Kennedy claims Capitol Hill cutup title
By Michael M. Bates
In his first run for the Senate, Edward Moore Kennedy's Democratic primary opponent looked him in the eye and said, "I ask, if his name was Edward Moore, with his qualifications - with your qualifications, Teddy - if it was Edward Moore, your candidacy would be a joke, but nobody's laughing."
They were too busy voting. With one brother in the White House and another running the Justice Department, the joke sailed to victory. With vigor, naturally.
More than four decades of senatorial bloviating later, Kennedy is still playing it for laughs. It's taken me a while to realize it, but I'm beginning to think the irrepressible Teddy has been teasing us all this time.
Take earlier this month as an example. At the Alito hearings the Massachusetts solon had a flunky stand behind him holding a large card. The sign was titled, "Excerpt from Concerned Alumni of Princeton Magazine." The judge's membership in that organization had become an issue, at least for Teddy and comrades.
The excerpt was from a 1983 article and began: "People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns, blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and Hispanic. The physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports. And homosexuals are demanding the government vouchsafe them the right to bear children. And now . . . and now come women."
Kennedy read the passage, except for the last sentence, which was strange considering his extensive history of respecting women, with all the solemnity he could muster. But surely he was joshing when he acted as though he took the article seriously.
I mean, he must have realized that it was a spoof. Who would be idiotic enough to put in writing a belief that some folks don't know their rightful place?
So intrigued by the citation was Kennedy that he placed it on his official Senate Web site. If the beginning of the article weren't confirmation that it was satire, surely he must have realized that when a later paragraph asks: "How dare you offer my daughter your fillet? We eat only the fat of the steak like Achilles, Ajax, and Agamemnon."
Perhaps those of us on the Right haven't given Teddy his propers for playfulness. His political career has been, it's becoming more obvious, a gag.
Earlier this month, he told reporters Judge Alito had been "influenced by the Goldwater presidency." Isn't that just like the fun loving prankster, pretending that Barry, who lost in a landslide, had actually been elected?
And he must have had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek last month when he wrote in the Boston Globe that a college student had government agents appear at his house because "he had gone to the library and asked for the official Chinese version of Mao Tse-tung's Communist Manifesto."
Again he's pulling our leg. First, everyone, certainly the distinguished Bay State statesman, knows that Mao didn't write the manifesto. Marx and Engels did. Moreover, days before Kennedy's article appeared the chancellor at the school announced that no government agents had been looking into students' library habits. The story was a hoax.
As he was in 1991, when he took his son and nephew William Kennedy Smith to Palm Beach's trendy Au Bar. They closed the joint and went home with two new friends of the female persuasion they had met. No doubt the senator wanted to question them on their views regarding national health care, homelessness, federal budget priorities and other profound issues, all in the course of making him more responsive to the people's needs.
Working hard on his senatorial duties, he still found time to clown around. One of the women accompanying the trio home noted that after a while she saw him and, "He was dressed in just an Oxford shirt as far as I could tell. I couldn't see if he had shorts or what underneath, and I got nervous and decided to leave."
Not a bad idea, given that the remaining woman later charged the nephew raped her that night.
Even in the midst of that, Senator Kennedy saw some humor in it all. He said the family had gathered for a "traditional Easter weekend." Then again, for the Kennedys, it probably was a traditional Easter weekend.
The boisterous Bostonian sure knows how to have fun. There was the time he took a Senate subcommittee he chaired to Alaska. After a few belts, he started tossing dinner rolls at others on the plane. In another amusing incident, he was caught in flagrante delicto with a woman on the floor of a restaurant. That may have merely been a youthful indiscretion. He was only 55 at the time.
Earlier this week, he told a Boston TV station that he was giving up his membership in a club notorious for discriminating against women "as fast as I can." After belonging more than 50 years, he says he just realized the club bans women.
What a jokester. No wonder he always seems to have a twinkle in his eye when he lectures us on morality, ethics, decency and the importance of maintaining a healthy liver.
There are people who consider the Kennedys America's version of royalty. Teddy never made it to the White House, but he's sealing his legacy as Congress' king of comedy.
Mike Bates is the author of Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths. This essay originally appeared in the January 19, 2006 Oak Lawn Reporter.
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