THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 534, August 30, 2009
"Ding Dong the Drunk is dead!"
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
He died this week, so I thought to look at some of the events in his life that made Teddy Kennedy who he was. On the whole, I didn't like him.
His sister Rosemary was given a lobotomy on orders from their father, Joseph Kennedy, when she was 23. The surgery left her in a feeble minded condition. Later, the surgeon who lobotomised her would lose his license when one of his patients died from the treatment. Teddy would later use her situation to justify his votes on health industry interventions and the Americans with disabilities act.
Teddy was a very marginal student. So, of course, he was admitted to Harvard. There he was mainly interested in athletics. He was a big dumb jock. He played offensive/defensive end. And he was so foolish he got someone else to take his Spanish exam for him, so he wouldn't lose eligibility for athletics. Harvard surprised everyone by doing the right thing and expelling him in 1951.
So he enlisted in the Army. To no one's surprise, his father's political connections kept him out of Korea. Instead, he was trained to be in the military police.
In 1953, Harvard let him back in. So he got a degree and went to law school at the University of Virginia. There he was charged with reckless driving and driving without a license.
He married in 1958 and had three children with his wife. After he was severely injured in a plane crash in June 1964, his wife Joan did all the campaigning for him. In return, he womanized and by the mid-1960s she became alcoholic, presumably in response to his cheating on her. They would separate in 1977 and divorce in 1982 after he had spoiled his run for the presidency.
In 1962, the political machine in Massachusetts made Teddy their Senator. He would hold that job for the rest of his life, proof that the political class exploits the system to make incumbents into permanent overlords.
In 1965 he was involved in an effort to end the poll tax, which was defeated. He also helped end racist immigration quotas with his work on the immigration and nationality act. These were good things.
But he was gung ho about the Vietnam war with "no reservations." So he voted repeatedly to send American soldiers to their deaths, and for funding to slaughter people all over Southeast Asia. Rather than opposing the military draft on principle, Teddy thought it should be reformed a little bit.
His brother Bobby was assassinated before the convention, so it is perhaps no surprise that Teddy took no role in opposing the militaristic authoritarianism that characterised the Chicago police treatment of protestors and frequent attacks on crowds. Just another case of Teddy doing nothing about something. Abraham Ribicoff would call the police rioting and beating of protesters and extreme abuse of power as "Gestapo tactics on the streets of Chicago." And Teddy did nothing.
In July 1969, Teddy was involved in the wrongful death of Mary Jo Kopechne. He had been partying on Martha's Vineyard with "the boiler room girls" who had worked for Bobby's presidential campaign. There were six women and four other men at the party. We may presume he was drinking, as he often did, though he denied it. And he was driving with this young woman, Mary Jo, in his car. She was 28. Although he later told the inquest into her death that he was returning her to her hotel at her request, she left her purse and hotel room key at the party.
We won't ever know what his intentions were, romantic or otherwise, toward her. And he wasn't available at the scene of the accident to determine if he was drunk. We do know that a sheriff's deputy saw a car like Kennedy's with a man driving and a woman in the front seat which stopped at a private cemetery road when he approached, and that it drove away rapidly. We do know that Teddy drove off Dike Bridge into the Poucha Pond inlet. We know that he was able to escape from the vehicle unharmed.
It seems very likely that she survived the immediate trauma of the accident in the air pocket inside the car. The diver who rescued her said he found her body pressed into the space where such an air pocket would have formed. Based on his knowledge of the situation, he concluded that she lived for two hours after the accident.
In September 1969, a district attorney attempted to gain an order to exhume the body because of blood found on her skirt and in her mouth and nose that would not be consistent with drowning. The family refused and the court denied the request. (Of course, we don't have to suppose Teddy beat her, she would likely have hit her face on the dashboard when the car hit the water.)
What else? Teddy claims that he tried several times to dive down to help her. He claims that he went back to the party and returned to the scene of the accident with friends to try to help her. It is clear that he did not call the police or try to get professional help in rescuing her. After he saw the car being hauled out of the water the next day, he turned himself in at the police station.
He was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident and his license was suspended for negligent driving. He received a suspended sentence, meaning he spent no time in jail for his crime, because he was a member of the political elite.
In the early 1970s, Teddy became interested in supporting the Irish in Northern Ireland in their fight for liberation from British oppressors. He caught some heat from the British, of course.
In 1974, Teddy was involved in so-called campaign finance reform, actually incumbent protection. The 1974 federal election campaign act amendments started the nonsense of public financing for campaigns and set arbitrary limits on contributions to rule out the effectiveness of challenges to incumbents. Teddy was a big fan.
In 1975, Teddy went to the Soviet Union where he made nice with his buddies in the Kremlin. He was also a big supporter of busing of schoolchildren in Boston.
In 1977 Teddy went to China to make nice with his buddies in Peking. The next year he went back to meet with his buddies in the Kremlin. Also in 1978 Teddy had a falling out with Jimmy Carter (then president) over nationalised socialised health care. Carter objected to the $60 billion cost and Teddy's comment about sailing the party against the winds of opposition to the proposals.
Three days after the Iranian hostage crisis began, Teddy announced his primary challenge to upset president Carter and replace him as the Democrat nominee for president in 1980. Such an insurgent campaign was not widely appreciated, especially after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Carter played it cool in the Rose Garden and whipped Teddy's ass at the convention.
Ever the self-centered jerk, Kennedy tried to pull a fast one at the convention to get a rule passed which would let delegates committed by primary voters to screw the voters and vote for Kennedy. He needed such a rule change because Carter had clinched the win before the convention. Kennedy was not a gracious loser.
On the final night of the convention, Teddy arrived late. He shook Carter's hand but did not raise it high in the traditional show of party unity. Of course, Carter had his own problems in winning in 1980, but Teddy didn't help matters.
In 1980, the senate and the presidency were won by Republican majorities. Kennedy focused on social programs. His support for voting rights and gay rights were arguably good. His concept of forcing universities to fund women's athletics with complex financing rules has left a legacy of bizarre rules that often prevent schools from fielding athletic teams.
His 1985 work against apartheid in South Africa and in support of refuseniks in the Soviet Union was good stuff. He also became a heavy drinker. In one incident with Chris Dodd, the two were involved in an incident of unwelcome physical contact with a waitress.
His efforts to screw with the free market for health care services continued in 1988 with the passage of the COBRA act. He also opposed Reagan's appointment of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, and succeeded in blocking the nomination. I would mark this in the good column. He was also involved with passage of the Americans with Disabilities act and the Ryan White Care act, both of which further interfered with the private sector health industry. I would mark each as a mixed bag. In 1989 he would be photographed having sex on a motorboat.
In 1991, at Easter, Teddy was out boozing with his son Patrick and his nephew William Kennedy Smith. Patrick returned with Michelle Cassone who later reported that Teddy walked in on them dressed only in a nightshirt with a weird look on his face. Smith returned with Patricia Bowman who later reported she was raped by Smith. Kennedy family sources began pushing negative information about Ms. Bowman, and the press published her name. (Publishing the name of a rape victim is regarded as inappropriate due to the potential for additional difficulties for the victim.)
This incident certainly helped Clarence Thomas win confirmation from the Senate, since the Anita Hill sex scandal broke later. Teddy was not perceived as having a reputation on which to stand in criticising Thomas.
His support of Americorps in 1993 suggests that he had never given up his fondness for conscription. Teddy also supported the passage of NAFTA, the north american free trade agreement, which might better be called a managed trade agreement.
Teddy voted for every minimum wage increase ever brought before him. Of course, he hated the free market and wanted poor people to be unemployed so that his union buddies would get more money.
His 1996 work on health insurance motivated further consolidation in that industry to comply with the endless regulations of the health insurance portability act. He was also involved in the state children's health insurance program (SCHIP) passing. This used abusively high taxes on tobacco to fund more interference in the health care market.
Of course, when Clinton was accused of high crimes and misdemeanors, he could count on Teddy to vote against impeachment. Lying to the American people? Perjury? Not exactly things Teddy ever showed much concern about.
Teddy was a big supporter of George W. Bush in his "no child left behind" act. (One wonders about the child's right behind.) He also supported and voted to fund the war in Afghanistanthough what role the Taliban government played in the events of 11 September 2001 is still poorly stated.
Continuing his push to consolidate and nationalise the health care industry, Teddy was big on the prescription drug benefit. He was also big on up-armoring vehicles in Iraq and other expenses for that war.
In 2004, Teddy pushed hard on the Massachusetts legislature to pass a law requiring a special election. That way, if John Kerry had won the presidency and had to give up his senate seat, the Republican governor Mitt Romney could not appoint a successor. In 2009, the hypocrite wanted the opposite result, demanding that the governor appoint a replacement in the event of Teddy's death so that the "important work" of screwing over the health care industry could be carried on. Also to make sure there would be an incumbent senator in 2010.
Kennedy was a great enthusiast for gun control, which makes him an evil elitist who hates individual freedom. (He was one of only 16 senators who voted against the Vitter amendment that would prohibit gun confiscation in the event of a disaster.) He had a marginal record of 84% from the American Civil Liberties Union, and a consistent F from the National Rifle Association.
In defiance of constitutional limitations on titles of nobility (including the amendment providing for political exile for those taking such titles) he accepted a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II of the Hanoverian usurpation.
Altogether, I would say Teddy was a very mixed bag. His personal actions were often negligent and indecent. His political actions were frequently elitist, anti-freedom, pro-war, and socialistic.
Therefore I cannot regret his passing.