A force

By EDITORIAL  |  August 27, 2008

Far from winding down, Kennedy has been gearing up, in anticipation of a Democratic president to work with. In preparation for a full-scale attempt to finally conquer national health-care reform next year, Kennedy recently hired John McDonough, executive director of Massachusetts Health Care for All and a key architect of the Commonwealth’s reform, as a legislative aide.

And in November, Kennedy signed a book deal with Hachette Book Group for his memoirs, to finally write his own account of a life that has been, truly, a front-row seat to modern American history. We certainly hope there is time enough now for him to fulfill that contract.

Above all, of course, he continues to take care of the people of Massachusetts, whether fighting to save jobs at Otis Air Force Base or squeezing more than $13 million in disaster relief for the state’s fishermen a few months ago.

But it’s more than delivering the bacon. Ask the 150 members of the 220th Transportation Company, an Army reserve unit based in Massachusetts.

They had been serving in Iraq for a year, escorting supply convoys along dangerous roads during some of the worst months of the war. They returned in August 2006, flying from Iraq into Camp Atterbury, in Indiana.

From there, the Army was going to send them back to Boston — by bus, an 18-hour ride.

Kennedy found out. At the last minute, the Secretary of the Army ordered the company flown home on a special charter. Why? “The senator’s request had a big impact,” the secretary was quoted as saying the next day.

Kennedy has had a huge impact, indeed. When the day comes, his will be giant shoes to fill. We hope that day remains far off. But if — sadly, as is likely — it comes sooner than later, it will be the first open Senate seat in Massachusetts in almost a quarter-century.

The rules for a replacement are new, rewritten by the state legislature in 2004 to prevent then-governor Mitt Romney from naming a replacement if John Kerry had won the presidency.

Under the new rules, there would be no temporary replacement; the seat would remain vacant until a special election is held, between 145 and 160 days later. The quick campaign would favor a candidate with a ready stockpile of campaign funds or state-wide name recognition. While there are a number of potential candidates in Massachusetts who could make the run — and we stipulate there is no one who can replace Senator Kennedy in kind — what is most critical is that whomever the voters ultimately choose, she or he is passionately committed to the Kennedy agenda, which is vital to the future well-being of our Commonwealth and nation.

Such speculation is, of course, premature. Meanwhile, Massachusetts, along with the nation, will join Kennedy’s family and friends in hoping for the best. The odds are formidable, but so is Kennedy.

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