Edward Kennedy and Emotional Appeals

You can see it coming, right? Later this year, Democrat proponents of the single-payer option in Health Care reform will play the legacy card. The legacy card will sound something like this:

It would be a cruel twist of fate to delay this vote and risk that Sen. Kennedy not be with us to vote for this historic legislation. Let’s act now so that he can rest at peace knowing that the great work of his Senate career was not in vain …

In some circles it will have a powerful emotional appeal, i.e. Boston, Hyde Park, etc.

It would be a mistake to base such an important vote on an emotional appeal though. The thought runs counter to how Sen Kennedy acted during his life. In the most important — aside from bar hopping on Good Friday 1991 — decision of his life, Sen Kennedy mightily resisted any semblance of emotion; Namely, when to inform the police that he had driven a car off a bridge. The car contained a young woman who had not escaped. Some facts from that evening involving Chappaquiddick after the accident:

Kennedy swam across the 500-foot channel, back to Edgartown and returned to his hotel room, where he removed his clothes and collapsed on his bed.By 7:30 am the next morning he was talking “casually” to the winner of the previous day’s sailing race, with no indication that anything was amiss. At 8 a.m., Gargan and Markham joined Kennedy at his hotel. The three men subsequently crossed back to Chappaquiddick Island on the ferry, where Kennedy made a series of phone calls from a payphone to his friends for advice; he again did not report the accident to authorities.

Earlier that morning, two amateur fishermen had seen the overturned car in the water and notified the inhabitants of the nearest cottage to the pond, who called the authorities at around 8:20 am. A diver was sent down and discovered Kopechne’s body at around 8:45 am. The diver, John Farrar, later testified at the inquest that Kopechne’s body was pressed up in the car in the spot where an air bubble would have formed. He interpreted this to mean that Kopechne had survived for a while after the initial accident in the air bubble, and concluded that:

Had I received a call within five to ten minutes of the accident occurring, and was able, as I was the following morning, to be at the victim’s side within twenty-five minutes of receiving the call, in such event there is a strong possibility that she would have been alive on removal from the submerged carPolice checked the car’s license plate and saw that it was registered to Kennedy. When Kennedy, still at the pay phone by the ferry crossing, saw that the body had been discovered, he crossed back to Edgartown and went to the police station.

One thing is certain about Ted Kennedy. Edward McCormack was wrong. Edward Moore Kennedy wasn’t a joke. The man who worried about his political future as a young woman died, proved to be something much more serious that evening.

In a way, it’s easy to understand Kennedy’s continued interest in politics as he approaches the end of his life. Politics is no doubt preferable to thinking about death, or what comes after. So while none of us knows for certain what awaits him, or us for that matter, how many people do you know who would trade places with him on judgment day, even if that day were not so imminent?

Mary Jo Kopechne, a Catholic woman, RIP.

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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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