Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Something that I think says a great deal about Ted Kennedy was the fact the über-conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby once said that he had a lot of respect for him even though he had been, in Jacoby's view, on the wrong side of every major issue.

Why? Because, Jacoby said, Kennedy never backed down from who he was at his core. He was a great negotiator, knew when and how far to compromise - but he never strayed from his principles, never pretended to believe other than what he believed, never pretended to be other than what he was, even when his brand of liberalism was in eclipse and appeared to some to be in permanent decline. He stood by his beliefs and never denied them, and Jacoby admitted to finding that praiseworthy.

That is, as those of my particular persuasion would put it, he was not a trimmer.

When you have lived a political life spanning nearly 50 years during which - not after which, when you are safely off the stage, but during which - even your ideological opponents have to honor your skills, your sincerity, and your steadfastness, that is a life worth having lived.

One other thought: I personally think Kennedy really hit his stride as a result of the 1980 presidential primary campaign, which he of course lost to Jimmy Carter. Kennedy was the more liberal of the two so I would have preferred Kennedy. But something I realized watching that campaign is that Ted Kennedy did not actually want to be president. It was more that he was expected to be by his family (which was always important to him) and the media. He was running, it became clear to me, not out of his desires but out of others'. Freed from that expectation by his defeat, he could go on to be "the liberal lion of the Senate."

I was and am clearly to the left of Ted Kennedy and I often enough felt frustrated at the conventional wisdom that he defined the left end of "acceptable" discourse. Unlike Jeff Jacoby, my disagreements with Kennedy were usually (but not always) ones of degree, not kind. But like Jeff Jacoby, at the end of the day I had to admire Kennedy's determination, his steadfastness, the strength of his convictions. He had my well-earned respect.

And so I'm not going to issue any farewells. Instead, on his behalf and all others who believe that as a nation, as a people, we can be better than what we are, I will say
the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.
Footnote: This is a video, in four parts, of his speech at the 1980 Dem convention:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Another Footnote: What was I just saying about eliminationist rhetoric and comparing unfavored people to insects?

This is the response of "Jeff from WI" to a comment at Michelle Malkin's aptly-named blog Hot Air that said of Kennedy's death, "I have sympathy for his children who just lost their father":
Normally peoples children should be off limits to ones attacks. But in the Kennedy family I’m reminded that a house infested with roaches is sometimes hard to kill off.
And so the death becomes a teachable moment about the right.

(In fairness, I will note that Ed Morrissey's original post which provoked that and a number of equally-vile responses was itself respectful. So much for good intentions in dealing with your own crowd, Ed.)

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