Famous Dead Person of the Week: Ted Kennedy
Life: Feb. 22, 1932 – Aug. 25, 2009
Occupation: United States Senator
Why He’s Famous: Mostly his last name
Fun Fact: Fourth-longest serving senator in US history
Frankly, I’m surprised it took me this long to get to America’s most snake-bitten political family.
It’s hard to think of Ted Kennedy without hearing Denis Leary’s famous joke: “We always shoot the wrong people in this country. We shoot JFK, we shoot RFK, it comes to Teddy and we go ‘Ah, leave him alone, he’ll f*** it up himself, no problem.’”
That’s always how people seemed to view Teddy boy; he was the stand-in Kennedy, Camelot Lite. His career, while long and distinguished, always seemed partially attributed to his last name.
It’s really a shame, since Kennedy pushed across more than 300 bills into law during his political career. To navigate the political waters for nearly 50 years, no matter who you are, takes a level of skill and savvy that most people just don’t have. He justifiably should be remembered more in that manner.
But more people remember him for Chappaquiddick (where a young woman in his car was killed in a crash that Kennedy fled the scene of), his failed 1980 Presidential bid (he lost to Jimmy Carter, for God’s sake) and his divorce and semi-public rabble-rousing that nearly torpedoed his political career in the early 1990s. Shame, shame: looking at the previous paragraph sort of makes it look worse than it may have really been.
Of course, Kennedy represented one of the most staunch party lines that ever existed: the Democratic seat in Massachusetts was as close to a sure thing as a politician could hope for (he defeated current Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in the 1994 Massachusetts Senatorial race if that clues you in). Most felt it impossible to defeat Teddy during his run. Maybe he made it so, whether by name or the weight of his tenure and all it stood for.
I’ve often voiced my displeasure for the amount of rich, old white fellows that have run the country for most of my life. However, I would be remiss for disagreeing with all that this particular man – if not this particular Kennedy – stood for. Ted Kennedy may not have held the best morals, but his politics are hard to ignore — he did help elect William Jefferson Clinton to our highest office, and the worst Bill Clinton ever pulled in office was an order of affair with his willie (no pun intended). While our current candidates can always argue their values – paging Todd Akin here – Ted Kennedy seemed to always have an opinion that made more sense than dollars. Never discount the fact that we, and he, tried to make the world different, in place of familiar. Familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed contempt, but it did in the case of Ted Kennedy. Our familiarity with his name bred contempt for his style.