Kennedy shouldn’t be lionized
Last week in Part One, I detailed the events surrounding Mary Jo Kopechne’s death at Chappaquiddick and how she would have survived had Ted Kennedy reported the accident to police as soon as it happened. Instead, Teddy waited 10 hours to make the call, and Kopechne suffocated after all oxygen left the air bubble which had kept her alive for two hours. Kennedy should have gone to prison for homicide, place in 1972 at a Manhattan debutante ball. Wrote Dunne, “Young guests at the party were appalled by Teddy’s tit and fanny pinching, and his drinking”. And then there were the wild ’80’s when Teddy and his drinking buddy, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, did everything to just about everybody and got away with it. Two famous incidents (reported by Michael Kelly in GQ, and detailed in Andrew Clymer’s bio) took place at la Brasserie, a noted DC restaurant. On one occasion, Kennedy grabbed a waitress half his size and threw her down on the table, sending plates and cutlery all over the floor. Teddy then threw her onto Dodd’s lap while Kennedy proceeded to forcibly rub his genital area against hers. The other incident at la Brasserie occurred in 1987 when a different waitress walked into a private room and found Kennedy with his pants down on top of a young, blonde lobbyist. And the fun continued. One night in 1991 while staying at the Kennedy retreat in Palm Beach, Teddy took his son Patrick and nephew William Kennedy Smith out drinking. The two young men picked up girls and the party moved back to the Kennedy compound where Teddy walked around in nothing but a shirt. William took his “date” to the beach where she claimed that he raped her. Before the tide had changed, Teddy had but instead he escaped with a suspended sentence for leaving the scene of an accident. Teddy’s other offenses pale in comparison to the 1969 trag- edy, but they do provide insight on the continued and continual arrogance of the man. An entry in HR Haldeman’s diary details a incident told to Henry Kissinger by socialite Christina Ford. While attending the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Ken nedy propositioned Christina to have sex with him that night. She refused saying that the press would find out. Kennedy replied, “The press will never touch me.” Famed journalist Dominick Dunne, who passed away on the same day as Kennedy, wrote of another incident which took hisfixers start spreading dirt about the young woman, setting in motion aneventual verdict of not guilty for William. And this, despite thewillingness of two other Smith victims (one a medical doctor) who werewilling to come forward about previous attempted rapes, but who werenot allowed to testify. Given all these accounts of Teddy and the women he had partied with,it’s not surprising that my only brush with the Lion of the Senate alsoinvolved a Kennedy gal. Having worked on a number of public policyinitiatives in the early 1990s, I was hired by the Democratic NationalCommittee and the White House to produce an educational videodocumentary about the Social Security system. I completed the script,filmed all of the interviews and was readying to shoot my on cameraintroductions at the Dems studio in DC when I received word thatsomeone else would be anchoring the segments. This seemed a bit unusualsince I was hired in part because of my on-camera experience. I assumedthat my replacement would be some high-level statesman, perhaps evenPresident Clinton himself. Instead, I was replaced by an airheaded hotty with no experience injournalism or television, and no clue about Social Security, or thescope of the video project. I asked discreetly what in hell washappening, and an embarrassed spokesperson said, “She’s a ‘friend’ ofKennedy and Dodd”. I felt like I had been thrown onto a tableand raped. But like so many other Kennedy victims in the past, I waswell paid to accept my fate and keep my mouth shut. The girl was bad oncamera, the video suffered as a result and I don’t think it was everdistributed. Earlier this month I listened to hours of testimony in praise of TedKennedy from people with short memories. Sen. Orrin Hatch spoke of howgreat Teddy was, but I guess Hatch forgot what he had said aboutKennedy during the Palm Beach scandal: “I wouldn’t trade life with himfor 10 seconds. I’d rather be poor and in the condition I’m in, thantrade with Ted.” CNN contributors also gushed over Teddy’s life andglazed over his crimes, bringing to mind Ted’s boast to Christina Fordover 30 years ago. And Presi dent
Obamacalled Kennedy “a true leader who challenged us all to live out ournoblest values.” Please, someone hand me a barf bag. These shillsshould have heeded Teddy’s own words which he spoke at his brotherBobby’s funeral in 1968. “[He] need not be idealized or enlarged indeath beyond what he was in life.” The same should hold true of theyoungest Kennedy brother now. Yes, Ted was a champion of thedowntrodden and a crusader against the influences and power of healthinsurance companies. And it was his impassioned plea to Congress in1964 that helped to pass the Civil Rights Act in honor of his slainbrother Jack. But lots of people work for the public good withoutcommitting crimes. The late Jack Kemp worked for housing reform andnever left a woman to die in a car. Barry Goldwater was a champion ofgay rights and recognition for native Americans, but he never gropedwomen in bars. Colin Powell has been an inspiration to millions ofsoldiers and civilians, but he never pimped girls for his son ornephew. If you want to honor a real hero, then lionize former Sen. Birch Bayh.Bayh and Teddy were among the five passengers riding in a plane thatcrashed in 1964. Bayh was thrown from the wreckage and risked his lifeamidst the flames to go back in and pull Kennedy out to safety. ButTeddy never paid that act of bravery forward, not at Chappaquiddick andnot even in political terms. He could have been a force in defeating the nomination of ClarenceThomas, for example. But because of his own lack of morals, Teddy satalmost silent during the Anita Hill hearings, unable to come to the aidof a woman who had been sexually abused by a powerful man. FormerKennedy aide Richard Burke is quoted by Gallick as saying Teddy’ssilence during the hearings was, ”a classic portrait of a man whoseprivate conduct was forfeiting his public usefulness.” For all of these reasons, Ted Kennedy’s legacy should be a lesson inhow not to live our lives. He might have been a lion, but if so, thenhe was a cowardly one.