by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
August 30, 2009
BOCA RATON, Fla.. Aug. 26, 2009 -- Ironically, I have long thought that if anyone but Sen. Edward Kennedy had been the spearhead of the national health care reform movement it would have passed long ago.
Within weeks - or perhaps months - of the ultimate success or failure of his dream, the nation and his own party stays torn by dissent on this issue. As a political scientist, businessman, and reporter, I felt there were moments when the likes of the late Sens. Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond seemed ready to jump aboard a Nixonesque version of national health care as a purely populist move.
I could hear the old Dixiecrats and Southern Republicans saying, "Now, y'all work hard to bring up the young'uns, and when you get sick and miss work there's no one to help you. Up here in Congress I have a good plan, and those fat cats in their Wall Street boardrooms have the best fringe benefits, so it's time the wealth got spread around and y'all get some basic protection for doctors and vittals and such!"
As long as Ted Kennedy and his personal histories and frailties clouded the issue, health reform on a major scale was doomed.
In 1980 I worked for Senator Kennedy. Well, sort of: I was assigned by the American Federation of Teachers to work on his New Jersey presidential primary campaign, while others worked for Jimmy Carter. I met the senator once in his office and was totally impressed by the caricature come to life. He actually did make phone calls to union leaders and party ward-heelers with a 3"x5" index card file before him on his desk, allowing him to say things like:
"Frank. Frankie! Howya doing? Did Doris go to the shore for the summer with the kids? Is, er, is - oh, Randy, is he deciding on Tufts over Duke for college? By the way, I need a bit of a favor down in Monmouth County... ." And so it went.
A generation later my daughter served as an intern for Sen. Kennedy and he assigned her to the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor. During her tenure the Sept. 11 attacks hit New York and Washington; a few weeks later, her office was down the hall from the anthrax scare. I think she met the Sen. Kennedy in person only once at one of his famous "chowder and booze" parties, and her sole comment was about his alcholol consumption.
As a broadcaster in Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale at the time of his dalliances with his nephew, is already low moral esteem seemed to dip even further.
Yet, as the namesake of Camelot, and the guy who was still standing at the finish line of a long Senate career, his personal flaws probably should be eclipsed by solid Liberal credentials and stacks of legislation that jwould never have helped millions of Americans without his name and power.
Fighting to the end, rest in peace Teddy. Oh, I forgot: He hated to be called Teddy.
Additional Resources: A compendium of Sen. Kennedy's accomplishments in the U.S. Senate