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From The Scrapbook

Nov 21, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 10 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The late Ted Kennedy was often referred to as the “lion of the Senate”​—​perhaps because this sounded better than (the far more apt) “tomcat of the Senate.” Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher tells of her encounter with Kennedy in her new memoir, Shockaholic. Straight out of rehab in 1985, Fisher found herself on a date with former senator Chris Dodd, D-Countrywide, who was then single. 

Luckily for Fisher, Kennedy joined the couple for dinner. That may sound like an ominous scenario, but 1985 happens to be the same year, as reported by the late, great Michael Kelly, that Kennedy threw a waitress, Carla Gaviglio, onto a table, breaking several glasses in the process, before depositing her on Dodd’s lap and sexually assaulting her. 

On this particular evening Fisher got to witness the Camelot charm firsthand: 

Suddenly, Senator Kennedy, seated directly across from me, looked at me with his alert, aristocratic eyes and asked me a most surprising question. “So,” he said, clearly amused, “do you think you’ll be having sex with Chris at the end of your date?”

The comment left Dodd with “an unusual grin hanging on his very flushed face.” Fisher found herself unpersuaded by Kennedy’s attempt to play wingman, and rather explicitly declined to engage in relations with Dodd that evening. 

Still, it took more than that to deflate Kennedy’s sense of entitlement. Kennedy pressed on: “ ‘Would you have sex with Chris in a hot tub?’ Senator Kennedy asked me, perhaps as a way to say good night?” Fisher writes. “ ‘I’m no good in water,’ I told him.”

We’d laugh at Fisher’s deserved reputation as an acid wit, if it weren’t a pungent reminder of how Kennedy’s conduct toward women was excused and covered up his entire life.

 

Always Look on the Bright Side

"Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?” asks our friend and colleague John Podhoretz in the November issue of Commentary, the august journal he edits. He solicited answers from 41 symposiasts, who replied with a diversity of approach and richness of reflection about the nation and its prospects. Among the contributors who should be familiar to our readers are Charlotte Allen, Paul Cantor, James W. Ceaser, Yuval Levin, Harvey Mansfield, Rich Lowry, and James Q. Wilson. And​—​we hasten to add, with an eye to our job security!​—​we particularly liked the effort from the guy down the hall, our editor William Kristol. Here’s a taste of his contribution:

Post-9/11, and post-financial crisis, and post-postmodernism, the range of possible outcomes seems amazingly wide and the odds on any of them strikingly indeterminate. I suspect our thinking about the future isn’t yet radical enough, either analytically or prescriptively. .  .  . So should one be optimistic or pessimistic? God knows. But I do know that conservatives​—​indeed all friends of political liberty and American greatness​—​should, in the short term, be agonistic. They need to fight. Fight to defeat President Obama in 2012. Then fight in 2013 to repeal Obamacare, to rebuild our defenses, to restore U.S. credibility abroad, and to establish fiscal, regulatory, and monetary sanity at home. .  .  . Then the agenda gets more ambitious and less determinate. But more interesting.

If you want to be pushed to think more about that interesting agenda, read the symposium​—​and subscribe to Commentary (or download its new iPad app).

Joe Frazier, 1944-2011

The death of ex-heavyweight champion Joe Frazier last week reminded The Scrapbook less of Smokin’ Joe’s tenure in the ring​—​which was impressive by any standard​—​than of the conundrum posed by his famous rival, Muhammad Ali. Any recounting of Frazier’s career, which involved three storied bouts with Ali, must include descriptions of Ali’s habit of taunting his opponents with racial epithets. Joe Frazier, he would say, was “ignorant,” “ugly,” “dumb,” “a gorilla,” and worst of all, an “Uncle Tom.”

In the words of Matt Schudel’s excellent obituary in the Washington Post, “Frazier, who had admired Ali, was baffled and insulted by what he considered a betrayal of the brotherhood of boxers.” But of course, that was Ali’s intent: The dancing and the doggerel and the racist invective were a psychological ploy to undermine his opponents. He didn’t necessarily mean it personally; it was just business.

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