Ed Driscoll

Teddy's America

As Orrin Judd writes, his brother made it to the oval office, “but his own legislative legacy means that to some considerable extent we live in Ted Kennedy’s America”:

Of course, his isolationism meant that the South Vietnamese live in Ted Kennedy’s Vietnam and had he had his way, Eastern Europe would still be to some extent Ted Kennedy’s Iron Curtain and Iraq would be Ted Kennedy’s Ba’athist regime, etc. Among the tragedies of his life is that where the older brothers became heroes fighting the Axis powers, he was only too willing to countenance equally vile evils. And even setting aside the personal damage he did to people, he can never be forgiven his betrayal of his own religion to embrace abortion. For all the talk of how much he cared for the weakest members of society, the fact is he helped kill tens of millions of the most vulnerable.

The great irony of hios career was that he was at his very best when he helped to prevent government from limiting people–immigration reform, civil rights, deregulation–largely mistaken when he either helped or turned a blind eye to government interference in people’s lives–all of the various mandates and regulations he helped pass–and a fellow traveler with evil when he collaborated with regimes that oppressed and killed people, from the legal regime of Roe to the foreign regimes of North Vietnam, Iraq, etc. His inconsistency on these questions made him a lesser man than a Ronald Reagan or a George W. Bush who applied their humanitarianism universally and illustrates the essential incoherence of modern liberalism, of which he was the last icon.

Certainly, as Jonah Goldberg noted a couple of years ago, it’s definitely Ted Kennedy’s Washington:

If you think American politics have gotten nastier, crueler, and more symbolic over the last 20 years, blame Ted Kennedy.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the borking of Judge Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan’s failed Supreme Court nominee. And it was Ted Kennedy’s bilious bugle blast that brought the man down. Almost immediately after Reagan nominated Bork, Kennedy pulled himself off his barstool and proclaimed: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of the government …”

Kennedy’s assault rallied left-wing interest groups to the anti-Bork banner for an unprecedented assault on a man the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger dubbed the most qualified nominee he’d seen in his professional lifetime. As Gary McDowell noted recently in the Wall Street Journal, that time span included the careers of Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, and Felix Frankfurter.

Then-Judiciary Committee chairman Joseph Biden, Kennedy’s lieutenant in the assault, told the Philadelphia Inquirer not long before Bork was nominated: “Say the administration sends up Bork. I’d have to vote for him, and if the (liberal interest) groups tear me apart, that’s the medicine I’ll have to take.” But when it came time to take his medicine, he ran away like a Kennedy fleeing a car accident. The fact that Biden was about to run for president — for the first time — probably helped him rationalize his flight from honor.

By today’s standards, the slimy insinuations that Bork was a racist seem almost quaint. The investigations of his private life — Senate staffers pored over his video rental records in hope of finding something prurient — pale to the deepwater dredging of private lives today.

But that’s how precedents work. Small violations of principle tear the social fabric and the breach is pulled ever wider as more people march through the opening.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, late last night, Andrew Breitbart noted that however much purple prose it’s dressed up with, the legacy media operate on a binary template: Bush=Evil, Teddy=Saint. Chris Matthews, not surprisingly, illustrates one of the most extreme examples of this template in action:

Participating in a panel discussion on Morning Joe today, Matthews asserted that there was a hateful environment in the Dallas of 1963 in which President Kennedy was assassinated that is “like the mood we’re in now.”

Matthews made his remark in the course of painting a picture of the Kennedys as a family of risk-takers.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You know there’s going to be a lot of talk about the tragic blessings of the Kennedy family, and the curse.  And it’s all nonsense.  These people were courageous risk takers.  Kathleen Kennedy, the girl, the oldest daughter, she was killed with her lover traveling on a plane ride she never should have taken through terrible weather in Europe.  Joe Kennedy, Jr. took a mission that nobody should have taken in a plane loaded with dynamite to go blow up the V-1 rocket sites.  Jack Kennedy was killed in an open car in Dallas in the midst of the most hated–it’s like the mood we’re in right now.

Need Matthews be reminded that JFK was killed not by a hate-filled right-winger, but by a Communist who had spent time in the Soviet Union?  But any occasion is apparently good for Matthews to smear conservative opponents of Pres. Obama.

But then, JFK’s Cold War death did much to create the cognitive dissonance that eventually ended mid-century liberalism and replaced it with a much more punitive strain, one that drove many of Teddy’s decisions while Senator.

Update: Brent Baker of Newsbusters opens up the legacy media’s memory hole and finds it stuffed to the gills with historical hagiography.