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The Kennedy Imprisonment is over

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 26, 2009.

Ted Kennedy, the youngest son of rumrunner and Nazi appeaser Joseph P. Kennedy, served two years active duty in the US Army. I mention that before all else because he’s often described as a namby pamby liberal, which he in some ways was, but unlike the mostly Chickenhawk Republicans who hate and feared him, he did his duty just like all his brothers. When the eldest was killed on a volunteer war mission, the plane attending to record it was piloted by the son of the then President. In those days, sons of politicians served on the front lines during war, not in the Air Force National Guard.

Being a member of that family could not have been easy. The father was a smart, social climbing, power thirsty thug, who made a fortune in conjunction with the Mafia and got appointed to the Court of St. James as our ambassador, a role in which he flamed out badly. He didn’t drink booze himself, but he was a womanizer and would hit on the dates of his sons. He put ungodly pressure on his kids to succeed and when the eldest was killed, JFK was anointed despite being so chronically ill he’d already been given the Last Rites four times previous to his inauguration. He and Robert were murdered. A sister was killed in a plane crash and in 1964, after taking JFK’s Senate seat, Ted Kennedy was nearly killed in one as well. His back was broken, and he spent his life in some pain. As is not unheard of, he self medicated with over the counter booze.

It’s eerie to read that of the two Kennedy parents, the father was one more beloved by the children because he was active and funny, something the mother was not. He also had a daughter lobotomized in a new procedure that left her a near vegetable, which may have been his goal so she could be institutionalized and not embarrass the son trying for the presidency. That cannot have endeared him to the mother, and they led separate lives after she completed her birthing duties. He thought nothing of bringing his Hollywood mistress to the house to have dinner with the wife, who feigned ignorance. Another of his daughters, who recently died, devoted much of her life to the Special Olympics, perhaps in knowing contradiction of her father’s attitude towards the handicapped. If so, she won. When I was growing up in WASPland, the term Mongolian Idiot was bandied about without hesitation, in both funny and cruel application. Nobody would dare reference a Down Syndrome child such today, and they attend school and play with other kids and it’s not a big deal anymore. Thank the Kennedys.

Frankly, none of the Kennedy sons exhibited huge enthusiasm for political office. None of that mattered in the Bay State, hugely Catholic and Democratic and where being a Kennedy, one of their own risen high, was a slam dunk for election.

Despite melodramatic and 19th century writing and speech delivery and partially because of a cadre of employed staff that could make even Sara Palin sound presidential, Ted Kennedy became, on his own, a great Senator. It’s ironic that the two most famous Kennedy brothers achieved little in politics except myth and a brief presidency, especially compared to Edward, who they treated as a buffoon during the few years they shared. People don’t appreciate good legislators, because the good ones are wonks, focused and deal mostly with important but not sexy issues. These are sometimes only of value to their constituents. Kennedy became a responsible pork provider to his small state, and often in collaboration with other Senators, including Republicans. He was, despite his personal failings and horrors, well liked. He always had the best staff in our government, because he could afford to pay them above what the government did. There are a lot of personally wealthy people in government who would not do that and don’t.

When his drunken incompetence at the wheel killed a young woman he probably was not involved with, the very worst of Kennedy and his family emerged. No need to relive it, but at best he came across as a whiny, entitled, irresponsible douche bag, and it would be incorrect not to imply that wasn’t a part of his makeup. But in all the Kennedys, there already was a strong sense of guilt, and it motivated Edward to greatness far surpassing the rest of the clan.

Kennedy takes a lot to the grave with him. Good. It was time for the idiocy of Camelot to hear the spade, but let it be said for all the blather about the Kennedys, we’re better off for them, and peace to their shades.