Update: August 26, 2009: Senator Edward M. Kennedy died last night at
his home in Massachusetts. Although many see this article as scathing criticism
of the Senator, it's based in facts and this writer's opinions of the facts of
this case. In no way is this intended to "outweigh," somehow, the good that
Senator Kennedy achieved in his lifetime.
What kind of person gets away with murder? A very select few from the ranks of the wealthy and
powerful. Well, and hit-men, too, unless they leave something behind that
leads to their capture and conviction. Many who'll read this weren't even born
in 1969. But those of us who were around then cannot cast eyes on Senator Edward Kennedy
without thinking of an incident that to this day causes those who hear the story
for the first time to gasp and say, "so you're telling me that he got away with
murder?" My answer: yes and no. Vehicular manslaughter and gross negligence
absolutely. Murder, perhaps.
It would be unfair not to submit to readers that indeed, dangerous and even
fatal accidents occur at the most peculiar times. Vice President Dick Cheney
nearly killed a close friend in a hunting accident not too long ago. Celebrity
lore is full of tragedies the likes of which go unnoticed if the victim is not a
celebrity, but once one is in the public eye, the bloodthirsty media,
particularly the tabloid media, tend to blow everything out of perspective.
Cover-ups of misdeeds by politicians, too, are bipartisan; look at what
Watergate did to President Richard M. Nixon's career. President Clinton's oral fixation in the Oval office got him in
a heap of trouble, too (and a perfectly good cigar was involved, too. Oh, the
humanity!) Clinton's lie to the Nation about his misdeeds and his sworn
responses to the questions of a Grand Jury exceed by far the speech laid out
hereinafter for pure, unadulterated doubletalk.
So here we go. Some people have stated that the rumors that President John F. Kennedy's trysts with the likes of Marilyn Monroe,
coupled with her lovely singing of "Happy Birthday" to the President, were in
the worst of taste and despicable. Well, let's say "despicable" is a tiny red
firecracker. Here's a ton of TNT:
Say The First Thing That Comes To Your Mind When I Say "Chappaquiddick"
By the evening of July 18, 1969, young Senator Edward Kennedy, then 37 years old,
had endured the tragedy of the death of his brother President John F. Kennedy
under mysterious circumstances a mere six years before. Then in 1968 his brother
Bobby lost his life to a maniac when it looked as if he would
be the next President of the United States. The grief of losing not one but two
charismatic, bright and very close brothers in such a short time must be enormous. For his brothers, a run for the presidency meant death. And there
was tremendous pressure on Ted to run for office in 1972.
According to all sources, Ted Kennedy was a changed man after the death of
his brother Bobby. His usual upbeat mood had become morose. He abused alcohol
more and more frequently.
The Edgartown Yacht Club regatta held that weekend in July, 1969
was the perfect chance for Ted to blow off some steam, be with people who were
friends, and forget about the awesome responsibility that he would be soon
impelled by his family, by the voters, and by the Democrat party, to accept. The
Edgartown race (held on fashionable Martha's
Vineyard, an island near the south shore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, had been a Kennedy family tradition for thirty years.
A More Civilized Kind of Celebration
Ted and his lifelong chum (and attorney) Joe Gargen came up with a novel idea
for the party after the '69 regatta. Post-regatta parties had usually been wild and
wooly affairs (the last one Bobby attended while alive involved the "trashing"
of a bungalow, according to the owner). This one would be a much quieter affair;
to honor the faithful workers who were behind Bobby Kennedy's run for the White
House. Ted wanted to re-assure these savvy young women that they'd always be
part of the Kennedy "family" and show appreciation for their efforts on Bobby's
behalf as well as move forward past grief and look toward, eventually, another
Kennedy run for the Presidency. Gargen had taken some time renting a house for
the party. Instead of the usual Edgartown beachfront cottage, he could only
secure a cottage near the beach on the nearby island of Chappaquiddick, a few
minutes' ferry ride to Edgartown. Lodging for the men and the women was provided
in separate hotels.
A lot of attention was given to the fact that the house party held after the
regatta at the Lawrence Cottage was attended by six married men, none with
spouse in tow (Senator Kennedy's wife, Joan, was pregnant at the time). The six
young women were single. They had all continued their careers affiliated
with Democrat politics. Remember, this was 1969 and despite the changes in
public morals occurring at the time, the media had a field day describing the
assumed goings-on between the young women, blinded in the
headlights of rich and powerful men, and a group of hard-working, hard-playing
Democrat high-rollers. A closer look at the chronological and
physical details of the situation leaves all but one of the young women above
reproach, and the one left potentially a victim of a man who'd these days be
guilty of rape.
By way of explanation, of the five men beside Senator Kennedy, his cousin and
Joe Gargan, was co-host of the party, one man was Kennedy's personal driver, and the other
three were actually there in a working sense, all long-time Kennedy supporters
and front men. Only were it a formal dinner party would the wives' attendance be
necessary. A regatta, in the definition of the time, was a sport for gentlemen with lots of money and young
people attracted to the seaside, although today more and more yachting women are
indeed becoming involved in the sport.
This article will attempt to deconstruct Senator Kennedy's speech, delivered
on national television, regarding
the incident. Extra information will be provided on the situation in detail thanks to the
plethora of information now available on the subject.
The press and the electronic media were, in fact, held at bay. A single
television camera and microphone were allowed into the Kennedy compound. A great
hue and cry followed in the media. The fact that no reporters were present, the
speech itself was produced in a way to seem that some of Kennedy's remarks were
his own thoughts and not prepared, and the lack of a press conference following
the Senator's remarks were a very peculiar and damning strategic move.
The text that follows in monotype ("typewriter") font are the words Senator
Kennedy delivered on the three national television networks at 7:30 in the evening on
July 25th, 1969, writer comments and details are in regular type:
My fellow citizens:
I have requested this opportunity to talk to you,
the people of Massachusetts, about the tragedy which happened last
This morning I entered a plea of guilty to the charge of leaving the
scene of an accident. Prior to my appearance in court it would have been
improper for me to comment on these matters, but tonight I am free to
tell you what happened and to say what it means to me.
He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident in which a person
or persons were injured. Under current Massachusetts law, there was a
mandatory 20-day jail sentence attached to that misdemeanor charge. The
judge suspended a sixty-day sentence (ignoring the word of the law) and ordered a year's probation.
asked if Senator Kennedy had any prior driving record, the clerk of the
court responded "none." In fact, in his youth in Virginia, Teddy Kennedy had
been charged not once, but twice for going through a red light, speeding and
evading police, and paid fines both times. (The first time, Teddy managed to
get inside his house before the police came, the second, police found him
lying down on the front seat of his car in the driveway.) No mention was
made at the hearings of the party, nor of the fact that it took Kennedy
nearly ten hours to report the incident to police.
On the weekend of July 18th, I was on Martha's Vineyard Island
participating with my nephew, Joe Kennedy, as for 30 years my family has
participated in the annual Edgartown Sailing Regatta. Only reasons of
health prevented my wife from accompanying me.
On Chappaquiddick Island off Martha's Vineyard, I attended on Friday
evening, July 18th, a cookout I had encouraged and helped sponsor for a
devoted group of Kennedy campaign secretaries. When I left the party
around 11:15 PM, I was accompanied by one of these girls, Miss Mary Jo
Kopechne. Mary Jo was one of the most devoted members of the staff of
Senator Robert Kennedy. She worked for him for four years and was broken
up over his death. For this reason and because she was such a gentle,
kind and idealistic person, all of us tried to help her feel that she
still had a home with the Kennedy family.
He had, indeed, encouraged Ms. Kopechne to leave with him, in his car,
before the last ferry left Chappaquiddick Island for the short hop to
Edgartown. His driver, Jack Crimmins,
hesitated to give the keys to the Senator's car to Kennedy, offering the
couple a ride to the ferry, but turned them
over to the Senator after he demanded them. The pair drove off, after claiming that Ms. Kopechne
was exhausted and wanted to return to
her hotel room in Edgartown, and that the last ferry left at midnight.
Crimmins noted that the couple left at about 11:15.
Sources for this article
vary on the make and model of the car. Photographs of the car and
Massachusetts motor vehicle registration records confirm the car was a 1967
Oldsmobile Delta 88 sedan. (Contrary to Wikipedia's statement, the car a)
did not belong to Rose Kennedy and b) was not the larger "Ninety-Eight"
model of Oldsmobile car.)
An off-duty police officer, Huck Look, had been on duty for the Edgartown
regatta. When he finished his tour of duty at 12:30 A.M., he was driving on
the only paved road on Chappaquiddick Island, Chappaquiddick Road, also
referred to as "Main Street," when he saw a black sedan coming towards his
from Cemetery Road at a high rate of speed. He pulled over and got out, intending to direct the
car in back toward the center of the island and away from the private road
the car was heading down. Upon seeing Officer Look, the car sped away. Look had the foresight enough to memorize the
registration letter and a couple of numbers from the car; that would come
out later. It was after 12:30 and well after the departure of the last
The next morning, Officer Look reported the sighting to the Edgartown police
department, which found that there were fewer than a dozen black Oldsmobile
Delta 88 cars with similar license plates registered in Massachusetts at the
time; none of them to Edgartown residents. But one stood out; it was
registered to Senator Ted Kennedy who gave his address as the Federal
Building in Boston. This raised a few eyebrows, and even more were raised
when the car was found later on.
What were the Senator and the stunning young blonde been doing for over an hour; driving
around on a very small island where all the roads are dirt but one? It has
been speculated that Kennedy, seeing an officer with a badge, wanted to
distance himself. The reason is this; when Mary Jo Kopechne's dress was being
inspected by the coroner, they found tiny spots of blood and grass stains on
the back of it. Had Kennedy and Kopechne had a tryst in a grassy area
somewhere? Without availability of the ferry, was Kennedy going to return to
the party and get Kopechne "cleaned up?" Kennedy took off down the dirt
roads of Chappaquiddick island in a very large car equipped with a 455-cubic
inch V8 engine. The car was so wide it took up nearly the entire width of
the tiny roads and the Chappaquiddick bridge (which, contrary to popular
belief, doesn't lead to Edgartown but instead goes over a tidal pond and leads to a dead end
road, a beach, and about three houses).
There is no truth whatever to the widely circulated suspicions of
immoral conduct that have been leveled at my behavior and hers regarding
that evening. There has never been a private relationship between us of
any kind. I know of nothing in Mary Jo's conduct on that or any other
occasion - and the same is true of the other girls at the party - that
would lend any substance to such ugly speculation about their character.
Nor was I driving under the influence of liquor.
Kopechne and the other Kennedy workers had impeccable reputations.
Neighbors described a party that was the type old friends would have, with
singing and laughing. This was no case of a bunch of married men having
sexual fun with a bunch of floozies. However, the conversation and "racket"
lasted so far into the night that one of the neighbors said he was planning
to call the police, but the racket stopped rather abruptly shortly
The last sentence hereinabove included in Senator Kennedy's speech is a
lie. An inventory of Senator Kennedy's liquor intake, witnessed by others,
that day reveals that the Senator may not have been falling-down drunk, but
had consumed quite a bit of alcohol. (Take into account that this inventory
is only what witnesses saw the Senator consume; he could've made more
beverages for himself at any time, and certainly wasn't surrounded by
witnesses the entire day.)
- 3 Rum and Cokes aboard his boat during the
regatta, from between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m.;
- 2 Heineken beers at the Shiretown
Inn in Edgartown after the regatta, probably between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.;
Rum and Coke on arrival at the Lawrence Cottage at 7:00.
- From 8:30 p.m. to
11:15 the Senator testified he had 2 Rum and Cokes at the party. This could
be viewed with some skepticism: for example, if he had three cocktails on
his boat during the racing competition, which required a modicum of
attention (at the very least to tack appropriately) would not one assume
that at a social party of over three hours' duration the Senator would've
made himself more than two cocktails? Further, recall that since Bobby's
death Kennedy had on many occasions been accused of drinking heavily.
Little over a mile away the car that I was driving on an unlit road
went off a narrow bridge which had no guard rails1 and was built on a
left angle to the road. The car overturned into a deep pond and
immediately filled with water. I remember thinking as the cold water
rushed in around my head, that I was for certain drowning; then water
entered my lungs and I actually felt a sensation of drowning; but
somehow I struggled to the surface alive. I made immediate and repeated
efforts to save Mary Jo by diving into the strong and murky current,
but succeeded only in increasing my state of utter exhaustion and alarm.
Dike Road, the one leading to Chappaquiddick Bridge, veers off at a sharp angle
and descends sharply from
Chappaquiddick Road. Contrary to what he said, the corner was lit by the porch lights of two homes. The heavy, powerful car had no time to stop, skidded on
the pebbly dirt road at full speed (estimates vary between 30 and 40 miles
per hour), and veered to the right when it hit the
resistance of the wooden bridge. Analysis of the way the car lay on the
bottom of the inlet (front facing the bridge and rear away) indicates that
it flipped directly over its front and landed on the roof, on the windshield
side. The front of the car was weighted down by the engine, however, the
rear of the car had plenty of room for an air bubble; a large one.
More About The Car
This writer's personal experience with a slightly later (1969) model
four-door Oldsmobile Delta 88 Sedan of virtually similar size and weight is
such that one would be hard-pressed to get a vehicle that size and weight to
roll over, much less overturn in a vertical manner, rear bumper over front.
For those of you too young to remember what a full-sized General Motors car
was like, suffice it to say that three to four adults could comfortably
occupy the front seat and four or more could comfortably occupy the rear
seat of one of these behemoths. Now, despite this size, any driver who had his/her wits about them could have navigated
the sharp curve from Chappaquiddick Road, into the grooves of Dike Road,
albeit unpaved, and then righted the car's path once the tires contacted the
wooden bridge. Although the edges of the bridge at that time were quite
shallow, they would have been sufficient to assist a driver to straighten
out the car's path, assuming the driver had not
"locked up" the wheels and was steering mindfully. The soft,
springy ride of this particular year and model of car make it difficult to
maneuver on unpaved roads, and downright unsafe to drive on deeply rutted,
bumpy unpaved roads at any speed but for a crawl, unless one is familiar
with the car's handling.
Driving Worthy of a Hollywood Stunt Actor
Now, imagine the accident. The car sped off the bridge at such an angle
as to catch the front wheels and literally toss the vehicle over onto its
roof, free and clear of the bridge and into the water. One of the windows
was in the open position, so therefore the vehicle would've started to fill
with water rapidly. The front seat filled first, followed by the rear seat.
At the estimated time of the incident, the tide level was so low that the
rear wheels and trunk must have been projecting from the water. Both
passengers would've tumbled from their seats, rolled over the dashboard (or
steering wheel, in the driver's case), and ended up on the "headliner," or
inside roof of the car, upside down in relation to the ground but ostensibly
still right side up given their position in the vehicle. Given the forward
roll, they'd also surely be still in the confines of the front seat area.
Okay, Kennedy was scared for his life; but given the fact that there was
lighting in the area why did he not immediately make an effort to rescue his
passenger. And what of the two broken windows? Had Ms. Kopechne broken one
or both of them? Had Kennedy tried but given up? It must be said that to
roll "head over heels" in a vehicle, despite the cushioning effect of the
water, would induce disorientation in anyone. The air in one's lungs would
return one to a seated position after the tumble, but given the position of
the wheel it's fair to say that it was difficult for either of them to
figure out which way was "up." Kennedy claims he'd hit his head. It's also
quite possible that his stomach hitting the steering wheel on the way over
had "knocked the air out of him," verifying his claim that he'd felt as if
his own lungs were filling with water. Did Kennedy think that his passenger
hadn't survived the accident and he'd already be responsible for
manslaughter? Nobody knows.
Quick Drowning or Slow Asphyxiation?
Mary Joe Kopechne was found by a police diver in a state of rigor
mortis clutching the back seat of the car with her hands with her head stuck
upward in the
rear foot-well of the vehicle. There was still a substantial air bubble
inside the car, where the rear footwells and back seat are located. That indicates that she survived for some
time after the car became submerged, and in fact had made her way from the
front seat to the air bubble in the rear seat area. Had she been knocked out
and drowned, she'd have been located totally submerged, probably in the
front footwell of the car. Furthermore, when the car was taken out
of the water, the trunk was found remarkably dry. This adds to the
possibility that the door seals were as sure as the trunk seals, ensuring
perhaps a larger air bubble until the tide rose at dawn. (The rubber door
seals on Oldsmobile cars are quite substantial, contributing to the quiet
ride of the car.)
When Kopechne was on the coroner's examination table, very little moisture
came out of her mouth and nose, and was probably from her stomach. No salt
water. Mary Jo Kopechne had been breathing the air bubble waiting for help.
She'd died of asphyxiation. The car's four doors were locked, perhaps
her failure to be able to open the nearest one had scared her into staying
put. The car's headlight switch was still on, gear selector in drive, so why
were the doors locked?
We'll never know whether the vehicle was equipped
with electric door locks, which would have failed submerged in the water.
The electric door locks of the day were operated by small switches on the
armrests of the doors. The only way to manually unlock the door is by
tugging on a small button which pops up and down on the windowsill of the
door. Often times, as those familiar with General Motors cars of that era,
the buttons, in the locked (down) position, were very difficult to lift, for
one had not only to use the button and its small protrusion to work the door
locking mechanism, but when using the locks manually extra pressure was
needed to over-ride the solenoid which operates the power locking feature. Three of the car's windows were either open or smashed open; the one nearest
Mary Jo was intact and closed. Again, even if Mary Jo, who drove a
Volkswagen herself, could find the power window switch it's still
quite possible that the electric control and/or motor would've been disabled
by the entry of the salt water into the door.
Whether the young woman suffocated or drowned, both are terrifying ways
to die. This article does not intend to place more gravity on one or the
other mode of death. Suffice it to say that either way, she was probably
hysterical and quite aware the end was near in her final moments.
Why Wasn't Official Help Summoned Promptly?
Supporting the theory that Kopechne had suffocated rather than drowned
was the statement of the police diver who took her body out of the car. John
Farrar stated that upon entering the upside down vehicle, he noticed that
Kopechne was probably not knocked unconscious by the car's contact with the
water: "If she had been dead or unconscious, she would have been prone,
sinking to the bottom or floating on top. She definitely was holding herself
in a position to avail herself of the last remaining air that had to be
trapped in the car." Once out of the water, he continued, "There was a
great possibility that we could have saved Mary Jo's life," Farrar said.
"There would have been an airlock in the car - there always is in such
submersions - that would have kept her alive. If we had been called, I would
have reached the scene in 45 minutes. I say 45 minutes because it was dark.
( The daylight recovery had taken 30 minutes ). The lack of light might have
caused a delay of 15 minutes."
My conduct and conversation during the next several hours, to the
extent that I can remember them, made no sense to me at all. Although my
doctors inform me that I suffered a cerebral concussion as well as
shock, I do not seek to escape responsibility for my actions by placing
the blame either on the physical and emotional trauma brought on by the
accident, or anyone else. I regard as indefensible the fact that I did
not report the accident to the police immediately. Instead of looking
directly for a telephone after lying exhausted on the grass for an
undetermined time, I walked back to the cottage where the party was
being held, requested the help of two friends, Joe Gargan and Paul
Markham, and directed them to return immediately to the scene with me (
it then being sometime after midnight ) in order to undertake a new
effort to dive down and locate Miss Kopechne. Their strenuous efforts,
undertaken at some risk to their own lives, also proved futile.
The residents of two homes, Sylvia Malm and the Rev. and Mrs. David Smith, located nearby
the bridge affirmed that not only wasn't the bridge area "dark," as said
Kennedy, it was well-lit by their porch lights. In fact, Mrs. Malm was awake
"some time after midnight" and didn't hear the noise of an accident, but did
mention hearing a car driving quite fast on Dike Road. Help was nearby -
just a few steps. Not only did Kennedy fail to summon
help immediately but neither did the two attorneys. Kennedy also, on his way
to the cottage, passed a fire station with a working emergency telephone he
could have used to summon aid.
Both Gargan and Markham were lawyers. If a proper and thorough investigation had been conducted absent all of
the patently obvious "fixing" (Kennedy's expired Massachusetts driver's
license suddenly appeared, free of salt-water, with a new expiration date;
the absence of the two Virginia motor vehicle convictions from his record;
an inquisition into the long delay in reporting the accident) the two
lawyers would have certainly faced charges ranging from failure to act to
conspiracy to commit and/or aid and abet a crime.
Before Kennedy arrived at the Edgartown police station to give a
statement, the Lawrence cottage was cleaned of all traces of a party. Every
bottle (but for four Coca-Cola bottles), napkin, every potato chip; was
gone. The trash had been removed. The beds were made perfectly. The place
was scrubbed from stem to stern. Gargan, ever Kennedy's "fixer," saw to it
that this was done, and participated in the cleaning himself.
The Most Ridiculous Public Statement by a Politician (Until the "Meaning of 'is'3)
Read this carefully. Then read it again. Read it out loud. Imagine
someone delivering this paragraph on television:
All kinds of scrambled thoughts - all of them confused, some of them
irrational, many of which I cannot recall, and some of which I would not
have seriously entertained under normal circumstances - went through my
mind during this period. They were reflected in the various
inexplicable, inconsistent and inconclusive things I said and did -
including such questions as whether the girl might still be alive
somewhere out of that immediate area, whether some awful curse actually
did hang over all the Kennedys, whether there was some justifiable
reason for me to doubt what had happened and to delay my report and
whether somehow the awful weight of this incredible incident might in
some way pass from my shoulders. I was overcome, I am frank to say, by a
jumble of emotions - grief, fear, doubt, exhaustion, panic, confusion
The above speaks for itself. It's kinda like a life and death version of
"the dog ate my homework," is it not?
This speech was the result of nearly a
week's work by all of the Kennedy insiders, including John F. Kennedy's
brilliant speechwriter Ted Sorensen. Gargan's attorney, Joseph Donahue,
had to vet the speech because his client's name appeared therein, and offers
up an appropriate description for the entire mess, the height of inanity
which appears directly above. Donahue did find it acceptable with
regard to Gargan's legal position, but otherwise was appalled. He
urged Gargan to go personally to Ted Kennedy to dissuade him from delivering
Donahue said, "Can't you get to him? Can't you tell him how damaging this
Of all the emotions he lists above, Kennedy certainly must have suffered
panic and fear; the confusion and exhaustion in fact were caused by alcohol
intoxication, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Instructing Gargan and Markham not to alarm Mary Jo's friends that
night, I had them take me to the ferry crossing. The ferry having shut
down for the night, I suddenly jumped into the water and impulsively
swam across, nearly drowning once again in the effort, returning to my
hotel around 2 AM and collapsed in my room. I remember going out at one
point and saying something to the room clerk. In the morning with my
mind somewhat lucid, I made an effort to call a family legal advisor,
Burke Marshall, from a public telephone3 on the Chappaquiddick side of
the ferry, and then belatedly reported the accident to the Martha's
Today, as mentioned, I felt morally obligated to plead guilty to the
charge of leaving the scene of an accident. No words on my part can
possibly express the terrible pain and suffering I feel over this tragic
accident. The last week has been an agonizing one for me, and for the
members of my family; and the grief we feel over the loss of a wonderful
friend will remain with us the rest of our lives.
Kennedy was far more than morally obligated to plead guilty to the charge of
leaving the scene of an accident. To plead not guilty and cause a prosecutorial
investigation to ensue would surely have ruined his career. The statement of
morality is utter nonsense; a moral human being would not have acted in the many
ways he did in order to save his own skin. The only thing missing is "I am not a
crook." Not mentioned by him but included in the text of his statement to the police was a remark to the effect that he was unfamiliar with that road, and the bridge. The truth is, he'd traveled Dike Road and crossed the bridge many times to go fishing on the beach at the end of the road, where the tide goes in and out. What it looks more like is that he actually thought that he could drive a sedan all the way down the diminishing dirt road and navigate it over the beach, ending up in Edgartown. I guarantee you the car would've been mired the moment it hit the sand.
Kennedy put aside the prepared text. He folded his hands, looked directly
into the camera and appeared to continue the speech extemporaneously. However,
large cue cards picking up the text of the speech were held up out of camera
range. The Senator continued:
These events and the publicity and innuendo and whispers which have
surrounded them, and my admission of guilt this morning, raises the question in my mind of whether my standing among the people of my
state has been so impaired that I should resign my seat in the United
States Senate. If at any time the citizens of Massachusetts should lack
confidence in their Senator's character or his ability, with or without
justification, he could not, in my opinion, adequately perform his
duties, and should not continue in office. The people of this state -
the state which sent John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Charles Sumner,
Henry Cabot Lodge, and John F. Kennedy to the United States Senate - are
entitled to representation in that body by men who inspire their utmost
confidence. For this reason I would understand full well why some might
think it right for me to resign.
This would be a difficult decision to make. It has been seven years
since my first election to the Senate. You and I share many memories.
Some of them have been glorious, some have been very sad. The
opportunity to work with you and serve our state has been much of what
has made my life worthwhile.
And so I ask you tonight, the people of Massachusetts, to think this
through with me. In facing this decision, I seek your advice and
opinion. In making it, I seek your prayers. For this is a decision that
I will have finally to make on my own.
It has been written:
"A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in
spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis for
all human morality. And whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he
follows his conscience - the loss of his friends, his fortune, his
contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men - each man must decide
for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage
cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own
I pray that I can have the courage to make the right decision.
Whatever is decided, whatever the future holds for me, I hope I shall be
able to put this most recent tragedy behind me and make some future
contribution to our state and mankind whether it be in public or private
life. Thank you and good night.
Kennedy, who rarely discussed his brother John, chose to quote from John F.
Kennedy's book Profiles in Courage near the end of his speech. Utterly
ironic. Three paragraphs above he invokes the names of John Quincy Adams, Daniel
Webster, Charles Sumner, Henry Cabot Lodge and his own brother. This is in poor
taste at best. Some may claim he outrageously used his brother's words so as to
remind the public that "heck, I'm a Kennedy, too." It is poor logic, and
smacks of self-promotion or self-comparison to use the names of the other
Who's Really Guilty?
Now, what is past is past, as painful as it may be. So long as Senator
Kennedy decided it was alright to continue serving in the Senate, and, in fact,
run for re-election, is fine with this writer. The reason Senator Kennedy
remains in the U.S. Senate is due to a miscarriage of justice on the part of the
Court and a horrible job of investigation on the part of the police department
in Edgartown and the Massachusetts State Police. No one with damning
evidence came forward until they were either paid by the media to do so after
the fact, or their conscience or further investigation warranted it.
Despite the apologetic timbre of this strange piece of oratory, if one looks
hard at it, it's just a piece of self-serving rhetoric. It's certainly not the
eloquent and inspiring words Mr. Sorensen had crafted for Ted's brother John.
The Kopechne family's response to the death of their daughter was neither
vindictive nor righteous. They failed to allow an autopsy nor exhumation of
Mary Jo's body (the exhumation for an Edgartown Grand Jury which never
handed down a verdict). They welcomed Kennedy to attend their daughter's
funeral, which he did sporting a cervical collar, even though X-rays and
examination by his physician had revealed that there was nothing physically
wrong with him, although he complained of soreness in his neck. The Kopechne
family received a payment of $50,000 from Kennedy's insurance company and
another $90,000 from Kennedy himself. Now remember, in 1969, $140,000 could
buy a pretty nice house on Martha's Vineyard. $50,000 could buy a pretty
nice house anywhere.
He Didn't Learn
A little over twenty years after this speech was delivered, the intoxicated
Senator and one of his nephews, dressed only in their
boxer shorts, were chasing young women around the lawn of a Kennedy estate in
south Florida. Charges of rape were lodged against Smith. During the trial the
tasty bit about Ted walking around in his boxer shorts with a drink in his hand
came out. (Author's Note: Now, far be it from me to criticize someone other than myself who
engages in walking around in one's boxer shorts with a drink in one's hand).
More "Kennedy Curse" Stuff, if You Care to Read it
One of my least favorite sources, Wikipedia, turned up an interesting and
very spooky set of factoids: compare Mary Jo Kopechne's death with those of
Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy (wife of John F. Kennedy, Jr.) and her sister Lauren
- All three women died in water, a few miles off Martha's Vineyard,
- All three women died on the third Friday weekend of July
- All three women died within one hour or so of 10:30 p.m., on a Friday
night, exactly 30 years apart
- All three women died because of operating errors committed by a male,
direct descendent of Joseph Kennedy (John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s airplane crash
was cited as caused by pilot error by the FAA.
Satire (or, Bad Taste Defined)
Even the popular long-running humorous revue on television, "Saturday Night
Live", got into the action with the first episode of a story of a couple and
their cat, "Toonces," "the cat who could drive a car." Toonces was given all
manner of reasons to get into the car with various people, but of course the
sketch always ends with the stock footage of an automobile going over a hill and
crashing horribly. Research does not reveal, however, any episode of "Toonces
the Driving Cat" ending with the car going into a body of water. Careful viewers
could see, particularly in the first "Toonces" episode that the satire was
partially at the expense of Senator Kennedy.
The National Lampoon magazine, ever at the cutting edge of poor
taste, parodied a Volkswagen ad which boasted that the car was so well-sealed it
could float on water. The "ad" suggested that Mary Jo would still be alive if
she and Kennedy had driven her car. The magazine was sued for misuse of
Volkswagen's logo and the car company won an undisclosed settlement.
Chappaquiddick Island itself is right next to Edgartown, on Martha's
Vineyard. It is the summer vacation choice of the well-to-do who choose a more
peaceful locale than the bustle of Edgartown and the rest of the Vineyard. There
is but one store on the entire island of some 400 or so homes. For a long time,
Chappaquiddick was connected by a beach one could use to walk to Edgartown. In
2002, the connection to the "mainland" (Edgartown) was washed out by a storm and
it's anyone's guess when this little spit of land will re-emerge. The beach, by
the way, is at the end of the Chappaquiddick Bridge; to this day a popular
tourist attraction, much to the annoyance of the summer and year-round residents
of the island.
- In 1969, the Chappaquiddick bridge had no more than "bump rails"
about six inches high on either side. Current photos of the bridge show
a strong guardrail has been erected there.
- See text of President Clinton's answer to a Grand Jury investigating
his adultery with Monica Lewinsky scandal if you haven't already heard
this one. A good place: http://www.slate.com/id/1000162/.
- Senator Kennedy's credit card records later showed that seventeen
telephone calls were made between his arrival at the Shiretown Inn the
night before and his reporting of the incident to the police.
"Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick," by Chris Pratt, SaturatedPratt,
http://www.saturatedpratt.com/writings/tedkennedy.html (Accessed January 28,
"Mary Jo Kopechne," email to Freerepublic.com by Roger E. Mundinger,
June 26, 2004
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1160856/posts (Accessed January 28,
"To the Manor Born — Psychoanalyzing Teddy" by Roger L. Simon, blog, January
January 28, 2008) [Note: Mr. Simon is corrected by a responder to his blog, the
title phrase, particularly in reference to the article in question, is
expressed correctly as: "To the Manner Born."]
"Remembering Mary Jo" in "Blyth Spirit" by Myrna Blyth, The National Review
Online, July 20, 2004
http://www.nationalreview.com/blyth/blyth200407200944.asp (Accessed January
"Chappaquiddick: A Profile in Cowardice" (author uncredited; includes
excerpts from Senatorial Privilege by Leo Damore which were used in the
preparation of this article)
(Accessed January 28, 2008)
"Celebrity Critters: Toonces, the Cat who Could Drive A Car," Maverick
Times, (no author indicated)
http://www.mavericktimes.com/toonces.html (Accessed January 28, 2008)
"Mary Jo Kopechne" Wikipedia.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Jo_Kopechne (Accessed January 29, 2008)
"Bill Clinton and the Meaning of 'Is'" by Timothy Noah, Slate Magazine
Online September 13, 1998
http://www.slate.com/id/1000162/ (Accessed January 30, 2008)
Chris Pratt's writing about the Chappaquiddick incident includes some
important books from which information essential to this writeup were taken:
- Tedrow, Thomas L., Tedrow, Richard L. Death At Chappaquiddick.
Gretna, La: Pelican, 1980
- Olsen, Jack. The Bridge At Chappaquiddick. Boston: Little, Brown,
- Kappel, Kenneth R. Chappaquiddick Revealed: What Really Happened.
New York: Shapolsky, 1989