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article imageBurton Hersh talks about his new Ted Kennedy Biography Special

By Jane Fazackarley     Sep 16, 2010 in Politics
On the Aug. 25, 2009 Edward Kennedy, Democratic party member and United States Senator died of a brain tumour. He served for close to 47 years and he was among the longest serving Senators in the history of the United States
Edward Kennedy began life in the Senate in 1962, filling the seat which belonged to his brother John F. Kennedy.
Recently a book written by Burton Hersh, a journalist, historian and a friend of Ted Kennedy for fifty years called 'Edward Kennedy: An Intimate Biography was published.
I interviewed Burton Hersh and began by asking him:
You attended Harvard with Edward Kennedy. What was the young Ted Kennedy like?
"As I suggested in the preface to Edward Kennedy: An Intimate Biography, as an undergraduate at Harvard Ted Kennedy was widely regarded as primarily a jock, a club type. Friendly, a bit reckless, with an eye for the girls. Even then, while intellectually quite insecure, he tended to hit the books a lot harder than he let his classmates discover."
What is your favourite story or anecdote about Edward Kennedy?
"Where to start when it comes to anecdotes about Ted. One of my favorites involves his attempt to help out his brother John during the winter of the 1960 primaries in Wisconsin. When Ted seemed restless during one long winter day of campaigning, JFK sent him out with the Boston Globe newsman Bob Healy to distribute handbills. After sliding them under windshield wipers and folding them around the antennas of cars in frozen parking lots for an hour or so, Ted found that the rear door of a sedan was open. A glowering bulldog crouched on the seat. Ted, determined to stop at nothing to help out his brother, eased the door open and attempted to slip a flier in beside the dog; the bulldog immediately sank his teeth into Ted's forearm.
Kennedy jerked his arm out of the car, ripped open in several places. "Just a scratch," Ted muttered to Healy
"He wanted to prove to me he was a Kennedy," Healy later explained to me. "Jawn wouldn't have been that much of a Kennedy."
Did Edward Kennedy feel pressure to go into politics?
"I think Ted Kennedy did feel pressure to go into politics. By 1962 he had played a substantial role in several campaigns for Jack, he liked the attention, and he was a natural opportunist. Equally important, his father wanted to keep Jack's Senate seat in the family."
Of all of his political achievements, which did Edward Kennedy consider the most important?
"I suspect that Kennedy would have regarded his many achievements in the health care area, from The Americans With Disabilities Act to the portability of health insurance, as his most important contribution. The omnibus health care bill passed after his death incarnated his legacy."
As a person and a politician, he must be missed by many?
"Everybody that ever met Ted Kennedy, from the factory worker at the plant gate at five in the morning to the surviving presidents of both parties, misses him every day. Probably more than anybody his Senate colleagues, locked at the moment in the sort of bitter partisan wrangling and senseless blockading of vital legislation, obviously miss his mediating presence."
Your new book was just published this month. Can you tell me some more about it?
"Tell you more about my new book? OK. It is wonderful. No other major politician of our era has been as fully -- even as fearlessly -- dealt with in our biographical literature as Edward Kennedy is here. If you doubt this, read the book. Or even if you don't."
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