As you may have heard, our Secretary of Health & Human Services (and presumably our Administration) believes that Congress should honor the memory of Sen. Kennedy by taking over one-sixth of the American economy:
“Hopefully, at every step of the way, people will ask themselves: ‘What would Teddy do?’ and move it forward,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“If people are truly interested in honoring his legacy,” she added, “the best possible legacy is to pass health reform this year and get President Obama a bill he can sign.”
What a gracious gesture! But passing health care reform may not be enough to fully capture Ted Kennedy’s impact on American government. Thus, I propose five more things that one can do to honor the memory of the liberal Lion of the Senate:
1. Consummate a Manchurian Candidacy. Since Kennedy thought it appropriate to enlist the Soviet Union’s assistance for his own presidential aspirations in exchange for help in tearing down the Reagan Administration from within, it’s only fitting that some enterprising pol promise Iran some nuclear appeasement in exchange for assistance in winning office.
2. Make a slanderous, incendiary, public address against someone you don’t care for. It was good enough for Robert Bork, so why not for your personal enemy? Preferably, your scurrilous accusations should have an impact on his career.
3. Call something you dislike its originator’s “Vietnam.” Kennedy, who came of age during and earned his political stripes opposing his brother’s war in Vietnam, kept trying to relive those golden days by declaring subsequent missions he opposed to be “Vietnams.” Iraq was “George Bush’s Vietnam,” and Northern Ireland was “Britain’s Vietnam.” Try it yourself! Windows Vista is “Microsoft’s Vietnam.” Your over-mayonnaised sandwich is “the kitchen’s Vietnam.” Your daughter’s unkempt playroom is “Julie’s Vietnam.” You’ll find that it’s incredibly satisfying, it requires almost no effort or accuracy, and the media will be remarkably receptive.
4. Manipulate a neutral rule to benefit your political party. Senator Kennedy has been hailed as a master of the legislative process and a key broker of bipartisan compromise. That may be true, but he was at his best when he was fixing the game in his team’s favor. Need an example? On the eve of what he believed to be his friend John Kerry’s election to the presidency, he got the Massachusetts legislature to change the rule allowing a governor to select an interim Senator to one requiring a special election. The governor at the time was Mitt Romney, a Republican; an election would have invariably resulted in a Democratic Senator. When he was on his deathbed, however, Kennedy asked the legislature to switch it back — to make sure that his fellow Democrats in Washington had a 60th vote to pass health reform (the governor was now a Democrat). How can you top that kind of cynical mendacity? Some recommendations include censoring the mailings of your political opponents; effectively banning the primary media outlet of the opposition; or fixing the Census to overcount your most reliable voters (and undercount the terminally-misguided).
5. Convince someone of your approach, then blame them when it fails. In 2001, all the political world hailed President Bush and Senator Kennedy’s joint effort on the No Child Left Behind Act. Billions more for education; accountability for schools; new programs for teachers – it was a revolution in federal education policy, and it was largely the realization of Kennedy’s long-held wish list for education reform. But once parents and teachers started to complain about the high-stakes tests, the absurd assumptions, the unfunded mandates, the byzantine rules, and the total lack of local control, Kennedy blamed the Bush Administration for “poor administration” of the program and a failure to fund it. No matter that his Congress holds the purse-strings, or that the program was a fairly faithful implementation of his vision – if a government program doesn’t work, it’s a Republican’s fault or it needs more money. Kennedy didn’t even do a good job of shifting blame for his mistake – I’m sure you can do better.
So ask yourself, “What would Teddy do?,” and get to work! If the answer doesn’t make you a favorite of the Washington elite, it might just get you a disease, a DUI, or a trillion-dollar deficit. Any others to add to the list?