Jewish World Review Oct. 13, 2003/ 17 Tishrei, 5764

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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The right and proper thing to do | If you go for conspiracy theories, it had to be an inter-family feud that led to the bizarre decision of the George Bush Presidential Foundation to award Ted Kennedy, of all people, a $20,000 prize for whatever it was about Teddy that the foundation thinks ought to be rewarded. W

hatever it was escapes the rest of us, but you can't blame Teddy for agreeing to take the money and run, even if he has to go to Texas to get it. Twenty grand buys a lot of whatever he's eating and drinking in these dying days of the Kennedy dynasty.

The conspiracy theorists, remembering Gen. Brent Scowcroft's cannonading against Iraq War II on the op-ed pages in the run-up to the run-down of Saddam Hussein, can't resist the idea that the old man is sending messages again. The message this time is supposed to be that Teddy, like Brent Scowcroft, got it at least half right: The war in Iraq is "a fraud" cooked up for the wrong reasons.

Said the senator: "The tragedy is that our troops are paying with their lives because their commander in chief let them down."

This is pretty tough stuff, dissing George W. something awful. It's not as if he had encouraged Cuban exiles in Miami to mount an invasion of Cuba and then abandoned them on the beach at the Bay of Pigs. Teddy's rant is what you might expect from the sophomores as the kegs run dry at 5 in the morning, but not what you would expect No. 41 to abide at the expense of No. 43. Even Teddy's Democratic colleagues in the Senate rolled their eyes.

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The ripe tomato thrown at George W. followed similar accusations of treachery, treason and mopery by several of the Democratic presidential wannabes, who only yesterday waved the flag and joined the congressional choruses cheering the boys up the gangplanks of the troopships. "We must turn away now from the politics of personal destruction and return to a politics of values," Dick Gephardt said then. Says Mr. Gephardt now: "This president is a miserable failure on foreign policy." To be fair, he's so out of it he may not be aware that it's the same war.

So why, as Teddy Kennedy falls in with the stick-George-now regiment, did the George Bush Presidential Foundation add its voice to the cheers?

If you believe Penrod Thornton, a spokesman for the presidential foundation, it sprang from motives as pure and peaceful as the Aggie War Hymn. The award, he says, hinges on "personalities and contributions of the individuals, and it didn't have anything to do with politics." (In Texas, sex doesn't have anything to do with a bordello, either; the gents all come to listen to the piano player.)

The award gets high praise from the great-grandson of Emily Post, the arbiter of what were called manners when some of us had some. Peter Post is director of the Emily Post Institute in Connecticut, which says it serves as "the civility barometer of America." "These delicate moments are part of politics," he says, "and both sides have handled it admirably by emphasizing the broad perspective."

This is how civility barometers talk, particularly civility barometers in Connecticut. And there's the clue: The elder Mr. Bush, one of the most decent men in public life, was afflicted at birth in New England with an excess of good manners, and this baggage has dogged him all his life. This is the man who, on suffering an attack of nausea at a state dinner in Tokyo, threw up, slumped to the floor, rolled under the table, and told Barbara to tell their host to go on with the dinner and attend to him later. And he meant it.

He no doubt meant it when he wanted to honor Teddy Kennedy for his contributions to the nation's woof and weal, whatever that is, and it never occurred to him that Teddy would return his thanks by throwing his overalls in Barbara's chowder.

Back at the president's library in College Station, Penrod assures one and all that the award will go on as scheduled. No one is surprised. But we know what Teddy and the Democrats would do, were the situation reversed. They would tell the honoree to take Miss Emily Post's civility barometer and shove it deep into his nether region. Shove it nicely, but shove it.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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