Missing Ted Kennedy
Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum are discussing what Ted Kennedy could have meant to the final weeks of this debate. Both agree that he would be voting for the Senate bill, and Drum notes that "One of Kennedy's great regrets in life was not accepting Richard Nixon's proposal to provide universal healthcare in 1971. He changed his mind in 1973 and came close to cutting a deal with Nixon, but by then AMA opposition combined with the distraction of Watergate took it off the table, not to return for another two decades ... So you really hardly have to guess here."
I'd make the point a different way. Kennedy's seat is currently occupied by Paul Kirk. Before Kirk's appointment, he served as the chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, and a member of the board of directors of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. He is as pure a Kennedy surrogate as could possibly be constructed. And he has not even broached voting against this bill.
But the issue is not so much Kennedy's vote as his absence. 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. Would he have succeeded? I'm skeptical. As one of the authors of No Child Left Behind and the original draft of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit (though he opposed the conference report of that bill), he would have come under withering attack as a sell-out. I'm not sure we ever could have been anywhere but here. But if other paths were available, Kennedy would have been the one to find them.
Photo credit: By Jason Reed/Reuters
December 17, 2009; 11:43 AM ET
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