Teddy Kennedy: The Hollow Champion
29 Aug 2009 17:09 GMT
Teddy Kennedy's disasters were vivid. His legislative triumphs, draped in this week's obituaries with respectful homage, were far less colorful but they were actually devastating for the very constituencies – working people, organized labor – whose champion he claimed to be. He had the most famous car accident in political history when he drove off a wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in July 1969, saying later that he had failed in several attempts to dive down 10ft to rescue Mary Jo Kopechne, a former aide of his dead brother Robert. She was in the back seat and drowned. Ted quit the scene and called in standby Kennedy speechwriters instead of the police, a misdemeanor which cost him a two-month suspended sentence and any chance of ever following his brother Jack into the White House. He made only one overt bid for the presidency and that was a colorful disaster too. He challenged the Democratic incumbent, Jimmy Carter, then seeking re-election in 1980. After three years, the left in the Democratic Party was bitterly disappointed in Carter's cautious centrism and Kennedy placed himself in the left's vanguard, declaring in a famous speech that "sometimes a party must sail against the wind".
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