The XX Factor

Kennedy Pathology

Hanna , Jessica , Ted Kennedy did run for the presidency against Jimmy Carter in 1980, eleven years after Chappaquiddick-and he considered and rejected another run in 1984. It used to be that a divorce made someone untenable for the presidency; being openly homosexual would automatically preclude someone from elected office. So in those ways today’s mores are much looser about the personal lives of our politicians. But, Jess, I agree it is unimaginable now that anyone responsible for the death of someone else in such a way could even be considered a possible presidential candidate. (It’s also interesting to consider whether, if JFK were a politician today, his sex life would have kept him from the White House? Hard to say given that Bill Clinton got elected.)

Ted Kennedy’s death truly is the end of this political dynasty-there is no one on the family horizon who is even mentioned as a figure of national political stature (except maybe in-law Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is precluded from the presidency). As you look at the entire family, it seems that the women in it have been able to lead lives without the pathology-the drinking, drugs, sexual scandals-that has dogged the men. I have often wondered if this was because without the insane expectation put on every male Kennedy to be a potential president, the women were much freer to carve out lives that exceeded the assumptions about them, rather than be crushed by them.

Photograph of Ted Kennedy by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.