As Senator Ted Kennedy has been eulogized in recent days, almost all of the discussion of his "legacy" has focused on domestic issues. Only a few have noted what Senator Kennedy himself said was the most important vote he ever cast in the U.S. Senate: his vote against the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Economist Dean Baker, asked by the Beltway newspaper The Hill to comment on "the most significant aspect of Senator Kennedy's legacy," wrote:
I'll just agree with Senator Kennedy on this one. He said that his vote against the Iraq War was the most important vote that he cast the whole time he was in the Senate.
At a time when most of the political establishment, and certainly most of the media establishment, was cowed by an administration yelling about the threat of terrorism, Senator Kennedy stood back and looked at the evidence in a serious manner.
This was a display of courage and sound judgment at a time when these character traits were virtually absent from the halls of power in official Washington.
Democratic politicians are often praised by establishment pundits for showing "leadership" if they stand on the side of powerful against the interests of those they were elected to represent. But most people would see Senator Kennedy's vote against the war as a better example of "leadership": standing up for the people you were elected to represent, in the face of significant pressure to do otherwise. It's not surprising that the same media institutions which failed to challenge the Bush Administration's "faith-based" case for the war in Iraq would pass over this opportunity to remind everyone that they failed to show the same leadership as Senator Kennedy did when the nation needed it most.