Believe it or not, there are still things to be said about Chappaquiddick. One of them is that the real thing that protected Ted Kennedy from the wrath of the crowd after his failure of nerve in that night of dark water was much less his family’s money and power than the strength of the victim mystique.
This began with the death of Joseph Kennedy Jr., in 1944 in a suicide mission, continued with the death of their sister Kathleen Kennedy, and crested with the assassination of Jack Kennedy, which traumatized the whole nation. The unbelievable rerun with the murder of Bobby Kennedy sealed the image of the Kennedys as victims of fate and of horrible things which they bore with nobility. This had been so deeply engraved in the mind of the nation that the idea that one of their number could not be brave, could not be honest, and could be in fact the cause of harm coming to others seemed much too unreal be true.
Kennedys were killed; they didn’t kill people; tragedy sought them out, they didn’t invite it, they ran into danger, not from it.