The Liberal Lion has passed:
His career spanned almost a half-century of American history, and covering Kennedy was like a relay race, in which those who knew him best in the early years have long ago retired.I know that there are many conservatives who still cite the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident anytime that Kennedy's name is brought up -- and I get that. However, I think that Ted Kennedy's legacy will not be controversial things like Chappaquiddick but rather things like children's health care, his support for Barack Obama's candidacy for president, and the Senate committees on which he sat.
Education and healthcare initiatives will always be associated with his name, and the enactment this year of legislation authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco is a Kennedy legacy. But this was also a senator who played a major role in airline deregulation, criminal code revisions and battles over the Supreme Court. Conservatives still resent him for his wholesale assault on Robert Bork’s nomination in 1987, and Kennedy is one of the few senators in history to see a former aide, Stephen Breyer, move up to the high bench.
Kennedy’s power base rested on three major committees: Judiciary; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and Armed Services, the first two of which he chaired at different points in his career. And he never lost an old-school style of politics, which set him apart in the increasingly impersonal Senate.
His booming voice filled the chamber when he spoke from his desk, always in the back row on the Democratic side and a gathering point over the years for younger members.
The man was truly a larger-than-life character and I'm sure that the halls of the Senate will be a very different place when Congress returns from it's recess.
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26 August 2009
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