Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mary Jo Kopechne: For Democrats, A Footnote Better Left to Obscurity

I've seen at least three articles now arguing that Mary Jo Kopechne's death pales in comparison to the historical legacy of Edward Kennedy.

It's an awful, even demonic, kind of historical revisionism that relegates to a historical footnote the life and promise of that beautiful woman.

Melissa Lafsky wrote a piece at the Huffington Post, "
The Footnote Speaks: What Would Mary Jo Kopechne Have Thought of Ted's Career?" She concludes there with:
We don't know how much Kennedy was affected by her death, or what she'd have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history. What we don't know, as always, could fill a Metrodome.

Still, ignorance doesn't preclude a right to wonder. So it doesn't automatically make someone (aka, me) a Limbaugh-loving, aerial-wolf-hunting NRA troll for asking what Mary Jo Kopechne would have had to say about Ted's death, and what she'd have thought of the life and career that are being (rightfully) heralded.

Who knows -- maybe she'd feel it was worth it.
Then yesterday Joyce Carol Oates published, "Kennedy's Redemption From the Depths":
At Chappaquiddick, having been drinking and partying with young women aides of his brother Robert Kennedy, Senator Kennedy, at this time a married man and a father, slipped away with 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, who was trapped in his car after he took a wrong turn off the Chappaquiddick bridge, lost control of his car which was submerged in just eight feet of water ....

If Kennedy had summoned aid, he would very likely have given police officers self-incriminating evidence, which might have involved charges of vehicular manslaughter or homicide. The local prosecutor was not nearly so outraged by Kennedy's behaviour as other prosecutors might have been: the charges were "failing to report an accident" and "leaving the scene of an accident." The punishment: two months' probation.

That the Kennedys had always been a family operating outside the perimeters of the sort of legal restrictions that bind other citizens to "moral" behaviour publicly, is well known; no occasion so exemplifies this than Chappaquiddick and the subsequent cooperative silence of the Kopechne family who agreed never to speak of the tragedy.
One is led to think of Tom and Daisy Buchanan of Fitzgerald's the Great Gatsby, rich individuals accustomed to behaving carelessly and allowing others to clean up after them. It is often in instances of the "fortunate fall", think of Joseph Conrad's anti-hero/hero Lord Jim as a classic literary analogy, that innocent individuals figure almost as ritual sacrifices is another aspect of the phenomenon.

Yet if one weighs the life of a single young woman against the accomplishments of the man President Obama has called the greatest Democratic senator in history, what is one to think?

The poet John Berryman once wondered: "Is wickedness soluble in art?". One might rephrase, in a vocabulary more suitable for our politicized era: "Is wickedness soluble in good deeds?"
Then today, Eric Zorn's got a piece up, "How wall-to-wall Chappaquiddick would have changed history - for the worse":
Chappaquiddick was a big story ... and badly damaged the reputation of the man then seen as the surviving prince and heir apparent of American politics ....

The following year Massachusetts voters resoundingly re-elected him to the Senate. Though the Chappaquiddick scandal probably kept him out of the White House, it never cost him the seat he held until his death this week at age 77.

This thought experiment invites a question to which there is no nonpartisan answer: Was it just as well that we didn't -- couldn't -- have a media feeding frenzy over Chappaquiddick in 1969? Would the nation have been better off if Kennedy had been shamed into private life?

Or, as I believe, is the nation -- particularly our disabled and disadvantaged residents -- better off for the 40 years of service he was able to render after that terrible night?

The momentary satisfaction of destroying Ted Kennedy for his failings would have had a significant price. Something to keep in mind when the next fallen figure, Democrat or Republican, stumbles into the heat lamp.
Check Memeorandum for more commentary. When we combine these articles with the fact that Ted Kennedy himself was constantly on the lookout for the latest in Chappaquiddick humor, we're left with nothing other than the dreadful weight of Democratic monstrosity.

And the horrible truth of Mary Jo Kopechne's death is that Ted Kennedy's legacy wasn't worth it. Another member of Congress could have easily sponsored wheelchair ramps for the disabled or authorized home heating subsidies for the poor. Another Democratic would have sponsored expanded healthcare for indigent children. President Bush didn't need Ted Kennedy to pass No Child Left Behind. There's nothing that Kennedy attached his name to that wouldn't have come about by another Democrat pushing more of the same statist left-wing agenda. The hagiography of Senator Kennedy's life only shows us once again the Democratic liberalism as an ideology is not about caring or compassion, it's not about help the disadvantaged or the downtrodden. Leftist are all about power and monuments to the state. Elevating the false successes of Ted Kennedy is no different from elevating statues to dictators in authoritarian regimes: It's the deification of idolatry at the expense of the universal dignity of the individual. As Rick Moran has argued, "To left wing fanatics ... human life does not belong to the individual, but to the higher cause of the collective good.

When Mary Jo Kopechne died at Chappaquiddick, the left put one more brick in the wall of totalitarianism. The "footnoting" of Kopechne this week is a witness to how high and mighty that wall has been erected today.

See also, ABC News, "
Chappaquiddick: No Profile in Kennedy Courage."


TonyfromOz said...

At some time in the last five days, Ted Kennedy has had to finally look into the eyes of Mary Jo and explain to her just why his life was more important than hers. I wonder if he could maintain the gaze.

AmPowerBlog said...

Thanks Tony!

DocAmazing said...

What was the name of the man Laura Bush killed with her car again?

Just making sure we're comparing apples to apples...

DocAmazing said...

Ah, here's my answer:

Michael Dutton Douglas, killed by Laura Bush in 1963. Funny we don't hear much about that...

Anonymous said...

In the alternate reality created by Donald another Douglas still draws breath. Michael Dutton Douglas has not been footnoted to obscurity but is a living monument to an unfortunate accident. Poor Laura has not been tarred with his death but flourishes under the umbrella of IOKIYAR. Thank FSM that dear Donald has never driven under the influence.

Mr. Wonderful said...

"Elevating the false successes of Ted Kennedy is no different from elevating statues to dictators in authoritarian regimes: It's the deification of idolatry at the expense of the universal dignity of the individual."

Thank you for this. It's always reassuring to be reminded that, however much one thinks of "conservatives" as unreflective, knee-jerk "liberal"-hating foamers,
the reality is much, much worse.

Do your students know you write this drivel? Do you teach poli-sci? I smell a class action suit...

tommo said...

At least Ted didn't get drunk, shoot a friend in the face, go in and stuff his own face with a rare steak for dinner, have more cocktails, and refuse to be interviewed by the police.

Bob Belvedere said...

Spot-on commentary, Professor.

Quoted from and linked to at: