Finally, we must take a measure of the man. Not the person, or the legislator, or the family member. No, the man. Ted Kennedy was more of a man's man than any of the brush-clearing, hick-talking, pick-up driving politicians who overcompensate again and again by faking it. No, Kennedy demonstrated, through all the ups and downs, again and again what a real man is. It is a type of masculinity that we rarely see anymore because it is a fearlessness that few are allowed to embrace.
Put aside the money for a moment. Wealth makes life easier but it does not make one happy and it is not a measure of character. Don't you think that Kennedy would have given away his whole fortune to have his brothers back?
For a man does not shy away from the tragedies of his life. When John was assassinated, Kennedy took up the cause of the civil rights movement as his first major action in the Senate. When Bobby was killed, he began to push even harder against the Vietnam War. When his 12 year-old son, Ted, Jr., had to have a leg amputated to prevent the cancer there from spreading in 1973, Kennedy threw himself into the cause of rights for people with disabilities as much as his sister, Eunice, had, a crusade that would last the rest of his life.
A man fucks up again and again, but he owns his mistakes and learns from them. Ted Kennedy wore his flaws openly in his personal life. Some of it was the price of juvenile overindulgence (even as an adult) and some of it was just stupidity. The question is less about fucking up, but how a man reacts to it. He was kicked out of Harvard for cheating on an exam, so he joined the military (although he would achieve none of the glory of John and Joe, Jr.). When the Chappaquiddick incident happened, he nutted up and told the voters to decide on his fate. He was a hard-drinking son of a bitch who screwed around on his first wife, a Dean Martin-like punchline to jokes about alcoholism and a tabloid laughingstock. During that period, among other things, he was getting funding cut off to Chile because of Pinochet's barbarism, pushing legislation to help political refugees, getting sanctions imposed on apartheid-era South Africa, negotiating with Gorbachev on nuclear missiles, stopping Robert Bork's Supreme Court nomination, and strengthening the Civil Rights Act. What did you do on your years-long bender? He paid, too, with his presidential ambitions dashed. And when he was slugging 'em back like a frat boy with his nephews on a night that ended with William Kennedy Smith arrested on an accusation of rape, Kennedy made another public reckoning about who he was as a man in a speech in October 1991. And despite all he had accomplished before, he grew up, finally, understanding that to be a man one must become a man.
A man works to help those who need help. A real man is a liberal because a real man is unafraid of change and progress and difference. Let us come back to the money. The Kennedy family has always seen wealth as a privilege, a burden, and an opportunity to do good for others. Yes, it is easier to support charities and to have the time to work for various causes. But Kennedy made it his role in government to level the playing field. Where do you wanna go with this? Other than his work that climaxed with the Americans With Disabilities Act, other than his support for civil rights legislation going back to the 1964 act, we could talk about the Ryan White CARE Act, which gave funds to cities hardest hit by the AIDS crisis; we could talk about his intense support for the rights of workers through raising the minimum wage and supporting union goals; we could talk about his work for housing, for education, for women and children, for the Family and Medical Leave Act. We could talk about how he opposed the Iraq War, how he was working to provide educational opportunities to kids in Muslim countries, how he helped end the war in Northern Ireland. We could talk about how he believed, his entire career, that health care for everyone was a right, not a privilege, with COBRA and S-CHIP having been accomplished because of him. He was an unabashed, proud liberal whose full-throated speeches roared in defense of the whole ideology against the ignorance of those who would keep progress from being achieved.
A man is willing to embrace his enemies. Yesterday, Ron Reagan, Jr. had his mother on his radio show to talk about how much the Reagans loved Ted Kennedy. Kennedy and Nancy Reagan were allies on stem cell research funding, but the former first lady talked about how she and her husband were dear friends with Kennedy. Kennedy worked with Orrin Hatch, Richard Lugar, both George Bushes, and anyone he could to accomplish his goals. That's called politics. Compromise was a willingness for both sides to move. When George W. Bush dicked him over on No Child Left Behind funding, Kennedy had to know that a tide had shifted in a way that was going to make the entire process of legislating more rancorous and difficult. The political nature of the nation was moving into entrenchment, which was not how Ted Kennedy functioned.
A man knows how to die. A man understands that the end comes and doesn't desperately cling to every millisecond of life that medical science can squeeze out of him. No, a man dies with his family, in a place he loves, having done much, knowing that there was much still to be done, but accepting that there's only so much one can live.
"To put it simply, we need to worry a lot less about how to communicate our actions and much more about what our actions communicate," Admiral Mullen wrote in the critique, an essay to be published Friday by Joint Force Quarterly, an official military journal. The essay does not appear to be up on the web site this morningWhich is something that a lot of of people have been saying for years, with little effect, as the supra-legal arrogance of the Bush Administration was acted out. "Do as we say, not as we do" has never been a workable way to persuade people of the righteousness of one's cause. You may also want to read "A Long, Hard Fall from the Pedestal", though there is an undercurrent in the article of "most of us didn't want to do this, but `befehl ist befehl'."
"I would argue that most strategic communication problems are not communication problems at all," he wrote. "They are policy and execution problems. Each time we fail to live up to our values or don't follow up on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are."
The prison complex at Guantanamo Bay, the feeble attempts at any sort of legal process there, and the use of torture have done enormous damage to our national credibility, as has the entire Iraq War, which has been regarded as a war of choice (if not an outright act of aggression) by virtually everyone outside of the Loyal Defenders of All Things Chimpy.
Helen Cooper of the NYTimes does some interesting writing here about the Carebear leaving Martha's Vinyard to attend Ted Kennedy's funeral:
With Tropical Storm Danny heading toward New England on Saturday, Mr. Obama doesn't want to take any chances, administration officials said.
So Mr. Obama, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, will fly to Boston late Friday night, leaving their daughters Malia and Sasha on Martha's Vineyard.
Obama to continue Bush's policy of intrusive laptop searches: http://thinkprogress.org/2009/08/28/obama-bush-laptop/
The astroturf grassroots lobbying firm Bonner & Associates, which sent fake letters to congressmen on behalf of coal companies, is now blaming the embarrassing incidents on a temporary employee. The firm claims it was "the victim of a fraud" perpetrated by a temp who joined the firm "with the pre-determined intent of engaging in fraudulent activity."
Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that AHIP — the multimillion dollar lobbying juggernaut for the health insurance industry — has mobilized 50,000 employees to lobby Congress to defeat the public option. ThinkProgress has learned that AHIP's grassroots lobbying is being managed by the corporate consulting firm Democracy Data & Communications. DDC has made a name for itself as one of the most effective stealth lobbying firms. Earlier this summer, DDC was caught by reporters using a front group called "Citizens for a Safe Alexandria" to attack the Obama administration for seeking to prosecute Guantanamo Bay prisoners in Alexandria, VA.
The AP reports that Republicans who opposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly referred to as the stimulus, are nonetheless vigorously pursuing money from the program. Many GOP members, like Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), are still slamming the stimulus as waste and a failure, yet at the same time are making internal appeals for more funds. Guthrie, attacked the Recovery Act for its "staggering" costs just days before he urged Defense Secretary Robert Gates to consider using stimulus money to renovate a military hospital in his congressional districT.
John McCain is not having an easy time at these Town Hall Death Panels. A few days ago he got booed for suggesting that former Constitutional law professor Barack Obama is familiar with the Constitution; and then last night he got hassled by one of those irritating Code Pink broads. So he THREW HER OUT, bodily.
Or: he had some guys stand around awkwardly while the Code Pink lady continued to yell about the war or whatever, and eventually she stopped yelling and left, followed by a man with a gun. JOHN McCAIN IS REPRESSING OUR FREE SPEECHES, ETC, JUST LIKE HITLER.
The Cause of Our Lives
Yesterday, in a statement on his death, President Barack Obama called Sen. Ted Kennedy "not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy." Vice President Joe Biden said Kennedy "had so many of his... foes embracing him, because they know he made them bigger, he made them more graceful by the way in which he conducted himself." The Lion of the Senate was gone.
It was no surprise. Kennedy was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer early this year. More recently, we were reminded of his illness when he wrote a letter to the Governor and Legislature of Massachusetts regarding his quick replacement. He knew he didn't have long.
But I've always believed that the world we live in is an ongoing project. As a result, we'll all leave something unfinished. It's human nature to build and to progress and one person's contributions to that project are part of the work of us all. If the task is necessary, it won't go unfinished for long -- you don't leave a house half-built because the carpenter died. Kennedy's necessary work will go on, it won't remain incomplete.
Along those lines, Sen. Robert Byrd is now calling for Kennedy's own work -- unfinished but still underway -- to become his memorial.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the only senator to have served longer than the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), mourned his friend Wednesday, saying his "heart and soul weeps."
Byrd said he hoped healthcare reform legislation in the Senate would be renamed in memoriam of Kennedy.
"I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come," Byrd said in a statement. "My heart and soul weeps at the loss of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend, Ted Kennedy."
Byrd's wistful statement focused on the work accomplished with Kennedy during decades together in the Senate, and called on the healthcare bill before Congress to be renamed in honor of Kennedy.
"In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American," he said.
A good idea. In fact, a damned good idea. Kennedy once called fixing our broken system of healthcare delivery "the cause of my life." The word "memorial" refers to remembrance of the lost, not to the mourning of that loss. His life's cause should be his remembrance. If he'd wanted a big statue, he'd have bought one.
Over at Huffington Post, political writer Bob Cesca echoes Sen. Byrd's call -- healthcare reform in Kennedy's memory. But he adds one important caveat:
If they're going to name the final healthcare reform bill after Senator Kennedy, we ought to be demanding with voices as powerful and booming as the late senator's...
The bill must not suck.
Now there's an idea. Not just a bill, but a good bill. The Sen. Edward Kennedy Memorial Bandaid would be an insult. We need a good bill, with universal coverage, and a strong public option.
And those goals are nowhere near as controversial as shrieking town hall nuts would have you believe. The loudest voice doesn't always represent the majority, but the most strident minority. A new poll from Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates shows that 86% believe that everyone should have access to health insurance, regardless of their health history (i.e., no one turned down for "pre-existing conditions") and 79% believe that people should be able to buy into a "federal government health insurance option."
The problem is that about a quarter of the population is poorly informed. "[A]bout one-fourth of those polled believe the 'public option' is a national health care system, similar to the one in Great Britain," reports the Denver Post. And that bad information is the result of a deliberate campaign to misinform the public, says one of those behind the poll.
"These two words [public option] have become radioactive, they have been swift-boated," said William Mann, senior vice president of Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates. "There is a real misunderstanding."
"There is so much more educating that needs to be done across the board on various health care reform options," agrees Morie Smile of the AARP. "Nobody seems to have a firm grasp on the vocabulary. It's either a sacred cow or a punching bag."
So the work, still unfinished, begins in educating the public and countering the lies. The people want this -- even if they're not exactly clear on the nomenclature. The cry of "No reform, ever!" is a minority position, as loud as that cry is. And many of those rallying to that cry really mean "Not this reform" -- when they completely misunderstand what this reform is.
The question isn't whether we should do this, it's not even whether we can do this. The question is how we do this, because it's necessary that we do. Too many people understand the problem, too many people suffer under our present system, and too many people pay too much for too little.
This is too important to allow a handful of angry stooges and corporate puppets to derail. The cause of Ted Kennedy's life should become the cause of our own. In one sense, it already is, because so many of our lives would be improved or even saved by it. But the work isn't finished. The work is never finished.