It has been said that everyone who grew up or lived in Kennedy country has at least one Kennedy story. This is true, of course, though mine are not especially impressive. But since this is a wake, you have to hear them anyway. Grab yourself a beer and a plate of steamed clams while I regale you….
When I was growing up, the presumption in my household was firm that Ted Kennedy would run for president at some point, and win, and be a great president, starting with the day his brother Robert was killed (if not before). As a result, I have a memory of Ted Kennedy as part of the presidential election process pretty much every year from 1972 on, but his name during most of those years was “Dark Horse.” I worked for Kennedy when he did run for president in 1980. I met him twice during the process. Here he is not winning the nomination:
“The cause endures.” Brings tears to my eyes.
That was the think about Ted. It was all a cause. It was all about the cause. That is how it is supposed to be.
Later in the 1980s, the famous event in which I saved Ted’s life happened. I was driving down a narrow road not far from the Kennedy Compound. A car was coming the other way, and I could see from where I was, owing to the lightening conditions, that the driver was not looking at the road but instead was gazing at his lovely passenger. It was a small sporty car, and the driver’s right arm was draped comfortably across the passenger’s shoulder. And, that car had drifted into my lane. As we approached each other the driver looked ahead. For a moment, the driver, who turned out to be Ted Kennedy, and I made eye contact, and as he swerved to the right I could see this thought on his mind: “Oh no, not again!”
… you see, we were driving on a narrow causeway in the Atlantic Ocean. Any kind of accident would likely put one or both cars into the drink. Fortunately, I had swerved very fairy to the right, hugging the edge of the verge and almost dangling over the lagoon to the right so that the Senator, out for a drive with his new bride as it turns out, did not have to swerve too far to his right, and thus, into the sea. This also allowed the Senator to work on and get passed a considerable amount of important legislation.
This, of course, is a reference to Chappaquiddick. Chappaquiddick is a small island just off of Martha’s Vineyard. Back in 1969, the island was connected to Martha’s Vineyard by a small causeway even less safe than the Laden-Kennedy incident occurred on. That is when Kennedy was driving a car and went off the road. A young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, died in that accident, as did Kennedy’s political career, almost.
I don’t like to dwell on Chappaquiccick, but I will tell you that this is my blog and Kennedy is my man, so I’m not actually going to tolerate yahoo’s making disparaging remarks in the comment on this post. Such comments will be deleted without prejudiced.
Still later in time, a group of us fed up with the regime of a particular African dictator who had been propped up by the US government because his country had been strategically important went to Kennedy and some other legislators and asked them to help. They drafted a bill that disallowed the transfer of any US funds for military purposes to Zaire. Other nations followed suit. This effectively closed down a significant chunk of Mobutu Sese Seku’s power base, and was the beginning of the end of his dictatorship.
My friend Irv met Ted Kennedy twice. The two visits were 15 or so years apart, and when the y met the second time, pretty much by chance, Kennedy knew Irv’s name (and other details) cold as though he had just met him the day before. I’ve heard other similar stories about Kennedy. He remembered everything.
I remember the year that Mit Romney came out of nowhere to have his first ever run at political office, throwing his hat in the ring for Kennedy’s Senate seat. Romney looked good and talked nice, and put a lot of money into his campaign. His poll numbers grew and grew until he was finally a real threat, one of the most significant ever in Kennedy’s career. This whole time, Ted had not campaigned at all.
Then, one day, a full page add came out in all the state’s newspapers. It was a big picture of Ted Kennedy on the phone. The ad copy, which I do not remember exactly, was short and to the point, and said something like “When Ted Kennedy makes a call, it always goes through, no matter who he is calling.” This ad served as a reminder to the people of Massachusetts that they had the most powerful Senator in the country representing them, and that Mit Romney would not be that. Kennedy handily won the election.
I don’t have to tell you how much Kennedy did, or how much he meant to this country, or how much he’ll be missed. Just turn on any TV or radio station and you’ll find out. Unless, of course, you are a dittohead and only listen to Rush Limberger. Part of me can’t wait to hear what that moron has to say about all of this. I will tell you that I am personally saddened by his death, but also very proud to have voted for him when I had the chance to do so, to have worked for his campaign, and to have managed to avoid being responsible for his untimely death some twenty years ago on a lonely road on the Atlantic Seaboard one bright and sunny morning.
Added: It occurs to me that the reason that the Democratic Party represents the broadest range of Americans possible is because of Kennedy and in particular the legislation he promoted. It may be that Ted Kennedy has had more of an influence on our party’s character, as it stands today, than any other individual ever has had.