Ted Kennedy: The Ghost of Politician's Past

There’s a strong argument to be made that Ted Kennedy is the man to thank for Mitt Romney’s political baggage. As the New York Times pointed out this weekend, Romney had to run as a relative moderate in his 1994 U.S. Senate challenge to Kennedy; in that race, Romney came out supporting both gay-rights groups and abortion rights. Romney has since moved right, but his early moderation has only caused opponents to cast him as a flip-flopper and an Etch-A-Sketch artist.

Then, after Romney was elected governor and was working on passing universal healthcare, he needed Kennedy’s help to finagle Medicaid funding to make the whole project work. That healthcare bill became Romney’s launching pad to national Republican prominence; as seen in the YouTube video above, Romney called Kennedy a “collaborator and friend” at the signing. But after the Massachusetts healthcare bill and its health insurance mandate became a model for the federal Affordable Care Act (ie: Obamacare), the GOP vociferously opposed all mandates—and health insurance became an albatross around Romney’s neck. Kennedy, who died in 2009 and was a long-time universal care proponent, must be laughing in his grave.

If you need more proof, check out this top-notch story from The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza:

Romney signed the bill at a wooden desk using fourteen different pens, which he later distributed to the dignitaries on hand. “It’s law!” he shouted after the final stroke. On cue, the sounds of the fife-and-drum corps filled the hall with Colonial-era music. Behind Romney stood the people most responsible for passing the plan, among them Senator Ted Kennedy and Salvatore DiMasi, the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. In one photograph, the Governor is looking over his shoulder at DiMasi, laughing, and Kennedy is smiling at Romney. Kennedy died in 2009, and DiMasi is currently on trial for extortion and corruption and may go to jail. Romney, who did not seek reëlection in 2006, is running for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. Early this spring, as his campaign was foundering, a morbid joke about the photo circulated among Massachusetts political insiders: “The funny thing about that picture is that there’s three dead men, but only one is in the ground.”