But most political observers agree it was the family ambitions of the Kennedy clan, as represented by Teddy, the playboy last surviving brother, whose abortive primary run against his party’s sitting president brought down Jimmy Carter’s reformist presidency, with historic ramifications.
Kennedy, whose recent passing is cause for extensive retrospection on his long Senate career and legacy of legislative good deeds, was never meant to carry the burden of Irish-American hopes in the national arena. His three senior brothers were educated and groomed for politics, but the loss of Joe in the war and the assassinations of Jack and Bobby left him to carry the family banner back to the White House in some sort of Camelot redux. Having inherited his brother’s Senate seat in ’62, Teddy used his Washington time to establish a lifestyle that often embarrassed his peers in its profligacy.
Whiskey and women loomed large in his early years on Capitol Hill, weaknesses he later repented as the assorted tragedies of the family manifested over the ensuing years.
Still, in all, Jimmy Carter remained popular and his defeat of the Kennedy challenge was well fought, but it weakened the party and its financial ability in the general election that fall. The combination of the Tehran crisis and a back channel deal to keep the hostages by the Reagan campaign lost the election for Carter and gave us the 12 years of Reaganomics and overseas perfidy.
Had Carter remained in office we can be sure that the Middle East peace process, for which he had worked so long and hard, would have gone forward instead of going dormant under the Reagan/Bush regime.
It is also unlikely he would have sold arms to the very Iranian radicals who held our diplomats hostage, or sponsored the Chilean coup that deposed Salvador Allende killing thousands and creating a death-squad military dictatorship for a decade.
At home Carter might have reformed the agriculture industry in favor of family farms and less poisonous food production. On the justice front his attorney general, Bert Lance, would have continued to clean house at the FBI instead of allowing the black bag Hooverites to retire without accounting for their illegal acts.
But that is all speculation, and we can only wish things had turned out otherwise. What we do know is the past two decades of American political degeneration can be laid at the door of Teddy Kennedy and the ambitions of his clan.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. "The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.