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Remember Chappaquiddick!

I didn’t pay too much attention yesterday to the conservatives who tweeted or blogged untoward things about the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. It would have been bizarre if they hadn’t; he was, for decades, one of the most hated men on the left. And liberals didn’t pretend to have warm feelings about Jesse Helms when he died last year.

Still, Kennedy held a unique role in the public imagination. There is a danger for conservatives if the worst moments of his life are left out of the obituaries, and he is remembered as a trans-partisan saint whose memory Republicans need to honor. So there’s been an incredible amount of attention paid to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, the woman who died in Kennedy’s car forty years ago at Chappaquiddick.

The incident, which almost certainly ruined Kennedy as a national candidate (it’s easy to imagine him being elected president if Kopechne hadn’t been left to die), has been included in all of Kennedy’s major media obits. Nevertheless, some conservatives are emphasizing the scandal above all else.

Roger Kimball, editor of the New Criterion:

“Edward M. Kennedy,” I heard echoing behind those words, “Liar, cheat, drunk, philanderer, and — let’s not forget — inadvertent murderer.”

The tsunami of sentimental pap about Kennedy is already churning, gushing, rushing to inundate the public with a nauseating and untruthful fairy tale about the “Lion of the Senate.” The Lyin’ in the Senate is more like it. Kennedy was 77 when he was taken off last night, Mary Jo Kopechne had just turned 29 when Kennedy’s car veered off the bridge in Chappaquiddick and he wriggled free and swam to shore, leaving the young woman trapped in the car to drown.

Andrew Klavan, mystery novelist-turned-conservative commentator:

Bad men can support good ideas. We can’t condemn liberalism itself on the strength of Kennedy’s character. It’s only a coincidence that the man who left Miss Kopechne to tap, tap, tap against the Oldsmobile window while he apparently tried to establish an alibi and otherwise cover his ass also spent a lifetime promoting policies that have endangered our freedoms, harmed our economy and damaged the lives of the poor people they were presumably intended to help.

Daniel Flynn, author of “A Conservative History of the American Left”:

Ted Kennedy let a woman die at Chappaquiddick and tried to cover it up… ed Kennedy, who caddishly left a woman to die as he plotted ways to rescue his political career, found himself canonized as a saint of the women’s movement.

Carl Cannon:

The idea that Edward M. Kennedy could be a viable national politician – let alone a much-admired and lionized political figure – has convinced millions of everyday citizens and succeeding generations of conservative activists that among the elites of academia, politics, and the media two standards of behavior exist: One for liberal Democrats and another for conservative Republicans. Along with sweeping changes in immigration law, soaring oratory, and strengthening the nation’s social safety net, this reservoir of class resentment is also part of Kennedy’s legacy.

I think Cannon is wrong about this: Kennedy got better treatment because he was a Kennedy, and the country had watched him lose two brothers to assassins’ bullets in the six years before the accident. It’s so obvious that it’s hardly worth saying, but it seems to have escaped him. Several prominent conservatives have joined a new Facebook group called “1,000,000 Strong for Justice for Mary Joe Kopechne.” Its mission:

To remember Mary Jo Kopechne and her murder, against the felching hagiographers of the State who will worship and memorialize their fuehrer

Among the conservatives who’ve signed up: Don Irvine, the chairman of Accuracy in Media; Matthew Vadum, an editor at the Capital Research Center who has gotten attention this week for criticizing the administration’s plans to hold a “day of service” on September 11; Seton Motley, the director of communications at the Media Research Center; and Pat Michaels, a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Insitute. A few less prominent members of the group: Robert Broadus, who got a few minutes of fame for needling Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) at a town hall; Matt Margolis, the conservative blogger behind “Blogs for Bush” and other sites; and Alex Jones, the conspiracy-minded radio host.

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