Of cabbages and kings

Noemie Emery writes:

Having just finished a book on American dynasties– Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families — I can tell you that the Kennedys are not unique in the slightest, but pretty much par for the course. John Adams had two sons who were alcoholic; one of whom died around 30, estranged from his family. John Quincy Adams had two sons who were alcoholic; one of whom had an illegitimate child by a maid in the house of his doctor, and committed suicide at age 29 by jumping off a steamer into Long Island Sound.

TR’s brother (Eleanor’s father) was an alcoholic who died young, estranged from his family. TR’s son, Kermit, was an alcoholic, who shot himself in the mouth. The FDR children were just indescribable. W himself was about to go down the drain in this time-honored fashion, when he pulled himself back at the very last moment, being the first dynastic son ever to check his decline.

The pressures in these families simply are killers, and Patrick’s case is extremely pathetic: he was one when Bobby was murdered; two when his father at Chappaquiddick became a joke and a scandal, and grew up in the wreck of the his parents’ nightmarish marriage, becoming so asthmatic he could barely breathe on his own. He entered politics, as he himself said, because it was the only way he could get attention paid by this family (and because, being not very bright, and not too attractive, he realized the one thing he could sell was his name.) He seems to know this, which is probably one reason he can’t shake his depression, and is still taking numerous drugs. I don’t mind seeing Chappaquiddick revived (Teddy deserves it); but of all the dynastic stories, this the saddest. I agree with Rush Limbaugh that this is a great private tragedy, and like Rush, I can’t pile on.

In its May 8 issue, before this week’s accident and related events, the Standard’s Scrapbook acerbically commented on Patrick Kennedy’s April 15 automobile accident:

Everyone has an off day now and then. But Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy has had an off 20 years, going back to his cocaine-addiction rehab stint in 1986. The Overshadowed Kennedy–son of Ted, nephew of Uncle Jack, cousin of Maria–never fails to unimpress, if that’s a word (and if it’s not, it’s one the malaprop king has probably used himself; Kennedy, for instance, once lamented middle-class Americans’ inability to “make mends meet”).

Who–besides the Rhode Island electorate that mysteriously returns him to office–could forget Patrick trashing his chartered yacht, or announcing that “I am on a lot of different medications, for among other things, depression,” or shoving a female airport security guard when she tried to make him check his bag.

Fresh off of a career high-point earlier this month, in which Patrick was hit in the mouth with a hammer while watching a demonstration of Impact Gel shock-absorbing material at a trade show (he got six stitches and didn’t even cry!), Kennedy has again handed his bête noire Howie Carr, a Boston Herald columnist and radio host, fresh material.

On April 15, Patrick’s car was T-boned as he hurriedly pulled across an oncoming lane into a CVS pharmacy in Portsmouth, R.I. Carr was particularly taken with Patrick’s handwritten account in the Portsmouth Police Department report. Not for what the mostly illegible one-sentence explanation said, but because of how it was written (see below).

While the officer on the scene reported Kennedy “appeared normal,” such as it is, Patrick’s handwriting looks like it was scrawled on a cocktail napkin at an open bar in a Gravitron. Or as Carr delicately put it, “It looks like it was written by a chimpanzee, or a 2-year-old. Or a Kennedy.”

At least, writes Carr, it was only a fender-bender by Kennedy standards. “Not only did a single blonde not die, no one was even paralyzed or raped.”

In the new issue of the Standard out this morning, the Scrapbook reflects on this week’s events:

In last week’s issue, The Scrapbook brought you the woefully under-reported tale of how Rhode Island Democratic congressman Patrick Kennedy had last month wrecked his car pulling into a CVS parking lot in his home state. His own handwritten account of the accident (in a police report supplied to us by Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr) looked like it had been scrawled with his teeth so that he could keep his cocktail-shaker hands free. Police on the scene in Portsmouth reported that Patrick “appeared normal,” though “normal” is a relative term when it comes to the Kennedy clan. After all, Patrick’s dad Teddy, according to a witness in Cousin Willie’s 1991 Palm Beach rape trial, once visited his son and son’s date “with no pants,” walking “kinda wobbly.”

Patrick, who usually takes a year or two off between career-debilitating incidents such as trashing yachts and pushing around female airport security guards, this time decided a quick follow-up was in order. Early last Thursday morning, at 2:45 a.m., he was involved in a single-car accident near the Capitol building. According to a letter obtained by Roll Call from the acting chairman of U.S. Capitol Police chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, Greg Baird, to the acting chief, Christopher McGaffin, Kennedy’s Ford Mustang had its lights turned off and nearly collided with a police cruiser before smashing into a security barricade.

Patrick himself was “observed to be staggering” and claimed he was “late to a vote.” Baird wrote that Capitol Police Division units were prohibited from performing field sobriety tests, as two sergeants said they were taking over, and a Capitol Police House Division official gave Patrick a ride home. While Baird’s letter suggests foul play, Patrick has since attributed his behavior to an unwholesome combination of prescription drugs and a relapse into dependence on painkillers.

But two witnesses, including a hostess at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove, one of Patrick’s regular Capitol Hill watering holes, told the Boston Herald that Patrick had some additional “medicine” that evening. “He was drinking a little bit,” she said. Now, the pile-on has begun. So much so, that we almost feel bad for Patrick Kennedy, who has announced he’ll be reentering rehab at the Mayo Clinic.

We hope his critics will give both him and his police protectors the benefit of the doubt. After all, who ever heard of a Kennedy covering up a car accident? It’s just not their way.

Yesterday at the Democratic/Clintonista watering hole known as ABC’s Note, Mark Halperin et al. commented:

Cable and then the broadcast evening shows will be all over the Kennedy story today, but, in the end (within 72 hours, we mean), it will be pretty simple. If Congressman Kennedy’s unambiguously described version of events is accurate, he will be fine. If his version is not the whole truth in some meaningful way, he will be significantly less than fine.

At Joe’s Dartblog, Joe Malchow comments on the Note’s contribution: “Gee. Would that that objectivity had been applied to the Vice President’s hunting accident.”


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