Susan Estrich worked for a number of years on the staff of Senator Ted Kennedy. Of course, she has some warm memories about working for him. However, in contrast to the almost uncritical lionization of Kennedy by such outlets as the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times as well as by Evan Thomas of Newsweek, Estrich was able to look at her former boss, warts and all, in a surprisingly frank remembrance in her column. She did not attempt to bury his faults as you can see in this critique of his speaking style:
The first time I wrote "talking points" for him, for a floor statement on something 30 years ago next week, I hid in the back of the Senate gallery as he mumbled his way through it, adding "uhs" instead of verbs. I saw what America did in November of that year, in that famous Roger Mudd interview, which sounded like my floor speech.
Estrich was also critical of Kennedy's to absorb information:
He was not what you would call a great "student," the way Mike Dukakis was and Hillary Clinton is, someone who could consume information, demand more, the smartest kid in the class who actually enjoys reading policy tomes. He enjoyed wine, women and song until he met and married the woman he loved.
I learned to write short memos working for the Senator. Say it in a page, now-Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer used to say to me when we were putting things in the briefcase that the Senator took home every night of his life, as far as I know.
As to Kennedy's greatest flaw in his career, Estrich also dealt with that:
I've been to the bridge at Chappaquiddick. He was flawed. He knew that. The world knew that. Whether you forgive him or not doesn't matter anymore.
...People made fun of him when he became a senator. He gave them ammunition. Both of his brothers died. He was responsible for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, and then he failed to alert authorities and take responsibility.
Although Estrich overlooked Kennedy's vicious assault on Robert Bork which came to be known as "borking," her column contrasts with the mostly uncritical lionization of Kennedy in the media. Of course, Estrich also has fond memories of her former boss:
Most of the people who had worked on the campaign drifted away. He was never going to be president.
Rock stars generally don't last in the Senate, starting with John Kennedy. Too much work, too slow, too little juice. Getting something accomplished takes a remarkable amount of tedious work. Rock stars who become senators either run for something else or retire on the job. They certainly don't make a mark.
The Senator took a few of us out sailing with his mother in the summer of 1980, before the convention. He introduced me to her. She looked right through me, absolutely uninterested in whether I was the first woman whatever, and treated him like he was about 13 years old.
He shook his head, and we went back to talking about what he cared about. We were fighting to put a plank favoring national health insurance on the Democratic platform.
However, in case you think Estrich is one of those currently urging the passage of the ObamaCare bill in Congress as some sort of tribute to Ted Kennedy, you can count her not among their ranks. Here is what Estrich wrote recently about the proposed health care bill:
The idea that somehow you're going to tax the "rich" enough to pay for quality health care for every American who doesn't have it, can't afford it or stands to lose it, not to mention for all of the undocumented aliens who receive it for free now and presumably will continue to in Obama health land, is almost laughable. It's one of those things candidates say in campaigns, ignoring the fact that it doesn't add up. But in a bill that might pass? Add a 5 percent surtax on every small business in the country that makes $250,000 or more? This is going to create jobs? What am I missing?