August 26, 2009


Edward Kennedy, Senate Stalwart, Dies (JOHN M. BRODER, 8/27/09, NY Times)

Mr. Kennedy was the last surviving brother of a generation of Kennedys that dominated American politics in the 1960s and that came to embody glamour, political idealism and untimely death. The Kennedy mystique — some call it the Kennedy myth — has held the imagination of the world for decades and came to rest on the sometimes too-narrow shoulders of the brother known as Teddy.

Mr. Kennedy, who served 46 years as the most well-known Democrat in the Senate, longer than all but two other senators, was the only one of those brothers to die after reaching old age. President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy were felled by assassins’ bullets in their 40s. The eldest brother, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., died in 1944 at the age of 29 while on a risky World War II bombing mission. [...]

Senator Kennedy was at or near the center of much of American history in the latter part of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st. For much of his adult life, he veered from victory to catastrophe, winning every Senate election he entered but failing in his only try for the presidency; living through the sudden deaths of his brothers and three of his nephews; being responsible for the drowning death on Chappaquiddick Island of a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, a former aide to his brother Robert. One of the nephews, John F. Kennedy Jr., who the family hoped would one day seek political office and keep the Kennedy tradition alive, died in a plane crash in 1999 at age 38.

Mr. Kennedy himself was almost killed, in 1964, in a plane crash, which left him with permanent back and neck problems.

He was a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue, his powerful but pained stride. He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly. He was a Kennedy.

Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, one of the institution’s most devoted students, said of his longtime colleague, “Ted Kennedy would have been a leader, an outstanding senator, at any period in the nation’s history.”

Mr. Byrd is one of only two senators to have served longer in the chamber than Mr. Kennedy; the other was Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. In May 2008, on learning of Mr. Kennedy’s diagnosis of a lethal brain tumor, Mr. Byrd wept openly on the floor of the Senate.

Born to one of the wealthiest American families, Mr. Kennedy spoke for the downtrodden in his public life while living the heedless private life of a playboy and a rake for many of his years. Dismissed early in his career as a lightweight and an unworthy successor to his revered brothers, he grew in stature over time by sheer longevity and by hewing to liberal principles while often crossing the partisan aisle to enact legislation. A man of unbridled appetites at times, he nevertheless brought a discipline to his public work that resulted in an impressive catalog of legislative achievement across a broad landscape of social policy.

Mr. Kennedy left his mark on legislation concerning civil rights, health care, education, voting rights and labor. He was chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions at his death. But he was more than a legislator. He was a living legend whose presence insured a crowd and whose hovering figure haunted many a president.

Although he was a leading spokesman for liberal issues and a favorite target of conservative fund-raising appeals, the hallmark of his legislative success was his ability to find Republican allies to get bills passed. Perhaps the last notable example was his work with President George W. Bush to pass the No Child Left Behind education law pushed by Mr. Bush in 2001. He also co-sponsored immigration legislation with Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. One of his greatest friends and collaborators in the Senate was Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican.

Mr. Kennedy had less impact on foreign policy than on domestic concerns, but when he spoke his voice was influential. He led the Congressional effort to impose sanctions on South Africa over apartheid, pushed for peace in Northern Ireland, won a ban on arms sales to the dictatorship in Chile and denounced the Vietnam War. In 2002, he voted against authorizing the Iraq war; later, he called that opposition “the best vote I’ve made in my 44 years in the United States Senate.”

...but his own legislative legacy means that to some considerable extent we live in Ted Kennedy's America. Of course, his isolationism meant that the South Vietnamese live in Ted Kennedy's Vietnam and had he had his way, Eastern Europe would still be to some extent Ted Kennedy's Iron Curtain and Iraq would be Ted Kennedy's Ba'athist regime, etc. Among the tragedies of his life is that where the older brothers became heroes fighting the Axis powers, he was only too willing to countenance equally vile evils. And even setting aside the personal damage he did to people, he can never be forgiven his betrayal of his own religion to embrace abortion. For all the talk of how much he cared for the weakest members of society, the fact is he helped kill tens of millions of the most vulnerable.

The great irony of hios career was that he was at his very best when he helped to prevent government from limiting people--immigration reform, civil rights, deregulation--largely mistaken when he either helped or turned a blind eye to government interference in people's lives--all of the various mandates and regulations he helped pass--and a fellow traveler with evil when he collaborated with regimes that oppressed and killed people, from the legal regime of Roe to the foreign regimes of North Vietnam, Iraq, etc. His inconsistency on these questions made him a lesser man than a Ronald Reagan or a George W. Bush who applied their humanitarianism universally and illustrates the essential incoherence of modern liberalism, of which he was the last icon.

Coincidentally, Michael Barone wrote about this dissonance today in a different context, Obama's lyrical Left struggles with liberalism (Michael Barone, August 26, 2009, Washington Examiner)

[U]nlike most New Republic writers of the time, [Randolph Bourne] vehemently opposed U.S. entry into World War I -- not out of pacifism, but for fear of what it would do to the country. "All the activities of society are linked together as fast as possible to this central purpose of making a military offense or a military defense," he wrote in 1918, "and the State becomes what in peacetimes it has vainly struggled to become -- the inexorable arbiter and determinant of men's business and attitudes and opinions."

This was a perceptive description of the dominant trend of the unlyrical warlike Left of the first two-thirds of the 20th century. In World War I, the Wilson administration nationalized the railroads and shipyards; in World War II, the Roosevelt administration mobilized 16 million into the military (the proportionate equivalent today would be 35 million) and commandeered much of the private-sector economy.

The Wilson war policies provided a blueprint for much of the New Deal. The Roosevelt war policies were a template for the makeshift welfare state of the postwar years. Lyndon Johnson declared a "war" on poverty. It was even clearer that war was the health of the state in Britain, where voters rejected the welfare state in the 1930s depression and embraced it after the experience of wartime mobilization and controls.

But in the late 1960s, the American Left started going Randolph Bourne's way. They rejected Lyndon Johnson's "guns and better" and renounced the Vietnam war. They cheered rather than objected when Richard Nixon abolished the military draft. They supported civil rights and tolerance of diverse lifestyles and multiculturalist responses to immigration. They opposed military action in Grenada, in the Gulf war, in Iraq and oppose it today in Afghanistan. [...]

The problem for Obama and America's lyrical Left is that dovishness abroad and statism at home don't readily go together.

The Death of Ted Kennedy: The Brother Who Mattered Most (Richard Lacayo, Aug. 26, 2009, TIME)
-OBIT: U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy dies at age 77 (Reuters, 8/26/09)
-OBIT: Sen. Edward Kennedy dies at 77 (Kathy Kiely, 8/26/09, USA TODAY)
A gifted speaker and skilled legislator, his career was punctuated by a series of personal setbacks and humiliations — often of his own making. The most devastating came in 1969, when a car that Kennedy was driving hurtled off a bridge in Chappaquiddick, Mass., killing a young female passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy fled the scene and did not report his role in the accident until the next day.

Decades later, Kennedy still refused to discuss the incident, according to his biographer, Adam Clymer, who wrote Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography in 1999.

Though he disagreed with church leaders on the issues of abortion and gay rights, Kennedy was a devout Catholic who clung to his religion's belief in the potential for human redemption.

-OBIT: Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy Dies at 77 After Cancer Battle (Joe Holley, 8/26/09, Washington Post)
Kennedy served in the Senate through five of the most dramatic decades of the nation's history. He became a lawmaker whose legislative accomplishments, political authority and gift for friendship across the political spectrum invited favorable comparisons to Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and a handful of other leviathans of the country's most elite political body. But he was also beset by personal frailties and family misfortunes that were the stuff of tabloid headlines.

For years, many Democrats considered Kennedy's own presidency a virtual inevitability. In 1968, a "Draft Ted" campaign emerged only a few months after Robert Kennedy's death, but he demurred, realizing he was not prepared to be president.

Political observers considered him the candidate to beat in 1972, but that possibility came to an end on a night in July 1969, when the senator drove his Oldsmobile off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, Mass., and a young female passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned.

The tragedy had a corrosive effect on Kennedy's image, eroding his national standing. He made a dismal showing when he challenged President Jimmy Carter for reelection in 1980. But the moment of his exit from the presidential stage marked an oratorical highlight when, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, he invoked his brothers and promised: "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on. The cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."

Instead of a president, Kennedy became a major presence in the Senate, which he had joined in 1962 with the help of his politically connected family. He was a cagey and effective legislator, even in the years when Republicans were in the ascendancy. When most Democrats sought to fend off the "liberal" label, the senior senator from Massachusetts wore it proudly.

-OBIT: Edward Kennedy dies at 77; 'liberal lion of the Senate': The Massachusetts Democrat was the last surviving son in a legendary political family. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008. (Rich Simon and Claudia Luther, August 26, 2009, LA Times)
Though his most cherished legislative goal of universal health insurance eluded him, Kennedy helped write a number of laws that ranged from making it easier for workers who change or lose jobs to keep their health insurance, to giving 18-year-olds the right to vote, to deregulating the airlines, helping lower airfares.

He several times spearheaded legislation to raise the minimum wage and, in the early 1970s, wrote the law creating Meals on Wheels, which delivers meals to seniors. He was influential in reforming immigration laws and in expanding Head Start programs.

In 1982, he helped gain an extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and he was a principal sponsor of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which negated Supreme Court decisions that made it more difficult for minorities to win lawsuits charging job discrimination by employers. In 1990, he worked with then-Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) to gain passage of the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act giving disabled Americans greater access to employment, among other things. That same year, he was author of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act providing funds for community healthcare and support services.

And every major education law passed since the 1960s bears Kennedy's imprint, according to the National Education Assn., which gave Kennedy its highest award in 2000.

"Americans have so much affection for the Kennedy family, and they often fail to see past the legend and the celebrity," the group's then-president, Bob Chase, said at the time.

-OBIT: Sen. Edward Kennedy Dies After Battle With Cancer (NAFTALI BENDAVID, 8/26/09, WSJ)
Mr. Kennedy died with one of his lifelong goals, universal health care, tantalizingly within reach yet struggling on Capitol Hill. Some advocates have said his absence has hurt the chances for legislation, and hope Mr. Kennedy's passing will give new momentum and emotional force to his favored cause.

Mr. Kennedy was embraced early on as an heir to a heroic legacy and long seen as a president-in-waiting. But his own mistakes -- especially a car crash near Chappaquiddick Island in 1969, in which a campaign aide died -- helped cost him the presidency when he sought it in 1980. In later years, episodes like the rape trial of his nephew William Kennedy Smith in 1991 gave him the reputation of an irresponsible playboy.

-OBIT: Senator Edward Kennedy dies at 77 (Jurek Martin, August 26 2009, Financial Times)
-OBIT: U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy dies at 77 (Stephen Dinan, 8/26/09, Washington Times)
Outside of Washington Mr. Kennedy was a divisive figure, loved by liberals and hated by conservatives. But inside the Senate he was known as a gracious and gifted lawmaker, eager to work across the aisle if it meant getting major legislation passed.

He built a legislative empire unequaled in modern times, with more than 300 of his bills signed into law.

-OBIT: A Liberal Icon and a Legendary Legislator: A Five-Decade Senate Legacy (Seth Stern, 8/26/09, CQ)
n the end, his influence on the way the United States lives its collective life in the 21st century may well exceed the imprint left by his two even more famous older brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. “For more than four decades in the Senate, Teddy has led the fight on the most important issues of our time: civil rights, social justice and economic opportunity,” his niece Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of John F. Kennedy, said in 2008. “I know his brothers would be so proud of him.”

Sometimes, Kennedy wound up getting less or giving away more than his liberal allies would have preferred. Most recently, he said he harbored regrets over joining with President George W. Bush to enact the No Child Left Behind overhaul of federal education aid and the Medicare prescription drug benefit. But he understood better than anyone that ideological purity is almost always the principal opponent of legislative accomplishment. “Teddy Kennedy understood that nothing in the Senate gets done without bipartisan support,” says Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University. “He was able to work with the most astonishing collection of political conservatives to really amass one of the most remarkable legislative records of any senator of the 20th century or young 21st century.”

-TRIBUTE: Edward M. Kennedy (1932-2009): The Kennedy who most changed America. (Timothy Noah, Aug. 26, 2009, Slate)
In 1965, Kennedy was floor manager for an immigration bill that ended four decades of preferences for Northern Europeans at the expense of Asians and other groups and, some have argued, paved the way for Barack Obama's presidential victory. In 1972, Kennedy helped shepherd Title IX, which banned sex discrimination in education programs and fostered the expansion of athletic programs for women in high schools and colleges. In 1974, Kennedy sponsored the "post-Watergate amendments" to campaign finance law, limiting the size and sources of private contributions to candidates and creating a public financing system for presidential elections. In 1986, Kennedy advanced key amendments to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, guaranteeing continued health coverage to workers after they lost their jobs. In 1990, Kennedy sponsored the Americans With Disabilities Act, which enacted civil rights protections for the handicapped. In 1997, he sponsored the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which extended medical care to families with children that didn't qualify for Medicaid. Every one of these laws expanded in tangible ways the promise of American life.

-TRIBUTE: Romanticizing the late Ted Kennedy: A great man, with a dark past (Mehdi Hasan, 26 August 2009, New Statesman)
-TRIBUTE: Ted Kennedy Was No Victim: Ted Kennedy Courtesy Gerald Posner Teddy Kennedy ably shouldered the grief from his siblings’ death and pushed for health-care reform for decades. Gerald Posner recollects his first meeting with the senator, and why he could never fill John and Bobby’s shoes. (Gerald Posner, 8/26/09, daily Beast)
-TRIBUTE: Ted Kennedy: a tale of American shame and redemption (Michael White, 8/26/09, the Guardian)
-TRIBUTE: Triumph And Tragedy: The see-saw life of Edward M. Kennedy (Sean Wilentz, August 26, 2009, New Republic)
-TRIBUTE: Ted Kennedy: Global Hero (Adam Clymer, 8/26/09, Daily Beast)
-TRIBUTE: Ted Kennedy: Keeper of the Liberal Flame: Kennedy was the champion of the uninsured, the undocumented, and the forgotten. (Harold Meyerson, August 26, 2009, American Prospect)
Icons Aren't What They Used to Be
Journalists find another word to abuse. (Joe Queenan, 7/20/09, WSJ)
The term "icon" has two basic meanings, neither of which apply to Michael Jackson, Greg Norman, Ed McMahon, most Scottish mystery writers or anyone from Paul Revere & the Raiders. Originally it referred to sacred images painted on tiny wooden panels back in the days of the Eastern Empire. Thus, in theory, Farrah Fawcett's famous '70s poster could vaguely qualify as an icon. But for the longest time the word "icon" was used to refer to what Webster's describes as "an object of uncritical devotion." No more. Today it is used to describe anyone reasonably famous who is completely over the hill, on a respirator, or stone dead. Or, in the case of Mickey D's, beloved but inanimate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 26, 2009 6:00 AM
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