New Republic Speculates Patrick Kennedy Could Grow Into Great Political Leader

August 28th, 2009 9:07 AM

When one first looks at this article in The New Republic speculating about if Ted Kennedy's son, Patrick Kennedy, could grow into a great political leader, you wouldn't be blamed for thinking it was a satirical story written by either Scott Ott or some other humor columnist. However the name of the author is Jason Zengerle and he is being dead serious which actually makes it funnier than any intentionally satirical story could be. What makes Zengerle's article especially funny is that he provides absolutely no proof that Patrick Kennedy displays the slightest bit of political leadership. In fact, Zengerle lays out reasons why Patrick Kennedy, who is in and out of rehab, has dismal political abilities but somehow concludes he could grow into greatness:

Of all the politicians I’ve encountered in the course of doing my job, there have been some that I’ve admired and some that I’ve loathed. But there’s only one politician I’ve ever pitied, and that’s Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy.

I met Kennedy three summers ago when I was reporting a profile of Newt Gingrich and both politicians were giving speeches to a business conference in Newport, Rhode Island. Although I was there to hear Gingrich’s talk, it was Kennedy’s that made the bigger impression, if only because it was so bad. Kennedy was speaking about his legislative passion--the issue of mental health parity--but he looked less like a politician giving what should have been a polished spiel than a nervous third-grader doing a book report on a tome he hadn’t bothered to read, stammering and blushing and seeming very out of his depth. When the speeches were over, Gingrich, with whom I was spending the day, convinced Kennedy to take him on a tour of the nearby Providence Zoo, and the awkwardness only continued. Where most politicians draw energy from adulatory crowds, the sweaty and anxious Kennedy flinched when various zoogoers approached to shake his hand. At one point, a zoogoer--who was also presumably a constituent--tried to ask him about Iraq, but she couldn’t even finish her question before Kennedy was hightailing it away from her and into the relative safety of the monkey house.

From that low, Zengerle's assessment of Patrick Kennedy dips even lower:

Of course, Kennedy’s extreme reticence that day may have had something to do with the fact that he’d just recently finished a stint in drug rehab, and he was wary of reentering public life. But that only made his situation more pitiable. Here was a guy who clearly had little aptitude for politics but, because of his last name, had become a politician anyway; and now he was being forced to combat his demons--demons that may well have been fed by his bad career choice--on a very public stage.

However, according to Zengerle, there is once piece of silver lining for Patrick---he hasn't yet committed any transgressions as bad as Chappaquiddick:

And while Patrick has suffered through some embarrassing personal episodes since taking office--a confrontation with an airport security guard in 2000; an Ambien-induced car crash in 2006 that resulted in him going to rehab; and a return to rehab this past June, apparently brought on in part from stress over his father’s medical condition--he’s committed no transgressions of the magnitude of Chappaquiddick. If the conventional wisdom is that Teddy didn’t start becoming the lion of the Senate until after his unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1980--and that he didn’t find peace in his personal life until, at the age of 60, he married Victoria Reggie in 1992--then Patrick, who’s in the 15th year of his congressional career and the 42nd year of his life, still has some time to get things straight.

Hmm... So it sounds like the only thing separating Patrick Kennedy from greatness is losing a presidental bid and a good wife. 

Zengerle concludes that maybe, just maybe, despite all his personal and political failings, Patrick Kennedy could somehow grow into at least a person and politician to admire:

Even before Ted Kennedy passed away, there was speculation that there was no one in the next generation of Kennedys to carry on the family’s singular political torch. "I think it's over," Ben Bradlee, the former Washington Post editor and a close friend of JFK, told his paper earlier this month. "I don't think there are any left.” And that may well be the case. But if Ted Kennedy’s life taught us anything, it was that people can grow and change and ultimately find themselves in a cause bigger than themselves. Maybe Patrick, as Ted Kennedy’s son, will heed that lesson better than anyone and ultimately mature into a politician--and a person--to admire rather than pity. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Wouldn't that be nice if Jason Zengerle wrote on a topic somewhat based on a bit of reality? 

Oh, and congratulations to The New Republic for now publishing in their new more easily readable web format. It makes it so much easier to keep the NewsBusters Eye of Sauron focused upon you.