Ted Kennedy survived years in Washington, but, sadly, he couldn't survive brain cancer. The long-serving Senator succumbed to the disease this evening, thus ending an illustrious, at times scandalous and always headline-grabbing life.
One of nine siblings born to the legendary Joe Kennedy Sr., Ted grew up in the limelight, a light that only grew brighter when his brother, John F. Kennedy, became president in 1960. Two years later, Ted would join his brother in Washington as a Massachusetts Senator, a position he held until today, the day he died. Like his brothers John and Bobby, both of whom were assassinated, Senator Kennedy's life was full of tabloid-grabbing drama. There was a 1964 plane crash, in which one of his aides was killed; and then there was a car accident in 1969, when the Senator, after a party, was driving with Mary Jo Kopechne and went off a bridge. Kopechne died at the scene, which Ted fled. He was later found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident and sentenced to two months in prison, but that sentencing was suspended. Even that, however, couldn't hold down Mr. Kennedy, who went on to become one of the most revered politicians in Washington and earned the moniker "liberal lion."
Though the incident prevented him from running for president in 1972, Kennedy did unsuccessfully throw his hat in the 1980 ring, but lost the nomination to Jimmy Carter. Undeterred, Kennedy used his time to fight for women's rights and AIDS funding. Yes, health has always been one of Kennedy's passions, as it was in 1997, when he joined then-First Lady Hillary Clinton in a health care battle with Republicans
Kennedy's cancer took center stage this year, after he suffered a seizure at an inauguration luncheon for President Obama. Since then, the Senator has been throwing his weight behind health care reform. Just last month he wrote to Newsweek and implored the nation to hear his roar:
For four decades I have carried this cause-from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me-and more urgency-than ever before.
Kennedy's obviously been well aware that his days are numbered, for his asked Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick last week to amend the states' successor laws and name a Senator to replace him when the curtain went down. Now, with him dead, it's unclear what will happen in the Bay State.
One thing's for sure: Kennedy's death closes a chapter on one of America's great — and endlessly fascinating — political dynasties. And, we hope, will help galvanize the health care debate toward a reasonable conclusion. He would want it that way.