From the Prince Kennedy Hagiography’s Cutting Room Floor
Vincent Bzdek contacted me requesting a comment for a Patrick Kennedy profile related to mental health parity that he was beginning to write for the Washington Post back in early December. Well, it looks like he and the editors decided to go with the “no criticism” angle. To be sure, the following would have stood out as if in dark, bold text amidst all that glowing language:
To be honest, I think such healthcare mandates as the parity bill represent a harmful impulse. They help some small number of people — people who truly do face difficulties and whom society ought to help as a moral matter — but in doing so, they simply transfer, and probably broaden, the struggle. It’s the sort of thing that politicians do to justify posturing as if they’ve solved a problem, when really they’ve likely increased the net amount of suffering in the world.
Insurance companies aren’t simply going to eat the increased costs; there isn’t a pool, somewhere, of the money that they’ve saved by not covering that which Kennedy will now force upon them. So they’ll pass on the shortfall to others. Perhaps they’ll compensate by decreasing coverage in some category that isn’t thus protected.
In Patrick’s case, however, it was certainly a shrewd move. The issue served to redirect attention toward a perceivedly positive goal to evolve his narrative away from the string of embarrassing and reckless comments and incidents that left some Rhode Islanders calling for his resignation. He’s well liked by a segment of Rhode Island’s population, but there’s a significant contingent of us who can’t react to him otherwise than by shaking our heads in disbelief. The former group now has a direct response to arguments from the latter.
Fortunately for the congressman, however, economic and political realities in the state are driving out thousands of Rhode Islanders, and it’s a safe bet that a majority of them are from the side that would sooner see Kennedy as the straightman in a late-night comedy skit than in Congress.
Bzdek would have us believe that Patrick himself had the inspiration, rebuffing his political advisers, to transform his addictions into activism, but the pieces all fall together just a little too neatly for that to be wholly accurate. Kennedy’s ailing father muscled the legislation through, making it the legislative vessel for the first “gotta have it” bailout. Now Patrick’s declaring it to be his vindication as a Kennedy, linking him with his family’s legacy of civil rights stances:
“How could I have ever imagined that this subject, which I think is going to be my undoing, becomes the platform that connects me to my family’s legacy? And continues it.”
How, indeed. The crown is being handed over, and the media is content to be complicit.