Editorial: Kennedy championed those who no longer had a voicePublished 9:51am Monday, August 31, 2009
Monday, Aug. 31, 2009
U.S. Sen. Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy died Aug. 25 at 77 at his home in Hyannisport, Mass., after battling brain cancer for more than a year.
During his 47 years in the Senate he championed causes such as the epic universal health care debate he didn’t live to see resolved.
Kennedy, whose memoir “True Compass,” comes out Sept. 14, was the youngest child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, the last brother in this influential first family of American politics groomed for the White House.
President John F. Kennedy, in 1963, and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968, were both assassinated.
Damaged by Chappaquiddick and the July 1969 drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne, 28, losing the 1980 Democratic primaries to Jimmy Carter liberated Sen. Kennedy from the burden of his destiny.
Instead, he became the “greatest senator of our time,” President Barack Obama, who benefited from Kennedy’s timely 2008 endorsement of him over Hillary Clinton, said Wednesday.
Kennedy, an easy target for Republicans as the leader of his party’s liberal wing, said at that 1980 convention, when he challenged a sitting president of his own party, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”
That quotation uttered at the Democratic National Convention at New York’s Madison Square Garden as the final flames of his presidential candidacy flickered out, summed up his remarkable career on his Web site.
Kennedy never flinched from the sobriquet “liberal,” even after conservatives demonized the word and Democrats came to prefer “progressive.”
Kennedy, who voted against the Iraq war, steadfastly championed the poor, the downtrodden and the voiceless. He supported spending on health care and education whether it was in favor or out of fashion. He believed unwaveringly in the power of government as a force for positive change.
The whole idea of meaningful health care reform is to break the corporate stranglehold.
The current system, which ranks 37th – not No. 1 as talking points might lead you to believe – is ruining this country for the sake of preserving $400 billion in annual profits raked in by private health insurance companies.
These companies and their agents in Congress – many with vested interests – stoop to fear tactics to deny health care even while millions needlessly suffer and die.
They like to deceptively argue that publicly-funded health care puts bureaucrats between us and our doctors when, in reality, private insurance stands between doctors and patients, dropping coverage and denying needed care.
They oppose publicly-funded health care because it “socializes” medicine, yet doctors, hospitals and medicine stay in the private sector under any such system.
They trot out tried and tested lines about long lines and rationed care “like in Canada and England.”
Yet only in America do we await treatment while an insurance company decides our fate – often deciding to deny care. In that regard, rationing is already happening here.
They particularly try to scare us with what publicly-funded health care will cost. We’re already paying for it, just not getting it, including an estimated $450 billion spent processing paperwork. There could be a lot more spent directly on health care, rather than on bonuses for insurance execs.
Health care should be a fundamental right in a wealthy industrialized democracy.
Health care is too important to be profit-driven by greedy insurance companies. Medicare for all, with no one left out.
Whether a single payer, non-profit system or President Obama’s “public option” to compete with private insurance, both systems seek to correct the diversion of our premiums, depriving patients of health care.
Kennedy’s absence from the rancorous health care debate has been felt because, as his funeral showed, he was a legislator’s legislator, able to work across party lines with Republicans such as John McCain and Orrin Hatch.
He knew how to negotiate deals without sacrificing his deep convictions, such as working with President George W. Bush to pass No Child Left Behind.
Kennedy knew the role of a politician is to make progress – if not all at once, then incrementally, a bit at a time.