But along with the encomia of the press and the late senator's friends and family, the historical record should be set straight. Paul Kengor writes about Kennedy's secret, inexcusable (and quite possibly illegal) efforts to undercut President Reagan's foreign policy and cuddle up to Yuri Andropov in the '80's. These are documented facts, based on Soviet archives, and belong in any fair assessment of the senator's legacy.
What's also worth noting is the constant invocation of Ted Kennedy as a hero, or, as Neil Gabler put it in the LA Times yesterday, someone who "continued to carry the torch for the least powerful among us." Endless iterations of the same theme have appeared elsewhere.
Before the subject of Teddy Kennedy is laid to rest once and for all, this requires some comment.
First, Kennedy's "torch carrying" in essence meant that he was willing to "help" people using other taxpayers' money. Whatever personal charity and generosity he showed during his life (and no doubt there was some), his big government liberalism ultimately means that politicians like him pass laws that force you to pay taxes for him to spend. It's not hard to be "generous" when it's other peoples' money you're spending -- and when one is sitting on a fortune so large that higher tax rates or other policies aren't going to do much to impact it.
Finally, it strikes me that all the praise for Kennedy as someone who uniquely cared about the "least powerful" is a bit disingenuous. There is always plenty of journalistic sympathy for those who liberals have tagged as the least advantaged among us, whether because of race, gender, or socio-economic status. And that's fine. It's right, and important, to keep the least advantaged in mind. But Kennedy's sympathies for the "least powerful" also fit neatly into the groups that just happened to make up the Democratic coalition.
There are plenty of the "least powerful" who merit the compassion of all of us -- but who find (or found) precious little of it from those who, like Kennedy, perch on the left wing of the Democratic Party.
Poor children who need vouchers in order to have the opportunity to get a decent education;
Entrepreneurs and small businessmen who work hard to earn a living -- only to find their businesses regulated and taxed to death by the goverment, often in order to "help" those who aren't working quite as hard;
People who lived under the hob-nailed boot of Soviet tyranny;
and that's just for starters. Feel free to add more of your own. Where is (and was) the compassion for the people who just wanted to be free?