David M. Russell

Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

The fated Kennedy

In Commentary on August 28, 2009 at 10:28 am

It’s funny how life works and this was brought home by the recent death of US political statesman, Senator Edward Kennedy.

Ted, as he was almost universally known, left a legacy that has brought praise from every corner of the globe and from both allies and opponents alike. Not bad for someone who has spent his entire life in the brutal, take-no-prisoners world of politics.

Many siblings might have struggled to shine in the shadow of such luminary brothers as John and Robert who were acknowledged giants on the US political stage but who also won global recognition for their achievements. Perhaps it was just in the Kennedy genes but Ted managed to more than hold is own in such extraordinarily distinguished company.

Of course, it nearly wasn’t so. The touch of magic that accompanied the Kennedys (aside from fatal encounters with assassins) deserted Teddy when an alcohol-fuelled driving misadventure cost the life of his staffer, Mary Jo Kopechne, when his vehicle plunged off the Chappaquiddick bridge. That incident cost him the greatest prize in global politics: the US Presidency. It was rightly deemed by the public conscience that he should pay a price and the highest office in his land – in earlier years frequently portrayed as almost his by right – was denied him.

Yet fate works in mysterious ways. As time went by and Teddy Kennedy – albeit slowly – emerged from his womanising and carousing, he started to create an astounding record in the US legislature. Over a 47-year sojourn in the Senate, the man who came to be known as The Lion of that august institution created a lasting legacy of reform that benefited the weakest members of American society.

A true Democrat with regard for the poor and downtrodden, it is arguable that he actually achieved more for those who needed such assistance by his extended term in the Senate than he would have in four or even eight years in the White House. The fact is that even though the US Presidency is regarded as the most powerful office there is, it is actually tightly constrained by a raft of influencing factors. Less so is the Senate and Ted’s dominance in that sphere allowed him to construct a monument of achievement that may come to be regarded as a more important contribution to his nation than holding its highest office. One thing is certain: it will be a very long time before anyone else reaches his pinnacle of service.