08/26/09 — Flawed, yes: Sen. Ted Kennedy was one of the last politicians of old

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Flawed, yes: Sen. Ted Kennedy was one of the last politicians of old

Today's politicians are sanitized -- scrubbed clean of their pasts by fast-talking handlers and multimillion-dollar ad campaigns.

They benefit from technology that allows them to recover quickly or to avoid challenges before they become an issue -- and a medium that allows them to hone their image and edit their brands almost on a daily basis.

They do not grind it out on the road -- not like they used to, when buses and trains carried weary politicians from town to town.

Sen. Ted Kennedy was not from that generation of politicians.

He was part of the old-school legislators, the kind who understood that an image and a speech on television do not create the kind of loyalty a handshake does.

He understood speeches, personal contact and serving his constituents to the best of his ability. He was proficient at the art of compromise -- even when it meant he had to change his own perspective.

Kennedy was part of a group of old-timers from a generation that understood public service, sacrifice and strength -- logging more than 40 years as a public servant and still trying to make deals from his deathbed.

His convictions ran deep and he fought for what he believed in, willing to take on all comers, even if he knew, in the end he might not win.

And yet, the man they called the "liberal lion," was human. He had a past and his share of scandals under his belt -- even one that tarnishes his spot in history. Some feel that those scandals preclude his designation as a "great" anything. And maybe, they are right.

But in the end, Kennedy was a man who was the end of a dynasty of brothers who practiced old-fashioned politics under the mantle of new ideas. They preached a better world and worked to make their version of that a reality.

The Kennedys were part of a special sort of fraternity -- the politician. They worked the crowds, made the speeches and courted donors. They were a part of a Camelot -- in a way that none of these shellacked and polished politicians will ever be able to duplicate. America was different then, and the type of leaders Americans warmed to were different then, too.

So, with his passing, Sen. Kennedy leaves a debate -- just as he did in life -- a man who had skeletons in his closet and victories under his belt.

His place in history is secure -- the last of the brothers whose vision really did change the world.

Published in Editorials on August 26, 2009 11:41 AM