Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ted Kennedy Remains Hospitalized

At seventy-six years old, Ted Kennedy has long outlived his three older brothers.

Although I never would have thought so in the late sixties and early-1970s, Kennedy has become an elder statesman, a politician whose longevity has proven to be good for all Americans at any point along the political spectrum. He has championed liberal ideas like education, social welfare, and civil rights, and at the same time championed conservative ideas like deregulation, militarism and, the NoChildLeftBehind debacle.

I have not always been a fan of Kennedy. His work to deregulate the airlines was the thin-edge-of-the-wedge that opened the door for what became known as Reaganomics: the myth that an unregulated marketplace will lead to riches for all. Then his challenge against President Carter in 1980, when Democrats held the White House and Carter was in dire need of strong, unified support.

Carter had inherited a disastrous post-war economy that had been mismanaged by Gerald Ford, he was struggling with the new Muslim insurgence in the Middle East, and had alienated a good percentage of the Democratic Party's liberal base by failing to support a woman's right to choose abortion.

Kennedy should have supported Carter, but instead saw weakness and launched a campaign for the nomination over a sitting President. But, Kennedy was (and is) unelectable to the office of President because of his involvement in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, a staff worker who drowned inside the Senator's car after a drunken party in Chappaquiddick.

Kennedy had managed to rebuild his career after the Chappaquiddick incident, and could have become one of the nation's greatest king-makers if he had supported Carter. Instead, the unelectable Kennedy destroyed Carter's chances against a surging Ronald Reagan who was running on the new populism of so-called "conservatism" and his ego made him a spoiler. It was his vocal disdain for Carter that emboldened John Anderson to run as a third-party candidate and set the stage for Reagan's landslide. If Kennedy had stayed out of the race, Carter would have been re-elected and we would not today be suffering the failures of Reaganomics.

Kennedy was never criticized for his role in the 1980 election, nor for his complicity in the rise of neo-conservatism; but I believe this is a huge part of his legacy.

Kennedy suffered 'seizures' this past weekend. Nobody is calling it a stroke, but it seems as though that must be what has happened. Perhaps it is not as serious as it could be; perhaps the Senator can return to his work.

Perhaps not.

Fortunately, Massachusetts is governed by a Democrat; so if he should fail to regain his faculties the seat will likely remain in Democratic hands should a replacement be appointed.

The Kennedy family gives much to America. They are a huge clan that has spread-out across the nation and they carry with them the torches of charity, intellectualism, citizenry, and activism. They inspire people of every stripe and persuasion. They have been instrumental in electing Democrats and Republicans alike; another generation of them is involved in electoral politics; they manage and finance the Special Olympics; they are active in churches, schools, and hospitals from coast-to-coast. The Kennedy family has used its riches to make the world a better place.

And Ted Kennedy is the patriarch of the clan. He has much to be proud of; he has more to brag about than to be ashamed of.

And today he is stricken, and that is sad.

If we lose him, it will be a huge loss for all of America.

From AP via Yahoo: Length of Kennedy hospital stay raises questions

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