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After The Wake, A Constituent Reflects On The Real "Kennedy Curse".
Senator Ted Kennedy has received endless glowing obituary tributes. This constituent, however, would like to point out a more appropriate, and terrible, tribute to Senator Kennedy that occurred recently in Brookline, the charming city next to Boston where Joe and Rose Kennedy first settled and started a family.
On August 18th, just a week before Kennedy died, a young woman exited a taxi just a short stroll from the former Kennedy home. As she walked along, two men crept up from behind and struck her on the back of the head. They grabbed her by the throat, choked her, then dragged her to a waiting pickup truck. Next, they tossed her into the truck and drove to a secluded parking lot.
Once there, the men took turns raping her, then kicked her to the curb, and drove away.
These two thugs were illegal aliens from Mexico and Guatemala. [2d suspect held in Brookline rape case, By John M. Guilfoil, Boston Globe, August 23, 2009]
Luckily, the police could make a quick arrest because they had recently cited the men for a traffic violation. However, because of the local sanctuary policies that Kennedy had long championed, the police had been unable to inquire into their immigration status.
This devastated young woman is another one of Ted Kennedy's victims. And there have been thousands like her across the country.
When I was a little boy my family rented a large cottage on Squaw Island in Hyannisport, Massachusetts. It is an unassumingly beautiful place connected to the rest of town by a half-mile of charming coastal road that ends right at the entrance to the Kennedy compound.
John F. Kennedy used to stay on Squaw Island when he was President because it was semi-isolated and the Secret Service considered the Kennedy compound a security risk. (One of the myths about the Kennedys is that they actually live in a "compound". In fact, they live on a public street—Marchant Avenue—and other families live there besides them. Sure, a detail cop is often posted at the street's entrance, but you can walk right by him and he will do nothing to stop you).
After Kennedy's assassination, the house passed on to his brother Ted.
I don't ever remember seeing Ted that summer. But I do remember seeing his mother, Rose Kennedy. She took long walks along the beachy drive that leads to Squaw Island, and always wore sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. Mrs. Kennedy was gracious, and always smiled and greeted us whenever she passed by.
My grandmother, an Irish immigrant, naturally thought it was a grand honor for us to be living near the Kennedys. All of her grandchildren dutifully agreed.
That summer was my introduction to the Kennedy mystique.
It is strange the hold the Kennedys have held over Massachusetts for so many years—especially because their roots in the region are not as strong as many suppose. Aside from Joe Sr. and Rose, they are certainly not Bostonians. The Kennedys are actually more like rootless internationalists—post-American "citizens of the world" who don't particularly identify with the country, or any region within it. After Bobby was born, Rose and Joe Kennedy divided their time between homes in Westchester, New York; Palm Beach, Florida; and even Great Britain. The house in Hyannisport was just a summer home.
The media helps to perpetuate these and other myths about the Kennedys because they primarily view them not as leaders, but as celebrities—a status the family has always embraced.
You might say that for the Kennedys, politics has always been a means of obtaining celebrity status. Joe Sr., who had been a very successful Hollywood film producer, worked very hard to get himself and his children regular coverage on television and in the newspapers—and often paid good money for it.
The family's celebrity status also helped to perpetuate what is now the most famous Kennedy myth: the "Kennedy Curse."
It is, of course, impossible not to sympathize with a family that suffers two very public assassinations inside of five years. But in most cases, a Kennedy "tragedy" is simply an act of selfishness and irresponsibility that the family was unable to cover up.
For example, when Ted accidentally drove his car off Dyke Bridge on Chappaquiddick Island and drowned Mary Jo Kopechne inside of it—that was a Kennedy "tragedy" only because it could not be concealed. But when President Jack Kennedy had an affair with the girlfriend of Mobster Sam Giancana, it was not a tragedy—because Jack got away with it.
Still, the advantage of the "Kennedy Curse" is that it makes the Kennedys seem like victims, even when they themselves are entirely to blame.
Certainly the best example of invoking the Kennedy Curse as a form of damage control was Ted Kennedy's televised mea culpa after Chappaquiddick, in which he portrayed the accident as another family tragedy, this time with himself as the victim, invoked his dead brothers and wondered aloud if "some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys". [The Mysteries of Chappaquiddick, Time Magazine, August 1, 1969]
Miraculously, the speech worked. Western Union delivered more than 10,000 telegrams to the Kennedy compound and they were 100 to 1 in favor of Kennedy staying in office. In the next election, Kennedy defeated his opponent by over 500,000 votes.
Much of that was Irish ethnic loyalty. But it would soon come back to haunt Boston's Irish.
In June, 1974, Judge Arthur Garrity ordered the Boston Public Schools to desegregate and imposed a forced busing plan on the city. The plan was unworkable, extremely expensive, and deliberately designed to punish the working-class Irish. Worse, Garrity gave the city of Boston only eleven weeks to prepare for one of the most disastrous social experiments of the 20th Century.
The fact the media never mentions about forced busing: Judge Garrity was a Kennedy man. Garrity managed JFK's 1960 White House campaign in Wisconsin and was rewarded by being made a federal prosecutor. In 1965, Senator Ted Kennedy recommended Garrity to President Lyndon Johnson for a seat on the federal court.
One phone call from Kennedy could have forced Garrity to nix the integration plan and could have given the city more time to work out a reasonable school assignment policy.
Instead, Kennedy did nothing. He refused to even meet with his anti-busing constituents. After all, Ted, like virtually every supporter of forced busing, didn't live in Boston. So he never had to place his own children on a bus.
Significantly, many state Republicans also supported forced busing, including Senator Ed Brooke, the first African American elected to the Senate since Reconstruction (and the last, 1967-1979, Republican Senator from Massachusetts). The GOP was strictly the party of the suburbs. It blew its chance to make inroads with white urban voters in Boston and beyond.
Nevertheless, the extreme unpopularity of forced busing helped to create the Reagan Democrats of the next decade. Reagan won famously liberal Massachusetts twice, and was not afraid to campaign in Boston's most clannish neighborhoods. Today, a large mural of Reagan still hangs on the wall at Boston's Eire Pub, the most historic Irish pub in the city.
Kennedy's handling of forced busing should have exposed him as a man who, despite recent claims to the contrary, always put politics ahead of people. Perhaps the most heartrending example of this occurred when Ted's wife Joan was forced to attend Mary Jo Kopechne's funeral in Pennsylvania. The public humiliation of attending the funeral of the woman with whom her husband probably committed adultery, and doing so under intense press scrutiny, may have contributed to her fourth miscarriage soon after the funeral. Joan later said of the experience: "I felt like it was choosing politics over our baby".
In the years after Chappaquiddick, Ted lived in an alcohol-abetted haze and hugged himself to the left wing of his party, most likely because they would never force him to reconcile his private life with his public life. Once an avowed pro-lifer, Ted became radically pro-feminist and pro-abortion. He embraced racial preferences, labor unions and every other left-wing cause imaginable.
In 1980, Roger Mudd of CBS News interviewed Senator Kennedy at his home on Squaw Island on challenge to President Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination. Mudd's first question was: "Why do you want to be president?" Ted stared off into space, and then began to ramble incoherently.[Video] He was clearly a lost man who would soon go on to lose the nomination.
During the next decade Kennedy would continue to act like a lost man, often speaking incoherent gibberish during committee hearings and public appearances.
By the mid 1990s, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was suffering from a growing case of Kennedy fatigue. In 1992, Kennedy's nephew, William Kennedy Smith, was tried for raping (on Good Friday, no less) a woman he brought back to the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach after a night carousing with the Senator. The following year, Congressman Joe Kennedy dumped his wife to marry a member of his staff—and also arranged for an annulment without telling his former wife.
In 1994, Mitt Romney decided to capitalize on the family's fading stature and ran for the Senate against Ted Kennedy. And for a long time the race was tight.
Immigration was never a topic during the 1994 campaign—probably because Romney supported it, as he did at the start of his 2008 presidential campaign. But mostly because immigration was not a noticeable problem in Massachusetts then the way it is now.
There is a bizarre irony concerning immigration's effect on Ted Kennedy's political viability.
Until very recently, Bostonians associated Kennedy only with Irish immigration. And people have been very thankful to have this steady flow of Irish into the Boston area because it keeps the city white.
Personally, I cannot count how many times I have heard Ted Kennedy given credit for keeping Boston white.
For Ted's part, he played the "Curse card" again and again. "The Kennedys are not in public office to make money", he thundered in response to a debate question about the family's use of tax shelters. "We have paid too high a cost."
He gave nearly the exact same reply to a question about gun control.
If only Romney had pointed out the obvious: that the so-called "Kennedy Curse" is really a smokescreen to conceal the family's habitually selfish behavior.
As Seymour Hirsch revealed in The Dark Side of Camelot, John F. Kennedy was not a sagacious statesman, but a disturbed sex addict who risked national security in order to satisfy his limitless libido.
Stop for a moment and consider the extraordinary selfishness of a president who solicited prostitutes while in the White House, and carried on an affair with Marilyn Monroe. Could any president have been more liable to blackmail?
As a young senator, Ted would often frolic naked in the White House pool with Jack and the many prostitutes that the Secret Service brought in for them. It was therefore perfectly in character for him to get in the car with Mary Jo Kopechne that summer night in 1969—and it certainly wasn't the fault of some "curse".
If Ted Kennedy is remembered for anything, it should surely be for the 1965 Immigration Act he pushed through Congress. That is the only genuine "Kennedy Curse"—the surreptitious transformation of the American nation into something so vastly different from the one the Kennedys were born into, a nation as broken and confused as the Senator Edward Kennedy himself.
Matthew Richer (email him) is a writer living in Massachusetts. He is the former American Editor of Right NOW magazine.