Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Requiem for a Lion

Well, it finally happened. Teddy is gone. God bless him, and God speed. He will be missed. I cannot think of anyone in Congress who had more friends on the other side of the aisle. I was actually trying to conjure someone with similar bipartisan respect, and as much as I love calling Al Franken my U.S. Senator, the only other person I can come up with is Paul Wellstone. God only knows where we'd be if that blessed man were still alive and in the senate. We were robbed of the next generation's Liberal Lion by that plane crash. But as for the original Lion, Edward, let's state the obvious: He was the only Kennedy brother who lived long enough to see his hair turn white, and arguably the one who made the most difference in American life, just given the length of his political tenure. He was a Kennedy, to be sure, and as such he was dogged by allegations of all kinds, from unseemly partying to the Chappaquiddick incident. But at heart, he was a liberal senator capable of building the kind of consensus with conservatives we can't even imagine in today's politically charged arena.
So now we're left with Patrick, a Congressional Kennedy without the charisma of a Jack or a Bobby or even his late father Ted. I say that without venom - I really like Pat Kennedy (and his unlikely friendship with our own Minnesotan Jim Ramstad), but it would appear that the dynastic days have finally drawn to a close, and this Mayo Clinic rehab alum will be content to quietly champion his causes without meriting undue spotlight. For that I commend him, and as a Midwesterner I respect his humility. From what I can tell, it seems that the story of the greatest generation Kennedy brothers has been one of failure to live up to expectations, and I salute Patrick for moving past that. Tonight on PBS they had a special highlighting the Joe Jr. through Ted generation and they kept mentioning the onus that was put on the survivors. When John died Bobby had to live up. When Bobby died Ted had to live up. It appears that the next generation of Kennedys is over that particular pressure. RFK Jr or Pat Kennedy aren't running for national office any time soon, and that is to their credit. And so with the passing of a lion, an entire coat of arms fades into American political history. We'll miss you, Edward.

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