Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy

I've been thinking what I could add to what's being said about Senator Kennedy this morning. I think what's notable about him is how different he is from his brothers in terms of reputation and reality. JFK's reputation with the American public has almost nothing to do with reality. He had his strengths as president, but if my students are any indication he's still, almost half a century later, thought of as one of the very most important and greatest presidents, when the reality just doesn't match up with that. Bobby Kennedy wound up with a reputation as the great liberal hope, but most of that is selective memory; there's a case to be made that Bobby would have been a great liberal politician had he lived, but he was not a great liberal politician for most of his life, and it's not certain what would have been the case.

But Ted Kennedy...he really was an outstanding Senator. He really was the great liberal politician of his time. His personal flaws, if anything, were probably overreported over the course of his life.

Kennedy had at his disposal the great Kennedy publicity machine; he certainly could have had the great reputation without earning it. Instead, he used the Kennedy name to attract the best staff on Capitol Hill (or at least that was the hands-down reputation, and I have no doubt at all that it was true). The stuff you're hearing about how he was the greatest Senator of his time isn't fluff; it's simply the truth.

Ted Kennedy was a great American hero. He will be missed.

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