Paul Greenberg

Now let the trumpets blare and the obsequies begin, as full of bombast as some of Ted Kennedy's own orations.

Let us begin in the spirit of nil nisi bonum: Speak nothing but good of the dead. Let us recall Sen. Kennedy's work with George W. Bush on the No Child Left Behind law:

If the senator's political record was a model of effective partisanship, he was also capable of making a bipartisan gesture against the bigotry of low expectations in public education. Even if he had to disappoint his political base, notably including the teachers' unions. Which was no small thing for one of the always politically savvy Kennedys. That was one time he inspired admiration rather than suspicion.

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But after that one landmark piece of legislation, it grows harder to find anything in Ted Kennedy's voting record besides the usual kneejerk liberaldom. No doubt he became a master of the legislative process in the U.S. Senate. And that will be more than enough to please the senator's easily pleased admirers, who tend to confuse ideology with principle.

The airwaves should soon be as satiated with fulsome tributes as the Congressional Record. There will be no shortage of fond memories and good words aplenty from those the senator favored with patronage or praise or just a word of support. Their number includes the current president of the United States when he was still a presidential candidate. Sen. Kennedy was never one to underestimate the power of doing a friend or even an enemy a favor.

Now, with the news of his death, the Kennedy mystique/myth will be dusted off and rolled out once again. A grand old Irish wake will be held -- a splendid custom -- while as counterpoint, the usual false notes will be solemnly trumpeted in pure NPR-ese. Preferably in a British accent to give them a little class. That final touch will surely amuse those lucky enough to be Irish.

In all the hubbub, it may scarcely be noticed that Ted Kennedy was a pol to the last, if not beyond. One of his last actions on this earth was to press lawmakers in his home state to change the way they would fill his seat in the U.S. Senate on his death. Instead of a special election, Sen. Kennedy wanted it arranged so the state's Democratic governor would appoint his successor. That way, there would be no unseemly gap in the current, filibuster-proof Democratic dominance of the U.S. Senate.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.