Sen. Ted Kennedy dies from brain cancer

Senator Edward Kennedy, a towering figure in the Democratic Party who took the helm of one of America’s most fabled political families after two older brothers were assassinated, has died, his family said. He was 77.

"Edward M. Kennedy, the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply, died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port (Massachusetts)," the Kennedy family said in a statement.

One of the most influential and longest-serving senators in U.S. history — a liberal standard-bearer who was also known as a consummate congressional dealmaker — Kennedy had been battling brain cancer, which was diagnosed in May 2008.

"We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," the family statement said.

"He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him," the family added.

His death marked the twilight of a political dynasty and dealt a blow to Democrats as they seek to answer President Barack Obama’s call for an overhaul of the healthcare system. Kennedy had made healthcare reform his signature cause.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said in a statement the Kennedy family and Senate "have together lost our patriarch."

"As we mourn his loss, we rededicate ourselves to the causes for which he so dutifully dedicated his life."

Known as "Teddy," he was the brother of President John Kennedy, assassinated in 1963, Senator Robert Kennedy, fatally shot while campaigning for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination, and Joe Kennedy, a pilot killed in World War Two.

When he first took the Senate seat previously held by John Kennedy in 1962, he was seen as something of a political lightweight who owed his ascent to his famous name.

Yet during his nearly half century in the chamber, Kennedy became known as one of Washington’s most effective senators, crafting legislation by working with lawmakers and presidents of both parties, and finding unlikely allies.

At the same time, he held fast to liberal causes deemed anachronistic by the centrist "New Democrats," and was a lightning rod for conservative ire.

He helped enact measures to protect civil and labor rights, expand healthcare, upgrade schools, increase student aid and contain the spread of nuclear weapons.

"There’s a lot to do," Kennedy told Reuters in 2006. "I think most of all it’s the injustice that I continue to see and the opportunity to have some impact on it."

After Robert Kennedy’s death, Edward was expected to waste little time in vying for the presidency. But in 1969, a young woman drowned after a car Kennedy was driving plunged off a bridge on the Massachusetts resort island of Chappaquiddick after a night of partying.

Kennedy’s image took a major hit after it emerged he had failed to report the accident to authorities. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene and received a suspended sentence.

Kennedy eventually ran for his party’s presidential nomination in 1980 but lost to then-President Jimmy Carter.

His presidential ambitions thwarted, Kennedy devoted himself to his Senate career.

A 2009 survey by The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, found that Senate Republicans believed Kennedy was the chamber’s easiest Democrat to work with and most bipartisan.

Republican Senator John McCain called Kennedy "the single most effective member of the Senate if you want to get results."

In January 2008, Kennedy endorsed Obama, who was serving his first term as a senator, for the Democratic presidential nomination. Many saw the endorsement — Obama went on to win the nomination and the White House — as the passing of the political torch to a new generation.

‘LION’ BATTLED ON

Kennedy had been largely sidelined in Congress since becoming ill. The "Lion of the Senate" began to use a cane and often looked tired and drained as he mixed work with treatment.

Yet colleagues and staff said he remained determined to fulfill what he called "the cause of my life," providing health insurance to all Americans. He helped draft legislation to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system.

Kennedy’s interest in healthcare dated from his son’s bout with cancer in the 1970s. More recently, he cited his own illness as he made a case for reform.

"I’ve benefited from the best of medicine, but I’ve also witnessed the frustration and outrage of patients and doctors alike as they face the challenges of a system that shortchanges millions of Americans," he wrote in a May 28, 2009, issue of the Boston Globe.

His charisma as "the last of the Kennedy brothers" was such that draft-Teddy drives were a feature of U.S. presidential election years from 1968 through the 1980s.

But he never fully escaped the cloud of the Chappaquiddick accident. A decades-long argument arose about whether he tried to cover up his involvement by leaving the scene while Mary Jo Kopechne’s body remained submerged and whether police helped sweep such questions under the rug. All involved denied any cover-up.

Later crises involving younger Kennedys, notably the 1991 Palm Beach rape trial of his nephew, William Kennedy Smith, caught a bloated and weary-looking Uncle Ted in a media glare. Reports of heavy drinking and womanizing led to a public apology for "the faults in the conduct of my private life."

Kennedy was remarried soon after that to Victoria Reggie, a 38-year-old lawyer with two young children from her first marriage. He poured renewed energy into the Senate, where he would become the third-longest serving senator in history.

Even his Republican foes recognized Kennedy’s dedication as he worked to protect civil rights, give federal help to the poor, contain the spread of nuclear weapons, raise the minimum wage, expand health coverage and improve America’s schools.

FAMILY STANDARDS

Born on February 22, 1932, Edward Moore Kennedy was the last of four sons and five daughters born to millionaire businessman Joseph Kennedy, who would later be ambassador to Britain, and his wife Rose.

The Boston Irish family combined the competitive spirit of nouveau riche immigrants with acquired polish and natural charm. The sons were expected to mature into presidential timber and were groomed for that starting with the oldest, Joseph Jr., a bomber pilot who died in World War Two.

"I think about my brothers every day," Kennedy told Reuters. "They set high standards. Sometimes you measure up, sometimes you don’t."

Like his brothers, Kennedy was known for his oratory, delivered in a booming voice at rallies, congressional hearings and in the Senate.

He drew praise from liberals, labor and civil rights groups and scorn from conservatives, big business and anti-abortion and pro-gun activists. His image was often used by Republicans in ads as a money-raising tool.

Tragedies dogged Kennedy throughout his life. They included a 1964 plane crash that damaged his spine and left him with persistent pain; bone cancer that cost son Teddy a leg; first wife Joan’s battles with alcoholism that contributed to their divorce, and drug problems involving nephews, one of whom died of an overdose. His nephew, John Kennedy Jr., died in July 1999 when his small plane crashed into the ocean near Cape Cod.

In May 2008, Edward Kennedy collapsed at his Cape Cod home and was flown to hospital in Boston, where he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Brain cancer kills half its victims within a year.

Kennedy’s illness kept him from attending the funeral of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a leading advocate of the mentally disabled, who died on August 11 at the age of 88.

21 Responses to "Sen. Ted Kennedy dies from brain cancer"

  1. gazelle1929  August 26, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    May you and Griff have your reward in heaven. Real soon.

    The man worked his entire life for his country, and before his body has cooled to room temperature you people are trashing him. Disagreement with his policies is one thing, demonizing a decent human being on the occasion of his death is something else. It’s the ultimate argumentum ad hominem.

    Neither you nor Griff have the common decency to keep your nasty little mouths shut at a time when Ted Kennedy’s loved ones (and many others) are mourning his death. You are beneath contempt. If I were Doug Thompson your ass would be gone from this place, but he seems much more tolerant towards flaming assholes than the rest of us.

  2. GovtFlu  August 26, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Good riddance.

  3. griff  August 26, 2009 at 8:03 am

    R.I.P. Senator Kennedy, if that’s at all possible. You outlasted the rest of your brood because you sold out.

    You spent your career facilitating the rape and plunder of my country and its people. You were corrupt beyond description. You used the plight of the people to amass great power and wealth.

    But in the end, you’re just dust, like the rest of us. Pardon me if no tears come.

  4. gazelle1929  August 26, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Contemptible. Simply contemptible. Have you no shame?

  5. RichardKanePA  August 26, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Senator Kennedy might have compromised more than other Kennedy’s because his death wasn’t strange. There was something precious that Roosevelt, Kennedy and Carter gave that the hate the left blogs are making us loose. But I realize that Eisenhower also gave this country something precious and he was not liberal.

    Senator Kennedy clearly wanted a better world and let’s make more universal heath care part of his legacy. Remember when he was almost dying he still managed to vote for health care.

    From Pennsylvania,
    RichardKanePA

  6. woody188  August 26, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Would you mourn Major General Benedict Arnold?

    What if Israeli spy Larry Franklin died tomorrow, should we be sad?

    This argument brings me back to when Tony Snow died. It was debated back then whether he knew he was lying or not as the Bush Administration mouth piece and whether we should mourn his passing if he harmed our Republic.

    God forgives and judges, and Jesus saves. Death doesn’t change how you lived your life and the legacy you leave or the albatross you hang upon the necks us those left behind in this mortal realm.

  7. bryan mcclellan  August 26, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    The shame of it all is the children and the elderly that at this very moment are denied care as they are pushed aside and over the precipice into the black hole of health care poverty.
    Why aren’t their lives as important as some shameless politicians?

  8. griff  August 27, 2009 at 12:10 am

    In a word…No!

  9. bryan mcclellan  August 26, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Spew on down the self righteous road while hell on wheels overtakes you and grinds you into the pavement engineered by the so called movers and shakers.

    For myself I’ve always been one form of asshole or another to those who refuse the truth concerning hero worship of those who would not give the time of day to any not of their social station.

    If the sum worth of a mans hire is derogatory in nature all the pretty lamentations in the world won’t change his legacy. Too bad.

    We are in this mess because of the blind faith we give to fakirs and the insane idea that there are blue bloods among us. High opinions of low people because they have wealth or fame sickens me as it should any reasonable human being.

    I did not trash or lessen his humanity but only questioned his failure to be the one that Lot was seeking amongst the idolaters.

    You may give me all the hell you please but it will not change the fact that you are alongside in the very same flames you so adamantly wish me to burn in.
    Onionsan.

  10. scrugun  August 26, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Once I had respect for your posts, griff, no more though.

  11. griff  August 27, 2009 at 12:45 am

    I’m shattered. I’m afraid I don’t do this to make friends but to expose our enemies. Ted Kennedy was such a creature.

    While I wish no ill will toward anyone, I won’t pretend that he was a friend of mine because he’s dead.

  12. Doc_Holiday  August 26, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Whether he was a friend or foe, now is not the time to devolve into petty bickering. We still have a job to do and a mission to complete.

  13. bryan mcclellan  August 26, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Remember, If you blow up the balloon too far,
    you can’t see around it rendering it useless without a point of no return.

    Farm boy logic 11/22/63.
    If you can milk a Cow, you can get along with everyone.

  14. almandine  August 26, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Udder Nonsense !

  15. bryan mcclellan  August 26, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Single channels of government in the guise of duality have a way of drying ole Bessy up.

    Dads logic 82609
    No one here has denied The Senator his opportunity to stand before the master of his fate. But, what use is it now , to say,
    Oh Teddy, we thought we knew you well,
    such promise, sigh….

    I hope he left the location of the holy grail in Switzerland, I might as well request.

    Do we give the man credit for walking among his fubar/snafu pals as a fearless representative,
    or question the old starting pitcher on steroids long past his prime.

    I’ve no doubt he was a haunted man, but so is my country with a sociopolitical hangover bent on forgiveness over survival of principle. Dangit

  16. almandine  August 26, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Calling for death because of opinions?

    Don’t even speak of decency.

    How would you know it?

  17. griff  August 27, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Yeah I feel real sorry for his minions in his armored compound, far removed from the misery he’s helped perpetuate. He was no more important than the little girl that died in an accident I witnessed this past Saturday. Less so, in my opinion.

    Maybe I should write a blog about the many things she’ll never do.

    Or maybe I’ll talk about the many people I’ve known that have passed on with no fanfare. People that wanted nothing from anyone but to live and let live.

    We idolize these wretches as if they’re somehow better or smarter than the rest of us. I surely won’t give them that, and it doesn’t say much for the rest of the country if that’s the popular belief.

    Ted Kennedy was born and raised in the elitist mindset that permeates Washington and dominates society.

    Sorry, don’t believe in heaven.

  18. Carl Nemo  August 27, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Lest those in mourning forget…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chappaquiddick_incident

    Carl Nemo **==

  19. Carl Nemo  August 27, 2009 at 1:19 am

    duplicate deleted

  20. bryan mcclellan  August 27, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Salim sala bim , abbra cadabra. Peek out from under the wool.

    Thanks Nemoman.

  21. Carl Nemo  August 27, 2009 at 1:36 am

    Griff…

    If the year were 1771 and both of us were hellbent on ridding the colonies of British influence then both of us would be one…no?!

    Thanks for having the spine and dedication to speaking your mind in the face of total, abject rejection from those with mere pedestrian thoughts… : |

    Carl Nemo **==

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