The death of Mary Jo Kopechne was an accident, but his actions at the time of and in the weeks following the accident were beyond the pale. Poor, scared rich kid gets strings pulled to make the whole thing go away.She's got much more, so you should read the whole thing, but in two sentences she has accurately distilled the essence of the narrative arc. Excuse me, however, for betraying my Bible-thumping roots, as I indulge in what evangelicals call exegesis of the text.
"Accident," yes. Yet when a man guzzles booze all day and then drives off a bridge, it is certainly not an unavoidable accident. The idea of Chappaquiddick as a "tragedy" whose main victim was Ted and the "Kennedy legacy" -- which is the manure load Ted's MSM hagiographers are now peddling -- is debunked by two stubborn facts pointed out yesterday in our Kopechne Day remembrances:
- Mary Jo didn't "drown," but died of asphyxiation. The passage of Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption dealing with Chappaquiddick (pp. 38-43) was researched and written by my co-author Lynn Vincent, who was emotionally traumatized to discover this reality. Mary Jo did not drown, a horrific enough experience, but one which would have killed her in barely a minute. Rather, she remained alive, underwater in Teddy's Oldsmobile, breathing the oxygen trapped inside an air pocket at the rear floorboard of the upside-down car. So, while Ted walked back to the regatta party at the Martha's Vineyard cottage and tried to concoct an exculpatory cover-story (as his own cousin, Joe Gargan, later explained), Mary Jo was still alive, frantically hoping for a rescue that never came, until finally she breathed her last.
- Mary Jo Kopechne was a dedicated young liberal woman of tremendous potential. This was pointed out by Jimmie Bise's co-blogger Paula at the Sundries Shack. Mary Jo had gone to Alabama during the civil rights era, having the courage to live out her own convictions. You don't have to be a liberal to say of her that, at least, she was neither hypocrite nor a coward. Nor could anyone rightly describe Mary Jo Kopechne as a lightweight bimbo, just another bit of womanizer Ted's incidental arm candy. Had Mary Jo lived . . . Well, the women's movement was just then coming into its own, and one could easily imagine an experienced Democratic political operative (for that's what she was) enjoying a long and successful career in her own right.
Instead, in story after story, we see dishonest passive-voice references to this "incident." Call it an "incident" or an "accident," but at all costs, avoid describing it as vehicular manslaughter or anything else that might attribute agency and responsibility to the responsible agent, the man behind the wheel. The New Republic covered itself in shame yesterday by publishing a Kennedy remembrance by Bill Clinton's Lewinsky apologist, Sean Wilentz, which featured this classic exercise in moral idiocy:
For many years, [Ted] did not understand how the incident at Chappaquiddick in July 1969 foreclosed the possibility that he would ever succeed JFK to the presidency or fulfill the promise of RFK's presidential campaign in 1968. . . .So, according to Wilentz, the most important thing about the "incident" was its impact on Kennedy's political prospects, which Wilentz externalizes as the responsibility of those muddleheads who constitute "the public," and whose "outrage" so unforgivingly lingered.
The disgrace of Chappaquiddick helped cost Kennedy his position as Senate Majority Whip in 1971 . . .
He also carried the weight of a collapsing marriage, as well as of the public's lingering outrage about Chappaquiddick. . . .
The passive voice of willful ignorance enables Wilentz to avert his eyes from the scene of the crime, where the declarative-sentence facts might lead to a genuinely honest and enlightened historical understanding. And yet such liberal "intellectuals" wonder why we laugh at them.