Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Farewell, Senator

I have noted previously that I have little in common with Senator Edward Kennedy, either politically or personally. He was an unrepentant liberal and the scion of a dynastic American family, neither of which remotely describe me or my experience in life. The Senator was a man larger than life, a Rabelaisian raconteur with undeniable personal charm who, nonetheless, had an eye out for those whom society had left behind. It is also true that he was a man with undeniable personal flaws, whose mistakes were played out on a public stage for all to see and comment upon.

It is easy to took at his life and see the man who panicked at Chappaquiddick, whose reckless behavior and appalling judgment resulted in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. It it is also simple, indeed, to focus upon his carousing and womanizing, and make the case that he was nothing but a spoiled rich man's son whose career was handed to him on a silver platter. Many people see these things and leave the story there. But Kennedy's story is also one of tragic losses and, ultimately, of redemption.

He was a gifted politician, a man who understood that to get things done you must, always, get along. Over the years he served in the United States Senate, you would be hard-pressed to discover legislation of any significance that did not have his fingerprints on it somewhere. He counted as friends and allies not only the members of his own Democratic party, but also numerous conservative Republicans with whom he crafted compromise legislation. He, like Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson, understood that getting part of what you want in a bill is greatly preferable to standing on unbending principle and ending up with nothing at all. Besides, having achieved some measure of your goal, you can always go back for more. And he did, time and time again.

He was a devoted father to his own children and a doting father figure to the children of his brothers John and Robert. He was a good and fair boss from all accounts, a devoted Catholic, and easily the most popular and best loved member of the Senate. And he fought the good fight against the disease that ultimately took his life.

Take Edward Moore Kennedy all and all, match the good and the bad against each other, and, on balance, you end up with a good and decent man who will be missed, and who God, in His mercy, will welcome to his rest.

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