By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Cheney and Chappaquiddick

Of all the weird non sequiturs that have sprung up in defense of Dick Cheney, perhaps the weirdest can be summarized thusly: What about Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick? The disingenuous Mark Steyn is among many who have taken up this cudgel, writing:

Hmm. Let’s see. On the one hand, the guy leaves the gal at the bottom of the river struggling for breath pressed up against the window in some small air pocket while he pulls himself out of the briny, staggers home, sleeps it off and saunters in to inform the cops the following day that, oh yeah, there was some broad down there. And, on the other hand, the guy calls 911, has the other fellow taken to the hospital, lets the sheriff know promptly but neglects to fax David Gregory’s make-up girl!

Steyn does this, by the way, in the context of quoting Washington Post columnist David Ignatius with evident approval, calling Ignatius a “wise old bird.” So I am shocked — shocked! — to report that Steyn has misconstrued Ignatius, who does not seem to be at all happy with Cheney’s actions at the Armstrong Ranch, seeing his “long delay” in reporting the accident as evidence of the “arrogance of power.”

With that in mind, some questions and answers, please.

1. Was Chappaquiddick more serious than Cheney’s shooting his friend Harry Whittington? Of course. Mary Jo Kopechne died, in all likelihood because of Kennedy’s negligence. Whittington could have died, and Cheney has already confessed to having acted negligently. But, yes, Chappaquiddick was quite a bit more serious.

2. Does invoking Chappaquiddick somehow mean that Cheney did not shoot Whittington? To read Steyn, as well as some of the comments to Media Nation that I’ve read, you’d think so. But I have it on very good authority that the first incident, which took place nearly 37 years ago, does not negate the second. Cheney did indeed shoot his friend. Front-on. In the face and chest.

3. Did Kennedy suffer any consequences? Kennedy was charged with a criminal offense in Chappaquiddick, pleading guilty to leaving the scene and receiving a two-month suspended sentence. Too light? Perhaps. But his was a first-time offense, and car accidents — even those involving death and alcohol — were simply not taken as seriously in 1969 as they are today. (Cheney himself can attest to the blasé attitude about drunk driving in the 1960s.)

Moreover, Kennedy’s political career was permanently curtailed. Before Chappaquiddick, he was considered a near-certain future president. Afterwards, he became something of a national joke outside Massachusetts, at least among everyone except committed liberals.

4. Will Cheney suffer any consequences? None so far.

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  1. Anonymous

    So anything less than POTUS is “permanently cutailed”? Yeah, he’s never heard from. And you wonder why Mary Matalin doesn’t stand out?

  2. Anonymous

    Sorry, “Curtailed”

  3. Kolchak

    Well, I’d rather ride with Teddy Kennedy than cross the street in front of Laura Bush.

  4. Mitch

    You nailed it, Dan. It continues to amaze me how conservatives can justify anything by invoking Chappaquiddick. And invoke it they do, no matter how irrelevant it may be.

  5. Anonymous

    More rhetorical questions, please! They’re SO illuminating…

  6. Anonymous

    Hey Dan –What is it with Steyn and Chappaquiddick?He just canl;t get it right, can he?Pierce

  7. Gib

    Does invoking Chappaquiddick somehow mean that Cheney did not shoot Whittington?Well – of course not. I don’t know anyone who’s ever said it did. Chappaquidick doesn’t “justify” anything Cheney did or didn’t do. What it can do is put outrage in a proper context. If someone’s not troubled by Kennedy remaining a high-ranking Senator, you have that right. But I trust that person would understand that calls for Cheney’s resignation, termination, or whatever are likely to fall on deaf ears as sounding a lot more like an effort to wring partisan advantage from the situation, rather than any sense of injustice. And as far as Cheney suffering consequences – the investigating officers concluded no charges were warranted. As far as political consequences – he’ll never get elected President either.

  8. neil

    > “Cheney Speaks” was my last word on the subject, pending some new development.Chappaquiddick is ancient history and each time it is brought up it is more tiresome and lazy. Cheney’s shooting accident is new history and already the effort to “wring partisan advantage from the situation” (nice wording gib) is similarly tiresome. The police say no charges were warranted. Those with real policy grievances with Cheney should stick to those issues and not sink to the same level as those who sling 37-year-old dirt. Let this go.

  9. mike_b1

    gob wrote: As far as political consequences – he’ll never get elected President either.Why would he want to be? He’s got all the power with few of the headaches — or consequences. The only thing GW is running is laps around the White House basement.

  10. Steve

    gib -Who has been calling for Cheney’s resignation or termination over this incident? I must have missed it.

  11. Anonymous

    Hey, check this house cat out. Pretty amazing. See: http//;s=1;p=news;dm=ss;

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Steve —Peggy Noonan! Although I don’t think that’s who Gib had in mind.

  13. Anonymous

    There’s a difference between asking “what if” something happened and advocating it. Noonan did the former. We’ll chalk it up to wishful thinking on your part, DK.

  14. Steve

    La Noonan is not calling for Cheney’s resignation – she is saying that people in the administration are talking about replacing him. Which, I guess, might be a way to call for his resignation without calling for his resignation.I suppose this fits with your newer story – is she Andrew Golis writ large?

  15. John Galt

    The bleat and pule of the habitual and corrosive flunkies serve no purpose other than a feeble attempt at chaff.The “weeniedom” rampant throughout the good ol’ USA breathtaking.

  16. Anonymous

    And what about Laura Bush and the obliterated police record of her “accident?”

  17. mike_b1

    …not to mention her chain smoking…

  18. Anonymous

    Chappaquiddick lives….on and on …and on…Like that big pink fuzzy rabbit flogging batteries.See: “liberal” student hollershttp//

  19. neil

    Hey Emperor, this is the second time you’ve posted a malformed URL (the other was about a cat). A URL needs a colon after the protocol name, in this case http:http://www.blah.comNext time avoid typos by copying and pasting. And if you want to get really hep to the internet, look up the “a” for anchor tag so you can do this: student’s keen wit impresses WorldNetDaily.

  20. Anonymous

    can someone pls explain to me what Chppqudck has to do with Cheney?

  21. Anonymous

    Nothing, other than people who wonder how long it takes for controversies to “blow over” concerning issues that are political Rorschach tests. The answer is NEVER.

  22. Anonymous

    We all know what Dick Cheney shouted when he realized what he had done: “Harry!! I didn’t see you!”But Ted Kennedy’s comments to his doomed companion at Chappaquiddick are less well known. For the full effect, it is best to speak the words out loud while holding your nose: “Mary Jo, we can get out of this thing if you will just let me put my foot on your head”

  23. Anonymous

    He let her drown and die Dan, for the love of Christ get you head out of your ass!!

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