The charmed life of the Kennedys

Dateline: 10 May 2006

It’s three AM. You are driving your Ford Mustang convertible without any lights. You crash into a police barrier. It sounds like you are in trouble, but it gets worse.

You stagger out of the car – perhaps this is not surprising, after the crash. But some accounts say your eyes were red and you smelled of alcohol. You offer what can only be described as a ridiculous explanation. You are rushing, you say, to an engagement at work. But in reality your place of work closed hours ago. It’s only a few weeks since your last auto accident. Uh oh!

But fate, or someone pulling strings on fate’s behalf, intervenes. Instead of charging you, or even investigating, the friendly police officer chauffeurs you home. It must be so pleasant to be a member of the Kennedy clan.

The laws that inconvenience the rest of us, including other members of Congress, just don’t seem to apply to that family.

In defense of Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D. RI), he has denied that he had been drinking. He was, apparently, suffering the after effects of prescription drugs which are known to cause both drowsiness and confusion. Does that make it better? Should he not have known that driving after taking these drugs was dangerous? In any case, the congressman has also said he doesn’t remember the incident, while a local bartender testifies that he had been drinking that evening.

This detail – whether he was driving while rendered incapable by alcohol or by prescription drugs – ought to be easily solved. The police, after all, have a battery of standard sobriety tests to administer. But you are forgetting, the congressman is a Kennedy. The role of any police officers at the scene is to drive him home.

According to at least one account, the officers were specifically instructed by their superiors NOT to administer any sobriety tests, but to limit their involvement to groveling and chauffeuring.

Now he is off to Minnesota, for rehab at the Mayo Clinic. Though why a man who had not been drinking imagines that rehab will be of any help to him, I am not at all sure.

It is time the Kennedys realized, that although the laws of the United States do not apply to them, the laws of biochemistry do. Getting drunk renders you incapable of controlling your vehicle. It is dangerous. People could die. Ask your dad about that one, Patrick.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Tony Blair has sacked his Foreign Secretary. He also sacked his Home (interior) Secretary and downgraded his deputy, but these were expected as both were mired in scandal. Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, seems to have done nothing wrong. He has loyally supported the PM’s Iraq policy, and made himself very unpopular in the Labour Party by doing so. He recently called military action against Iran “inconceivable” and “nuts”. Could it be that the Coalition Allies are preparing for this very option, and Blair is clearing the decks of a potential dissident? Or is it just that he wants the Iranians to think that no option is off the table? That’s certainly the official position of both Downing Street and the White House, so Straw was wrong to step outside it.

Quentin Langley is editor of an academic at the University of Cardiff and is a columnist with Campaigns & Elections. This article was first published in the Common Sense series for Lake Champlain Weekly.

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