Gore Vidal and George McGovern Are the Stars, But Spirit of Ted Kennedy Also Fills Nixon Library

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Photo by Christopher Victorio
George McGovern (left) listens to Gore Vidal's introduction at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda.
Legends of liberalism Gore Vidal and George McGovern were the honored guests at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda last night, but the spirit of Ted Kennedy also filled the replica of the White House's East Room.

 

Yes, you read that right: the RICHARD NIXON Presidential Library and Museum.

 

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Photo by Christopher Victorio
Vidal and library executive director Timothy Naftali listen as McGovern talks about Abraham Lincoln.
Timothy Naftali, the historian and National Archives-hired executive director of the 37th president's library, told a crowd of 700 that his facility aims to be a nonpartisan "center of excellence in education."

"Today, the United States lost a great public servant," Naftali said of Kennedy to an applause break. "It would be an insult to us as Americans to think party matters when it comes to the public service of one Edward M. Kennedy."

Even though the library, with its adjancent Richard Nixon birthplace, was built by a private foundation composed of Nixon supporters, the complex that is now owned by taxpayers was flying its American flag at half mast in honor of Kennedy, just like every other federal facility under the orders of President Barack Obama, Naftali noted.

Vidal, one of America's leading men of letters, had nothing to say about Kennedy in his opening remarks. Nor did McGovern in his formal address, which was tied to the release of his new book Abraham Lincoln (Times Books). But the first person to go to an open microphone for questions from the crowd asked the former South Dakota senator and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee for his thoughts on Kennedy.

The "prairie populist" began by expressing his admiration for the Kennedy family and the guts Ted Kennedy displayed in bouncing back from the tragic death of Mary Jo Kopechne on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969. McGovern noted that he and Kennedy first entered the Senate seven years earlier, and McGovern recalled Kennedy being back in his office a few days after Chappaquiddick, again working hard for his constituents from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. like he always did.

"Ted was a great senator," McGovern said. "He hardly missed a day. . . . I admired him and, on a personal basis, if any senator suffered a loss like a child or a spouse, he was the first person who called. When our daughter Terry died, he came to see Eleanor and me. He was there at 9 a.m. the next morning with his wife. He was a person who respected tragedy because of his family. He was very thoughtful. I thought a lot of him."

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