Posts Tagged ‘Ted Kennedy’

Paul Krugman Attempts to Fill Ted Kennedy’s Shoes

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Ezra Klein had a smart bit of analysis about the role Ted Kennedy could have played on health care were he still with us:

If you know the health-care debate really well, it means a lot to say that Jay Rockefeller and Sherrod Brown support this bill. If you don’t know the debate very well, it means virtually nothing. Kennedy was the only liberal with the stature to sell a painful compromise to the base. [my emphasis]

There aren’t many liberals out there with that kind of stature and with the trust of those to the left, and you only get to use your position this way a limited amount of times. But Paul Krugman today took on this task with his op-ed, largely echoing arguments made by me yesterday, as well as Ezra Klein. First, is from me:

So, to my brethren on the left posting at reddit, and on progressive blogs around the nation, remember this: Be angry the bill has been undermined. Be angry that various interest groups have gotten their way at the expense of the majority. But keep perspective, and see which direction the bill moves us. And ask: Does it create a framework of exchanges and subsidies that can improve our health care system? Does it bring us closer to universal health insurance? Will it be easier to add a public option to this structure in the years ahead if, as seems likely, the health insurance industries continue their abusive behaviors, than to start anew?

The answers are clearly, Yes, Yes, and Yes.

As a progressive, as a liberal, you don’t have to be happy about supporting this bill. But you should support it.

And now Krugman:

A message to progressives: By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy. Declare that you’re disappointed in and/or disgusted with President Obama. Demand a change in Senate rules that, combined with the Republican strategy of total obstructionism, are in the process of making America ungovernable.

But meanwhile, pass the health care bill.

[Image licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.]

Yglesias: “Progressive politics at its best isn’t about bigger government but about attacking privilege and power.”

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Matt Yglesias tells the story of “Ted Kennedy: Deregulator” – and takes away about the conclusion I expected:

The moral of the story isn’t that “regulation is bad” but that progressive politics at its best isn’t about bigger government but about attacking privilege and power. At times that requires more government and more regulation (right now we badly need more regulation of polluters whose carbon dioxide emissions are threatening the viability of the planet) but at times the forces of privilege and power are using existing regulatory structures to re-enforce their own position. Kennedy, rightly, saw no contradiction between his record as a deregulator and his record as a champion of the little guy. [my emphasis]

Yglesias has made the point – and I think he’s right – that right wingers since Reagan have been more ideological than any left wing equivalent. Yglesias – echoing an influential article by Jonathan Chait from a few years ago – attributes this right wing tendendcy towards ideological thinking to the fact that right wingers see government as an inherently bad thing – and oppose many government interventions simply because they are government interventions. Liberals, progressives, and leftists of various sorts also oppose many government interventions; and they support some government interventions; and they believe it oftentimes is worth trying a program to see if it will work rather than sullenly tell everyone that, “The world is as it is,” and there’s nothing to do about it. In this way, they are pragmatists.  (Not all of them – Communists for example believe the state must control the economy and thus are the ideological equivalent of the far right wing. But Communists have little to no role in the leftist movements in America, except in the imagination of the right wing.)

Though conservatives and right wingers like to suggest that Obama or other liberals simply want to have the government controlling everything – and see this as his hidden agenda – they make the mistake of imputing on liberals and other leftists the opposite of their ideology rather than the more subtle goals of liberalism – which are inherently pragmatic and moderate.

Remembering Ted Kennedy: “He lived his own large life and the ledger of it shows a substantial positive balance.”

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

The tributes have obviously been coming in. The conclusion seems to be the same one I would have come to before: that Ted Kennedy was a great, but flawed man – and like all men and women, he should be celebrated, without tears for the good he did in his life.

Here’s a few articles worth reading:

In Timothy Noah’s Slate piece he declares Ted Kennedy, “The Kennedy who most changed America.”

George F. Will argues much the same thing in a piece that reminds me of his greatness as a columnist, despite all of his bitter distortions on climate change:

Let us pay the Kennedys tributes unblurred by tears. Although a great American family, they are not even Massachusetts’ greatest family: The Adamses provided two presidents, John and John Quincy, and Charles Francis, who was ambassador to Britain during the Civil War, and the unclassifiable Henry. Never mind. It diminishes Ted to assess him as a fragment of a family. He lived his own large life and the ledger of it shows a substantial positive balance.

Joe Klein meanwhile explains “how Ted Kennedy found himself” in a personal remembrance of the man he knew for many years.

Michael Tomasky writes in the Guardian in his moving piece:

One would be hard pressed to argue that Ted Kennedy’s death was a more bitter pill for the country than the deaths of his brothers before him – John, the young president whose assassination gave Americans a hard warning about the violent age they were about to enter, or Robert, the presidential aspirant who was thought at the time to be the last leader in America who might have been able to help the nation transcend that violence.

Nevertheless, the heavens have somehow conspired to make this Kennedy death, however expected it might have been, nearly as heartbreaking as those of his vigorous younger brothers.

Charles P. Pierce writes in a long piece about Ted Kennedy’s life and career about how the events in Chappaquiddick shortly before the first man landed on the moon affected the rest of Senator Ted Kennedy’s career:

She’s always there. Even if she doesn’t fit in the narrative line, she is so much of the dark energy behind it. She denies to him forever the moral credibility that lay behind not merely all those rhetorical thunderclaps that came so easily in the New Frontier but also Robert Kennedy’s anguished appeals to the country’s better angels. He was forced from the rhetoric of moral outrage and into the incremental nitty-gritty of social justice. He learned to plod, because soaring made him look ridiculous…

And if his name were Edward Moore, he would have done time.

[Image not subject to copyright.]

Ted Kennedy: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die…”

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Last night, Senator Ted Kennedy died.

His brothers had come to symbolize the height of the liberal era of the 1960s – the hope and promise of a forward-looking America, the almost-mythical consensus and unity that existed in the early 1960s and the most promising side of the radicalism that came later in that decade. Both were gunned down – promise unfulfilled.

But Ted Kennedy lived on – and came into his own – as a stalwart liberal voice against a growing right wing tide. He was seen as uncompromising, but he was already ready to deal with the opposition; he was a master of the Senate, its second longest serving member; he was passionate in his causes; but most importantly, he was a liberal. He remained a proud liberal all of his life, a public liberal; he continued to speak about the poor and the oppressed even after it was no longer fashionable; he preached about a moral society.

His most prominent years were as a voice of opposition – but last year, he seemed to finally inaugurate the coming progressive era, the swinging of the pendulum back that has long been a characteristic of American history. His pivotal endorsement of Barack Obama was one of the campaign’s turning points – and his conveyance of the mantle of the Kennedys onto Obama fraught with symbolic meaning. It was said by many older liberals that Barack Obama’s 2008 run was in a sense the completion of Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 campaign – as Obama finally inaugurated a pragmatically progressive era that Bobby Kennedy had been working towards, that Ted Kennedy had been working towards – and that finally, Obama had the courage and the vision and the luck to call forth.

When Teddy Kennedy ran for the presidency against the incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980, he ran as an unabashed liberal in a long, drawn-out campaign. He finally conceded and endorsed Carter with this tribute to the American people and to liberalism itself, which could as easily serve as his own eulogy:

And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have special meaning for me now:

“I am a part of all that I have met….
Tho much is taken, much abides….
That which we are, we are–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
…strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

[First image by jonathanpberger licensed under Creative Commons; second image not subject to copyright.]

The Smearing of Britain’s National Health Service

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Alex Massie is probably right that there are “two essential truths in international health policy,” namely that:

No-one sees fit to copy the National Health Service and no-one sees fit to copy the American system.

But even given this, the right wingers have taken smearing Britain’s National Health Service too far. Chuck Grassley claimed, for example, that “Sen. Edward M. Kennedy would be refused treatment for his brain tumor in England.” As Matt Yglesias pointed out:

[T]here’s actually a two-fold lie here. First Grassley falsely implies that congressional Democrats are proposing to create an NHS-like system. Second, he lies about how the NHS operates. And he pays no price for it.

And despite what Cassandra over at Villainous Company has to say, Grassley is lying. Calling Yglesias an “evil-monger” and saying that “Google is not Matt Yglesias’s friend,” she claims that the drug Senator Kennedy is being prescribed for his tumor is prohibited by the National Health Service. Her source? An “expert” quoted by NewsMax – who forgets to mention that the drug – Temodar – was invented in Britain and has been prescribed by the National Health Service since 2007 2005. The “expert” also claims, the drug would be “available to every American.” Which is true. Every American who can pay for it. And the same was true in Britain even when the National Health Service did refuse to prescribe the drug. Now, of course, in Britain, the drug is actually available to everyone in that country – whether they have the money to spare or not.

This two-fold lie about the National Health Service  is one of the pillars of the right wing smears against the proposed Democratic health care plan – most disasterously used of course by the Investors Business Daily in discussing Stephen Hawking. Hawking later told the Guardian:

I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS,

But that’s still not the point. This whole conversation about Britain’s National Health Service is a distraction. Very few Democrats or liberals or progressives want anything resembling the British system. What is at issue is a plan to improve upon the system we currently have – modest steps. Though, as Ezra Klein explains, the modesty and popularity of what the Democrats are proposing is the reason Cassandra, Senator Grassley, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and other right wingers are pretending the Democrats have proposed something else:

In part, that’s why the debate has had to move toward fear-mongering and lies: There just aren’t that many scary elements in the bills, because the legislation is oriented toward preserving the existing system and avoiding points of controversy.

And so, we face this unhinged debate about totalitarianism – a fearful fantasy – instead of a reality-based discussion of the system we have and how it can be improved upon. Which is why the right wingers spreading these lies and smears and distractions just so they can achieve a political victory and slingshot their way back into power as they did in 1994 should be ashamed.

Ted Kennedy’s Cancer

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

From Robert G. Kaiser of the Washington Post:

Theodore Sorensen, JFK’s speechwriter and alter ego, observed yesterday: “Only the Adams family in the earliest days of the republic had the kind of stature, respect and impact on public life as the Kennedys.” And not only that – in an age of celebrification, the Kennedys became the country’s leading political celebrities.

That combination probably explains the sharp intake of breath heard yesterday all over Washington and across the country when people learned the news about Kennedy’s illness.

Rod Dreher of the Crunchy Conservative blog asked his readers to pray for Kennedy yesterday.  As with many partisans, his readers seem to suffer from a lack of charity.  Dreher felt forced to respond in a defensive tone:

UPDATE.2: You would have thought that asking for prayers for a man diagnosed with brain cancer would be a simple enough request. Check out the comments thread, though. Man. I was just talking with a colleague here, who reminded me that when Ronald Reagan died, we had lots of people writing in to say they’d be happy to dance on his grave.

UPDATE.3: Perhaps this will be a more edifying thread all the way around if we use it to discuss the proper way to pray for people we consider to be our enemies, or at least consider to be immoral and harmful to the common good. Because sooner or later, we’ll all be in the position of being asked to pray for a politician we may despise. I have no doubt that if George W. Bush had been diagnosed with brain cancer, we’d have just as many people on the thread below saying they’re not going to pray for the likes of him. How does one pray for the welfare we dislike, despise or disrespect?

Just reading Dreher’s response makes me feel ill.

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