Exploiting another Kennedy's death

Jonah Goldberg:

If you read the newspapers or watch the news, you will encounter a long list of accomplishments by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. One thing you’re less likely to hear, however, is that in his death, Kennedy proved Rush Limbaugh right.

In March, the talk-show host and bete noir of progressives everywhere said that the health care bill wending its way through Congress would eventually be dubbed the “Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Care Bill.” At the time, the official position of the Democratic Party was outrage and disgust.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee initiated a petition drive demanding that the Republican Party formally denounce Limbaugh for his “reprehensible” and “truly outrageous” comments.

Fast-forward to a few hours after the announcement of Kennedy’s death. Suddenly, naming the bill after Kennedy would be a moving tribute. ABC News reports that “the idea of naming the legislation for Kennedy has been quietly circulating for months” but was kicked into overdrive by Sen. Robert Byrd, the Democratic Party’s eldest statesman. Intriguingly, this suggests that either Democrats already had the idea when Limbaugh floated it, which would mean their protests were just so much cynical posturing, or they actually got the idea from Limbaugh himself, which would be too ironic for a Tom Wolfe novel.

But that Kennedy’s death should be marked by cynicism, opportunism and irony is not shocking, given that these qualities are now the hallmarks of the party he largely defined.

The determination of the Democratic Party to exploit Kennedy’s death for political gain puts the political commentator who doesn’t wish to speak ill of the dead in something of a bind. So let us be clear that there is no evidence whatsoever that Kennedy himself — or any Kennedy — would object to such a ploy.

Whether one calls it exploitation or heroic perseverance, the Kennedy dynasty’s longevity is best understood as a response to fatal tragedies. When Jacqueline Kennedy learned of her husband’s murder, she lamented Lee Harvey Oswald’s inconvenient political views. “It had to be some silly little Communist.”

Fortunately, her husband’s handlers had things well in hand, orchestrating with a compliant media the grand fiction that Kennedy had somehow been a martyr to civil rights, taken out by right-wing “hate.” The real JFK, who cut capital gains taxes and only reluctantly supported Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, had never been nearly as liberal as the posthumous legend created to give new life to liberalism — and the Kennedy name.

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I hope someone asks those pushing to have the bill named after Kennedy if they agree Limbaugh was right and the DNC owes him apology. Watching the spittle flying response would be worth the wet microphone.

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