We had a special connection, Sen. Ted Kennedy and I. While vacationing on the Cape, I watched as he pulled up to the hotel we were staying in, stepped out of his convertible (which he left running), and went in. Behind, in the car, sat a gorgeous, dark, curly-haired…
Not a toy or a miniature, but one of the large breed. She was sitting in the passenger seat, and from the back, I thought she was a woman. And then I caught her profile and knew that one of the most powerful men in the US could certainly do better than that long snout.
He didn’t stay in the hotel long. And no, I didn’t get out of the car, ask for an autograph, tell him how much I love his latest work, etc. I sat still and watched him drive away. What does one say to the pop stars of Senators, anyway? ‘Gee, they sure under-rated you, didn’t they?’
Politically, I don’t know where you stand. You may hate every bill the man wrote. You may think, politically, that he should be strung up and quartered. I can accept that. Liberality aside, he worked in Washington for so long that some of the muck must have stuck. In fact, I can buy the idea that he single-handedly produced a fair percentage of scum himself.
And on a personal-life level, you couldn’t call him “squeaky clean,” in spite of the post-dead-euphoria that inspires people to forget the deceased person’s misdeeds and only remember the cleaned-up version.
But there’s no doubt that for a great many people, Ted Kennedy wore armor and fought deadly battles and won. For a huge part of the population, Kennedy provided more services, more aid, and more hope than any other politician, including his brothers. Kennedy was tangible. He brought home S-CHIP, expanded welfare benefits to women and children, and helped stop the Republican Rampage or the Contract with America, depending on which side of the aisle you sit on. You may hate all these things. You may think that he, and his kind, are the reason America is failing. I’m not arguing with you. I’m saying that you can see how, to so many people, Kennedy represented everything good about government. His kind of government touched individual people on a real level. It put food on tables, doctors on call, and focused a lot of government spending on those who appreciated it most. I can respect that. And I admire a man who stops in at a middling hotel on the Cape, leaves his dog in the convertible and doesn’t look around to see if anyone is going to steal it (the car or the dog, whichever.)
So, wherever you are now, Senator Kennedy, I wish you well.