Ted Kennedy's real record

A note on the 32-year-incumbent's accomplishments
By AL GIORDANO  |  August 26, 2009

kennedy-stage-memorial-main
Photo: John Nordell
Senator Kennedy speaks at the Gillette factory. Date unknown

This article originally appeared in the October 28, 1994 issue of the Boston Phoenix

It's the untold story of the campaign: for 30 years, Massachusetts's senior senator has demonstrated unparalleled leadership on civil rights, crime, health care, welfare reform, education, the environment, and the international scene. And he hasn't neglected to bring home the bacon, either.

When a 32-year incumbent seeks re-election, there is a long and well-documented record that can be examined. So it's disconcerting to note that admit all the miles of newsprint and videotape that have been expended covering the US Senate campaign, little has been said of what Ted Kennedy has or hasn't accomplished.

Thirty-two cannot be captured in a 30-second TV spot or a nine-second soundbite. Even Republican candidate Mitt Romney has shied away from discussion of Kennedy's record, offering few specific criticisms other than to blame his opponent, in broad strokes, for all that is unpopular or wrong in Washington.

In the absence of any knowledge of what Ted Kennedy has achieved – or failed to achieve – Romney wins the image war. Edward Moore Kennedy, 62, is old and overweight. Willard Mitt Romney, 47, is young, rich, and handsome. Governor Bill Weld calls his fellow Republican "one impressive piece of horseflesh." The voters on the receiving end of Romney's ad blitz know that every other word out of that horse's mouth is "change."

Yet no matter who wins this election, change is the only certain outcome. The question ought to be whether the presence of Kennedy or Romney in the Senate will make change for the good more likely than the change for the bad.

After all, the removal of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy by bullet brought change. Now, by virtue of his having lived a full, productive life, Ted Kennedy can be said to have accomplished more than either of his brothers His removable – by ballot – would also bring change. But if we are going to change senators in 1994, we ought to know what it is we are changing.

Billions for Massachusetts

According to his supporters, Kennedy is a legislative giant who has fought and won countless battles for working men and women, for young people and the elderly, for liberty, equality, and the environment. They say Teddy has been an economic security blanket for Massachusetts, and that the loss of his influence and experience would harm the local economy for years to come.

To his critics, Kennedy is the protector of big government and liberal immorality. They say he is the symbol – if not the source – of the evils that flow from Washington.

Kennedy holds the Senate seat once occupied by John Quincy Adams, from `803 to 1808, and Daniel Webster, from 1827 to 1841 and again from 1845 to 1850. It's also the seat that was filled by John Kennedy, from 1953 until he was elected president, in 1960.

Historian Thomas Boylston Adams believes Ted Kennedy's career has more closely resembled those of Adams and of Webster, who were leading voices against slavery, than that of his older brother. "John Kennedy was not very much interested in being senator," he says. "Ted has really made something of it."

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Related: Ted's turn, Have you heard the one about Chappaquiddick?, After Ted, More more >
  Topics: Flashbacks , Mitt Romney, U.S. Congressional News, Bill Clinton,  More more >
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