Watching the non-stop coverage of the many events that unfolded in Boston and Washington commemorating the life of Ted Kennedy, I had a weird thought. It happened as the military detail at Arlington National Cemetery issued forth with a gun salute as this deeply flawed man was laid to rest.
On the day of the senator’s death I was invited onto Sky News to discuss the Kennedy legacy; behind me in the massive studio was a huge tableau of images of the family at various periods in its turbulent history. I was torn between condemning him for his lapses in moral conduct and praising him for being an indomitable champion of the downtrodden. The anchorman, Dermot Murnaghan, led me down both roads and I was glad the good and bad were included in the discourse. As Antony says at the end of Julius Caesar, “the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”
This leads me back to the aforesaid weird thought: July 9 marked the seventy-seventh birthday of Donald Rumsfeld. As I watched the presidential-level ceremonies accorded Ted Kennedy I thought of what an unremarkable funeral the former defense secretary will have, after having ended his career “in disgrace,” according to the liberal media and ex-neoconservative community.
Both Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, throughout their service under a succession of Republican administrations, and despite accusations of being the “agents of oil, the military establishment, and pharmaceutical companies,” stayed with the same wives and appeared to be churchgoing family men. I am afraid I am not well-connected enough to know if they were actually womanizing wild boys (there were those noises from the vice presidential bunker at the Naval Observatory) but the one virtue that did seem to stand out was their patriotism.
Those who have read my editorials know about my staunch support for universal health care. I did admire Kennedy’s tireless campaigning for a health care program and was moved by his observation at a National Press Club appearance that he had just met the uninsured grandchildren of Massachusetts constituents he had encountered decades before and who were also without coverage. But the dedication to protecting the American people from the ultimate killer, world terrorism, was and is the rallying cry that makes Rumsfeld and Cheney the men who deserve twenty-one-gun salutes.