Forty years ago today, the world fixated upon Apollo 11's lunar landing. But in Massachusetts, an incident highlighting humanity's depths rather than its heights relegated one of the biggest stories of the 20th century to below the fold. "Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the only surviving brother in a family pursued by tragedy, narrowly escaped death early yesterday when his car plunged into a pond on a sparsely populated island off the coast of Martha's Vinyard," read the lede in the July 20, 1969 Boston Globe.
The story, of course, was not that the Bay State's senior senator had "narrowly escaped death," but that the occupant of the passenger seat, Mary Jo Kopechne, hadn't. "She didn't drown," John Farrar, the diver who retrieved Kophechne's body from Kennedy's Oldsmobile, later pointed out. "She died of suffocation in her own air void. It took her at least three or four hours to die. I could have had her out of that car in twenty-five minutes after I got the call. But he didn't call." At least he didn't call somebody who could have helped Kopechne -- between the time of the accident and surrendering himself to the police the following morning, Senator Kennedy charged 17 long distance calls to his credit card.
Such questions as "What was the senator doing alone so late with a woman other than his wife?" and "Why was the senator driving after partying all day?" yielded to one even more troubling. Why did Senator Kennedy work so hard to save his political skin when he could have done something to save the life of the former aide to his late brother Robert? Outraged Americans wanted Kennedy's resignation. Enamored Massachusetts voters reelected him the next year...
Read the rest of Daniel J. Flynn's article over at American Spectator.