American Legends: The Life of Ted Kennedy


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Ted, spent the decades that followed working patiently on what he called "the great unfinished business of America", and fending off more than his fair share of trouble. When he first came to the Senate in , he was dismissed as a rather dim playboy who had got a free pass to the seat vacated by his newly elected president brother. It was a privilege that left him with much to prove. And he did, going on to become, as people have said repeatedly this week, the most influential, most consequential Democratic senator of the 20th century. Kennedy's imprint is left on a broad array of legislation, from civil rights in the mids to women's rights, voting rights, health and education; he altered the lives of people with disabilities, people with Aids, working people whose families were sick.

Senator John Kerry pointed out on Friday evening that JFK had spent 1, days in the White House, Bobby had spent 80 days campaigning for president; Ted spent more than 17, days in the Senate, "and changed the course of history". It's often said that Kennedy spoke for the distressed and the dispossessed because he himself had suffered — the deaths of siblings, eventually the sickness of his own children — and because his powers of empathy were extreme. But he knew other kinds of tragedy and trouble, too — self-inflicted and inflicted on others.

In July , the single most damaging incident of his life took place when he left a party on an island called Chappaquiddick with Mary Jo Kopechne, a year-old former aide to Bobby, and drove off a bridge into the water. Afraid of the publicity a police report would cause, he fled the scene and left Kopechne to die, not reporting the accident until 10 hours later. His friend the late Jack Newfield wrote that his career became "an atonement for one night of indefensible behaviour"; Kennedy, Newfield said, "converted persistence into redemption".

His biographer Burton Hersh suggested that Teddy had understood the possibilities of the Senate before Bobby died. One became a power centre, a kind of counterpart to the presidency itself. Another biographer, Adam Clymer, recalled that in , a Kennedy measure to create the National Cancer Institute won the support of Richard Nixon — on one condition: that Kennedy remove his name from the bill. What of the future? In his almost half-century-long fight for rights, not privileges, Kennedy described universal healthcare as "the cause of my life".

Farrar found it difficult to believe that Kennedy would have been able to get out of the car once it went into the water. Others at the crime scene took a similar view. Lieutenant Bernie Flynn said: "Ted Kennedy wasn't in the car when it went off the bridge.

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He would never have gotten out alive. There is one major problem with these timings. At about Look claims that a man was driving and that two other people were in the car. Look approached the car on foot but when the driver saw his police uniform the car then sped off down Dike Road. The car had a Massachusetts registration letter L. It also had a 7 at the beginning and at the end. Only eight other cars of this type had this number plate.

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They were all later checked out. Kennedy's car was the only one with that number plate that was on the island that night. There seems to be no reason why he should lie about what he saw on the morning of the 19th July, For some reason Kennedy returns to the cottage at However, it is not to report the accident as at this stage the car has not yet had the accident on Dike Bridge. Lieutenant George Killen, who investigated the case, was convinced that Kennedy had intended to have sex with Mary Jo in the car.

He was drunk evidence suppressed in court showed that Kennedy had consumed a great deal of alcohol that day. When Look approached Kennedy's car, he feared he would be arrested. Therefore he sped off into the darkness. Afraid that Look would catch him up he gets out of the car and persuades Mary Jo to drive off she herself has consumed a fair amount of alcohol. Kennedy then walks back to the cottage. When Mary Jo does not return Kennedy becomes convinced she has had an accident. Kennedy then goes back to his hotel leaving Markham and Gargan to search for Mary Jo.

It is not until the next morning they discover what has happened. They then go to Kennedy's hotel to tell him the news. This fits Killen idea that Kennedy did not know about the accident until the morning meeting with Markham and Gargan. Killen's theory fits all the established facts in the case.

However, it does not explain Kennedy's behaviour. Once he discovered that Mary Jo was dead, it would make far more sense to tell the truth. This story was more politically acceptable than the "leaving the scene of the accident" story. I therefore reject Killen's theory. I figure, we've got a drunk driver, Ted Kennedy. He's with this girl, and he has it in his mind to go down to the beach and make love to her.

He's probably driving too fast and he misses the curve and goes into Cemetery Road. He's backing up when he sees this guy in uniform coming toward him. That's panic for the average driver who's been drinking; but here's a United States Senator about to get tagged for driving under. He doesn't want to get caught with a girl in his car, on a deserted road late at night, with no license and driving drunk on top of it.

In his mind, the most important thing is to get away from the situation. He doesn't wait around. He takes off down the road. He's probably looking in the rear-view mirror to see if the cop is following him. He doesn't even see the bridge and bingo! He goes off. He gets out of the car; she doesn't.

The poor son of a bitch doesn't know what to do. He's thinking: "I want to get back to my house, to my friends" - which is a common reaction. There are houses on Dike Road he could have gone to report the accident, but he doesn't want to. Because it's the same situation he was trying to get away from at the corner - which turned out to be minor compared to what happened later. Now there's been an accident; and the girl's probably dead. All the more reason not to go banging on somebody's door in the middle of the night and admit what he was doing. He doesn't want to reveal himself.

My fellow citizens, I have requested this opportunity to talk to the people of Massachusetts about the tragedy which happened last Friday evening. This morning I entered a plea of guilty to the charge of leaving the scene of the accident. Prior to my appearance in court it would have been improper for me to comment on these matters. But tonight I am free to tell you what happened and to say what it means to me.

On Chappaquiddick Island, off Martha's Vineyard, I attended on Friday evening, July 18, a cookout I had encouraged and helped sponsor for the devoted group of Kennedy campaign secretaries. When I left the party, around For this reason, and because she was such a gentle, kind and idealistic person, all of us tried to help her feel that she had a home with the Kennedy family. There is no truth, no truth whatsoever, to the widely-circulated suspicions of immoral conduct that have been levelled at my behaviour and hers regarding that evening.

There has never been a private relationship between us of any kind.


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I know of nothing in Mary Jo's conduct on that or any other occasion - the same is true of the other girls at that party - that would lend any substance to such ugly speculation about their character. Nor was I driving under the influence of liquor. Little over one mile away, the car I was driving on an unlit road went off a narrow bridge which had no guard-rails and was built on a left angle to the road. The car overturned in a deep pond and immediately filled with water. I remember thinking as the cold water rushed in around my head that I was for certain drowning. Then water entered my lungs and I actually felt the sensation of drowning.

But somehow I struggled to the surface alive. I made immediate and repeated efforts to save Mary JO by diving into the strong and murky current but succeeded only in increasing my state of utter exhaustion and alarm. My conduct and conversations during the next several hours to the extent that I can remember them make no sense to me at all. Instead of looking directly for a telephone number affair lying exhausted in the grass for an undetermined time, walked back to the cottage where the party was being held and requested the help of two friends, my cousin Joseph Gargan and Paul Markham, and directed them to return immediately to the scene with me - this was some time after midnight - in order to undertake a new effort to dive.

One of the most disputed questions raised by the accident was what time Senator Kennedy left the party with Mary Jo Kopechne. In his first statement to police, the Senator claimed that he was taking Miss Kopechne to the ferry when the accident occurred. Since ferry service to Edgartown stopped at midnight, his version of events required that he would have had to leave in time to catch the last ferry.

Gargan, who was cleaning up after cooking the meal, thought it could have been as late as pm when the Senator left the party. Although he wasn't wearing a watch, he said "I made a mental note - no particular reason - that he was going to make the ferry. When he left, the assumption was that he was going to the landing, but I don't know where he went.

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Gargan said "It was very hot, and some people were going for walks. It's possible the Senator went for a walk before getting into the car, or did all kinds of things. I know he still had time to get to the ferry - if he was going to the ferry. Kennedy didn't announce he was leaving or say good night to anyone. Neither did Mary Jo.

Miss Kopeckne left her pocket book behind, and it was found at the cottage the next morning. Crimmins testified that the Senator had called him out of the cottage to the front yard and asked for the keys to the car. Kennedy wanted to drive, however, and because "It was his automobile," Crimmins said, "I gave the keys to him. I didn't question him.

Kennedy told Gargan and Markham that after he had swum the channel, he had slipped into the Shiretown Inn unseen, changed clothes and established his presence by asking an employee patrolling the premises the time. He had gone to bed and awakened around 7 o'clock.

He had betrayed no sign of having been involved in an automobile accident to a number of witnesses. It wasn't too late for the scenario he had proposed to be put into effect. It wouldn't be difficult to convince people he hadn't known about the accident until the next morning. The Senator expected the incident to have been "taken care of " when Gargan and Markham showed up the next morning, that Gargan would have reported the accident and told the police that Mary Jo Kopechne had been driving the accident car. The Senator had counted on Gargan to realize, after an hour or so had passed and nobody showed up at the cottage, that he had no choice but to report the accident.

It was, after all, the kind of clean-up detail Gargan customarily performed as advance man, a dependency that went back to the "Joey'll fix it" days of their boyhood. So long as there was a chance Gargan would reconsider his objections to the plan, the Senator had not reported the accident himself. Gargan was mortified by the Senator's motive for swimming the channel: to force him to follow a course he had made clear he wanted followed, irrespective of Gargan's objections. That the accident had not been reported was bad enough.

For the Senator to have misrepresented his intentions by subterfuge, saying he was going to report the accident and then not doing so, and start putting an alibi into play only compounded the tragedy. Gargan said "This thing is worse now than it was before. We've got to do something. We're reporting the accident right now! We've got to report this thing. Let's go. Kennedy was reluctant to do so, Markham observed. Bobby Baker was about the first person in Washington to know that Lyndon Johnson was to be dumped as the Vice-Presidential candidate in Baker knew because his secretary.

Miss Mary Jo Kopechne had been another of Smathers' secretaries. Now both Miss Tyler and Miss Kopechne have died strangely. They used the threat against the Kennedy children's lives very effectively between and to silence Bobby and the rest of the family and friends who knew the truth. It was necessary to assassinate Bobby in because with the power of the presidency he could have prevented the Group from harming the children.

When Teddy began making moves to run for president in for the election, the Group decided to put some real action behind their threats. Killing Teddy in would have been too much. They selected a new way of eliminating him as a candidate. They framed him with the death of a young girl, and threw sexual overtones in for good measure. Here is what happened according to Robert Cutler's You the Jury - analysis of the evidence.

The Group hired several men and at least one woman to be at Chappaquiddick during the weekend of the yacht race and the planned party on the island.

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They ambushed Ted and Mary Jo after they left the cottage and knocked Ted out with blows to his head and body. They took the unconscious or semi-conscious Kennedy to Martha's Vineyard and deposited him in his hotel room. Another group took Mary Jo to the bridge in Ted's car, force fed her with a knock out potion of alcoholic beverage, placed her in the back seat, and caused the car to accelerate off the side of the bridge into the water. They broke the windows on one side of the car to insure the entry of water; then they watched the car until they were sure Mary Jo would not escape.

Mary Jo actually regained consciousness and pushed her way to the top of the car which was actually the bottom of the car - it had landed on its roof and died from asphyxiation. The group with Teddy revived him early in the morning and let him know he had a problem. Possibly they told him that Mary Jo had been kidnapped. They told him his children would be killed if he told anyone what had happened and that he would hear from them.

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On Chappaquiddick, the other group made contact with Markham and Gargan, Ted's cousin and lawyer. They told both men that Mary Jo was at the bottom of the river and that Ted would have to make up a story about it, not revealing the existence of the group. One of the men resembled Ted and his voice sounded something like Ted's. Markham and Gargan were instructed to go the the Vineyard on the morning ferry, tell Ted where Mary Jo was, and come back to the island to wait for a phone call at a pay station near the ferry on the Chappaquiddick side.

The two men did as they were told and Ted found out what had happened to Mary Jo that morning. The three men returned to the pay phone and received their instructions to concoct a story about the "accident" and to report it to the police. The threat against Ted's children was repeated at that time. Ted, Markham and Gargan went right away to police chief Arena's office on the Vineyard where Ted reported the so-called "accident. Ted called together a small coterie of friends and advisors including family lawyer Burke Marshall, Robert MacNamara, Ted Sorenson, and others.

They met on Squaw Island near the Kennedy compound at Hyannisport for three days. At the end of that time they had manufactured the story which Ted told on TV, and later at the inquest. Bob Cutler calls the story, "the shroud. Ted's claim that he made the wrong turn down the dirt road toward the bridge by mistake is an obvious lie. His claim that he swam the channel back to Martha's Vineyard is not believable. His description of how he got out of the car under water and then dove down to try to rescue Mary Jo is impossible.

Markham and Gargan's claims that they kept diving after Mary Jo are also unbelievable. The evidence for the Cutler scenario is substantial. It begins with the marks on the bridge and the position of the car in the water. The marks show that the car was standing still on the bridge and then accelerated off the edge, moving at a much higher speed than Kennedy claimed. The distance the car travelled in the air also confirms this. The damage to the car on two sides and on top plus the damage to the windshield and the rear view mirror stanchion prove that some of the damage had to have been inflicted before the car left the bridge.

The blood on the back and on the sleeves of Mary Jo's blouse proves that a wound was inflicted before she left the bridge. The alcohol in her bloodstream proves she was drugged, since all witnesses testified she never drank and did not drink that night.

The fact that she was in the back seat when her body was recovered indicates that is where she was when the car hit the water. There was no way she could have dived downward against the inrushing water and moved from the front to the back seat underneath the upside-down seat back. The wounds on the back of Ted Kennedy's skull, those just above his ear and the large bump on the top indicate he was knocked out. His actions at the hotel the next morning show he was not aware of Mary Jo's death until Markham and Gargan arrived.

The trip to the pay phone on Chappaquiddick can only be explained by his receiving a call there, not making one. There were plenty of pay phones in or near Ted's hotel if he needed to make a private call. The tides in the channel and the direction in which Ted claimed he swam do not match. In addition it would have been a superhuman feat to have made it across the channel as proven by several professionals who subsequently tried it.

The three party members walking along the road south toward the cottage confirmed the time that Mr. Look drove by. He stopped to ask if they needed a ride. Look says that just prior to that he encountered Ted's car parked facing north at the juncture of the main road and the dirt road.

Inside Ted Kennedy’s Final Days

It was on a short extension of the north-south section of the road junction to the north of the "T". He says he saw a man driving, a woman in the seat beside him, and what he thought was another woman lying on the back seat. He remembered a portion of the license plate which matched Ted's car, as did the description of the car. Markham, Gargan and Ted's driver's testimony show that someone they talked to in the pitch black night sounded like Ted and was about his height and build. None of the above evidence was ever explained by Ted or by anyone else at the inquest or at the hearing on the case demanded by district attorney Edward Dinis.

No autopsy was ever allowed on Mary Jo's body her family objected , and Ted made it possible to fly her body home for burial rather quickly. Kennedy haters have seized upon Chappaquiddick to enlarge the sexual image now being promoted of both Ted and Jack Kennedy. Books like "Teddy Bare" take full advantage of the situation. Just which operatives in the Power Control Group at the high levels or the lower levels were on Chappaquiddick Island?

No definite evidence has surfaced as yet, except for an indication that there was at least one woman and at least three men, one of whom resembled Ted Kennedy and who sounded like him in the darkness. However, two pieces of testimony in the Watergate hearings provide significant clues as to which of the known JFK case conspirators may have been there. Howard Hunt told of a strange trip to Hyannisport to see a local citizen there about the Chappaquiddick incident.


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  5. Hunt's cover story on this trip was that he was digging up dirt on Ted Kennedy for use in the campaign. The story does not make much sense if one questions why Hunt would have to wear a disguise, including his famous red wig, and to use a voice-alteration device to make himself sound like someone else.

    If, on the other hand, Hunt's purpose was to return to the scene of his crime just to make sure that no one who might have seen his group at the bridge or elsewhere would talk, then the disguise and the voice box make sense. The other important testimony came from Tony Ulasewicz who said he was ordered by the Plumbers to fly immediately to Chappaquiddick and dig up dirt on Ted.

    The only problem Tony has is that, according to his testimony, he arrived early on the morning of the "accident", before the whole incident had been made public. Ulasewicz is the right height and weight to resemble Kennedy and with a CIA voice-alteration device he presumably could be made to sound like him.

    There is a distinct possibility that Hunt and Tony were there when it happened. The threats by the Power Control Group, the frame-up at Chappaquiddick, and the murders of Jack and Bobby Kennedy cannot have failed to take their toll on all of the Kennedys. Rose, Ted, Jackie, Ethel and the other close family members must be very tired of it all by now. They can certainly not be blamed for hoping it will all go away. Investigations like those proposed by Henry Gonzalez and Thomas Downing only raised the spectre of the powerful Control Group taking revenge by kidnapping some of the seventeen children.

    It was no wonder that a close Kennedy friend and ally in California, Representative Burton, said that he would oppose the Downing and Gonzalez resolutions unless Ted Kennedy put his stamp of approval on them. While the sympathies of every decent American go out to them, the future of our country and the freedom of the people to control their own destiny through the election process mean more than the lives of all the Kennedys put together.

    If John Kennedy were alive today he would probably make the same statement. Senior Democrats in Congress today signalled their intention to exploit sympathy over Ted Kennedy's death to try to tilt the balance in favour of President Barack Obama's struggling healthcare reform proposals. Kennedy's death robs the Democrats of their crucial seat majority in the Senate and means they no longer automatically have the numbers to override Republican delaying tactics. But the Democratic leadership is hoping that loss of its arithmetical advantage will be outweighed by the fact that sympathy for Kennedy may help reunite Democratic senators divided over health.

    Although unable to campaign actively for reelection for a full term because of an injury, Kennedy was swept back into office by a landslide vote. However, Robert was assassinated in June of that year. Early in Kennedy was elected majority whip in the U. Senate, and he became an early front-runner for the next Democratic presidential nomination. Kennedy was found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident. He was reelected to the Senate in but announced that he would not seek the presidency in Kennedy won reelection to a third full term as senator in He was a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination but withdrew from the race during the convention.

    He won a fourth term in and was again reelected to the Senate in , , , and Kennedy continued to be a prominent spokesman for the policies that had come to be associated with his family name—i. He became a leading advocate in the Senate for many liberal causes, including voting rights , fair housing, consumer protection , and national health insurance.

    At the same time, he was recognized for his willingness to cooperate with Republicans in the Senate to advance important legislation, such as the No Child Left Behind Act and other initiatives of the administration of Pres. George W. In , after being hospitalized for a seizure, Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour.

    American Legends: The Life of Ted Kennedy American Legends: The Life of Ted Kennedy
    American Legends: The Life of Ted Kennedy American Legends: The Life of Ted Kennedy
    American Legends: The Life of Ted Kennedy American Legends: The Life of Ted Kennedy
    American Legends: The Life of Ted Kennedy American Legends: The Life of Ted Kennedy
    American Legends: The Life of Ted Kennedy American Legends: The Life of Ted Kennedy

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