"Why was Chris Matthews on the dais?" This remains the most frequently asked question I get about the presidential election. It refers to the Al Smith dinner, an annual event that raises money for Catholic charities, (many of which are threatened by Obama administration policies), just weeks before the big day. Both presidential candidates attended the dinner, hosted by the Archdiocese of New York.
To answer the question, permit me to say that I was elated at the post-election news out of Boston -- obviously, not at the results at the top of the ticket. I celebrated the defeat of Question 2 in Massachusetts, a ballot initiative that would have legalized assisted suicide in the Bay State.
The ballot measure looked like a sure thing. In October, two-thirds of voters supported it, according to polling. But then something happened. Unexpected sources started supporting Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who had been urging opposition to the initiative. Vicki Kennedy, Sen. Ted Kennedy's widow, in particular, was a merciful break in the trajectory of the campaign. Very clearly, she called Question 2 antithetical to her late husband's legacy, writing that it "turns his vision of health care for all on its head by asking us to endorse patient suicide -- not patient care -- as our public policy."
When he was diagnosed with brain cancer, Sen. Kennedy had been told he would have two to four months to live. Had the assisted suicide law voters struck down this Election Day been in force then, Kennedy could have asked a doctor to end his life. A doctor -- and this is where disability groups in particular were especially worried -- could have urged him to give up. Less money spent, fewer medical resources, and, of course, the suggestion that his family would be better off if they didn't have to watch him suffer.
But Mrs. Kennedy pushed against these inclinations. And the prognosis turned out to be wrong. Kennedy would go on to cast more votes in the Senate, speak at the 2008 Democratic convention, finish a book and throw a pitch at a Red Sox game, among other things. His widow went on to talk about the gift she had in those last 15 months, a gift that might never have existed if assisted suicide were legal.
The lesson of this successful campaign is something of a testament to truth-telling. In politics -- in human relationships -- telling the truth can be a challenge. It can be uncomfortable. But we owe it to ourselves and to one another. And on issues of literally life and death!
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