I’m Not Going to Be President

I’m Not Going to Be President

I’m Not Going to Be President

The prophetic words, “I’m not going to be President” were the first words spoken by Senator Ted Kennedy to his cousin and attorney Joe Gargan and friend and US Attorney Paul Markham in the movie Chappaquiddick – the film detailing the hours before and after the death of political staffer Mary Jo Kopechne – the film the Kennedy family apparently tried to quash. I didn’t shed a tear when Ted Kennedy finally kicked the bucket and set out on his road to hell – not because I disagreed with his politics (there are plenty of politicians with whose views I disagree, and I don’t want them dead), but because Ted Kennedy was a repulsive, self-absorbed, arrogant miscreant, who got off with a slap on the wrist for causing the death of an innocent young woman.

All because he was a Kennedy.

The movie reaffirmed my feelings for the filthy piece of crap they called “the Lion of the Senate,” which should have really been “the Lyin’ of the Senate,” given how many lies he told to save his own fat, flabby ass in the days after leaving Kopechne to slowly suffocate to death in a submerged vehicle, and made me want to visit his grave and leave a bag of flaming dog shit on it.

This is a testament to the incredible performance by Australian actor Jason Clarke as Senator Ted Kennedy. The film didn’t try to paint Kennedy as a sympathetic figure, but Clarke’s performance was nuanced enough to show guilt (only a true sociopath wouldn’t feel guilt after leaving an innocent woman to die in a car he crashed while driving drunk), but also show that streak of entitlement, arrogance, and cowardice that could only come with being American royalty, handed everything from a young age and accustomed to special treatment and getting what he wants.

I won’t rehash the events that lead up to and that followed Kopechne’s death. They’re well known.

But what people seem to ignore are the actions of Kennedy himself portrayed in the movie.

It was always about Teddy – the flabby, unattractive underachiever, existing in the vast shadow of his brothers, looked upon with disdain by his father, but entitled and arrogant anyway by virtue of being a Kennedy.

His first words to Gargan and Markham after the accident were, “I’m not going to be president.” He wasn’t worried about Kopechne or the fact that his drunk driving left an innocent woman to die underwater. He was worried about his upcoming presidential campaign and how to best cover up his involvement. The limited amount of internal conflict he appears to have experienced about whether or not to admit he was driving the car that fateful night was about Teddy – not about honor or integrity; it was always about Teddy and how to best portray himself as worthy of being President.

Every word that came out of his mouth in the events following Kopechne’s tragic was calculated to ensure that he still retained his political career – from the lies he told Kopechne’s parents on the phone to the fake neck brace he wore to the funeral, to the concocted story about a “concussion” he unsuccessfully tried to sell to a New York Times reporter by claiming he was prescribed sedatives (which would never be prescribed in the event of said head injury), to the continued pleas of “I need you,” to Joe Gargan, the Kennedy family “fixer” portrayed with delicacy and a sense of sorrow and guilt by Ed Helms, whom I only remembered as one of the doofuses in the Hangover, but will now remember for a very refined, subtle performance as Gargan, who is sick and tired of Teddy’s lies, but feels conflicted because of his loyalty to the Kennedy clan.

“I need you.”

When Gargan tries to convince him to do the right thing, Teddy uses the “we are flawed human beings” excuse to imply that even though he is flawed, he still deserves to be President. “Moses had a temper, Peter betrayed Jesus, I have Chappaquiddick,” he tells Gargan, as if his bankrupt, disappointing life is somehow comparable to these titans.

“Yeah, Moses had a temper,” Gargan replies, “but he never left a girl at the bottom of the Red Sea.”

When Gargan writes a resignation speech for Kennedy, showing him to be an honorable, honest man with a fundamental sense of decency, Kennedy seems to consider it for a moment, and one thinks that maybe, JUST MAYBE, he will do the right thing.

But we know better.

Instead, he reads the speech Gargan wrote before the broadcast of his infamous speech, dumps it in the circular file, and forces Gargan to hold the cue cards as he reads a prepared speech full of lies given to him by the manipulators who helped propel and keep the Kennedys at the top of the food chain of American politics.

That’s when the internal conflict goes away. Teddy Kennedy becomes the very epitome of the lying sack of shit we knew him to be in real life. It’s in this speech where he cements his place in history as an immoral, repugnant, entitled, and inept jerk intent on only preserving his own power and authority.

There is no truth, no truth whatever, to the widely circulated suspicions of immoral conduct that have been leveled at my behavior and hers regarding that evening. There has never been a private relationship between us of any kind. I know of nothing in Mary Jo’s conduct on that or any other occasion — and the same is true of the other girls at that party — that would lend any substance to such ugly speculation about their character. Nor was I driving under the influence of liquor.

Little over one mile away, the car that I was driving on an unlit road went off a narrow bridge which had no guard rails and was built on a left angle to the road. The car overturned in a deep pond and immediately filled with water. I remember thinking as the cold water rushed in around my head that I was for certain drowning. Then water entered my lungs and I actual felt the sensation of drowning. But somehow I struggled to the surface alive.

I made immediate and repeated efforts to save Mary Jo by diving into the strong and murky current, but succeeded only in increasing my state of utter exhaustion and alarm. My conduct and conversations during the next several hours, to the extent that I can remember them, make no sense to me at all.

Although my doctors informed me that I suffered a cerebral concussion, as well as shock, I do not seek to escape responsibility for my actions by placing the blame either on the physical and emotional trauma brought on by the accident, or on anyone else.

Except he did. He attempted to blame Joe Gargan for his own failure to call the police and report the incident – a failure that, based on what we saw in the film, could have saved Kopechne’s life.

In this very speech he blamed the road construction. There were no guard rails, you see. The road was unlit. The bridge was narrow. And of course, he wasn’t drinking! No way!

But what really struck me wasn’t Ted Kennedy’s lies, entitlement, selfishness, and cowardice. What struck me most was the public reaction to his speech. The movie’s last scenes were reels of interviews with Massachusetts voters who, with blank stares, say he seemed sincere and they would still vote for him. This is a pathetic statement on our society and America’s voters, and unfortunately nothing has changed.

America still elects morally corrupt, ignorant, arrogant individuals to public office, because that’s what they’ve always done. Because they’re Kennedys, Bushes, Clintons, or *insert famous name here.* The voting public doesn’t seem to have changed a whole lot since those days.

Remember when Donald Trump said in 2016 that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and he still wouldn’t lose any voters?

He wasn’t wrong. He understood just how uninformed and zealous the public tends to be about its heroes and about its political royalty, and Chappaquiddick’s ending shots confirmed he was 100 percent right.

It isn’t new, but it is depressing.

The cast and performances in this movie were top notch. The film ignited a fire of hatred in me for Kennedy that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I sat through it with my fists clenched, and realized afterward that it was a testament to the superb work of the actors and director.

It was a terrific movie, and it was well worth seeing. Just don’t expect to come out of the theater with your curiosity satisfied and your anger quelled.

Written by

Marta Hernandez is an immigrant, writer, editor, science fiction fan (especially military sci-fi), and a lover of freedom, her children, her husband and her pets. She loves to shoot, and range time is sacred, as is her hiking obsession, especially if we’re talking the European Alps. She is an avid caffeine and TWD addict, and wants to own otters, sloths, wallabies, koalas, and wombats when she grows up.

15 Comments
  • Kim Quade says:

    Gee, what did you really think, Marta?

    Just kidding. I thought the same thing after I saw the movie, which brought back the stuff that cousin Joe Garage wrote about him in Senatorial Privilege.

    Perhaps Mary Jo — may she rest in peace — did this country a favor after all. Her death helped keep us from having Ted Kennedy as President.

    Am I too harsh??

    • DaveP. says:

      Seeing as how Ted turned up in GRU documents as having begged the Soviets for their help In keeping “the warmonger Reagan” from winning a second term (they thought it must be some kind of setup because nobody could be that dumb and punted him out of the office), I’d have to say there’s nothing too harsh for Ted Kennedy.

  • Reformed Trombonist says:

    > This is a pathetic statement on our society and America’s voters, and unfortunately nothing has changed.

    Yes, things have changed. We’ve gotten worse.

  • Charlotte says:

    Saw this movie over the weekend. It was EXCELLENT. I really enjoyed it while pigging out on popcorn. Ed Helms was absolutely wonderful and should get a supporting actor nomination. Bruce Dern was really good, as well.

    Excellent post. Thank you. And yes, it was really revealing at the end with the “man/woman on the street”. Edward Kennedy was able to use the “victim” status to get votes. And, of course, he did.

  • nuthinmuffin says:

    as bad as the kennedy’s were, the clinton’s are even worse…if only the powers that be would credibly expose their heinous behavior.

  • Strelnikov says:

    Caption for any Ted Kennedy picture: “For how profiteth a man that he gain the world and lose his soul?”

  • Scott says:

    “Ted Kennedy was a repulsive, self-absorbed, arrogant miscreant, who got off with a slap on the wrist for causing the death of an innocent young woman.

    All because he was a Kennedy.” It’s amazing how a criminal family (the Kennedys got their money by being bootleggers during prohibition..) could rise to be considered “royalty”… while two brothers served honorably in WWII (one dying, the other seriously injured), the rest of the family was, is, and always will be scum… and yeah, the Clintons are even worse (though at least they were not near as prolific in reproducing more of their evil offspring)…

  • pursang says:

    “The car overturned in a deep pond…..I made immediate and repeated efforts to save Mary Jo by diving into the strong and murky current……”

    A pond has strong currents?

  • G Joubert says:

    The fact that Hollywood told the story and didn’t soft sell it says that they knew. All these 49 years, they’ve known. They could have told it the way it was back then, but they were carrying the Kennedys’ water. Even though they’re finally telling it right now it’s nevertheless depressing.

  • gus says:

    The facts are the facts, and are not the focus of this comment.

    But you have clearly taken it upon yourself to decide what will and will not be forgiven, and therefore decided that Kennedy will be spending eternity in hell. This is the Lord’s decision to make, not yours. In doing so, you risk the same for yourself.

    “But I never left a woman to die at the bottom of a lake!” you say. That doesn’t make your judgment equal to God’s, does it?

  • gus says:

    When you wrote, “I didn’t shed a tear when Ted Kennedy finally kicked the bucket and set out on his road to hell”, there were no quotes around that. You weren’t quoting anything. That was you, stating your mind.

    • GWB says:

      Your reading comprehension is hampered by your self-righteousness.

      First, you misquoted the piece. Second, you seemed to attribute the quote to Marta, when you were, in fact, misquoting the line from the movie.
      Marta set you straight on that.
      Third, you then switch quotes to demonstrate she was speaking for herself. That’s called “spin” at best.

      Feel free to judge Marta all you like. I’m pretty sure she can take it.
      But, given that…
      – Ted Kennedy NEVER made ANY sort of apology or confession (he never admitted to any culpability) for Chappaquiddick,
      – he consistently backed policy contrary to his church affiliation (and to basic fundamentals of Christian doctrine),
      – and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard him state belief in Christ’s atoning sacrifice (though he did attend Mass on occasion),
      …I feel pretty confident in agreeing with Marta that Kennedy is burning in hell.

      He was a vile man. His continued presence in the Senate was a stain upon the character of the entire state of Massachusetts.

      But, you keep up that self-righteousness, Gus. That log in your eye? It’s a good look on you.

  • gus says:

    How can I mis-quote something that I copy-pasted directly from the first paragraph? Seriously, take a look–it’s right there in the middle of the first paragraph. And yeah, there are no quotes around it, so I will attribute it to Marta, since it’s her byline.

    That quote is exactly what I was responding to with my first comment. I didn’t quote it directly then, because I thought it was self-evident.

    The point stands: when you take it upon yourself to determine who goes to eternal life, or eternal fire, you are replacing Divine judgment with your own. And that’s what got Lucifer expelled from Heaven.

    • GWB says:

      Really? “But I never left a woman to die at the bottom of a lake” is nowhere on this entire page except in your comment.

      This is the quote:
      “Yeah, Moses had a temper,” Gargan replies, “but he never left a girl at the bottom of the Red Sea.”

      So, yes, your initial comment mis-quoted the post AND mis-attributed it.

      I think my point (about you) stands, as well, but I’ll let Marta defend herself as she sees fit.

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