Ted Kennedy, Chappaquiddick, and taste in obituaries

Ted Kennedy died, which isn’t news anymore, but in the New York Times obituary for him, there is one choice of verb that seems to be either a bad and tasteless joke or at the very least an editing oversight:

One paragraph well into the piece describes Kennedy winning the post as the majority whip of the Senate, and the following paragraph begins:

“He plunged into the new job with Kennedy enthusiasm.”

Fine, in that “plunged” is a good, strong verb, even if it is something of a cliché when talking about starting a job. The real problem is that the entire paragraph reads:

He plunged into the new job with Kennedy enthusiasm. But fate, and the Kennedy recklessness, intervened on July 18, 1969. Mr. Kennedy was at a party with several women who had been aides to Robert. The party, a liquor-soaked barbecue, was held at a rented cottage on Chappaquiddick Island, off Martha’s Vineyard. He left around midnight with Mary Jo Kopechne, 28, took a turn away from the ferry landing and drove the car off a narrow bridge on an isolated beach road. The car sank in eight feet of water, but he managed to escape. Miss Kopechne, a former campaign worker for Robert, drowned.

So, from majority whip to Chappaquiddick in the space of a period and a capital letter. That first sentence I extracted is the only one in the paragraph that isn’t–directly–about Chappaquiddick and the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. If the first sentence of that paragraph had even been shifted to the end of the previous one, I wouldn’t have this complaint, but to choose the word “plunged” to describe a job a mere sentence before segueing into Kennedy driving a car off a bridge seems at best careless, and at worst, tasteless.

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