Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, on MSNBC's MorningJoe this am has the word, and the word is "Shakespearean."

That's a fair summary of Teddy Kennedy's life. It's not a word that any of us should want to have applied to our lives, but Edward Kennedy, liberal lion of the senate and man who would be president, wore it like a suit of rusty but well-fitting armor.

His life followed an arc suitable for a Richard II, a Hamlet, even a haunted Macbeth, or a triumphant Henry IV -- Tragedy, comedy, self-inflicted tragedy, then redemption unearned and renewal hard-earned . . . a festive, placidly married & politically frenetic fourth act, and then a poetic, poignant reversal of expectations in the fifth with a new young prince embodying long-faded hopes under his wing, exeunt laughing.

We should not forget Mary Jo Kopechne, or the still living and painfully struggling Joan Bennett Kennedy, cast aside in the wake of her bearing the pain, in her admitted alcoholism, that Teddy tried to push past; likewise we must remember his realization of limits that led to more bipartisan work than almost any senator in American history since Henry Clay or Daniel Webster. His aims and intentions became purer and more honorable through the years -- even if i might disagree with the means he chose to legislate, that much seemed clear -- and if his weekday Mass attendance began as an affectation as he tried to live out a repentance that his other actions rarely demonstrated, it seems beyond doubt that the act began to influence the intention, and many conservatives in Washington DC today are quietly noting that they often shared a pew with Teddy on a Tuesday or Wednesday, where he was more regular in attendance than they.

His biography, if done in full and unvarnished, will be an epic and a must read tale of temptation and power and chastening. I look forward to reading one like that, and saying one more time -- Godspeed, Teddy.

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