Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Edward Kennedy, RIP

Ted Kennedy's death is momentous in many ways. With his passing, our last direct link to the legacy of Jack and Bobby Kennedy, both lost before their time, is gone. Further, and perhaps more relevant right now, his passion and advocacy for health reform was second to none, as indicated in this op-ed he helped pen for Newsweek last month. Certainly his absence in the current debate has been deeply, sorely felt. That said, there's another spate of emotions this news elicits which is also equally relevant. Here's an excerpt from Mark Evanier, echoing my thoughts entirely:

The term "mixed feelings" cannot begin to describe my reaction to the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. An awful lot of the legislation he backed did things I thought should be done and had to be done. Not only that but he generally achieved those things the hard way: Though they were Liberal initiatives, he nearly always managed to enlist at least one prominent Republican as a co-sponsor or strong supporter. Given how Washington works these days, he may have been the last elected official who knew how to make bi-partisanship happen.

Against all that, of course, were his personal failings. A lot of us wanted to admire him, respect him and cite him as a leader. He certainly didn't make that easy. Even now, when some might want to mourn him unreservedly, you have to wonder. He's been in dreadful health for months now. Why oh why didn't he step down last year so that his successor could be in or near office today? The Democratic push for Health Care Reform (his pet issue) didn't need this additional complication.

He's right. Perhaps Kennedy wanted to hang in there just long enough to cast that symbolic vote for the health care reform he'd spent so many years fighting for, but in what ultimately comes down to a numbers game, one man out is one vote less. Still, Kennedy's contribution to the senate as a true advocate for the disenfranchised is unassailable, and while Chappaquiddick is now and forever will be an unfortunate part of his legacy, his record of service to this country constitutes a far, far greater part.

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