to make plans accordingly. He was also an intensely purposeful,
committed man. It's got me thinking: might there be another shoe
to drop? Might have planned one more move?
One obvious sign that planning for the political future after his death
is the letter he wrote to the Governor of Massachusetts calling for a
change in the laws to allow an interim appointment so that his seat
would not be empty --and his vote could be cast-- in the months between
his death and a special election can be held, a period when important
business will be before the Senate.
A bit less obvious, but still pretty easily inferred, and a still-more
powerful sign of strategic thinking up until the end, is the what that
letter became public more than a month after it was written and but
days before Senator Kennedy's death. The letter was written and
delivered, according to reports, in early July, but it was only some
days before Ted Kennedy's death that the Senator's request became
public knowledge. Perfect timing, one might say, in terms of
putting the issue out just ahead of the outpouring of emotion that was
sure to follow Senator Kennedy's death.
This timing was almost certainly no coincidence: my guess is that
it was all orchestrated from the outset. Senator Kennedy planned
for the letter to be sent in time to get things moving in the political
sphere, and then for the matter to be made public when the end was
clearly only days away.
With strategic thinking like that going on, what else did Teddy cook up
to make the most of his leverage to achieve his most cherished purposes?
Did Kennedy anticipate the way that the Republicans were going to try
to make him out to be the great compromiser, to make him seem like the
guy who'd have watered down the health care reform package as he
"reached across the aisle." Did he sense that there might be some
value in underscoring how health care reform was "the cause of his
life" and make his advocacy a kind of death-bed request to the Senate,
or to the nation?
Will there emerge, in the aftermath of the celebrations of his life and
funeral masses and burials, some message from Ted Kennedy addressed to
his colleagues asking them to rise to the occasion and at last get done
on health care the job he sought so long to achieve?
Will Ted Kennedy, knowing the great power he wields now in death, speak to us one more time from the grave?
Or will he remain silent? Perhaps he figured that his strong
support for health care reform is already well known and needs no
posthumous underscoring. Or perhaps he'd have rejected the
idea of making a last public, posthumous request --as the
much-celebrated, much-mourned national hero-- because he couldn't come
up with a way to make it that would play effectively on the public
Whatever the outcome, I would bet this: that Ted Kennedy gave
serious consideration as to how he might best arrange things for
maximal political influence, and that he did whatever he judged would
serve best that greatest cause of his life.