The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Death of a Titan

Senator Ted Kennedy died last night, felled by the brain tumor diagnosed in summer 2008. Others will write of his storied, 46 years long career in the United States Senate, of his remarkable ability, despite the increasing toxicity of American politics, to reach across the aisle and forge alliances with Republicans to deliver legislation, of his plethora of bills passed into law, and of his leadership of the liberal wing of the Senate. Others may focus on his difficult, sometimes messy, personal life, getting one last shot in at an old political foe. (These will be, I suspect, mainly those who did not know him).

I remember his leading the charge against the confirmation of Robert Bork, starkly pointing out the implications of the stunted vision of constitutional rights Bork had espoused if ever it commanded a majority on the Court. Senator Kennedy
declared that
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, and schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of Americans.
[The Times suggests that this characterization was somehow unfair; however Bork had, in his writings, declared that only purely political speech was entitled to constitutional protection, had also described the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prior to its enactment, as embodying "a principle of unsurpassed ugliness," a quote he tap-danced away from under Kenendy's questioning. Bork (see previous link) did deny the existence of a constitutional right to privacy, and did essentially hold the view that, as Kennedy said, the Constitution did not protect the citizenry from the abuses Kennedy listed.]

Also, I'll remember Ted Kennedy shouldering the burden of being the last knight of Camelot, and of passing the legacy on to our current President, in his last great public appearance, a surprise appearance at the DNC last year:

Watch CBS Videos Online

The burden of the Camelot Mystique may have contributed to the shadow side of Kenendy's life. Certainly, no one else in the family has come close to the late Senator's bearing of the legacy. Like Porthos at the end of The Man in the Iron Mask, he lays down the burden, saying only, "Too heavy for you."


Brad Evans said...

Do you think Mary Jo Kopechne is waiting to greet him?
I don't understand the need, pitiful to me, to make mini-gods of people, something shared by both Left and Right in politics.
Whenever I see my children reach for a biography of someone famous, I try to get them interested in some other book.

Anglocat said...

No life should be or can be viewed solely in terms of its worst moments. We all err, we all do acts of which we are heartily ashamed. It's what we do with the whole of our lives that matters. That's what the best biographers teach, in my opinion.

As to your remarks about mini-Gods, you might want to brush up on your Dumas. Porthos is very flawed--arrogant, vain, credulous--and yet he is heroic despite these flaws. The post heading is from Dumas' chapter in which Porthos dies, in "Man in the Iron Mask."

Thank you for reading, and commenting.