Jonah Goldberg

Fortunately, her husband's handlers had things well in hand, orchestrating with a compliant media the grand fiction that Kennedy had somehow been a martyr to civil rights, taken out by right-wing "hate." The real JFK, who cut capital gains taxes and only reluctantly supported Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington, had never been nearly as liberal as the posthumous legend created to give new life to liberalism -- and the Kennedy name.

According to the mythmakers, JFK would have pulled us out of Vietnam (and the Oliver Stones say that's why he was killed). Meanwhile, the real JFK boasted -- mere hours before his murder -- that he'd massively boosted defense spending and ordered a 600 percent increase on counterinsurgency special forces in Vietnam. The prior March he'd asked Congress to spend 50 cents out of ever dollar on defense.

Hence one of the great ironies of Ted Kennedy's career. He was the chief beneficiary of an inheritance from a brother whose views he didn't share.

Such contradictions never bothered Ted Kennedy, nor his fellow Democrats, when he was alive, so why should there be compunction now? After all, the Kennedys and the Democrats have mythologized and exploited the deaths of three brothers (and minimized the deaths of Mary Jo Kopechne and Martha Moxley) in order to protect the Kennedy brand. Naming a massive expansion of the federal government after Ted Kennedy, particularly when it was indeed his life's cause, seems entirely fitting and fair.

My only objection is the notion that somehow anyone but partisan Democrats should be expected to cave in to the "Do it for Teddy" bullying. To listen to some liberals, one gets the sense that conservatives should surrender to something that violates their fundamental principles out of deference to the very man liberals celebrate for never abandoning his fundamental principles. No one expected Ted Kennedy to become a champion of free markets out of deference to Ronald Reagan's memory.

Now, if liberals want to rally their own troops by putting Kennedy's name on the bill, that is their right, even if it will likely result in an even more unpopular bill than the ones now under consideration. I suspect, however, that they will be disappointed to discover that the currency of the Kennedy name purchases far less than it once did, thanks in large part to what Ted Kennedy did with it.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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