Watching the seemingly endless line of people parading past the flag-draped coffin of the late Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy, one wonders what it’s all about. Yes, liberals and Democrats are fond of conjecturing about “what might have been” had JFK and Bobby Kennedy not been assassinated, or “what might have been” if Kennedy had not driven his mother’s Oldsmobile off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island that fateful night in July 1969, killing Mary Jo Kopechne in the process.
For most objective observers the attraction of Ted Kennedy will always remain a great mystery. Throughout history, those men and women whose lives have been most celebrated are those who are responsible for the greatest accomplishments. When, until now, has such a fuss been made over a man whose career was marked more by personal failings than by personal achievements? And when, until now, have we ever lionized a man whose life was a testament to lost causes, a man whose life was dedicated to being on the wrong side of almost every major issue?
Today, Kennedy is hailed as a great compromiser, the one man on the Democrat side of the aisle who could be counted upon to seek accommodation with Republicans in order to advance a cause. But that was not the real Ted Kennedy. That was the Ted Kennedy who needed yet another minor victory, even if he had to compromise his own values to achieve it. The real Ted Kennedy, the unshakably partisan Ted Kennedy, is to be found in the archives of the KGB in Moscow.
In his book, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, Professor Paul G. Kengor includes the text of a May 14, 1983 memorandum uncovered in the declassified archives of the Soviet Union by Herbert Romerstein, a well-known authority on the Venona Papers and the Soviet archives.
According to the memorandum, written by Viktor Mikailovich Chebrikov, Chairman of the Committee on State Security of the USSR (KGB), to Yuri Andropov, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he was visited by former U.S. Senator John V. Tunney (D-CA) on May 9-10, 1983. Tunney was on a highly sensitive mission for his former University of Virginia law school roommate, a close friend and former senate colleague, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). The purpose of his mission was to enlist the Kremlin leadership in a grand scheme to defeat Ronald Reagan and other Republicans in the 1984 U.S. elections.
According to the Chebrikov memorandum, Kennedy was convinced that the chilly relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union were due to Reagan’s unwillingness to modify his strategic plan to win a final Cold War victory over the Soviet Union. As Tunney described Kennedy’s frustration with the state of American politics, Reagan was able to rely on the results of his “Reaganomics” policies – reduced inflation, reduced taxes, increased worker productivity, expanding business activity, and declining interest rates – to support his political standing with the American people, making it difficult for Democrats to attack him on foreign policy issues.
As Tunney described Kennedy’s view to the Soviets’ top spy, the only possible threat to Reagan was rooted in issues related to war and peace and Soviet-American relations. With the active participation of the Soviets, these issues could become the most important of Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign; hence, the basis for Tunney’s mission to Moscow. As Chebrikov wrote to Andropov, “Kennedy believes that, given the current state of affairs…, it would be prudent and timely to undertake the following steps” to counter Reagan’s policies:
1. Kennedy asked Andropov to consider inviting him (Kennedy) to Moscow for a personal meeting in July 1983. The primary purpose of the meeting would be to provide Soviet officials with “talking points” related to problems of nuclear disarmament so that they’d be “better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.”
2. Kennedy felt that, in order to influence the American people, it would be helpful to
have Chairman Andropov submit to a series of television interviews with American TV networks. He felt that a direct appeal by the General Secretary of the Communist Party to the American people would, without doubt, “attract a great deal of attention and interest in the country.”
Tunney assured Chebrikov that, “if the proposal is recognized as worthy,” then Kennedy and his political allies would take the necessary steps to have representatives of the major U.S. networks contact Andropov to schedule the interviews. Specifically, he suggested that the head of ABC, Elton Raul, and “television columnists Walter Cronkite or Barbara Walters could visit Moscow.”
Kennedy also suggested a series of televised interviews, in the U.S., in which members of the Soviet military could convince the American people of the “peaceful intentions of the USSR.”
Tunney also explained that, since Kennedy had decided not to run for president in 1984, his speeches would be taken without prejudice, “as they are not tied to any campaign promises.” He indicated that Kennedy wanted to run for president in 1988, and he suggested that, during the 1984 campaign, the Democratic Party “may officially turn to him to lead the fight against the Republicans… and elect their candidate president.”
Tunney left Moscow and returned to the U.S., Chebrikov prepared a memorandum and sent it to Chairman Andropov, and the memorandum found its way into the KGB archives. It is not known if additional negotiations took place between Kennedy and the Soviets, but one thing is certain: Ted Kennedy did not expect that Reagan would ultimately win the Cold War, that the Soviet empire would disintegrate, and that Americans would one day find themselves reading of his treachery in documents taken from the archives of the KGB.
This is not to say that using the Soviet Union and the KGB to influence the outcome of American elections on behalf of Democratic candidates was an original idea. The Soviets had been influencing American public opinion, and hence, the outcome of elections, for decades. Their methodology is fully outlined by two veteran journalists, Robert Moss, former editor of Foreign Report, and Arnaud de Borchgrave, former chief foreign correspondent for Newsweek magazine, in their fact-based novel, The Spike.
What is most important about Kennedy’s actions is not the fact that he attempted to combine with the leaders of an enemy nation, to the detriment of his own country and to the benefit of its enemies. Not even the most dedicated conservative would suggest that Kennedy was trying to help the Soviets win the Cold War. So what was his motivation?
If Kennedy was unsure of a Democratic victory in 1984, with all the forces of the labor unions, teachers unions, public employee unions, trial lawyers, plantation blacks, pro-abortion activists, gays, lesbians, and transvestites at his disposal, how better to assure a Democratic victory than by enlisting the aid of the KGB and the Soviet leadership? That was his principal motivation, and what a cheap motivation it was.
If a Republican member of the United States Senate had attempted the same kind of treachery, he or she would still be staring out from behind the bars of a federal prison today.
The Ted Kennedy who is sold to us as the great American statesman, the “liberal lion” who could reach across the aisle to work with Republicans for the good of the country, is a fictional character. The Ted Kennedy who conspired with the Soviet dictator to defeat Ronald Reagan… just as he was on the threshold of victory in the Cold War… is the real Ted Kennedy.