Has any family in recent history ever been so revered and loved but so mired in scandal?
JFK is often thought of as one of America's most beloved President, but was famously known for his womanizing, and affairs. Who can forget when his affair was famously rubbed in the face of his wife and country when Marilyn Monroe appeared at his birthday celebration. My mom remembers thinking how tacky it was, and how bad she felt for Jackie. It was also reported that Marilyn was having an affair with Bobby, too.
But, of all the Kennedy scandals and tragedies, none is more tragic as the accident and events surrounding the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.
With the passing of Ted Kennedy we have an end of an era. It was somewhat difficult, looking at an aged, grey haired Ted, a man who spent his last months of his life suffering from a brain tumor, a public servant in the Senate for 46 years, a man who witnessed the assassination of his two brothers, and not feel something for the loss of the last brother in a famous family dynasty.
An image far removed from that of the young, vibrant handsome man, who supported his brothers.
An image even further removed from the lying, cheating, drunken one of a man who left a woman to die.
But, that's exactly what he did.
Does a lifetime of reform and public service make up for what he did July 18, 1969? From all of the media attention covering his passing, it seems many believe it does. Obviously the majority in Massachusetts forgave him, where he served 46 years. Many people believe in repentance, forgiveness, and making amends.
But, did Ted Kennedy ever make amends? If you watch his statement and apology he made in 1969, he doesn't appear to make amends. He makes excuses, and he lies.
It was a little difficult, with the public image of Ted Kennedy, and the adoration many feel for him, and his years of service he has devoted to his country, and not feel a bit of the nostalgia for all things Kennedy, the Kennedy's I grew up learning about, and those that I watched. Even as angry as I was for his endorsement of Obama, and the disgust I felt hearing Chris Matthews call Obama the *last brother* of the Kennedy clan, I still remember this image of Ted:
And those of his brothers:
I wondered what it must do to someone - to see their brothers gunned down in cold blood.
Perhaps that is, in large part, why the people of Massachusetts forgave Ted Kennedy for Chappaquiddick. Did they feel that the Kennedy's had given so much of themselves, that they could overlook the terrible, cowardly actions of the only living Kennedy brother?
But what about the rest of the country? Those not close to the Kennedy Dynasty - how did Ted avoid political suicide that fateful night, in July 1969? No doubt the headlines Man Walks on the Moon saved Kennedy big time. I have a Seattle Times from the July 20, 1969 landing and throughout the entire newspaper the stories are about the moon landing, but one. One tiny little article at the bottom of the page talks about Kennedy's accident.
Despite of everything, the good and the bad, I wanted to believe that the last Kennedy brother, this 77 year old man, had tried to make amends. That he tried to live a life serving his country, making amends for what he did 40 years ago. I wanted to believe that he felt remorse, and went to bed every night thinking about what he did to Mary Jo. I wanted to believe that he struggled early on with the loss of his brothers, and struggled with alcoholism, and that he tried to overcome.
I didn't want to speak ill of him the day he died. It's hard to think of Ted Kennedy without thinking of his brothers, and young John Jr. I wanted to believe in the dream of Camelot. (I used to be a Democrat, afterall...)
But then I saw this:
"I don't know if you know this or not, but one of his favorite topics of humor was indeed Chappaquiddick itself. And he would ask people, "have you heard any new jokes about Chappaquiddick?" That is just the most amazing thing. It's not that he didn't feel remorse about the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, but that he still always saw the other side of everything and the ridiculous side of things, too."
You can hear the entire interview here, at the 30:10 mark.
Ted Kennedy was a drunk who drove his car into a pond, with a young woman who was not his wife, and left her to die. He waited 10 hours before getting help. He paid her family hush money, he lied in his public statement, and he lied to the police. I wanted to believe he felt remorse and changed. Ted Kennedy died as despicably and as cowardly as he was on July 18, 1969.
Ted's favorite jokes were about Chappaquiddick. And no, Melissa, I don't think Mary Jo would think it was "worth it".
If I were Obama, I would give that torch back.