Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 26, 2009
POLITICS: Ted Kennedy, Workhorse Lawmaker

It is traditional, upon the passing of an important and famous person - however controversial - to find some good words to say. This is not an easy task in the case of Ted Kennedy, a man whose personal life ranged from alcoholism to debauchery to sexual harrassment to (sadly, uncharged) second-degree murder, and whose public career entailed the embrace of nearly every foolish, ruinous and cruel political idea of the past five decades and whose most enduring legacy is installing the bitterly polarized modern Supreme Court confirmation process.

But a few words are nonetheless in order to recognize the man's work. Ted Kennedy arrived in the Senate in 1962, as soon as he was Constitutionally old enough to serve; aside from a Korean War-era non-combat tour in the Army, it was his first real job. Kennedy was a young man with fame, glamor and a fair amount of his family's natural charm, but had done nothing of distinction with his life to that point; he'd inherited the seat as effectively a family heirloom, and a review of his life to that point - such as being suspended from college for cheating and a reckless driving arrest for leading cops on a 90 mph chase while in law school - would hardly have suggested a man likely to take seriously the work of a United States Senator.

Kennedy at that point could have taken a number of different turns. He could have become a Senate showhorse, making the rounds giving speeches and national TV appearances and doing little real work. He could have become one of Capitol Hill's time-markers, coasting to re-elections while using his office as just a prop for the exhausing, booze-and-flooze nightlife he pursued for so many years. He could have decided that fame and glamor meant he deserved to run for President at the first available opportunity, and stayed far away from any of the real and often controversial work of making laws.

To Kennedy's credit, he did none of those things. He hired the most aggressive, competent staffs on the Hill and immersed himself in the daily business of making laws. Boring bill markups, blathering conferences, wicked hangovers; Kennedy took them all and kept working, working even to the end. He learned how the sausage was made and the deals done, and made quite a lot of it himself. He waited 18 years to run for President, and did so only after compiling an extensive record of actual accomplishment in the Senate.

Kennedy's influence waned after his unsuccessful 1980 run; that year ushered in an era in which Republicans controlled the White House for 20 of the next 28 years, and more or less controlled the Senate (to the extent the Senate is "controlled" by the majority party) for the better part of 17 of those 28 years. But with key committee seats and an energetic staff, he remained a player in important legislative business to the end, whether forging successful bipartisan compromises (as with No Child Left Behind in 2001) or fighting for unsuccessful ones (the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, which failed even with the backing of President Bush). The harshness of Kennedy's partisan rhetoric never left him unable to figure out how Beltway Republicans ticked and how to get them to the bargaining table; Republicans who worked with him testify unanimously to his Irish charm and personal grace.

Kennedy's career could have been a cautionary tale for our current president, who might not have found himself in quite the fix he is in at the moment if he'd followed Ted's example, bided his years, spent more time in the trenches doing the unglamorous work of legislating and taking the hard punches that must be taken to sell the product to the public, learning how the system works, why it works and who makes it work. Most of the changes Ted Kennedy made in this nation over his career were change for the worst - but he did, over time, make real change because he worked at it instead of just saying the word "change" and hoping it would be so.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:46 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (35) | TrackBack (0)

I think you hit the nail on the head. There are workhorse legislators and there is showhorse legislators (see John Kerry, John Edwards, O'bumbler) He was a workhorse. The work he did and the results therof are a different story. Surprisingly, he was recently listed by fellow senators as the senator most likely to draft bi-partisan legislation with.

Posted by: dch at August 26, 2009 11:35 AM

You started the post with these words: "It is traditional, upon the passing of an important and famous person - however controversial - to find some good words to say."

And then you spent the two and a half paragraphs shitting all over him.

I, too, have issues with TK, but, mostly, your post does not speak well of *you*.

Posted by: Dave at August 26, 2009 11:47 AM


If the President is "just saying the word 'change' and hoping it would be so," why do all the wing nuts have their knickers in a knot, seeing nazis, socialists and all other bogeymen?

I thought your post was unusally (for you) balanced and fair, at least until the last, gratuitous shot at the President.

Posted by: Magrooder at August 26, 2009 1:34 PM

The "wing nuts" always have their knickers in knots, Magrooder. The problem with the Black Messiah from Telepromptereth is that more & more folks who aren't political partisans are seeing things that they don't think make sense, like promising to cover everyone's health care costs while claiming that it'll cost less money.

Or, as you folks define people who disagree with your policies, "racists".

Posted by: RW at August 26, 2009 1:42 PM

Nice job. I couldn't have said anything better about Teddy if I'd tried. And you're right. He never had to work a day in his life. That he did, in service to the American people no less (even if I believe he was misguided), is a credit to him.

Posted by: Kelly at August 26, 2009 2:16 PM

Oh, and Magrooder, our President isn't writing any of those bills himself. He's outsourced them to Congress. We don't like his ideas, but that doesn't mean we've seen him put any leg work behind them. He has "people" for that.

Posted by: Kelly at August 26, 2009 2:18 PM

In a way, Chappaquiddick turned Teddy from a showhorse into a workhorse, even though I agree the results were a major negative for the country (let alone of course for Mary Jo).

Teddy was pretty much the 'placeholder' brother while John and Bobby were alive, and then for the one-year period between Bobby's murder and Chappaquiddick, Teddy was really the Barack Obama of his day -- his and the family's personal suffering gave him the same "can do no wrong" aura with the media that Obama has owned for the past 20 or so months. With Bobby moving to the left in the wake of the unpopularity of Vietnam and his challenge to LBJ, Teddy was already anointed as the heir apparent to the White House in 1972, and the far left groups all rallied around him while pushing their causes onto him, in the same way all the left's special interests tied their wagons to Obama.

Kopechne's death scuttled those plans, and while the "can do no wrong" aura was enough to keep Kennedy both in the Senate and out of jail, it for all intents ended his viability to be president among all but the true believers, and forced Teddy to not just be a vessel for the left's pet projects, but to create an agenda of his own in order to make his legacy more than someone who was caught cheating at Harvard, survived a plane crash and drowned his brother's campaign worker. He never shook the party-boy image, but he worked to be remembered as the liberal's Lion of the Senate, if for no other reason than to have an alternative to June 1969 to be remembered by.

Posted by: John at August 26, 2009 2:32 PM

I have admired Ted Kennedy's good works. Even his most ardent admirers acknowledge that he was a flawed man - as he himself acknowledged many times. It is the double standard that frustrates me the most when it comes to reportage of Democrats and Republicans. That said, I must today put aside rancor and try to remember the positive and good works that Ted Kennedy accomplished. His constituents returned him to the Senate every six years and he worked hard. As a Republican who many times railed against Kennedy on policy issues and his divisive legacy as to the Supreme Court confirmation process, I do want to extend my condolences to his family and loved ones and concentrate on the future.

Posted by: Bill at August 26, 2009 2:50 PM

Ted Kennedy's body will rest in peace in a grave. His soul? Only God is his judge. Only God knows his heart. Jesus said "No one can come to the Father, except by Me". He added to that, "No one can come to Me unless the Holy Spirit draws him". The Holy Spirit draws everyone as God is not willing that any should perish. But few pay attention to the "drawing". Only God knows if Ted listened, finally, in his last days.

The fact he lasted so long in the Senate is a tribute to the Democrat Machine in operation. Not to Ted's competence. The people voted him in many times when the rest of the country wondered why. As has been pointed out, his accomplishments were generally for the worse. He contributed hugely to the bloating of the government bureaucracy. Decisions have consequences. The people of Massachusetts will have to carry that burden for the rest of the country. The Democrat Machine works well, for Democrats. In cities where it is in control, there is the required poverty and corruption. Very few exceptions. Sad legacy for Ted and the Democrat party. Sad days for USA. And more sad days for his family. They deserve our prayers for strength...and the wisdom to change the course of the family legacy for the better.

Posted by: Northerner at August 26, 2009 3:20 PM

I frankly have little respect for Ted as a politician. But his passing is a sad event for his family and they deserve our prayers.

One thing about Ted: I've always felt very bad for him as a person because of the unbelievable (truly, it would not be believed it if were fiction) number of sorrows he has experienced as a member of the Kennedy family. How many unexpected, bizarre, or tragic deaths have visited that family? It's unfathomable.

Posted by: per14 at August 26, 2009 3:36 PM

I agree about TK,no one family should have to endure the heartache that the Kennedys have. That being said, he was still reprehensible, albeit hardworking, in the end.

Posted by: Jay at August 26, 2009 4:15 PM

"the wing nuts have their knickers in a knot,seeing nazis...?"

Magrooder at August 26, 2009 1:34 PM

That was Nancy Pelosi and the LaRouchians seeing Nazis. Or haven't you been paying attention?

Posted by: Dr. Robotnik at August 26, 2009 4:53 PM

Soooooooooo close, but no cigar.
People are seeing Obama as the guy who is in bed with the bankers who were trashing the world economy for a quick buck. They see that he doesn't believe in the rule of law and doesn't want to pursue the criminals who tortured, spied on American citizens without a warrant, and lied the country into a war of choice. They see that he's about to embark on a massive giveaway to insurance companies.
The racists have always been against Obama (because they only see his half-black, not half-white side). NO Republicans would support Obama, no matter how much they support his actions I laid out in the last paragraph.
And please, don't be confused. Not all Republicans are racist, but all racists are Republicans. It's not innate, it's just that the Republican party has been courting them for years.

Posted by: Berto at August 26, 2009 9:30 PM

"all racists are Republicans"

Now, who's being naive, Kay?

Posted by: Crank at August 26, 2009 9:55 PM

I didn't know Reverend Wright and his most well known parishioner were Republicans.

Posted by: dch at August 26, 2009 10:29 PM

Personally, Kennedy seemed to have finally made some peace in the last 15-18 years of his life, and sought to attone for his numerous failures. Whether he succeeded is between him and God. Some things are hard to fix.

As a legislator, he certainly did have great gifts for acheiving what he sought to do, and seems to have pursued the things he genuinely believed in more than most. Whether the results were a good thing depend on where you stand philosophically.

His death marks the end of the Shakespearean period in the history of the Kennedy family - the dissipation of his father's push to go all the way at all costs. What remains are umpteen Kennedys in various aspects of public life, but without the urgent need to get to the top. Which is probably a good thing. Like the Adamses, the Roosevelts, and, hopefully, the Bushes, we should see them gradually receed over time.

Posted by: Jerry at August 26, 2009 10:38 PM

I just hope he's not cremated, there could be issues with that.

You were far too kind Crank, Ted should have been shot for treason years ago when he made all those trips to Russia to undermine the Reagan presidency.

Posted by: Strange__Guy at August 26, 2009 11:11 PM


Your loyal followers are slime. They are worth only five letters.

Posted by: Magrooder at August 26, 2009 11:15 PM

How Tolerant!

Posted by: dch at August 26, 2009 11:47 PM

Crank and dch concede the point that Republicans court racists.
Welcome to the reality-based community boys. We've been waiting for you.

Posted by: Berto at August 27, 2009 11:43 AM

A charge of racism - the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at August 27, 2009 12:49 PM

Way to turn Ted's death into just another criticism of Obama, kicking dirt on Ted's grave in the process. Bunch of holier than thou bullshit. When Teddy was fighting to get black people the vote, let alone home from a stupid war with health care provided, your heros Crank like Buckley were insisting that whites had the right to deny blacks the franchise. He was imperfect, but we all are, and endured no small measure of family tragedy that would have sent a lesser man to the funny farm wallowing in his own sorrow. Instead he became the most accomplished legislator of his time.

Frankly you cant hold his jock. And I've got a suspicion that upon your death the likes of Kennedy and Obama wouldn't condescend to take the occasion to attack your character from a blog on the net.

Posted by: robert at August 27, 2009 1:06 PM

Mikey NTH,
Correction: The cry of "patriotism" is the last refuge of the scoundrel.
Racism, or at least the courting of racists, gets votes.

Posted by: Berto at August 27, 2009 1:17 PM

How the heck did this turn into a discussion of racism?

No Republicans would support Obama? What about all those who voted for him and endorsed him last year?

Anyway, back to TK. I flabbergasted that it's now never okay to talk about a politician's foibles or policy disagreement after he or she passes. That's not kicking on one's grave. That's a reasoned assessment of someone who chose to put himself in the public eye for 50 years. When Nixon died, was it wrong to bring up Watergate? When Reagen died, did liberals not go into how he supposedly ruined America with his policies?

In case you missed it, Crank complimented the way TK built his career and contrasted it (quite fairly) with how Obama did. What's wrong with that?

Posted by: per14 at August 27, 2009 1:55 PM

"Now, who's being naive, Kay?"
Republican voters who aren't corporate executives or the super-rich.
C'mon Crank, you need to make these quizzes more difficult.

Your mention of Nixon reminded me of this. If Nixon had died in a prison cell, Dick Cheney never would have had any power in American politics. Is it too early to kick Ford's dead body for the way he screwed the nation?

Posted by: Berto at August 27, 2009 2:09 PM

robert, it's not kicking dirt on TK's grave. As per14 pointed out, it's a reasoned assessment of a public servant's record in office. What did TK do for the country, did it advance or hurt the cause of America? He lead the attack on Robert Bork and destroyed the man's life and credibility and career for no reason other that politics/political philosophy. The Democrats tried to do the same with Justice Clarence Thomas' life. And that's not racism? Give us a break, robert. Looking at a historical record of someone's actions is simply seeking the truth. As is often said, history is simply what happened, the good with the bad and the ugly and the horrific. TK ran the gamut of both extremes. I think many would agree, as a whole, TK did more harm than good. We have him and his party to thank for our societal degeneration and the horrific bloat of our bureaucracy. God help US. We won't. At least at this point, we don't yet have the balls. And yes, there are many ball-less Republicans that must share the blame, too. Lady Repubs included.

Posted by: Northerner at August 27, 2009 2:18 PM

Good article.
And it's not true the author spent the article pooping on him. He was actually quite generous with his praise.
Any diarrhea landing on Ted, Ted leaked all over himself earlier in his life.

But that lib would still kneel to suck off even a third-generation pill popping Kennedy if he promised to keep his weed check arriving regularly.

Posted by: ModelyDo at August 27, 2009 4:04 PM

Oh, and BTW, all through GWB's admin AND AFTER, the lib left has done nothing but attack his character and policies and record. Some true, MOST...LIES. And they did so with some of the most obscene language. It's their way. And they have the balls to accuse us of attacking TK. Pot. Kettle. Black...

Posted by: Northerner at August 27, 2009 5:15 PM

This is a very boring thread but here is how Robert Bork's life was "ruined" post Supreme Court nomination rejection:

Following his failure to be confirmed, Bork resigned his seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and was for several years a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank. Bork also consulted for Netscape in the Microsoft litigation. Bork is currently a fellow at the Hudson Institute. He served as a visiting professor at the University of Richmond School of Law and is a professor at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, FL."

Brutal. How did he survive? Eating rats' heads and old string?

Posted by: jim at August 27, 2009 6:03 PM

In the Conservative world, rat's heads and old string are too good for the poor.

Posted by: Berto at August 28, 2009 1:16 PM

Which is why GOPers and conservatives consistently give more money to charities than Democrats and liberals.

Posted by: per14 at August 28, 2009 2:01 PM

I'm curious who the new High King of the Noldor is. I guess it's Joe Kennedy, but as in Tolkien, there's a sense that each time the mantle passes, things diminish.

Posted by: Jerry at August 28, 2009 9:45 PM

Couldn't find anything like that online. Can you cite a link?
OTOH, I did find this:

"According to the group's research, the poorest Americans give above their capacity, donating more in comparison than the most well off upper fifth of society. Not only does this group of low-income Americans give more of their income to charity, but double the percentage of income that the richest individuals in the study do."

I wonder if that means Conservatives are the "poor" and Liberals are the "rich". If true, how ironic that Conservatives always want to carry water for 'Liberals".

The alternate theory being that per14 is just full of shit.

Posted by: Berto at August 28, 2009 11:09 PM

I'll try this again, since my first reply to per14 got swallowed up somewhere.
Can you provide a link to that claim? I looked online and couldn't find it.
OTOH, I found this:

"According to the group's research, the poorest Americans give above their capacity, donating more in comparison than the most well off upper fifth of society. Not only does this group of low-income Americans give more of their income to charity, but double the percentage of income that the richest individuals in the study do."

Now it may be that Conservatives are poorer than Liberals, but that's ironic because Conservatives are much more apt than Liberals to judge a person's success by how much money they have.
Moreover, how does this jibe with the Conservative belief that the rich are more deserving because they are harder workers and the poor (somehow) deserve their fate? Am I to believe that Liberals are naturally harder workers than Conservatives?
That seems to belie almost everything I've heard from Conservatives since the Reagan Presidency.

Posted by: Berto at August 30, 2009 11:50 AM

Jerry, that was certainly true in the case if the Bushes and god help us if Liz Cheney tries to carry on the family tradition of being above the law.

Posted by: Magrooder at August 31, 2009 11:27 PM
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