Ted Kennedy

The death of Ted Kennedy has provoked an outpouring of sentimental drivel in the US media. For those looking for some relief from this, I recommend Lance Selfa’s article in Socialist Worker as well as Alec Cockburn’s piece in Counterpunch. They both do a pretty good demolition job on the reputation of the late paladin of Camelot. As for the idea that Kennedy was a champion of health care reform, check out this article by Helen Redmond. She makes it clear that Ted abandoned single payer back in the 1970’s.

I must admit that my background predisposes me to a skeptical attitude towards any member of the Kennedy clan. I spent part of my childhood in Massachusetts, where the Last Kennedy was the senior US Senator. My parents were both New Deal Democrats who worshipped the memory of Franklin Roosevelt. As such, they were deeply unimpressed with Ted Kennedy (my mother referred to him as “Sailboat Boy”). Indeed, my parents were unimpressed with the whole Kennedy family. My father took deep offense at the famous challenge that John Kennedy made in his celebrated inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” my father would say. “We are the country.”

My father needed no lectures about self-sacrifice. He had fought in World War II and had been wounded. He didn’t understand that high-minded calls for self-sacrifice always play well with the media, as well as with dewy-eyed liberals.

As for Teddy, the Chappaquiddick incident would have ended the career of any other politician, but he got a pass simply because he was a Kennedy. Doesn’t that bother anybody? When I was growing up, the media would actually sometimes refer to the Kennedys as “America’s Royal Family”. No one found this outrageous.

I had one brush with Ted Kennedy. Once, when I was living in Boston, I saw him getting into a car. He saw me looking at him. He smiled and waved to me.

I waved back. I’m not sure why I did. I would like to think I did it out of simple politeness. However, I must admit that for a moment I may have given in to the Kennedy “charisma”, which took in so many millions of people.

(I had one other brush with a Kennedy. Once, I almost took part in a touch football game with JFK, Jr. in New York’s Central Park. To me, he was the most sympathetic of the Kennedys. True, he published a boring and vapid magazine, but at least he never dropped bombs on anybody or walked away from the scene of an accident.)

When I lived in New York, I had a friend who would spend his summers on Martha’s Vineyard, where his family owned a house. He would support himself by working as a bartender there. He once told me a sordid story about seeing Ted Kennedy stinking drunk in his bar. When I made a disparaging remark about Kennedy, my friend suddenly became defensive. He said he thought that Kennedy was doing good things in the Senate. I just looked at him, not sure what to say. Had I been more politically astute in those days, I might have pointed out that the “good things” that Kennedy did in the Senate included deregulating the trucking and airlines industries, which contributed to the decline in living standards in this country.

Over the years I’ve listened to numerous people defend Ted Kennedy. According to them, Chappaquiddick was just a fluke. However, I believe it wasn’t a fluke, but was symptomatic of how the Kennedys viewed other people. They would use and exploit them and discard them when they became inconvenient.

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2 Responses to “Ted Kennedy”

  1. Renegade Eye Says:

    There is so much Kennedy revisionism. Heck Bobby was McCarthy’s right hand man.

    Ted was always worthless.

  2. The Spanish Prisoner Says:

    Thanks for reminding me of Bobby’s role in the Red Scare. I should have mentioned that in my post.

    By the way, I once saw an A&E biography program on Jimmy Hoffa. One scene showed Bobby red-baiting Hoffa at a Senate committee hearing. He accused Hoffa of having a Communist working for him. My jaw almost dropped to the floor as I watched this. And Bobby is a big hero to some people on the left. (If Hoffa did have a Communist working for him, that just shows he was more open-minded than Bobby was.)

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