Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Truisms du Jour + Media Picks

#1. The state of being Kennedy is a blessing and a curse.

On the plus side: a thick head of hair, fabulous Hyannisport compound, great liberal tradition. On the minus side: tendency to die young in a spectacular fashion, alcoholism, drug addiction, womanizing and a variety of legal entanglements stemming from above vices.

Today's Kennedy brouhaha concerns Representative Patrick Kennedy, son of Senator Ted Kennedy. In the early hours of Thursday, he was observed by Capitol police driving without his lights. After nearly being swiped by Kennedy, Capitol police tailed him until he crashed into a median. Mr. Kennedy was in the car by himself and no one was hurt. But it's what happened next that raised some eyebrows. According to today's Times article,
"Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, said a police union official had written a letter to the Capitol police chief asserting that Mr. Kennedy appeared to be staggering when he left his car. But, it said, police officers at the scene were not allowed by their supervisors to perform a sobriety test. Roll Call quoted the letter as saying Capitol police officials gave Mr. Kennedy a ride home."

#2. Privilege, especially of the Kennedy variety, can shield you from the potentially unpleasant consequences of your behavior.

Patrick need look no further for affirmation than his dad, who has had more than his fair share of legal entanglements, most famously in the Chappaquiddick incident. In 1969, Ted Kennedy, wife and kids back at home, was driving home from a party accompanied by secretary Mary Jo Kopechne. He drove off a bridge and into a body of water. Though Kennedy escaped, Kopechne remained trapped in the car. Kennedy made several calls, including one to his lawyer, before calling for help for Kopechne, who was found dead in the submerged car. A definitive cause of death was never determined, as no autopsy was performed. Mr. Kennedy was given a two month suspended sentence for leaving the scene of a crime. It is thought that this incident precluded him from ever being a President. Not quite the same, the consequences suffered by the families involved: loss of a daughter, abandoning Presidential hope.

As to his son Patrick, we'll see what happens, if anything. Kennedy, who has struggled publicly with alcohol and cocaine addiction, is blaming Ambien and claiming he requested no preferential treatment from police. Both may be true, as Ambien has a host of side effects including sleepwalking. The responding officers maintain they smelled alcohol on his breath but were ordered by their superiors to take Kennedy home, eliminating the need for Kennedy to request preferential treatment. Could law enforcement have internalized the need to protect the wealthy and privileged from themselves?

Dominick Dunne seems to think so, and this ties into the second part of today's post, summer media picks. Dunne, novelist, columnist for Vanity Fair, and Court TV commentator is quite concerned with how the very rich manage to weasel their way out of any scrape big or small. Unsurprisingly, Dunne is no friend of the Kennedy's, owing to his dogged pursuit of justice in the Martha Moxley murder in which Michael Skakel, a cousin of Bobby Kennedy, served 20 years for murder. A Season in Purgatory is the novelization of the Moxley case and a terrific page-turning beach read.

Other summer media picks ...

Trapped Inside the House Due to Three Hour Rainstorm: Gandhi. It's long but well worth watching the transformation of a young lawyer into the leader of non-violent civil resistance, culminating in Indian independence from the British.

Beachside, Baking into Stupefaction: The Starter Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer. Total fluff, silly pat ending, but some very funny stuff in the middle as the wife of a Hollywood studio exec is dumped her ambitious husband.

Under an Umbrella Nursing a Bad Sunburn: Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. Didion faced the sudden death of her husband writer John Dunne (Dominick's brother) in the midst of her daughter Quintana's catastrophic illness and hospitalizations.

Feeling Better, Even Saucy: The Yes Men, political pranksters posing as members of the WTO whose mischief highlights the absurdity of globalization and corporate greed. Hilarious.

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