Ted Kennedy: The Lyin’ of the Senate

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The 2018 movie “Chappaquiddick” recounts the July 1969 incident in which then-Senator Ted Kennedy drove off a narrow bride on Chappaquiddick Island late at night, plunging into shallow water of Poucha Pond, killing his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne, a young campaign staffer.  The movie details Kennedy’s subsequent actions, his delay in reporting the occurrence to local officials and his meticulously-planned televised mea culpa that rescued his tottering political career. With Kennedy’s name and story being thrust back into the spotlight by this film, it’s an opportune time to re-examine his long role on the national scene.

Theodore (Ted) Kennedy—the fourth and youngest son of Joe Kennedy Sr.—was arguably the most influential player of the entire Kennedy political clan. Although he never made it to the presidency, his impact on American culture, politics and society was far-reaching and has fundamentally altered this country’s direction in many ways. None of them good, unfortunately.

Here are some of the highlights of his long and storied career in the Senate:

1965 Immigration and Nationality Act

Other than abortion, probably no domestic issue flames the emotions and draws such sharp lines of political division as does the subject of immigration. The issues are well-known and it’s not necessary to recount them all here.  Suffice to say, once the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 became law, there was a fundamental shift in the ease and number of non-Northern European immigrants coming into the United States. In practical terms, the Act allowed the number—both legal and illegal— of Latino immigrants into the United States to increase precipitously.

Although Kennedy wasn’t an official author of the bill (it was known as the Cellar-Hart Act, named for NY Representative Emanuel Celler and Michigan Senator Philip Hart), he lent the full weight of his family name and personal political capital to supporting its passage. In the Senate only three years at the time (he was elected in November 1962 in a special election to fill the MA Senate seat vacated by President John F. Kennedy in 1960), his vociferous, passionate support of the Act was the first really major public policy success of his Senate career.

He championed this Act because he likely thought it would redound for decades to the profound benefit of the Democratic party. Many contend that Kennedy’s support was based strictly on demographic/political issues, because he knew (or was told) that opening up immigration to more Hispanics and Asians would swell Democratic voting coffers for generations to come. His critics would be quick to add that Kennedy was an upper-crust racist hypocrite who would never personally associate with the people the Immigration and Nationality Act was ostensibly designed to help.

It’s nearly impossible to divine the intents and motives of someone since deceased, more than a half-century after the fact. But regardless of Kennedy’s real objective, he played a pivotal role in helping pass the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which arguably altered the political and cultural course of this country as much or more than any other single piece of legislation has since.

1969 Chappaquiddick

As touched upon above, in July 1969 (over the moon landing weekend of July 18-20), Kennedy left a family party late at night and drove with young campaign staffer Mary Jo Kopechne to catch the Edgartown Ferry back to Martha’s Vineyard. Confused and tired, possibly from a few drinks at the party (although no one has ever claimed he was inebriated), Kennedy took a wrong turn and drove his car off a narrow bridge. Kennedy was unhurt, but Kopechne died in the accident.

The aftermath of the occurrence stands as Kennedy’s lasting contribution to the moral aspect of American politics and culture. His narcissistic, self-absorbed devotion to his own political fortunes, demonstrated by his leaving the scene of the accident and his stunning subsequent reluctance to immediately report it and take full responsibility, provided a veritable “how to” blueprint for unscrupulous individuals from that point forward as to how trusted people could evade accountability and blame. Trying to get the police report withheld so the NY Times and other major media outlets would focus instead on the historic first moon landing happening that same weekend, the behind-the-scenes scheming of the best way to orchestrate an effective career-saving televised explanation/apology that would cast Kennedy more as a sympathetic victim of circumstance than perpetrator, are both concrete indications that Kennedy’s only real concern was professional self-preservation.

There is no illusion here that Kennedy was the first politician or powerful businessperson to try to get away with some egregious immoral blunder. However, his was perhaps the biggest, most public misstep by a major public figure up to that point in the television age of instantaneous media coverage. What happened with Kennedy was known worldwide in real time. The world learned and took the lesson that he essentially got away with it just as quickly, being granted absolution by the sympathetic media and the Kennedy-infatuated MA electorate alike.

In addition, the entire incident revealed beyond any doubt that there are indeed two levels of justice in this country: One for the average person and another for the favored and well-connected. Both lessons—how to evade responsibility and the fact that the well-connected will not be fully held to account—are permanent stains on the fabric of American culture and decency. If this incident was a dinner party, then Senator Ted Kennedy—with the famous family name revered by the liberal media and thus granted slack that no Republican could ever hope for—knocked over the wine glass onto the white carpet, never apologized to the host, and tried to blame the whole thing on the person sitting next to him—and then expected to be invited back next week.

The Rejection of Robert Bork, 1987

Robert Bork, a highly-respected scholar and judge, was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987 by President Reagan. Being more conservative than the retiring Justice Lewis Powell that he’d be replacing, Democrats were determined to block Bork’s appointment and prevent the Court from tilting in a conservative direction.

The day that Bork was nominated, Kennedy made perhaps the most famous and influential speech of his entire career, a wildly histrionic speech in which he excoriated Bork, attacking his character with vitriolic falsehoods, gratuitous lies and totally fabricated innuendo:

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, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.

This was an astonishing speech coming from a supposed highly-respected leader of the country. The reality was, of course, that Bork was eminently qualified; he simply wasn’t in philosophical lockstep with the Democratic Party.

Kennedy’s performance during the Bork episode can plausibly be thought of as the beginning of the modern-day liberal media bias era as we know it today. His comments and behavior were blatantly and intentionally inaccurate, intended to shape public perception. The news outlets—overwhelmingly populated by liberal correspondents and writers—never questioned Kennedy’s statements or assertions of Bork’s unfitness. They never questioned his motives or inquired about his sources. Instead, they played his incendiary comments over and over, unchallenged, unquestioned, as if it was news, not opinion.

Stunned into non-action, the Republicans never did mount any kind of counter to Kennedy’s baseless attack. In 1987, there were no media/legal watchdog groups like today’s Media Research Center or Judicial Watch to get an opposing viewpoint out into the public space. Fox News was still ten years away. The Big Three television networks dominated the media landscape and their liberal slant pervaded virtually all the news coverage. Ted Kennedy, with a floor Senate speech born out of unabashed partisanship, personal animus and the brazen, apparent desire for self-aggrandizement, cleverly and knowingly leveraged a liberal media he knew would never challenge him and single-handedly engineered a major structural change to the country’s highest court system that would have repercussions decades into the future.

As President, John F. Kennedy didn’t have the chance to make a truly lasting mark on the American landscape. His greatest contributions were as much visual and aesthetic as they were policy: the notion of Camelot, the romance and adventurism of having begun the successful Space Program, the dramatic success of squirming out of the immediacy of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Similarly, Robert Kennedy—the “smartest” Kennedy—never got the chance to really establish his influence on the country, being cut down by an assassin’s bullet during the 1968 Democratic primary campaign, a campaign he seemed likely to win.

But Ted Kennedy, despite lacking his older brothers’ charisma, not being their intellectual equal and seemingly struggling his entire life for the approval of his father Joseph Kennedy Sr., the unapologetically ruthless head of the Kennedy political machine, has made a more lasting impact on American politics, society and culture than any of his brothers. Ted’s actions have left a permanent negative mark on America in terms of demographics, voting, morality and law.

Kennedy’s revisionist-history sycophants have coined the term the “Lion of the Senate” to describe his 47 years of supposedly unselfish, meritorious, crucial work on behalf of the American people. With a minor spelling adjustment, it’s an apt term indeed.

 

 

The annals of governors who have left office under skeptical circumstances are replete with sordid tales of crime, corruption, and shall we say “dalliances”. It seems as though the Federal Government has designated a suite of cells in the federal prison system reserved specifically for use by the Governor of Illinois. No, I’m not kidding. Four of the last seven have left office and gone to the Big House.

Again, I digress.

There is a chapter dedicated to former Palmetto State Governor Mark Sanford. While he didn’t follow the Illinois tradition, his exit from South Carolina’s Big Chair was just as dramatic. He told his family and staff he was going to “hike the Appalachian trail”. Little did anyone know, but Sanford’s idea of a stroll through the hills consisted of hopping a flight to Buenos Aires and going off the grid for seven days.

I’m not going to criticize Sanford’s personal decisions. His choices are his own and he’s responsible for them. Having said that, one of the things a man gives up when he sits in the Big Chair is the personal freedom to drop everything and disappear for a week. When you’re the Governor, people have to know where you are – it’s just part of the job. Don’t like giving up that much of your personal privacy? Tough. Steer clear of high public office.

One would think that Sanford would have the good sense to know his time in the sun had ended. Perhaps he could go write a book. Maybe he could set up a half-way house for newly paroled Illinois governors. Ride herd on the cattle drives on the rolling pampas of Argentina. Surely he could find something to do with the rest of his life.

No, Dear Reader. He’s not capable of that. It seems that politics is all he knows and so now he’s gone and won the Republican primary  for  the first congressional district of South Carolina – a seat he held prior to his run for Governor. He’ll face Elizabeth Colbert Busch (yes, Stephen’s sister) in the upcoming special election to fill the seat vacated by Tim Scott’s appointment to the Senate.

Sigh.

 I’m sorry, Dear Reader, but I’m wondering what is wrong with the Republican party – specifically those in South Carolina who saw fit to rally to this guy’s banner. Is there no one else to be found in South Carolina’s first district other than a disgraced former governor who could run for this seat? Colbert-Busch promised:

I look forward to a vigorous campaign that focuses on creating jobs, balancing our country’s budget and choosing an independent-minded leader who shares the values of the great people of South Carolina.

With due respect to Stephen’s sister, I’ve been watching politics long enough to know this race will focus on Sanford’s disappearance and every little detail about it and his new fiancée rather than anything having to do with jobs, budget, or values.

This was a safe seat that could have been easily won by someone without Sanford’s steamer trunks full of lead baggage. Thanks a lot South Carolina.

I’ve been enamored with the idea of General David Petraeus as a candidate on the GOP ticket for some time now. I constantly listed him on my own, private list of potential VP candidates for Mitt Romney, especially given Mitt’s light foreign policy resume. But when it became obvious that the campaign was going to be all about the economy, that thought faded.

As Romney went down in defeat to Barack Obama, I was already collecting the list of GOP horses for 2016 in my head. Yes, I am a glutton for punishment, just for the record. And while the obvious names percolated to the top, Petreaus’ name was one still floating in the troposphere of my brain. And why wouldn’t it? One of the most successful military leaders in the last 25 years of our nation’s history, now the head of the CIA, who appears to be a smart, rational and capable leader.

That was until last week, when Petreaus resigned and it was revealed that he had been having an extramarital affair. And even more interesting is the news that many top officials have known about the affair for month.

The David Petraeus case is yet another in a long line of promising political careers dashed by the sad loss of judgement and self control, which has claimed the careers of people like Gary Hart, Eliot Spitzer, and Mark Sanford.

Scratch one dark horse off the 2016 race card.

The justice system is apparently through with John Edwards. But according to the former Senator and presidential candidate, God isn’t. If the Almighty needs a helping hand, Edwards — the legal albatross removed from his neck — is ready to help. He began rehabilitating his image the minute his trial concluded, vowing his devotion to selfless charity on behalf of the children. And then there’s the one about Little Red Riding Hood. Read more

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is one versatile individual. He proved his mastery of psychoanalysis when he diagnosed TEA Partiers as products of dysfunctional families. He’s now issuing free legal advice to Sandra Fluke, urging her to sue Rush Limbaugh for “slander, libel, and whatever else might be involved.”

A dangerous precedent is established when politicians openly promote lawsuits between citizens. Such use of governmental influence belies a nation where everyone is equal before the law and drives an unnecessary wedge between the populace. Legally, Hoyer isn’t prohibited from supporting Fluke. But ethically he should refrain from encouraging civil litigation. He violated the public’s trust, compromised a potential lawsuit’s integrity, and possibly led Sandra Fluke astray. Read more

Public figures are bound to offend from time to time. Occasionally they’ll stick their foot so far in their mouth they’ll develop athlete’s tongue. Enter Rush Limbaugh, who might need to brush his teeth with fast-acting Tinactin. If you missed it, Rush called Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke some unflattering names after she practically begged congressional Democrats to force Georgetown to meet her contraceptive demands.

The villain is, predictably, anyone who criticizes Sandra Fluke. But keep in mind that Fluke is no innocent bystander; she’s a feminine activist. She knew full well that Georgetown didn’t include contraceptives in student insurance plans before she enrolled. Sandra’s an operative who used her private life to affect public policy, thus inviting criticism. Frankly, Ms. Fluke is symptomatic of the entitlement attitude that has infected our nation. She demands a benefit at someone else’s expense and is willing to grovel at government’s feet to get it. A freedom fighter she’s not. Read more

The moderate that everyone hates to love, David Kaiser, became a father this afternoon. Please join us in welcoming the newest 2012 race fan.

David Michael Kaiser IV was today born at 2:17 p.m. I’m told he arrived at 5 lbs 3 oz and wearing a Gary Johnson 2012 button.

(PD hopes you had a merry and non-partisan Christmas! Now let’s get back to it.)

CNN has an exclusive up tonight about Newt’s first divorce, refuting his claim that it was Jackie who requested it.

It’s doubtful this will change anyone’s mind about the former speaker. Either the adultery and divorce bother you, or they don’t. His honesty about who wanted the divorce probably won’t rank high on your list of concerns.

But it does remind us that matters of personal integrity often have a way of shaping races. But should they?

The entire Herman Cain story is fascinating. He’s accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, but denies the allegations vigorously and pledges to fight on. Despite some slippage in the polls, he’s forged ahead and changed the subject pretty effectively since the scandal first broke.

But now he’s accused of a consensual 13-year affair, nothing illegal, and he’s considering an exit? He’s said, “We are reassessing as we speak. Reassessment means reevaluation.”

Cain’s collapse might be the single greatest gift Newt Gingrich has ever received.

Political candidates are nowhere until their ethics are challenged, their morals are questioned, or their character is assassinated. No one can be considered a viable candidate for elected office until they’re targeted for destruction. Judging from this week’s news, Herman Cain has arrived.

A story that began with two women alleging “inappropriate behavior” has grown to include a third woman, female staffers from a conservative talk radio show in Iowa, and hush money from the National Restaurant Association. Yet the details about what occurred, if anything, have thus far been silenced, if they’re known at all. With each “revelation” the Cain saga seems more and more like Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings. Read more

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To encourage the lazy among us to participate, I’ll pick a random commenter to receive an autographed copy of The Wedding Letters.

Potentially damaging? Or much ado about nothing?

This is a fantastic article that a good friend of mine sent to me yesterday. I love the side by side comparisons of these two very controversial figures. Ironically, my very first article was something very similar.

Click here to read the article by Joe Scarborough.

If you would like to read the article I wrote comparing Anthony Weiner to Lebron James, click the “Read More” link.

Enjoy your Wednesdays PD family!

Read more

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard about the Solyndra scandal.  It’s being touted as Obama’s first scandal, well at least the first one that has known ties to the White House.  How will this impact 2012?  Or will it just blow over by then?

Miss this yesterday?

Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post calls attention to this ad set to run in a Texas newspaper.

This seems like an awful lot of money to spend on an ad likely to result in a large number of people saying, “No!” emphatically and continuing with their days, but then again, perhaps this lack of acumen is why I am not the president of CASH. And I’m not sure why he chose the “Star Wars” font. Nothing says effective ad-making like “an ad (hominem) hoping to find someone who has had sex with Rick Perry, written in a “Star Wars” font, that implies offensive things about Hillary Clinton’s footwear.”

It’s not even a personal attack. It’s an ad hoping it can make a personal attack later. Is this really where we are?

“Gee,” this ad says. “Wouldn’t it be great if there were a scandal in Rick Perry’s personal life? Get on that, facts.”

“Rick Perry Is A Family Values Hypocrite*” the ad says. *We still have no facts to support this claim.

Are we okay with this? We shouldn’t be.

Where is the line here, folks?

Even if you choose not to weigh in, give her post a quick glance. Her proposed ads for Romney, Bachmann and Paul are pretty clever.

So much for ‘freedom of the press’.

This episode makes the President look like Joseph Paine.

Must see Weiner TV

By

Filed Under Scandals on Jun 16 

His greatest hits.

Weinergate exposed

By

Filed Under Scandals on Jun 6 

Where is the outrage? If the tearfest today had featured a GOP member of Congress, all you-know-what would have hit the fan.

He says he won’t resign, but isn’t this just the tip of the iceberg? Will he survive Weinergate?

Is this really the best his district can do? Really? You’re proud to have him as your Congressman, VA-8?

Here’s an entertaining look back at the 10 worst decisions of 2010. As Politico says, these aren’t to be confused with gaffes. These are bone-headed decisions that changed story lines forever.