Our national media are treating the passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy as a historic event, more historic even than the deaths of presidents like Gerald Ford. Is this level of attention warranted?
We can all grant that Ted Kennedy was a major legislator with his hands in a lot of historic government action. He was at times a very eloquent speaker and was always a passionate fighter. To his side of the aisle, he was their inspirational leader.
Now add the personal story: Two of his brothers were mercilessly assassinated. He was the final Kennedy from that generation. Clearly, when the media spent countless hours mourning the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., a man who never had a political career, the death of an actual senator of 47 years should be a greater event.
It is not the amount of coverage that bothers; it is the quality of reporting.
"(The Kennedys) are the closest thing we have in this country to royalty, the clan's iconic images engraved on our national consciousness." That's how ABC's Claire Shipman put it on the Aug. 26 "Good Morning America," echoing what others have been saying across the dial. CBS anchor Harry Smith began this way: "He bore the unspeakable grief and overwhelming hopes of a nation."
This suggests a popularity that simply did not exist. The last time Gallup polled nationally on Kennedy (in February of 2008), his favorable rating stood at 40 percent, his unfavorable a whopping 48 percent. Even earlier this month, with the news of his mortal illness known by all, still his favorables according to CNN could not climb past 51 percent.
Along with the inaccurate suggestions we're hearing from the press that he was beloved by all are the suggestions, again echoed across the dial, that Ted Kennedy was a great bipartisan leader. His was "a life that was able to bring friends and enemies together," said CBS anchor Maggie Rodriguez.
That is also inaccurate. It is not questioned that he enjoyed many friendships across the political aisle, but that has no bearing on political bipartisanship, and it is simply not true to suggest that Kennedy was committed to bipartisanship. What did he do to help Nixon with Vietnam? Reagan with tax cuts? Bush 41 with Clarence Thomas? Clinton with welfare reform? Bush 43 with Iraq?