The Dawn of Kennedy-Free Government

December 23, 2010

Patrick Kennedy is leaving the House of Representatives. The Boston Globe is sad.

“When the new House is seated in January,” the paper lamented, “it will mark the first time since 1947 -- the year a 29-year-old John F. Kennedy was sworn in as a Massachusetts congressman -- that no member of the Kennedy family will be serving in the House, Senate, or White House.”

It’s fitting that the clan’s 64-year reign comes to an end at a time when the nation is bankrupt, four out of every ten children are born to unwed mothers, and tens of millions of households consider welfare a way of life.

An attitude of entitlement is the true “Kennedy Curse.” And in the 20th century, Americans allowed themselves to become infected with the family’s fatal flaw. We’re all trust-fund babies now.

While a return to traditional virtues remains possible, the nation stubbornly sticks with its renunciation of individual initiative, self-sacrifice, and Judeo-Christian morals. Hey, solipsism, recklessness, hypocrisy, and buck-passing worked for the Kennedys.

Impulse control wasn’t a family hallmark. The litany of debauchery is well-documented. Women were considered little more than sexual playthings. (As for female relatives, they came in handy on the campaign trail.) Booze and narcotics were always available to soothe the stresses associated with being Important Men. 

When unrestrained appetites caused trouble, the Kennedy spin machine pounced. After JFK’s assassination, flunkies -- Dave Powers, Ted Sorensen, Arthur Schlesinger -- helped his widow concoct the “Camelot” myth. (It was years before the full scope of the slain president’s drug-addled horndoggery emerged.) The press was trusted to spike embarrassing episodes. In 1979, The Washington Monthly averred that Ted had “a severe case of arrested development” and exhibited “a babyish ego that must constantly be fed.” But such unflattering coverage was rare. Most “journalists” desire access to power and fame -- and maybe a new job -- even more than they seek to push leftism. With eye-popping wealth, immense influence, good looks, Hollywood connections, mob ties, and the adoration of millions, the Kennedys delivered.

No one who posed a threat to the family’s political ambitions was safe. Not even one of their own. RFK’s son David, who died of a drug overdose in 1984, once read a story about lobotomies in High Times. It included a picture of his aunt Rose Marie, lobotomized and institutionalized decades earlier, and essentially abandoned by the family. “The thought crossed my mind that if my grandfather was alive the same thing could have happened to me that happened to her,” he told writers Peter Collier and David Horowitz. “She was an embarrassment; I am an embarrassment. She was a hindrance; I am a hindrance. As I looked at this picture, I began to hate my grandfather and all of them for having done the thing they had done to her… .”

Wouldn’t it have been refreshing if a Kennedy had become an outspoken activist for the sanctity of unborn life? Or perhaps a strong advocate for entrepreneurship and property rights? No, conformity to prevailing Democratic Party orthodoxy was consistently enforced.

“Public service” (i.e., holding political office, being surrounded by sycophants, and spending other people’s money) wasn’t a priority, it was the only priority. Ted offered some of the best evidence of the Kennedys’ creepy fixation in a 2006 interview. Vanity Fair asked, “If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?” The senator could have cited the violent deaths of his three brothers. He might have chosen his first wife’s alcoholism, or her multiple miscarriages. His son Patrick’s substance abuse was another option. None made the cut. “Jack would have had a second term,” he replied. Asked about his “greatest fear,” Ted answered, “Another two years of Republican control of Congress.”

Those of us lucky enough to have been born after PT 109, the 1960 election, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Dealey Plaza, the Ambassador Hotel, and Chappaquiddick missed the worst of the Kennedy PR blitz. We weren’t repeatedly subjected to images of touch football at the Hyannis Port compound, John-John’s staged salute to his father’s passing casket, or RFK’s well-publicized poverty tours.

Post-Boomer generations are thus more inclined to see the Kennedys for what they were, and in most cases, still are -- privileged brats who lacked their own identities, squandered their considerable congenital advantages, ruined the lives of many, and reflexively supported expansions of the federal government.

Washington’s last Kennedy is about to go home. Thus endeth America’s ersatz royal family. Good riddance.

D. Dowd Muska ( writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska. He lives in Broad Brook, Connecticut.

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