“But if you are sympathetic to Kennedy and his politics, as I am, you’re mindful that the accident at Chappaquiddick happened in 1969, the year after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. (Ted, just 36 and the last of the brothers, shouldered the burden of 11 more fatherless nieces and nephews.) You’re also willing to measure the benefits that Kennedy brought to countless people through his politics, and give them proper weight on the scales of the man’s record. Finally, if you measure his capacity to reform himself, you tip the scales further

For some women, reverence for Kennedy stopped with Chappaquiddick. The rest of us have a very different view: Kennedy had the gift of time to make amends, and we were the beneficiaries of that.”

***
“We are all flawed, and most of us are weak, and in hellish moments, at a split-second’s notice, confronting the choice that will define us ever after, many of us will fail the test. Perhaps Mary Jo could have been saved; perhaps she would have died anyway. What is true is that Edward Kennedy made her death a certainty. When a man (if you’ll forgive the expression) confronts the truth of what he has done, what does honor require?

Ted Kennedy went a different route. He got kitted out with a neck brace and went on TV and announced the invention of the ‘Kennedy curse,’ a concept that yoked him to his murdered brothers as a fellow victim — and not, as Mary Jo perhaps realized in those final hours, the perpetrator. He dared us to call his bluff, and, when we didn’t, he made all of us complicit in what he’d done. We are all prey to human frailty, but few of us get to inflict ours on an entire nation…

The senator’s actions in the hours and days after emerging from that pond tell us something ugly about Kennedy the man. That he got away with it tells us something ugly about American public life.”