Sen. Edward M. Kennedy 1932 – 2009

26 Aug

I had the privilege of watching the senior Senator from Massachusetts go to battle in the mid-90s against Mitt Romney. It was the toughest race Kennedy had run in a long time, and for a time Romney had pulled even with him the polls. Kennedy fought back, and I had the privilege once of watching him give a rousing speech to followers at an IBEW hall in Waltham.

There is nothing quite like watching Ted Kennedy giving a fire & brimstone-style political speech to union members in a union hall.

Since a mid-60s injury in a plane crash, Kennedy has worked to ensure that every American, regardless of income or ability to pay, is entitled to the incredible quality of health care he received as a member of Congress.

We are now closer than ever to effectively meeting that goal. It is tragic that the Senator will not be around when President Obama signs the bill.

Rest in Peace, Senator. This video is from his last public speech, given exactly one year and a day before his passing.

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42 Responses to “Sen. Edward M. Kennedy 1932 – 2009”

  1. Terry August 26, 2009 at 7:02 am #

    Mary Jo Kopechne !

  2. Buffalo Girl August 26, 2009 at 10:21 am #

    He was our torch-bearer. I think I’ve told this story on here before but I’m going to tell it again. One day on my way to work, getting off the redline at Park Street Station in downtown Boston, I noticed a group of people standing in a big cluster on the corner. As I got closer to the group I see Ted Kennedy and his wife standing in the center shaking hands and signing autographs. I asked another onlooker what was going on and he told me that the morning after every election that he gets reelected, Ted comes down to that corner to shake hands and thanks the people for their votes. I got my autograh and walked into work that day with the biggest smile on my face. He fought for people, he fought for the poor and disenfranchised, he fought for me. He will be missed.

  3. Anonymous August 26, 2009 at 11:04 am #

    Mary Jo Kopechne would have been 69 years old this year had it not been for his selfishness, cowardice, negligence, and recklessness. No amount of public service — if you can call his theft of our freedoms an accomplishment — can ever right the wrongs of an unrepentant murderer.

    • Alan Bedenko August 26, 2009 at 11:18 am #

      And Michael Douglas would have been 63. People make mistakes, sometimes horrible ones.

      Also, this is the last time anyone comments using the name “anonymous” on my blog. Next one gets deleted.

  4. Ward August 26, 2009 at 11:23 am #

    How people respond to their “mistakes” is an illustration of their character. Edward Kennedy responded abysmally to his mistake, and thereby demonstrated that which limited his reach for his entire adult life.

    • Alan Bedenko August 26, 2009 at 11:25 am #

      And here I thought Christianity was all about repentance and redemption and forgiveness for one’s sins. Guess that was all just a steaming pile of bullshit.

  5. Terry August 26, 2009 at 11:46 am #

    Ha…were you so forgiving of the sins of the Lockerbie bomber? Or doesn’t that Christianity apply to you?

    • Alan Bedenko August 26, 2009 at 11:49 am #

      Or, to put it another way, Terry, blowing up over 200 people in a plane in an act of terrorism is the moral equivalent of accidentally careening off an unlit bridge with no guardrails at night.

      Also, when did I ever claim any sort of Christianity?

  6. Ethan August 26, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    Ted did some good things in his career as a public servent, and I woudn’t argue otherwise. But like any other lawbreaker, even accidental ones, he should have had a trial and if convicted, should have served the appropriate sentence. Like everybody else… in theory. In fact, as a member of the oligarchical Kennedy clan, he did not. That serves us all poorly as an example of being “a nation of laws, and not of men.”

  7. Terry August 26, 2009 at 12:45 pm #

    Right–it’s one thing to be accused of causing death, profess innocence, and be convicted by the machine, and another thing to be accused of causing death, profess innocence, and control the machine. Rather than write weepy, semi orgasmic obits lauding his liberal causes, more respect might be given for his power to crush his enemies.

  8. Jon Splett August 26, 2009 at 12:57 pm #

    Ignoring that Kennedy left someone for dead to save his own ass and only talking about the good he did in his career is a lot like if OJ Simpson died and we all ignored that whole double murder thing he got acquited for and focused on him as a running back.

    Or like celebrating how great Michael Jackson’s music was and ignoring the constant stream of kids who said he molested them…..oh wait……we did that.

  9. The Humanist August 26, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    I have no problem with conservative assholes (and others) pissing on Ted Kennedy’s grave and exploiting (hopefully for the last time) the tragic death of Mary Jo Kopechne to score a cheap political point. It was a giant stain on his career and there is no excusing or downplaying it. Even though good people are mourning a man who meant so much to them, a man who spent his life in public office fighting for the common causes, the other side must be heard and we must all be reminded (in case any of us forgot) that “More people died in Ted Kennedy’s car than at Three Mile Island/Gitmo/etc.”

    In the same fashion, I revel in the opportunity in the death of, say, Jesse Helms, to remind folks what scum-sucking cowardly racist he was and how he never missed an opportunity to bully those who couldn’t fight back. Or that of Ronald Reagan, a vacuous, empty-headed boob who employed more crooks than Boss Tweed.

    It’s funny how those who whinge about the political discourse being tarnished never imagine themselves to be guilty.

  10. Hank August 26, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    @ Humanist’s poke at Reagan. At least his “crooks” paid their income taxes. Charlie Rangel makes a fine Ethics Committee Chariman, “Finding another 700 odd thousand dollars he’s never paid taxes on, and also a few pieces of property he forgot he owned. Don’t throw stones in the crook department, Tool.

    NOW,

    I want to set all of you right off your fresh fried lobster.

    I don’t think that Ted Kennedy should be remembered for: 1. Cheating at Harvard. 2. Having Daddy get him out of the Army after just one year. 3. Mary Jo 4. Being a lecherous drunk with no self control. Not at all.

    Ted Kennedy should be remembered for the fight he made for his life while battling his brain cancer. No federal Bureaucrat told Ted he should take a pain pill instead of coming to North Carolina’s Duke University to utilize the services of the nation’s leading Oncologist that specialized in Brain Cancers. No federal agency mandated that Ted get “end of life counseling”. No Federal Panel made the decision that Ted was too old, and the care he was seeking should be used to treat someone who was younger, and could pay taxes longer than he could—ergo he couldn’t get the treatements he needed.

    Nope, Ted Kennedy fought for life like the lion he was portrayed as, for himself as well as his family. And he had the FREEDOM to do so. No governmental entity stood in his way. No Governmental regulation stood in his way. He wasn’t bound by anything other than the choices the HE, his DOCTORS and his FAMILY chose to make.

    If Ted is to go down in history for anything, it should be that. The only shame here is that his Party is now trying to make a mockery of his fight for survival by passing a bill that would negate every choice that he made in the last years of his life, and they’ll put his name on it as a way to generate more votes.

    • Alan Bedenko August 26, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

      I think everyone’s right. We should forget this….

      The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the National Cancer Act of 1971, the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974, the COBRA Act of 1985, the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Ryan White AIDS Care Act in 1990, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the Mental Health Parity Act in 1996 and 2008, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997, the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, and the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009.

      …because he fucked around, got drunk, and accidentally killed a passenger in his car and was too out of it to figure out what to do about it.

    • Alan Bedenko August 26, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

      Democrats want all Americans to get the same level of care that Kennedy received, and he fought his entire career to see that that happens, ever since his 1964 almost-paralysis.

  11. Hank August 26, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

    @ Buffalo Girl—It’s easy to fight for the poor when you’re using someone else’s money.

    Kennedy’s love for environmentalism stopped at Hyannis Port—No Wind Farm to obstruct my view!!!
    @ Humanist—I guess the fall of the Berlin Wall , and the ending of the Cold War without firing a shot are the trademarks of an empty headed boob.

  12. The Humanist August 26, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    @ Hank – the Democratic Party could never pretend to match the brazen criminality, arrogant cronyism and willful trashing of the Constitution on display when Republicans occupy the White House.

    By the way, genius, Ted Kennedy was covered under the federal health plan, as are thousands of other non-military federal employees. Obama has pledged to extend the same excellent treatment and coverage that senators like Kennedy receive to the rest of the nation. Thanks for playing.

  13. mike August 26, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    Wow hank, if you leave out #3 on your list it sounds a lot like bush and his family. ted’s families only fault was not having enough juice left to cover up #3, not like the bush’s where untold numbers of victims have been paid off

  14. Ethan August 26, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    @ Humanist: if you think stressing how we’re *supposed* to be treated equally under the law (but aren’t) is a “cheap political point,” I think I understand why the Democrats are are morally bankrupt as the Republicans are. Whatever good TK did in his capacity as a legislator–and I happen to agree that he did much, though little or none of it all alone–it is still the case that he also serves as a shining example of how we too often allow our public officials/political celebrities a leeway that is not afforded to the GenPop. I happen to think that’s wrong, and I bet you actually agree.

  15. Russell August 26, 2009 at 4:06 pm #

    Sen. Ted Kennedy loved his country and fought very hard to do what he thought was right for the country. Yes, he had horrible character flaws. He’s done some horrible things. He came from a privileged background unlike anyone else in this country. However, this is not the appropriate time to throw all of that around. This is the time to pay our respects. You do that with respect. Everyone knows of his faults and missteps, even those he was never brought to justice on and probabley should have been. Bringing them up now just exposes your own character flaws.

  16. Terry August 26, 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    Reading these comments calls to mind that bumper-sticker from years back: “Ted Kennedy’s car killed more people than my gun”….. lol…..I wonder if Plaxico Burress has one on the Benz.

    • Alan Bedenko August 26, 2009 at 4:13 pm #

      I dunno, Terry. But keep dancing on the man’s grave and insulting the memory of the good things he did, and trashing his family in their time of grief. Makes you a big man, right?

      Unless you expended even a single molecule of ATP wondering about Mary Jo Kopechne on July 18th or July 26th, you don’t really cherish her memory. You just want to score a political point one last time against someone for a horrible accident that happened 40 years ago.

      Even if he had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter rather than leaving the scene of an injury accident, the legal system would have spat him out by now.

  17. Anonymous August 26, 2009 at 4:10 pm #

    “Democrats want all Americans to get the same level of care that Kennedy received, and he fought his entire career to see that that happens, ever since his 1964 almost-paralysis.”

    Yeah, except that specialists — like the kind afforded to Kennedy — are already providing as much care as they can manage. Where will the additional care come from? How will this not lead to A) rationing, or B) increased costs? Ofcourse, our bureaucratic overlords will likely have access to superior care regardless of what’s available to the public.

    “Wow hank, if you leave out #3 on your list it sounds a lot like bush and his family. ted’s families only fault was not having enough juice left to cover up #3, not like the bush’s where untold numbers of victims have been paid off”

    So is this a defense of Kennedy?.. or are you just pointing out that the Bush family are no saints either?

  18. The Humanist August 26, 2009 at 4:26 pm #

    @ Ethan – I didn’t say that equal treatment under the law for all Americans was a cheap political point…I said that invoking (for the millionth time) the accidental death of a young woman 40 years ago to slam Senator Kennedy is a cheap, lazy stunt. Especially so on the day of his passing.

  19. Terry August 26, 2009 at 4:41 pm #

    Political affiliation isn’t a criteria in my classification of scumbag. Last time I checked, I was a registered Dem, so I don’t understand your assertion that I want to score a political point….

  20. Pete at BuffaloStuff.net August 26, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    @ Humanist – Amen.

  21. The Humanist August 26, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    @Anonymous – “Yeah, except that specialists … are already providing as much care as they can manage

    Is there a source for this assertion? Have the United Specialists of America risen up collectively and screamed “Enough! No more referrals!”?

    You are aware that medical schools are churning ten times as many specialists as general practictioners, right? If anything, the primary care physician drain will be the problem to address in the coming years.

  22. Jon Splett August 26, 2009 at 5:25 pm #

    All I’m saying is it would have been nice to let a jury decide what Kennedy was responsible for doing the night he left the scene of an accident he caused where someone died and he was allegedly drunk during.

    When a Kennedy drunkenly kills someone it’s a 40 year old accident we should all forget. When it was that kid who hit and ran on that mother a few months ago, his head was called for on a silver platter. Why isn’t Ted Kennedy treated in the exact same manner?

  23. Tuco August 26, 2009 at 6:06 pm #

    @ Jon Splett: Dead on
    @ Humanist: I agree 100% with your view on Jesse Helms, and hope you are reveling in the opportunity to point out the misguided past of WV Senator/former KKK Exalted Cyclops/Civil Rights Act of 1964 filibusterer Robert Byrd

  24. Pete at BuffaloStuff.net August 26, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    @Splett – valid point, but not today. When it is brought up today, it is just kind of douchey.

  25. Mike In WNY August 26, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    Goodbye Ted Kennedy. Thank you for all the good things you have done, all two of them – deregulating the airline and trucking industries. Even a broken clock is right twice each day.

  26. Anonymous August 26, 2009 at 7:51 pm #

    “@Splett – valid point, but not today. When it is brought up today, it is just kind of douchey.”

    He ended someone’s life and never came completely clean about it. Pissing on his legacy is hardly sufficient retribution.

  27. The Humanist August 26, 2009 at 10:12 pm #

    @ Splett – “All I’m saying is it would have been nice to let a jury decide what Kennedy was responsible for doing the night he left the scene of an accident he caused where someone died and he was allegedly drunk during.

    Yes….it would have been nice…..er, hold on:

    On July 25, seven days after the incident, Kennedy entered a plea of guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury. Kennedy’s attorneys suggested that any jail sentence should be suspended, and the prosecutors agreed to this, citing Kennedy’s age, character and prior reputation. Judge James Boyle sentenced Kennedy to two months’ incarceration, the statutory minimum for the offense, which he suspended. In announcing the sentence, Boyle referred to Kennedy’s “unblemished record” and said that he “has already been, and will continue to be punished far beyond anything this court can impose”.

    “On April 6, 1970, Dukes County grand jury assembled in special session to consider Kopechne’s death. Judge Wilfred Paquet instructed the members of the grand jury that they could consider only those matters brought to their attention by the superior court, the district attorney or their own personal knowledge. Citing the orders of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Paquet told the grand jury that it could not see the evidence or Judge Boyle’s report from the inquest (which at that time were still impounded). District Attorney Dinis, who had attended the inquest and seen Judge Boyle’s report, told the grand jury that there was not enough evidence to indict Senator Kennedy on potential charges of manslaughter, perjury or driving to endanger. The grand jury called four witnesses who had not testified at the inquest: they testified for a total of 20 minutes, but no indictments were issued.

  28. Ethan August 26, 2009 at 10:24 pm #

    to slam Senator Kennedy

    To slam? It’s really about this, to me: an accurate portrayal over a mythic/hagiograpic one serves everyone’s memory-let’s say at least his and MJK’s–better, in the end.

  29. Jon Splett August 26, 2009 at 11:03 pm #

    Um..

    “Citing the orders of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Paquet told the grand jury that it could not see the evidence or Judge Boyle’s report from the inquest (which at that time were still impounded). District Attorney Dinis, who had attended the inquest and seen Judge Boyle’s report, told the grand jury that there was not enough evidence to indict Senator Kennedy on potential charges of manslaughter, perjury or driving to endanger.”

    Basically, the grand jury got told by the DA, ‘I don’t want to prosecute’. They never saw any evidence and the thing got whitewashed away. Hurray for our justice system!

    Here’s how MA defines involuntary manslaughter (which is what he should have stood trial for):
    http://www.massmurderdefense.com/pages/manslaughter-in.html

    “wanton or reckless conduct includes both affirmative acts and failures to act where a duty to act exists. Such acts or omissions must embody a disregard for the probable harmful consequences to another. The conduct must involve a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result to another. The law requires that the defendant have knowledge of the circumstances and the intent to do the act that caused the death, and also requires that the circumstances presented a danger of serious harm such that a reasonable man would have recognized the nature and degree of danger. Wanton and reckless conduct is distinct from negligence or gross negligence for which, in the common law of Massachusetts, there is no criminal liability.”

    Based on his actions that night, I’d say there’s enough to at least charge him. I don’t know if his actions of returning to his hotel and not calling any authorities whatsoever while a woman drowned to death is negligent or wanton and reckless conduct but I’m certain a case can be made it was wanton and reckless, especially when you consider the fact, according to the article you linked, Kennedy called the owner of the hotel to bitch about a loud party after the death but couldn’t manage to dial 9-11 for the entire night. I’m not sure what MA law says about the duty a driver owes to a passenger and that could play into it but I’d say the ‘reasonable man’ the law refers to would have called the police when his passenger never escaped the car he just drove into the water.

    I know you’re just about the biggest blind party loyalist the democrats could ever have but can you really tell me with a straight face a manslaughter charge wasn’t warranted in this? If Kennedy had been the passenger and Kopenche the driver, is there any doubt she’d be brought up on charges for leaving a US Senator to die in a watery grave?

    I guess Ted Kennedy did plenty for liberal causes (although mounting a primary challenge against possibly the most liberal president we’ve ever had in 1980 makes me kind of laugh at that) but he also ensured a woman died when he didn’t call the proper authorities and that is as much a part of his legacy as anything positive he did in his career. He shouldn’t have been treated as if he was above the law then and he shouldn’t be treated as if he lived a sainted life now just because the corpse is warm. I had no problem pointing out the reprehensible things guys like Jerry Faldwell or Strom Thurmond did over their lifetimes when they died and I’m not about to look the other way on some democrat because he helped pass some legislation I like.

  30. The Humanist August 26, 2009 at 11:04 pm #

    @ Ethan – “…an accurate portrayal…

    What have we had to endure for the last 40 years….a complete whitewashing? Did Ted Kennedy get elected President because the Chappaquiddick accident was successfully squashed and I missed it? Did I just imagine every goober GOP candidate for office since the early 70’s never missing an opportunity to chant “More people died in Ted Kennedy’s car than at Three Mile Island/from my gun/Gitmo/etc.”?

    Chappaquiddick is a significant part of Kennedy’s legacy and there’s been no shortage of its mention on cable news all day. Pretending that you’re unearthing some shocking revelation in order to bring balance to a remembrance of his extraordinary life is quite pathetic.

  31. The Humanist August 26, 2009 at 11:22 pm #

    @ Splett – So anytime a DA advises a grand jury that there’s not enough evidence to support a manslaughter charge, it’s a grand conspiracy? What would you have preferred….the ghost of Daniel Webster to swoop down and declare “Damn the grand jury….this scalawag must be hung for his trespass!”

    Neither you nor I was there that night, so what the fuck would we know about the legitimacy of a manslaughter charge? I’m not denying Kennedy got favorable treatment from the judge who gave him the minimum and then suspended his sentence. But bully for you for dredging up the same fucking argument the Republicans have been reveling in for decades because they could not debate him on the merits of health care, public education, women’s rights, gay rights, minimum wage, workplace safety, protections for disabled Americans, etc.

    Go ahead and call me a blind party loyalist even though I’ve stated no defense of Kennedy’s actions at Chappaquiddick nor made any attempt to whitewash its stain on his legacy. What I object to is you equating him with Jerry Falwell and Strom Thurmond – two utter monsters who spent every minute of their professional lives pushing their racist, xenophobic, homophobic views on others. Kennedy’s body count pales in comparison to the damage these two wrought, but you think it’s hunky dory to treat him just the same.

  32. steveindc" August 27, 2009 at 8:04 am #

    Or, to put it another way, Terry, blowing up over 200 people in a plane in an act of terrorism is the moral equivalent of accidentally careening off an unlit bridge with no guardrails at night.

    Are you kidding me? Love that you overlook the fact that he was drunk. But we should blame the state for an unlit bridge and no guardrails. Typical liberal argument to cite other factors besides personal responsibility.

  33. Ethan August 27, 2009 at 9:39 am #

    To underscore my point, and hopefully, as en epitaph for this thread, here is how you discuss TK’s legacy credibly, intelligently, and yet honestly; and also why it matters to do so (From Alan Wolfe, italics mine.)

    These days we seem to be less tolerant of the flaws of our leaders. We were informed of George Bush’s alcoholism, but only to emphasize his religiosity. Obama, an Eagle Scout if there ever was one in American politics, save for an occasional smoke, seems to have no flaws at all. We either elect people who are truly remarkable or elect scoundrels adept at making themselves over. It is as if were we to acknowledge flaws in our leaders, we might have to find them in ourselves.

    And this, in the final analysis, may be the most unusual of the memories inspired by the death of Edward Kennedy. The Kennedys were rich. Their family was unusual. They were the stuff of myth. Yet compared to politicians who blow-dry their hair and speak only with the help of teleprompters, the Kennedys — Teddy more than all of them — strike us as people who have had to deal with real tragedies and excruciating dilemmas. They were all larger than life because they were not completely divorced from life. Teddy Kennedy will always be remembered for his failures as well as his successes. That, more than anything else, helps explain why we will miss him so much.

  34. The Humanist August 27, 2009 at 11:42 pm #

    Go ahead and name me a modern politician who saw his two brothers shot down before him and his son lose a leg to cancer and fucking compare his legacy to George Fucking W. Bush. Give me a fucking break.

    Let me inform you of something….when some hack attempts to link the failings in George W. Bush’s life to Ted Kennedy’s incredible life, he’s a Republican tool or woefully under-informed. Which is it?

  35. Mike Walsh August 28, 2009 at 12:56 am #

    “ensure that every American, regardless of income or ability to pay, is entitled to the incredible quality of health care he received as a member of Congress.”

    ENTITLED…..LOL…

  36. HapKlein August 28, 2009 at 9:13 pm #

    Yes Ted Kennedy did drive off a bridge, and he did flee the scene since he was probably drunk and since that time has suffered remorse that only a truly religious person can experience.

    I am sure that Mary Jo Kopechne has been a daily sufferance for this man since that time.

    My wife cannot forgive him.

    I, on the other hand have experienced and witnessed human weakness. I also have had many experiences in water related traumas. I tried to explain to my wife and to you, that once the car was launched from the bridge and sank into the water Mary Jo Kopechne, was dead.

    At that point without scuba gear or such search equipment, nothing he could do would bring her back to life.
    He did a terrible thing by fleeing he site but be assured he had a panic that stole all rational thought. I am sure he referenced that terrible night in many late decisions.

    Bless Mary Jo Kopechne. She helped define the humility and sensitivity of a great Senator.

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