When the Monitor marked the recent anniversary of Peter Jennings’s passing with a column about an embarrassing incident in the ABC newsman’s career, a couple of readers chastised your gentle correspondent for speaking ill of the dead. So when Edward Kennedy died not long after, the Monitor decided to err on the side of decency and keep mum for an appropriate interval.
OK, interval’s up. The whitewashing and lionizing of Ted Kennedy was nauseating – though hardly unexpected from a media establishment that for decades has been in such embarrassing thrall to the Kennedys.
Back in 2003, Kennedy – whose behavior during most of his adult life was once described by Time magazine, in a rare moment of candor, as that of “a drunken, overage frat-house boor” – decided that the war in Iraq was nothing more than one giant scam.
Opposing a war on political or geostrategic grounds is one thing, but Kennedy told the Associated Press, “There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud.”
Kennedy also accused the administration of spreading money appropriated for the war effort “all around to these political leaders in all parts of the world, bribing them to send in troops.”
Naturally, Kennedy offered not a shred of evidence for his accusation, nor did he name any of those “political leaders in all parts of the world” who supposedly were on the receiving end of the alleged bribes.
What Kennedy also didn’t mention was that just the year before – a mere six months, in fact, before the U.S. invaded Iraq – he had gone on record stating that “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein’s regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed.”
So if the “whole thing was a fraud,” as he put it, he was very much one of the perpetrators. The fact is, Kennedy and just about every other Democratic elected official in Washington shared the Bush administration’s view of Saddam. Kennedy could shout all he wanted in 2003 about there having been “no imminent threat” from Iraq, but he certainly believed one existed in 2002 – before it became politically advantageous for him to impugn the motives and morals of George W. Bush.
Kennedy sank even lower in 2004 when, in response to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, he in one fell swoop made light of the Iraqi dictator’s mass atrocities and slandered the U.S. military with the observation that “Saddam’s torture chambers reopened under new management – U.S. management.”
We know Kennedy didn’t think much of George W. Bush. So whom did he admire?
“Al Sharpton,” Kennedy bellowed at a Congressional Black Caucus event, “has brought a new energy, a new insight in the issues that are facing this country…. [H]e is educating America about what this country is really about and what it needs to do and what its future should be…. We are a better country because Al Sharpton is in the mix … and trying to make an important difference in our nation.”
That would be the Al Sharpton of Tawana Brawley fame; the Al Sharpton who referred to a Jewish merchant being picketed by black protesters in Harlem as “some white interloper” not long before one of the protestors went into the store, shot three whites and a Pakistani and then set fire to the establishment (among the dead were five Hispanics and a black security guard).
The Al Sharpton who elevated the public discourse with the following historical tidbit that must be read slowly and savored for its profound insight and literary elegance, and that has been preserved for posterity by Bill Crawford in his book Democrats Do the Dumbest Things:
“White folks was in caves while we was building empires. We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.”
Al Sharpton “educating America”? If Ted Kennedy was, as some chose to eulogize him, the “conscience of the Senate,” we are in a sorry, sorry state indeed. Just ask Robert Bork, the accomplished jurist mercilessly and unfairly savaged by Kennedy on the floor of that very Senate.
At least Bork can give you a response. If only the same could be said for poor Mary Jo Kopechne.
Jason Maoz can be reached at email@example.com