One of the most important things to know about Sen. Ted Kennedy is that he has a dog named Splash. Has the man no sense of irony? Or shame? After all, Chappaquiddick Ted is responsible for one of the most infamous splashes in American history.
It’s not the dog’s fault, of course. Nor is it Splash’s fault that his owner has made him the narrator of a new children’s book, My Senator and Me: A Dog’s-Eye View of Washington, D.C. Yet we must speak the simple truth about this slender volume: It is the very worst book written by a senator since, well, since Barbara Boxer’s novel was released last fall.
My Senator and Me reeks of liberalism from its very first sentence: “If you want to serve your country, Washington, D.C., is a good place to be.” That’s especially true if you equate serving your country with expanding the size of government, violating the principles of federalism, destroying local control of public schools, preening for the liberal press, and delivering sanctimonious speeches. Because that’s what Kennedy has spent his time in Washington doing, and that’s what this book is about.
In the story, Splash follows his owner around D.C. as an education bill makes its way through Congress. Readers are treated to passages such as this:
“The Senate has voted to approve our education bill!” one staff member says. “Our bill will make schools safer, let them hire more teachers, and even put a computer in every classroom!”
“But the House of Representatives has passed a different education bill,” says another staff member. “This is a problem.”
“Well, there’s no time to lose,” says the Senator. “We need to meet with members of the House immediately and work out the differences between the two bills. The schoolchildren are counting on us!”
With the bill in jeopardy, Kennedy speaks to the media:
We go to the press conference on the steps of the Capitol. “We must pass this bill so the children of our country can get the education they deserve,” my Senator says.
The crowd nods in agreement.
That’s one thing the book gets right: When Ted Kennedy speaks, the media nods in agreement.
The climax of the book comes during a conference committee meeting between the House and the Senate. “Today they’re discussing my Senator’s education bill,” reports Splash. “Since the bill would improve schools all across the country, I think they should reach a decision quickly and easily.”
But they don’t, especially when some grumpy lawmakers show up and say nasty things such as “we cannot afford this bill.” The unnamed character who appears to utter this line, incidentally, bears a striking resemblance to Kennedy’s old colleague from North Carolina, Jesse Helms.
The arguing continues until Splash starts barking.
They suddenly stop shouting. The room is completely quiet. Then my Senator starts to laugh. And everyone else starts to laugh. I think they understand what I was getting at.
And thus the gridlock is broken. With the bill at last ready for final passage, Splash becomes hopeful:
If they agree to pass it, the President of the United States will sign the bill, and we will have a new law to improve our schools. What could be more important than that!
I know what’s more important: proper grammar. When I was a youngster–back in the days when the Department of Education was just a twinkle in Kennedy’s wandering eye–my teachers told me to end sentences that are questions with question marks. Perhaps Congress should establish a Department of Remedial Education for senators such as Kennedy. But I digress.
The Senate goes on to approve Kennedy’s bill by a vote of 95-5. Splash relays the exciting news: “Now thousands of schools will be able to give children a better education. And my Senator and I helped make it happen.”
Lest you think I’m a curmudgeon, allow me to say this much: My Senator and Me is a very attractive picture book. Kennedy has earned a reputation on the Hill for attracting top-drawer liberal staffers; for this book, he has collaborated with a top-drawer illustrator, David Small.
Can you believe it!
–John J. Miller is national political reporter for National Review and the author, most recently, of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America..