The sun sets at last on the Kennedy dynasty; the most charismatic political family in American history now has only one old and frail surviving member and she was never involved in politics. The 4 brothers; Joe, JFK, Bobby and Teddy are now history and the only one that we don’t know much about was Joe the eldest who died in a war time air crash fighting against Hitler; the Nazi leader of course enjoyed the support of the father of the family old Joe senior, a man who enjoyed the reputation of never seeing a belt without hitting below it. A memorable reference is made to him by Jack Nicholson playing legendary Teamsters Union Boss Jimmy Hoffa who had many run ins with Bobby, he snarled as only Nicholson can and said of Bobby “I aint gonna be F****d around by the son of a goddam rum runner” the old crook was certainly that and much much more.
Young Joe’s early death saved him from the relentless scrutiny which his brothers were subjected to by the media of the world; a scrutiny which the Kennedy wealth and PR machine was obliged to combat 24/7/365 because these 3 guys were as ruthless and remorseless as they come and all 3 lived certainly their early lives in a way which makes our Prince Harry look like a choirboy. When the young senator JFK and his glamorous wife Jackie moved to a rich area called Virginia Washington DC he bought a big house where he was asked to sign an agreement that he would not sell the house on to a black person, he did so without demur. He showed ruthlessness in political dealings which took him over all the corpses all the way to the White House where he eventually showed signs of being a great president; he learned a lot from dealing with Castro and Kruschev, he never thanked them though.
Bobby was probably the cleverest and most vicious of all four; as a young prosecutor he showed great enthusiasm for red baiting and destroying people’s lives under the tender guidance of one Senator Joe McCarthy while both working for the un American Activities gentlemen’s club; a bigger bunch of underhand bastards never walked the earth. How remarkable therefore that he matured into a liberal reformer and champion of good causes his presidency might have been a force for good had he not shared his brother’s fate at the hands of an assassin. An anecdote from his youth helps to explain his merciless younger personality and indeed the others; the young Bobby rushed home from school to joyfully tell his dad that he had won second prize in a writing competition entered by thousands of Boston school children; old Joe’s response was devastating “you mean you lost” was the old brute’s reply.
Had Teddy been born into a normal family he would have been disowned by the time he was out of his teens, he was a complete waster as we say here and his wild and wicked ways culminated in the death of a young secretary as he crashed his car while drunk, the girl drowned and he ran off, the end of her life and his chances of ever getting to the White House. He still managed even after such a disgrace to resurrect his career and become a legendary liberal senator, oh, and he avoided jail as well.
As we grew up my brothers and I regarded the Kennedy’s as secular saints because of their Irish catholic backgrounds and their apparent left wing leanings; it was painful to learn as we became more aware that they had a whole store room of cupboards full of skeletons. They managed to display the best and worst of American society, still I would love to see the Americans reward Teddy Kennedy by accepting what he described as the great cause of his life, proper health care for all Americans from the rich who have the best to the poor who have none, that would be a life worth celebrating.