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The Trouble With Ted

August 28, 2009

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The Trouble With Ted

On the day after Ted Kennedy’s death, the American Spectator’s James Antle wrote the following concerning the late senator’s involvement in the 1969 drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne: “The man who would become a beloved father figure to the sons and daughters of his slain brother, left another family’s daughter to die in an incident that would have ended virtually any other politician’s career - and should have ended his.”

Also on the day after Kennedy’s death, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was again defending his office. Said Sanford, “I am not going to be railroaded out of office by political opponents or folks who were never fans of mine in the first place.” Amongst his non-fans were apparently the pundits on each major news outlet, who took a break from the Teddy coverage not simply to broadcast Sanford’s press conference, but to treat the governor as a sideshow joke and mock the very fact that he remains in office.

That Kennedy is held up as a hero and Sanford remains a villain says more about the political leanings of the media elite than our public morality. Although Teddy used his name and influence to save his political career and avoid responsibility for taking a life, the Left stills admires the so-called “liberal lion of the Senate” who was treated like royalty in both life and death. Yet Sanford, whose single instance of adultery would be laughed at as insufficient by any of the babe-bagging Kennedy brothers, is persona non grata. Kennedy will always get a pass because he was a dutiful liberal and Sanford will get no mercy because he’s a conservative. And, as the governor correctly notes, it is no accident that those who attack Sanford the most today over his adultery and related issues, were not-so-coincidentally, never fans of his politics in the first place.

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American statesmen are typically measured by how much they’ve “accomplished,” which basically means how much money or liberty they’ve extracted from citizens to put toward their own political ends. In his book “Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty” author Ivan Eland takes the opposite approach by categorizing American presidents by how little they accomplished, or in other words, actually took their oaths seriously by keeping the executive branch within its constitutional boundaries. Whereas, most historians rate the most big government presidents as the greatest, like Abraham Lincoln or Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eland ranks these men at 29 and 31 respectively. Who gets Eland’s top billing? 10th president John Tyler, writes Eland, “John Tyler gets the number one ranking here not only because he favored limited government, but because he fought members of his own party to preserve it.” Tyler sounds pretty conservative, which is probably why you don’t hear much about him.

But like Lincoln and FDR, you have heard plenty and will continue to hear more about the many, supposedly saintly virtues of Ted Kennedy. Like all good liberals Teddy believed America’s greatness was in its government, and whether fighting for civil rights legislation, raising minimum wage laws or national healthcare, the senator spent his life extolling the virtues of the state. That Kennedy arguably did some good during his half century in the U.S. Senate does not change the fact that for the millions of Americans who claim to abhor business-as-usual in Washington, Teddy was the quintessential DC businessman. If it is true that Kennedy represented what was best about our government, it must also be true that he represented what was worst, as the senator was arguably more entrenched than any other in our corrupt, Capitol Hill political machine. Kennedy played gangster politics right up until the week before his death, as he attempted to help rewrite Massachusetts law to allow its Democratic governor to appoint someone to fill his senate seat. This law was first changed in 2004 - in an effort also spearheaded by Teddy - when it was feared that GOP Governor Mitt Romney might appoint a Republican to Democrat John Kerry’s senate seat, should Kerry become president.

In treating government as god, I suppose it is only natural that liberals would continue to remember Teddy as a near angel despite the glaring fact that he wasn’t. Antle notes that, “Kennedy paid less of a price for behavior that led to the death of a human being than did professional football player Michael Vick for cruelty to animals.” Indeed. And for me, liberals’ ongoing love for his lifelong pursuit of “social justice” remains hard to reconcile with the fact that the career of Edward M. Kennedy would have never even been possible - if he had not first used his privilege and family name to get away with murder.

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