Does it matter, on the issue of Senator Kennedy’s future, what theory of what actually happened during those ten hours of July 18/19 you accept as your own? No one in the possession of his senses can believe either of the two (contradictory) accounts Senator Kennedy has given. There will doubtless be other accounts; possibly though not very probably the full truth will some day leak through. Nor do we imply any reference to legal questions; the law can take its course, Massachusetts willing. But it is not necessary to know what happened during the ten hours or to make legal distinctions. The conclusion that Edward M. Kennedy is psychologically and morally unfit to be president rests solidly on what all of us know he has said and not said, done and not done, since re-emerging, that Saturday morning, into the public domain.
Take him at his own evaluation. “I regard as indefensible the fact that I did not report the accident [not to speak of the death] to the police immediately.” The adjective is exact: indefensible. “I was overcome by a jumble of emotions — grief, fear, doubt, torture, panic, confusion, exhaustion, and shock.” In other words, he failed to live up to a serious challenge.
But he didn’t collapse so completely that he neglected his own self-interest. It was Mary Jo in the water, but this, forsooth, is one more “Kennedy tragedy.” Kennedy! Nor has he hesitated even at pushing a big share of the rap off on his friends Joe Gargan and Paul Markham, who, he told the world in his TV speech, share responsibility for the failure to report the accident. Didn’t they have the primary responsibility, in truth — rather than the man who is overcome by panic, exhaustion, to comply promptly with all the minutiae of the law? And the coverups and the concerted silences of the cottage dozen. And that taking-his-medicine business that just happened to mean that nobody would have to give any testimony under oath. Then, as climax, the demagogy of the TV performance.
It was good soap opera, certainly, a thoroughly professional use of the reigning queen of the media, and was successful soap opera at least for its immediate purpose in Massachusetts. The yeas rolled in.
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