Former Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the youngest brother in the legendary political family, and surely the least known, died yesterday at his home in Chicago, at 77.
Kennedy served two terms in the Senate in the 1960s and was spoken of as a possible presidential candidate before his career flamed out. Deeply disturbed by the June 1968 murder of his brother Senator Robert Kennedy by a Palestinian-American gunman, Sirhan Sirhan, who was said to be unhinged by American policy in the Middle East, Kennedy took a month off to study the issue and declared that the United States must establish an evenhanded relationship with Israelis and Palestinians. His angry speeches about the matter on the Senate floor brought down the wrath of many former supporters.
His race for a second full term in the Senate in 1970 was plagued by the issue. Kennedy shocked his constituents by claiming that in the previous summer, lobbyists for Israel had invited him to a bacchanalian party on Chappaquiddick, an island off the east coast of Martha’s Vineyard, where they attempted to frame him in an adulterous liaison with a young woman with the aim of political blackmail, causing Kennedy to flee the scene, swimming a channel. He lost the Democratic primary in 1970 by a 2-to-1 margin to a young Harvard Law School professor–Alan Dershowitz– who has held the seat since then.
Kennedy went on to write several books about foreign policy, including Dual Loyalty Among Irish Americans (1990) and The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2002). That book, which many reviewers alleged was antisemitic, stated that Kennedy’s older brother John was enraged as president that he had been unable to stop Israel from getting the bomb or to register the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as foreign agents.
Till he was diagnosed with brain cancer last year, Kennedy worked in a small law firm, Percy, Abourezk, Stevenson, Hollings, McKinney, and Findley.