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article imageOp-Ed: Edward Kennedy, the Media and the Memories

By Carol Forsloff     Aug 26, 2009 in Politics
I was awakened this morning with the news, “Edward Kennedy died.” For some people of a certain age, something died with this grand old Senator. What died was a kind of grace in government and media that doesn’t exist much anymore.
As a “woman of a certain age” I went through my adult years with the Kennedys. I watched President John F. Kennedy outside of Richland, Washington in 1963 celebrate the building of a new reactor, admiring the bright good looks and positive stance of a young President. I stood in the rain with hundreds of other people in New York as Robert Kennedy’s train pulled past. And I am old enough to see the last of former John F. Kennedy’s brothers become in some ways greater than his two older brothers, although deified likely by some folks of a certain ilk, today and tomorrow who will fail to see how a gentleman can grow past his youth and rise to become grand.
I lived in Hackensack, New Jersey at the time of Chappaquiddick and remember the pain of learning what happened to a young senator and a young woman out together on a dark road, how that senator failed to rescue the woman from drowning in the blackness of water and night, and how the media reported what happened from coast to coast. There was, however, a different timbre in that reporting than happens today. There were no bloggers, each to have a turn taking a stab at something most of them wouldn’t know much about, given the fact that many of the details were left to police, the legal system and the families. A traditional media examined Kennedy’s lack of responsibility, his possible drunkenness on the night of Mary Jo Kopechne’s drowning, and a host of other matters, but they did it with style, leaving the essential person rather than destroying someone who went on to live past youthful indiscretions and awful mistakes to become a truly fine Senator, the real heart and soul of the Senate in many ways.
The media was class in those days in ways I wished was now. Politicians were rivals but didn’t foster hate with one another. The sins were displayed, reported, then the story moved along, with press and people recognizing that all are mortal, even the ones to whom, as the Kennedy’s often remarked, “much was given, so much was asked.” Edward Kennedy’s faults were unveiled, as the Boston Globe reported this year, taking away any chances he had to become President, but leaving instead enough of the man to go on to contribute much to the country he loved. They weren’t like the Drudge Report that focuses on the worst of things and the worst of times to help unravel any good one does. The facts and details came out over the years, here and there, like they are discussed at the Drudge Retort , but Kennedy trudged on making good things happen nonetheless.
The facts of the Senator’s accomplishments were written about today in Bloomberg News, a list that is impressive by any yardstick to measure governance. Edward Kennedy is described today as “the dominant congressional figure in shaping U.S. health care, civil rights and education policy for decades, working to raise the minimum wage, overhaul immigration laws and allow 18-year-olds to vote. “ Senator Birch Bayh, age 81 and former Indiana Democratic Senator, remarked concerning Kennedy that his colleagues greatest legacy is the removal of obstacles for blacks to vote and to express their grievances at the ballot box.
The rest of the Bloomberg article describes how “Kennedy wrote more than 2,500 bills throughout his more than 46 years in the Senate, with several hundred becoming law, and cast more than 15,000 votes. “ The article touches on Chappaquiddick, but in the context of Kennedy’s long life, as the negative that prevented Kennedy from running for President and as the flaw that greats often have that make the rest of us wonder.
Today I mourn with many other Americans of a certain age who remember the best of the Kennedys, that part of them that advocated for the poor, the old, the needy, the helpless, the immigrants, the people of color. I mourn for the death of decorum in the media, the kind that reported the facts as they were but left the core of a man alone. And I wonder, looking out on the landscape of politics and people when America will ever look at the good in its people and its government and resume the polite and well-aimed movement to a better tomorrow for the country.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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