Topic: Media

Cheap Shot from the Journal

A long time ago, when Ted Kennedy was youthful, slim, and rash, a deadly combination of drink, bad judgment and a narrow country bridge left a young girl dead and Kennedy’s reputation in ruins. To his credit, the “other” Senator from Massachusetts has moved on from that murky tragedy and devoted his life to public service. Whether one agrees with his political positions is irrelevant. All of us have to live with our worst mistakes, and Kennedy has given us every reason, if not to forget, then certainly to forgive, his.

Thus the tendency of some of Kennedy’s foes to invoke Chappaquiddick any time they disagree with him is an especially odious trait. The most recent culprit is The Wall Street Journal’s on-line OpinionJournal, which had this item:

“Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Saturday the Bush administration has a ‘widening credibility gap’ between what it tells the American people and the facts,” the Associated Press reports.

"Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment."

Foul. That’s all. This is the print equivalent of kicking an opponent in the groin. It is unfair, mean-spirited, and wrong. The voters of Massachusetts have chosen to give Senator Kennedy 35 years to prove that he is no longer the arrogant playboy who drove his car off a bridge, and Kennedy has done everything a human being could be expected to do to live up to that trust. Before sneering at Kennedy, the pundits at the Journal might want to review their own ethical values, like fairness, courtesy, decency, empathy, and generosity. Consistency is also in order: these are the same commentators who question the relevance of President Bush’s conduct in the National Guard as “ancient history.”

Treating one’s adversaries with basic respect is ethical conduct that could go a long way toward improving the bilious tone politics has acquired in recent years. Let’s start by debating Ted Kennedy on the merits of his arguments alone.


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