Dan Barry, who pens the "This Land" column for the New York Times, filed an ostensibly straight news story for Sunday's front page from the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, "Kennedy Mourners Memorialize 'Soul of the Democratic Party." Instead, Barry got caught up in strained poeticism positioning Kennedy for secular sainthood.
The nation said final farewell on Saturday to Edward M. Kennedy, who used his privileged life to give consistent, passionate voice to the underprivileged for nearly a half-century as a United States senator from Massachusetts. He was the only one of four fabled Kennedy brothers to reach late adulthood, and he was remembered for making the most of it.
Along the rain-dappled roadways of Boston in the late morning, and then in the sweltering humidity of Washington in early evening, people waited for the fleeting moment of a passing hearse so that they could pay respects to the man known simply as Ted. At the United States Capitol, where Mr. Kennedy had served for so long, his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, stepped out of a limousine to receive hugs, bow her head during prayers, and to hear the singing of "America the Beautiful."
....And it was during that portion of the Mass, when prayers of hope are shared, that his grandchildren, nieces and nephews stepped up to the microphone to express once more Ted Kennedy's political and human desires: That human beings be measured not by what they cannot do but by what they can do. That quality health care becomes a fundamental right and not a privilege. That the old politics of race and gender die away. That newcomers be accepted, no matter their color or place of birth. That the nation stand united against violence, hate and war. And, in echo of his famous words, that the work begins anew, the hope arises anew, and the dream lives on.
Even taking into account necessary respect and appreciation for the dead, isn't it a bit much to laud Kennedy's politics so brazenly on the front page of the Times? Barry has the self-control to only mention "Camelot" once, but it was pretty nauseating. Apparently Obama is now the new resident of that liberal fantasyland:
After Holy Communion, Mr. Obama delivered the eulogy for the man whose endorsement in the 2008 campaign was like the passing of a sword from Camelot, helping enormously in giving this country its first African-American president.
Mr. Kennedy was also a family man, lover of the arts, prankster, charmer, sailor. And that is the image the president left with the congregation: "Of a man on a boat, white mane tousled, smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for whatever storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon." "May God bless Ted Kennedy," the president said. "And may he rest in eternal peace."
Barry got to that bothersome business about Mary Jo Kopechne in paragraph 21, reducing her to a subordinate clause:
Watching from under an umbrella, not far away, was his widow, in a black suit offset by a string of pearls. They married in 1992, after which she helped to transform him from a man, scarred by loss and personal failings -- not the least his role in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, just 29, in a car accident in 1969 -- into an elder statesman.
Barry concluded with more excerpts from Creative Writing 201:
Soon, seven riflemen were firing three volleys. Soon, the shadow of a bugler was playing "Taps," as heat lightning stunned the night sky. Arlington was dark; a long day had ended. But come Sunday morning, cemetery officials say, the green of the grass will be smooth again, the hole filled, the sod laid. Only then it will feature a white wooden cross made by the cemetery's carpenter, and a white marble marker that bears the name of another Kennedy, this one as distinct and as human and as accomplished as the others, a man in his own right.
EDWARD MOORE KENNEDY, it will say. 1932-2009