Thursday, August 27, 2009

Remembering Ted Kennedy

Image credit: Senator Kennedy's official Senate website.

Mike Taibbi wrote an interesting article today about why Sen. Edward Kennedy was so popular in Massachusetts, and why they re-elected him eight times:

[T]here was something else about him that made him an untouchable here: He came from a patrician family that often, as an entity, angered people but he was the one that plain people seemed to be able – and eager – to relate to.

There are a lot of stories about his "everyman" qualities being told around Hyannis, where he was often just another guy in the produce aisle. But he carried that accessibility everywhere.

Jimmy Sullivan, the co-manager and bartender at the Union Oyster House, a landmark restaurant in the center of Boston, explained how Kennedy exuded those qualities whenever he came in over the years – often by himself.

"You sit at the Oyster Bar and you can't help but be a regular guy," said Sullivan. "You're sitting face to face and back to back with all the regular people. He used to come in all the time…For a guy who came from wealth, he had a genuine soft spot for the working guy."

Why Boston backed Teddy Kennedy

It was that quality that we all liked about him. He really was a mensch. He was a rich mensch, but that makes his being a mensch all the more remarkable.

Taibbi's is a wonderful remembrance, and well worth a read.

For my own part, I've written letters a few times over the years to his official e-mail account. Even though they were usually of the "thanks for doing a good job on ..." sort of thing, his staff nearly always wrote long answers that explained his positions, even though I was never a constituent of his. I don't think that was ever just good politics for Ted, I think it was a reflection of the sort of man he was.

And that's why I think mean little people like Andrew Breitbart will always hate him. For all his money, Ted had more empathy for the rest of us than they will ever manage.

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