Thursday, August 27, 2009


Yes he had his flaws - he was human. Who would have thought that he would have spent 46 grueling, backbreaking, brow-sweating years in the Senate? In any large family of nine children, it is difficult to be the youngest. Not only are you spoiled or let off easily for misbehavior (dear God, I am too tired. I have been doing this eight times. Let's cut him some slack) but you are often not taken seriously at all.

So what occurred in Teddy's life to change him from a superficial, devil-may-care, hard drinking, ever lusting young man? TRAGEDY. Heart lacerating and heart mutilating.

He was too small to have felt the wounds of his brother Joseph's death in WW2, nor the untimely death of his older sister Kathleen. The assassination of his brother, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy left him in a cathartic shock. He was then a junior Senator from Massachusetts when it seemed as if his whole world had collapsed around him. His older brother Robert was Attorney General. It was nepotism, pure and simple. Indeed, a brother serving in another brother's cabinet has since been outlawed. Bobby Kennedy picked up the torch shot out from JFK's hands. He ran as Senator from the state of New York and won. Then Bobby decided to fulfill Joseph Kennedy's dream.

Joe's the oldest. He gets first crack at the U.S. Presidency. If Joe should die in the war, then Jack must carry the dream. Should anything prevent Jack from fulfilling this task, Bobby must do it. If Bobby dies, Teddy must be ready to carry out and take his place."

His sons did his bidding. They did not wait to be asked. This kind of filial piety is mostly found in feudal China and Japan,, among the Arabs and the Sicilians. One can only marvel at the almost invincible power father Joe Kennedy held over his sons.Perhaps it was a sort of mind control inculcated by both Father and Mother since babyhood.It was almost magical in its hold over their sons, although I am inclined to believe that their daughters possessed their parents fine Damascene steel as well.

"Come un grande Padrino."

Personally, I find the Patriarch the most fascinating of all the Kennedys. He may have committed crimes during and after Prohibition. We can't be sure. I don't really care to judge.

"Most, if not all immense fortunes begin with a crime," said Honore de Balzac.

It's true. Many members of my family and clan possessed this disregard for ethics and morals in the name of LUCRE. There are too many rich clans and families all over the world guilty of some crime or other in order to create their incalculable fortunes.

Those larger than life qualities also apply to the Grande Matriarch Rose Fitzgerald. Without these two personages; the history of the United States in the last 80 years might have turned out differently. I am inclined to opine that without the Kennedy mystique, America would have been poorer, sadder, and more ignorant. Camelot gave them hope, elegance, culture, idealism, and the American dream.

The whole world mourned and grieved. People from all over the world still remember where they were and what they were doing when JFK and RFK were shot.

Slowly but surely all the American dreams shattered into bits and pieces. But I digress.

Ted Kennedy made a wise decision when he decided to remain in the Senate and not run for the Presidency in the immediate aftermath of Bobby's assassination.

"A Ruler is helpless without just laws," declared Suleyman the Magnificent.

It was from the halls and rooms of the Senate that Teddy maneuvered, manipulated, cajoled, explained, browbeat, begged when necessary and filibustered in order to pass the laws he believed the country needed.

What is there to say about Chappaquadick? I think he was set up. He may have changed his mind about throwing his hat in the presidential arena. He had made some half-hearted attempts but no one took him seriously. This time, he really meant to do it. He still had to keep the faith with his father. It was not meant to be.

To assassinate a man's character can be worse than killing him. For one only dies once but the talk, comments and opinions go on even after death. It's a forever proposition.

This is just my theory, about Teddy Kennedy being entrapped. Those of us who were close to him and/or to his trusted friends knew about his notorious lack of direction while in a car. I mean Teddy, drunk or sober could easily get lost on roads he knew for years.

A writer's imagination could adroitly explain away the nine / ten hour lapse before his accident was made public. A group of Commandos had injected him with a powerful sedative. Someone else drove the car off the bridge. Teddy was probably not in the car when it plunged off the bridge. He may have been out for nine hours. It's a scenario. If this was the case, the only intelligent and honorable action on his part was to take responsibility for his actions, live with this horrendous accident for the rest of his life and observe OMERTA - what is known in the Mafia as a holy silence forever and ever.

There is also that suspicious plane accident he survived a year or two before Chappaquadick. He nearly died and spent 6 months in hospital.

I doubt history will forget Chappaquadick, but history and time are allies, albeit duplicitous ones. Let's just say it's in the hands of Time and historians who may or may not be endowed with balls.

John Fitgerald Kennedy, Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy and Edward Fitzgerald Kennedy will never be forgotten. Each in his own way mattered to America, although I would say that Teddy Kennedy's contribution as a Legislator/Lawmaker for 46 arduous years will leave a mark more profound perhaps than his brothers, great as they were.


  1. "Most, if not all immense fortunes begin with a crime,"

    Chesterton said it even more clearly:

    "You will hear...the argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man."

    And J Lukacs on the Irish: "The Irish are good people, except for when they're socially ambitious." That's even more true of Irish-Americans than of other ethnicities. Remember JFK and his brothers were only three generations from the Irish boglands and from ancient inherited wounds and grievances, and it takes more than three generations to breed out those legacies. (And yes I'm looking in the mirror ;-)

    Analogously, the British journalist Edward Crankshaw said someone told him that Krushchev's great-grandparents were aristocrats. Crankshaw didn't believe it, because in his words, "It takes more than three generations to breed a quintessential Russian peasant like Krushchev."

    But maybe the fact that Ted Kennedy was, by breeding, a peasant after all, might have been a reason why he was able to empathise with the dispossessed. And unlike his brother JFK who enjoyed playing at being royalty, Ted was more similar to one of America's greatest Presidents, John Quincy Adams, who took more pride and delight in being a Senator than in being President, let alone an Emperor as America has had since approximately 1945.

  2. Cara Isabella,

    I would love to hear more details on your theory that Teddy was set up on Chappaquiddick. I have never heard this before. Certainly it's a new take for most of us, and if proven true, I would still like to know why Teddy allowed the ensuing events to occur, why he did not fight for the truth to emerge, if this hypothesis were true, and why his many defenders in the press didn't cooperate. It would seem that all the elaborate ensuing legalities might have turned out differently were this the case.



  3. Another thought, again re your theory that Teddy was set up: why did his version of the events not incorporate at least a core of truth? Why did he admit he had been driving the car (after trying unsuccessfully to get his cousin to take the rap?) There are still many questions that need to be answered.

  4. Correction: I should have said, "Why did his version of the events not incorporate at least a core of the truth that would hint at your version of the events (i.e., that he was set up)? Even if Teddy had been drugged, would no family member suspect and thus try to make the facts known?


  5. Re: the Balzac quote - From the frontispiece of Mario Puzo's The Godfather: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime."

  6. "Ted Kennedy made a wise decision when he decided to remain in the Senate and not run for the Presidency in the immediate aftermath of Bobby's assassination." Bobby was assassinated in June, 1968. Would there have been enough time for Teddy to jump into the presidential race and mount an effective campaign? Running for president takes a lot of planning and organization. If he was set up in Chappaquiddick, who was behind it? What was their motive? You say, "If this was the case, the only intelligent and honorable action on his part was to take responsibility for his actions ..." except that Teddy did not take responsibility until when there was no other choice. How did he manage the swim which experts have deemed impossible, make all those phone calls before reporting the incident, etc.? So many questions remain about his conduct at the time.

  7. Bravo! Brilliantly expressed, that quote of Balzac’s says it all. For my part I, too, can overlook the spots on the Kennedy Clan, Jacqueline Kennedy is a good enough reason for me to pardon the crimes, or, perhaps, errors of this grand family. Love them or hate them, they are a part of American history, God knows there’s too little of it as it is, to grudge America this grand episode!

  8. "American history, God knows there’s too little of it as it is"

    Really? I think it was Wilde who said "America's youth is its oldest tradition; people have been going on about it for hundreds of years."

    New York is older than St Petersburg, and not much younger than the village of Moscow.

  9. The comments written by so erudite people regarding the brilliantly written pieces by the Contessa are in itself "history" lessons of "her" stories. Thank you Isabella for so very much edification, humor, and beautiful language__something sorely lacking in writing nowadays.


Isabel Van Fechtmann

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