A mark of political civility: One of the most inspiring things about the eulogies to Senator Edward Kennedy were the tributes coming from Republican Senators Orin Hatch, John McCain, and Mitch McConnell, Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, and Kennedy's Democratic opponent in 1980, President Jimmy Carter. One measure of a man is what your most respected adversaries say about you.
"What Sen. Kennedy profoundly understood was that we are a nation of incrementalists who like our progress in bite-size pieces," said Kenneth M. Duberstein, a former chief of staff in the Reagan White House. "He made the art of compromise not a four-letter word and yet, for many [outside Congress] it is."
Rising above political caricature to try to truly listen and understand where a person is coming from politically is more difficult than it used to be. But I was impressed by the statements of various political adversaries, including Joe Biden, after the death of Jesse Helms in 2008. As I wrote then, Helms' memorial service revealed a man of considerable complexity, not a cardboard cutout of a racist.
The more political civility people of different ideologies can show each other, the better. As Ted Kennedy Jr. said in his eulogy to his father: