Left, Right, In Temporary Truce To Mark Kennedy Passing

(AP / CBS)
The death of Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy was enough to get liberals and conservatives to call a grudging and temporary cease-fire in their daily war of words over - drum roll, please - health care reform, CIA interrogation practices, the Obamas' choice of vacation venue and nearly everything else including whether the president broke a campaign pledge by selecting a purebred as his family's pet. (On that last point, I kid thee not.)

Aside from the occasionally uncharitable or outright mean, most commentary marked the event with due respect. In a reflection of the network of personal connections built up over the course of six decades in Washington, a roster of Republican political luminaries offered personal encomiums for their former colleague.

But even the passing of a Senate luminary was accompanied by veiled warnings not to try and retrofit the man's legacy on the current political battle in Washington.

"This theme of naming a bill after Kennedy is sure to pick up steam, as Democrats are desperate to do anything to overcome public opposition on the merits," wrote William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. He paid particular attention to calls by some to mark Kennedy's passing by linking it to the administration's health care reform bill.

"Witness this San Francisco Chronicle column today: `There would be no more fitting tribute to the passing of Ted Kennedy, than to pass a health-care reform bill by early fall.' Strange, when Rush Limbaugh usedthe phrase "Kennedy Memorial Health Bill," he was harshly criticized. But that was back in March, on the heels of the stimulus bill, when passage of a Democratic health care restructuring bill seemed like a certainty. Now that passage of Democratic health care restructuring seems much less likely, I guess it is okay to invoke Kennedy's name."

(Actually, Jacobson's worry is not far-fetched. Sen. Robert Byrd (Dem. - Va.) said he wants to do as much in a press release issued earlier today.)

National Review's Jonah Goldberg, no friend of Kennedy or his politics, sounded a similar warning as he offered a "tip for liberals outraged that anyone would speak ill of the dead in regard to Kennedy.

"Such protests are fair for the moment. But they lose all legitimacy the moment liberals try to use his memory to steam roll a health-care bill through Congress. If they want to invoke his memory or legacy as a reason to pass their partisan version of health-care reform, that is their right. But they should not then say that nobody should dare criticize Kennedy. That's not making an argument for health-care reform, that is simple bullying and I see no reason why opponents of the Democratic push should cave in to it."

For Dan McLaughlin of NewLedger.com, it was an occasion to recall a man "whose personal life ranged from alcoholism to debauchery to sexual harassment to (sadly, uncharged) second-degree murder, and whose public career entailed the embrace of nearly every foolish, ruinous and cruel political idea of the past five decades and whose most enduring legacy is installing the bitterly polarized modern Supreme Court confirmation process." Not a very generous appreciation, perhaps, but a fair reflection of how many on the right viewed this particular bête noire.

But as noted in an RIP authored by the anonymous hostess of the Sister Toldjah blog, this was not the moment to rehash familiar political grievances. With the nation preparing to bid goodbye to Kennedy, Washington's 24 x 7 bloviation-fest went on temporary hiatus. Enjoy the peace and quite while you can because it's not going to last long.

More CBS coverage below
Sen. Edward Kennedy Dies at Age 77
Arrangements for Kennedy Funeral Announced
Obama: Kennedy Was "Defender of a Dream"
Kennedy Memoir Set for Release Next Month
Sen. Byrd: Health Bill Should be Named for Kennedy
Team Obama Turns to the Web for Solace
"Liberal Lion" Remembered
Flags to Fly at Half-Staff for Kennedy
Mass. Gov. Supports Quick Replacement for Kennedy
In His Own Words
"The Last Brother"
Life in the Public's Glare
In Pictures: The Kennedys
Obits from U.S. Newspapers
Brothers "Would Have been Proud"
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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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