For the past 72 hours and for who knows how much longer, the news media has focused almost exclusively on the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. Even when they bring up another subject, it's only to somehow connect the topic to the Senator's passing. How will it effect the health care debate, the auto industry, the price of rice in China?
I didn't know Ted Kennedy. I'll take the word of those who did that he was a fantastic human being. I didn't like his politics and I've never been into celebrity worship, so all this attention seems very odd to me. Even FOX News, not exactly a liberal media outlet, has been on 24 hour Kennedy watch.
The discussion about his replacement in the Senate is not fostering questions like "Who could best deal with Massachusetts' failed medical insurance program?" or "Who can fix the budget mess?" or more generally "Who is best qualified to find solutions in a crisis situation?". Rather, the speculation is more about which Kennedy would be willing to take the job. Who can perpetuate the air of majesty that surrounds the Kennedy phenomenon? If that's what Massachusetts wants, so be it. It just seems very bizarre.
I caught a few minutes of the memorial service on two separate occasions. Both times, the speaker was an aide or friend, not a professional performer, yet they told tales of breaking into song whenever they got together with the Senator. This seemed perfectly normal to them, in fact, they demonstrated by belting out one of their favorite tunes. Personally, I was reminded of Larry Hagman's interview on a night time talk TV show, where he related that he and whoever happened to be hanging out at the mansion at any given time, would often hold impromptu parades on the beach for no reason. It's not bad behavior, but it seems indicative of someone who lives in a world very detached from that of most of us. It seems a bit creepy to me and would not prompt me to want either individual in charge of anything that might in any way have a significant impact on my life.
The fact that the major media outlets are assigning far more importance to the passing of a 77 year old man who was in poor health, than I assign to it myself just points out how very different I perceive the world around me as compared to those who think they are providing me with useful information. If I'm the only one that feels this way, the major media outlets have nothing to worry about. However, if a lot of other people see the situation as a bunch of aristocrats emoting for the cameras, opportunity is knocking for their replacements.