Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: To the left, ideological purity trumps all
Posted on 01/14/2003 2:47:25 PM PST by knighthawk
Every so often you read something that stops you in your tracks. A week ago, The Boston Globe ran a 10,000-word profile of Ted Kennedy by Charles Pierce. For the first gazillion paragraphs or so, it chugged along in familiar Boston Globe snoozefest mode, and then:
"If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age."
That's terrific, isn't it? If he hadn't killed her, he'd have given her a grand old age -- if 62 counts as "old age," which most women would surely dispute (unless the Globe's using actuarial tables based on female life expectancy of Kennedy acquaintances). But Mr. Pierce's point is a simple one: Sure, 34 years ago, Teddy fished himself out of the briny, staggered away and somehow neglected to inform the authorities until the following morning that he'd left some gal down there. But, if he was too tired to do anything for her back then, he's been "tireless" on her behalf ever since.
Working for the Sunday Globe isn't like sloughing off a Monday column for the National Post, where you can write any old hooey and it's on the streets a couple of hours later. This was one of those big ol' butt-numbing magazine profiles, which only reaches the reader after it's spent weeks working its way up through the deputy assistant copy-editor and the assistant deputy copy-editor and all the rest of the fine tooth-combers the American press employs to drain all the life out of their publications. And throughout that tortuous process apparently not one of the legions of scrutinizers thought: "Hang on. 'If Mary Jo Kopechne wasn't dead, she wouldn't just be living, she'd be living high off the hog on Kennedy welfare'? 'If she hadn't drowned, she'd be drowning in benefit checks'? Isn't that a little ... infelicitous?' "
But evidently not. Old-time Kennedy defenders used to just brush her aside: In 1999, Dan Rather, choking up over the "irony" of JFK Jr. dying on the anniversary of Chappaquiddick, couldn't even remember Mary Jo Kopechne's name, or, at any rate, deemed it unworthy of mention. But the advanced-model Kennedy flack disdains such squeamishness: Yeah, so he killed someone. Big deal. This was the line taken by The New York Times' Adam Clymer in his definitive hagiography of "the leading senator of our time." If the name seems vaguely familiar, it may be because you're sitting on it. Two years ago then candidate George W. Bush caused something of a stir by referring to Mr Clymer as a "major-league a--hole" -- or, according to which paper you read, "assh---." My own view of him was formed by this line from his Kennedy book:
Edward Kennedy's "achievements as a senator have towered over his time, changing the lives of far more Americans than remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne."
As I wrote two years ago, "I don't know how many lives the Senator's changed -- he certainly changed Mary Jo's -- but I'm struck less by the precise arithmetic than by the curious equation: How many changed lives justify leaving Miss Kopechne struggling for breath for hours pressed up against the window in a small, shrinking air pocket in Teddy's car? If the Senator had managed to change the lives of even more Americans, would it have been okay to leave a couple more broads down there? Such a comparison doesn't automatically make its writer an a------, but it certainly gives one a commanding lead in the preliminary qualifying round."
But among the orthodox left the Clymer/Pierce view is the standard line: You can't make an omelette without breaking chicks. This is subtly different from arguing that a man's personal failings are outweighed by his public successes. Rather, they're saying that a man's personal flaws are trumped by his ideological purity, regardless of whether or not it works. I doubt whether a 62-year-old Mary Jo would regard Senator Kennedy as "bringing comfort" to her old age. That's not how Americans see themselves, despite the Senator's "tirelessness." David Brooks in The New York Times yesterday noted a Time magazine poll from 2000, in the wake of Democrat accusations that the Bush tax cut would go to "the richest one per cent." Time asked poll respondents whether they themselves were in the top one per cent: 19% said they were, another 20% expected to be someday. "Right away," said Brooks, "you have 39 percent of Americans who thought that when Mr. Gore savaged a plan that favoured the top one percent, he was taking a direct shot at them." Senator Kennedy's view of the American people, like that of Mr. Clinton, is not so much paternalistic as neo-monarchical.
When you reduce citizens to subjects, inevitably a little droit de seigneur gets built into the equation -- not just in the Kennedy-Clintonian sense, but in all kinds of other areas. Take Al Gore, Mister Environment, the man who inflicted Federal toilet regulation on America's bathrooms in the interests of water conservancy. Meanwhile, back at the farm at his alleged home in Tennessee, Mr. Gore's tenants the Mayberrys had asked their distinguished landlord 30 times to fix their leaking toilet. But the Eco King saw no contradiction between requiring everybody else to make do with cisterns that hold less than a supersized cup at McDonald's and forcing his own tenants to live in a septic tank for over a year. The scale of his accomplishments as a great thinker drowns his deficiencies as a landlord as easily as the Niagara-sized torrent from his cistern cascaded through the bathroom and down his tenants' stairs.
The environmental crowd have a favourite bumper sticker: "Think Globally, Act Locally." But many global thinkers, like Mr. Gore, have a lot of trouble acting locally. And, when the inevitable contradictions arise, ideological purity always trumps local glitches. What I find creepy about the Clymer/Pierce line on Miss Kopechne is its careless assumption of her disposability. It's we on the right who are supposed to be heartless: We're the ones who think nothing of sacrificing "other people's sons" in wars fought for our corporate interests; it's George W. Bush who, in the celebrated insight of Canada's rising political star Bill Blaikie, is "planning every minute of his life to kill as many Iraqi children as he can in the name of oil."
If we right-wing madmen do indeed spend every waking minute dreaming up ways to kill as many children as possible, we're not very good at it. By contrast, the left does a wonderful job of sacrificing the little people in the name of its own corporate interests. In America, generations of black children have drowned in the swamp of inner-city public schools because the Democratic Party subordinates their interests to those of the teachers' unions. Overseas, the hypothetical body-count of an Anglo-American war with Iraq exercises Bill Blaikie far more than the actual slaughter Saddam has already visited on his people. But then one of the curious qualities of the ideological left is its increasing imperviousness to reality. The uselessness of Canada's billion-dollar gun registry is not the point: Just having one, no matter how expensive, no matter how irrelevant, "sends the right message."
After September 11th, the dispiriting feature of the left was its heartlessness -- the rush to deny the individual human loss and to reframe a deliberate act of premeditated murder as merely an unfortunate side-effect of an abstract "root cause"; the inability to rouse yourself from woozy generalities and perfunctory sloganeering.
I'm a conservative because I'll take human experience over ideology. You can't go to what passes for a schoolhouse in the heart of America's cities and think it's anything to do with a lack of money, as Senator Kennedy does, dismissing Bush's 40% increase in the Federal education budget as a mere (wait for it) "drop in the water." Indeed, from the schoolyard to foreign policy, it's harder and harder to turn away from the human cost of liberal orthodoxy. I think Ted Kennedy is irrelevant to the way real Americans live real lives and, even if he weren't, it wouldn't justify what he did to poor Mary Jo Kopechne. But her posthumous conscription by The Boston Globe as a poster child for Kennedy liberalism captures the extent of the problem: When you're holding up a woman who's been dead 34 years as an example of the "comforts" of Democratic largesse, maybe it's time to abandon the alternative universe and return to Planet Earth.
But ideological purity doesn't trump everything for the left. Power trumps purity. Take Clinton (please) for example. He was not an ideologically pure leftist. He could play the middle ground by supporting things like welfare reform. Both this and his personal problems were forgivable because he brought money and power to the left.
Liberals are evil.
We took the ferry to Martha's Vineyard and retraced Kennedy's steps from the Chappaquidick Bridge.
I can't swim, but I think I could have held my breath long enough to duck under, open the door and rescue Mary Jo. It wasn't like the car was 100 feet under water.
According to Kennedy, ignoring this obvious option, he then ran past at least a half dozen houses to the Edgartown Channel, which he heroically swam across to seek help (the next morning).
This story was so full of holes that you could drive a truck through it, when you actually were there and saw with your own eyes the reality of it, I thought my BIL was going to have a "cardiac event."
He ranted all the way on the ferry back to Cape Cod and hasn't been right since.
That the Kennedy sycophants would actually be twisting this as a net benefit for Mary Jo begs for a whole new definition of "disgust," referenced only by a picture of the esteemed Senator from Massachusetts.
There are no words that could adequately define it.
I love Stein.
The earlier generations snuffed their girlfriends.
It's all that the current generation can do to manage and kill themselves.
Whew it seems that the whole Miss Cleo Boston Globe editorial board went hog wild.
Liberals pompously think they are the all knowing about "what if" situations.
All one has to do is to listen to their "what if" rants, and see in reality that they are basically Miss Cleo's with $150 haircuts.
Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
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|in the wake of Democrat accusations that the Bush tax cut would go to "the richest one per cent." Time asked poll respondents whether they themselves were in the top one per cent: 19% said they were
See, this is what they get for hosing the schools. They thought they would get a dumbed-down populace that would believe their lies, but they get this instead. Bwaa ha ha.
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