Kennedy has long been described as the liberal bogeyman to the conservative movement, despite his reputation for working across the aisle with some Republicans. Kennedy has been long hated by many on the right because of his personal flaws and also because of his public stances.
In terms of his personal life, Ted Kennedy was a lightening rod of criticism from the late 1960's until the mid 1990's. There were countless allegations of extramartial affairs and womanizing, out of control drinking, and most notably the Chappaquiddick incident. Kennedy divorced his first wife, Joan, in 1982 and was said to be an eligible playboy for the next ten years. Much of this came to light when the senator was called to testify at his nephew William Kennedy Smith's rape trial in 1991. Kennedy was out with Smith the night of the alleged sexual assault and much of his torrid life was on display during the trial. Smith was eventually found not guilty by a Florida jury.
His legendary drinking problems and Chappaquiddick
came together on July 18, 1969. Kennedy left a party after drinking in order to take Mary Jo Kopechne, a former aide to his late brother Robert, to a ferry to leave the island. He took a wrong turn and the car ended up in the water. Kennedy swam to safety, but Kopechne never made it out of the car. Kennedy left the scene of the accident and did not go to the police until the next morning. He pled guilty for leaving the scene of an accident. This incident dogged him for the rest of his life, effectively crippling his chances for the presidency. Many on the right criticized Kennedy for leaving Kopechne in the car when she may have still been alive and able to be saved.
Throughout his 46 years in the Senate, Ted Kennedy amassed an impressive record of legislative accomplishments, much of it promoting policies and ideas that the right opposes. Kennedy earned the enmity of the conservatives for his vocal opposition to Ronald Reagan's Supreme Court candidate Robert Bork, unequivocal support for abortion, even though he was a staunch Catholic and was previously pro-life, and his opposition for national defense related projects. Kennedy focused primarily on social programs and welfare issues, therefore earning the label of a bleeding heart liberal. Despite these criticisms, Kennedy relished his role in the Senate and was declared to be the "liberal lion."
Today, some conservatives and just anti-Kennedy people, are not mourning the senator's passing and are coming out against
him. Andrew Breitbart, Washington Times columnist and operator of Breitbart.com, called Kennedy a "villain," "duplicitous bastard," and a "prick" on Twitter hours after he died. Breitbart continued his opposition to Kennedy by posting: "I'm more than willing to go off decorum to ensure THIS MAN is not beatified,” Breitbart wrote. “Sorry, he destroyed lives. And he knew it."
RedState.com's Erick Erikson said that “I can’t say that I’ll miss him.” For Erickson, the liberal senator “represented all that is wrong with Washington—a kingdom of nepotism and worship at the altar of failed liberal policies that get repeated ad infinitum.” Bill Bennett wrote today that, “They say one should not speak ill of the dead,” he said on the National Review's website. “True. But I am of the view that one should not lie about the dead either. So I will not go on."
Kennedy will be the subject of eulogies and tributes for the next few days, so it will be interesting to see how politicized
his memorials will be. If anyone remembers the late Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone's memorial, then they will know that turning a personal reflection on a person's life into a liberal political rally will not work. Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Russ Feingold have already been out today urging the healthcare reform bill to be named in Kennedy's honor and for Congress to "do this for Ted." Naming a bill after the fallen legislator is a fine honor, but to pass it just to honor him is wrong. America has serious questions and reservations about the legislation out there.
Honor Ted Kennedy if you are a fan of him, silently respect him if you are not, but let us not polarize this man's memorial services over the next several days. I don't think he would support that, given his ability and willingness to cross the aisle to pass bipartisan legislation.