At the Guardian, Michael Tomasky sensitively writes,
I want to refrain from writing about Ted Kennedy in the past tense, an error some well-meaning commentators have already committed.
All well and good, Mr Tomasky, but easier said than done, especially if you want to write a lengthy blog about the life of Senator Kennedy. A few lines later, Tomasky relates..
“Kennedy was smack in the middle of all of it.”
“Several more liberals came in that year, including South Dakota’s George McGovern, Wisconsin’s Gaylord Nelson, Indiana’s Birch Bayh – and Edward Moore Kennedy”.
This reminds me of a story from 2005, when John Paul II was dying. For several days, BBC reporters kept putting their feet in it by talking about the Pontiff as though he were already gone. The nervous Beeb, which has reputation for offending Catholics, sent a memo to its hacks: “Do NOT under circumstances refer to the Pope in the past tense”. Sure enough, a special biographical package then opened: “Pope John Paul II is born in May 1920…”
Speaking of Tomasky, he has a very interesting piece–written in all sorts of tenses–on John McCain in the latest issue of NYRB.