Replacing the irreplaceable

REPLACING THE IRREPLACEABLE…. On CNN yesterday afternoon, reflecting on Ted Kennedy’s legacy as one of the giants of the U.S. Senate, Wolf Blitzer pondered who might someday emerge as a legislative leader with Kennedy’s stature and success.

“A lot of people think it might be someone else who sought the presidency, lost and decided, ‘You know what, my life’s work will now be a senator’ and that is Senator McCain, who has been a very good friend to Senator Kennedy,” Blitzer said. “We’ll see if that becomes the passion that became the passion of Senator Kennedy after he lost to Jimmy Carter in that Democratic presidential nomination back in 1980.”

What’s more, as Faiz Shakir noted, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Cynthia Tucker also argued yesterday, “John McCain could be the Senate’s new Ted Kennedy.” Tucker said McCain, since last year’s election, “has bowed to the harsh nihilism that seems to be all that Republicans represent these days,” but said “McCain’s reputation for a principled bipartisanship was intact” last year.

I guess I was watching a different presidential campaign last year. As I recall, McCain spent the year lying, flip-flopping, running cheap and ugly ads, and choosing a crazy person as his running mate.

But in some ways, that these observations are even being made tells an important story. The political media establishment has long adored McCain. Many wondered, after McCain’s offensive conduct on the campaign trail last year, whether that same political media establishment would welcome him back with open arms once the presidential race ended. The answer now seems obvious. McCain hasn’t done anything to earn their love, but that apparently doesn’t matter.

As for the comparison itself, Kennedy was among the most accomplished lawmakers in the history of the United States Senate. McCain has an impressive personal background, but very few accomplishments to his name. Kennedy was principled, brilliant, and knowledgeable. McCain is inconsistent, easily confused, and has no patience for details. Kennedy was widely admired and respected by those who worked with him. McCain is known for screaming at his colleagues, even Republicans, who dare to disagree with him.

We knew Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy was a friend of ours. John McCain is no Ted Kennedy.