Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Belated Obligatory Ted Kennedy Blog

As you may know, Ted Kennedy died recently. Death is usually caused by what biologists call "fatal genes." In the case of Mary Jo Kopechne, this was the gene that causes young women to get into cars with drunken senators as well as the gene that causes the human brain to use more oxygen than can be filtered out of a body of water.

I've heard various perspectives on the Ted Kennedy legacy. Most of those on the left praised his legislative accomplishments. Some were particularly obsequious and "hagiographical" of the man. I believe MSNBC spent several days' worth of coverage on the story. Obviously, this can become annoying after a while, but one needs to keep in mind that the seemingly over-arching philosophy on the left is that a person's accomplishments (or even just a person's intentions) for "the greater good" count for more than their personal failings. This is why many liberals (including feminists) loved Bill Clinton even though there exist women who he might have allegedly mistreated on a personal level. Some would argue that Kennedy's "personal failings" were far worse than Clinton's, but I'll get into that later.

Of course, one question we must ask is how effective Kennedy's legislation was at accomplishing its intended goals. As a "libertarian," I am fully aware that law-making is like manufacturing sausage. There's a lot in there aside from meat. There are also a lot of "unintended consequences." For example, large corporations tend to be able to afford the legal muscle to seek loopholes in regulations, whereas for smaller businesses, these regulations might not seriously increase "equality of opportunity/access," but may be difficult or costly to implement, and a smaller business would not be able to afford to pay a legal services department millions of dollars to seek a loophole. Yet, as a semi-rational human being, I also realize that not everyone is going to "do the right thing." No, you can't legislate morality, but (go ahead... call me a hippy) I believe that people have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of things like race, gender, religion (or lack thereof), etc., except, of course, in very limited cases, such as in private clubs, like the boy scouts, which I, in turn, refuse to support. Since I believe this is a right, I also believe that it's the government's job to protect this right. Of course, I don't think that congress has to enforce this using the interstate commerce clause! I'm sure the equal protection clause would work just fine. But if I'm wrong and we need to change the constitution to reflect this idea, I'm sure there are ways of doing so that do not require congress to insinuate itself into every aspect of my life! So, anyway, for what it's worth, thanks, Ted Kennedy, I guess, for that Americans with Disabilities Act... I mean, it's possible that there would be other ways for me to have equal access to employment with my "condition," but then again, maybe not. I don't know. Since I'm ignorant in this area, I'm not going to assume anything right now. Since it's not my primary concern at this time, I'm not going to research this question right now, either, although I probably could. Yeah, thanks.

I don't think I need to discuss at length Ted Kennedy's aforementioned "personal failings." That has been done elsewhere. He has been criticized, obviously, for the Chappaquidick incident. He has been criticized for laughing at jokes about it. Some have criticized him for "wasting other people's money"; for his alcoholism[?] and his treatment of women. He has been rightly criticized for many things. Although I will say that I'm not sure how he can be criticized for laughing at Chappaquidick jokes. Lots of people laugh at such jokes. Why can't he? Just because he was responsible for the incident? Call me callous, but I would think that it caused him quite a lot of guilt and humor about it became a coping mechanism for him, possibly among numerous others. Ok, fine. I'm perfectly willing to admit it if my folk psychologizing is incorrect, but it's an idea that doesn't seem to have been considered by those who criticize Kennedy over it.

Andrew Breitbart1, for example, was all a-twitter upon the demise of the Massachusetts senator. Ok, so Kennedy "wasted other people's money." He was "an animal to Clarence Thomas." He was "responsible for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne." You could reasonably claim that if he was responsible for her death, an investigation should have been performed and charges should have been filed. Wait... isn't that the process that was followed? I believe Kennedy was charged, albeit with a much lesser crime than, say, vehicular homicide. Ok, so you say he still needs to apologize. Not to you, right? To Kopechne's family? I haven't heard any of them ask for an apology. Is it really any of your business who he apologizes to? Obviously, his constituency doesn't seem to need an apology since they re-elected him numerous times.

Another thing Breitbart said was that Kennedy was "proof that big government is evil." Ok. Even if he was responsible for Kopechne's death, I don't see anyone who was outraged at Kennedy similarly outraged over the Iraq war (which Kennedy at least had the decency to vote against, thought it might not have required much political courage as he was "the senior senator from Massachusetts" at the time) or even the Oil for Food program (thanks a lot, Clinton administration!), each of which were responsible for over 100,000 deaths. Surely no one would claim that if you kill one person, you're a monster, but if you kill hundreds of thousands, you're a hero and a great leader. I would seriously question the sincerity of anyone who would suggest that, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act was worse than the Patriot Act, or that "No Child Left Behind," as bad as it was, was worse than the Iraq War. Not seeing it!

Thanks for reading. Happy trials!

1The man is possibly my Moby Dick. Well he is white... and kind of whale-like.