I often ponder what the afterlife will be like. Personally, I think it will include a life’s review of some kind. I wonder what that review will be like for Ted Kennedy.
Note to Ted Kennedy lovers: I don’t agree with Ted Kennedy politically, and I think he was a pretty bad person, all in all. But I don’t know his soul — God does. Ulimately, Ted Kennedy will be judged by somebody with a lot more knowledge and capacity for love than I have, and I’m very glad of that, because the same thing will apply to me and all my flaws. My purpose here is to remind some readers of some of the things I remember from his life. Many of them will be negative, so if that’s going to bother you, my suggestion is to read something else.
I saw Ted Kennedy speak once. This was after his failed presidential bid in 1980, and he was traveling the country in preparation for an expected 1984 run. He spoke near the Stanford campus where I was going to school. The speech was not memorable except for one thing: half the audience left about half-way through, including me and my roommate, who both were Kennedy fans back then, but we couldn’t stand the sight of him stumbling and fumbling and rambling through a speech. He was almost certainly drunk that night, based on his behavior.
In those days, I thought Kennedy was the solution to the waffling Carter wing of the Democratic party. I also had a lot of respect for Jesse Jackson, who I saw give an incredible speech at Stanford in 1983. It still was one of the best speeches I have ever heard. Of course, in retrospect I can’t believe I ever thought Jesse Jackson would have made a good president, but he sure did give a nice speech.
I didn’t think much about Ted Kennedy again until sometime in the 1980s, when I heard about the infamous “waitress sandwich” incident with Sen. Chris Dodd. (This incident happened in 1985, but I didn’t hear about it until later). To summarize, according to various reports, Dodd and Kennedy were drinking together in a Washington restaurant, when Kennedy took a waitress and threw her on top of Dodd, who was sitting on a chair. Then Kennedy got on top. The woman ran from the room screaming. How’s that for supporting women’s rights?
Then, I thought about Ted Kennedy again during the infamous William Kennedy Smith trial. I was living in Miami at the time, and the coverage was pretty much non-stop. The whole date rape thing started when Sen. Kennedy rousted his nephew out of bed to go drinking. William Kennedy Smith picked up a babe, brought her back to the Kennedy mansion in Palm Beach, and then later on she claimed she was raped. But if Ted Kennedy had let his nephew sleep, it never would have happened. But the senator needed a drinking buddy.
Ted Kennedy was almost surely with another group of drinking buddies before he drove his car off a bridge in Chappaquiddick, resulting in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Much has been written about this, I’m not sure I can add anything, except to point out that there is a clear pattern of behavior here.
Regarding politics, there is very little with which I agree with the former senator. I did favor the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill, and I continue to favor something similar to it to help legalize the millions of immigrants in the U.S. But Kennedy’s politics usually hurt the people he is supposedly trying to help — his support for higher taxes primarily hurts the poor because they result in slower economic growth and fewer jobs, his support for a higher minimum wage hurts the working poor because companies higher fewer people, his support for organized labor means a small group of people get higher wages and great benefits at the expense of millions of other working people, and on and on.
But unlike many others, I don’t question Ted Kennedy’s sincerity on political issues. I think he really does believe many of his policies really do help people. And I think the Lord judges people for their intentions as well as their results.
I also believe that people can change, and I believe some of that redemption can take place in the spirit world. To paraphrase the great John Newton, I personally am a very great sinner, and I know that Christ is a very great savior. Ted Kennedy was a very great sinner, and an often awful politician, but he is a son of God and capable of redemption, perhaps even more than I. So, I wish him well, and I hope right now he is with his family members and learning more about the Gospel and moving forward and upward. It would be a very nice thing to meet him some day and compare notes. I’m sure he will have things to teach me.