Friday, August 28, 2009

Head Chef in the Cafeteria

By Brad Miner

When I think of Edward M. Kennedy (“Teddy” early on before the more respectful “Ted”), I first think of Terry Malloy, the character played by Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront.” Kennedy’s brothers got title shots (one was champ), but, like Terry, Teddy got a “one-way ticket to Palooka-ville!” Did he think, I coulda been a contender? Oh yes.

But unlike Terry, Teddy was no bum, and, despite some astonishing missteps, he got to hang out with the punchy Palookas in the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, that Gleason’s Gym of blow-dried heavyweights, the United States Senate. Indeed, he became the longest-serving senator in Massachusetts history, second-longest in the current Senate (after Robert Byrd, for whom nearly everything in West Virginia is named), and the third-longest since Vice President John Adams pounded the gavel at the Senate’s first session on March 4, 1789. This is remarkable, since in the aftermath of July 18, 1969 the oddsmakers were wagering Kennedy’s political career had sunk as low as his Olds Delmont 88 (and, lest we forget, Miss Mary Jo Kopechne) into that dark Chappaquiddick tidal pool. Mr. Kennedy was thirty-seven when his career died. He announced that he would not seek re-election to the Senate in 1972.

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