Ted Kennedy has been my senator for 25 years. With a few minor quibbles here and there, his politics are my politics.
I've never voted for him.
I've never voted against
him, not that it would have mattered. There was no way he was ever going to lose. But I've never voted for him, either. Why?
Simple: Mary Jo Kopechne.
And then, on top of that, when he had nearly redeemed himself in my eyes, there was that sordid business with his nephew. I don't know if his nephew was a rapist or not, but I do know what it is to be the uncle of kids in their twenties, and I know that you don't go out and get them drunk in a nightclub. I don't care if you're a senator or the pope. You don't do it.
Ted Kennedy is a Shakespearean figure. He's a sinner, a man with weaknesses that have always been extreme and quite public. But he is also eloquent and passsionate and dedicated to justice and equality and service to the nation.
A lesser man would have quit the senate long ago and moved on to a comfortable retirement. A lesser man never would have served in the senate in the first place. Kennedy serves because he loves our nation.
And never has he done the nation a greater service than he did today.
I met the man only once, about fifteen years ago. At that time I had one office in Silicon Valley and one in Massachusetts and I used to fly back and forth across the country all the time.
One day I was going into Terminal C in Logan. I heard this booming voice behind me calling hello to all the "skycaps," the porters who helped with luggage. I did not recognize the voice at first. I turned to see Kennedy coming up rapidly behind me. He was moving fast but still managing to shake hands with all the porters (who were all black, incidentally). He knew their names and the names of their family members. He was joshing and it was clear he was on familiar terms with all of them.
As he passed me I stuck out my hand. I said, "Hello, Senator," and I told him my name. He said, "Hello howya doin," but he was already looking past me and racing for a flight.
I live on Martha's Vineyard; Chappaquidick is part of Martha's Vineyard. The Dyke Bridge was replaced years ago. Fewer and fewer tourists seem to come here to see the spot where Ted Kennedy had his biggest moral failure.
In any event, I think he's paid enough.
I forgive him.