It's taking me some time to wrap my head around the death of Ted Kennedy.
My political awareness started with John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam War. I still wonder how the Vietnam situation would have gone had John F. lived. But he didn't. And I came into political awareness in the middle of one huge mother of a national conflict. And with the emergence of a Kennedy on the national scene.
So John was killed. Then his brother Bob was taken out by another wacko. Doubly sad because Bobby could have done more to resolve (if that's possible) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that Sirhan Sirhan was "protesting" by killing him than Nixon did. Ted was there, I didn't think much about him. One got tired of thinking that you NEEDED a Kennedy in government.
And of course he had his problems and was certainly responsible, whether thru confusion or cowardice or drunkenness or a combination thereof, for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. I think it was only his name that kept him from at least a manslaughter charge.
But surprise. Though he didn't get the wildness under control for another decade, he was all effective politician from the start. Whatever demons drove him early on, he worked hard to dispel their power later. He had a name and position that made him almost invulnerable. He used it to help the most vulnerable. He helped defend the civil rights of all of us, rich or poor. No one in recent memory was as effective as he in bringing sides together and effecting a compromise. And whatever he gave up today, he was back after tomorrow.
I'm remembering another Boston Irish politician of large appetite and girth, who also was an effective leader of his time—Tip O'Neil. And i imagine that political cartoonists feel as deeply the passing of Ted Kennedy as they did the retirement of Mr. O'Neil. Both were lions in the Congress, both were large in appetite, and both fought for the underdog.
What is it about Boston Irish anyway?
Anyway, I bet old Tip passed on good advice and was a role model for Teddy. Ted kennedy will be sorely missed.