Kennedyesque
08-31-2009
I wrote just before leaving on vacation about the tendency for major political news to break during my occasional absences from the website. The death of Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy last Tuesday certainly qualifies for that distinction. Due to the longstanding nature of Kennedy’s terminal diagnosis, however, the media was ready to go on a moment’s notice with an avalanche of breaking news coverage, retrospective video packages, and expert commentary, so I don’t feel like there is much new for me to add at this point. I will say that as a political junkie, I found much of the archival footage shown over the past week (especially from the 1960s and 1970s) to be truly fascinating.
 
Still, two comments come to mind. First, some have suggested that Senator Kennedy’s death could serve as a catalyst for renewed progress on health care reform, either by closing ranks within the Democratic caucus, or by fostering greater bipartisan cooperation from Republicans. Unfortunately, I am among those who believe this won’t make much of a difference in the end. Kennedy’s death might change the tone of the debate in the short-term, but I don’t sense that it will fundamentally alter the partisan dynamics in play on health care reform. I still think President Obama will ultimately get some sort of reform package through Congress, but it won't be propelled by Senator Kennedy's passing.
 
Second, on a personal note, I first saw Senator Kennedy in-person shortly after I came to Washington to work as a U.S. Senate intern in the summer of 1982. I happened to be covering a committee hearing in which Kennedy was involved, so I spent several hours sitting just a few feet away from him. Since that was almost 30 years ago, I no longer remember which committee it was, or the piece of legislation under consideration, but I do recall feeling at the time that I was in the presence of a piece of living history.


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