Thursday, August 27, 2009

R.I.P. Senator Kennedy

These days, especially in these sorry times on Capitol Hill, "Senator" doesn't carry the cachet it arguably once did. But there's still something about the word, as a prefix to Ted Kennedy's name, that sounds like a title of distinction. There's no doubt he wore it with pride, and I would say he executed it with honor - even if his conduct in other departments of his life was too often less than honorable.

"End of an era" is a phrase frayed from overuse, yet as with "Senator," it seems to have a special significance when attached to Teddy Kennedy. He may not have been the last of the Kennedys, technically, or even the last of his generation of Kennedys, but he was the last true carrier of the Kennedy mythos. He also may have been one of the last legislators of his kind - the kind who could work effectively across the aisle without losing his identity as a liberal Democrat, and the kind who was always a little larger than life but used that to his advantage.

We can't ignore Chappaquidick, nor should we. But it isn't the only thing to remember about his life. An anonymous commentator on one of his obituaries had it right:

He must have known that Chappaquiddick would always be his legacy. He must have known that he would always be an assassin's target. He must have known that he would never be more beloved than his brothers. At some point, long ago, he knew he'd never be President.

He could have easily retreated into a private life of wealth and leisure. But he soldiered on through decades of cynicism and ignorance, when Liberal was a dirty word.

What/who did he do it for? You and me, and America. That's what/who he did it for. I, for one, am grateful to the man.

Me, too.

Rest in peace, Senator.


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