Kennedy’s gift to the GOP

by | January 26, 2005 12:00 am

Bobby Beecher

Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy staggered out of the ruins of Camelot recently to tell members of the National Press Club what the Democratic Party must do to regain power. Republicans should pray that the nation’s depleted and demoralized Democrats decide to follow Kennedy’s advice.

For millions of Americans, Senator Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy is the personification of liberalism. Indeed, in Kennedy, the bloat and waste of the Welfare State assume a fleshly form. His political views and his personal habits are invariably prodigal. He’s never met a Big Government program he didn’t like, or a glamour girl he could resist.

That’s why Ted Kennedy is such a powerful weapon in the Party arsenal – the Republican Party arsenal. GOP candidates have long used the liberal and libertine Kennedy as a boogieman to energize conservative voters. And Kennedy himself is either too obtuse or too egotistical to care.

Otherwise, he wouldn’t seek out so many opportunities to play the part of useful idiot for his Republican detractors. For example, in his speech to the National Press Club, Kennedy said that Democrats should not “shrink from that debate” over values that dominated the 2004 presidential contest. Indeed, according to Kennedy, Democrats can only win elections when Americans “hear more, not less, about those values that are the foundation of our (Democratic) actions.”

GOP campaign strategists have to love that advice. When Democrats talk “more, not less” about values, they lose ground with the voters. John Kerry lost the “battleground” state of Ohio because so many traditional Democrats (particularly churchgoing African Americans) couldn’t stomach the candidate’s stance on moral issues. Kennedy’s confusion over values was evident in his awkward attempt to finesse the thorny topics of abortion and gay marriage. The senator said his “heartfelt desire is for families to grow and prosper and continue to bring new life into the world.”

But Kennedy’s “heartfelt desire” remains problematic as long as he and the Democrats insist that women have the unfettered right to make their own “reproductive decisions,” that is, the right to destroy “new life” before it has a chance to “enter the world.”

Kennedy also tried to go both ways on gay rights. He told the members of the National Press Club that we shouldn’t require any religious believer “to accept gay marriage.” But he nevertheless insisted that gay Americans have “the basic right to be part of a family” and that homosexuals who unite in “civil marriage” should be “free from the stain of bigotry and discrimination.”

Kennedy laced his remarks with the sugary “blab words” liberals find so irresistible. He talked about the Democratic Party’s “progressive vision for America” and the politics of “hope and unity.” And, of course, he tossed in quotations from JFK and MLK, men who represent – in Ted Kennedy’s mind, at least – the alpha and omega of political idealism.

Beyond that, Kennedy’s speech was little more than a big spender’s wish list. He said, for example, that “Uncle Sam” should “guarantee” the cost of a college education to “every child in America,” if necessary. And he called for “investments” in clean energy, broadband technology and mass transit.

Kennedy didn’t directly say where Uncle Sam would get the money to finance these dubious investments. But he did say, in an oblique admission that his “progressive vision” would require taxpayers to dig even deeper, that “citizenship is far more than just voting” and that Americans should exhibit a “stronger sense of national purpose.”

Ted Kennedy believes the Democratic Party should adopt his “blueprint for America’s future.” So do the Republicans. –

Bobby Beecher is our regular guest columnist. He can be reached at

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