I've criticized Teddy Kennedy before. As recently, in fact, as this May.
Criticism of the current health care reform packages under discussion aside, very few legislators have contributed as much to civil rights, women's rights, and the social safety net as Senator Edward Kennedy. Now he's passed on. This is a tragedy. Teddy Kennedy deserves his share of the credit (along with liberal lions such as Hubert Humphrey and Nelson Rockefeller) for the passing of the Great Society and (along with Rockefeller and others) for the passing of much of the liberal legislation of the Nixon presidency. Regardless of his foibles of private character (and there are few in Washington sufficiently without sin to cast stones in his direction, despite the popularity of doing so among Republicans), he was a man of great public conscience that his sucessors in the Democratic Party do not always appear to share. He was a man unafraid, despite his reputation as a liberal warrior, to cross party lines to do what he believed right.
I don't know if Teddy Kennedy can be called be the last great senator. I have a great deal of respect for John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden, and even John McCain and very high hopes for Al Franken (yes, he's a comedian, but as someone who has been reading his books for a long time he his a man of public conscience and commitment to meaningful policy of Teddy's stripe)... but Teddy Kennedy was almost inarguably the greatest living, serving senator of our current era.
We should all miss him, even Republicans.
Without Teddy, who will Republicans be able to hold up and say 'Well if he's for it, I guarantee my district will hate it!'?