(5 of 5)
Life, said John Kennedy, is unfairand he might have added that it is especially unfair to politicians. Although they, in fact, have asked for it by seeking the glory and the burden of public service, they do have the right, simply as human beings, to privacy, relaxation and escape from responsibility. Politicians are bound to have their share of sins and foibles. Their problem, however, is not the foibles themselves but how to deal with them when they become public. The significance of the Chappaquiddick incident for Ted Kennedy is not whether he drank too much or planned a romp on the beach with the unfortunate Mary Jo. The key question, in the mind of the public, is why he took so long to report the accident. His self-confessed "inexplicable" behavior in a moment of stress raises the issue of how he might act in a major crisis. The bizarre and ugly rumors that have arisen since Mary Jo's death are deplorable and, for the most part, almost certainly untrue. Innocent as Ted Kennedy might be in that respect, he can be faulted for not following Grover Cleveland's example: tell the whole truth. His carefully prepared and yet unsatisfying explanation leaves room for the suspicion that he was somehow trying to escape blame for his actions. When a woman threatened to write about her liaison with the Duke of Wellington, he retorted: "Publish and be damned." She did, and who remembers her? The case was different, of course, but frankness can dispel the power of ambiguous appearances and overactive imagination. The truth, after all, is less strange than the fictions other people tell.