Ted Kennedy on Principles & Values
Democratic Sr Senator (MA)
"There was another time, when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a New Frontier," Kennedy thundered. "He faced public criticism from the preceding Democratic president. Harry Truman said we needed 'someone with greater experience.' John Kennedy replied" 'The world is changing. The old ways will not do It's time for a new generation of leadership.' So it is with Barack Obama. He has lit a spark of hope amid the fierce urgency of now."
The overt passing of the Kennedy torch touched something in Obama. Gazing out of the crowd of euphoric college kids, overcome by what the media would describe as a "Camelot moment," he found himself choked up. The Kennedy effect on Obama's fortunes was hard to overstate. For superdelegates, Ted's stamp of approval was at once a potent symbol and a permission slip.
My parents' marriage in October 1914 united the Boston Kennedy and the Boston Fitzgeralds. I was born Edward Moore Kennedy, after my father's longtime personal secretary, confidant, and close family friend. Eddie Moore had been an assistant to three Boston mayors, including John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, my mother's legendary father.
The Irish Catholics had established a small middle class, which overlapped with a strong and tightly knit political class. Honey Fitz was an example of the latter. My dad's own father, Patrick Joseph, lived in both. He was the soft-spoken owner of three saloons, and a leader of East Boston's Democratic Party.
I marched up the gangplank of the USS Washington to join Dad in London. Kathleen, Rosemary, Bobby and I lived at the American ambassador's residence with our parents, while Eunice, Pat and Jean boarded at a nearby convent.Bobby and I met Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret at Windsor Castle. We danced with each other. I doubt that any of us children made a huge impression on any other.
A friend jokingly suggested that I let another buddy, Bill Frate, take the exam for me. Bill told me that if I wanted him to do it, he was willing. To my lasting regret, I said, "Great." I didn't think it through. I made an immature, spontaneous, extremely poor and wrong decision.
Bill took the exam--under the eye of a proctor who happened to be his adviser, and who knew he'd already passed a Spanish test. Which had exempted him from having to take the course. Harvard sentenced each of us to a year's suspension. We were told we could come back if we'd done something useful with that time.
I felt terrible. I knew I'd screwed up. I wanted to prove myself and return to Harvard. Serving in the military made the most sense.
I have been told that 20 books have been published that deal in while or in part with what has been known as "Chappaquiddick". I have not attempted to knock down each of these theories.
My thoughts through the hours that followed the accident were disrupted by shock, terror, and the concussion that I received on impact. In any event, I gave testimony about those events at the time, and that testimony is the best evidence of the chronology of that evening.
But my concept of myself as presiden had little or nothing to do with Camelot. The era that shaped Jack & Bobby had passed. The present era was quite different in mood, in collective experience, and in the challenges the nation faced. Jack's and Bobby's great legacies inspired me, but cold reason told me that I could not run as their surrogate, nor could I govern according to their templates. My goals, my style would derive from my own judgments as to what I wanted to accomplish.
The most important reason I declined to make the race in 1968, aside from my debilitating grief, derived specifically from that refusal to be a surrogate. I knew that if I ran, I wouldn't be running as myself. I wasn't ready. In 1972, it still felt too soon, and my son's health took precedence.
I could not believe it at first. I had campaigned with everything I had. I'd visited Iowa's cities and towns again and again. What had gone wrong?
I finally got the answer from Harold Hughes, the former Iowa governor: "You'd arrive in one of these little towns, and there'd be a 100 people waiting for you. But you'd bring 20 Secret Service agents with you, and they would be pushing people around, telling them to sit over there. And then there would be 30 TV cameras. Now, when I campaigned in Iowa, I'd shake everybody's hand."
Hughes's folksy approach made sense to me. Unfortunately in my case, it was an impossibility. The Secret Service agents and the TV people were following me around, on the assumption that I was a marked man.
The Kennedys and the Clintons were the royalty of the Democratic Party, their reigns stretching over half a century of national and party politics. Throughout the month of January 2008, as Obama and Hillary Clinton battled through the early states, Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton were engaged in a behind-the-scenes struggle over Kennedy's endorsement that reached a crescendo just as Obama was winning South Carolina.
The day after Iowa, Bill Clinton called Kennedy. The former president believed he had been good to the Kennedys when he was in office, recalling to aides what he had done over the years.
He had exhorted his own kids, and the many for whom he functioned as a second father, to carry on the tradition of service established by his famous brothers Jack and Bobby, as well as the ritual caretaking that went with it. Even if, in truth, Jack and Bobby had done relatively little hand-to-hand greeting of everyday constituents--and neither particularly enjoyed it--the gregarious Ted had spent 40 years hosting and attending charity events, shaking hundreds of thousands of hands.
The public unveiling of their alliance had come over Labor Day weekend in 1992, when the couple invited more than a dozen interviewers to the family compound in Hyannis Port. Giggling and holding hands, the newlyweds sat for a series of glowing portraits that contrasted sharply with the ugly press he'd gotten. A slimmed-down Ted seemed more relaxed than he had in years, using the term "stability" to sum up the changes marriage had already wrought in his life. "I don't think there's any question that my relationship with Vicki has had a very profound, welcome, happy impact," he told one reporter. Asked if the union could prove politically advantageous to Ted, Vicki did not duck the question, conceding that it might. But, she added, "It's certainly not why we went into this."
Ted and Bush happened to agree that solving illegal immigration required multiple changes to existing laws. Both were open to taking stronger steps to seal the border with Mexico, but also felt that the best way to discourage illegal immigration would be to clear away some of the obstacles to legal immigration. As for the people already in the country illegally, they could be offered a temporary visa to serve as "guest workers," before returning home to apply to reenter the US legally.
For Kennedy, who regarded undocumented workers as an exploited minority, reforming the nation's immigration laws was akin to protecting people's civil rights.
Sometimes, what it means is disaster. The terrifying thing about Iowa, from the point of view of a candidate running for president, is that a stunningly small number of people control your destiny. "Thirty-three percent of the citizens of Iowa couldn't be wrong," Ted Kennedy famously said on the night he lost the Iowa caucus in 1980, which promptly pushed him to lose New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California, when it didn't matter any more. We were dead after Iowa. Seventeen percent of the people in Iowa that year killed us.
By the very force of his face, personality, and voice, Ted Kennedy promised a return to the magic extinguished by the gunfire. Adding to his myth as "Last Brother" was the cloying possibility that with the help of Chicago's Richard Daley he could have taken the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination just for the asking.
Bolstering his prestige still further was Kennedy's surprise election to the Senate's #2 leadership position.
Kennedy told his subcommittee to start digging. "I know the people around Nixon," he said. "They're thugs." He also realized that to prove effective, the Congress's subpoena power needed to be exploited immediately, otherwise, documents might be destroyed.
The Saturday after the election, Nixon said that he did not think "Teddy" would go after Watergate. You don't strike at the king, he postured, unless you can kill him. "He can't kill us; therefore, he won't strike."
Ted Kennedy warned that if President Nixon dared to defy a Supreme Court order to turn over the tapes, "a responsible Congress would be left with no recourse but to exercise its power of impeachment." The N.Y. Times called Kennedy's words "about as strong a statement on the substantive question of impeachment as any leading Democrat has been willing to make." The problem lay in Kennedy's own past. "The real crunch would come if Nixon, in fact, did defy a clear ruling of the Supreme Court, and the question implicit in Kennedy's statement is how the country would react to the man of Chappaquiddick leading an impeachment battle against the man of Watergate."
It took 71 words to reach the secret password, "restoration." its power was dissipated. 20 years after the Great Debate, 6 years after Nixon's banishment, the youngest brother's strongest claim to the nation's highest office was a fading glimmer of what was. Even against a weakened opponent like Carter, the Kennedy magic could no longer work miracles.
Though he would become one of history's most productive senators, his White House run lacked a rationale.
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