The Massachusetts Democrat has been selected to receive the 2003 George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service on Nov. 7, directly from the hands of former President George H.W. Bush himself.Forget Iraq for a moment. This is totally fitting. Teddy Kennedy has had his hands in almost every expansion of state power that has come out of the Senate since he was first elected: HMO’s. Minimum wage laws. The Americans with Disabilities Act. . . I could go on for hours. Throw in Mary Jo Kopechne for good measure.
Mr. Kennedy will be the first American to receive the award, which has gone to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in recent years.
The senator has been lauded as a man who "consistently and courageously fought for his principles ... his commitment to excellence in public policy and his devotion to public service serve as an inspiration to all Americans."
There may be a small timing problem, however.
"The decision to make this award was made before Mr. Kennedy made his remarks," said a source familiar with the situation.
Over the past two weeks, Mr. Kennedy has offered strident and vitriolic criticism of President Bush — son of the former president who will share that Texas stage and offer Mr. Kennedy a hearty handshake, a $20,000 prize and a sparkling crystal trophy.
Among other things, Mr. Kennedy challenged the legitimacy of the war in Iraq, claiming it was "made up in Texas," and that "the administration is muddling through day-by-day." He called the recent report about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq "an insult to our troops."
But such untimely political fisticuffs won't mar the ceremonies, both camps reported yesterday.
Bush Presidential Foundation spokesman Penrod Thornton said the event will go forward as planned, and that Mr. Kennedy is indeed the "appropriate" winner. On Saturday, Mr. Thornton told the (College Station) Eagle that the award hinges upon "personalities and contributions of the individuals, and it didn't have anything to do with politics."
If we are defined by our heroes, one has to wonder what kind of man George H.W. really is to feel the need to honor Teddy Kennedy with his namesake award. Not one who cares about principles, it would seem.