Mary Jo's Mother: "I don't think he ever said he was sorry" And Other Teddy Kennedy Realities
Senator Edward 'Ted' Kennedy has been sitting up, chatting to Barack Obama by phone, and following the Boston Red Sox baseball team on television. That has not stopped America going on deathwatch. Since Kennedy was airlifted to hospital from the fabled 'family compound' on Martha's Vineyard, the nation has been gripped as if waiting for the passing of the crown.
The Senator from Massachusetts is the man who brought disgrace to America's Camelot, and then managed, somehow, to restore its glow.
At 76, it is remarkable that the youngest of the four brothers of the Kennedy generation which gave us John Fitzgerald as President and Robert as Attorney General is alive at all (Patrick, the eldest, died serving in World War Two). Ted (above, centre) has boozed, womanised and scandalised to a degree which would have surely killed a lesser man.
Yet he is suddenly beloved, or at least almost. White-haired and with his face, long ruined by drink, become avuncular, he seems like Father Christmas. He reminds America of long ago
when government distributed gifts of hope. He was among the very few to vote against Dubya Bush's folly in Iraq, and that alone seems worthy of a place at the Round Table.
But Kennedy the man can never be redeemed. The 'Chappaquiddick Incident' of 1969, most infamous of his scandals, leaves too deep a stain. He was drunk when he persuaded Mary Jo Kopechne to get into the back seat of his car, which he then drove off a narrow bridge. He swam ashore, leaving her to drown. He baulked at reporting the accident for nine hours: divers could have saved her if he had called for help.
He lied and covered up and got away with it only because of the Kennedy power in Massachusetts.
said: "I don't think he ever said he was sorry." He has no morals, no decency.
The veteran senator is the only Kennedy who lived long enough to be found out. All three, sons of bootlegging family patriarch Joe, were born to ruthlessness, arrogance and a self-entitlement to any woman they wanted. Only the reticence of the times saved both older brothers from the consequences of their boorish use of Marilyn Monroe. Robert visited her bungalow on the night she died, and that is one step short of Chappaquiddick.
Oddly, it is reprobate Edward who has shown inclination to legislate for the common good. It is that which has propped up Camelot despite 40 years of revelations. JFK couldn't be bothered with Civil Rights because he didn't need black votes. Robert took on his
father's Mob buddies to bury the family legacy and opposed Vietnam when his brother's war proved unpopular.
Ted's role as national uncle came with the final Kennedy tragedy, the death of JFK's son John in a plane crash redolent of the family hubris. He was the little boy saluting his father's coffin in 1963 and was the heir to the myth of Camelot.
The media wanted to turn John Junior's death into a schmaltz-fest but the Senator managed to fend off the tide of sentimentality and maintain the dignity of family and nation. For all his sins, when the last of the Kennedy Boys does die, it will be the end of an era.