A Philosopher's Blog

The Liberal Lion

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on August 26, 2009

Edward Kennedy died today and thus another American icon has passed. I did not know Senator Kennedy personally, but as a fellow New Englander I always felt some vague connection to him. I also had considerable respect for the man.

His detractors will no doubt focus on the death that he caused. That event should not, of course, be swept under the rug or forgotten. Nor should his struggle with more private demons. Despite these dark aspects of his life, he did great things and was, to use the standard cliche, a great man. He stood up for what he believed and fought bravely against his own death to continue to contribute to the causes he valued. Agree or disagree with him, his largeness of character and devotion to his principles cannot be doubted.

I vividly recaall a comment made when he survived the plane crash that broke his back (obviously fromaΒ  replay, since I am only 43). The commentator said it was a miracle he had survived. Hearing that and reflecting on what has happened to him and his family, I thought that the best way to describe his life is both tragic and miraculous.

Since, as I said above, I never met him, it follows that I do not have much to say beyond that. I cannot comment on the true person, just the public persona. However, his death does mark a loss for America and we must hope for someone worthy to step into the vast vacancy he has left.

Out of respect for the dead, hateful comments against him should be held off to at least tomorrow. Decency requires at least that degree of restraint.

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18 Responses

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  1. Patrick Sperry said, on August 28, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I waited two days…

    You were much kinder than I was, or ever will be.

  2. biomass2 said, on August 28, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    I might appear he skated on that one (though the water hadn’t iced over in July of ’69 πŸ™‚ ). Two assassinated Kennedy brothers (the sympathy vote) and the increased benefits that time in Congress and resulting powerful committee positions encourage (the incumbent/pork-barrel vote) probably persuaded his constituents to keep him in office. Plus, his list of legislative accomplishments is impressive. Was he guilty? Innocent until proven otherwise. . . at least that’s the scuttlebutt.

    This article


    ties Kennedy to the other half of my focus.

    You’ve waited two days to attack the dead. This young generation. You have to have everything right now. πŸ™‚ I’ve waited 15 years and even now the keys stick when I try to type out Wate (dammit! There they go again) Maybe if I type faster? Waterg (crap!).

    Richard Milhous Nixon, resigned–the first and only president to do so–. Had he waited a wee bit longer, he’d likely have joined Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton on the short list of impeached presidents.

    Before I proceed, I want you to know I know I’m completely aware that I’m comparing the ‘alleged’ killing of a woman to a ‘proven’ attempt to undermine the democratic process. On many levels the two should not be equated. But I’m reaching for a point ( and my apologies to the Bard from here and there and nowhere) : “The evil (alleged or proven) that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones. ‘Tis true, ’tis pity. and pity ’tis, ’tis true. Especially in these darker days of the 24 hour news cycle.” The point holds true whether or not the comparison between the two deceased men under consideration is exact.

    I shudder to think what the results would have been for our republic if Nixon hadn’t been short-sighted enough to keep White House tape recorders activated during some very profane and incriminating conversations. Why, imagine the elections that might have been stolen in future Waterga (nuts!)-like activities if “Tricky Dick” had gotten away with it.

    In the end, no matter how long Nixon’s list of positive accomplishments may be, and they are considerable, there’ll always be Watergate. There. I typed the word. Seems like this post has gotten my Watergate block out of my system. “Watergate”. So bad it feels so good.

    And for Ted Kennedy, there’ll always be Chappaquiddick.

    • Patrick Sperry said, on September 1, 2009 at 6:04 pm

      Younger generation..? Bless you!

      Let’s go through your points.

      Convicted or not his actions after the fact of driving off that bridge were those of IMO an immoral person. Further, if not for his families position of power he would have landed in prison. Vehicular Homicide while under the influence is a felony.

      Richard Nixon, as well as his V.P. were both criminals IMO, and I have always felt that way. Even before I got my letter from him sending me off to an exotic land far away with exotic people,to kill them…

      Nice bit of poetry; perhaps “Do not go gentle into the night” might be even more appropriate?

      Nixon and T. Kennedy, two of a kind then?

      • biomass2 said, on September 2, 2009 at 7:30 am

        “Nixon and T. Kennedy, two of a kind then?”

        “. . .two of a kind. . .”? Separated by a few wee slices of our humble opinions, perhaps. πŸ™‚

        I might agree with your ” have landed him in prison” , but he was never tried and never convicted. I’ve seen too many cases where the accused is, IMHO,guilty as sin, only to be judged innocent by a jury of his peers. Like it or not, it would seem that in some ways you and I would not qualify as Kennedy’s “peers”. 😦

        Note: “young generation”– My bad. I was saved by the lottery.

  3. magus71 said, on August 31, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Why was he a great man? That seems a bit of a stretch and an insult to truly great men. You’re much kinder to him then you were to Michael Jackson yet I’m not sure Jackson did more harm than Kennedy or that Kennedy did more good than Jackson.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 1, 2009 at 3:17 pm

      Greatness, in the general sense, is not measure in terms of benefits rendered. A person can be great in many ways, including being a great force for evil (not to say that he was this sort of man).

      He overcame serious adversity, penned many a landmark piece of legislation and put his mark upon the political landscape of America and even the world. As such, he did great things making him a great man.

      Before someone throws in the usual Hitler angle, let me preempt this and note that Hitler would count as a great man, albeit a greatly evil man.

      • magus71 said, on September 1, 2009 at 10:57 pm

        Oh yeah–and he was a democrat. Don’t forget that.

  4. biomass2 said, on August 31, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I found the most intriguing aspect of Ted Kennedy’s demise to be his letter to the Pope. I thought is was a bit disturbing for at least two reasons:

    1/ I wasn’t fond of his blatantly political move to have Pres. Obama hand-deliver the letter. Talk about politics and privilege walking hand-in-hand.

    2/ I thought the second half of the letter reeked of self-praise. He could have waited until he was dead when even his political enemies felt obliged to heap on the kudos for a day.But he was 77 and dying of cancer, so what the hell. It doesn’t help, of course, that I’m not in agreement with his support of the Church’s stances on several controversial issues (not at all controversial for Catholics, of course).

    I pleased with Il Papa’s pro forma, more or less fill-in-space-with-appropriate-name response, but I have a suspicion that a more personal communications was delivered by a more private avenue. The relationship between money, power and the church hasn’t evolved a great deal in recent centuries.

  5. magus71 said, on September 3, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Great still implies to me at least, that the person was good. I think it does to most people.

    I didn’t agree with his politics, which, especially during the Bush Administration, amounted to reflexively disagreeing with anything the the President wanted to do. I know the he was not the only person who did this or does it–and both parties do it–but he was really blatant about it.

    He was booted from Harvard for cheating, then entered the Army where he was kicked out of the Army’s Military Intelligence program. His father’s political clout kept him from deploying to Vietnam.

    While I applaud the fact that he overcame many personal problems, I must also point out that were he not past of American royalty, he never would have had the chance. He would have been behind bars or pumping gas. After a while his “stick-to-it-ivness” just looks like hubris.

    Opinion of Kennedy? Average guy who was very lucky to have been born a Kennedy and be the brother of one of the most loved presidents ever. People hoped that in some way JFK would continue to exist in politics if only they kept voting for Ted. It didn’t hurt being an ultra-liberal in Mass. either.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 4, 2009 at 9:14 am

      Other people get born into wealth and power and don’t amount to anything. So, I think he deserves some credit. Naturally, he’d deserve more if he had faced the sort of life you started with.

      Well, if great implies good (which it often does), then the matter becomes considerably more debatable.

  6. kernunos said, on September 3, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    “He overcame serious adversity,-” Please Mike. The man never did and honest to goodness hard day’s work. His life and his family’s was very plush from the empire built from booze running by his Nazi synmpathizer father. The family had it sooooooo rough. I think their wives had it the roughest.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 4, 2009 at 9:11 am

      Well, he had his back broken in a plane crash, his son had serious cancer, he himself fought against brain cancer and so on. Sure, he was born into wealth and power. But to say that his life was easy would not be correct.

      • kernunos said, on September 4, 2009 at 1:00 pm

        We are all surrounded in our lives by tragedy and hardships. I am not sure how this makes him any different. Shall we all put our hardships ion the table and compare? There will be no great consensus from the masses that we were strong for getting through them. The world will never know because we were not born into a prominent political family and had so much just handed to us. His political career came from the fame of his family and the coat tails of a better man. He would have been just as unknown as you and I without these. Of course anything can happen in Mass. Just look at Barney Frank or the Mayor of Boston, MR. ‘Mumbles’.

  7. kernunos said, on September 3, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    JFK would have bitch slapped his brother around for being too Liberal.

  8. T. J. Babson said, on September 4, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Kopechne apparently lived for hours after the accident (via Wikipedia).

    Discovery of Kopechne’s body

    John Farrar, the diver who recovered Kopechne’s body and captain of the Martha’s Vineyard Edgarton Fire Rescue unit, asserted that Kopechne did not die from the vehicle overturn or from drowning, but rather from suffocation, based upon the posture in which he found the body and its position relative to the area of an ultimate air pocket in the overturned vehicle. Farrar also asserted that Kopechne would likely have survived had a more timely attempt at rescue been conducted.[24] Farrar located Kopechne’s body in the well of the backseat of the overturned submerged car. Rigor mortis had set in and her hands were clasping the backseat and her face was turned upward.[25] Farrar testified at the Inquest:

    It looked as if she were holding herself up to get a last breath of air. It was a consciously assumed position. … She didn’t drown. She died of suffocation in her own air void. It took her at least three or four hours to die. I could have had her out of that car twenty-five minutes after I got the call. But he [Ted Kennedy] didn’t call.
    β€” diver John Farrar, Inquest into the Death of Mary Jo Kopechne, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Edgartown District Court. New York: EVR Productions, 1970.

    • kernunos said, on September 5, 2009 at 10:19 am

      Sounds like she had a lot of time to think about how great Ted was for abandoning her. Imagine the thoughts that were going through her head and the horror. Ted was indeed a great man.

    • biomass2 said, on September 5, 2009 at 8:34 pm

      I haven’t defended Kennedy on the Chappaquiddick issue and I’m not going to start now. . But—seriously—before considering this Wikipedia passage it should be noted that a diver is a diver, not a coroner, medical examiner, or forensic pathologist (CSI etc.). He’s got an opinion, everyone’s got an opinion, but weighing the true worth of the medical conclusions of an experienced diver vs. those of an experienced, qualified medical examiner or forensic pathologist, I’ll back the pathologist every time.

      This should also be noted from that Wikipedia article on the “Chappaquiddick Incident”:
      “. . .citing blood found on Kopechne’s skirt and in her mouth and nose “which may or may not be consistent with death by drowning”.[28] The reported discovery of the blood was made when her clothes were turned over to authorities by the funeral director.[29]
      I’m certain the blood may or may not have been consistent with many possible conclusions one of the most obvious– that she many have struck her face on something inside the car upon the car’s initial impact with the water.

      Suppositions like those above, obsessively contemplated and/or selectively emphasized after the fact,are great fuel for conspiracy theory thinking and the like, but I don’t see them as being of much value because, like Swiss Cheese and an Alzheimer patient’s brain, they’re filled with holes.

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