Over at the NY Times Ross Douthat does the Kennedy(s) Story better than anyone has in the past week.
Liberalism’s most important legislator probably merited a more extended send-off than his sister. But there’s a sense in which his life’s work and Eunice’s deserve to be remembered together — for what their legacies had in common, and for what ultimately separated them.
What the siblings shared — in addition to the grace, rare among Kennedys, of a ripe old age and a peaceful death — was a passionate liberalism and an abiding Roman Catholic faith. These two commitments were intertwined: Ted Kennedy’s tireless efforts on issues like health care, education and immigration were explicitly rooted in Catholic social teaching, and so was his sister’s lifelong labor on behalf of the physically and mentally impaired.
What separated them was abortion.
For abortion opponents, cruel ironies abounded in this sibling disagreement. Because of Eunice Shriver’s work with the developmentally disabled, a group of Americans who had once been marginalized and hidden away — or lobotomized, like her sister Rosemary — was ushered closer to full participation in ordinary human life. But because of laws that her brother unstintingly supported, that same group was ushered out again: the abortion rate for fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome, for instance, is estimated to be as high as 90 percent.
I never read something in the NY Times and wish I’d written it. This, I do; you’ll want to read the whole thing. Well done, indeed.