Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Truth and The Truth

Ted Kennedy died last week and for several days I've put off blogging about it because, honestly, I'm pretty conflicted about any Kennedy.

As an until-recently lifelong Democrat, I am well-versed in Kennedy history, Kennedy legislation, and Kennedy myth and scandal as well. I spent my childhood idolizing Camelot, my teens mourning fallen gods, and my twenties waiting for Teddy and his ilk to rescue us from the Evil Reagan Empire.

Then, in my thirties and forties, I happened to start reading books about the Kennedys. My dad read them and gave them to me. I began with Peter Collier's The Kennedy's: An American Drama . Next was Doris Kearns Goodwin's The Fitzgerald and the Kennedys: An American Saga . Both are very good histories with little or no controversial information.

They were also both written before the release of the records associated with the JFK Assassination Records Act of 1992, which was basically a second Warren Commission but with different results. While waiting for researchers to comb through them, I read JFK: Reckless Youth by Nigel Hamilton  and The Kennedy Women by Laurence Leamer . Hamilton's book is the one I'll remember, because I had never before known how personally reckless all 3 brothers were.

Add 50 or so in-depth magazine articles and a couple more books whose titles I can no longer recall, and you are reading the words of an amateur Kennedy historian. So please know that when I say Ted was no John F., that's not a compliment to either brother.

You see, I cannot forget that Ted was the baby of the family and acted like it his entire life. He did many things in his own interest to the point of indulgence. He didn't even try to conceal it. In fact, he would whine about needing to have the right to have it. So while I am grateful he co-authored legislation for Title IX and the Disabilities Act, I also know that were he never born someone else would have gotten those bills through Congress because they had huge public support. And stunts like this latest on-and-off Senator choosing in his own home state prove my opinion beautifully.

Back in 2004 when he thought Kerry might be elected President, Ted convinced the leaders of the Massachusetts legislature to change the law that gave the Governor the power to appoint the U.S. Senator's replacement instead of a special election. Why? Because Mitt Romney, a Republican, was Governor then and he wanted to keep Mitt from appointing a GOP Senator were Kerry to become President. Talk about something coming back to bite one in the butt!

No problemo, though, right? Just change the law back when it shows its teeth. To me, that is the ghost of Joseph Kennedy doing his nasty work, just as surely as if Washington Irving created him. My dad has the theory that Rose Kennedy put what was good in her children but Joseph Kennedy put what was bad in them. And, whether it was John and Bobby fumbling around trying to assassinate Castro, or Bobby trying to contain Marilyn Monroe after John loved her and left her, or Ted trying to control who became Massachusett's Senator, it's all the same, really.

When we give special status to people in families like the Kennedys and the Bushes, we see time and time again how they abuse that. I'm sick and tired of it beyond belief. When will we learn our lesson and realize that it is the non-patricians among us that we should celebrate, because their abilities to succeed mark what is unique and great about America and its government, not that some priviledged rich family can grab power? No matter how charismatic.

At Ted's funeral, not one word was mentioned about Joan, his first wife for almost 25 years and the mother of all of his children. Not. One. Word. It was as if she never existed. To me, that illustrates how Ted operated, in the true and typical spirit of Joseph P. So, sorry, I cannot celebrate the greatness of this man like he was some kind of god. He was deeply flawed and he screwed up repeatedly.  Every time the Left denigrates George W. Bush, I think, tell me how he was really any different from Ted Kennedy, huh? In my book, neither should have ever been elected.

I have one wish: that this marks the end of both families' role in our governance. If I want Camelot, I can read a book or watch a movie. Just like, if I want Hope and Change, I'll support someone who has actually made those things happen, not someone who can talk a really good line (and definitely not someone who has been handed the baton by Ted Kennedy, hello?)...