NB Politicus

Remembering Ted Kennedy

Posted in Uncategorized by nbpoliticus on August 27, 2009


Ted Kennedy’s five-decade Senate career spanned 10 presidencies, starting with his brother’s 1,000 days in office through Barack Obama’s first year.

That longevity – which counts for a lot in the U.S. Senate –allowed Kennedy to leave a lasting mark on shaping landmark laws on civil rights, health and education, from the passage of voting rights in the mid 1960s to the current debate on health insurance being mandated as a right for all Americans.

The current bill coming out of Kennedy’s committee on insuring the uninsured – “the cause of his life” –will undoubtedly emerge in some compromised fashion with Ted Kennedy’s name on it.

The Kennedy Health Care Act (it’s not called that yet but will be), marked up by his friend, U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, will be made law so long as the Democratic majority finds the will to do reconciliation and blows off the phony bipartisanship of the “gang of six” and the likes of Joe Lieberman.

Much of the commentary on the passing of the last of a generation of Kennedy brothers will focus on the “mystique” and the impression that Ted Kennedy was kind of royalty, not to be challenged at the ballot box. It’s true that Kennedy was never seriously challenged in the Democratic Party. There was the first run in 1962 when he was taken on by Edward McCormack, Jr. in an Irish brawl of a primary during the Kennedy presidency, but nothing ever since. Save for a well-financed run by former MA Governor Mitt Romney, the hapless Republicans have mostly served up a succession of patsies against Edward Kennedy for 46 years despite the Senator’s personal travails and unsuccessful run for the presidency.

While his name and money gave him a head start, Kennedy and his operatives rarely took the grassroots for granted. They always seemed to remember former Speaker Tip O’Neill’s advice that “all politics is local.” That entailed taking care of constituents’ individual issues and old-fashioned politicking that has been the trademark of Kennedy’s well-honed home state operation for all these years.

My only encounters with Ted Kennedy nearly 40 years ago illustrated that Kennedy’s longevity came not just from his privileged life, but never forgetting the electoral base that would turn him into the “lion of the Senate.” They came as part of my job as a reporter for the Lynn Sunday Post between 1972 and 1974 when I was just out of college.

A regular part of the Kennedy itinerary would be to get around to cities and towns, to address high school assemblys and civic groups and visit the local press, including the tiny newsroom of a small weekly on the North Shore just outside of Boston. There, I simultaneously held the titles of city hall and state house reporter and was the paper’s national affairs correspondent when Kennedy came to town. These two or three annual newsroom interviews were 30-minute one on ones where I, next to a Royal manual typewriter, would ask the questions and Kennedy would give his well-rehearsed take on Nixon impoundments, Watergate and the tough fights for progressive legislation during a Republican administration.

We then would all pose for a picture with local politicians in tow before Kennedy moved on to the next town.

I think Kennedy knew when I met him briefly so long ago and to his last days that the local politicking he grew to enjoy and did every year counted for the very long run that he had in the U.S. Senate. It’s a politician’s chore that may be easy to forget after you’ve been in Congress for a few years with all the trappings of office. But Kennedy never forgot. [Photo from: Lynn Sunday Post 1972]

Courant Drops Gombossy and Its Editorial Integrity

Posted in journalism by nbpoliticus on August 19, 2009

Achieving distinction for editorial page leadership and substantial news presentation were the Providence Journal and Bulletin and the Hartford Courant…..The Hartford Courant, begun as the weekly Connecticut Courant in 1764 and claimant to the longest publishing record in America, was kept at a high level by publisher John B.Reitemeyer and editor Herbert Brucker.

from author Edwin Emery’s The Press and America, 2nd edition. Prentice -Hall Journalism Series, 1954, 1962. p. 749.

This month the bygone publisher and editor of the Courant mentioned in my old journalism school textbook are probably rolling over in their graves.

The abrupt dismissal of Courant consumer reporter George Gombossy leaves little doubt that the journalistic credibility of a newspaper that occupies such an important place in U.S. history is permanently damaged. Permanent means forever. But the tag may stick as long as the bankrupt Tribune company and current management run things over on Broad Street.

Gombossy, a 40-year employee and former business page editor, filed a story in early August about alleged sleazy sales by Sleepy’s, the big mattress seller, that are being investigated by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Sleepy’s is a big advertiser and the decision to hold the story has a journalistic mortal sin all over it.

Gombossy’s fate, however, is getting plenty of play in the blogosphere and drew New York Times’ coverage that must be giving Courant management and Sleepy’s all the damage control they can handle.

Gombossy is talking to a lawyer and, with the help of former Courant staffers, has a first rate consumer web site up and running (www.ctwatchdog.com) complete with the story that was held up.

And looking ahead The Courant faces a difficult challenge to restore journalistic integrity in its greatly diminished “news presentation” as another of its seasoned and respected journalists departs.

Funds Coming For New Haven To Hartford Rail: Does This Mean They’ll Get The Hole In the Train’s Roof Fixed?

Posted in transportation by nbpoliticus on August 1, 2009

Measured against the hundreds of millions invested in the 11-mile New Britain-Hartford bus way, a $4 million appropriation to start “preliminary work” on high-speed rail on the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Amtrak line doesn’t seem like much.

The FY 2010 federal appropriation that surfaced last week is, according to Sen. Chris Dodd, a “down payment” toward improving an under-utilized and rickety Amtrak trunk line that charges fares considerably above Metro North’s New Haven to Grand Central run.

Testimony abounds on the need for Amtrak upgrades — even ones that don’t have “high speed” attached to them but would make a world of difference. Last summer I had to get back to Hartford from New Haven without an auto. The early afternoon shuttle in New Haven took me north without incident. But the conditions in the train car were a reminder of the investments needed to make a New Haven to Hartford train run a first choice for commuters going to and from two of Connecticut’s big cities. It was a hot July day with plenty of thunderstorms. Air conditioning would have been one of the amenities you’d expect for 11 bucks. No luck. I did get cooled off somewhat when the train jolted and a big splash of water came down on the seat next to me from a leak in the roof. Good thing my attache case is waterproof.

My experience says a lot about Amtrak’s perpetual financial and service delivery problems — another area where stimulus bucks would be well spent to rebuild infrastructure. I’d have to look it up but I suspect other industrialized nations are light (rail) years ahead of the U.S. on mass transit. They recognize public subsidies — not D.C. bean counters looking for a profit – are necessary to keep rail going for enough people to help an economy and save money on fuel. On the rebuilding infrastructure side, Michael Moore’s idea to turn idle car factories into bus and rail production is a common sense idea that policy makers should jump on.

My minor complaints aside, the existing rail service on up to Springfield is an unsupported adjunct for every day commuters or travelers wanting to get up to Massachusetts, Vermont and Canada and find easier connections moving down the Northeast corridor to New York and Washington.

So it’s a good move to get that New Haven-Hartford-Springfield spike up to scale for fast and more convenient rail.

Let’s start a countdown and push for getting it done and hope that the project doesn’t get bogged down as much as the local bus way that we’re still waiting for 10 years after it was proposed.

The Courant’s Rick Green reports The Pioneer Valley Advocates for Commuter Rail are ahead of us on rail advocacy. They’re circulating a petition to make a CT to Western MA rail corridor a reality. You can sign at

Photo Credit: www.kinglyheirs.com/