Sunday, June 28, 2009
The Hero of Chappaquiddick
For many of us who lived during the time in 1969 when the drunken playboy Senator caused the drowning of a 20-something year old girl, we can’t help but recall that horrible night whenever Edward “Teddy” Kennedy’s name comes up. His drunken irresponsibility and his subsequent self-serving lies earned him the appellation “Hero of Chappaquiddick.”
So, let’s get that sordid event out first and then proceed to find out what redeeming accomplishments he may have had subsequently in his 47 years in the US Senate. His supporters call him “The Lion of the Senate” or ‘Conscience of the Democrat Party.” Most Americans under 40 have never even heard the story of how he drove off that bridge after a night of drinking at a party on Chappaquiddick Island and left Miss Mary Jo Kopechne behind to die trapped in the back seat of his Oldsmobile limousine gasping for air as he swam to safety. He then walked back to the party passing several houses and a fire station and got two friends to go back to the scene of the accident with him. He went on to try and formulate an alibi –even trying to get his cousin Joe Garghan to say that he was behind the wheel. He did not make a police report as his friends advised him to; instead Kennedy made his way to his hotel, called his lawyer, and went to sleep. When he did call the police the next morning they had already found the wreck and noted that Kopechne had scratched at the upholstered floor above her head in the upside-down car trying to get out.
The politically powerful Kennedy family called in favors, ensuring that any inquiry would be contained and that the inquest would be conducted in secret. Mary Jo’s corpse was whisked out-of-state to her family, before an autopsy could be conducted. He pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, and was given a SUSPENDED SENTENCE OF TWO MONTHS. There was later an effort to have her body exhumed and autopsied, but her family successfully fought against this in court, and Kennedy's family paid their attorney's bills... a "token of friendship?”
Before we go on to Teddy’s wonderful accomplishments in the Senate we should also note that that he had a few other socially embarrassing times like when at Harvard, he paid another student take a test for him causing him to expelled. He got back in but was caught cheating again and was expelled a second time. So he enlisted in the Army for four years but his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to England, pulled the necessary strings to have his enlistment shortened to two years, and to ensure that he served in Europe, not Korea, where a war was raging. Kennedy was assigned to Paris, never advanced beyond the rank of Private having been refused a commission for cheating; he returned to Harvard upon being discharged. While attending law school at the University of Virginia, he was cited for reckless driving four times, including once when he was clocked driving 90 miles per hour in a residential neighborhood with his headlights off after dark. Yet his Virginia driver's license was never revoked. He passed the bar exam in 1959.
There were numerous other incidents of womanizing, drunkenness and other conduct unbecoming…. He often caroused with fellow Senator and fellow Poster Child for Term Limits Chris Dodd -- twice in 1985 they were in drunken incidents in Washington restaurants, with one involving unwelcome physical contact with a waitress. In ’91 he took his nephews out on the town in Palm Beach and that night one of the nephews was credibly accused of rape but he got off, eventually. Reading of this behavior of a US Senator wouldn’t you expect that he would have been replaced by someone who was more respectable? But no, he gets reelected eight times! Incumbency is almost impossible to overcome, especially with a politically connected and powerful family. In predominantly Roman Catholic Massachusetts Kennedy was a prominent Catholic having received his First Holy Communion from Pope Pius XII in the Vatican and married by Cardinal Spellman in 1958 to Virginia Joan Bennett, a beauty queen. It is said that his womanizing drove her to drink and they divorced. They had three children.
Now for the socially redeeming part: considering his longevity, his accomplishments seem scant. He authored or argued for legislation that ensured a variety of civil rights, increased the minimum wage in 1981, made access to health care easier for the indigent, and funded Meals on Wheels for fixed-income seniors and is widely held as the "standard-bearer for liberalism." Kennedy became a committed champion of so-called women's issues and of special rights for homosexuals.
In his very first Senate role, he was the floor manager for the bill that turned U.S. immigration policy upside down and opened the floodgate for immigrants from third world countries. Since that time, he has been an author of every expansion of and increase in immigration, up to and including the latest attempt to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. He has always been the unions’ man for socialized medicine and now the Obama regime is using his name on their bill to take over the health care system of the US. His brain tumor has kept him out of the Senate as this debate goes on.
Kennedy backed the IRA terrorists in Ireland against the British; opposed Nixon’s “vietnamization” of the war after having supported his brother, President John F. Kennedy’s instigation of the Viet Nam war. He fought Ronald Reagan on almost everything –taking the side of the leftists in Nicaragua and El Salvador and in opposing Reagan-supported weapons systems, including the B-1 bomber, the MX missile, and the Strategic Defense Initiative which helped win the Cold War. Kennedy became the Senate's leading advocate for a nuclear freeze. He opposed President Bush on Iraq but worked with him on other issues, including immigration reform and the further intrusion of FedGov into education, the No Child Left Behind Act.
The ACLU, the gun control advocates and the pro-abortion groups rated Kennedy highly while the pro-life groups and the NRA had him at or near zero. His respect for the US Constitution as written was also around zero as his opposition to Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas for their “originalist” interpretation proved. It was Kennedy’s staff that turned Anita Hill against her former boss and Kennedy’s libelous “Robert Bork’s America: speech reached a new low for incendiary rhetoric:
"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens ..."
We featured the two oldest Senators with the longest tenures –Kennedy and Byrd-- as they are on their way out and we thought there were lessons to be learned by our lack of term limits on Congress. Much is left out -- nearly fifty years takes a book or more to tell the whole story. The points I make here tell of self-serving rather than public service and all because these men were permitted to stay in office forever –they’ll probably both die in office. Power does corrupt. Tenure corrupts.