What does Obama Know About Chappaquiddick?


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© Jack Cashill

May 22, 2008

"With Barack Obama,” said Ted Kennedy upon endorsing the Illinois Senator a few months back, “we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion.”

In his gushing response to Kennedy’s endorsement, and in his widely televised anguish about Kennedy’s recent illness, Obama shows no sign of understanding what happened in the early morning hours of July 19, 1969 and why the thinking half of America will never forgive Kennedy for it.

To cut to the chase, the 37 year-old Senator Kennedy drove off a bridge with a young woman in his car, and the woman died. A week after the incident at Chappaquiddick, being a Kennedy, Ted requested and got all three networks to give him 15 minutes of prime time for an unprecedented bit of public dissembling.

An increasingly monolithic major media would allow many a future Democrat moments of extravagant deceit, but none, not even Bill Clinton, would ever match the gold standard Kennedy set that night. What follows are excerpts from that speech, countered by best evidence of what actually happened:

TK: “Only reasons of health prevented my wife from accompanying me [to the party on Chappaquiddick that weekend].”

JC: Ted, in that the party guests included exactly six married men and six single women in an isolated beach house, it is hard to know how exactly your beleaguered wife would have fit in.

TK: “When I left the party around 11:15 PM, I was accompanied by one of these girls, Miss Mary Jo Kopechne.”

JC: Yea, Ted, 11:15, that’s the ticket. The ferry back to Edgartown shut down at 12:00, and you were merely driving the pretty 20-something to catch it. Sure! Truth be told, the alibi would have worked a little better had Mary Jo bothered taking her purse, and if a deputy sheriff had not spotted your car with a man and woman in at 12:40.

TK: “There is no truth whatever to the widely circulated suspicions of immoral conduct that have been leveled at my behavior and hers regarding that evening.”

JC: No, you and Mary Jo were driving to the beach alone after midnight to collect seashells. I’ll buy that, but did Joan?

TK: “Little over a mile away the car that I was driving on an unlit road went off a narrow bridge.”

JC: The road to the ferry to which you were supposedly driving was paved and lit. You knew it well. The road to the beach was unlit and unpaved. You knew that well too. You have some serious ‘splainin’ to do, brother.

TK: “Nor was I driving under the influence of liquor.”

JC: If the eight or so documented drinks you had taken that day had no influence on you, then we would have to believe you routinely drove off bridges.

TK: I made immediate and repeated efforts to save Mary Jo.

JC: We have only your word for this, and your word—sigh!—has less value than the sunken Oldsmobile.

TK: “Although my doctors inform me that I suffered a cerebral concussion as well as shock, I do not seek to escape responsibility for my actions by placing the blame . . . on the physical and emotional trauma brought on by the accident.”

JC: Any number of witnesses saw you, spry and chatty, walking around Edgarton later that night and the next morning. Of course you sought to escape responsibility with your bogus health claims. Why mention them otherwise? Why wear a neck brace?

TK: “I made an effort to call a family legal advisor, Burke Marshall, from a public telephone on the Chappaquiddick side of the ferry, and then belatedly reported the accident to the Martha's Vineyard police.”

JC: You made a documented 17 long distance calls to lawyers and advisers before talking to the police. And it was the police who called you after a fisherman found your car the next morning. “Belatedly” indeed!

TK: “No words on my part can possibly express the terrible pain and suffering I feel over this tragic accident.”

JC: The truth would be a good place to start. As unfortunate as your brain tumor may be, it does give you an excellent opportunity to square accounts while you still can. I don’t think St. Peter will recognize “droit de seigneur.”

In 1969, Leo Damore was a young reporter working for a Cape Cod weekly. Unlike many in the major media who were lulled into inaction by their liberal sympathies, Damore bird-dogged this case for the next 20 years. He even managed to get Kennedy factotum, Joe Gargan, to open up.

Damore’s 1988 book, Senatorial Privilege, neatly excerpted at www.ytedk.com, is the very best account of the incident.

Bottom line: Ted Kennedy left Mary Jo alive, trapped in the car and gasping for air. He bypassed homes near the bridge, from which he could have called the police, and walked over a mile back to the party house.

Once there, he sought out his lawyer friends, Joe Gargan and Paul Markham, to help him work out his alibi. Compromised by a presumed lawyer-client relationship, they had to wait for Kennedy to call for help.

Kennedy never did. He may have been hoping that Gargan, the family fixer, would take the rap. Mary Jo meanwhile struggled to survive for perhaps an hour, even more.

During those hours and in the subsequent days, Ted forever debased the Kennedy name and came to embody the very “politics of misrepresentation and distortion” that he now so grandly denounces.

I am sorry about Ted’s illness too, Senator Obama, but even the good Reverend Wright would make a better role model.

Who is Jack Cashill?


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