NPR massively covered the death and life of Edward Kennedy for several days, and with scarcely a mention of Mary Jo Kopechne. When her death was mentioned, or rather when “Chappaquiddick” was mentioned, it was only in passing, as an obstacle to Kennedy’s becoming president. Full details are at Newsbusters, which quotes a devastating article by NPR’s ombudsman.

A commenter at Newsbusters quotes Wikipedia on the incident, and I went and read Wiki’s articles on Mary Jo Kopechne, and on the Chappaquiddick incident. I haven’t thought about Chappaquiddick in many years, and it’s tough reading. Among the things that stand out: Kennedy’s criminal behavior in not calling police until the next morning, after the car had been found and the body recovered; the certainty of the diver and local fire chief, John Farrar, who recovered Kopechne’s body, that she suffocated in an air pocket of the overturned vehicle and did not drown; the official determination, made without an autopsy, that she had drowned; the non-performance of any autopsy to establish for a fact whether she had drowned or not; Kennedy’s sentence to the statutory minimum of two months incarceration for the offense for not reporting an accident; and the suspension of the sentence. Followed by Kennedy’s re-election to the U.S. Senate 15 months later.

Here’s how the body was found:

Earlier that morning, two amateur fishermen had seen the overturned car in the water and notified the inhabitants of the cottage nearest to the pond, who called the authorities at around 8:20 am. A diver was sent down and discovered Kopechne’s body at around 8:45 am. The diver, John Farrar, later testified at the inquest that Kopechne’s body was pressed up in the car in the spot where an air bubble would have formed. He interpreted this to mean that Kopechne had survived for a while after the initial accident in the air bubble, and concluded that

Had I received a call within five to ten minutes of the accident occurring, and was able, as I was the following morning, to be at the victim’s side within twenty-five minutes of receiving the call, in such event there is a strong possibility that she would have been alive on removal from the submerged car.

Farrar believed that Kopechne “lived for at least two hours down there.”

Farrar also said at the inquest:

It looked as if she were holding herself up to get a last breath of air. It was a consciously assumed position. … She didn’t drown. She died of suffocation in her own air void. It took her at least three or four hours to die. I could have had her out of that car twenty-five minutes after I got the call. But he [Ted Kennedy] didn’t call.

I don’t know how Farrar could be so certain that she could have survived three or four hours in a small air pocket. Clearly his conclusory statement, “It took her at least three or four hours to die,” is contradicted by his other, more modest, assessment, that if he had received a call within ten minutes of the accident, and gotten to her side within 25 minutes of the call, as he actually did the next morning, there was a “strong possibility” she could have been saved. His more modest statement, which we can take as more reliable, indicates that he is not certain that she could have lived for 45 or more minutes after the accident. However, it also indicates that she could have lived for 45 or more minutes after the accident.

And there’s the bottom line. Had Kennedy, after his initial efforts to save Mary Jo failed, gone to the house nearest the accident, 150 yards away (the owner of which testified that she had left a light on outside the house), and called the police, John Farrar would have gotten to Mary Jo’s side within 45 or 60 minutes after the car entered the water and there was a good chance that she would have been alive at that point. The criminality of Kennedy’s behavior is undeniable, the consequences of that criminality are stark. He did not do what he needed to do to try to save her life, which was to call the police immediately. He deliberately avoided doing what he needed to do to save her life. He avoided taking the necessary steps to save her, because he was protecting himself. He let her die, so that he could remain a U.S. senator and a possible president. If the officials and people of Massachusetts had been led by a belief in truth and justice, rather than by worshipful identification with the Kennedys, Edward Kennedy’s political career would have been ended 40 years ago this summer, and NPR would not have had the occasion to spend five days this summer celebrating the achievements of the icon of American liberalism.

- end of initial entry -

September 3

Laura Wood writes:

Speaking of the recent celebration of this icon of liberalism, I attended a Catholic mass in northern New Hampshire last weekend and in his homily the priest twice stated that Kennedy was comparable to Moses. In his legislative work, Kennedy was the heir to the Mosaic legal tradition. In the prayers of petition, we were asked to pray for - or was it to? - the Massachusetts prophet.

Karen writes from England:

He’s a criminal full stop. He should have served a lengthy prison sentence and his political career should have been over. He was saved from the punishment he deserved by nepotism and corruption. America is supposed to be a beacon of democracy, individual rights and the rule of law. This incident shows a level of corruption worthy of Bangladesh or Nigeria. In America, some are more equal than others. The Kennedys were a surrogate Royal Family for the American people, who seem to have a strong need for idols to worship, despite their claims of egalitarianism. They also seem to have a strong affinity for base idols. They describe the Queen, a person of integrity, as “cute” , “quaint” and a “curiosity” and yet worshipped the Kennedy family, a family of modern Borgias. America would be better with the Queen in the White House. Prince Charles would never have left anyone to die. Another case where getting rid of tradition leads to barbarism.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 02, 2009 08:07 PM | Send

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