LAST MEMOIR LIFTS VEIL ON CHAPPAQUIDDICK
Ted Kennedy admitted his behavior was "inexcusable" in the awful hours after his car plunged off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, a tragedy that killed a young woman -- and his chances of ever being elected president. In a memoir to be published posthumously, Sen. Kennedy, who died Aug. 25 of brain cancer, confessed he made "terrible decisions" that night that remained with him the rest of his life. After the crash, Kennedy swam to safety, then said he dived into the water in a desperate but futile attempt to save his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. After giving up, he waited almost 10 hours before notifying authorities. He wrote that he was dazed and frightened. He took pains to deny speculation he'd had a romantic relationship with Kopechne, a campaign aide to his late brother Robert, insisting he hardly knew her. There has been much buzz about the memoir, scheduled for sale Sept. 14, written while the senator knew he was dying. Many wondered how much he'd confess about Chappaquiddick. The book adds few new details, only recounting how much Kopechne's death weighed on Kennedy and his family, according to The New York Times, which obtained an advance copy. Kennedy said the accident and the ensuing scandal might have shortened the life of his father, Joseph P. Kennedy. He also wrote about the assassinations of his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and New York Sen. Robert Kennedy. Despite many conspiracy theories, Ted Kennedy said he always accepted the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was JFK's lone assassin. The book describes his unbearable anguish over Bobby's death, saying it led to a period of heavy drinking. Family members, he says, feared for his emotional well-being, adding that things "veered close to being a tragedy within a tragedy." He revealed that he was tough on his first wife, Joan, during that period, sending her "deeper into her anguish." And he wrote about pushing himself hard as he "tried to stay ahead of the darkness." Despite the pain, he penned a letter to the Los Angeles district attorney asking him not to pursue the death penalty for Bobby's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy also acknowledged some of his vices. "I have enjoyed the company of women. I have enjoyed a stiff drink or two or three, and I've relished the smooth taste of a good wine," he wrote. "At times, I've enjoyed these pleasures too much. I've heard tales about my exploits as a hell-raiser -- some accurate, some with a wisp of truth to them, and some so outrageous that I can't imagine how anyone could really believe them." Kennedy said his regrets include the notorious night in 1991 that he spent boozing in Palm Beach with his son Patrick and his nephew William Smith -- who was charged and later acquitted of raping a woman during the evening. "All the background noise about Palm Beach and my bachelor lifestyle" prevented him from speaking out forcefully against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill controversy, he said. He wrote that his father encouraged competition between him and his brothers growing up -- and acknowledged that gave him feelings of inadequacy. "It sometimes has occurred to me that my entire life has been a constant state of catching up," he wrote. The book, co-written by journalist Ron Powers, is published by Twelve, a division of Hachette Books.