Yes, another Post on Teddy Kennedy.
Let me say here: I’m not doing this out of obsession. But things keep unfolding. And the more I look at these ongoing unfoldings, the more I sense that they are connected, and that these unfoldings are actually the working out of some sort of plan. A shrewd and sly PR plan.
And that this type of thing is now rife in American politics and in public discourse and in the media.
So in my last Post* and in one about Obama and Teddy’s letter to the Pope** I had noted how convenient and useful each of the series of moves had been. Convenient and useful not only to Teddy himself and his ‘legacy’ but also to all of the Beltway (and not just Democrats) that had embraced what has come somewhat inaccurately to be termed his “liberalism”, as that term has morphed since the late Sixties.
Then a few days ago there came a spate of theological discussions by noted churchmen and theology-spouting priests. The first element was priests who teach theology – especially at such big-name and theologically ‘liberal’ venues as Boston College and Notre Dame - opining that it was heart-warming to see Teddy making his peace with the Pope. And that the fact that the Pope replied with anything less than a formal Anathema was a sign that American liberals could take heart that Teddy had received the approval of the Roman Church and the Pope of Rome – for everything.
Although one Notre Dame prof did sniff that the Pope’s reply was bit formal and abstract. And could that really be surprising? Here the Pope has to respond to somebody with Teddy’s own grossly chequered personal history (about which more below) while at the same time (did you think there all amateurs at the Vatican?) realizing that any response at all was probably going to get trumpeted all over the world by the Teddy-Machine – its professional administrators, its political allies, its media friends, and its assorted ‘useful idiots’.
The Pope (or actually the department that answers letters for him) politely thanked Teddy for praying for him, expressed sadness at Teddy’s incipient demise, and offered the traditional consolation and assurance of the Church to those of its children in such straits. It put politics aside – and with a polite and adroit generosity took no formal notice of the politics purposely hovering about the whole thing like Dementors over Harry Potter’s head.
What more could he do? Tell Teddy that all was forgiven? You have to confess in order to be forgiven, and Teddy has never been ‘about’ confessing. Not in the real sense required by Catholic theology.
Then a few days ago, a brouhaha was ‘reported’: the Boston Cardinal was apparently being taken to task for appearing at Teddy’s funeral Mass at all. Given Teddy’s about-face on abortion, and his lock-step public and official support of it for many years, some ‘conservatives’ were trying to rain on the parade by saying that the Cardinal shouldn’t even have showed up – perhaps not even have permitted a Mass.
But the Cardinal is on solid Catholic ground: in death, in all but the most overt circumstances, a child of the Church, a ‘soul’, deserved prayers and the consolations of a Mass. Hell, just yesterday the Church in Boston gave a decent religious send-off to one Gennaro Angiullo, deceased, who was the old Mob boss of Boston back in his heyday. Should those priests be censured for conducting the services and the Mass?
It gives a few interesting political opportunities: the Boston Cardinal, sore bethump’t by the clergy sex-abuse stuff, gets to actually be on the same side as the reigning “liberal” elites of the “Athens of America” as it was once known. And as aforementioned, it allows those “elites” to continue waving the Pope’s letter around as if it were an Indulgence.
Then just a day or so later, it is reported in the ‘New York Times’ and its failing stepchild the ‘Boston Globe’ that Teddy had written a book. In which he ‘confesses’ to being “haunted by” what happened to Mary Jo Kopechne that July night in 1969 on Chappaquiddick.***
This is not a Catholic ‘confession’. This is an Oprah confession: I am in such pain, and even more so now that people keep talking about it – I am a victim of all that ‘talk’. Yah.
And - soooo 'Teddy' - he 'tells all' about Chappaquiddick, which he has avoided doing for forty Biblical years despite every opportunity, in a book suddenly published a week or so after his death - when he will not be available for questions but relies on the 'sensitivity' of the public to take his word for it.
And this morning that same Kennedy-friendly ‘Boston Globe’ publishes a top of the fold primary Editorial to the effect that Now that Teddy has confessed and is gone, can’t we leave him alone and just respect his marvelous legacy and ‘move on’? Neat. A stampede of sensitivity to move everybody away from Chappaquiddick and get everybody into Saint-Teddy gear, while also – nicely – rededicating everybody to the “liberal” agenda which has in no small way helped bring the country to its present condition (not that I hold any brief for the equally depraved posturing of the Right, so wrongly styled as ‘conservatives’).
We can move beyond Teddy failings without giving them any further thought, and in the process grant a full public Citizens’ Indulgence to the frakkery of the past forty years in the Beltway. And thus We can all “unite” over this redemptive death and stop asking any more damned questions. About anything.
A genuine sentiment-fest, beloved of the strategically-sentimental Irish mood, and of the Oprah crowd, and also of pols who reely reely don’t want to have their tires kicked.
But I say No to all of that.
Because Teddy’s behavior at Chappaquiddick in those days was revelatory of a whole lot more than the Machine would like Us to think and because We really have to get out of the habit of ‘feeling’ without doing any ‘thinking’ or tire-kicking in matters of grave public import.
Teddy’s ‘mistake’ at Chappaquiddick was not some sudden and quickly-repaired lapse. It wasn’t just the shock of having just had an accident and having to swim in difficult currents to safety. That was bad enough, leaving his passenger in the car. And a woman at that - which, in those days, was considered to be most ungentlemanly. But then, Teddy has for decades supported those who gleefully 'deconstruct' such 'quaint' strictures and 'oppressions'.
He made his way back to his digs, and made a whole mess of phone calls to his Machine operatives immediately. While she was still in the car under the water beneath the bridge.
Only then, much later in the morning, fortified by a whole bunch of huddling with his lackeys, did he go to the police station (to talk to a small-town police chief who left the State Police because he didn't want the pressure.
Eventually, the emergency resources of the town were dispatched to the bridge. The body – and by this time it most certainly was – was duly retrieved. The body was found in a position indicating that she had tried to contort herself so as to take advantage of the air pocket that formed in the car when it went into the water. She had been alive for a while after the wreck.
The experienced Fire Department diver – who had been dive-trained in the Navy – noted that all the tell-tale indications of air still being trapped in the car were there.****
She might have been alive up to six hours after the car went in.
The medical examiner arrived on the scene , examined her for ten minutes, and pronounced her “the most drowned body I’ve ever seen” – since, the ME claimed, there was a gush of water from the mouth at the slightest pressure on the chest. Although the local undertaker, standing right there with the ME, recalled that there was more foam than water and indeed “much less water than I would have expected” and certainly no “gush” or “flow”.
Despite the guidelines as to when perform autopsies, in his own book written for the guidance of ME’s, this doctor pronounced death-by-drowning following an auto accident and said that clearly there was no need for an autopsy. “Routine drowning” – case closed.
In a gesture of sensitivity and sympathy for the family, Teddy and his boyos made sure that first the body – cleared, however dubiously, by the ME - would get out of town as well. A death certificate was quickly produced by one of his aides, a private plane marvelously appeared, and the body left town. And – the generous sympathy! – left the jurisdiction of Massachusetts altogether (Miss Kopechne’s parents lived in Pennsylvania).
Having seen her safely off (so to speak), Teddy and a posse of lackeys paid an official visit to the police chief (who would manage to lose all of the records in an office fire a few years later – an inferno that consumed (waitttt for it) the single filing cabinet where all of the incident’s paperwork and reports had been stored, copies and all). The local prosecutor, friend of both Teddy and some of his ranking flunkeys, gave his blessing (he would later receive an important appointment to the Bench).
Kennedy went to Pennsylvania and deplaned for the funeral suddenly wearing a neck-brace. That prompted so many guffaws and snorts that he suddenly got better and ‘lost’ the neck-brace for the remainder of his stay.
Meanwhile, back at the scene, a major attorney for Teddy met with the prosecutor and the police chief – deep in a forest glade to avoid being seen – and it was arranged that Teddy would plead guilty to ‘leaving the scene’. Case solved. Both lowly public servants, as aforenoted, were on the brink of major promotions and an entry into the Valhalla of ‘elite’ high-ranking public servants.
But then in a surprise development attributable to Massachusetts politics or to ‘conscience’ (I’m betting on the former) the regional prosecutor filed with his sister-jurisdiction in Pennsylvania to have the body exhumed for an autopsy.
Richard Cardinal Cushing – himself less than a year from death – a ‘friend of the family’ as far too many important local Catholic clergy have been, took it upon himself to fly out to Pennsylvania, literally show up on the Kopechnes’ doorstep, and remind them (verrrry inaccurately) that it was against Catholic teaching to allow autopsies. Thus advised – and with a $140,000 check coming to them (in 1969 money!) - the parents responded to the Pennsylvania court’s invitation to offer their views by saying that they were agin’ it.
That judge – against all legal protocol of one jurisdiction honoring another jurisdiction’s request for investigating a suspicious death – made the Decision that since there was no proof of any criminal activity (which is precisely what an autopsy is designed to discover) then there was no reason why he should upset the family – and anyway, Massachusetts let the body go when it had the chance to order the autopsy so why bother Pennsylvania now?
What I see in all of this is not an impulsive and privileged playboy who had a ‘bad moment’. This whole record indicates a cold, calculating ruthlessness in the matter of self-preservation and the avoidance of the consequences of one’s actions. This is a deep and profound characterological predisposition, not the momentary lapse of maturity and moral decency under extreme pressure of an unexpected event. There is no integrity in this thing – not anywhere. Not nohow.
Who’s left who was a player in this thing? Are we faced with the problem last experienced in Robert McNamara’s death – that he was privy to all sorts of Vietnam and Six-Day-War era goings-on, was almost the last survivor, and had been allowed to go to his grave and thus truly Get Out of Town?
Well, who’s left? McNamara showed up at Hyannisport that afternoon that Teddy got out of town. So did Sargent Shriver and Ted Sorenson, among a bunch of lesser luminaries. Mr. Shriver is himself recently bereaved, but has had a nice run – although they say his mind is going. Mr. Sorenson – long suspected of having written a book for JFK in his early years – is still above ground, playing the role of the sage counsel, full of wisdom and years. Perhaps his encyclopedic mind might recall a factoid or two from those huddles at Hyannisport.
Or perhaps, sort of like McNamara in the case of the Israelis' brutal attack on the USS Liberty, he can recall what he had for dinner the night Marilyn Monroe gave him a compliment at some gala in the misty past, but has utterly no memory of those long-ago vital and portentous huddles in July of 1969 behind closed doors in Hyannisport. The memory is such a tricky thing, no?
Well, We – The People – cannot allow Our memory to slip. With the Beltway now having demonstrated over decades so remarkable an inability to conduct the affairs of a large and (once) prosperous nation and world-power, right up to the present day, then We are America’s last line of defense.
We absolutely must stop believing every manufactured and rehearsed sob-story or horror-story that shrewd PR machines - whatever their 'good' intentions and purposes - put in front of Us, expecting that We'll lap it up like a cat at a bowl of cream. And expecting - with far far too much accuracy - that on the basis of those 'feelings' We'll acquiesce in whatever the elites plan to do.
We must remember History or the-powers-that-be, in all their elite smugness and arrogance, will continue to drag Us into its dustbin.
*See “Teddy and the Magic Dream”, August 31, 2009.
**See “Obama and the Pope”, July 12, 2009.
***In case you're wondering whether you are being targeted by a professional 'stampede' squad, think on this: in this new book, Teddy reveals - Oprah, we hardly knew ye! - that as a 9-year-old at a prep school he was fearful that one of the school administrators wanted to "abuse" him. To which, in best polite style, one can only respond: Ovvvvvv course.
****See “Death at Chappaquiddick”, by Richard and Thomas Tedrow: Ottawa, IL; Green Hill Publishers, 1976.