Fox, Fox, and only Fox.
That's just the way it is with the chasidim of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch. They are oh so terribly sanctimonious and smug when it comes to those who are "not of our faith." But for those who "pray in our church," they can apparently be forgiven for anything from serving divorce papers on an anesthetized spouse (Newt Gingrich) and committing perjury before Congress (Oliver North) to cheating on one's wife (Mark Sanford). In other words, "When one of our guys get caught doing bad things, we quote the verse Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. But when it's one of your guys, s'vet dir gornisht helf'n -- viz., Ain't nothing gonna help 'ya . . . !"
About 60 years ago poet John Berryman, in his "Sonnets for Chris" -- which was about an earlier act of adultery -- asked "Is wickedness soluble in art?" What Berryman wanted to know is whether he could be forgiven -- or redeemed -- for his act of immorality by striving for the artistic heights? It is, no doubt, a question worth serious contemplation. It is also quite likely that if one were to address Berryman's question to the boys and girls at Fox they wouldn't have the slightest idea what in the world was being asked. So be it; that's their problem. Let's leave B'nai Fox to their own devices and discuss this amongst ourselves. I for one am not sure that wickedness is "soluble in art." I mean, no matter how powerful or important Wagner's "Ring Cycle" may be, it does not and cannot make up for the fact that the maestro was a roaring, wicked anti-Semite. Or, that despite his many accomplishments on the gridiron -- which many would consider a form of 'art' -- there is no getting around the fact that O.J. Simpson is a very evil, wicked man.
So what does this have to do with Senator Kennedy? What was his art that he should become a subject for discussion? In an article in yesterday's Guardian, Princeton professor and author Joyce Carol Oates -- whose 1992 novella Blackwater was inspired by the Chappaquiddick incident -- rephrased Berryman's question as: "Is wickedness soluble in good deeds?" Now there's a fascinating question; one that directly impacts on the life, times and accomplishments of the only Kennedy brother who lived long enough to "comb gray hair." Admitting upfront and making no bones about the fact that Edward Moore Kennedy was a weak, flawed -- and yes, occasionally wicked -- human being, we are thereby freed to examine his good deeds. Yes, he cheated on a Harvard exam hoping to stay eligible for football. Yes, in his early days in the senate he was looked upon as a lightweight who got by on charm, a famous name and a great staff. And yes, he closed down many a bar in Palm Beach and Cape Cod, and was known to be inarticulate one moment, as eloquent as William Jennings Bryan the next. This fellow who entered the Senate in 1962 at age 30 brought with him a storied name and virtually nothing else. And now at his death some 47 years later, he leaves that chamber as quite likely the most effective senator of the past 100 years.
Ted Kennedy's first senate tutor was Phil Hart of Michigan, who told him "You can accomplish anything in Washington if you give others the credit." He learned that lesson well. During his nearly 8 terms in the United States Senate he drafted and shaped more landmark legislation than such liberal giants as Robert Wagner, Hubert Humphrey, Estes Kefauver and Herbert Henry Lehman. Among the many, many measures that never would have been enacted without Senator Edward M. Kennedy are:
- The 1964 Civil Rights Act, for which he delivered his maiden Senate speech.
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965.
- Expanding the franchise to 18-year olds.
- The 1985 legislation that imposed sanctions on the apartheid government of South Africa. (Despite a filibuster by Jesse Helms and a veto by President Reagan, Kennedy mustered 78 votes to override the veto.)
- Led the fight against the confirmation of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.
- The 1988 bill that provided $1.2 billion for AIDS testing, treatment and research.
- The 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act.
- The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act.
- The Kennedy-Hatch Act of 1997, which provided health insurance for children.
- Heightened taxes on tobacco.
- The Kennedy-Kassebaum bill which made health insurance portable for workers.
- Co-sponsored with John McCain the "Patients' Bill of Rights."
Overcoming foibles, follies and frailties.
One wonders how, with all the loss, all the tragedy and all the foibles, Ted Kennedy could soldier on for so many decades. What was it that made him get up each day and do the best he could to make this a better world? Although no one can ever know for certain, this, according to one of his friends, has always been his defining quality.
Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of the dynasty was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a saint. He was a scoundrel in business, a cheat in marriage and a bigot in foreign affairs. Nonetheless, he and his wife Rose did provide the world with remarkable sons and daughters. No Kennedy has ever lived a useless life. No Kennedy has ever accepted more than a dollar-a-year for their government service. No Kennedy has ever had to ask the definition of noblesse oblige.
Because of all he went through in his family, Ted Kennedy became what the great political writer Jack Newfield called "America's grief counselor." By way of example, Newfield noted that "when two planes were hijacked out of Boston's Logan Airport on 9/11 and 93 residents of Massachusetts went to their death, Senator Kennedy personally called more than 125 family members offering assistance and solace." One conversation with a grieving father so moved the senator that he sent the man a copy of a letter that his father, Ambassador Kennedy, had written to a friend in 1958 upon hearing of the death of the friend's son. That note, perhaps better than anything else, provides the key to what, when all is said and done, made Senator Ted Kennedy so utterly unique and irreplaceable -- not to mention the greatest United States Senator of the past century.
"When one of your loved ones goes out of your life, you think of what he might have done for a few more years, and you wonder what you are going to do with the rest of yours.
Then one day, because there is a world to be lived in, you find yourself a part of it, trying to accomplish something -- something he did not have time to do. And, perhaps, that is the reason for all. I hope so."
Yes, wickedness can be soluble in good deeds.
Pacem in terres.
Gratias tibi ago.
©2009 Kurt F. Stone