Wednesday, August 26, 2009

RIP Ted Kennedy

Aug. 26, 2009
Posted by Noah

There is, really, only one story today and that's of the passing of Ted Kennedy, The Liberal Lion of the Senate. I wish him Godspeed to his next destination.

Love him or hate him, he was an effective and powerful policy force within the United States, amassed admirers by the ton on both sides of the aisle and is largely seen as the greatest Democratic Senator of the modern era. He was an effective coalition builder, knew when to take a stand and when to back down and he certainly never suffered fools. His ideological enemies demonized him just as, in private, they opened their arms, put politics aside, and declared him a true friend. Surely the world will not see his like again.

Neither am I the first of the day - maybe the millionth - to remind whoever is left to remind that he is the last of the Kennedy brothers, and arguably the most effective. He was an unlikely ninth child who rose to lead the family. He behaved badly, certainly, and was deeply flawed as a man, and he paid a dear professional price for that. He was a lightning rod for controversy, and much of it warranted. He was also quite eloquent. He said of JFK, Jr., at his funeral, that "we always thought that we'd get to see Jack junior live to comb gray hair." It was a powerful statement at a time of great grief and confusion, and it was made more poignant by his own head of thick silver hair.

Still, liberated by his loss to Carter in the 1980 Democratic primary, Ted was set free to become one of the most productive and well-liked senators this nation has ever known. I lived in Massachusetts for two years when I was an antiques editor, and I saw how beloved he was in a state that, against all outward appearances, isn't as liberal as you might initially reckon. Still, the Ted Kennedy senate seat was a given. They loved their senator even as, the further west you went in the state, disagreement with his policies deepened. If ever the senate knew a politician capable of uniting disparate interests, it was Kennedy.

As you might imagine, there has been and will always be, a brisk trade in JFK memorabilia at Heritage, but there has not been a tremendous amount of Ted Kennedy. There is a lot of letters from himself and Eunice, as well as his autograph on a headshot in two different groupings. In all instances, the prices didn't exceed $75, a real bargain now, because anything with his signature on it is now likely worth double (just my own personal estimate).

It seems that this summer has seen the passing of more giants of the 20th century than any period before it. Walter Cronkite, Michael Jackson, Les Paul among so many, and now Ted Kennedy. I hew very close to the center politically, so his passing does not charge me up politically one way or the other.

As a person who tries his best to live a life focused on compassion and understanding, however, I do indeed deeply mourn the loss of a man who cared so greatly about the well-being of his fellow Americans. Like I said, love him or hate him, you have to give him respect.

To leave a comment, unless it's political, click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

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