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Ted Kennedy and American Destiny
Last uploaded : Friday 14th Jan 2005 at 06:25
Contributed by : Carol Gould



An impassioned and at times enraged Senator Edward Kennedy delivered a powerful message to the Bush Administration in an hour-long speech to the National Press Club in Washington.

The Massachusetts senior senator was barely able to conceal his anger in enumerating the many aspects of American domestic and international policy that he feels are a massive blemish on the legacy of the richest nation on earth.

The agenda the senator felt needed urgent attention was one that is not even discussed in the media: the fact that the United States has fallen to 29th in the world for school Maths results and from third to fifteenth in the world in producing top scientists and engineers. He suggested legislation reintroduced that would require a ?Contract? with students in the eight grade in which they would undertake to complete a degree if the government paid for the college education. He said it was imperative to ?throw the money changers out of the temple of higher education.? The senator?s sense of urgency was expressed in a long list of shortcomings in American culture: he reminded the audience that the Environmental Protection Agency has become known as ?the Environmental Pollution Agency.? Sen Kennedy said a clean energy policy; new schools; research and development and Broadband technology for every school, house and business in the nation had to take a top priority. He acknowledged that many Republicans in Congress supported these initiatives and shared his sense of urgency about the implementation of these schemes.

In this vein the Senator was scathing in his criticism of the conduct of the Iraq War; he reminded the audience of the slogan ? a fraud made up in Texas.? His rage level reached the highest peak as he literally thundered from the podium his displeasure with the Bush Administration?s use of resources for the Iraq War that he felt should have been channelled into the war on terror.

However, it was the subject Senator Kennedy has championed in nearly fifty years in the Senate on which he spent the most time: the provision of health care for all Americans. On this site we have editorialised about the British National Health Service; the Senator said that in celebration of the fortieth birthday of Medicare he was supporting ?Medicare for All.? He lamented the fact that there are 37 million Americans living in poverty in the richest nation on earth, a huge proportion of whom are children. It is all the more imperative, he said, for all Americans to have universal health care and affordable prescription drugs. The scheme would, as in European countries , be financed through payroll tax.

Sen Kennedy gave several one-on-one interviews after his speech and in one, with Chris Matthews of MSNBC, he said he had encountered people beset with the calamity of bankruptcy and home foreclosures back in the 1960s before Medicare. He said it was hard to believe that forty years later he was still meeting people who were faced with losing everything because of insurmountable health care and prescription drugs bills.

One intriguing observation made by the Senator related to Democrat Senator-elect Barack Obama of Illinois, who is reported to have garnered one million Republican votes in the November election. Asked why Obama was able to secure such a large chunk of non-Democrat support, unlike Presidential candidate John Kerry, Sen Kennedy said Obama had spent years going into the community and getting to know the grass-roots people and their problems.

It was evident that Sen Kennedy is suffering deep and painful dismay that his party did not reclaim the White House and that policies he finds abhorrent will be pursued by what President Bush calls a ?mandate.? The Senator rejected this claim and said the majority of Americans now want policies pursued that attract bi-partisan support and these include the agenda the Senator outlines in his speech.

Finally Sen Kennedy expressed sorrow that President Bush has not, in his view, heeded the admonition of Franklin Roosevelt and reached out to the nations of the world in times of peace and in times of conflict.

As usual, the National Press Club moderator did not use our question (we, being based in the UK, always ask this) about rampant anti-Americanism in Europe. We hope at some future event in Washington the moderators of major events like these will appreciate that questions from journalists who reside outside the USA can often be of considerable weight and value. It was evident that Sen Kennedy, whose late father Joe was US Ambassador to the Court of St James, appreciated the questions asked at a later stakeout in the corridors of the Press Club by European journalists. We were all clamouring for him to know that we live under socialised medical systems and that our countries are not going bankrupt. Whether Sen Kennedy, who has led a lifelong crusade for universal health care for Americans, will see such a programme born in his lifetime is doubtful, but in the richest nation in the world it is an issue that will not go away any time soon.

Please read our editorial on the British health care system:



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