I’m generally not inclined to speak ill of the recently dead.Â I also want to keep my distance from the reflexively venomous commentary I’ve seen from some, though certainly not all, conservative bloggers and pundits.Â Finally, I didn’t think there was anything new worth saying about Chappaquiddick, 40 years later.
So although I’ve been annoyed by some of the excessive adulation, I didn’t plan to write anything about the passage of Ted Kennedy.Â Then I read, in James Taranto’s Best of the Web Today, that a sympathetic biographer told a radio interviewer this week that Kennedy’s famous sense of humor extended to Chappaquiddick jokes.
I don’t know if you know this or not, but one of his favorite topics of humor was indeed Chappaquiddick itself. And he would ask people, “have you heard any new jokes about Chappaquiddick?” That is just the most amazing thing. It’s not that he didn’t feel remorse about the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, but that he still always saw the other side of everything and the ridiculous side of things, too.Â (Update: Here’s the audio.)
Ted Kennedy was one of the most influential Senators in history, and though I disagreed with him on many issues, I recognize he was a passionate and effective advocate for his causes.Â My Christian faith teaches me to believe in forgiveness and redemption, and his career can be seen as an effort to atone for his appalling actions that night.
But surely true remorse — or even just common decency — would preclude making jokes about an incident where he put his political career ahead of a young woman’s life.Â If justice had been served, his path to redemption would have included a stay in prison.Â When he joked about it, he mocked justice.
Requiescat in pace, Edward M. Kennedy.
Requiescat in pace, Mary Jo Kopechne.Â She would be 69 years old.
What comes to my mind is the bumper sticker, "I'd rather be hunting with Dick Cheney than riding with Ted Kennedy."
Agreed – his ass should have been in jail – but – he was one of the privileged Kennedy elites and got away with it.
Jail would have been a start.
I have to agree with you there, Kirk. I can't see how anyone could consider such a classless and taseless insult to the woman's memory would be a good character trait.
However, I disagree with you about Kennedy as a "passionate advocate". Effective, yes, even determined and stubborn. But one would expect a passionate advocate to live according to causes. Instead, on issues ranging from the environment to taxes and beyond, he fought his own stated ideals while forcing (or at least trying) them on everyone else. He wasn't just a mere hypocrite, he was a fraud.
"Passionate advocate" was the nicest thing I could think of to say about him. I'll stand by it. He clearly was a deeply flawed man, and Chappaquiddick has to be mentioned in any assessment. But like me and thee, he was not just a sinner but a child of God, and at the hour of his death I'm not willing to be that sweeping in criticizing his motives.
Enjoying jokes about the death of someone you knew and whose death you were at least partially responsible for isn't a sign of anything but shamelessness.
This man was neither demon nor saint; when people die we can be grownups about the deaths of grownups.