Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Lion, the State, and the Senate...

Senator Edward M. Kennedy's recent discovery of a malignant brain tumor has rocked the political world and especially his home state of Massachusetts. Both the Republican and the New York Times carried reactions from Massachusetts and National political figures.

Were he unable to continue to serve, Massachusetts law calls for a hastily scheduled election with so many days. The change dates to 2004 when the statehouse, hoping for a Kerry victory in that year's presidential race, stripped the Governor of the power to appoint a replacement pending the next Congressional election. There was a fear, real, but petty that then-Gov. Mitt Romney would appoint a Republican replacement.

Kennedy's long presence in the Senate, goes back to 1962, when he was elected to fulfill the remainder of his brother, President John F. Kennedy's term. Following the death of his two brothers, the President and Robert Kennedy, "Ted" Kennedy eventually tried to challenge Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination. After that campaign, he turned toward legislation more forcefully.

Kennedy's tenure in the Senate and his ability to work on both sides of the aisle, despite his liberalism, earned him great power and prestige in the Senate and in Washington, but also gave Massachusetts greater clout than it might have otherwise had. More importantly, despite his privileged upbringing he retained an ability to think of and look out for the little guy. Due in part to that and his time and respect in the Senate, it would not be wrong to say that legacy and influence has surpassed that of either of his brothers.

However, it is extremely premature to write Kennedy's epitaph. Kennedy, 76, often called the liberal lion, has long been a fighter and has faced medical hardships before. Two of his children are cancer survivors and despite the seriousness of the disease, his colleague Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has fought a similar cancer.

Ted Kennedy is not perfect and for that and for his politics he has long been an icon used for fundraising by his political opponents. Due to his effectiveness and willingness to work with the other side, Massachusetts has re-elected him eight times. His success transcends typical machine politics that may be more heavily at work for other politicians and other offices.

Although WMassP&;I likes to see turnover in elected offices (we nonetheless do not generally support term limits outside the Presidency), we do not want to see Kennedy go unless he decides, at the end of a full term, that it is time. Above all else, for his sake and his family's sake, we hope for a speedy recovery to full health and wish him best in this fight.

*Official Photo obtained from Wikipedia

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