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Steve Lunetta: Death of a lion?

Right About Now

Posted: August 30, 2009 10:21 p.m.
Updated: August 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Ted Kennedy died last Wednesday at the age of 77 of terminal brain cancer. As the third-longest tenured United States senator, Kennedy had the opportunity to shape American political life and policy for nearly half a century.

It's amazing that our country survived.

While liberals mourn the "passing of a giant," conservatives remain largely silent out of respect for a career of public service that, however misguided, was a truly remarkable achievement.

Able to forge alliances with the most unlikely of people, Kennedy was the consummate politician and leader for social change.

However, Kennedy must now walk through the Pearly Gates and be confronted by the one individual that had the most significant impact on his life because he had the most significant impact on hers.

Mary Jo Kopechne will stand before him and ask a single question: "Why?"

On July 18, 1969, Mary Jo attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Mass..

The party was in honor of her and five other women known as the "boiler room girls," a group that helped propel Ted Kennedy's brother, Robert, into the national spotlight during his presidential run.

Known as the consummate playboy and party-animal, Kennedy was easily attracted to the pretty blonde from Pennsylvania.

Offering to take her back to her hotel slightly after midnight, Kennedy coaxed her into the 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 and began the drive toward the Edgartown ferry.

Kopechne would never make it back to her hotel room.

According to Kennedy, he took a wrong turn and ended up driving off a bridge without guardrails, flipping the car into the water.

Kennedy freed himself but could not get her out of the car.

Kennedy then related how he went back to the site of the party, got help, but still could not free Mary Jo from the wreck.

He told his assistants not to call authorities and that he would do it. He then jumped into the water and swam the 500-foot channel back to Edgartown where he went to his hotel room, changed his clothes, and went to bed.

Once again, Kopechne stands before him and asks, "Why?"

In the morning, aides came to him at his room and urged him again to contact the authorities. He refused.

Going to a pay phone on the opposite side of the channel, Kennedy made several calls. None to the authorities. A couple of fishermen eventually found the car at 8:20 that morning.

Kopechne's body was found in the inverted car, trapped in the air bubble formed in the passenger compartment.

The diver that found the body, John Farrar, later testified that Kopechne probably "lived for at least two hours down there."

And while Kennedy later did call Kopechne's parents and informed them of the accident, they did not know he was the one behind the wheel until television news reports gave this information later in the day.

Later, allegations of foot-dragging and stonewalling by the local authorities due to fear of the powerful Kennedy family became widely known.

It appeared that Kennedy was more concerned with politics and image than the death of a young woman at his hands.

And Mary Jo continues to ask, "Why?"

This "Chappaquiddick Incident" was the end of Ted Kennedy's presidential aspirations. In 1980, Kennedy ran against a U.S.-hostage-crisis-in-Iran-weakened Jimmy Carter and was easily defeated.

Even screaming liberals knew the moral and ethical shortcomings in Kennedy disqualified him for president, regardless of what his last name might be.

Why bring up this incident now? Quite simply, Ted Kennedy is being deified by the left as one of the greatest men of all time.

He isn't.

After his defeat in 1980, Kennedy threw himself whole-heartedly into the leftist causes of gun control, abortion on demand, "immigrant" rights, higher minimum wages and socialized health care.

Kennedy was also completely in the back pocket of labor unions, often as the author or sponsor of legislation expanding the power and control of organized labor.

Kennedy helped propel us down the road toward socialism all under the guise of compassion and fighting injustice.

While we send our condolences to the Kennedy family and understand their loss, there is but one inescapable truth: At best, Kennedy was a fool and a coward.

At worst, he was a murderer. That is truly the legacy of Ted Kennedy.

And Mary Jo asks a final time, "Why?"

Steve Lunetta is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right About Now" runs Mondays in The Signal.


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