I began writing today's column just before the Friday afternoon news conference where Congressman Patrick Kennedy announced he was entering rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic for an addiction to pain medication. Prior to his announcement, Kennedy and his handlers had tried a couple of different versions to explain his early-morning car wreck Thursday. And though we applaud his "courageous decision," as his famous father said, we still can't help but wonder how the rest of us would have been treated.
The fiasco involving Kennedy this week is yet another reason ordinary citizens hold politicians in such low esteem. Kennedy was effectively given a free pass while driving impaired and we all know that the same rules would not and do not apply to the rest of us. Whether it was because of his position in government or his family name, the cops were flat-out wrong to ignore the mishap and let Kennedy off with three minor traffic tickets.
The police officials who tried to keep the matter "hush hush" should be fired today. If the laws of the land don't apply equally to all, then why would anyone have any respect for the laws or the law enforcers?
Kennedy - like his more famous father - clearly has a long history with alcohol. Now you can add pain medication to that list. He has openly admitted his problems and sought medical help in the past and is heading there once again.
Kennedy ran his vehicle into a barricade at 3 a.m. while driving without his headlights on. He stumbled from his car and told police he was on his way to vote on legislation. At 3 a.m.! The police knew he was drinking and should have taken his fanny to jail like the rest of us. But instead, police superiors told the officers on the scene to leave and they then gave Kennedy a ride home.
It wasn't until the following day that Kennedy could more clearly concoct a phony story to cover his trail. So he said he was taking prescription drugs that made him lose his balance and impacted his thinking. That's why he was headed to vote at 3 a.m., without his headlights and crashed into the barricade. If you believe that, you're just plain nuts. On Friday, Kennedy put the final piece of the puzzle together and acknowledged his addiction. And for many - especially those in his own party - that makes things acceptable. Politicians should be treated just like the rest of us. They should suffer consequences for their misdeeds. They are granted some privileges because of their positions but those privileges should not include breaking the law. What bothers me the most on this topic is not that Kennedy screwed-up and made an honest mistake. Heck, he's human like the rest of us and he's just as prone to mistakes as the next guy. What bothers me is that he created this massive lie and then actually expected us to believe him. How insulting!
I couldn't help but notice that his Friday announcement contained not one apology for lying about the situation in the first place.
Patrick Kennedy is a sad and pathetic human living off a family name and fortune - none of which are of his own hard work. And when it comes to an incident where his true character can be displayed, he did just that this week. I couldn't care less of his party affiliation. I do however care that he was treated differently than we would have been treated and then he lied to cover his political career.
In the great scheme of things, this incident is just a tiny footnote and the subject of late-night television humor. But in another sense, it illustrates that some in Washington actually believe they are above the law and they then dare us to question them because of their names or positions.