by Hanna Rosin
I waited all day yesterday for some important news outlet to turn and face Chappaquiddick full on, but none did. Instead it was left to euphemisms, "the controversy," "the shadow over his life." The Kopechne parents have died, and we have no British tradition of truth telling obituaries here. But as Clive Crook wrote, "What he did was terrible. He survived as a politician only because of his name--a disgusting thing." But even Clive jumps too quickly to the redemption.
It's not just about Chappaquiddick. There is the bigger problem of the Kennedy women, and how the family conceived of their role in the legacy. The example was set by Rose, "a wife and mother whose emotions were rigidly controlled and whose mechanisms of denial so highly refined that she could accept her husband's loversnotably Gloria Swansoninto her home," from a review of a book on the Kennedy women. The wives and daughters were pretty statues, quietly suffering or, if they were lucky, they did "charity" work. There is Joe Kennedy's established line of political succession, which omitted all the daughters (I write more about this on DoubleX here).
The old guard feminists have long ago made peace with Kennedy. Judith Lichtman recalled this morning the great work Kennedy did in Borking Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. Kennedy gave a pivotal speech talking about "back alley abortions" in a way the feminists could never have gotten away with. But even this protector role he played for feminists has a hidebound, patrician air about it.