pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident.

That he did not receive a harsher sentence is because he lived in a society where the rules are different for the wealthy and powerful, and he was both. Nonetheless, he owed a debt to society for what he had done.

That he used his position to repay that debt through service to the country in the Senate, and while in that body by attempting to better the lot of those Americans who would have ended up spending several months or years on a county road-grading crew if they had done what he had done, this seems to me to be undeniable. It also seems to me that he repaid that debt many times over and never chose to stop doing so when a lesser person might have been tempted to call it even.

As for the rest of his personal life, I don't see how he was much better or worse than average for men of his generation and socio-economic bracket.

Apart from all that, and with regard to his public life, what publius wrote at the top, that goes for me as well (except that the only reason I was registered Republican at a tender age was so I could vote for John Anderson in the 1980 primaries).

"But you really have no way to know why he did any of the things he did. None."

My point precisely, you cannot reliably infer intent from acts consciously performed in the public light. The intent may be heroic, sublimely altruistic or entirely hypocritical--or any other damn thing.

Warren Terra: Lest we forget, Bork was the person willing to fire the special Watergate prosecutor for Richard Nixon, after the first two people of whom Nixon demanded this abomination refused. Bork believes that the fourteenth amendment (equal protection) prevents racial discrimination, but does not prevent discrimination on the basis of gender. Bork opposed the 1964 civil rights act and the 1965 voting rights act.

Yes, but the Republicans wanted this man on the Supreme Court, so as McKinneyTexas elucidates, it was hyper-partisan of Democrats to resist putting him there.

My point precisely, you cannot reliably infer intent from acts consciously performed in the public light.

His whole career was probably a decades-long put-on, just for show.

I'm going to take a guess that russell meant that you (meaning you, mckinney) can't reasonably assume bad intent in the face of years and years of good acts.

I'm reluctant to engage, because I certainly don't lionize Kennedy. His politics clearly aren't mine. He was an aristocrat in both the negative and positive senses of the word. He got away with a serious crime because he was from an aristocratic family. That is no better or worse than any aristocrat getting away with a crime which ends in someone's death, but he is certainly not the first nor is likely to be the last.

Later in his life he seems to have dedicated himself to a number of political causes which I agree with, and many more that I don't. He seems to have persued those causes in an honorable fashion and didn't do serious damage to the polity along the way—something that can't be said of certain other aristocratic political entries of recent note. There is something of a redemption story in him, even if his political acts are not ones I would have chosen.

I'm not deeply convinced that being a powerful Senator represents a huge sacrifice worth praise, but on the other hand there are certainly lots of Senators who seem to be there just for the personal power, and never bother to go after their stated beliefs. So he wasn't that.

I'm from a very German heritage, so not prone to giving unreserved compliments—but really "politician who went after his own beliefs, did some good, and didn't do much damage" is a compliment in my world.

Good stuff, Sebastian.

No, not at all. The measure of someone's good works is their good works, nothing more, particularly since the 'good' we are talking about is highly subjective.

Just quoting and replying to the first sentence of that paragraph misses the whole point. "Just consider for a minute that there are multiple measures of a man." Your choice of "what they do when no one is looking" is a big one and I never said otherwise, but it's not the only one, and insisting on that alone is self-serving.

Nicely put, Sebastian. I suspect you'd be hard-pressed to find a colleague of Kennedy's who would utter a bad word about him as a man or as a political opponent. It seems, indeed, that many of his closest friends were polar opposites on the political spectrum, and direct foes at times in chambers.

As for the comment exchange above, I'll only add that Kennedy's being the Senator from Massachusetts allowed him to operate without much worry or regard to electoral consequences. Which in his case, unlike many of his counterparts, allowed him to unapologetically pursue his ideals and truly serve the public.

Thank you for writing this, Publius.

I, too, was a late convert. In 1994, at the age of 23, I endorsed him for reelection. This was despite having worked as a consultant to one of his GOP rivals in the primary. Kennedy was the first Democrat I ever supported.

He is to be admired for his principles and the sacrifices that he made for this country and its people. I cannot begin to fathom the psychological toll that the loss of his brothers caused Ted. I imagine it would have been very easy to turn his back on this country and live a comfortable life of privilege. Instead he continued to fight for those without a voice.

A great deal of conflict in society springs from people's inability to fully empathize with those who are different. Ted Kennedy did not have this poverty of imagination. He didn't fight for the wealthy or the powerful; he stood for those who were least like himself- the powerless, the voiceless and the downtrodden.

And we are all better off for his decades of service. His voice will be sorely missed.

A couple of thoughts on Chappaquiddick.

If google is to be trusted, what happened looks like an accident. His conduct after the accident was reprehensible, but that doesn't change the nature of the event.

Even if he was drunk, times were very different then. One would need to spend a fair bit of time comparing coroners' reports on deaths associated with drunk driving with court records on vehicular homicide to see just how often that kind of conduct got prosecuted and then figure out whether the treatment he got was preferential.

People do die in accidents. Laura Bush killed a boy in a car accident when she was much younger. A distant acquaintance at college drove onto the soft shoulder of a highway, panicked, yanked on the wheel and flipped her car, killing two of her sorority sisters. Freeways in Los Angeles are regularly closed due to motorcycle deaths; many of those aren't prosecuted.

Francis raises a good point... Today's "zero tolerance" for drunk driving, etc was not the case thirty...forty years ago. My father was a fireman starting in 1968 and he saw more than his fair share of car accidents of all sorts and thirty years ago the attitude was much more "accidents are accidents."

Drunk driving was viewed as a nuisance at best..."get home safe" was the attitude at the bar. "Get some coffee and walk it off" might be the response from a cop.

To declare that Ted Kennedy got off scot-free because he was a Kennedy is probably true, but so might most people...

Even today's "zero tolerance" is a joke in many cases...see: Stallworth, Donte.

2. The measure of a person's character is what they do when no one is looking.

two items from today's Boston Globe:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/08/27/agree_with_him_or_not_you_had_to_like_ted

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/08/27/a_man_who_knew_pain_eased_it_in_others


now granted the columnists have a particular point of view, but that doesn't change the reported facts

efgoldman's links (or at least I think they're the right ones), properly formatted and not truncated:
first column

second column

Vehicular manslaughter was still considered problematic even then, and I believe that much of the furor at the time was over the likelyhood that she did not die right away (suffocation not immediate trauma or hopelessly immediate drowning) such that if he had owned up to the accident immediately (talk to the cops before rousing your lawyer and talking to him) that she could have lived.

Might most aristocrats of the day have escaped scot free? Maybe. But even then most normal people wouldn't have. I see football players getting off in a similar power/privilege light. Which reminds me of something. I really wish that the ridiculously rich would just get their driver to drive them when they are drunk. Or call a cab for Pete's sake. I vaguely get why a blue collar worker who couldn't afford a cab and will need his car in the morning ends up driving home drunk. But never having to do that is one of the things that money can buy.

Sebastian,

Propose a tax-cut for it.

Thanks Warren.

Although they worked when I copy-pasted them into a browser.

efg

Probably a browser issue. When I copied them, I got more text than I could see, but the addresses were nonetheless truncated and nonfunctional.

I believe that much of the furor at the time was over the likelyhood that she did not die right away

The diver that pulled her body out of the car stated that she was probably alive for a while after the accident, and that he most likely could have gotten her out alive if Kennedy had called in the accident promptly.

I'm not looking to pile on Kennedy, but the long and the short of it is that her death was probably preventable.

He f*cked up, and it likely cost Kopechne her life. There are many, many positive things to say about Kennedy, but his actions that night are not among them.

For whatever it's worth.

What that has to say about his legacy as a Senator and a legislator, or what that has to say about the liberal political position he embodied and championed, is more or less beyond me.

For whatever that's worth.

I hear ya, Sebastian. It's a pro athlete thing that really annoys me. I understand at times this is like a person who has effectively won the lottery and doesn't know how to adapt to sudden overwhelming wealth. It should be every sports agents job to make sure their client: a) hires a bodyguard instead of carrying their own gun (Burress); b) hires a driver or at least a limo for the night they hit the town to drink (from Stallworth on down to Mo Vaughn and countless others); c) remembers endorsement deals vanish when you f**k up in public.

Amen, Catsy.

Surprised that no one has mentioned Teddy's bitter vanity campaign against Carter in 1980, the primary challenge that unleashed Reagan upon the world. Not the Jimmy was any great shakes as Prez, but he was/is a "decent" man in a way that neither Teddy nor Reagan were (remember that RR had no real friends and even his kids didn't like him until he was dead; plus, his politics were repellant). If the personal is McKinney's standard of leadership, I'm sure Jimmy's his man. But, of course, it can't be, can it? We all prefer "winners," as long as they're ours.

Still, I have a lot of sympathy for Publius's case here, only count me a much later convert--a few years ago, maybe. Having grown up a southern prog, I always resented Kennedy for 1980, which was more about Yankee snobbery than ideology or governance. Not like the Dems in Cong made it easy (or even possible) for Carter to govern. Carter was probably a goner anyway--if by a lesser margin--last Prez of a dying New Deal coalition lost in arrogance and confusion. Kennedy made it look like a grand suicide, as if he was taking the party down with his family. Add in Kennedy's sexcapades through the 1990s, and he was a hard man to like for those of holding the Dem faith in the red states.

That said, he certainly made up for his sins with his later days Senate legacy, and his role as elder statesman, conferring the new New Deal mantle on Obama seemed, symbolically at least, to undo a lot of that old damage. Despite the current health care haggle, I suspect that we Dems are now better for our time in the wilderness. Bygones, Teddy, good and faithful servant.

[...]
But for a brief, shining moment, in the mid to late 1970s, Kennedy viewed smaller government as the most compassionate answer in one area of economic life: transportation. Kennedy was the prime mover in Congress behind the airline and trucking deregulation bills that were signed by President Jimmy Carter. He saw the impact of regulation in these industries as protecting entrenched companies from competition, and decided that the liberal, compassionate thing to do was to deregulate to give consumers lower prices and more choices. As the news stories search for all the ways Kennedy’s impact is felt by everyday Americans, one obvious impact is reflected in this headline today on AOL news, “Fall Airfares Starting at $59.”
[...]

Ted Kennedy’s Deregulatory Legacy on Airlines and Trucking

As to the accident, it was a low point in his life, but it was 40 years ago. If people did not have moral blinders on, and if he was of an ideological sort they agreed with, I'm sure many who love to (baldly) cite it would think differently. Likewise, many claim to be Christians. Forgiveness is very selective for some people however.

For better or worse, this was also the first time we excluded a justice based on purely ideological reasons.

This is wrong. Since the 1790s, ideology repeatedly over the years led to "exclusion" of various potential justices, including (but not limited to) preventing the President from nominating those deemed extreme by the Senate at the time since he knew they would not be confirmed.

All the rejected and withdrawn nominees you see on lists were not done so on non-ideological reasons alone. In fact, Bork wasn't even "purely" rejected for ideological reasons. His pompous manner clearly affected the process. A more careful nominee very well might have got through.

Hi, Hilzoy! Hope you are well. Welcome back from your African safari. Hope you had a good time.

Sincerely,

Charlie Pierce weighs in on the passing of Ted Kennedy:

It is almost beside the point now to mention that The Senior Senator leaves behind a pair of shoes that most of his Senate contemporaries could use for swimming pools. (Harry Reid, come on down!) His maiden speech was about the poll tax and one of the last issues he took up was that of genetic privacy, which pretty much covers the waterfront as regards the second half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st. Start clicking them off--Webster-Clay-Calhoun, bing-bang, all at the same time, and then LaFollette, Lodge, Vandenberg, Taft, Lyndon. Maybe Robert Wagner and/or Hubert Humphrey. And the Senior Senator. That's the ballgame right there, and there's nobody still in the Senate who comes close.

I pretty much emptied the bucket on what I had to say about him six years ago.

But, if Martin was right, and the arc of history really does bend toward justice, the Senior Senator didn't miss many chances to give it a little push along the way. For example, if it weren't for the Senior Senator, an authoritarian extremist named Robert Bork would now be in his 22nd year on the United States Supreme Court. Conservatives are still weeping about this. Tough. A country with a Robert Bork deciding on the issues of its liberties would be a smaller, more vicious place. The Senior Senator stopped that from happening. What'd your senator do today?

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