In Life and Politics, Kennedy Played Multiple Roles
By Ben Pershing
With Afghanistan deteriorating, the deficit growing, the CIA under fire and a host of other storylines enlivening what would normally be a quiet August, only a few figures are genuinely important enough that their deaths would bring the entire political world to a halt.
The death Tuesday night of Edward Kennedy and the outpouring of reaction in the early-morning hours have demonstrated the outsized roles he still played, at the age of 77, in the world of politics and in the American imagination. The tributes and remembrances have sought to approach Kennedy from three different angles: He was the patriarch and torch-bearer of a legendary political family; the master legislator and leader of the Senate's liberal wing; and most recently, the man who helped deliver the 2008 Democratic nomination to Barack Obama but was unable to participate in talks on the issue closest to both their hearts -- health-care reform.
"In his half-century in the public glare," David Espo of the Associated Press writes, "Kennedy was, above all, heir to a legacy -- as well as a hero to liberals, a foil to conservatives, a legislator with few peers. Alone of the Kennedy men of his generation, he lived to comb gray hair, as the Irish poet had it. It was a blessing and a curse, as he surely knew, and assured that his defeats and human foibles as well as many triumphs played out in public at greater length than his brothers ever experienced." In Politico, David Rogers calls Kennedy "Camelot's youngest brother who never reached the White House but grew into the most accomplished legislator of his generation in the Senate. ... Elected first in 1962, the 77-year-old Massachusetts liberal was rooted in the civil rights and Great Society battles of that decade, but his enduring strength was an ability to renew himself through his mastery of issues and the changing personalities of the Senate."
August 26, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
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