Edward Moore Kennedy works harder than most people think, and this morning he is working very hard at a simple but crucial task. He is trying to face the day. It is 9:30 A.M, September 26, and Kennedy is in Room 138 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building to introduce a bill to lure new and better teachers. This kind of thing is ice cream and cake for any practiced politician, a simple piece of business that will provoke few tough questions and at least a few approving editorials. But for Kennedy it seems a great challenge, and no fun at all. He hastens tonelessly through his prepared statement like a court stenographer reading back testimony to the judge. He passes off most of the perfunctory and easy questions to the other politicians and education-Establishment figures joining him, and he stares into space as the other men do the job. When he goes to the podium to introduce his fellow speakers, he walks with a nervous, cautious shuffle, like Steve McQueen after he's been let out of solitary in Papillon. When he holds out the piece of white paper to read the introductions of men he's known for decades, it flutters and shakes in the still air.You can and should read the whole thing, including the account of Chappaquiddick. Yet I think those first two paragraphs tell an important story in themselves, and that I shall have more to say on this subject.
Up close, the face is a shock. The skin has gone from red roses to gin blossoms. The tracery of burst capillaries shines faintly through the scaly scarlet patches that cover the bloated, mottled cheeks. The nose that was once straight and narrow is now swollen and bulbous, with open pores and a bump of what looks like scar tissue near the tip. Deep corrugations crease the forehead and angle from the nostrils and the downturned corners of the mouth. The Chiclet teeth are the color of old piano keys. The eyes have yellowed too, and they are so bloodshot, it looks as if he's been weeping. . . .
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