Ted Kennedy Obit Avoids the Jesse Helms Treatment

News of Sen. Ted Kennedy's death late Tuesday night didn't make the Wednesday print edition, but a 6,000-word obituary by John Broder was posted on nytimes.com this morning: "Edward Kennedy, Senate Stalwart, Dies."

Broder's obituary left room for the lowlights of Kennedy's career, including Mary Jo Kopechne's death at Chappaquiddick andKennedy's ruthless personal attack on conservative Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. But the opening paragraph offered a sharp contrast with another ideologically polarizing senator, Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who died on Independence Day last year. Broder's opening paragraph:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a son of one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew triumph and tragedy in near-equal measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night. He was 77.

Contrast that respectful tone with the snarling opening sentence from Steven Holmes' obituary for Sen. Jesse Helms on July 5, 2008, under the print edition headline "Jesse Helms, Unyielding Beacon of Conservatism, Is Dead at 86."

Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina senator whose courtly manner and mossy drawl barely masked a hard-edged conservatism that opposed civil rights, gay rights, foreign aid and modern art, died early Friday. He was 86.