Once upon a time, Ted Kennedy could count on his daily dose of veneration. The right wing hated the Massachusetts Democrat, but progressives honored him as a defender of oldschool liberalism.
In a remarkable turnaround, liberals are now heaping scorn on the 73-year-old senator. Young audiences boo at his name, and the leftish “Daily Show” on Comedy Central makes fun of him.
The source of unhappiness is Kennedy’s efforts to kill an offshore wind farm on Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind was to be the first such project in the United States and a source of pride to environmentally minded New Englanders. Polls show 84 percent of Massachusetts residents in favor. But now it appears that America’s first offshore wind farm will be near Galveston, Texas.
Proposed the month before Sept. 11, 2001, Cape Wind remains in limbo. It’s been frustrated at every turn by a handful of yachtsmen, Kennedy included, who don’t want to see windmills from their verandas. Many millions have been spent spreading disinformation and smearing the wind farm’s supporters.
The towers would be at least five miles out and barely visible from shore on the clearest day, but the summer plutocrats resent any intrusion on their waterfront vistas – and, equally, any challenge to the notion that they control everything.
“But don’t you realize – that’s where I sail!” may stand as Kennedy’s most self-incriminating quote.
The sordid affair is documented in a funny and depressing book titled “Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Sound.” In it, authors Wendy Williams and Robert Whitcomb (full disclosure: Whitcomb is my editor at The Providence Journal) describe the bipartisan endeavor to betray America’s environmental and energy interests – and ignore the welfare of the yearround locals.
Kennedy did much of the dirty work in Washington, but he had considerable help. In 2004, Sen. John Warner, the Virginia Republican, added a last-minute rider to an urgent Iraq War funding bill that forbade the Army Corps of Engineers to spend money permitting offshore wind projects.
“Warner was dragging American troops into the Cape Wind war,” Williams and Whitcomb noted. The outcry forced him to back down.
Why did Warner care so deeply about a wind-energy project in Massachusetts? Some of his fabulously wealthy relatives own choice waterfront property on Cape Cod. That’s why.
Anchorage is 4,600 miles from Boston. And so what was this project to Rep. Don Young, the Alaska Republican? It was apparently an opportunity to exercise an old grudge against Theodore Roosevelt IV, the 26th president’s great-grandson and a wind-farm supporter.
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander also took an unusual interest in a venture far from his home state of Tennessee. Complaining that wind farms threaten “the wholesale destruction of the American landscape,” Alexander introduced legislation that would have banned virtually all offshore wind projects in America. It turns out that Alexander owns a fancy piece of real estate on Nantucket Island.
Kennedy, however, remains the central focus of ire. Greenpeace has just launched an anti-Kennedy, pro-Cape Wind television ad campaign.
John Bullard, the former mayor of New Bedford and a Democratic stalwart, is loudly condemning the senator. His working-class city is downwind from one of the nation’s dirtiest power plants. Cape Wind could help replace it.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers built a wind turbine along an expressway going into Boston and, next to it, a billboard promoting Cape Wind. The project would mean jobs for the Boston local, which runs a training center for wind technology.
After 45 years in the Senate, Kennedy should be polishing his liberal legacy. But his manipulative attacks on this wind farm have so sickened supporters that his long career may be headed for a sorry end.
©2007 The Providence Journal Co.