I was a kid in 1982 and was an intern in the office of a rightwing Republican senator.

It was the summer the Equal Rights Amendment died. It was the summer I found out I am a flaming liberal Democrat, a concept I didn't question for nearly 20 years until I was confronted with capital gains taxes.

Instead of following legislation sponsored by "my" senator (Hatch), I spent the summer learning about Kennedy. I heard him speak several times, followed his work and admired him from afar.

I also had a crush on him, I guess. He has a sparkle about his eyes. He possesses a brilliant mind (we can also probably agree he lacks -- or has in the past lacked -- even a modicum of common sense).

It's confusing to me that he is most often defined by his relatives and by one night at Chappaquidick.

I think he should be defined by his thoughts and his body of work. He has been an elected official for a very long time, compared to his brothers, who, though brilliant, were not given time to do anything but their best work.

I worked on his presidential campaigns. It did no good.

Prominent American Senator and liberal leader/conservative whipping boy (1932-2009). Full name: Edward Moore Kennedy. Nickname: Ted or Teddy.

After campaigning for his brother John in the 1960 presidential race, Teddy was elected to the President's former Senate seat representing Massachusetts in 1962. In 1969, he drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island (near Martha's Vineyard) -- his companion in the car, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned. Although many believe Kennedy was drunk, he was convicted only of leaving the scene of an accident.

He ran for President in 1980, but withdrew from the race during the Democratic National Convention. He served in the Senate, where he was often acclaimed, from both sides of the political aisle, as the "Lion of the Senate," until his death of brain cancer in late-August 2009.

Before we get started on the topic of Ted, let me begin by saying that for good or bad and depending on the nature of your politics that few people have raised the ire of, dashed the dreams of, simultaneously raised and lowered the bar (both literally and figuratively) for and has had so much to say on so many issues. Despised by Conservatives, adored by Liberals, Mr. Kennedy has most definitely carved himself a niche in the political theater in and around the Beltway for over forty years.

The Basics

Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy was born on February 22, 1932 and is the youngest of the nine children sired during the marriage between Joe and Rose Kennedy. Perhaps is was in his blood or more likely, his daddy’s wallet that he attended private schools that catered to the most privileged members of society during his early years. Upon graduation from the Milton Academy in 1950 Kennedy enrolled and was accepted into Harvard University.

His stint didn’t last long. In May of 1951 he was caught cheating on an exam and was unceremoniously expelled from the school. Perhaps, in order to escape public scrutiny, Kennedy enlisted in the United States Army where he was quickly transferred to that hellhole known as Paris, France. After serving his two year stint, Ted returned stateside where he was re-accepted by Harvard. In 1955 he redeemed himself when he caught Harvard’s only touchdown pass in the infamous Harvard/Yale rivalry. Harvard would go on to lose 21 – 7. He graduated in 1956 and from there it was back overseas when he went off to study at the Hague Academy of International Law. Upon returning stateside, Ted got his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1959.

Like the rest of his family, he seemed to have politics in his blood. His first major foray into the field was when he was chosen to run his brother John’s Senate re-election campaign in Massachusetts in 1958.

By the time 1962 had rolled around, John had set his sights on the White House and in a special election to fill his vacant seat, Ted Kennedy was chosen by the people to fill his brothers shoes. He was re-elected in 1964 and has held on to his Senate seat in every six year election since then.

Tragedy Strikes

Has there ever been a family, especially one that has graced the public eye for so long , that has been more prone to tragedies than the Kennedy’s? We all know about the assassination of his brothers John and Bobby but did you know that Ted came pretty close to an early demise too?

In his first full term as a Senator in 1964, Kennedy was traveling by plane when it was involved in a crash. Both the pilot and one of Kennedy’s aides were killed and Kennedy himself was pulled from the wreckage by fellow Senator Birch E. Bayh II of Illinois. He would later spend weeks in the hospital recovering from a punctured lung, broken ribs, internal bleeding and back injuries.

Following the 1968 assassination of his brother Robert, Ted Kennedy shortly there afterwards found himself in some hot water of his own brewing. For a somewhat full accounting, see Chappaquiddick but suffice to say that incident left a stain on his career and questions that remain unanswered and lingers to this day.

I’m gonna be President!

Perhaps, due to the personal tragedies suffered by other members of his family, Ted thought he could ride the wave of public sympathy all the way to the White House. Despite the scandal at Chappaquiddick, Kennedy still had many supporters who urged him to run in both the 1972 and 1976 elections. Both times, Ted declined their invitations citing “family concerns”. By the time 1980 rolled around, the perception that the Carter presidency was failed finally convinced Ted to throw his hat in the ring. In a highly unusual move, Ted decided to take on a sitting President from his own party in running for re-election. Despite early support, Carter rallied and defeated Kennedy in twenty four of the thirty four presidential primaries. Critics of Ted also hadn’t forgotten his role in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne and often serenaded his speeches to the words and music of that Simon and Garfunkel classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Oh yeah, life goes on…

Since then, Ted Kennedy has been content to remain as a prominent figure in the United States Senate. He can usually be found on the Sunday morning talk shows espousing his liberal point of view in between issuing denials about alleged drinking binges and late night carousing. Here’s where he stands on some of the major issues that face the country today.

No Child Left Behind

Initially a major supporter and worked towards a compromise with his Republican counterparts in getting the bill passed. Lately, as shortcomings in the bill have been exposed, his support has waned.


Believe it or not and maybe due to his Catholic roots, Kennedy was originally a strong pro-life advocate. It wasn’t until after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade that Kennedy, maybe with his nose turned towards the shifting political winds, become a pro choice advocate.

Gun Control

A no brainer. After watching two of his brothers die at the hands of assassins, it should come as no surprise that Mr. Kennedy is in favor of strict federal regulations when it comes to gun control.

Global Warming

While not as loud and passionate as Al Gore (that presumes you believe that Mr. Gore can be passionate about anything), Ted Kennedy was one of the first Senators to vote in favor of alternative energy sources and further research in the field.


Was in favor of invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban in the wake of 9/11 but has been an outspoken critic and a thorn in President George W Bush’s side over the war in Iraq. In some degree of hindsight, he claims his decision to vote against the invasion of Iraq is the best vote he ever made on the floor of the Senate.

Same Sex Marriage

In defying his Catholic roots, Kennedy was one of the first Senators to speak out against any form of discrimination towards same sex couples and his home state of Massachusetts was the first state in the union to allow them to wed.

In closing, Mr. Kennedy has had a long and controversial career in United States politics. Some people love him, others hate him and very few have a middle ground.

Of course, that all changes when it comes to one's personal views. As for me, at least I know where he stands.



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