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Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, R.I.P.

August 26, 2009

Did I just say it’s been a slow news week? Scratch that. The “Liberal Lion” of the Senate will roar no more.

Whatever you thought of Ted Kennedy — from his tumultuous personal life to his vocal and predictably liberal leadership in the Senate for the past forty-odd years — you have to admit he was a force to be reckoned with. Even a force of nature.

His life made for fascinating and inspiring public theater, especially for those of us old enough to remember his bumbling beginnings. It was a privilege to watch Kennedy grow and evolve in stature from the callow, accident-prone heir-apparent whose presidential hopes drowned at Chappaquiddick… to a seasoned, impassioned, supremely effective and courageous old warrior.

Kennedy was a partisan Democrat to the end, of course — but he was an honorable and open-minded partisan. In fact, when his Republican peers were asked to name the most cooperative Democrat in the Senate, their top pick was Kennedy.

Who among us — friends, opponents or curious onlookers — can ever forget his surprise appearance at the 2008 Democratic Convention? Already battling the brain tumor that eventually killed him, he took the podium and poured every last ounce of his strength and passion into that speech. It was an act of breathtaking guts and devotion to duty.

I didn’t always agree with Kennedy, of course, but I admired his hearty eloquence, his conviction, his good-humored lust for combat, and his almost matchless record of service.  He was the last of his generation of idolized and star-crossed Kennedy men. He won’t be forgotten.

I only wish he had lived to see Congress pass SOME form of healthcare reform. When it does pass (assuming the day ever arrives), I hope and trust that the program will be named for him. The old lion deserves that much.

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