August 26, 2009

Kennedy’s Passing: Change In Health Care Calculus, Or Same-Old, Same-Old?

Sens. Ted Kennedy, Joe Lieberman, and John McCain.  Gen. David Petraeus and Amb Ryan Crocker testify on the Iraq War to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, April 8, 2008 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Lauren Victoria Burke/WDCPIX.COM)

Of course, the ‘sphere is awash in Teddy images right now, the day after his passing. I found this one, however — from TPM’s memorial slide show — particularly relevant.

Going forward, the preeminent question is: what impact can and will Kennedy’s passing have on the health care reform process? Given the intense experience of fraternity in the Senate, Kennedy’s lifelong commitment to the issue, and his championing of a progressive way forward, can we expect a different emotional calculus now in the Congress, one which lifts members above the pettiness — a quality Biden movingly (and perhaps even strategically) articulated that Kennedy transcended?

…Or, is the status quo so great and the Democratic will so compromised that the trajectory of the past few weeks will remain largely unaffected and the “call” in Kennedy’s passing will be largely frittered away, his legacy mostly relegated to the media undertakers locked-and-loaded for a retrospective and funeral bonanza?

What’s telling about this Senate hearing room photo is that Kennedy, angled off as he is, represents the inflection point. The main tension, with the quasi-Democrat Lieberman in the middle and the chameleon-like, terminally unpredictable and even occasional humanist McCain center-right, is whether the conscience and echoing presence of Kennedy will somehow shine through these men or merely bounce off.

(image: unattributed. 2008. via TPM)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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