Teddy Kennedy: The Hollow Champion

 
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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