Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edward Moore Kennedy: 1932-2009

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), passed away last night at the age of 77,
of complications from the brain tumor he had been suffering with for almost a year.

The roar of The Great Liberal Lion of the Senate has been stilled.

For almost 48 years, this Great Voice of Liberalism didn't just "shape"
the Liberal and Progressive perspectives on the issues;
he almost singlehandedly created them.

Had it not been for Teddy, there almost certainly would not have been
a liberal voice on many of the great Issues of our time - from Civil Rights,
The Voting Rights Act, and Medicare in the 60's to Health Care, Iraq,
Climate Change, and the economic crisis today.

For Liberals and Progressives, his policies and politics were the
unbending benchmark by which they measured their own commitment
to liberal causes.

For Conservatives, Teddy Kennedy was the in-your-face liberal boogeyman
they loved to hate for over forty years.

And more than anything else, Teddy relished political combat. As an
unabashed and unashamed Man Of The Left, he was quick to distance
himself from the cautious, calculating, poll-driven centrism of lesser
Democrats such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

To Teddy, The Democratic Party represented a choice - not an echo.

But that is not to say he didn't know the Art of Compromise. When he
needed to reach across the aisle to win on an issue he cared about, he found
that even Republican Presidents could be receptive. Even Ronald Reagan,
whose politics could not have been more opposite, found him
an effective legislator and liked and respected him personally.

And that's because whether you agreed with him or not, you always knew
where he stood. Unlike many of his more calculating, finger-in-the-wind
colleagues, he could not be bought or backed down. That made him effective
and dependable in "carrying the water" and delivering on the issues he cared
about most deeply.

And that lesson should not be lost on the White House.
Had he been
healthier, there is little doubt that the Health Care debate now causing
President Obama so many difficulties might be turning out differently.

Only a healthy Teddy could have rallied the Democratic base to support
Health Care reform. A healthy Teddy would have countered and silenced
the "crazies " at the Town Hall meetings and right-wing TV and radio.
A healthy Teddy would be putting immense and effective pressure on the
Blue Dogs to get with the Democratic program.

And a healthy Teddy might well be chairing hearings on Wall Street's
predatory kleptocracy that led us into our current economic mess.

Politically, there isn't much that The Thinking Nationalist and Teddy Kennedy
might agree on, with the exception that it is far better to be a man of principle
than a man of expedience.

And as reckless and dissolute as he may have sometimes been in
his personal life, he was equally consistent and honorable in his
political beliefs.

As Barry Goldwater was the Conscience of Conservatism, so
was Teddy Kennedy the Conscience of Liberalism.

And in today's money and opinion-poll driven political world, we
may never see his like again.

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