Watchdog Blog

Myra MacPherson: The Kennedy Haters

Posted at 3:37 pm, August 28th, 2009
Myra MacPherson Mug

As I was the lone passenger on an airport shuttle bus from Santa Fe to Albuquerque the day after Senator Edward Kennedy died, the loquacious bus driver naturally started talking to me. He had been listening to talk radio and the host was having trouble finding anyone to say a good word about Kennedy. When I told him that I had covered and observed Kennedy as a reporter the driver asked if I would say something. In seconds he was dialing into the show and suddenly I was on hold, waiting my turn to say something to a southwest audience billed as huge by the driver. I mentioned the by now familiar view of the national media, shared by me, that Kennedy’s second act in life had been one of outstanding service as a premier legislator who could deal brilliantly with both sides of the aisle and tirelessly worked for the disadvantaged, championing a better minimum wage, affordable health care for all, and so on and so forth.

Such thoughts were drowned in vitriol as the majority opinion was voiced by subsequent callers; Kennedy was a socialist and probably a communist and it was a good thing he was not around to push health care reform, all voiced with the intelligence characterized in the now famous remark of one of the shouters at recent town hall meetings on health care: “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!”

As always, Chappaquiddick was the lightning rod but I think the Kennedy haters would have always found something else on which to pin their venom. I remember the 1980 New Hampshire primary and a meeting of the NRA which was considered a mandatory genuflection by all candidates. Except Teddy, the only absentee. He had voiced his push for gun control and had been warned about threats to his life. Homemade signs were waved that said “Ted Kennedy for life guard.” All candidates tried to outdo each other in their macho gun prowess. Jimmy Carter talked of the fun of shooting at tin cans on a fence with his bb gun as a boy. I can’t remember what Bush the First said. Then Reagan strode to the podium, surveyed the crowd and brought them cheering to their feet. “Greetings fellow members.” He added, although it was unnecessary, that he was the only candidate who could say that. Reagan was then and always the closest thing to John Wayne for the NRA. And Kennedy was not.

In 1962, when the 30-year-old Ted Kennedy came to Congress he addressed one of those media/government banquets that over the years have become rather ridiculous exercises in media wimpy-ness. Other newly elected members spoke before him, including a long forgotten one-term woman who showed just how bush league she was (a definite no-no to the “sophisticated” Washington reporters) by reciting her home-made poem about coming to Washington. Everyone was waiting for Teddy, the younger; his Senate seat had been kept warm by a Kennedy family friend until he was old enough to join his two older brothers. Well, he said, “Now that we are all here…” It was the Kennedy touch; humor mixed with a sense of cocky entitlement, that went over so well in those days.

His first act was spotty, as we all know. Then, after so many sorrows and death he lived long enough for that truly remarkable second act.

Try telling that to the radio talk show haters.

One Response to “The Kennedy Haters”

  1. Bill Mattson says:

    Well Myra, you never did disappoint. I had begun to think just recently…you know the Tuesday thing up in Massachusetts (I can’t bring myself to say “election”)…I began to think I was the only one who even saw what you call “that truly remarkable second act.” The man was the conscience of the Republican Party and without him, it is clear it is lost and mean.

    Anyway, glad to have found you again and I will read what you say and smile.

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