Teddy Kennedy, His Death and Alcoholism


In combing the Internet about Ted Kennedy, there was very little written about his alcoholism. The New York Times obit made mention of his struggles with booze and although nobody seems to have much of an issue calling his first wife an alcoholic it seems that few wanted to do so with Ted himself. Sure there are lots of jokes about his legendary womanizing and being drunk in Washington hot spots, even that he was out drinking with his nephew the night William Kennedy Smith was charged with rape. Why is it so hard to say that Kennedy was an alcoholic?

            When people die, they seem to be canonized. It’ a cultural thing to have respect for the dead. Clearly Kennedy was a complicated man with a tremendous burden on his shoulders and did much to change, in my opinion, for the better social fabric of America.  He was accomplished as a politician, apparently a subpar student, and a revered paternal figure albeit far from perfect. To me he seems like the perfect alcoholic that didn’t find recovery. Imagine what this man could have accomplished had he not been so impaired by his drinking. One could argue that his drinking cost him, his family, and the country a presidency. No way to know what he could have done as President. I would suspect he could have done much considering he did much as a senator. It is largely agreed that had it not been for Chappaquiddick, Kennedy would have been President, carrying with him, the Kennedy name, prestige, feeling of optimism, and mystique. That died with the young woman he left at the scene of what seems to have been a drunk driving accident.

            Far from perfect, Kennedy was an iconic American figure and yes, an alcoholic. Reading about him there seems to be no shame or hesitation to talk about his cancer, and yet there is still walking on eggshells around his alcoholism. I guess we tip toe around drunks, even after they are dead.


5 Responses to “Teddy Kennedy, His Death and Alcoholism”

  1. A drunk is not the same thing as an alcoholic. Bush was/is an alcoholic. I’m not so sure Kennedy was. I think he just liked to party.

  2. Joe Schrank Says:

    You may be right but when your “like to party” results in someone’s death and you continue to drink? What is that called? Drunk? Alcoholic? Good time senator? A Kennedy?

  3. Barbara Fox Says:

    This is in my mind, is an excellent article which answers its own question.

    If alcohol causes problems, you are only dealing with semantics in terms of labeling someone an alcoholic. It really doesn’t matter. The more pertinent question is do you continue on a path of self-destruction or do you choose health? Kennedy chose the former, with shades of the later.

    We walk on egg-shells when discussing alcoholism because we don’t yet completely believe it is a disease. We chose instead to label folks weak, immoral or lazy.

    Some folks recover and lead productive lives. Most die from the disease or end up in jail or mental institutions. It’s a huge problem in our country and lives are ruined daily because of this chronic ,progressive disease.

  4. Well worded and gutsy. I believe TK could have done wonders for himself, his family, and so many others if he addressed his alcoholism. I applaud Joan for continuing to address her chronic illness.

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