Kennedy: Not the White Knight


To the Editor:

As a liberal Democrat, I am troubled and angered by the record of the Carter Administration, as well as disappointed by the President's ineffectual leadership capabilities displayed over the past three years. But I also fear that many of my liberal friends share a perception of Ted Kennedy not merely as the only leader able to "get America going again" but also as a great liberal and champion of "landmark progressive legislation" (Sept. 18 dissenting editorial).

While I am quickly breaking away from the "party solidarity" argument that Carter must be renominated, I am not leading myself into believing that Kennedy, a longtime proponent of national health insurance and other important social reforms, is the liberal deity that many seem to believe and want of him as a national leader.

In the 94th and 95th Congresses Kennedy unsuccessfully tried to railroad criminal code revisions through the Senate and House. His bill (the off-shoot of S.1) was labeled "reform" and was duly accepted in the Senate by an overwhelmingly majority (72-15) in January 1978.

But in the House it met considerable opposition and was defeated despite the editorial backing of the New York Times and Washington Post, and unrelenting pressure from Kennedy and the White House. The generally conservative members of the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice were persuaded by their liberal colleague, Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman '62, to block Kennedy's bill due to "exceptionally broad and sloppy language" and the many potential dangers posed to civil liberties and the First Amendment." (See Hentoff in the Village Voice, 11/27/78.)


One of the major advantages in promoting a legislator like Ted Kennedy as president is that we have seen, to a large degree, both sides of his political personality for seventeen years. It would be foolish for liberal Democrats to be so optimistic about any candidate as they were with 'Jimmy Who?' in 1976; we would only be paving a road for dissatisfaction and eventual self-destruction. If we choose to support Kennedy for President in 1980, we must recognize his full political record, particularly in light of the broader constituency which the White House represents. Helene Sahadi York '83

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