It’s been 10 years since former Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-MA) death. Even now, Democrats continue to ignore or downplay his faults because he pushed the “right” policies. Meanwhile, Democrats constantly criticize Republicans for supporting President Donald Trump’s policies but not his behavior. In addition, the Left has spent the better part of the last decade trying to erase people from history who supported the wrong policies, even when that is not what they were known for.
Surprisingly, NBC ran an op-ed from David Mark (who currently works at The Washington Examiner but previously worked for Politico and CNN) about how the Left needs to re-examine its lionization of the late Kennedy, younger brother to John and Robert. From Mark:
Progressives are rightly incensed that Republicans in Congress have mostly turned a blind eye to Trump's behavior, focusing instead on legislative outcomes they favor, such as tax cuts and the confirmation of conservative judge — essentially declaring that policy achievements are more important than character and conduct.
But Democrats should be no more willing to forgive Kennedy for his personal transgressions because they agreed with the progressive policy outcomes he helped achieve. Moreover, that Kennedy was not only excused for his behavior but esteemed by his political peers reveals that it is not one party alone that has failed to uphold accountability and morality as guiding principles.
When Kennedy died in 2009, mainstream media outlets called him “one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate” and “a lawmaker whose achievements, authority and collegiality invited comparisons to Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and other titans.”
Politicians such as President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave tributes to Kennedy as if he were a saint sent from the heavens.
But Mark argues that in a time when society wants to cancel people for their sins, Kennedy can no longer be considered a hero to the Left. Those obituaries mentioned earlier, Mark wrote, glossed over Kennedy’s bad behavior before quickly returning to his progressive heroism. Chappaquiddick, for example, is barely mentioned. Even now, media outlets describe the event – wherein Kennedy drunkenly drove his car off a bridge and left Mary Jo Kapechne to drown – as if it was something that happened to Kennedy and not something he caused. In July, The Associated Press commemorated the 50th anniversary of the tragedy by tweeting: “50 years ago today, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy left a party on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha's Vineyard with Mary Jo Kopechne, 28; some time later, Kennedy's car went off a bridge into the water. Kennedy was able to escape, but Kopechne drowned.”
This was not Kennedy’s only indiscretion. For all the terrible things of which Trump is accused, Kennedy actually left a woman to die, used his family’s influence to avoid criminal charges, sexually assaulted a waitress (with an actual witness to back up the claim), and exposed himself to several women in his home.
A more realistic look at Kennedy’s life does not mean his legislative accomplishments should be dismissed. He helped author the law in 1965 that ended the selection of immigrants on the basis of their national origin — a system the Trump administration is currently trying to overturn. He authored bills expanding childrens’ health insurance, and with George W. Bush, helped draft the No Child Left Behind education act. His other achievements include a minimum wage hike in 1996 and introduction of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
But that doesn’t mean Kennedy’s legacy doesn’t deserve a far more open-eyed and realistic picture of a man whose born privilege helped save his Senate career and political viability.