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The Chappaquiddick Incident

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 1734 words Published: 11th Sep 2017

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The Chappaquiddick incident was a car accident on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts on July 18, 1969. There was a lot of subsequent investigations pertaining to the case and It started to raise questions on his honesty and courage along with him being viewed differently by all. It happened after the party that Ted Kennedy hosted for a group of six women, including Mary Jo Kopechne, known as one of the “boiler-room girls” who was serving on Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. Ted was a U.S. senator, a spokesman for liberal causes, including civil rights, health care and immigration for 47 years from 1962 to 2009, and was a leader of the Democratic Party, he was known for his ability to work with those on both sides of the political aisle. He was the youngest of one of the wealthiest families in the nation, one of nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. He attended Harvard in college and shortly after being expelled he enlisted into the army, but mistakenly signed up for four years instead of two. After somehow fixing his years back to two instead of four, he attended law school at the University of Virginia, and was cited for reckless driving four times yet his Virginia driver’s license was never revoked. After the assassination of his brother he became the acknowledged leader of Senate liberals and served as assistant majority leader in 1969-1971. Ted was devastated by his brother’s death more than anything, as he was closest to Robert Kennedy among those in the Kennedy family. Ted at Robert’s funeral eulogized: “My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it” In 1964, he was immensely injured in a plane crash, and hospitalized for several months. The test results done by the hospital at the time he was admitted had shown he was legally intoxicated. He was legally married to Joann Bennett in 1958 and was identified to be interested in plenty of other women as well. The married couple had more than enough miscarriages before they had three beautiful children( which In 1973, Kennedy’s son Edward Kennedy, Jr., was discovered to have ‘chondrosarcoma’ his leg was amputated and he underwent a long, difficult, experimental two-year drug treatment.) The situation put pressure on Joan, who has went to facilities for alcoholism and emotional strain several times and was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic accident. During the time frame of the incident Kennedy’s wife had high expectations for another pregnancy that she ended up miscarrying and blaming Ted saying that his personal scandal caused it, they then divorced and she received $4 million dollar settlement when the divorce went through in 1982. Kennedy and His 28-year-old(6 days shy of becoming 29) companion Mary Jo Kopechne were the only ones present during the scandal. The surrounding circumstance was that Kopechne told him that she was very eager to leave, and if he would be kind enough to drop her back off to her hotel. Kennedy had his own testimony on the incident saying he accidentally drove his car off a one-lane bridge, losing control, and plunging into the water of Poucha Pond and into a dike, killing/suffocating/drowning Mary due to him “not remembering any of the turns and not remembering the road or details in general”, Kennedy said he repeatedly went back to the scene of the crash and dove into the water to try to save her but complained he wasn’t successful and ended up surviving without any significant injuries, returning back to the party he came from afterwards. Ralph Chiumenti, an engineer who spends most his summers on Chappaquiddick island pointed out how “someone driving very fast would not have noticed that the bridge is at a slight angle to the road. They would also have to be driving fast to land in the channel.” The receptionist at his motel also claimed that the senator “appeared unbothered or severely ‘natural’ when he came to her to borrow a dime to make a phone call two and half hours before he actually reported the tragedy to the police”, leaving more unanswered questions and actions to linger over the events of the fatal evening. Kennedy’s reputation recovered somehow and he became one of the legislature’s most effective members.

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His actions following the misfortune were not only disturbing but unhuman. He did not immediately report what had happened, in fact he reported it 11 hours after he had made a majority of 17 phone calls and texts. A young boy and some scuba divers noticed the sunken car and lifeless woman before Kennedy reported it. Due to such harm and procrastination he pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene, clouding his political future. Seeing that sex, alcohol, and tragedy have often been features of senator Kennedy’s personal life, it has been a feature in most parts of the family including his nephew, William Smith. There was an incident under investigation occurring on March 30th at the Kennedy’s seaside mansion in Florida where a 29-year old woman insisted that William, kennedy’s nephew raped her subsequently charging him with sexual battery. While running investigations on this conflict, Kennedy supposedly purposely dodged detectives, who were in fact looking to interview him. Making it look more suspicious that he was somewhat involved including the evidence of him asking his nephew, William “how was she? Did you wear protection?”. The alleged rape further damages the unforgettable family’s reputation. Many rumors were never proven during this time of questioning of senator Kennedy regarding that he was a bloated drunk and he typically used his standing in the Kennedy clan to chase after vulnerable women, and that the CIA framed him due to them not wanting to assassinate Senator Kennedy.

The government was immensely impacted due to Kennedy pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and receiving a two month suspended sentence (perform a period of probation), and his license was suspended for a year along with his presidential dream dying on chappaquiddick and causing him to rethink other elements throughout his life. Although the evidence collected that Ted could not be held fully responsible for Mary’s death only because her alcohol level when found was .09% (equivalent to 5 drinks.) The investigations given werent as serious as they should have been, the police failed to do the most common things including failing to interrogate Kennedy and not questioning any of the party participants. The aftermath of this catastrophe ended up with Kennedy second guessing to continue his political career and declined his presidential hopes although he still served as a U.S. senator of Massachusetts into the 21st century. Due to such catastrophe, Kennedy worked harder than ever afterwards. Not only politicians but Mary Jo Kopechne suffered because of its far reaching effects of sorely damaged hopes. There is no forgiving the incident that took the life of Mary Jo Kopechne. Her family and friends were emotionally unstable after the fact of the incident and in terms of a settlement, Mary Jo Kopechne’s family eventually received $140,904.00 from Kennedy and $50,000.00 from his insurance coverage. It was said by mostly everyone that senator Kennedy was a “monster who left a permanent stain on US political culture” after the tragedy happened. There is no way to understand how Ted Kennedy managed any of it. Many people even question it today, but clearly he has had a lot of backup behind his ideas and opinions and has been a brilliant senator overall and always kept his personal life and political life completely separate even though he’s had a lot of complications. When it was time for Mary’s funeral, Kennedy, for once, rose above his own character to show up and bring along his wife at the time. Once the gossip and talk died down, Ted carefully choreographed a televised speech where he admitted his behavior had been “indefensible” but denied it had anything to do with alcohol. Shortly after, there were not only books being made about this accident but movies as well. He later referred to his actions as “inexcusable” and said that Kopechne’s death “haunts me every day of my life”, and continued to admit his mistakes.

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Ted was not very fond of everyone making it out to be a joke and he mentioned, “for a few months everyone had to put on this show, and then I just didn’t care anymore, I just saw no future, and that’s when I truly became an alcoholic.”(Columbia University Press) Like his father, he had every gift in the world except the length of years. He ended up passing away at age 77, in August 2009 after battling a brain tumor and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was diagnosed with a malignant glioma (any tumor formed in the glial, or supportive, brain cells, which are different from the better-known neurons.) “It’s the most malignant, the most aggressive, the tumor of the brain associated with the shortest survival,” said Marc Chamberlain, a professor of neurology and director of the Brain Tumor Program at University of Washington. Kennedy’s personal life came to dominate his image although his political career was mostly outstanding. Ted Kennedy has went through so many tragedies in his complicated life and all his actions and reactions to all of them were slightly normal but also shady at the same time. Not all of the things that were reported and said by reporters and authors added up. There were more rumors and stories than anything on Ted’s legacy. Although he’s had too much drama and complications in his life he is a person and human being like the rest of us and not everyone is perfect. The chappaquiddick incident had become a secondary part of his life and even years (anniversaries) after it is still commonly thought of and brought up in newspapers and books around the country.


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