Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch Shook Up Over News Of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy's Malignant Brain Tumor


While the blogosphere is teeming with news about the discovery of a malignant brain tumor within Massachusetts Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, very few blogs will explore unique aspects of Senator Kennedy's life.

And one of the unique aspects is his ongoing political partnership with Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, as reported on May 20th by the Deseret News. They've been called the Senate's odd couple. And it seems like an unlikely friendship between a Mormon, Western, conservative Republican who does not drink and a Catholic, East Coast, liberal Democrat who has been known to have a few. Yet this friendship, which began in 1981, has grown into a virtual brotherhood.

And so Senator Hatch was visibly shaken after the Republican caucus lunch meeting Tuesday, when he learned the news. "I love him like a brother," Hatch said, wiping tears from his eyes. "I just feel terrible about hearing this. It's really terrible news". Hatch has been e-mailing with Vicki Kennedy, the senator's wife, since Sen. Kennedy suffered a seizure over the weekend. Kennedy's staff members, who know how close the two are, having also been keeping him in the loop, Hatch said. "We've just been very, very close," Hatch said. "We've always respected each other."

In 1981, Hatch became chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, a position he held for six years. Hatch explained that with nine liberals and only seven conservative on the committee, he knew it was going to be hard for him to get anything done. And so Hatch grit his teeth and turned to the influential Kennedy.

"I went to Ted and said I can't run this committee without you so I need your help," Hatch said. While the two knew each other before, working together on the committee helped form the close bond the two share now. "We have passed so much legislation together," Hatch said. From the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, Hatch could not even put a specific number on how many bills they have worked on together.

And while they have had their difference and "fought each other tooth and nail many times", they've always respected each other. "You just can't help but like him if you get to know him, and I've really gotten to know him," Hatch said. "This is a man with one of the greatest senses of humor that I've ever seen in my lifetime. I am sure he is making fun of this."

Hatch said he is going to "pray real hard" for Kennedy's recovery and "demand" that his friend get better to return to his work in the Senate. "I've been praying and I'll continue and I'll step it up a notch," Hatch said. "I thought I was praying pretty hard as it was but I'll step it up a notch."

Utah's other U.S. Senator, Bob Bennett, also expressed his concern, although he does not have the same type of relationship with Kennedy. "Unlike Senator Hatch, I do not share any committee assignments with Senator Kennedy and therefore have not really developed the close relationship that Senator Hatch has developed," Bennett said. "At the same time, with all the senators, my thoughts and prayers are with Senator Kennedy and his family at this time of difficulty."

However, many Utahns are not feeling so charitable towards Kennedy. Many openly cheer at the prospect of his demise, as expressed in public comments appended to the primary stories on the Deseret News and KSL Channel 5. Even comments posted to the more liberal Salt Lake Tribune are not particularly sympathetic. Much of the resentment is focused around the way Kennedy handled the Mary Jo Kopechne case, although at least no one is voicing the suspicion that Kennedy deliberately snuffed Mary Jo to conceal an extramarital pregnancy. What most likely happened is that Kennedy was drunk as a skunk that night, drove his car into the drink, tried to save Mary Jo, was too drunk to finish the job, so he said "Fuck it", and saved himself. Should we judge him for it? There's an Ultimate Judge who has a greater right to hold him accountable. This Ultimate Judge is also more competent to judge him than any of us.

One website suggests that Mary Jo Kopechne may have lasted as long as two hours underwater breathing a pocket of air while Kennedy spent nine hours sobering up and developing a cover story. The FBI's account of the tragedy can be found HERE.

But resentment is also fueled by the fact that this scion of a super-rich family was also a lightning-rod for liberal causes. Ted Kennedy is a classic big-government liberal, and the combined effect is like political rocket fuel, particularly for paleo-conservatives. One of the major irritants was Kennedy's promotion and sponsorship of Emmanuel Celler's immigration reform bill of 1965, known as the Hart-Celler bill. Ted Kennedy promised us that we would not be flooded with immigrants as a result, and that the demographic character of the country would not change appreciably. In contrast, we have been flooded with immigrants, and a disproportionate number are coming from Third World countries. Hart-Celler set us up for the "browning of Anerica", and many Americans find this unacceptable. So they direct their hostility towards Kennedy, who they perceive as one of the prime architects of this change. Vdare.com also offers a similar critique.

According to the latest information from CNN, the preliminary results from a biopsy of the brain identified the cause of the seizure as a malignant glioma in the left parietal lobe. Malignant glioma is the most common primary brain tumor, accounting for more than half of the 18,000 primary malignant brain tumors diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.

A tumor in that area of the brain could affect Kennedy's ability to speak and understand speech, as well as the strength on the right side of his body. The parietal lobes are also responsible for interpreting signals from parts of the brain that focus on vision, hearing, motor skills, sensory input and memory, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

The usual course of treatment for Kennedy's type of tumor includes radiation and chemotherapy. He is reportedly in good spirits and has had no further seizures, but is expected to remain hospitalized for the next few days. According to a separate CNN Health report, people afflicted with this type of tumor can survive for three to five years.

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