When someone famous for having done something really important dies, his memory is at risk for similar parody. Washington is awash just now in lugubrious self-congratulations for the “moment of unity” that is said to have descended on the capital in the wake of Teddy’s death. Some people mistake good manners for regrets for having failed to share Teddy’s politics. Other mourners, real, imagined, right and left, are eager to strike heroic poses as old Kennedy pals and confidantes. One pundit recalls that he was once invited to dinner at Chez Kennedy and that the senator even endorsed, sort of, a book he once wrote. Fame in Washington is where you can find a reflection to bask in.
The author of another “remembrance,” anxious to be thought a Kennedy insider, manages to get through a hymn to the senator’s career and character without mentioning Mary Jo Kopechne. The New York Times notes the tragedy at Chappaquiddick Island as merely a “personal embarrassment.” Ted Sorensen, a faithful liege man to the Kennedy family, writes in Time magazine that the significance of the Chappaquiddick “incident” is that it ultimately “ended [Teddy’s] bright prospects for still higher office.” (Miss Kopechne, who is still dead, did not return phone calls for comment.)