Euphemizing The Eulogy

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by Chris Bodenner

When I read the invective that Breibart leveled against Kennedy yesterday, I reflexively winced. But then I remembered the impressive tirade Hitchens gave after Falwell's death, and it got me thinking about the "speak no ill" taboo. Clive Crook says it better than I can:

[H]ow to deal with Chappaquiddick has been a problem for many commentators and obituarists. Many decided, I think, that decency requires a veil to be drawn and euphemisms deployed, such as Wilentz's in that snippet. I disagree. I think you have to look at it unflinchingly, because you cannot understand the miracle of Kennedy's redemption otherwise. What he did was terrible. He survived as a politician only because of his name--a disgusting thing. But it changed him, and see what he then did with his life. He was emphatically not, as Paul Krugman writes, always a great man. He was once much less than a great man. What is astonishing is that he nonetheless made himself a great man.

And sometimes, as in the case of Falwell, there's just schadenfreude.

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