Senator Ted Kennedy died Tuesday night at the age of 77 after a year-long battle with brain cancer. Kennedy’s life was full of contradictions and self-destruction, yet full of success. He earned a reputation as an outspoken liberal standard-bearer during a conservative-dominated era from the 1980s to the early 2000s.
In 1951 he was expelled from Harvard for cheating on exams. Kennedy became a voice for ending the war in Vietnam. Kennedy is best known for his focus on health care and education. Kennedy fought to end apartheid rule in South Africa. In 1964 Kennedy’s first speech to the Senate was in support of the civil rights bill that finally established full citizenship rights for African-Americans. Kennedy worked with his friend and colleague, conservative Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, to develop the State Children’s Health Program, which provides the matching funds for state programs. Congress passed the necessary legislation in 1997. Kennedy played a key role in passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. Kennedy introduced legislation to impose economic sanctions on South Africa. In 1987, Kennedy led the opposition to President Reagan’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Robert Bork. The senator was quick to warn that he thought Bork’s conservative ideology would be dangerous for the country.
Some think of personal controversies, like the Chappaquiddick incident, having been drinking and partying with young women aides of his brother Robert Kennedy, Senator Kennedy, at this time a married man and a father, slipped away with 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, who was trapped in his car after he took a wrong turn off the Chappaquiddick bridge, lost control of his car which was submerged in just eight feet of water. Kennedy chose to flee the scene , leaving the young woman to die an agonising death not of drowning but of suffocation over a period of hours. Incredibly, it was 10 hours before Kennedy reported the accident, by which time he’d consulted a family lawyer. The senator’s explanation for this unconscionable, despicable, unmanly and inexplicable behaviour was never convincing: he claimed that he’d struck his head and was “confused” and “exhausted” from diving and trying to rescue the young woman and had gone home to bed.
Senator Kennedy pursued collaboration with the Soviet Union to undermine Ronald Reagan’s defense policy during the Cold War, and influence the 1984 election. The proof of this comes in the form of a memo from KGB chief Viktor Chebrikov to Andropov. In 1983 Kennedy conveyed an offer to Soviet General Secretary, Yuri Andropov through his law school and confident John Tunney. Kennedy’s offer was to help the Soviets burnish their image in American public opinion to ostensibly ease tensions during a particularly warm period of the Cold War. Kennedy was concerned about the deteriorating US-Soviet relationship.
If you remember Kennedy criticizing George W. Bush for being in the National Guard during Vietnam, Kennedy was in the Army, and was assigned to honor guard duty in Paris until 1953. Easter 1991 was yet another proud moment for Sen. Kennedy. He was “hanging” with his young nephew, William Kennedy Smith, and his friends in his Palm Beach home, where his nephew was accused of raping a young woman.
Then there is the “kennedy dodd waitress sandwich”. Some accounts put this event at The Monocle, another DC restaurant. For all we know, it happened at both establishments–and who’s to say similar antics didn’t occur at many others. In 1985, Chris Dodd and fellow Senator Ted Kennedy were out (with dates) for a night on the town at La Brasserie. Much liquor was consumed and the two Senators were at one point unaccompanied by their dates. Kennedy picked the waitress up and heaved her onto a table. The crystal candlesticks and champagne glasses shattered and he grabbed her again and flung her on top of Dodd, who was slumped in a chair, Kennedy then jumped on top of her, forming a ‘human sandwich’. Another waitress entered to find things all tipped over and Kennedy was on top, the waitress was in the middle and Dodd was on the bottom. She was said to have run screaming from the room.”
Should Kennedy have stayed in the Senate for as long as he did?
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