As obituaries published today by major newspapers make clear, Edward Kennedy, the senior senator from Massachusetts who died of brain cancer last night, was a towering political presence, a savvy champion of liberal causes, and a personally flawed figure whose troubles played out on a public stage.
Liberal writers have penned heartfelt tributes, Democrats in Congress have vowed to push forward in his memory, and Republican politicians, with whom Kennedy often worked, have expressed sadness at his passing. But how has the conservative media—both long-established publications and the newer voices of the blogosphere—responded?
Silently, in a few cases. The Weekly Standard’s blog makes no mention of Kennedy’s passing; neither does Opinion Journal. But in the circles where Kennedy’s death is being treated as a big story, it’s handled in different ways. Michelle Malkin urges her readers to show restraint:
Put aside your ideological differences for an appropriate moment and mark this passing with solemnity.
There is a time and place for political analysis and criticism. Not now.
Yes, there will be a nauseating excess of MSM hagiographies and lionizations — and crass calls to pass the health care takeover to memorialize his death.
That’s no excuse to demonstrate the same lack of restraint in the other direction. Not now.
And at Powerline, Paul Mirengoff was outright charitable to the liberal lion:
With the passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy, we can expect the usual suspects — liberal talking heads, Senate colleagues and the like — to tell us how Kennedy was a giant of the Senate, among the most influential Senators of the 20th century, etc.
This time, the usual suspects will be right.
…A great many people thought Kennedy was on their side and the outpouring of sentiment we are starting to witness will, in part, be reflection of this fact.
Not everyone was so positive. At RedState, Erick Erickson relayed mentions that Kennedy was “very nice” the one time they met, but adds:
I can’t say that I’ll miss him. He, to me, represented all that is wrong with Washington — a kingdom of nepotism and worship at the altar of failed liberal policies that get repeated ad infinitum. He opposed school choice for the poor while segregating his kids from the poor in school. He supported policies opposed to life except when life could be advanced through the destruction of the unborn. He opposed a strong national security against even the evidence of its necessity during his brother’s Presidential administration.
Ted Kennedy supported the expansion of the welfare state and a culture of dependency on government, made all the more tragic given how ensnared his life was to dependency. He should have known better given his own life and that of his family.
And then there’s Mary Jo Kopechne. May she rest in peace.
Kopechne, of course, is the young aide who was killed in the accident at Chappaquiddick, and, in addition to Kennedy’s role in derailing the nomination of Robert Bork, she is one of the recurring themes in much of the conservative commentary. At American Thinker, Rick Moran suggests a fitting epitaph would be a line James Taranto first penned a few years ago, before Kennedy fell ill: “Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment.” And New Criterion editor Roger Kimball wastes no words in a Pajamas Media blog post calling Kennedy a ‘“liar, drunk, cheat, philanderer, and — let’s not forget — inadvertent murderer”:
The tsunami of sentimental pap about Kennedy is already churning, gushing, rushing to inundate the public with a nauseating and untruthful fairy tale about the “Lion of the Senate.” The Lyin’ in the Senate is more like it. Kennedy was 77 when he was taken off last night, Mary Jo Kopechne had just turned 29 when Kennedy’s car veered off the bridge in Chappaquiddick and he wriggled free and swam to shore, leaving the young woman trapped in the car to drown.
Perhaps the fullest conservative commentary on Kennedy can be found at the National Review Web site, where a variety of writers have been weighing in on the man and his legacy. The conclusion from one of those contributors, Bill Bennett:
To the American Left, he was their lion. To the American conservative movement, he was our bane. But today, we put the politics aside and wish him and his family God’s peace.Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.