Apart from the many eulogies, the understated value of a liberal lion, and the draining intensity of a national funeral (the magnitude of which could be engendered by no other Senator), it was a tough week to be a liberal. I have had tears in my eyes repeatedly over the last several days as I watched the highs and lows of Kennedy’s life and, in the process, reviewed the course of my own adult life, which was intertwined with that of Teddy Kennedy and his liberal causes. I was continually reminded, as no doubt many of you were, of my own mortality. In many ways, Ted Kennedy was thrust onto the national stage before he finished his boyscout career and before he got all of his merit badges. Neither Jack nor Robert got to finish their manual for Teddy’s career, so he had to write his own as he went along. He had to do it by himself as he grew up in public and helped the nation to grow. Teddy’s education was as much an education of the nation as it was for Teddy himself. What America grasped is that good people, especially those whose lives are entirely spent in the public sphere, cannot be perfect instruments serving the public good. Indeed, the better they are and the more open they are happens to be the means by which we see the glow of their imperfections. Maybe that was the best lesson that Kennedy could teach us.
I was unprepared for the sheer magnitude of the national mourning that we saw on television; streets were lined by onlookers in tears, many with signs of well-wishing and thousands were waiting in line to view him lying in state. It seemed to be agreeably and almost automatically accepted by television news and the space filling demands of our newspapers that, with Kennedy gone, it was the passing of an era, embodied in the death of a special political figure, the likes of which we will never see again, in part because the country hasn’t earned quality leadership. The fact that GW Bush got elected proves the character flaw in our national politics.Print This Post