Tag Archives: Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy and the Mormon temple

Anthony Schinella has an interesting piece in the Belmont Citizen-Herald examining claims by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch and former Hatch aide Jared Whitley that the late Ted Kennedy was somehow responsible for ensuring that a sculpture of the Angel Moroni could be built on top of the Mormon temple in Belmont despite local opposition.

But as Schinella notes, it’s hard to see what Kennedy could have done, unless he somehow interceded with the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. It’s a worthy addition to the Kennedy mythology, but unproven as yet.

Michael Dukakis on Ted Kennedy

Dukakis_20090902The public-relations office at Northeastern just sent out a Q&A it conducted with Michael Dukakis on the life and legacy of Ted Kennedy. Dukakis, a Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Northeastern, is a former governor of Massachusetts and a former presidential candidate, and has been mentioned as a possible interim senator. It’s a pretty interesting interview, and I’m presenting it here in full.

Q: How would you sum up Ted Kennedy as a politician?

A: He was the whole package for me, a remarkable combination of personal commitment and passion for the job, and skills, legislative ability. He never would start a policy initiative without getting a Republican cosponsor.

You know, after Bill Clinton went down to defeat on his 1993 health care plan, he and Ted got together to see what could be done, and decided, OK we’ll start with the kids, so they came up with this children’s health plan. And Kennedy, as you might guess, was the principal cosponsor in the Senate.

[Republican Senate Majority Leader] Trent Lott knew that Kennedy was looking for a Republican cosponsor. Kennedy had this long-standing personal friendship with [Utah Republican] Orrin Hatch, and when Lott found out that Hatch had agreed to cosponsor the bill, he was just furious. But they put it through-raised the federal cigarette tax from 24 cents to 67 cents and put it through. That was Kennedy.

Q: Do you remember the first time you worked with him politically?

A: I’m sure we probably did some things together in the Sixties. But people ask me, “What are your favorite Kennedy stories?” and I’ve got two.

I was first elected governor in ’74, I was defeated by Ed King in ’78, so there was the great rematch in 1982, in the Democratic primary. King was the incumbent Democratic governor, albeit a conservative one; he later switched parties. Still, there was no reason for Teddy to come out 10 days before that election and endorse my candidacy, but he did.

Q: Did you ever ask him about it?

A: He just thought it was the right thing to do, very similar to when he endorsed Obama in 2008. He was close to the Clintons, and I know they were very hurt and disappointed, but he did it anyway. And I know his endorsement was just as crucial for Obama then as it was for me in 1982.

My other favorite memory came about when I signed the universal health care bill in 1988. I’ll never forget when Teddy called me, he was just so proud-of me, of Secretary of Health and Human Services Phil Johnston, of the state.  He was incredibly proud that his state was the first in the nation to enact universal health care.

Q: You served as governor for 12 years while Ted was in the Senate, so the two of you must have worked together a lot. Does anything in particular come to mind?

A: On public transportation, which I’m slightly obsessive about, he was absolutely terrific. This was in my first term, and at the time, you could not bust the highway trust fund, the gasoline tax, you could not use it for public transportation.

I was one of the leaders to fight the so-called Master Highway Plan, which would have … created a California-style freeway system, eight lanes of elevated highway going right through Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, down Ruggles Street and three feet from the Museum of Fine Arts.

And meanwhile, the “T” was just a basket case, it was awful, it would break down three days out of five when I took it to work.

So after a 10-year debate, we had killed the Master Highway Plan, and we had given up hundreds of million of dollars in federal highway money, but we thought, why can’t we use that for public transportation?

And Ted and [former House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr.] were largely responsible for making it possible for Massachusetts to become the first state in the nation to be able to use federal highway money for public transportation.

We ended up with $3 billion to invest in the “T.” We acquired the entire commuter rail system in eastern Massachusetts for $35 million, stations, parking lots, tracks, … and we could not have done it without Kennedy and Tip’s leadership.

Q: What will Ted Kennedy’s legacy be — what do you think he’ll stand out for above all?

A: In a general way, that he was somebody who knew where he stood, and he lived it, practiced it, did it. He had a very strong philosophy, which at times was not in vogue. And yet he never wavered at all. I think subsequent events demonstrated clearly that his values and his approach to public service made a lot more sense than some of the folks who were critical of him.

The one piece he wasn’t able to achieve was his goal of health care for everyone, and I hope we’re going to do that.

Q: You see people at [health care] rallies holding signs, saying “Do It 4 Teddy.” How do you think his passing will change the health care debate?

A: No question we’d be on our way to a health care bill if Ted Kennedy had been healthy, engaged, and involved. If, for example, there had to be some compromising on a pure public option, because it was Kennedy, the liberal community would accept it because his credentials there were so strong.
I’m not saying we can’t get a health care bill, but there is no one with the unique set of skills and the respect that he had.

My own view is that the Democrats will have 60 votes for cloture, assuming Massachusetts changes the law and gets someone down there to vote. So what the Democrats have to do-not that you don’t keep reaching out to Republicans-is to put together a bill that has solid Democratic support, and then you use the 60 votes to close out debate.

But there is going to be some very hard work to do among Senate Democrats. Kennedy certainly would have been the glue to hold them together and get this thing passed. Now, other people will have to step up to try to do it.

Unwarranted speculation

Speculation, the bane of political journalism, is even more out of place when it comes to covering religion. For instance: a piece by Jeff Israely about the late Ted Kennedy and the Catholic Church, posted on Time.com last Friday and revised as events proved Israely’s sources to be misguided.

Israely reported that, during the summer, President Obama delivered a letter from Kennedy to Pope Benedict XVI, the contents of which were secret, but which likely made the case for a papal blessing. Quoting conservative sources, Israely suggested that such a blessing was unlikely, given Kennedy’s pro-choice stand on abortion rights. Israely wrote:

One veteran official at the Vatican, of U.S. nationality, expressed the view of many conservatives about the Kennedy clan’s rapport with the Catholic Church: “Why would he even write a letter to the Pope? The Kennedys have always been defiantly in opposition to the Roman Catholic magisterium.”

As it turned out, the contents of Kennedy’s letter were revealed at a graveside service, as was the Vatican’s response. According to the Boston Globe:

The Vatican reply came two weeks [after Obama delivered Kennedy's letter]: “His Holiness prays that in the days ahead you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the will of God our merciful Father.”…

The Vatican response was strikingly pastoral in tone, expressing the pope’s “concern and his spiritual closeness’’ to Kennedy, and bestowing on the senator an apostolic blessing from the pope. That the Vatican responded at all is news — conservative bloggers have for days been claiming that the alleged lack of a response was evidence of the Vatican’s antipathy to Kennedy.

Israely also indulged in speculation as to whether Cardinal Seán O’Malley would decline to preside over Kennedy’s funeral because of the late senator’s pro-choice policies. O’Malley didn’t preside — but the prominent role he nevertheless played would seem to prove that bit of speculation wrong as well.

To be sure, Israely wasn’t predicting the future so much as he was reporting the speculation of conservative church officials as to what might happen. But he still managed to leave the mistaken impression that the church would use Kennedy’s death to send a stern message to pro-choice politicians.

(Thanks to Steve Burgard, director of the School of Journalism at Northeastern, for helping me think this item through.)

Globe’s Kennedy series drives Web traffic

The Boston Globe’s Web site, Boston.com, received more than 8 million page views yesterday by 5 p.m., according to Zachary Seward of the Nieman Journalism Lab — a surge driven by the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy.

And though Seward doesn’t have specific numbers, he notes that Boston.com was (and still is) giving prominent play to its multimedia series on Kennedy’s life that was published last February. As I wrote then, the package was likely to serve as an important resource for some time to come, especially giving that Kennedy was nearing the end of his life.

Interestingly enough, Seward learns that the text had been taken down for a while at the request of Simon & Schuster, which published a book based on the series, and was only recently restored.

Inside story from the Globe

The Boston Globe is delivered to Media Nation at about 5:30 a.m. Ted Kennedy’s death became public shortly before 1:30 a.m. So how did the Globe manage to remake the front page so quickly?

According to Joe Strupp of the trade magazine Editor & Publisher, editor Marty Baron was awakened and gave the proverbial order to “stop the presses,” or words to that effect. The news made it into more than half of the day’s press run.

Tomorrow, Baron tells E&P, the paper will include a special 12-page section on Kennedy’s life. (Via Universal Hub.)

All Kennedy, all the time

I’ve got two more commentaries up on the legacy of the late Ted Kennedy:

  • At Blast Magazine, I’ve got a piece on what Kennedy’s record means to the under-30 crowd. Blast, the way, was founded by a former student of mine, John Guilfoil, who’s been help me with Media Nation’s move to WordPress.
  • At Forbes.com, I recall two emblematic moments in Kennedy’s career — his vendetta against Rupert Murdoch’s Boston Herald, which came to a head in 1988, and his Faneuil Hall debate against Mitt Romney in 1994, which launched a comeback and restored him to the good graces of the Massachusetts electorate.

Talking about Ted Kennedy

Sometime in the next hour I’ll be talking with old friend Charles Adler of CJOB Radio in Winnipeg about Ted Kennedy’s legacy. Some of you may remember Adler from his days at Channel 68 in Boston, back when Boston University was trying to turn it into a news and public-affairs station.

You can listen to us here.

Caught flat-footed

Word of Ted Kennedy’s death broke around 2 a.m. — too late for most of the Boston Herald’s print run. A friend of Media Nation reports that Kennedy is not on the front page in the news boxes he’s seen around the area.

Of course, the Herald rectifies that online. Presumably the boxes are being restocked as I write this.

Meanwhile, what is up with the folks who put together the mobile edition of Boston.com? It’s almost 9:30 a.m., and there’s not one word about Kennedy’s death on the front page of mobile.boston.com. (I’ve saved the page here.) Nice picture of Jacoby Ellsbury, though.

I thought breaking news was automatically pushed to the site. I guess not.

Update: It’s now 11:15 a.m., and Kennedy stories are finally migrating to Boston.com’s mobile edition.

Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009

kennedy_20090826To the nation, Ted Kennedy was a symbol — an icon of progressivism or an avatar of evil. To those of us lucky to be his constituents, he was a regular guy who went about the mundane business of representing his state with diligence, seriousness and joy. Or so I argue in the Guardian, in a piece I wrote over the weekend in anticipation of this sad moment.

Kennedy was a good senator and a fine but flawed man. He has been dying for more than a year, and I’m not sure there’s a lot more to say at this point. Unlike his brothers, Ted Kennedy had the good fortune to receive all his accolades while he was still alive — including, most recently, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Although word of the senator’s death was unwelcome, it was a pleasure to see Marty Nolan’s byline gracing the front of the Boston Globe today.

A minor aside: I wonder if WBZ-TV (Channel 4) will go ahead with its Boston mayoral debate, currently scheduled for today at 7 p.m.? Not only would no one be watching, but I can’t imagine WBZ wants to hold moderator Jon Keller out of its Kennedy coverage.

Note: This item has been corrected.

Update: The mayoral debate has been postponed, according to a statement by WBZ spokeswoman Ro Dooley-Webster. She writes: “Jon Keller is in touch with the campaigns, and they are working to find a date when the debate can be rescheduled.”

Update II: The debate will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 2, from 7 to 8 p.m. on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and WBZ Radio (AM 1030).

Photo taken from Kennedy’s Senate Web site, kennedy.senate.gov.

Democracy and the Senate (III)

Not a bad idea: the New York Times, in disparaging Ted Kennedy’s proposal that an interim senator be appointed who’d serve during the five months before a special election could be held, suggests instead that the special election be moved up.

Although I don’t have a problem with Kennedy’s idea, the Times’ solution sounds pretty good, too. Instead of five months, why not six weeks?