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By Bryan Newbury
July 12, 2009

tedkennedy2008democraticconvention1Is it possible for a Kennedy to be overlooked and underappreciated? If you’re inclined to agree with or admire Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a viewing of HBO’s Teddy will certainly lead you to an affirmative answer.

Teddy begins in Denver, at the 2008 Democratic Convention. In terms of sheer artistry, vigor and conviction, his 1980 speech had this one beat. In filling out the Odyssean narrative that has been Teddy’s life, it couldn’t be more fitting. The speech, relatively soon after Kennedy’s being diagnosed with a large brain tumor, serves to sum up the man rather than the youngest brother. While it is true that simply being a Kennedy must define a person in many ways, Teddy is larger than that. A little thing like a brain tumor isn’t going to silence, stop, or even slow this fighter down.

That irrepressibility is the oil that lubricates the endearment of his fans and the ire of his detractors. Teddy Kennedy has a long list of formidable foes, from Nixon to the generation of conservatives after him to many in his own party to the vagaries of fate itself. No one would sooner assent to his life of privilege than the man himself, but even the fiercest of composers of enemies lists would grant that the senator from Massachusetts isn’t going to shy away from a fight.

To those detractors, there isn’t much in Teddy to like. The film, narrated by Kennedy, sticks its toe right to the hagiography line. Like everything else regarding Kennedy or politics in general, whether that line is crossed depends entirely on one’s persuasion. Chris Matthews will likely give this work an enthusiastic five-star endorsement. Rush Limbaugh’s review is surely to be more reserved. Though it goes far to illustrate the courage, convictions and strength of character Kennedy prides himself on, Teddy doesn’t avoid things that aren’t exactly comfortable subjects. Naturally, there are the untimely deaths of his siblings – Kunhardt and Nevins deserve much respect for treating the shootings of Jack and Bobby with the propriety so many have chosen to discard – his son’s bout with bone cancer, a plane crash, the wreckage of which would lead one to surmise that the passengers hadn’t a chance of surviving, let alone walking again, a few tips of the bottle, a failed campaign for the Democratic nomination and… Read the rest of this entry »