Extreme: footage on joke site. He's a funny guy....read on. 

Extreme: footage on joke site. He's a funny guy....read on.

"Teddy Kennedy was the weak kitten in the litter, never able to measure up to his brothers.
The accident at Chappaquiddick displayed his chronic immaturity. One problem Teddy has always had was keeping it in his pants - even when other people are around."
- Cleo O'Donnell - wife of former Kennedy campaign aide.


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Comment Main Story Why Ted Kennedy Can't Stand Still Continued from Page 1 Kennedy's nocturnal ramblings and other personal habits have been the subject of uncommon public interest since a young woman died in his car beneath the bridge at Chappaquiddick more than 20 years ago. Tales of his drinking and raffish behavior have become part of his public persona, often lumped under a vaster damnation known as "the character issue." Whether this eventually will undermine his power and influence on the Hill -- as it has chopped away his presidential prospects -- only time and Kennedy's future behavior can determine. He appears to compartmentalize his off-duty conduct and his Senate responsibilities; during dozens of interviews for this article, with friends and foes, not one could cite an instance in which drinking appeared to impair him professionally. His adversaries grumble about it anyway; friends portray it as relatively harmless and charming. Orrin Hatch, the conservative Utah Republican who is also a Mormon, tells this story with what he describes as "a tremendous brotherly affection." Two days before the Senate adjourned in October 1988, Hatch took a call from Frank Madsen, a former aide who had moved to Boston to supervise 200 young Mormon missionaries. Would Hatch come speak to them? Would he bring Kennedy? Would he ask Kennedy to reserve Faneuil Hall for the event? With some misgivings, Hatch agreed to try. Shortly before midnight, he found Kennedy and Chris Dodd in the Capitol. Neither was feeling any pain. "Ted, I've got a favor to ask." Kennedy wrapped an arm around Hatch. "Done!" Hatch held up a restraining hand. "No, hear me out. You remember my aide, Frank Madsen -- " "Great fellow! Great fellow!" "He's now in Boston -- " "My home town! My home town!" Hatch eventually made his request. Kennedy assented. Hatch returned to his office, typed out the agreement and sent it to Kennedy's office. The next day, Hatch spied Kennedy reading the memo. "Orrin," Kennedy called in mock horror, "what else did I agree to?" Three months later, in January 1989, Hatch and Kennedy stood elbow-to-elbow in Faneuil Hall, addressing the Mormon missionaries. Yet Kennedy also has a knack for embarrassing himself in public. He was: caught in flagrante delicto with a female luncheon companion on the floor of La Brasserie restaurant in 1987; photographed last summer atop a comely brunette on a boat in St-Tropez; observed with Dodd in 1985 as they smashed each other's autographed pictures in La Colline restaurant on Capitol Hill; involved in a barroom scuffle last winter at 2 a.m. with a heckler in Manhattan. Queries about the senator's behavior have become so commonplace that one Kennedy press secretary reportedly kept a card on his desk with a standard response: "It is our policy never to comment on this endless gossip and speculation." Such episodes provide ample ammunition for the senator's political antagonists. "He has been utterly shameless, brazen and indifferent to what should be his internal conscience," says Howard Phillips, chairman of the Conservative Caucus. "People in public life have a responsibility to behave in a certain way that can be respected and emulated by children and ordinary citizens." Without question, Kennedy likes to drink. During a two-hour stretch on a Lufthansa flight from Boston to West Germany in November, he downed two drinks of Scotch, two of vodka and, with dinner, three glasses of red wine. After three hours of sleep, the senator appeared sharp and refreshed upon arriving in Frankfurt at dawn, and subsequently put in a full day of work. He also is disciplined enough to stop drinking during his annual winter diet; last year, for example, he lost 50 pounds in 49 days, imbibing little more than a weight-loss concoction he refers to as "chocolate goop." Theories abound, both sympathetic and condemnatory: that Kennedy is a binge drinker trying to forget the pain of the past; that he is an inveterate risk-taker compelled to live on the edge (although, as one acquaintance put it, "a risk for Ted Kennedy isn't the same as a risk for Evel Knievel; it's drinking at La Colline and busting a few pictures"); that his incessant pursuit of women reveals, as writer Suzannah Lessard charged in 1979, "a severe case of arrested development, a kind of narcissistic intemperance." The wine-and-women lifestyle can undercut Kennedy's authority and leave him vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy. Last year, when the nomination of John Tower to be defense secretary turned into a referendum on extracurricular behavior, no senator kept his head lower than Kennedy -- to the point that it became a joke on the Senate floor and in the press gallery. Kennedy offered a brief statement of sympathy for "the unseemly treatment" Tower was enduring. His subsequent vote against the nomination was predicated on conflict of interest charges against Tower; in a 16-paragraph explanation of his vote, Kennedy made only one passing reference to "serious allegations about alcohol abuse." Kennedy is not enlightening when discussing morality and his private behavior. He professes to ignore accounts of his drinking and womanizing, though an aide says he was "quite upset" by the Gentlemen's Quarterly article. Asked whether such portraits diminish his effectiveness in the Senate, he says, "No, I don't think so"; his colleagues, he adds, will judge him on the basis of the man they know rather than the man they read about. Asked whether there should be a different standard for a John Tower than for a sitting U.S. senator, he skirts the question and notes that standards are "evolving in terms of private morality, as well as financial kinds of disclosure." This, he says, is "in the interest of the country." It isn't clear how he feels, other than uncomfortable and somewhat exasperated. "I try to focus on what there is to do today and tomorrow," he adds and, as if to prove the point and change the subject, he recites five or six legislative issues before him. Because he's a Kennedy, his shortcomings are scrutinized relentlessly: The hazard of surviving to the age of 58 is that he's constantly compared to the martyred Kennedy princes, who will remain forever young. Many Americans, perhaps subconsciously, seem to resent him as a reminder of shattered dreams and a lost Camelot. His virtues -- as a hard-working senator, a loving father, a voice for social justice -- can be overshadowed by boorish behavior in ways that his brothers never had to face. Friends are quick to rally round and counterattack. "I don't think anyone could look at his record of public achievement and personal adversity -- personal sorrow -- without coming away with great respect for his character," says former senator John Culver of Iowa, a close Kennedy confidant since their school days at Harvard. "He has pursued some of these causes for 25 years or more -- isn't that character? The integrity and perseverence of his positions -- isn't that character?" But Kennedy's critics can also ask rhetorical questions, as one South African newspaper headline did during the senator's visit in 1985: "He's Teaching Us Morals?" Climbing Onto the Barricades In mid-afternoon on November 14, Kennedy arrives at the Sheraton Washington ballroom for what his staff calls a "red meat" event -- in this case, a speech to the annual AFL-CIO convention. Delegates are seated by profession: ironworkers, grain millers, teachers, actors and artists, laborers. Their applause builds from vigorous to thunderous as the senator leans over the podium and wags his finger to admonish various ne'er-do-wells who stand in the way of liberty, equality, fraternity. In succession, he upbraids Eastern Airlines Chairman Frank Lorenzo, then President Bush, then the "high-paid lobbyists with their $300 shoes and $600 suits" who are blocking a program of national health insurance. "Child care, parental leave, decent health care, safety in the workplace," he concludes. "These are your issues. These are my issues. Are you going to stand with us?" The delegates rise for a sixth and final standing ovation. With a farewell wave, Kennedy bounds from the stage and out the ballroom door, his face as damp and flushed as if he had been swimming. Hurrying through the lobby, he mops his forehead with a white handkerchief, peels off his suit jacket and disappears into the front seat of a waiting car. AMONG HUMAN VIRTUES, Kennedy rates loyalty very high. For nearly 30 years, he has been a faithful standard bearer for the very young and very old, for immigrants and refugees, for blacks and American Indians and blue-collar workers. For the most part, these constituencies have repaid the allegiance. An Ebony poll in 1988 found that the magazine's black readers trusted Kennedy more than any other white American. "We've always found him to be a consistent champion," adds NAACP chief Washington lobbyist Althea T.L. Simmons. Thomas R. Donahue, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, says, "I think Kennedy really represents the best expression of somebody on the Hill who's worried about people issues and worker issues and is doing something about it." Kennedy sees himself now as more tolerant, patient, pragmatic -- "finally hitting my stride." In recent years, he has elevated his native gift for getting along with older men -- a "ninth-child talent," someone once called it -- into a potent knack for coalition building. He and Hatch, hardly organized labor's best friend, joined forces to overcome White House opposition in 1988 and pass into law a bill that prohibits most employers from using polygraph tests on workers or job applicants. Last summer, Kennedy spent hours meeting with White House Chief of Staff John Sununu, Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and Senate Republicans to reach a compromise on the Americans With Disabilities Act, prohibiting discrimination against 43 million Americans with physical or mental handicaps. He can bluster with the best for causes he champions. During one floor tirade on the plant closings bill in 1987, aide Tom Rollins slipped him a note: "Sir, you're shouting." And when he perceives a threat to the interests of Massachusetts, he can be a parochial pest. Several years ago, as the Armed Services Committee wrestled with weighty decisions about attack submarines and nuclear bombers, Kennedy kept harping on an Army proposal to remove a military band from Fort Devens, Mass., which he suspected was part of a scheme to close the base. "Ah, c'mon, guys," he pleaded, much to the amusement of his colleagues, "let me keep my band." In the end, the band stayed -- and Fort Devens remains open. Perhaps Kennedy's greatest asset in the Senate is persistence. "There's more than one way to skin that cat," he often tells the staff. In the late 1970s, he labored to fashion an 880-page bill that restructured the U.S. criminal code, only to see the proposal die in the House; six years later, after being thwarted repeatedly, he finally succeeded in finessing many of the provisions into law, including sentencing and bail reform. "It's true that he's nothing if not persistent," says one senior Bush administration official. "Eventually he will succeed in a lot of these issues." But on others, the jury is still out. In the 1980s, Kennedy tried to modify the liberal agenda by shifting costs away from the federal treasury to businesses; his most ambitious effort in this vein involves mandatory, employer-financed health insurance, a proposal which thus far -- to Kennedy's great frustration -- has failed to muster sufficient political support. He also acknowledges responsibility for creating and sustaining some of the liberal social programs -- CETA is one example -- that eventually collapsed in failure. During the Reagan presidency, Kennedy at times was reduced to rear-guard skirmishing in a futile effort to slow the conservative Republican juggernaut. On those occasions when he digs in for a pitched battle -- or, in Kennedy's phrase, climbs "onto the barricades" -- the result can be bloody and controversial. Less than an hour after President Reagan announced on July 1, 1987, that Judge Robert Bork was his choice to replace retiring Justice Lewis Powell on the Supreme Court, Kennedy appeared on the Senate floor to fire his opening salvo. "Robert Bork's America," he warned in a statement largely written by chief legislative aide Carey Parker, "is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution," and so forth. "He maligned Bork," says Hatch. "What he did was disgraceful. I felt it was hitting below the belt." Kennedy and his staff defend the speech as accurate and legitimate, but some critics sharply disagree. "He just told a bunch of lies at the outset, things that were totally untrue about Judge Bork, and that was it," says former attorney general Edwin Meese III. "I think {Kennedy} has a lot of ability . . . I know on the personal level he has real compassion. That's why I'm particularly concerned when his dark side comes out." Call it what you will, the floor statement was masterful political theater. Kennedy was warning other senators -- inherently disposed to support such a distinguished nominee -- "to jump at your peril" onto the Bork bandwagon, according to an aide. "You've got to get their attention," one former senator explained recently. "Sure, there was hyperbole and distortion. But you're not going to get anyone's attention by whispering, 'Maybe we should take a look at this guy's record.' " For four months, Bork preoccupied Kennedy. Working the phones relentlessly, the senator called scores of labor leaders, family allies, anybody who owed him a political chit. A political think tank provided a computer tape of names and addresses of the nation's 6,200 black elected officials, who subsequently received a letter from Kennedy urging them "to join me in actively opposing the nomination." Before the August recess, Kennedy asked staffers Carolyn Osolinik and Jeff Blattner to prepare an inch-thick briefing book on Bork, which he sent to a dozen or so "likely undecideds" in the Senate. In contrast to his foghorn public rhetoric, Kennedy's private pitch to other senators tended to be low-key, respectful, deferential. "I think you might be interested in this," he would say, sidling up to a colleague. "I'm going to send you some material. Will you read it over the recess?" The Kennedy press office, involved in near-daily strategy sessions once the hearings began, issued reams of releases and "fact sheets" on Bork's record; when polling results suggested a deep public reluctance to "turn back the clock" on civil liberties, that theme became a central motif in the anti-Bork campaign. In his public questioning of Bork, Kennedy was forceful and well-prepared -- if inclined to preface his queries with populist assertions and accusations. Working with Judiciary Chairman Joseph Biden, he helped structure the hearings and shape the prime arguments against the nominee. And when Democrats recognized that Bork was contributing to his own destruction with a limp performance in front of national television cameras, Kennedy adroitly persuaded some of the more rabid anti-Bork groups to lie low. "We realized that the worst thing we could do at that point was to confirm the right wing's charge of special interests undermining the good judge's reputation," one Senate staffer recalls. In the end, it wasn't close. On October 6, 1987, the Judiciary Committee recommended, 9 to 5, that the Senate reject the Bork nomination. On October 23, the Senate did so, 58 to 42. Some Kennedy admirers see his performance not only in terms of his political credo, but also as appealing to a temperament that enjoys an uphill fight. Jim Flug, who worked for Kennedy in the 1960s and '70s, recalls, "He would ask whether anybody else planned to vote against something. If there were five or six nay votes, he wouldn't be very excited. But if he was alone or almost alone, that excited him." 'The Kennedy Eisenhower' On a morning in mid-November, Kennedy convenes the Labor Committee to review the American decline in math and science education. The Dirksen hearing room is a world of wainscoting and marble, of leather chairs and Hermes neckties; heavy green drapes screen out the bright sunlight. Kennedy reads an opening statement quickly, then gestures to a large chart on his right, labeled, "SEE as a Percent of NSF Budget -- Percent of Foreign Engineering PhDs." "This chart is self-explanatory," he says. It is not. Thirteen Senate staff members form a tableau along the wall behind the chairman, who is the only senator present except for the first witness, Mark Hatfield of Oregon. Kennedy and Hatfield make nice to one another. Then Carl Sagan moves to the witness chair to lament that less than half of all Americans know that the Earth moves around the sun and takes a year to do so. Kennedy flawlessly tells a funny joke about a schoolteacher in Louisiana; he follows up by asking Sagan a long, rambling question, then a short, rambling question: "What should we be asking of scientists trying to make the subject kinda interesting and kinda relative?" THOSE WHO ONLY HAVE HEARD Kennedy deliver a stump speech or a 15-second sound bite often are surprised to find that he can be frightfully inarticulate. (The infamous Roger Mudd interview in 1980 gave a fair sampling of this.) Off the stump he can be alternately silver-throated and incomprehensible -- sometimes within the same sentence. At times Kennedy seems to speak a personal dialect, his mind skipping like a flat rock across a lake while his language lumbers behind, jettisoning verbs and syntax in the effort. Aides refer to "Kennedyspeak" and "the Kennedy Eisenhower." Press secretaries have joked about stocking "a closet of unused verbs" that interviewers can rummage through after a baffling Q&A session with the senator. Even reading from a TelePrompTer occasionally can be problematic. Once, while practicing a speech asserting that the Republicans had made "a desert of our dreams," Kennedy kept saying "dessert of our dreams" and finally asked an aide to draw a small palm tree above "desert" as a mnemonic device. "Sometimes it will be hilarious when he's working a roomful of people -- 'Hi, there! How are you?' -- and under his breath he'll be muttering instructions to his staff people who can't understand him," says one former aide. "And they'll be wandering around asking each other, 'What was that? What did he say?' " As with everything else about Kennedy, his language inspires theories: that as the youngest of nine children he had trouble getting a word in edgewise; that the Kennedy siblings developed a family shorthand, inaccessible to outsiders; that his indulgent parents never required him to form a complete thought before speaking; that he's thinking three steps ahead of the conversation. Impatient listeners can be savage. Columnist William Safire in September 1987 called Kennedy "an overstuffed empty suit" who is "unable to function without a text prepared by his talented staff because he cannot articulate his thoughts or because his own thoughts lack profundity." Safire likened the senator to one of T.S. Eliot's "hollow men, gesture without motion." Yet despite the often dreadful diction, Kennedy communicates. With body language, with hands that constantly sculpt and coax, with outrage and sympathy, he manages to convey the gist of his message. In a Judiciary hearing in early February, he relentlessly pursued drug czar William J. Bennett on the subject of imported assault rifles. "Why are you silent? Why are you quiet?" Kennedy demanded, pressing the exchange until the normally self-assured Bennett was reduced to flustered confusion. In Sparta, Ga., before Christmas, Kennedy held a hearing in the county library on rural health problems. The first witness was an impoverished woman named Joan Baity, who described how her father had died, how her husband had divorced her, how she spent all day, every day, nursing an incontinent and violent mother stricken with Alzheimer's disease. "I need some help," she pleaded. "Someway, somehow, I need some help." The testimony moved many in the audience to tears. Kennedy listened intently, head canted, mouth slightly ajar in concentration. When Baity finished, he mumbled several questions, then paused for a moment, swiveled toward the audience and in a firm voice declared: "If we cannot try to deal with that kind of an issue and problem as a society, and do it in a way that is fair and just, we have to really ask about our whole sense of humanity and decency . . . Who among us would change places and cope with this?" His words were spontaneous and powerful, challenging the conscience of every man and woman within earshot -- a town crier, raising alarums about the enemy within. The sentences may not parse cleanly, but the message is clear. Less clear is Kennedy's larger message about the nation's future. As he declared in a speech at Yale University last spring, Kennedy admires Ronald Reagan "because he stood for a set of ideas . . . he had something to communicate." The Democrats lost the presidential race in 1988, he believes, "because there was no compelling Democratic message . . . Competence was not enough. Ideology -- which is about ideas -- was missing." Yet Kennedy still gropes to articulate his. He speaks of "convincing the people that you want to be able to do more with less," of discovering "ways that we can still stay committed to these fundamental values, but do it in different ways." He may be "the conscience of the party," as Democratic Party Chairman Ron Brown contends, but these are not exactly phrases that electrify the imagination. When asked how Democrats can "move beyond the New Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society," as Kennedy says they must, the senator replies, "We ought to be in a more important and dramatic way focusing on the minimum standards of decency in terms of the quality of life for working men and women." "Minimum standards of decency?" That's the ideology Democrats are going to ride to the White House? he is asked. Kennedy shrugs and replies, "There are some that would agree and some that would differ." A World He Has Made His Own KENNEDY'S OFFICE, HIS HOUSE, HIS CAP- itol hideaway, all are shrines in remembrance of things past. Every wall, every corner, is occupied by photographs and relics. Frozen in time, they effect a tranquil melancholy that contrasts vividly with the motion and commotion of his life. In his reception vestibule in the Russell Building hang photos of the senator with Rose, with Jack and Bobby, with his children. (In his former office, in a similar room, one day in December 1980, John W. Hinckley, armed with a pistol, waited in vain for Kennedy to show up, according to Gregory Craig, a Hinckley attorney who later worked as a Kennedy assistant.) Behind the senator's desk in the main office stands the American flag carried in JFK's funeral and a presidential flag that flew at the JFK White House. Above the mantle hangs a framed note from the 14-year-old JFK to his parents, asking to be godfather to the newborn Edward. (The request was granted.) Another flag with the Kennedy crest -- three gold helmets against a black background -- stands near the marble fireplace, facing a framed note from Rose dated June 8, 1972: "Dear Teddy, I noticed as I skimmed through the book 'The Education of Edward Kennedy' that you are quoted as using the word 'ass' in several expressions. I do not think you should use that word." Across from the photos of Gorbachev and Reagan and Giscard and Brandt and Aquino and Tutu hang JFK's Navy dog tags. In recent years, Kennedy has found it easier to make public reference to the tragedies that stain his life. But sometimes the scar tissue rips away. In November 1983, the night before a memorial Mass at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown marking the 20th anniversary of John Kennedy's assassination, he stopped abruptly while rehearsing his remarks and stalked in sorrow and anger down the aisle and out of the church. In 1986, at a House luncheon celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Peace Corps, Kennedy again faltered during his speech. Waving a hand in front of his face as though trying to claw away the pain, he turned, left the podium and walked back to his Senate office alone, several staff members trailing at a respectful distance. His hideaway, a small office on the third floor of the Capitol, boasts a marble fireplace reputedly used by the British to light their torches when they burned the building in 1814. On the mantle sit photographs of brother Joe and sister Kathleen, both killed in the 1940s. A hardwood desk, used first by Kennedy's father as ambassador to the Court of St. James, then by John and Robert in the Senate, is pushed against one wall, near pictures of Kennedy's 50-foot sailboat, the Maya. Just east, beyond the heavy door, lies the Senate chamber and a world Edward Kennedy has made his own, building a record of legislative accomplishment far more durable than his brothers'. It is an arena of triumphs and debacles and a legacy still half-built, still awaiting history's rendering. In the other direction, looking west through the tall windows, the senator has a stunning vista of the federal city and the great republic beyond. Two miles down the Mall, past the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool, Lincoln stares back from his throne. Pivoting slightly to the right, Kennedy can see the broad sweep of Pennsylvania Avenue: beyond the Canadian Embassy and the National Archives, beyond the FBI and the Treasury to the white mansion at the bend in the road, to the house where, perhaps, he was never meant to live. Rick Atkinson writes for the investigative unit of The Post. Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this article. Back to Page 1 1990 The Washington Post Back to the top

Mon Feb 13, 2006 9:08 pm MST by Anonymous

Comment Main Story Why Ted Kennedy Can't Stand Still By Rick Atkinson Sunday, April 29, 1990; Page W11 At 3:27 p.m. on November 5, the senior senator from Massachusetts enters the Senate and strides down the aisle, thick frame filling his double-breasted suit like a stiff breeze fills a spinnaker. The chamber is vacant but for a few tourists and the pantheon of marble busts -- John Adams, Jefferson, Aaron Burr -- in their honored niches above the gallery. For a moment, the senator slumps in a chair, studying a black briefing book on HR 2710, a bill to raise the minimum wage for the first time since 1981. Large as he is, his immense head still appears outsized, the noggin of a tribune. He steps to the podium, 99 vacant desks behind him. Holding the notebook at arm's length, he recounts the compromise that congressional Democrats have fashioned with the White House Republicans. He invokes "the working poor" and "the test of fairness." When deviating from the text, he stammers a bit. Hand gestures -- little chops and stabs -- substitute for oratorical pizazz. He drones. The gallery shrinks. But then the senator begins to describe the explosive growth in salaries for industry executives who have resisted better pay for their minimum wage workers, fat cats pulling in high six figures while opposing a six-bit raise. His voice rises, spiking the chamber with outrage and sarcasm. "Extraordinary! Absolutely shocking!" He is bellowing, to no one, but with the same vigor as if it were August 1980, and Madison Square Garden were again crammed to the rafters. "We have debated this issue over a period of 11 days," the senator thunders. "If this body does not know where it stands on the simple, fundamental issue of justice for working people, we are in very difficult times." Having spoken his mind, he wheels up the aisle, a fair wind at his back, and exits through the double doors, above which is inscribed in gilt letters "Novus Ordo Seclorum" -- A New Order of the Ages Is Born. TO HIS INNUMERABLE CRITICS, the image of Edward Moore Kennedy declaiming to a phantom audience is an apt metaphor for his long fall from grace, the fitting close to a disastrous decade. Kennedy began the 1980s with a sound thrashing at the hands of Jimmy Carter; his marriage ended in divorce, while tales of boozing and womanizing continued unabated; for six years he languished in the minority after Republicans captured the Senate; the decade was dominated by his ideological antithesis, Ronald Reagan. He personifies liberalism for a generation -- much as William Gladstone did in British politics a century ago -- but in the America of 1990, that is a backhanded compliment at best. "After all is said and done," says Republican Party Chairman Lee Atwater, "Ted Kennedy is still the man in American politics Republicans love to hate." At least some of the blame for liberalism's decline may be laid at his door, and he has been unable to articulate a compelling vision of America's future acceptable to a majority of the Democratic Party, much less the American electorate. Ruled by his passions, for good and ill, he will forever draw resentment from those who believe he squandered his chance to leave a larger imprint on the society he hopes to better. This image of liberal impotence, however, can be misleading. For as the 1990s begin, Ted Kennedy sits in the catbird seat on Capitol Hill. He will not be president, and seems to know that; instead, he has channeled his energy and ambition into the Senate, a small, clubby hive of barons that perfectly suits his talents. Now fifth in seniority in the upper chamber, he has built a kind of shadow government as chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee and head of Judiciary and Armed Services subcommittees. Through serendipity and political acumen, he is positioned to dominate the domestic agenda for the rest of this century as few legislators have in the 200-year history of Congress. Even Kennedy's political adversaries acknowledge that as he nears the end of his third decade in the Senate his fingerprints may be found on much of the significant social legislation of the past quarter-century: voting rights, immigration reform, occupational safety, fair housing, consumer protection, and on and on. In the 100th Congress, he shoved 39 bills through his committee and into law, including a big AIDS package and restrictions on the use of lie detectors in the workplace. Of nine Democratic objectives in the Senate for this second session of the 101st Congress, five will be routed through Kennedy's Labor Committee. "He's becoming the statesman that we all hoped he would be," says Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on Labor. "Whether you agree with him or not, he's become one of the all-time great senators." Yet, as ever, he remains a figure of controversy and complexity -- diligent, shrewd, loud, funny, indiscreet, generous, bibulous, moody, tenacious. An extroverted raconteur with a million friends, he can be his own worst enemy. His vices are well-catalogued, most recently in a Gentlemen's Quarterly article that portrayed him as an alcoholic libertine "who grew to manhood without learning to be an adult." Steadfastly consistent in his political catechism, he is nevertheless a study in paradox: a peerless orator afflicted with bouts of baffling incoherence and blurry political vision; a droll, self-deprecating wit who can be foul-tempered and impatient; a champion of righteous causes whose personal morals are perpetually under fire; a compassionate advocate for the better angels of our nature, capable, in the phrase of one admiring former aide, of "calculated demagoguery"; an implacable foe of Reaganism and Reaganomics who openly admires Ronald Reagan. He embodies a peculiarly American archetype -- the Good Bad Boy -- who perseveres, with charm, despite life's vicissitudes and his own defects. Driven by dreams of a better future, he refers frequently to the past and his fallen brothers -- often to good political effect, but without seeming manipulative, perhaps because so much of his personal memory is our public memory. "Don't you think," says former Kennedy press secretary Bob Shrum, "that the country has a very complicated set of feelings about him and his family?" He has all the makings of a tragic figure, yet refuses to play the part. Instead he insists on center stage, voice ever louder, gestures ever grander, resolutely imperfect, a flawed and final prince. One Step Ahead of the Shadows At 6 p.m. on Friday, December 15, a festive crowd jams the sweltering Labor Committee hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Kennedy's Christmas parties have become famous for their farcical skits, and there is much speculation about this year's antics. In 1987, the senator appeared as Fawn Hall -- blond wig, dress, "documents" stuffed down the back of his pantyhose -- while his nephew, Rep. Joe Kennedy, showed up in a Marine officer's uniform as Ollie North. In 1988, after a magazine article dubbed him "King of the Hill," Kennedy played Elvis Presley. Now the lights dim, the crowd hushes, and through a corner door prances the senior senator from Massachusetts as . . . Batman. In full costume -- cape, mask, ears, black leotard -- he is quite ridiculous. "That's BATman," the Caped Crusader growls, "not FATman." THE MOST PUBLIC OF POLITICIANS, Ted Kennedy is also one of the most difficult to know. Several months of Kennedy-watching leave a curious thatchwork of impressions. Accustomed to dominating any room he enters, he can be overbearing and caustic -- "that snitty tone," one acquaintance calls it -- if the limelight focuses elsewhere. "Well," Kennedy once interjected after a friend held forth a little too long for the senator's liking, "when we invited him to dinner we didn't know we were going to get Bill Moyers." Intensely competitive, he loves to wager, not as a compulsive gambler but rather as someone who enjoys being right. He bets on trivia -- what time the plane will land, when the pilot first learned of fog ahead, how many cars will be waiting on the runway -- and the standard stake is a bottle of wine, which he doesn't hesitate to collect. He is neither erudite nor particularly analytical, except when it comes to politics. He is curious, with eclectic interests that are broad if not deep; during several conversations this winter, he skipped lightly from Brendan the Navigator to mythologist Joseph Campbell to Sherman's march through the South to baseball to John Adams to the Marine Corps. He also is impulsive: During a trip to Sparta, Ga., in December, he abruptly deviated from the schedule to tromp through a marshy field and inspect the wood filigree on an old barn that was for sale. "It's only $7,500," he muttered aloud, "but where would I put it?" In late February, during a dinner in Washington for Vaclav Havel, Kennedy decided the new Czech president must visit the Lincoln Memorial -- and off they went, late at night, to pay homage and read the ringing phrases from the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address chiseled on the shrine walls. "If you want to find Ted Kennedy," says Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), echoing a similar line about Franklin D. Roosevelt, "listen for the laughter." Robust humor is both salient in Kennedy's character and a secret to his political success. He is a gifted mimic, whether imitating Italian ward heelers in New England, his grandfather's singsong Boston brogue or, in view of dozens of puzzled Delta Air Lines passengers at the Atlanta airport recently, a small, yapping dog that kept him awake the night before. He often lampoons himself, particularly his girth. On his office wall hangs a framed 1940 letter from sister Jean to their father, who was then U.S. ambassador to Britain: "Teddy now has to go on a diet. Miss Dunn has to get {him} extra large size suits. Everybody looks skinny beside him." His puckish streak plays well on the Hill, where humor can heal even the most jagged political wounds. Two years ago, Kennedy and Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) fell into a heated Labor Committee argument over additional federal aid to education. After several barbed exchanges, Kennedy cut off the discussion and gaveled the session to a close. But as the two senators left the room for a meeting of the Judiciary Committee, Kennedy threw an arm around his colleague's shoulder. "C'mon, Strom," he urged, "let's go upstairs and I'll give you a few judges." The flip side of good humor is bad humor, particularly if Kennedy's patience is taxed. When a staffer confesses uncertainty about how a particular vote will go, the senator has been heard to bark on the Senate floor loud enough for the galleries to hear: "What do you mean you don't know? Why can't I get a staff that knows what it's doing?" In Geneva several years ago, he threw a bitter tantrum when a logistical snafu caused a girlfriend to show up at the wrong airport terminal. Last November, as Congress careened toward a recess, he apologized for his office petulance by sending flowers to his secretaries -- with a note signed, "From Grumpy." Even the ritualized courtesies of the Senate melt away when he blows a fuse. In the spring of 1988, according to an eyewitness, the normally florid Kennedy turned white with rage on the Senate floor and appeared close to blows with Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina during the AIDS bill debate. "You distort and mislead!" Kennedy charged. Helms fired back: "Talk about misrepresentation! You have developed it into a fine art, Senator!" Several months later, Kennedy again erupted, this time during a small, private meeting about a drug bill in the vice president's office in the Capitol. When Sen. Bob Graham of Florida persistently questioned a Kennedy amendment regarding the death penalty -- a provision that Senate leaders already had agreed could come to a floor vote -- Kennedy exploded: "I even opposed the death penalty for the man who killed my brother!" The past lies very close to the skin for him. Memory may be the most potent part of his intellect; once an amateur painter, he recollects the fine brush strokes of events 30 years gone by as if they happened last week, so you can hear the thudding hooves of the Montana bronco named Skyrocket he rode on a dare in the '60 presidential campaign, or see him strolling with his mother across the dunes at Cape Cod. In one recent speech, recalling his brothers, he murmured, "Memory, memory," as though coaxing them back to life. The overriding impression Kennedy leaves is of a man consigned to perpetual motion. Involuntary idleness -- waiting for a late plane, getting stuck in traffic -- often makes him furious. "The worst possible combination is to try to brief him while you're also driving him from his house {in McLean} to the Hill in the morning," one former aide says. "He's incredibly impatient in the car . . . I'd drive down the parkway and there was always a jam waiting to get on the 14th Street Bridge, so I'd routinely cut in line because I'd rather face the scowls and horn honking from other drivers than face Kennedy's wrath at getting stuck in traffic." "He's like a shark -- not in the negative sense, but rather in the fact that he's got to keep moving all the time. That's part of Ted Kennedy's metabolism," says Thomas M. Susman, who spent 11 years on the Judiciary staff. "He spends his spare time sailing. That's relaxing? You're constantly in motion, moving around, raising this and lowering that. It's fairly tense, an on-the-edge kind of sport." "Why is he so driven?" another former Judiciary staffer asks. "Because when you've got a legacy like his, you're one step ahead of the shadows. He's competing with myths." Less generous and more prosaic is the explanation of another aide who sees occasional glimpses of "a spoiled rich kid . . . who's never had to wait in line for anything." Other reasons surely contribute. He ardently believes in the urgency of his causes, in pushing for a society that is fair, just, humane. As the sole male survivor in a family obsessed with public achievement, he is constantly confronted with the unfinished agenda -- and legendary stature -- of his brothers; by nature and upbringing, his private happiness is predicated on public accomplishment. And were he to stop "moving all the time," in Susman's phrase, who would Ted Kennedy be? Perhaps just another rich playboy, a clutch of appetites and indulgences, a nobody. As one of his closest friends observes, "This is a man who's not asking many questions about life; he's just doing it." "He's a very demanding boss in a lot of ways," says former press secretary Shrum. "He has very high expectations. But he's also fun and interesting and fundamentally decent . . . He can get mad. He can also fall all over himself apologizing. He does not have any meanness. In the {six years} I worked for him, I can't recall more than five or six times when he blew up at me." One of those occasions came after Shrum and a legislative aide fed Kennedy some wrong information, which he repeated in an editorial board session at the New York Times. "I'll thank you to let me make my own mistakes," the senator snapped while driving away from the newspaper office. "As you may have noticed, I'm quite good at it." 'The Bag Drives the Whole Operation' On the morning of November 28, three weeks after the Wall has tumbled, Kennedy flies to Berlin. As the Pan Am jet crosses the Elbe, the senator studies his briefing books, oblivious to the ancient villages gliding past below with their red tile roofs and snow-trimmed fields. He will refer to this expedition as a "personal visit" and "a sentimental journey" -- recalling visits by Robert and John in the early 1960s -- but even sentiment has political underpinnings. In a black gunnysack, aides carry a thick stack of postcards with a photo of the Brandenburg Gate and a brief message from Kennedy pre-printed on the back. (The staff had jokingly proposed, "Ich bin ein Berliner too!" but settled for a more mundane greeting.) After buying $720 worth of West German postage stamps, an aide mails the cards to political supporters back home. Another bag holds a stack of photographs of the three smiling Kennedy brothers at Hyannisport in the early '60s. While the senator strolls through a Christmas carnival in East Berlin, an aide distributes the pictures to a crowd of Germans, who surge forward as if grabbing for $100 bills. Everywhere Kennedy goes, a dense mob of security agents, photographers and admirers congeals around him; he travels through Berlin as though locked in a rugby scrum. By the time he reaches his final stop at Tempelhof airfield, the large American air base in West Berlin, he is worn out; he collapses onto a chair in a private office, face etched with fatigue and the pain of a chronically sore back, so badly shattered in the near-fatal plane crash of 1964. But the political mask reappears instantly when an aide summons him to meet a group of U.S. airmen from Massachusetts. A photographer arrives, and the Kennedy assembly line falls into place: Each airman shakes hands with the senator, poses for a picture and then gives his name and his parents' address to an aide who will see that a signed photograph is mailed home. A second assembly line forms moments later as Kennedy distributes mementos -- Senate key chains, pens, paperweights -- to the drivers, guards and officials who have helped him throughout the day. Hiding his exhaustion, he is all hail-fellow smiles. "MY BABIES," ROSE KENNEDY ONCE SAID, "were rocked to political lullabies." Clearly, Ted Kennedy remembers the lyrics. When referring to himself professionally, he almost invariably uses the word "politician," and on political terrain he is as sure-footed as anyone on Capitol Hill, intuiting the lay of the land the way a good geologist senses fault lines in a landscape. On March 29, four hours after returning from his trip to the Soviet Union, he sat with two reporters in his office for half an hour and offered a concise, thoughtful, often canny analysis of Mikhail Gorbachev's predicament "as a politician." (Asked in Moscow by KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov to cite "the one thing we should avoid in the Soviet Union," Kennedy quipped, "Campaign financing.") In the cloakroom or on the floor, Kennedy shuttles between senators, wheedling, guffawing, importuning and periodically peeking at a note card of colleagues to lobby and subjects to discuss -- "Durenberger: Chile, health," or "Specter: civil rights markup." He often is drawn to issues that can be cast in political terms. Senate Armed Services staffers were mystified by his fascination with the reorganization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until a Kennedy assistant explained: "He just sees it as Irish precinct politics moved to the Pentagon." Brother Jack considered his youngest sibling the best politician in the family, and that may be most evident in Boston, now and always his true home. (From his office window in the JFK building downtown, he can see the streets where his mother, father and grandfather were born.) During a feverish, eight-event day in mid-January, Kennedy briefed a business group on national security issues; schmoozed with reporters and editors at a Lexington weekly; swung by a museum and a park; got testy with a human rights group pressing him on El Salvador; charmed a Chamber of Commerce luncheon; hinted to an Air Force general that he will fight plans to diminish Hanscom Air Force Base; and strolled down muddy Battle Road between Lexington and Concord, shivering in the brilliant cold and cheerfully reciting Emerson's "Concord Hymn" -- "By the rude bridge that arched the flood" -- to a small cluster of bemused journalists. The Kennedy brand of politics as played in Berlin or Boston -- and, indeed, his frenetic approach to life in general -- requires a big and sometimes brassy supporting cast. "Other Senate offices aspire to run the same kind of political operation, but they don't have the same Prussian precision that Kennedy's staff does," says a Hill aide who has worked for three senators. "Kennedy uses staff people the way Pony Express riders used horses: Ride 'em hard and then leap to another horse," says Thomas M. Rollins, former staff director of the Labor Committee. "He's a genius at managing people." Kennedy's presidential ambitions once attracted bright young Democrats who envisioned themselves with big offices in the White House West Wing. Today the rewards must be found in fighting the good fight for liberal causes and working for a senator able to get things done. His staff is one of the Senate's largest, with nearly 100 professionals and several dozen interns and visiting fellows. Universally acclaimed for its competence, the staff is often suspected of being the driving force behind the senator's success; in truth, the relationship is symbiotic, an intimate bond of mutual benefit. Consider, for example, the Bag. A battered black briefcase, the Bag for nearly three decades has been symbol and centerpiece of the Kennedy operation. Every afternoon the Bag is packed with the senator's homework for the evening. Material is sorted into four folders: Must Do, which includes staff memos -- usually one page, single-spaced -- on the following day's activities; Invitations; Signature Needed; selected Mail and Other Reading. (On average, 1,000 letters a day arrive in the Kennedy office and 1,000 letters go out.) In the morning, Kennedy hands the Bag to a secretary, who parcels out memos and other documents to the appropriate staffers. Scribbled in the margins are the senator's notations and marching orders, usually terse and barely legible: "see me" or "let's talk" or "o.k." or, if something displeases him, "ugh!" "The Bag drives the whole operation," says one former staffer. "Some people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out the protocol of the Bag." At least one staffer, for example, confesses to wondering whether it's best to submit a memo early in the day -- and risk having it pushed to the bottom of the Bag -- or wait until late afternoon and risk missing the Bag altogether. Another legislative assistant, noting the competition that persists in lower staff echelons, adds, "I was putting stuff in the Bag cold, and then one day I noticed that others were using all kinds of stunts to get his attention: big check marks, or items circled with brightly colored marking pens, especially red and yellow, or writing 'Must Do' or 'Must Read' on their memos." Even junior staff members get te~te-a`-te~te access to Kennedy -- "face time," in Hill argot -- though often it's while kneeling next to him in a hearing or during a brisk walk from the Capitol to the Russell Senate Office Building. "Plane time" is highly valued, since the senator is trapped on a jet without floor votes or other distractions. He also holds frequent "issue dinners" at his house, latter-day salons at which outside experts, staffers and other solons thrash out problems from South Africa to Latin debt. "The trains seem to run on time. But people are left panting," one recently departed aide says. "What do they call it when the president goes from one place to another? A 'movement'? Well, Kennedy has movements. It's controlled chaos." Over the years, some Kennedy aides have developed a private language. "Clutchers" are staffers who won't let go of the senator's coattails; "flutterers" are the miscellaneous hangers-on who always seem visible at any Kennedy event; "heavy lifting" is backroom political maneuvering; a "glide path" is the senator's route during a public event. Walking into a room full of well-tailored, WASP men, Kennedy has been heard to murmur, "T.M.B.S." -- "too many blue suits." On occasion he has used a code word for liquor -- "camera," derived from an old family joke. "Kennedy staff people get a reputation for being very pushy and obnoxious," says a three-year veteran of the office. "You hear things coming out of your mouth at times that you can't believe you're saying. But the most respected trait on the staff is getting it done. No matter whose feathers you have to ruffle, just get it done." 'It Is Our Policy Never to Comment' In mid-December Kennedy flies to Geneva. With other members of the Senate Arms Control Observer Group, he spends a long day in "the bubble" -- the secure vault of the U.S. mission -- listening to progress reports from American negotiators. That evening, the senators attend a festive dinner at the Hotel du Lac in Coppet, several kilometers from the city. Kennedy likes being in Switzerland, one of the few places where he's not constantly watched and judged; the insouciant Swiss let him remain relatively anonymous. As the evening breaks up and the Americans head for a bus that will carry them back to Geneva, they notice Kennedy outside the restaurant in animated conversation with an exotic figure in long, black clerical robes. "Hey, fellas, come here," Kennedy calls, detaining his colleagues. "There's somebody I want you to meet. I'd like to introduce the patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church." The senators are accustomed to Kennedy's gregarious spontaneity; after a minute of amiable chatter, they turn to get on the bus -- all except Kennedy. "You go on without me," he says. "I've got friends in Lausanne." And he vanishes into the night. Page 2 1990 The Washington Post Back to the top

Mon Feb 13, 2006 9:07 pm MST by Anonymous

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