September 22, 2003,
A Friendship Killer
Ted Kennedy’s outburst should end all Bush collaboration with him.
This whole thing was a fraud," Senator Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.) complained Thursday to the Associated Press. "There was no imminent threat," his jeremiad against President Bush's Iraq policy continued. "This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically."
As if accusing the president of the United States of sending GIs into combat for electoral gain were not outrageous enough, Kennedy added that Bush misallocated funds.
"My belief is this money is being shuffled all around to these political leaders in all parts of the world, bribing them to send in troops," Kennedy continued.
As intemperate as Kennedy's outburst was, perhaps it finally will end President Bush's warm relationship with the senior senator from Hyannis Port. Bush's esteem for Kennedy has epitomized the "New Tone in Washington" whereby Republicans extend their hands in friendship to Democrats who, in turn, bite off their fingers.
Bush and the GOP could not have been more accommodating to the 71-year-old archliberal.
In November 2001, Bush issued an executive order renaming the Justice Department's headquarters after the late Robert F. Kennedy, LBJ's attorney general and Ted's older brother.
Bush invited Ted and other members of the Kennedy clan to the White House for a private screening of Thirteen Days, a major motion picture about the performance of Ted's other brother, JFK, during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Far more substantively, Bush and his Senate Republican allies approved an education bill largely to Kennedy's liking. Not surprisingly, it swelled federal classroom spending by $26 billion, hiked Washington's education outlays in its first year by 16 percent and excluded vouchers and other competitive reforms that Bush's supporters in the school choice movement were frustrated not to see.
Bush basted Kennedy with kindness after this bill passed. He called him "a fabulous United States senator."
Kennedy last summer had a fairly free hand in crafting the Senate's Medicare prescription drug bill. This beast, caged for the moment in a House-Senate conference committee, is budgeted conservatively at $400 billion in its first 10 years alone. With no objection from Bush, Senate Republicans caved as Kennedy demanded this legislation lack reform ideas including a modest affluence test sponsored by Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Don Nickles (R., Okla.). Kennedy threatened to filibuster against their amendment to make wealthy seniors like Ross Perot and David Rockefeller pay more for their coverage. So, Republicans quietly killed Feinstein's and Nickles's token of common sense and instead adopted a brand-new, universal entitlement. They defeated the Feinstein-Nichols language by voice vote on June 26. So, Kennedy and others who opposed this hint of prudence need not worry about taxpayers ever finding a record of their profligacy.
All of this solicitousness to Kennedy by Bush and his fellow Republicans might be worthwhile if the powerful Democrat occasionally supported and helped line up other Democrats behind Bush's proposals. But beyond pushing legislation far left, knowing Bush will sign it anyway, Kennedy is one of Bush's most consistent and energetic congressional foes.
Kennedy joined 22 other senators in voting against letting Bush use military force in Iraq. This put Kennedy at odds even with his fellow Massachusetts Democrat, Senator John Kerry.
Kennedy opposed Bush's tax relief plan and voted to delay those tax cuts until the administration defined the costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Kennedy is one of the leaders of the Democrat filibuster against a growing number of Bush's judicial nominees. Miguel Estrada exhausted after two years of being tormented by Democrats, under-defended by Republicans and prevented from speaking publicly by the administration pulled his own nomination on September 4. Rather than celebrate this ugly win quietly to himself, Kennedy appeared at a press conference with Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) to gloat over Estrada's scalp. Kennedy called Estrada's withdrawal "a victory for the Constitution."
Kennedy recently announced that he would filibuster against a $10 million plan to give educational vouchers to children struggling within Washington, D.C.'s staggeringly-poor government schools. President Bush is eager to sign this bill, which passed the House this month. Unimpressed, Kennedy vows to raise hell against this legislation. Although he sent his kids to private school, the otherwise bleeding-heart Kennedy feels nothing for poor black boys and girls relegated to lifetimes of ignorance by schools that deny them the basic skills necessary for successful adulthood in the capitol of the free world. Kennedy prefers to leave no teacher's union boss behind.
Last week's anti-Bush tantrum is more than enough reason to table the president's and the GOP's tender feelings for Kennedy. This always has been a one-way affair in which respect, affection and legislative deference have flowed like honey from Bush and Republican senators towards Kennedy. In return, Kennedy has extracted everything he can from the White House and his GOP colleagues engorging bills with tax dollars and red tape then squirted vinegar in their eyes on issue after issue.
Watching Bush serenade Kennedy confuses and demoralizes the Republican base while costing the Treasury billions of dollars in GOP love offerings. The Bay State senator's recent tirade gives the president the perfect opportunity to tell Ted Kennedy firmly: "I think it's time for you to go."