Senator Kennedy passes away

New York Times editorial

The New York Times gives Ted Kennedy’s life the broader brush, which I haven’t seen in the wave of commentary about Kennedy.

For myself, I’m just a bit skeptical about the “greatness” claim that is popping up here and there. Yes, he was a long-serving Senator and an influential one. But he only really hit the home stretch in the last 15 years. The Times gives him 30–since he lost to President Carter in the 1980 primaries.

I think many people above a certain age are still bothered by what gets called the “Chappaquiddick Incident”, where Kennedy left Mary Jo Kopechne in his car to drown. Kopechne was from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.

I think some people got tired of the faux noblesse oblige of the Kennedy family. (Probably why the niece didn’t get picked to fill in for the New York State senate earlier this year.)

And to borrow from corporate jargon: “the missed deliverables” on all the social insurance issues that a change of leadership might have brought about in the last 20 years. Of course, the obits are going to print about how Kennedy was in the forefront arguing for health care reform. But practically, what used to be called “the liberal wing of the U.S. Senate” punted the issue down field for most of Kennedy’s career. And Kennedy was right there as placekicker.

So I do have to wonder what the Ted Kennedy legacy would have been if he had to quit the Senate in 1969 or left it after the run against Carter in 1980.

Would we actually be closer to health care coverage for all?