Opinion: "Why Did Ted Stay Silent?"
7, A, W . II ' X TTwrd m a seven-part seven-part seven-part series by Liz Smith continues the analysis of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's untimely plunge from a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island and the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. TED KENNEDY . . .AFTER CHAPPAQUIDDICK Why Did Ted Stay Silent? Why wasn't everybody satisfied with the television statement given by Senator Senator Ted Kennedy six days after his car accident in Massachusetts an accident which took the life of Mary Jo Kopechne, an RFK campaign worker? The patchy explanation was that Teddy Teddy himself almost drowned, escaped he knew not how from the submerged car, dove back repeatedly in the strong current current to try to save Mary Jo, then walked back to the party cottage to ask his cousin Joe Gargan and his friend Paul Markham to help him. He said both these men dove to rescue rescue Mary Jo, but failing, took the Senator Senator to the ferry slip. It was after the hour of regular service though special boats could be requested by a simple phone call. (These calls go through the Edgartown police switchboard. ) Teddy claimed he plunged suddenly into the water and swam across to Martha's Martha's Vineyard, while suffering exhaustion exhaustion and a concussion, wearing his heavy backbrace and clothes. There he said he collapsed in his Edgartown motel room, appearing around 2 a.m. to ask the time of the owner. Markham and Gargan allegedly allegedly returned to the party cottage and spent the night on the floor without mentioning the accident to anyone. The next morning then hours later-Kennedy later-Kennedy later-Kennedy reported the accident to the Edgartown police, after first making a ferry trip across to Chappaquiddick with Gargan and Markham. They returned "What is truth" Pontius Pilule swiftly around and went back to Edgartown, Edgartown, after a ferryman asked if they'd heard of the accident. Kennedy's curiously elliptical TV clean breast of it was meant to still questions and dampen criticism. But it didn't. Why? Possibly because its very truth-is-stranger-than-fiction truth-is-stranger-than-fiction truth-is-stranger-than-fiction truth-is-stranger-than-fiction truth-is-stranger-than-fiction truth-is-stranger-than-fiction truth-is-stranger-than-fiction truth-is-stranger-than-fiction truth-is-stranger-than-fiction air posed more questions than it answered; possibly possibly because it smacked of tremendous hubris. Many felt it an arrogant insult to their intelligence. Right or wrong, true or false, as a statement to clear up something, something, it became a classic understate- understate- The Un-Making Un-Making Un-Making Of A President ment, on a par with "Someone has blundered", blundered", to describe the Charge of the Light Brigade. The anti-Kennedy anti-Kennedy anti-Kennedy National Review said: "The human mind refuses to accept accept a sequence of events as, finally, unintelligible; which is what, in effect, Senator Kennedy asked his TV audience to do. "The continuing refusal of those who were at the cottage to say anything at all about the evening's events serves to generate further skepticism. If Teddy's explanation is true, what motive would exist for the silence? If the guests could confirm his story, and fill in its gaps, why should they refuse to do so?" Pro-Kennedy Pro-Kennedy Pro-Kennedy columnists Frank Man-kiewicz Man-kiewicz Man-kiewicz and Tom Braden remarked on "the Shakespearean sense of a puzzlement puzzlement of the will, of judgement suspended suspended and flawed at a crucial moment." After this analysis, they bluntly dubbed it "the end of the Kennedy era." A Louis Harris poll discovered that 44 per cent to 36 per cent, a plurality, thought Kennedy had failed "to tell the real truth" and a 51 per cent to 31 per cent majority agreed "there still has been no adequate explanation of what he was doing at the party or with the girl who was killed." A letter writer to Time remarked: "Assume that your friend and cousin, having had a tragic accident comes to your door.. .He is completely exhausted, in shock, and has water in his lungs and a slight concussion. Do you call a doctor? doctor? Don't be ridiculous.. .take your friend to the nearest ferry and, when the ferry is shut down for the night, just calmly stand there and watch him swim across the channel, preferably fully clothed. Now he'll be able to recuperate all by himself in a nice comfortable motel room. "Brothers Grimm, move over. You have been topped." Another person wrote Newsweek: "If this account is true, we can only hope that the Senator gets some new advisors; advisors; if it is not true, he should get a new speechwriter." (Both Markham and Gargan and the gaggle of Kennedy advisers advisers and speechwriters have come in for such unrelenting critisism ever since that some of them, notably Ted Sorenson, Onassis to Winston Churchill: "Sir Winston, would you rather be a great man honored in your country or have raised an esleemable family of children?" Sir Winston to Onassis: "Hmm. difficult question difficult." have edged perceptibly out of the EMK camp. The behavior of Markham and Gargan, two adult attorneys, caused Bobby biographer and fan Jack New-field, New-field, New-field, to say that Teddy would have done better simply going for advice to the nearest Legal Aid.) The pro-Kennedy pro-Kennedy pro-Kennedy New York Post edi-toralized: edi-toralized: edi-toralized: "There were too many discrepancies discrepancies between his first statement and subsequent disclosures, including some contained in his speech last night to risk minimal cross-examination cross-examination cross-examination in a courtroom, or even direct questioning by the press." "When a man gives various unconvincing unconvincing explanations of an act. one must suspect that the real reason for the act lies in the unconscious." Bullitt and Freud Or, in the Super Ego as someone joked. Was the verdict of a well-known well-known well-known Washington writer and longtime Kennedy Kennedy observer correct? "He is a spoiled, last child, a mama's boy. Good at all the small things, but feeling even in maturity maturity that he can buy himself out of any pinch." People simply weren't satisfied with the explanation the Senator gave. To make matters worse for Teddy, the accident accident had happened on the same week-end week-end week-end the world was literally glued to the tube for the moon shot. This exposed thousands of additional viewers to super news coverage, pointing pointing up the contrasts between the high Turn to TIDE, A12, Col. 1 13" fir'A' ft fa hmkw THE TED KENNEDYS AT HYANNIS PORT . .Joan, Ted and children, Edward and Kara Ann X'X'X'X'X'XvX'X'X'X'X-X'X'X'X'X'X-X'X'X'X'X'Xs X'X'X'X'X'XvX'X'X'X'X-X'X'X'X'X'X-X'X'X'X'X'Xs