Amid the overwhelming coverage surrounding the historic passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy, one important name from his past has either been reduced to a footnote or, far too often, ignored completely: Mary Jo Kopechne, the civil rights activist and Kennedy aide who perished in a now-infamous 1969 car accident in Chappaquiddick, ME when a besotted Kennedy crashed his car into the ocean. The controversy surrounding these events would follow Kennedy throughout his career.
Mary Jo wasn’t a right-wing talking point or a negative campaign slogan. She was a dedicated civil rights activist and political talent with a bright future — granted, whenever someone dies young, people sermonize about how he had a “bright future” ahead of him — but she actually did. She wasn’t afraid to defy convention (28 and unmarried, oh the horror!) or create her own career path based on her talents. She lived in Georgetown (where I grew up) and loved the Red Sox (we’ll forgive her for that). Then she got in a car driven by a 36-year-old senator with an alcohol problem and a cauldron full of demons, and wound up a controversial footnote in a dynasty.
We don’t know how much Kennedy was affected by her death, or what she’d have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history. What we don’t know, as always, could fill a Metrodome.
Liss tries to balance the deserved accolades Kennedy has received for his lifelong work serving his constituents and the US with his despicable actions on that fateful day:
I suspect that Teddy, who knew himself well and could stare his flaws in the face, who carried the shame of his misdeeds in the furrow of his brow that never totally lightened even with a smile, also felt burdened by his own abuses of the privilege he knew he hadn’t earned. It was there; he couldn’t help himself using it, even when he knew he shouldn’t have. And it hung on him, as well it should have.
He’d made a terrible bargain with himself, too.
Teddy’s legacy, then, is complicated. A man of privilege, who used it cynically for his own benefit. A man of privilege, who used it generously to try to change the world. And maybe to salve his own conscience. Even as he believed fervently in the genuine rightness of his endeavors—and certainly would have, even if there wasn’t a scale to balance.
I have no tidy conclusion. It is what it is.
Daisy is far less charitable:
Sorry my dear liberal brothers and sisters, I respectfully sit this one out. Women first.
Further, as an alcoholic, I will not mourn a rich drunk allowed to make a deadly mistake and carry on as if nothing had happened.
I will mourn the working woman who was forgotten, as the actual circumstances of her death were covered up by a powerful family, who then arbitrarily assigned her slut status.
Sorry, folks. Some things, I do not excuse.
Mary Jo represents all the nobody-women killed (or allowed to die, if you want to quibble over my terms) by all the powerful, rich men, because they were “evidence”–because they got in the way.
During this orgy of remembrance and sentimentality, of course, we won’t be hearing about her…once again, it will be considered somehow “rude” to mention Mary Jo Kopechne’s suspicious and untimely death. Well, let me be RUDE, then, and remind everyone that she existed. That she was a beautiful and lively woman, cherished by family and friends; she was a human being that was considered expendable by the Kennedy clan.
FUCK Ted Kennedy. Purgatory is hot, and he’ll be there awhile.
How this unresolved incident should affect the way we consider his legacy is, as noted by Will Bunch and myself, a difficult question that historians will likely struggle with for some time to come. Kennedy’s undeniably laudable accomplishments should not be allowed to mitigate his responsibility for and the subsequent irresponsibility and lack of accountability displayed following the death of Kopechne. That said, I’m not comfortable discounting a lifetime of tireless social justice advocacy and impactful legislating, no matter how horrible his actions were (should we solely refer to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson as racist slave owners, or Sen. Robert Byrd as a former KKK member at the expense of the overall historical record?)
Ultimately, like most truly great (though not necessarily morally upright) historical figures, an accurate summation of Sen. Kennedy’s life must take all aspects into account, even those we’d prefer to avoid; indeed, to merely indulge in hagiography does an unforgiveable disservice to both Kopechne’s memory and Kennedy’s.
Update: Welcome Feministing readers! Make sure to check out the latest thoughtful posts on Kennedy and Kopechne from Daisy and Bunch (much thanks for the linkage & kind words). [links corrected -- mea culpa, is late.]
Adam Serwer of the American Prospect has been doing yeoman’s work as of late doggedly covering US detainee issues. His recent feature on former child soldier Mohammed Jawad is truly essential reading:
The story is an old one for Jawad’s lawyers — they believe the government knows it cannot justify holding him, but it doesn’t want to let him go. More galling to Jawad’s defense counsel is the fact that the government sought to include Jawad’s confessions to Afghan authorities, obtained through torture, as evidence against his release. In July, his lawyers filed a motion to suppress the confessions, which made up about 90 percent of the evidence against him. This time, the government chose not to challenge the motion — but failed to commit to his release. Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle eviscerated the government for having little cause to continue holding him. “This guy has been there seven years — seven years,” Huvelle said. “Without his statements, I don’t understand your case. I really don’t.”
At the core of the dispute over the detention of suspects like Jawad is whether or not there are, as President Barack Obama claims, “detainees at Guantánamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people.” This is the so-called “fifth category” of detainees — exactly how many there are, the government has yet to determine. (Assistant Attorney General David Kris told Congress in July that half of the Guantánamo detainees’ cases had been reviewed, and none had yet been put into the “fifth category.”) “There will be some, who we have picked up and who are in Guantánamo ? who for a variety of reasons can’t be prosecuted,” says former CIA counsel Jeff Smith. “We have convincing intelligence information, but it is not enough to prosecute them.”
[Maj. David Frakt, one of Jawad's lawyers] isn’t buying the administration’s assertion about the necessity of preventive detention — the practice of imprisoning suspected terrorists even in cases where the government cannot prove they have committed crimes. “When you look at the minimal amount of evidence required to convict someone of something like material support for terrorism, and they don’t even have that much, how is it that we know that these people are so dangerous?” he asks. Frakt’s concerns likely have a great deal to do with the way the government has treated his client — and not only because it tried to get his coerced confession admitted as evidence.
Montalvo says government officials “believe they have a guilty guy who tried to hurt Americans.”
But after seven years of failing to justify his detention, the government agreed on July 29 to release Jawad to return home to Afghanistan — though it implied he might still be subject to criminal prosecution.
Standard read-the-whole-damn-thing rules apply.
As my CFLF coblogger Kathy kindly noted over at The Moderate Voice the other day, yours truly spent most of early Wednesday AM monitoring (and tweeting) the coverage following Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s passing. As long-promised, will post a best-of link round-up sometime soon (I know, am slacking). For now, please check out my latest @ GlobalComment, ‘Ted Kennedy and the paradox of class’:
Ted Kennedy ultimately believed his role — his responsibility — in the US Senate was to give voice to the voiceless, those who couldn’t afford to hire expensive K-Street lobby firms or embark upon expensive ad campaigns to raise public awareness. With over 300 pieces of legislation passed during his lengthy tenure in the Senate that bore his stamp in some form or fashion, it is not hyperbolic to say that Kennedy helped steer the direction of American civil society in the latter half of the 20th century. This is reflected by the broad cross-section of organizations that hailed his life and legacy upon hearing of his passing. The National Center for Transgender Equality, NARAL, the United Farm Workers and the NAACP; these disparate groups (along with countless others) all heralded the tireless social justice efforts of a man who never allowed his personal wealth to stop him from fighting to fully extend the inherent rights contained in US citizenship.
As they say, read the whole damn thing.
Upon reading his latest public statement on health reform legislation, it seems all-too-apparent that co-op-luvvin’ DINO Sen. Kent Conrad, one of 6 senators inexplicably tasked with determining the fate of US health insurance, has officially lost the plot, as publius notes:
When law students learn about murder, they learn that you generally need to kill knowingly — that is, the prosecution must show that the defendant actually intended to kill the victim.
In some cases, however, a defendant can be so utterly reckless that he is assumed to have knowledge. For instance, if I drive drunk really fast down a crowded street, I might not have knowingly tried to kill someone. But because I was so knowingly reckless — so oblivious to the obvious risks — I could still be charged.
That’s basically what Conrad is doing. If he’s not knowingly trying to kill reform, he’s acting with such an extreme recklessness that we might as well assume that he is.
Really hope someone opens up a can of primary whoop-ass on Conrad. The tiresome Lieberman 2.0 “centrist” posturing has gone too far this time. There must be consequences for blatantly pulling a hit on the public option at the apparent behest of his loyal patrons in the health insurance lobby (and, perhaps, the White House).
Some things are more important than Pollyannishly striving to achieve a hollow bipartisan consensus for its own sake (that leaden thud you heard was David Broder’s wrinkled carcass hitting a real American’s kitchen floor. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. He has great health insurance.)
Shorter Jason Arvak: Supporters of health reform have no moral authority to dismiss wild-eyed ‘death panel’ smears because the New York Times (THE NEW YORK TIMES, MAN!) has, in the past, published op-eds by utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer.
Ok, ever hear of prison hooch? Get a garbage bag, fill it with fruit and sugar, add water, seal and let fester in darkness for a few days and presto! A blindingly foul brew that will take the paint off a tractor.
Anyway, quickly down about a fifth of that and maybe, just maybe, Arvak’s logic-free contentions might then begin to make sense.
No promises, though.
Regular readers know that I rarely pay much attention to the more wing-nutty residents of the blogosphere, much less the Canuckosphere. I leave that to stout-hearted compatriots with stronger constitutions for regular bullshit consumption than yours truly. Still, occasionally something from the outer fringe will catch my attention that immediately triggers my ‘dude, WTF?!’ nerve.
In this instance, the flying monkeys are circling over Teresa Wright.
I know, at this point most of you are asking: Who’s Teresa Wright? Well, dear readers, Wright is a reporter with the Charlottetown Guardian who wrote about a recent speech given by Conservative Senator (and, formerly, CTV’s longtime top Tory sycophant) Mike Duffy.
Ok, with me so far?
Anyway, the headline to Wright’s piece:
‘Duffy’s speech hints at looming federal election.’
Pretty innocuous, right?
Well, for whatever reason, Duffy decided to break out Grandma’s pearls, clutch away, and, in an interview with talk radio blowhard/columnist Michael Harris, stir up a teapot tempest over what Duffy contends is a gross mischaracterization of the speech:
I gave a speech yesterday to the Rotary Club of Charlottetown, in which I never used the word election, and frankly, never mentioned the Prime Minister, I gave a very dry, because as you know, Rotary is a non-political body, I gave a very dry report card on the more than 200 million additional dollars this government has poured into Prince Edward Island.
I was never asked about an election. I never used the word election. I never mentioned the Prime Minister by name in my speech or by his office. And yet the headline comes out this morning, Duffy refuses to dampen speculation of an election and sings the praises of the Prime Minister in a speech laden with rhetoric.
I didn’t mention the Prime Minister. I didn’t ever use the word
election or make any reference to it because I didn’t want to hurt the neutral ears of the Rotarians, who do so much great work. And I thought, don’t drag that dirty political thing in here.
Those poor, delicate, Rotarians–why, the mere mention of anything as jejune as *gasp* politics might cause their pacemakers to short out! Kee-rist. The faux-grievance and feigned innocence is so thick that ol’ Iron Ass himself, Dick Nixon, must be enjoying an appreciative, jowly cackle from the bowels of Hell.
But wait — it gets even better:
[T]he newspaper reporter never asked me about an election or about anything else related to the Prime Minister. She had no, repeat, no questions, so, at least not of the national scene. She asked something about a local community college. But that was it. And then I wake up this morning and here they’ve got me singing the praises, great rhetoric. Well, let me tell you, as much as I like to think that every speech is a good one, they’ve obviously never heard me when I’ve gotten going as we have. And so, they put it, all this great rhetoric. I was reading a grocery list of, of projects for the island. So anyway, this whole thing is manufactured. And I was thinking so much about you today as I read the paper and the brilliant column you wrote in last week’s Sun about wafergate in New Brunswick, where the editors made it up. It had nothing to do with what the reporter said. And so, I’m saying to myself, my God, this is like the virus or something. It’s creeping across provincial borders. Now all of a sudden the Charlottetown paper can’t just report the news. They’ve got to make it up.
I saw [Wright] yesterday. And, well, in fact I was at an event this morning. And by the time it was finished and I went over, she had jumped in her car and fled. So, I didn’t get a chance. But you know, never get in a fight with people who buy ink by the, by the barrel. I mean, it’s another example. Here it is in the quiet summertime and everybody’s bound and determined to try and create something.
So, Duffy disingenuously blows the ‘Wafergate‘ dogwhistle as a means to deflect legitimate speculation generated by what anyone with any sense (even the hothouse flowers of the Charlottetown Rotary Club) could reasonably interpret as a fairly partisan speech that, indeed, does nothing to stem election speculation (who exactly is “we”, Duff?)
Yeah, there’s definitely something that’s been manufactured here, and it ain’t a headline.
That’s right, kiddies: cue the slack-beaked vultures of the far-right, hungry as always to gorge on ‘liberal’ media carrion, as they swoop down with typically measured reserve and sharp insight (snerk):
- This is not new…too many examples to mention. However they are now being exposed. The game has gone on too long. The snakes can no longer hide in the grass. The serious journalists are starting to do some real journalism. I so appreciate Duffy being free to talk about the ‘old club’….especially the part about Toronto..”the thought control center”.
- Maritimers have the energy of an old sloth and will believe all the crap that is fed them by these lying urinalists,because they are to [sic] lazy from years of Alberta’s transfers and welfare to seek out the truth. They hate the Conservatives because like the old proverb goes, “you always bite the hand that feeds you”, and the Conservatives to these folks, represent Alberta, where most of the good hard working ones from these parts, have long moved to. For years the slimey liberals stole from the west and handed it out to these ungrateful people, here is the result.
- The MSM with its socialist statist legions are now running into reality. This is the response to the dike blowing. Trying to paper over the cracks in the artificail [sic] Universe the entitled elitists created in defiance of the Human condition. Including all known laws of physics. The dogma crafted so painstakingly turns out to be a steaming pile of lies. The world they imagined is collapsing from bowing to fairy tales, while natural Law comes back like a lion with issues. To rend the tale barrers[sic]. In the world of the MSM all must be the same in ideas as well politics. Every Women I meet always told me if you wash all the cloths together you get a grey. The brilliance goes away. So with us they want a collective of hive minds not individuals to speak down to. People with reality based ideas scare the MSM.
Yes, am sure the socialist-statists at CanWest, TorStar and CTVGlobemedia are positively quaking in their wingtips at the sudden imposition of such cold, hard reality (as always, irony is a leftist plot).
Kady O’Malley bends the laws of physics as only a lion(ess) with issues can:
There’s nothing remotely wrong with a senator delivering a partisan speech, notwithstanding the response it incites in certain PEI Liberals. That said, there is also nothing wrong with the Guardian having described it as such, no matter how vociferously the senator in question might dispute that interpretation. What is, frankly, ridiculous is to suggest that this is in any way similar to what may or may not have gone on behind the scenes at the Telegraph Journal, which, as far as ITQ can see, is a rather shameless attempt to feed the “biased media” meme that launched a thousand Finley-penned fundraising letters — not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that, either.
Apples, oranges — hey, it’s all fruit right?
Low. Hanging. Fruit.
Look, it seems obvious to anyone with half a brain (ie, those who don’t hang out in comments at SDA) that the leading luminaries of the partisan Canuckistanian right graduated with honours from the Humpty Dumpty School of Fallacious Argumentation (in this instance, showing off their degrees in false dichotomy). Yes, it may come as a surprise to the residents of KKKate’s bizzaro world, but some of us deluded consumers of MSM ‘bias’ (BIAS!!!1) actually demand something slightly more convincing than boisterous online agit-prop or half-baked assertions based on disingenuous denials from someone who, as a former journalist, knows what bullshit smells like. That Duffy now gleefully shovels it (and the base rewards him and his Conservative cronies with fauxtrage and hefty cheques) proves that Prime Minister Stephen Harper knew what he was doing when he called The Duff up to the big leagues.
The fact remains that the primary goal of these erstwhile right-wing media critics isn’t to improve the reporting of professional journalists. Rather, it’s to silence and, ultimately, destroy them — by any means necessary. In other words, the end game isn’t to garner a retraction or correct the record; they simply want another MSM head on a pike to (temporarily) satiate their collective blood lust (while the Conservative Party of Canada reaps the subsequent financial windfall).
But hey, if Duff wants to play footsie with a crowd that thinks his constituents “have the energy of an old sloth” and are “lazy from years of Alberta’s transfers and welfare” more power to him. It’s not like he has any actual accountability to the “ungrateful” people of Prince Edward Island, what being an unelected Senator and all (hey, remember when the Harpercons wanted to reform the ‘undemocratic’ Senate? Good times.)
See, that’s the difference between the so-called ‘liberal media’ and the knuckle-dragging, junior-league propagandists of the wingnutosphere: accountability. Sure, sometimes it takes some poking, but if Teresa Wright and her editors believe an error was made, they will duly issue a correction. Imagine that.
Oh, wait, I forgot: ethics are a Liberal plot, too — likely imported from overseas by that brie-scarfing Ignatieff interloper (just visiting!)
Shorter Leon Panetta: ‘Hey, remember all that shit I talked last year about how “[w]e either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground“? Well, surprise, I finally found that middle ground — hidden behind a desk @ Langley!’
Even shorter: ‘Accountability is for partisan suckers.’