Ted Kennedy was much, much more than the liberal leader in Congress. He was all we had left. Even in sickness, he was the anchor for decent health care reform. He was the one man in Congress who could pull quarreling politicians into a united effort. John McCain and Orrin Hatch were among Kennedy’s best friends.
With Kennedy gone, we are at the mercy of a weak, squabbling, visionless Democratic party and a President whose domestic reform policies are adrift–sliding towards the horizon with each passing day: The lost battle for Afghanistan. (Seriously– the British, then the Soviets, and now us?) The phony victory on Wall Street, one bubble replacing another. Health care reform being taken over by right-wing screwballs at the town meetings. The very idea that amidst all this, Obama is vacationing on a huge estate on Martha Vineyard’s is smack out of the George Bush playbook (except that with W, it was the Texas chainsaw vacation).
So,without Kennedy, even as a shadow in the background, who will be the point men for health care reform? Max Baucus, pawn of the health care industry? Christopher Dodd, bag man for Wall Street? Lieberman, turncoat? Harry Reid,who he? To be sure there are decent senators–Dorgan, Conrad, Rockefeller, Levin, Harkin, Leahy. And even the Vice President, even when he can’t keep his mouth shut. But not one of them with the knowledge, experience, and political acumen of Kennedy.
The flag will be at half mast across the country today. But not on Wall Street or in corporate boardrooms, where as the sun goes over the yardarm, you’ll be hearing (figuratively, at least) the popping of corks.