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“What if his name had been Edward Moore?”

August 26, 2009, 6:58 am

My favorite Ted Kennedy piece is Charles Pierce’s, from 2003:

If his name were Edward Moore . . .

He would not have served so long, if he’d served at all. He might not have served with more than 350 other senators. He would not have served with all three men – Everett Dirksen, Richard Russell, and Philip Hart – after whom the Senate office buildings are named. He would not have had his first real fight over the poll tax and his most recent one over going to war in Iraq. None of this would have happened if his name were Edward Moore.

If his name were Edward Moore . . .

If his name were Edward Moore, Robert Bork might be on the Supreme Court today. Robert Dole might have been elected president of the United States. There might still be a draft. There would not have been the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which overturned seven Supreme Court decisions that Kennedy saw as rolling back the gains of the civil rights movement; the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, the most wide-ranging civil rights bill since the original ones in the 1960s; the Kennedy-Kassebaum Bill of 1996, which allows “portability” in health care coverage; or any one of the 35 other initiatives – large and small, on everything from Medicare to the minimum wage to immigration reform – that Kennedy, in opposition and in the minority, managed to cajole and finesse through the Senate between 1996 and 1998, masterfully defusing the Gingrich Revolution and maneuvering Dole into such complete political incoherence that Bill Clinton won reelection in a walk. None of this would have happened, if his name were Edward Moore.

If his name were Edward Moore . . .

His brothers might be alive. His life might have been easier, not having mattered much to anyone beyond its own boundaries. His first marriage might have survived, and, if it had not, Joan Kennedy’s problems would have been her own, and not grist for the public gossips. It might not have mattered to anyone, the fistfight outside the Manhattan saloon, the fooz ling with waitresses in Washington restaurants, the image of him in his nightshirt, during Holy Week (Jesus God!), going out for a couple of pops with the younger set in Palm Beach and winding up testifying in the middle of a rape trial. His second marriage simply would have been a second marriage, and Vicki Kennedy would not have found herself dragooned into the role of The Good Fairy in yet another Kennedy epiphany narrative.

All of this would not have mattered, if his name were Edward Moore.

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