"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
From a review by Michael Nelson of Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century by John A. Farrell:
O'Neill's first major crusade as speaker at the Massachusetts statehouse involved health care for the mentally ill. The way he approached the issue reveals the approach to politics and government that marked his entire career. His interest in the state's decaying system of mental hospitals was piqued when a constituent with a Down's syndrome child sought his help in getting the child hospitalized. O'Neill drove the child to the state hospital in Belmont and was turned away: The waiting list already had 3,600 names on it. So he left the child in the waiting room and then phoned to say: "The child is in your hospital. Find a bed." But he also rammed through the biggest one-year capital outlay in state history in order to fund new hospital construction. Good politics in the form of constituent service is what got the child into the old hospital. Good government in the form of new legislation financed the building of new ones.
O'Neill never wore his religion on his sleeve, but Farrell leaves little doubt that O'Neill's political sensibility derived from his immersion in Catholicism. As a boy in parochial school, he was instructed in the gospel: blessed are the poor, the meek, those who mourn, and those who thirst for justice. "Other boys heard the sermons as well," Farrell points out, but other boys had not lost their mothers when they were infants, as O'Neill had. "O'Neill's intimate sense of loss made him an insistent, and powerful, tower of strength for the needy," according to Farrell. Later in O'Neill's political career, pundits would point to his faith to explain why he supported the Hyde Amendment restricting abortion access or opposed American intervention in Central America. What they missed was the O'Neill who told his son's senior class, "In everything you do, you must recall that Christ loved man and wished us, for our own sakes, to love Him. The method by which we exercise that love is by loving our fellow man, by seeing that justice is done, that mercy prevails."
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I like to think Tip O'Neill would not have let parliamentary procedure stand in the way of saving an innocent life, or returning a disabled woman to the loving care of her family.
Where are Tip O'Neill's Democratic heirs on the Terri Schiavo question?
Here's Congressman Michael Capuano, the former mayor of Somerville who currently holds O'Neill's old House seat, and who voted not to interfere in Terri Schiavo's starvation by her estranged husband:
I'm here to speak for myself. I don't want you interfering with my wife and me. Leave us alone. Let us make our own decisions. It's not up to you. That's the way it should be. For years, I've been hearing how important the nuclear family is, and now we're not. Let my nuclear family make my decision without your input.
I suspect Congressman Capuano's position in the matter is motivated largely by his calculation of what will go over best in Harvard Square. But does he mean to say that if the guy in the triple-decker across the street decides to starve his invalid wife, he, Congressman Capuano, would do nothing, lest he butt into someone else's bedroom?