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Continuing Coverage Regarding Senator Kennedy's Death
Aired August 26, 2009 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN HOST: Senator Ted Kennedy dead this morning at the age of 77.
A statement from his family reads: "Edward M. Kennedy, the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply, died late Tuesday night at his home in Hyannis Port. We have lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and he devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead and it's hard to imagine any of them without him."
Amalia Barreda is at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port for us early this morning -- and, Amalia, can you give us a sense of what's going on there?
AMALIA BARREDA, WCVB CORRESPONDENT: Sure.
Good morning, John.
Well, of course, it's the middle of the night here, so it's otherwise quiet, except for a growing police presence and a growing media presence, as we await some kind of activity from the compound, which is right behind me, although it's dark behind the officer that's standing behind me.
But the -- the only activity that we've seen in and out of the compound so far is a van that went in at about 1:20 in the morning followed by another van, much larger, with no windows. The windows were all painted up. But it was (INAUDIBLE) in or out.
And so those -- those vans went in. The first van has come back out and I believe it is the van that we've seen Senator Kennedy riding in in the last month or so. Of course, we hadn't seen him now for a couple of weeks. But in this last month or so, that's the vehicle that he has been in. And we are waiting, of course, for the other van. We presume that that is the vehicle that will be bringing the body of Senator Kennedy out from the compound.
We also saw a golf cart with a bunch of kids in it. We believe that those are Senator Kennedy's grandchildren. He has five grandchildren and we do know that his family has been with him this whole week, his three children -- Ted, Jr.; Patrick, the congressman from Rhode Island; and Kara. And as I said, between those three children, they have the five grandchildren.
Also, interestingly, as I was driving into this area, where it's very dark, I did see a couple in pajamas. And as a drove past them, I recognized the man as being one of Ethel Kennedy's sons. I'm not sure which one it was. It was either Bobby, Jr. or Max, walking with a woman. They were holding hands. They were in their pajamas -- obviously, signifying that -- what a long night this is for the Kennedys after a very long and sad battle for the senator.
So that's -- that's about all that's happening now. And, as I said, all we are waiting for is for the -- this van to come out. And we, again, presume that it's carrying -- it will be carrying his body.
ROBERTS: And certainly, over the next few hours, there will be a tremendous amount of activity there at the family compound.
Amalia Barreda, thanks so much...
ROBERTS: Thanks so much for being with us.
We'll keep you there on the ground looking at things. You can be our eyes on the ground and we'll get back to you in just a little while.
We -- we have John King with us, as well as Dana Bash and Dan Lothian -- John, let's go first to you, a native son of Massachusetts, and your thoughts on the passing of -- of Senator Ted Kennedy, his life, his legacy and what American politics will be like now without him.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's -- it's odd, John, in that we've known this day was coming -- this night was coming for some time, and yet it's very hard to believe because, as Dana noted in that obituary piece, he was the survivor. And for 41 years -- 41 years since his brother Bobby was assassinated -- he carried the Kennedy torch. And he did so with pride.
And the thing that made him, in today's politics, perhaps, if not unique, almost unique, was that he spoke his mind and he was who he was and he stood by his principles. So much of our politics now is poll-driven and focus grouped and calculated.
And one of the reasons we have used the word respect so many times in these past few hours, as you have read the statements from those who were at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, is that people respected Senator Kennedy because they knew when he said something, he believed it and they knew if he gave his word that he meant it.
And those things are not as common as they used to be in our politics. And that is a sad thing.
As for how he will be missed, now the State of Massachusetts will have to have a process to replace him, the special election within five months. It's a law. In five months, it's the law of Massachusetts right now. And this happens in the middle of the debate about the issue for which he cared more than any other -- whether there should be universal health coverage in the United States -- or at least a dramatic expansion of health coverage in the United States.
So in that sight of these last seven months of the new Obama administration, the president has missed his voice. And the president would tell you that, John, and any Democrat involved in the fight would tell you that. And significantly, and worth noting, any Republican involved in the fight would tell you, as well, that it would be a somewhat different political environment, perhaps less partisan, perhaps more geared toward compromise, if Edward M. Kennedy were in the United States Senate these last seven months, not there at the compound in Hyannis Port, unfortunately, knowing that this day was coming.
ROBERTS: Yes. And, you know, certainly his presence was missed, as you said, John, in this health care debate and will be missed in the years to come.
Dana Bash has covered both the White House and now Congress, her current beat.
Your thoughts this morning on the passing of Ted Kennedy and the hole that it is going to leave there on Capitol Hill.
BASH: That's right. And, you know, and the sad reality is there has been a hole that has already been pretty -- pretty wide and pretty deep for the past several months -- really, six months, even to a year. Because his absence absolutely has been felt, John. And just -- really, I'm not even exaggerating when I tell you that when you walk through the halls of Congress and talk to -- to senators, especially Republicans, over the past several months as this debate on health care got so intense and so partisan, people openly -- especially Republicans -- have lamented the fact that Ted Kennedy was not there.
And it just goes to show you, obviously, the impact that he has had in terms of getting things done and reaching across the aisle, as John said, and having Republicans know that his word was his word. But also, it's just a reminder that, you know, this is somebody who, you know, put a tow -- actually, more than a two -- actually tried in 1980 to follow in the footsteps of his -- of his brother, JFK, in the footsteps that his brother RFK was trying -- or trying to -- to walk -- and that is, to the White House.
And that did not happen because he was defeated when he tried to challenge and when he did challenge a fellow Democrat, President Carter.
Since then, even before then, he decided that his legacy and his mark would be left in the United States Senate. And I have been e- mailing a little bit with some of his -- of his aides and former aides. And they are all over Washington. They're at the highest levels at the White House right now. They are, because of all his time, you know, his 50 years in the Senate, they are everywhere. And I just got one e-mail just -- just talking about the way he worked and the way he understood the Senate, that every time he managed a bill, he devoured massive briefing books to get prepared for hours and hours of debate and the way that he devoured policy materials was -- was pretty remarkable. This is just one remembrance from one of his former aides.
And it just goes to show you that he understood that the Senate, unlike -- you know, it wasn't going to be the White House. The Senate was going to be the place where he made his mark and he did so, from voting rights to civil rights to health care to minimum wage and the list goes on. And that has been noted already in these early morning hours by even his fellow Republicans.
ROBERTS: No question, Dana, he was a fierce debater and a passionate advocate for the causes that he believes in.
Ed Henry is with us on the telephone, as well -- and, Ed, your -- your thoughts at this moment on the passing of Senator Kennedy.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I remember covering Congress years ago and you would always know when Ted Kennedy was coming because you could hear his laugh before you saw his face. He would be, you know, patting people on the back, Democrats, Republicans, journalists; working the room no matter what room he was in, he was the center of attention. He knew it and he would feed off that. And that's why there's going to be such a hole in our politics now, as you've been discussing with John and Dana.
And I think while, certainly, there could have been, potentially, some more bipartisanship in this health care debate if Ted Kennedy had been at -- at the forefront, we obviously also have to remember that he -- he could be pretty partisan, as well. And while there were moments of bipartisanship in his some 47 years in the Senate, there were also some -- some moments when -- when he went beyond just being a fierce advocate for his cause and was -- was a pretty partisan fellow. And he was -- was proud of -- of his beliefs and felt strongly about his political philosophy. But more often than not, as Dana was pointing out, he did go for the bipartisan approach.
And I think he's missed not only in reaching out to Republicans -- something that the president could have used more of in this debate -- it hasn't quite worked out so far -- but also in helping with his own party. I mean the bigger problem this president has on health care reform right now is the fact that there is sort of this budding civil war in his own party, where you've got the centrist Democrats who don't want a public option on health care reform. You've got the liberal Democrats saying we won't sign onto reform if there's not a public option.
This president, right now, needs someone like Ted Kennedy, with the credibility in the Democratic Party to say wait a second, we need to come together and get half a loaf is better than not getting any loaf at all.
And -- and right now, the president is going to, in the days ahead, have to figure out how to move forward with his -- his own party first and then, potentially, bring on some Republicans, because he's going to have to do it now without one of his biggest champions.
ROBERTS: Yes, no question, if you're on the Democratic side of the equation when it comes to health care reform, his presence certainly has been missed.
Dan Lothian is with the current president, President Obama, on the island of Martha's Vineyard, not too far away from Hyannis Port.
He's joining us live now -- and, Dan, we haven't -- we've had a lot of statements in and we're going to read some of those as the minutes progress here on CNN. But we haven't heard anything from the White House yet.
What's happening there on Martha's Vineyard?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We have not heard anything yet from the White House. I've reached out to a number of senior administration officials. You would have thought that by now, perhaps, they would have put out a statement. Perhaps they're trying to just come up with the -- the right wording before they send that statement out, because this is someone who certainly, as we've been talking about all morning, meant so much to President Obama.
I mean we go back again to during the campaign, when it was sort of believed by most people that Senator Kennedy would be endorsing Secretary Clinton, who, at that point, was thought of as the frontrunner, was thought of as a person who had all the Democratic establishment behind her, the money and the power.
But instead -- instead, Senator Kennedy ended up endorsing then Senator Obama and certainly played a vital role in turning that campaign around and to putting Mr. Obama into the White House.
So this is someone that the president really has looked up to time and time again. We talked about, a few minutes ago, about, you know, that -- that moment when he walked into the White House -- the last time that we know of that he was in the White House, on March 5th, to, quote, kind of rally the troops behind health care reform and saying that he would be a foot soldier in this fight and that this time he would not fail. So he had been critical, as well, in helping the administration as it tries to push through health care reform.
But, you know, as you were talking to Ed Henry a few minutes ago, it would be interesting to kind of be able to rewind and have him as part of the -- the debate, the face out there, if things would have been a little different than where we are now in this stage on health care reform, because he is the one person who, as everyone has been noting, has been able to reach across party lines, but also whip Democrats into shape if they -- there were any disagreements internally.
And this is the time when somebody like that would be most needed, when you have those moderate Democrats and those liberal Democrats not seeing eye to eye with the president, the public option being a sticking point for some of the Democrats.
And so someone like Ted Kennedy could have played a vital role in bringing Democrats together and helping President Obama get what he wants in health care reform.
So we're waiting to find out what remarks the president will be making, either in person or on paper -- John.
ROBERTS: Well, Dan, you know, he hasn't been out there in the public eye championing his signature cause, the cause of his life, as he has called it. But certainly he was working behind the scenes to try to push this health care reform bill through.
Do you know much about the contacts between the White House and Senator Kennedy on this issue?
LOTHIAN: Well, we know that early on, he was in contact with the White House on a regular basis, giving advice, as the president was really trying to shape health care reform.
It's unclear what he was able to do in the -- in the last few days of his life. I mean, obviously, he was -- he was very ill in the last few weeks or so. And -- and perhaps one sign of that is that there had been some -- some reports out there -- in fact, some of the Boston papers have been saying that President Obama coming here to Martha's Vineyard would then, either on his way to Martha's Vineyard, stop off on the Cape and visit Senator Ted Kennedy or, perhaps after he got here, would head back over to the Cape to visit him.
And so there were a lot of sort of behind the scenes people were saying that the president was not (INAUDIBLE) behind (INAUDIBLE) here in the early morning.
There was some speculation that perhaps the reason why the president was not going over to Cape Cod and did not stop at the Kennedy compound before coming over here was because Senator Kennedy was so ill that he would not be able to communicate with him.
So it's unclear what kind of influence he had in the last few weeks in terms of health care reform. But certainly he was someone that the White House had relied on to provide guidance as -- as they were really trying to shape how health care reform would look -- John.
ROBERTS: All right, Dan Lothian on Martha's Vineyard.
Dan will be with us throughout the morning here.
I just want to read another statement of tribute coming to us from former British prime minister, Tony Blair, who says: "Senator Kennedy was a figure who inspired admiration, respect and devotion, not just in America, but around the world. He was a true public servant committed to the values of fairness, justice and opportunity. I saw his focus and determination firsthand in Northern Ireland, where his passionate commitment was matched with a practical understanding of what was needed to be done to bring about peace and sustain it. I was delighted that he could join us in Belfast the day that the Duval (ph) government was restored. My thoughts and prayers today are with all his family and friends as they reflect on the loss of a great and good man."
A couple of other tributes that are coming in. This one from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who says: "The Kennedy family and the Senate family have together lost our patriarch. My thoughts and those of the entire United States Senate are with Vicki, Senator Kennedy's children, his many nieces and nephews and his entire family. It was the thrill of my lifetime to work with Senator Kennedy. He was a friend, the model of public service and an American icon. As we mourn his loss, we rededicate ourselves to the causes for which he so dutifully dedicated his life. Senator Kennedy's legacy stands with the greatest, the most devoted, the most patriotic men and women to ever serve in these halls. Because of Ted Kennedy, more young children could afford to become healthy; more young adults could afford to become students; more of our oldest citizens and our poorest citizens could get the care they needed to live longer, fuller lives; more minorities, women and immigrants could realize the rights our founding documents promised them; and more Americans could be proud of their country. Ted Kennedy's America was one in which all could pursue justice, enjoy equality and know freedom. Ted Kennedy's life was driven by his love of a family that loved him and his belief in a country that believed in him. Ted Kennedy's dream was the one for which the founding fathers fought for -- fought and for which his brothers sought to realize. The liberal lion's mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die."
Dana Bash is with us -- and this idea of the dream is still alive, the dream will never die, Dana, this is one that has recurred several times over the course of Senator Kennedy's career.
BASH: Yes, absolutely. It was written, I believe, by Bob Shrum, the Democratic strategist, for the 1980 convention, where he had to stand up before his fellow Democrats and essentially, you know, concede defeat, that he was not going to -- to win against Jimmy Carter, who he had challenged in a very, very, very bitter primary battle.
So that was -- that -- that line, the dream shall never die, that was -- that certainly became one of his most famous lines that he -- he repeated at this last convention in -- in 2008 and used a version of that to -- to try to rally -- rally that convention.
And, obviously, there you see pictures of him and -- and I think rally himself, if you will. And that was certainly an important moment. And it -- is it not a subtle illusion to the fact that he understood that he was carrying on the dream of his brothers and carrying on the dreams that this country had for -- many in this country had -- for his brothers and what they -- the promise that they had before they were -- before they were both assassinated.
So that's why that particular term has taken on such a specific and sentimental meaning when it comes to Ted Kennedy.
ROBERTS: And, you know, Dana, looking at these pictures here, and the large picture on the right hand side of the screen, his -- his appearance last August at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. And we should point out that Senator Kennedy passed away one year to the day giving that speech there in Denver -- and, Dana, when we think about it and you say, you know, that continued link to his brothers John and Bobby and every time you saw Senator Edward Kennedy, somehow he was inextricably linked to his brothers.
His passing late last night marks not just the death of one U.S. senator, it certainly marks the end of an era -- the end of -- of a political dynasty of those original nine children in the Kennedy clan.
BASH: Absolutely. With his sister Eunice passing away just a -- a couple of weeks ago -- obviously, his sister not being in elected office, but making a tremendous mark and impact with regard to the causes that she fought for, in particular, people with special needs.
Now, you know, you talk about the fact that -- that it marks the end of an era, what I always found that was most interesting about Senator Kennedy, both when you talked to him one-on-one and just in terms of the way he -- he proceeded, was that, you know, you never know how somebody is going to handle having the burden of the legacy that he did.
But he didn't run from it at all. He was very open about talking about his brothers, about remembering his brothers, especially in his personal conversations. And, you know, senators -- especially when they reach seniority -- they have hideaways in the Senate, which is -- they're little offices right off of the Senate chamber. He had a remarkable one, where he had all kinds of memorabilia.
He had a rocking chair.
You remember those famous JFK rocking chairs?
BASH: Well, he had one in his -- in his office. He had -- he had parts of -- of a boat from -- from his family that, you know, came from Massachusetts, from Hyannis. So he had all kinds of memorabilia, but in particular, things that really reminded him of his brothers.
So he really embraced that. He was obviously very proud of that because, you know, these are two people who -- who really taught him, along with his father, obviously, taught him the art of the politics that he came to master.
ROBERTS: And, Dana, we've got John King joining us live now from Oklahoma City -- and, John, your thoughts on -- on what Dana was talking about here and the passing of an era in American politics, not just the passing of a single senator.
KING: Well, generationally, in terms of the nine Kennedys, especially the three brothers, that is one passing. John, I think generationally, in terms of how Ted Kennedy did his business. I've been in Washington for more than 20 years now. And when I came to Washington, that is -- was the day when Ron Reagan was leaving. George H.W. Bush became president. Tip O'Neill from Massachusetts was the speaker of the House. And the Republicans and the Democrats could do battle in public, but then in private, try to find a way to do compromise.
Dana mentioned that hideaway office. It was a place where Ted Kennedy cut so many deals. You read the statement from Orin Hatch earlier -- two men who publicly sparred over so many issues -- the minimum wage, health care, education, spending in the Health and Education Committee. It was then the Labor Committee, then the Judiciary Committee over issues of law and justice; the Supreme Court nominations.
But they would retire at the end of the day and try to cut a deal, whether it would be at the White House or in that hideaway office.
It's one of the spectacular places in Washington, because he had the pictures of his brothers. His dogs would always be making their way around by the fireplace; the pictures of the water that he loved so much.
And -- and that era of politics, 77 years old in Senator Kennedy's case; Robert T. Byrd has also, sadly, been on the sidelines in these final days, as well. The Senate is becoming a younger place and it's becoming a more partisan place. And it used to be you had the big partisan fights in the House and the Senate. You know, it's known as the world's most deliberative body. Not as much in recent years, in part because of this generational passing.
And you see that in the tributes to Senator Kennedy. The one word you find in almost every one is the word respect, because even those who disagreed with him, even those who raised money by calling him a symbol of everything that was wrong with America, the big tax and spend liberal of the 1980s, who lived through so many -- Jesse Helms and Ted Kennedy used to raise money off each other's reputations and then walk the halls of the Senate laughing about it.
That is an era that has passed with Senator Kennedy early this morning -- John.
ROBERTS: Certainly you can disagree with someone, John, and still have enormous respect for them. And Senator Kennedy engendered so much respect on Capitol Hill.
And you mentioned the statement from Orin Hatch. It was a while ago that we read it, so I think it bears repeating.
Senator Hatch of Utah, a very conservative senator, such a good friend of Senator Kennedy, who says this morning: "Today, America lost a great elder statesman, a committed public servant and a leader of the Senate. And today, I lost a treasured friend. Ted Kennedy was an iconic, larger than life United States senator whose influence cannot be overstated. Many have come before and many will come after, but Ted Kennedy's name will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate and the work completed within its chamber. In the current climate of today's United States Senate, it is rare to find opportunities where both sides can come together and work in the middle to craft a solution for our country's problems. Ted Kennedy, with all of his ideological verbosity and idealism, was a rare person, who, at times, could put aside differences and look for common solutions. Not many ever got to see that side of him, but as peers and colleagues, we were able to share some of those moments." -- John, you mentioned Jesse Helms and Senator Kennedy.
There we have a very conservative senator, Orin Hatch, who is an extraordinarily good friend of Senator Kennedy.
KING: And those friendships were forged, John, in pitched battles over big things -- the Bork nomination was one on which Senators Hatch and Senator Kennedy has a profound disagreement; raising the minimum wage; the Americans With Disabilities Act; so many other things where they found a way to put aside their ideological differences. Each would have to give maybe once, maybe twice, in a big fight. But they learned to do it. And because they learned to trust and respect each other and understand that while I disagree with you on this, your heart's in the right place, too, so let's try to work this out.
And I think the best thing you could say about Senator Kennedy is that he loved what he did. And it was infectious. Ed Henry talked earlier about the laughter. You would always see the trademark Kennedy smile -- the big teeth and the Kennedy smile.
Something not as well known was he would shuffle around the Capitol, in part, because of dramatic back pain from that plane crash he was in many years ago. And he could barely lift his feet at times, but he would shuffle around the Capitol. And you would hear his feet on the marble floors as he was going down the hall, always grabbing people, saying hello to the young staffers, as well as grabbing a member of the Senate to try to cut another deal or exchange a greeting.
And as has been noted earlier, always somebody with a personal touch that is more and more missing from our politics, not only helping his own family deal with so many tragedies, but reaching out to his colleagues, whether they were Democrats or Republicans, when their families were tested by death and by tragedy and trial, as well.
ROBERTS: John, stay with us.
We've also got Dana Bash, Ed Henry, Dan Lothian with us, and also on the telephone this morning, noted presidential historian Douglas Brinkley joins us.
Doug, it's good to have you with us early this morning.
Your thoughts, if I could ask, on the passing of Senator Kennedy.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, RICE UNIVERSITY: Well, we knew it was coming. He had been so ill for the past year. But it still comes as a little bit of a shock to think that at the end of a -- of an era. I mean he always was living in the shadow, Ted Kennedy, of his brothers, Jack Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. One of the great ironies is that to have a brother that had been attorney general and running for president and have another brother who was president, to end up having a career that's probably equal or matched theirs or perhaps even become larger because of what Ted Kennedy was able to accomplish in the U.S. Senate was mighty, and he was the great liberal fighter. He has had the most organized senate staff, and he was deeply bipartisan when he needed to be without abandoning his support principles and I would put him on that very short list of Americans who will be remembered for champing the poor and the disadvantage, the middle class, the unemployed, workers, all of those of sort liberal ledgers that he like, he was a great light.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You know Doug, I asked Adam Clyver this question a little while ago and I'll put it to you as well and I perhaps should start by saying, it's sort of by asking apparent which one of the children he has loved the most, but what do you think his most important piece of legislation was? What do you think the signature issue of his life and legacy will be?
BRINKLEY: Well certainly, it's going to be health care because he seemed to put so much of his time and energy in trying to help people that should get medical doctors to get them in their lives but the idea of universal health care, that continually championing of Medicaid and Medicare, pushing forward and finding new ways always to try to help people in illness and so I think particularly because he is dying at this time of our national health care debate that side of Ted Kennedy is going to be brought out and he is going to be seen this to some other by the Obama administration and the people that want a health care change and his name is going to be used as a roaring cry so let's get this done for Ted Kennedy. You know, it was funny when Johnson was able to bring the country around the number of John F. Kennedy ideas after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and I think now you're going to see the role with the week long kind of public mourning of Ted Kennedy that is happening and people seeing and learning more about all the little things he did to help people and how he fought for health care for fellow Americans. It's going to like I think end up being what his great legacy is.
ROBERTS: And you know, there were so many light moments and great moments in his life, but there were also dark moments in his life as well Doug and anytime when you examine the life of Senator Kennedy and I know this because I was involved in the biography program on his life, the name Chappaquiddick always comes up.
BRINKLEY: Well, it was the big, dark spot the --, you know, kind of the ague that was tattooed onto his chest. It was just something that he can never fully shed, but he came around it. Not many people wrote his political obituary after Chappaquiddick, but Ted Kennedy managed to get his personal life re-organized, and month by month, year by year, start going back to the job of being a great senator. He gave up aspirations really of making it back to the White House; although, they put it on his mind from time to time and instead he realized, you know what, people like Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, Walter Mondale, you know, "I may end up, in the long-run, being more well known in history, having a greater legacy than those other leading bulls" simply by being known as the lion who roar, who was able to deliver the inspirational speeches that brought in a Goosebumps on people to be able to constantly work for Washington circuit and forced forward and gets legislation drafted and adopted and get bills made to change people's lives through using the power of the senate, and he was able to do that.
ROBERTS: And you know, John King mentioned something about this at our last hour, Doug, and I would like to get your thoughts on it too. His 1992 marriage to Vickie (ph), how much did that change his life?
BRINKLEY: I think it changed dramatically. He became a very happy man and even if he knew her new that this was a great marriage. And that this was - she seemed to bring the laughter back in his voice. I remember once being at a democratic trip in Virginia and he stayed up late playing the piano and signing songs with her and creating in his little kind of bioplaysaria (ph) just a great scene in to see for everybody enjoys the people and Reynold's Lost in love for life (ph), and you know, Vickie was his alter ego and it really -- I think she is a remarkable woman and has been able to pass year to deal with her husband's health and do it with greatly magnanimously and staying out of the public spotlight the best as she could and to know her is to like her, and she ended up being a great asset to Ted Kennedy.
ROBERTS: And you know the other thing Ted Kennedy will forever be associated is the sea, his love of the ocean was pre-eminent in his life even in the final months and weeks and days of his life, he was always down there in the dock. He was always trying to get out on the water. Where did that love for the ocean come from?
BRINKLEY: Well, it came for being a Kennedy in some ways of having Hyannis as such a touch of stone brought in his life. His brother John F. Kennedy loved the Atlantic and to get up there and sail. Remember, John F. Kennedy, because he had his Addison's disease, would often like racing fast and really standing out on the sailboat and getting the pool blast at the wind in his face and I think Ted Kennedy learned to like that same thing. You know, he used to sails trips as the way to kind of talk common sense to people or push forward and I again meaning once you got out in the water and you had your laugh and you are sailing along, suddenly he did a very relax way to open up and talk about some very important things, may be try to help give you direction in your own life. And that was his way where he was very relaxed then it keep the reminiscing of his brother, John F. Kennedy and also with Franklin Roosevelt who often did business the same way.
ROBERTS: All right. Doug when we look at the historical pictures of Senator Kennedy that are rolling on the screen, we see pictures of John Jr. We see the early days with John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and we're reminded again and again just the degree of tragedy that has touched his family over the decades, over the generations, and Senator Kennedy, himself, in 1964 almost fell victims of tragedy in that plane crash.
BRINKLEY: Well that's right. He nearly escaped death that moment, and you know, the Kennedys are national drama. There are so many of these, the younger Kennedys of today. They are doing so much in public service. Carey Kennedy (ph) with human rights and Rory Kennedy making himself standing HBO films, Bobby Kennedy Jr., you know, doing his environmental work. I can go on and on and you just name them and yet, so all of them the person who was the patriarch was Ted Kennedy. He was the person they went to for advice and he really was quite a brother and uncle, and that in that way, the Kennedy family is really losing their mainstay, their lightning house, their go-to-guy in Ted Kennedy and so the loss, I think, is going to be feel particularly hard in - within the family as you watch in the coming weeks because when he was around everything seem like it was okay. That there's you know big lighthouse in the middle of all their lives, and in time now, they won't have nobody to turn to anymore.
ROBERTS: You're looking at it from the family perspective and of course history after Bobby's assassination in 1968, there was Senator Ted Kennedy, the youngest of the children who suddenly became the patriarch of the family.
BRINKLEY: The patriarch is the right word and he truly was and everybody wanted to have a word with him in the family just -- because he was very good at giving advice to people, I mean, I'm not quite sure how people would say he managed his whole life, but I can tell you that he was a great confidant; he was a great Christian to turn to at a time of crises or problem to talk to, maybe it's because he had been through so many problems contributory to himself, the death of his 2 brothers, his near death accident, you know, his sister who had a form of mental illness that the family had to take care of.. He had seen a lot. People like that often can tell you about "how do you recover from low moments?" I know not long ago he brought John Kerry after Kerry lost the 2004 presidential election by such a narrow margin, it was very depressed and it was Kennedy who took Kerry out onto the water again and told him "look, you can really make a difference on health care and other big issues" and tried to kind of charge him up so Senator Kerry did become the fighting senator from Massachusetts and not feel bad he was going to be remembered simply for losing to George Bush.
ROBERTS: You know, Doug, you have written so many books about so many prominent figures in America, political or otherwise. If you had to write the last paragraph of the last page of a book on Senator Kennedy, what do you think you'd say?
BRINKLEY: I think it would deal with the -- about Barack Obama and the way that without the Kennedy endorsement it's not clear Obama could have made it to the nomination and that the big issue that the administration faced was Ted Kennedy. And the pity -- I mean, you know, getting health care through.
And the pity was that during these town hall meetings these past months, Senator Kennedy wasn't in good health to get out there and fight because you know he would have done some magnificent pieces of oratory and tried to rally the country behind universal health care because he believed in it so fully. He had been championing it year after year, even when it wasn't a popular issue.
And I think he would have pulled together and pulled enough clout on the Capital Hill to bring in some of those blue dog Democrats like Senator Conrad from North Dakota, for example, could have maybe gotten them along sooner if he was at his full negotiating power, his full lobbying powers. Unfortunately, he was very ill, and he's -- kind of was taken off the playing field.
Yet in his depth here, I think this fall, the name Ted Kennedy is going to be the rally cry for Democrats and independents who want a new health care package, the Obama-care, as it's being called. And so, I think he'll be a martyr for public health and for universal health care. And it'll be a big part of his legacy.
ROBERTS: Doug Brinkley on the telephone with us, the noted historian. And, Doug, I don't know if you can stay with us. I hope you can. But thanks so much for your time. We really appreciate it.
Doug was talking about President Obama. Our Dan Lothian is on Martha's Vineyard where President Obama is vacationing. He's with us this morning.
And, Dan, it -- as we cross 3:43 eastern time in the morning, have we heard anything from the White House yet? Do you have any idea when we will hear from the White House?
LOTHIAN: No, we still have not heard anything from the White House. And we continue reaching out to administration officials. Perhaps shortly we will get something, either on paper. I've even asked that perhaps the president will come out and make a statement. But we have not heard back yet, John.
But, you know, I want to go back also to another point that had been raised throughout the morning about Ted -- Senator Ted Kennedy being a fighter for what he believed in. But he was also a fighter after he had realized that he had this terminal cancer.
I mean, if you look at it from a medical perspective, you know, he did not have long to live. Perhaps a year is what we were told at the time. It was at the hospital. I remember when he walked out of that hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. And I remember how that fighting spirit that we've been talking about all morning as he fought for various issues for the needy, for the elderly. He was also fighting for his life. And he made it clear as he walked out of that hospital.
He didn't say anything at that point, but he just pumped his fist into the air. He had his full hair at that point. There had been a biopsy that had been done. So there was a little patch on the top of his head. And then later on I was also in North Carolina, Durham, North Carolina, where he underwent surgery. Doctors had a pretty good prognosis. They were able to get a big chunk of that brain tumor.
And again, he always -- every time you got a statement from Senator Kennedy or he spoke on camera, as he often did when he was heading out to head on his boat and sail on the Sound off of Cape Cod, he was always very optimistic. And you sort of got the sense, at least I did, that if anyone could, sort of, defy, sort of, science and what the medical experts are saying out there about this brain tumor, it would be Senator Ted Kennedy because he's always been able to fight for what he wanted and would often get it. And so, you had the sense that, you know, he would be the one who could really defy, you know, the life sentence, if you will, of this brain tumor. In the end sadly though, he did succumb to this brain cancer, will be sadly missed. Waiting to hear what the president will have to say because, as we've been talking about all morning, he is someone who played a critical role in getting President Obama elected and would have played certainly a much bigger role in helping him get health reform done.
ROBERTS: Right. You know, as our Dr. Sanjay Gupta was saying in our last hour, Dan, that the average life expectancy after diagnosis with that malignant glioma, particularly where it was in the parietal lobe of the brain, is about 14 months. So that's about what Senator Kennedy lived from diagnosis to death.
ROBERTS: But just in terms of this debate over health care reform, Dan, though he wasn't a public presence, his voice still was heard very loudly behind the scenes. How closely was he working with the White House to try to get something out there that the Congress could sign onto to that the president could sign?
LOTHIAN: Well, certainly, he was working very closely with (inaudible) when, sort of, this health care reform push really got going at this forum that was at the White House. And that's the last time that we know of that Senator Ted Kennedy visited the White House.
But, you know, it was sort of like a pep rally to get the troops going. And who best to do that than Senator Ted Kennedy? And the last part of his remarks, I think, is what really stands out. And, you know, he said that he would be a foot soldier in this cause, this cause of getting health care reform. And he said this time we will not fail.
And the response that he got from both Democrats and Republicans, from medical experts and others who were in that room was a standing ovation and the president saying that this is the kind of a response that a knight deserves. So, you know, he really had provided a lot of guidance to this administration early on in health care reform and even as he was not feeling well in these last few days, still providing some guidance to the White House on health care reform, certainly, playing a key role behind the scenes. But clearly, if he had been in full health and could have been out in front to help this administration, to work with Democrats who had been fractured over public option and other issues such as costs with health care reform, perhaps the administration would be in a different place now on health care reform. But, as Douglas Brinkley was just talking about a while ago, perhaps in his death that can be, sort of, the rallying cry to help this administration push health care reform through.
ROBERTS: Dan Lothian, who is with us on Martha's Vineyard this morning. Dan, thanks so much. Stay with us.
John King is also with us this morning, our host of our State of the Union program on Sunday mornings who deals with politics every week and has been a fixture there in Washington for some 20 years prowling the halls of Congress as well as the White House. You know, John, you look back over the legacy of Senator Kennedy, and there's so many huge pieces of legislation that stand out: 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1964 Voting Rights Act, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, the No Child Left Behind Act in the early days of the Bush administration, Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan. And you can't accomplish that degree of legislative success without working across party lines.
And even though he was the fierce liberal in the Senate, he had some friends like Orrin Hatch, you had mentioned earlier. Jesse Helms and he were very close. But talk to us, if you would, John, about this idea of him being able to forge ties across party lines in order to get important pieces of legislation passed.
KING: And, John, that very well will be his legacy, the lasting legacy of Edward M. Kennedy, who we lost earlier this evening at the age of 77. He was a champion for those liberal causes. And he was relentless in fighting for them, whether it was to increase the minimum wage, whether it was to protect and help unionize workers across the United States, whether it was the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, follow-ups to those legislation. Health care has been his cause for 47 years now since he replaced his brother, then President John Kennedy, in the United States Senate.
He has been on the sidelines much of the past year, but he will be known as someone who championed his causes, fought relentlessly for them, but all the while looked to get something done because he would rather achieve something than nothing. And so, if he could not get completely his way, even as he publicly called for it, he would constantly reach out across the aisle and negotiate, whether it was with Ronald Reagan back in the early 1980s, George H. W. Bush on a key increase in the minimum wage and the Americans with Disability Act after Ronald Reagan passed from the scene.
Then you had a Democratic administration with Bill Clinton with whom he did serious business. And, of course, he angered many of the liberals in his own party when he did work with George W. Bush more recently on that legislation you spoke of, the No Child Left Behind Education bill, the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Many of his Democratic colleagues thought he gave up too much in those negotiations. But for Senator Kennedy, getting something done was always more important.
Because he would say, and as we've heard now in the health care debate in Washington now, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Forty-seven years in the United States Senate, the youngest of the three brothers of Camelot they were called in the '60s. John F. Kennedy became president, of course, killed by an assassin's bullet. Robert F. Kennedy was to be the Democratic nominee for president, most likely, killed by an assassin's bullet.
And for 41 years since 1968, Edward M. Kennedy had carried on the family name in what he called the dream in fighting in the United States Senate. He failed in a bid to wrest the Democratic presidential nomination from Jimmy Carter back in 1980. He had personal tragedy in his own life. He will forever be scarred -- his legacy will be scarred by the disastrous 1969 accident in Chappaquiddick that took the life of a 19-year-old woman who had worked for his brother, Robert.
But he did rededicate himself in the United States Senate. And in the past 17 years since marrying his wife, Vicky, he was someone who was known always to work across the aisle, someone who became tired of the polarized Washington, D.C., and someone who wanted to try to get things done. And the sadness on this day is that he has passed from the scene at the age of 77 in the middle of the big debate about the issue he cared so much. And I believe we still have Ed Henry with us from Santa Barbara, California.
Ed, our senior White House correspondent who has been watching the president of the United States in his early months in office struggle with what is now his signature domestic initiative. And Ed Henry, as someone who has covered the Congress and now covers the Obama administration at the White House, the legacy of Ted Kennedy will be reflected on by so many in the days to come.
In these early hours, your impression?
I'm sorry. We've lost Ed Henry. We will continue to get him as we marshal our resources. In the hours since we learned this, Senator Edward M. Kennedy dying after more than a year-long battle with brain cancer at the Kennedy retreat, the famous Kennedy retreat in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, there have been statements from Nancy Reagan, the widow, of course, of former President Ronald Reagan, Republican President George H. W. Bush, Republican colleagues in the United States Senate and Democratic colleagues as well, all paying tribute to the legislative legacy, the political legacy of Edward M. Kennedy.
He is, of course, known as the Kennedy we watched grow old. Both of his brothers, of course, his older brothers, as we noted, slain by an assassin's bullet. It was Teddy Kennedy, the Kennedy who became gray, the Kennedy who became in his sixties and then into his seventies. And in this last year, he has spent most of that year at Hyannis Port, where he loved to sail a 50-foot schooner. The Maya, was his schooner, a 50-foot sailboat that he loved to sail.
And even in his later days when his wife, Vicky, so protected him, would not let many people get near him because his condition was deteriorating. And she did not want people talking about that in his final days. He loved to get on the Maya and sail out in the waters off Hyannis Port, sailing out to Nantucket, out to Martha's Vineyard in the majestic waters off Cape Cod he loved so much.
And Kiran Chetry and John Roberts with us now in New York. And as we reflect on the political legacy, I would say to both of you all so that the personal side of Ted Kennedy, how he was the glue, Uncle Teddy, he is known across the Kennedy family, who helped bury his mother, deal with the tragedy of his brothers, obviously, the tragedy of John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s plane crashing in those very same waters, Jackie Kennedy Onassis in her eulogy -- he was someone who was known incredibly well in Washington. But to his family, to those who know him best, the Kennedy family, Uncle Teddy was the glue, the constant glue that kept that family together. ROBERTS: Yes, John, as Doug Brinkley, the noted historian, was telling us just a few minutes ago, that after the assassination of his brother, Bobby, he really did assume the mantle of the patriarch of the Kennedy family.
As you said, Kiran Chetry is with us this morning. She's joined us now.
Good morning to you.
CHETRY: Good morning. You know, it was one of those things we got the call this morning we had expected. We knew that he was not doing well. And as you pointed out earlier, the time from diagnosis to passing away when you have that type of brain tumor is about a little -- outside of a year. And that's what we are dealing with here with Senator Kennedy's passing this morning.
It was a very interesting, though. One of the things I was reminded of is his return to the Senate to cast that health care vote and to make sure he was there, despite the fact that he was ill and suffering. He wanted to be there. And, of course, he came to a hero's welcome when he entered the chambers.
ROBERTS: Yes, we've been talking about this idea of the passion that he shows, the desire that he shows to always be a part of the big issue and how he returned for the inauguration of President Obama, suffered a seizure during a luncheon after the inauguration, how in a year ago to his death he appeared at the Democratic National Convention in Denver to give that speech. And right up until the last moment, there was questions as to whether or not he was actually going to be able to make it.
And in the final days, you know, the health care was such a signature and passionate issue of his, that even in the final days of his life, he was reaching out to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to say is it possible to have a change in law which stipulates that somewhere between 145 and 160 days after a Senate seat is vacated there is a special election to replace the departing senator. Could the law be adjusted so that there is an interim appointment that's made to keep that seat filled? Senator Kennedy did not want to lose one iota of momentum here in the fight for health care reform.
So far no word yet on whether or not the law will be changed. But some people who were against it, including the Senate president there in Massachusetts, now perhaps warming to the idea of a change in the law. But there are questions as to whether or not that would actually be usurping democracy. Even the New York Times had an editorial yesterday that suggested that that would be going against the will of the voters who voted some years ago for that change.
CHETRY: Right. And it was in...
ROBERTS: So that no longer was the appointment (ph) a special election.
CHETRY: Right. And the interesting thing is it was changed back in 2004 because it was then Senator John Kerry that could have possibly won the presidency. And so, he would have been able to -- Mitt Romney, who was the GOP governor at the time, would have been able to appoint somebody to that seat. So it was changed back then.
And now, interestingly enough, they need every seat in the Senate to pass health care reform if a bill is finally hammered out, a compromise bill and it goes through. And I think that's what Senator Kennedy was getting at, is that, you know, you can't spare even a single vote. And so, if possible, he wanted his seat to be there and two senators represented from Massachusetts.
ROBERTS: Right. It was Senator Byrd also ailing -- there's another vote that's not there in the Senate. But certainly, you know, he worked -- even though he wasn't out there in the public eye, he worked tirelessly behind the scenes on this signature issue, the one that he has called the cause of his life. And I can't say the Democrats will pick up his passing as a rallying cry to try to get this through the House and the Senate. But there is always the possibility of that.
CHETRY: Absolutely. And one of the other interesting things, as you talked about whether or not this was going to happen and whether or not there was going to be someone appointed, this law would be changed to give Deval Patrick, of course, a supporter of Barack Obama, as Kennedy was, this replacement seat. They say that the lawmakers aren't expected to return to formal sessions until after Labor Day. Whether they would call a special session or be able to do that before that is not known. So we're still probably a couple of weeks away from knowing whether or not that happens.
ROBERTS: Right. Ed Henry is still with us this morning.
And, Ed, when we talk about Senator Kennedy's signature issue -- and Doug Brinkley thought that that would be the lasting legacy of his life, his fight for health care reform and what he called the cause of his life -- where does all of that stand now as we're about two-thirds of the way through the August recess?
HENRY: Well, certainly, the president's effort to make Senator Kennedy's dream a reality is very much on hold right now. It's very much struggling. And obviously, we're going to be talking in the next few days about whether Senator Kennedy's legacy will be something that helps push this across the finish line against the odds.
It's too soon to tell, obviously, in these early hours. But there's no doubt that, given the fact that he was pushing for universal health care back in the early '60s long before many, many others joined the cause, is going to be an inspiration to many, especially on the left to say, look, now is the time to get it done. You'll remember that at that March ceremony at the White House when the president kicked off this health reform effort and Senator Kennedy came there with a cane. He wasn't in great shape. But he looked relatively good under the circumstances.
He gave a very brief speech. His voice was wavering. But he ended it with something to the effect of this time we're going to get it done. And so far, it has not gotten off on the right foot. It has not gone the way this White House wanted it to.
But perhaps now this will, in part, refocus their efforts to get it done. Right now, though, it's in deep, deep trouble.
CHETRY: And John King also still with us right now as well as Dan Lothian.
And, John, I want to ask you about where he stood. Did anybody know exactly how he felt -- Senator Kennedy -- about the way the debate was going, some of the misinformation that was out there, some of the talk about death panels and also whether or not a public option was something that would even be able to happen realistically pass Congress?
KING: (AUDIO GAP) magazine back a couple of months ago. That was before the discussion of these so-called death panels or the debate about those. And there's no such thing in the legislation. But there is some provision about how you could possibly have end of life consultations.
The public option debate went off the tracks, if you will, after that essay. Although Senator Kennedy in the essay did talk about how he thought it was necessary to have some competition and choice. Those were the buzz words, if you will, to defend the public option.
What is interesting is that we have such little direct knowledge of what he thought of the final days of this. The only person I know who was directly involved in this debate who had any substantial time with Senator Kennedy in his final months was the man who took the helm of his committee, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, who not only took over the committee for Ted Kennedy, but is one of his closest friends, perhaps his very closest friend in the United States Senate.
And he did go up to Hyannis Port. And he did have dinner in the early summer months -- I believe it was June -- with Vicky and Ted Kennedy up at Hyannis Port. And Senator Dodd has said little about how Senator Kennedy's health and condition was at that time. He has said that Senator Kennedy told him to stick to the fight and to get it done and that he hoped to return to be part of the fight later in the United States Senate.