Just a taste of the posts. I will add more later.
Jonathan Cohn at TNR:
A little after 1 a.m., Senator Kennedy’s office sent out this press release:
Edward M. Kennedy–the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply–died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.
Robert Reich at TPM:
Most Americans will never know how many things Ted Kennedy did to make their lives better, how many things he prevented that would have hurt them, and how tenaciously he fought on their behalf. In 1969, for example, he introduced a bill in the Senate calling for universal health insurance, and then, for the next forty years, pushed and prodded colleagues and presidents to get on with it. If and when we ever achieve that goal it will be in no small measure due to the dedication and perseverance of this one remarkable man. We owe it to him and his memory to do it soon and do it well.
The U.S. Senator from Massachusetts succumbed to brain cancer at the age of 77 tonight. Put aside your ideological differences for an appropriate moment and mark this passing with solemnity.
There is a time and place for political analysis and criticism. Not now.
Yes, there will be a nauseating excess of MSM hagiographies and lionizations — and crass calls to pass the health care takeover to memorialize his death.
That’s no excuse to demonstrate the same lack of restraint in the other direction. Not now.
Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO:
Seared in my memory: When I interned at the Heritage Foundation, I would sometimes pop into Mass at Saint Joseph’s on the Hill at noon on a weekday. And I would almost always find myself sitting near Ted Kennedy.
He’s responsible for things that are deeply offensive to my conscience and diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Catholic faith, and he probably led some people astray by his example.But our faith also teaches that we are all sinners and that there is redemption. He had some incredibly good forces in his life, not least among them his sister, Eunice, who just died. I pray for the repose of his soul and for his family.
Bill Bennett at The Corner:
He and I attended the same church, and whenever he saw me he would be pleasant. But in the political battles, he was a fierce and tough — and sometimes a ruthless — operator. When he spoke in the Senate, people paid attention, regardless of party. As CNN reports: “Kennedy was one of only six senators in U.S. history to serve more than 40 years. He was elected to eight full terms to become the second most-senior senator after West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd. He launched his political career in 1962, when he was elected to finish the unexpired Senate term of his brother, who became president in 1960. He won his first full term in 1964.”
His biography is not complete without noting the tragedies of and in his family. Nor is it complete without saying he was an early and strong supporter of comprehensive health-care reform and also the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama.
There are the personal failings and tragedies that will mark any obituary of his as well, including the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Were it not for his self-imposed recklessness, he may very well have been president.
He assaulted our causes and nominees with vigor and rancor. Still, in his day he was a powerful orator — and historians will mark his speech to the 1980 Democratic convention as a high water mark and example. To his supporters, I simply give them his words, and leave the rest to historians: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” To the American Left, he was their lion. To the American conservative movement, he was our bane. But today, we put the politics aside and wish him and his family God’s peace.
Someone on the BBC’s website linked to my earlier Kennedy comment. More than a few e-mails in response tell me that I deserve to die for spitting on the dead. (I’ll leave out the more colorful language.)
The fact is: I was moved by the sight of Ted Kennedy at Mass. Senator or intern, we’re all facing the same choices and challenges on a basic human level. Maybe I had more in common with Ted Kennedy than I would have ever realized from going to CPAC.
As Bill says, we can’t lie about the facts of life and death in the life of Ted Kennedy. We can’t forget Mary Jo Kopechne. We can’t neglect his treatment of Bob Bork. We can’t pretend that it’s okay to call yourself Catholic (or an “ardent, practicing one“) and be a proponent of legal abortion, for one thing. But some of us are optimistic that there is a hope of redemption. And I say that for the sinner who is Kathryn Lopez as much as anyone.
Exactly one year ago today, Kennedy delivered one last national address, making a surprise appearance at the Democratic National Convention. Despite his ailments, Kennedy’s voice still boomed: “There is a new wave of change all around us, and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination — not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation. And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans. So with Barack Obama, and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.”
A leader, a statesman, and a hero, the irreplaceable Ted Kennedy will be missed.
That the Chappaquiddick scandal didn’t make the first several paragraphs — or even first page — of several of these obits is quite remarkable. It would be like writing an obit for Richard Nixon that didn’t mention Watergate or one for Michael Jackson that glossed over repeated allegations of pedophilia.
That said, Kennedy was obviously much more than his actions on the worst night of his life. While he could be incredibly partisan, even vitriolically so on some issues, he was almost universally acknowledged even by opponents as an honorable negotiating partner and an outstanding legislator.
There will be much speculation about what might have been, if Edward M. Kennedy, the Lion of the Senate, had been present to roar once more, able to be out front on the current health care campaign. There can be little doubt that had he been well enough to become the face and force in public once again we would be looking at health care reform from a different place, for Edward had all the passion for this legislation that Pres. Obama lacks. But not even Kennedy could have stopped the “death panel” squeal of Sarah Palin, because the era of Kennedy politicians is gone. And I’m not just talking about the name. It’s about the passion to policy over polemics; the mission to work for the people above all else, including ego. There will never be another era of public servants represented by Edward M. Kennedy, who stands as the lion amidst legislative lambs.
UPDATE: David Frum at New Majority (entire post):
I know exactly the hour when my opinion of Sen. Ted Kennedy permanently changed. I had remained very angry at the Massachusetts liberal for many years since his 1986 speech so unjustly vilifying the great conservative justice Robert Bork:
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, children could not be taught about evolution.
For 15 years thereafter I could hardly bear to hear his name spoken. Nor was my temper much improved by his rough handling of another great conservative legalist, Theodore Olson, at Olson’s confirmation hearings as solicitor general. I was always ready to laugh at the harsh jokes conservatives told about the senator’s legendarily self-indulgent personal laugh. It seemed a fair judgment on an unfair man.
Then came 9/11. Among the murdered was the brave and brilliant Barbara Olson. Ted asked some friends to help with the deluge of messages of condolence, and my wife Danielle volunteered for the job. Among the letters: a lengthy handwritten note by the senator so elegant and decent, so eloquent and (fascinatingly) written in so beautiful a hand that as to revolutionize one’s opinion of the man who wrote it. It did not dishonor by ignoring or denying the political differences between the two families. It fully acknowledged them – and through them expressed a deeper human awareness of shared mortality, pain, and grief. Not all chapters of his life revealed it equally, but the senator was a big soul, and in his last years, he lived his bigness fully. He knew and he expressed the sorrow of human life, a sorrow so memorably captured by his brother Robert in a passage of poetry quoted upon hearing of the murder of Martin Luther King, and engraved thereby in the American political memory forever:
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
Rest in peace, leader of the liberals.
Harold Meyerson in Tapped:
He was, as he lay dying, new again. Ted Kennedy outlived the Reagan-Thatcher conservative era to which for so many years he led the opposition. He played a key role in putting Barack Obama in the White House, creating the possibility for a renaissance of American liberalism, the cause he led for the past four decades. He came to Washington one last time to vote for the kind of Keynesian stimulus that had been out of favor in the age of laissez-faire but that embodied, however imperfectly, Kennedy’s belief that government had the ability and the duty to create an economy that not only mitigated capitalism’s excesses but made it work for ordinary Americans.
He did not get to liberalism’s promised land, of course. The universal health coverage he’d fought for throughout his career is still unrealized; his death may make it harder to realize, at least in the immediate months to come. Labor law remains unreformed, and America’s 12 million undocumented immigrants still live in the shadows with no legal path to citizenship. These were all battles that Kennedy would have led; he was the go-to guy, the champion, the orator, the deal-maker for the uninsured, the undocumented, the unable-to-join-unions; the senior senator from Massachusetts and for all the excluded in American life.
And so, the last brother of that mythical generation of Kennedys is gone, and of the children of Joe and Rose, only Jean Kennedy Smith remains. After the death of his brothers, and until the election of Obama, Teddy Kennedy was the iconic American liberal. We always like to say that it’s the “end of an era” when a historically significant figure passes, but in Sen. Kennedy’s case, it really is true. Whatever else one might say about him, Ted Kennedy was a survivor. He endured the rise and fall of American conservatism, though he did not live to see his signature issue — health care for all — become a reality.
Kennedy was a figure of novelistic tragedy. All the potential for greatness he possessed he squandered because of his inability to transcend his own all too human weaknesses. Chappaquiddick was only the worst of it. He did, of course, achieve a kind of greatness, and one shouldn’t try to take that away from him. But it’s hard to think of him this morning without thinking about what might have been had he been able to bear the burden of history and his slain brothers’ legacies. He could have done so much more with what he had been given. He was a Kennedy. RIP.
I don’t have much to say, except a personal thought. I remember the days, several decades ago, when Ted Kennedy was treated — mainly, but not only, on the right — as a figure of derision. He was mocked for his appearance, his personal life, his unabashed liberalism.
And now he’s remembered as a great man. The thing is, he didn’t change — he always was.
Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:
With the passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy, we can expect the usual suspects — liberal talking heads, Senate colleagues and the like — to tell us how Kennedy was a giant of the Senate, among the most influential Senators of the 20th century, etc.
This time, the usual suspects will be right.
I first visited the Senate in 1960, in time to see Lyndon Johnson in action. Johnson was the most important Senator of his era. Ted kennedy may well be the most important Senator since LBJ.
A few years ago, I was with a group that was teasing a well-placed Massachusetts Republican about how his state had given the Senate Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. The Massachusetts Republican pushed back. “Don’t lump Kennedy and Kerry together,” he said. He went on to explain that no Senator works harder for his state than Kennedy does for Massachusetts and no Senator is better to have on your side.
A great many people thought Kennedy was on their side and the outpouring of sentiment we are starting to witness will, in part, be reflection of this fact.
Matthew Yglesias about the ’80 speech:
Its closing line is, I think, crucially important: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
I’m never able to express myself nearly that well, but what I take Kennedy to be doing here is trying to offer an alternative to the boom-bust mentality that I think often overtakes American progressives. There’s a tendency to get extremely wound up with optimism about the imminent dawn of sudden and radical change for the better, and then intensely bitter, cynical, and depressed when that fails to materialize. The reality, however, is that change is hard. That’s not an excuse for the people who stand in its way, it’s the reality. But if you respond to the difficulty of making things better by giving up or getting frustrated, then it only gets harder.
Building a better country and a world is work—hard work—and it’s work that goes on. And on. And on.
UPDATE #2: Digby notes that it was one year ago yesterday that Kennedy spoke at the Democratic Convention:
It was a privilege to be there.
Atrios on the speech:
Other people will give better tributes, but I’ll just say that I considered it a privilege to see what I assume was Kennedy’s last major public speech, at the DNC last year. Had a side view of the podium, so could see the stool they had placed there for him to sit on, which he never used.
Ted Kennedy, the rogue son of a rogue family has died of brain cancer at age 77. Oftentimes, liberals like to compare the Kennedy family to that other famous political family that featured presidents, and legislators of note; the Adams family.
Pardon me if my outrage can’t quite be held in check. The man who fought longer and harder for American independence than anyone of his time – John Adams – had it all over Teddy as far as personal moral behavior and principled, pragmatic leadership. His son, John Quincy Adams, took stands against slavery that made any “political courage” shown by Kennedy to be minuscule by comparison.
Suffice it to say, that the difference between the two families couldn’t be more pronounced and referring to the Kennedy’s in the same breath as the Adams’s is a travesty.
No doubt Kennedy the man was a despicable cad, a notorious roue, and, until late in life, a certified drunk. As most conservative blogs are reporting this morning, “Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment.” ‘Nuff said about Kennedy the man.
But history is a relentless bitch of a mistress, holding us to standards of truth and accuracy so that even one so vile as Kennedy must be examined not only in the context of his personal peccadilloes but also for his contributions to his times.
And those contributions were awesome.
There is no doubt that the average Joe working American lives a better life today because of Teddy Kennedy. He is safer on the job, his wages are higher (even non-union workers), his children have more educational opportunities, he is healthier, and wealthier than any working American of any other generation in history. We can certainly criticize liberal excesses in much of the legislation that this master parliamentarian guided through the labyrinthine maze of Congress. But no honest appraisal of Kennedy’s career would be complete without referring to the gigantic impact he had on ordinary, blue collar America.
Jim Geraghty at NRO:
There will be plenty of time to recall all of the reasons Ted Kennedy made enemies in this life, plenty of time for our traditional, “Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment.” I’ve got the Michael Kelly collection that includes “Ted Kennedy on the Rocks,” his definitive profile from the early 1990s, which showcases all the highs and all the lows. I’ll go through it sometime soon to recall those sides of Kennedy that won’t be showcased in the montages today, stories like that “sandwich” with Chris Dodd, but today’s not the day for that.
A bit of a thought, though: Many of us have siblings, and many of us love them dearly. Many of us find the thought of losing them horrific; to lose two to assassin’s bullets would drive many men mad. From some stories of Kennedy’s behavior in the years immediately after, perhaps he did go a little mad, or at least sought to drown the pain with drink. Hate the man for his legislation, hate the man for his behavior, but save a little room for some sympathy, too; we would never want to walk in those shoes.
UPDATE #3: Jack Ross in TAC:
Yes, he was a liberal’s liberal, both good and bad, but any senator who said the vote they were most proud of was their vote against the Iraq War deserves a hearty “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”
What must not go unmentioned therefore is the history behind this. Ted always seemed to have more of his father in him than any of his brothers – and undoubtedly he was haunted to no end by seeing in Dubya’s zeal to avenge his father’s wimpiness an echo of how nearly Jack brought about nuclear armageddon with his eagerness to destroy the legacy of their father, the architect of Munich.
So in the midst of the coming avalanche of Chris Matthews’ barely disguised homoerotic asphyxiation on the Kennedys, let us pause and pay homage to the Kennedys who dared say no to war.
Timothy Noah at Slate:
In large part, the difference between Ted and his older brothers was a matter of temperament. The backslapping conviviality of electoral politics came more naturally to Ted than to the more aloof Bobby or Jack—a reflection, perhaps, of the younger brother’s closer relationship to his maternal grandfather, John Francis “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, a onetime mayor of Boston and old-school pol who danced Irish jigs and sang “Sweet Adeline” at campaign events. A darker side to this lack of inhibition was the criminally irresponsible behavior Ted displayed in leaving the scene of the auto accident where Mary Jo Kopechne died in 1969 and in the boozing and womanizing Kennedy indulged in before he married Victoria Reggie in 1992.
Ted’s propensity for partisan bellowing notwithstanding, he was a much less predictable political thinker than is generally understood. It is seldom remembered, for instance, that Kennedy was a prime mover behind deregulation of the airline and trucking industries during the late 1970s—and that some on the left later excoriated him for it. Kennedy also worked closely with President George W. Bush to craft the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, which continues to bedevil the teachers’ unions (for some good reasons and many bad ones), and on various bills with his improbable Mormon sidekick, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Many of us like to cite the injustice of Kennedy family privilege for Teddy’s lack of accountability, and of course that’s true. But it’s only a partial truth. If you’re a fan of the show “Mad Men,” you know that Ted Kennedy — a contemporary of protagonist Don Draper — was in some ways an analogue of Don Draper. He enjoyed the privileges of being a white male power elitist in the last great heyday of his kind. Adultery, chronic boozing, casual amorality — these were in no way alien to the social milieu in which Ted Kennedy came of age. It didn’t matter that he was a great liberal; you should read the testimonies of women from the 1960s counterculture, about how piggish movement men were. Having the correct politics doesn’t mean one will behave correctly, or even decently.
Whenever we think of Camelot, and the Kennedy mystique, we edit out the vulgarity and the debauchery of the Kennedy men, who were, I feel safe in saying, not uncommon for their time and place and class. But “Mad Men” is all about the difference between what is and what appears to be. I believe we live in a better world, on balance, because that Ted Kennedy (meaning the Kennedy of Chappaquiddick and the upper room at La Brasserie) is less possible today. But given how accomplished Kennedy was as a legislator, I do wonder how much we have lost because a Ted Kennedy is not really possible today — meaning how many talented but deeply flawed men never go into public life because they couldn’t survive the moral judgment of the public regarding their personal sins and failings, and no longer have the protective veil of social hypocrisy to shield themselves.
Terrance Heath and Dayo Olopade at Bloggingheads