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CNN NEWSROOM

Senator Ted Kennedy Hospitalized

Aired May 17, 2008 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: They're reporting it last October where they were able to do what the hospital called routine procedures to unclog an artery in his neck. And at the time there was a lot of interest from people here in the area, concerned about his health.
We talked to some of the people around the hospital; people have been gathered around watching all the cameras, trying to find out what's going on. They're also expressing their concern and hoping that he is well. We continue to wait with all of those here who certainly look up to him waiting to find out what his condition is.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Dan Lothian thanks so much. Of course, we're going to check back with you there outside of Massachusetts General Hospital where the hospital is expected to make a statement momentarily about the condition of Senator Kennedy. Thank you, Dan.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: We want to tell you all we are here preempting our show you might normally see at this hour "YOUR MONEY" so we can bring you information about this breaking story we're getting about the health of Senator Ted Kennedy.

Again, a political icon with that iconic name, a giant really in politics in this country, has been taken to the hospital, rushed to the hospital this morning with symptoms that was synonymous with a stroke.

We haven't gotten official word about whether or not his condition is exactly but we are getting information that he has had stroke-like symptoms. We did get official word from the family he is under evaluation at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.

We are waiting for the word about exactly his -- what his condition is. We are getting different statements. One from Senator McCain, also another from Barack Obama who of course Senator Kennedy has endorsed, just giving their well wishes and hoping that things are going to work out. We will get into their statements here in just a moment.

Also, our Bill Schneider is with us now, he is joining us from Boston now. Bill, as you watch this, it's hard to ignore. We don't know what's going to happen but hard to ignore how much of a giant he is in American politics and how much of a role he is still playing in American politics and also in this current campaign with Barack Obama.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. When he endorsed Barack Obama, I think it was in late January, it was a magic moment. For Obama, he had the blessing of the most senior, most influential Democrat in Congress.

It was clearly a blow to Senator Hillary Clinton who expected at least that Ted Kennedy might remain neutral. She went on to carry the Massachusetts primary on February 5th, which looked like a bit of a rebuke to Senator Kennedy. Although they weren't voting on him, they were voting between Clinton and Obama.

Nevertheless, his blessing to Barack Obama was crucially important for Obama because it meant senior Democrats had confidence in this young senator and Ted Kennedy is the most influential, most senior of Democrats, that they had confidence in him and it really meant a great deal in enhancing his stature in the Democratic Party. It was a key moment in the Obama campaign.

HOLMES: And again, Obama, we have heard from today, talking about he's thoughts and prayers being with the family today. Called him the giant in American political history, talked about how much he has done. Said this from Barack Obama, that I insist, Barack Obama, I insist on being optimistic about how it's going to turn out.

He also says he has talked to some of the family members, hoping everything is going to be OK. Our Dana Bash also with us. Bill, don't you go anywhere you stay with us here.

And also our Dana Bash is on the line, has been following this story for us this morning as well. You are hearing from the McCain camp. We're hearing statements from several people now about the condition of this -- about this senator and their thoughts and prayer being with him. What is McCain saying?

VOICE OF DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A statement from Senator McCain through his campaign and I'll just read it to you. And it says, "I was very sorry to hear that Senator Kennedy has taken ill and like millions of Americans, Cindy and I anxiously await word of his condition. Senator Kennedy's role in the U.S. Senate cannot be over stated.

He is a legendary lawmaker and I have the highest respect for him. We have worked together; he has been a skillful, fair and generous partner. I consider it a great privilege to call him my friend. Cindy and I are praying for our friend, his wife Vicki, and the Kennedy family."

That's a statement from Senator John McCain.

Very interesting and very telling in terms of the kind of thing that has been talked about all morning, which is that, yes, Senator Kennedy is known as one of the most if not the most leading liberal Democratic senators in the country, maybe even in history.

But he's also known if you covered the senator and watch him do his job on a daily basis, known as somebody who does reach across the aisle, frankly sometimes he does it so much that some of his fellow Democrats aren't very happy with him sometimes. For example, on the No Child Left Behind, the education bill, for example, that is one of the first things he helped President Bush get accomplished. John McCain, for example, you heard in this statement, that he just released talked about the fact that he and Senator Kennedy have worked together and they have on some important and yet controversial issues.

For example, Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Senator John McCain and Senator Ted Kennedy were two of the people who really helped negotiate that ill-fated bill but it was something that John McCain did with Senator Kennedy. If you remember, just in terms of politics here, the picture of John McCain standing behind Senator Kennedy at the press conference when they announced the immigration deal.

That was one of the things that really hurt John McCain in the Republican primaries, the picture of John McCain with Ted Kennedy, talking about a picture telling a thousand words. If you're a conservative Republican and you see that picture, you, you know, you kind of hold your nose.

But it's the kind of thing that does give an example and illustrate what has gone on with Senator Kennedy over the past decades and Senator McCain in his statement that he released today rally tried to show that -- tried to make clear that the two of them are good friends beside the fact that they stand on separate sides of the aisle.

HOLMES: We want to remind our viewers we're awaiting a statement from the hospital there. We understand that Senator Ted Kennedy is right now, the 76-year-old, again, this morning having symptoms consistent with a stroke, had to be taken to the hospital. He was at his home in the Kennedy compound in Hyannis port, Massachusetts, taken to the Cape Cod Hospital and then transferred to the larger Massachusetts General Hospital there in Boston.

And Bill Schneider our political analyst still with us here as well. And Bill, Dana kind of hit on this. He may be even the most liberal in history to be in the U.S. Senate and certainly has that reputation of being that liberal lion as we've been talking about this morning.

But also someone that people know, Republicans know they can deal with and they can work with. How has he done over the years? He came into the Senate filling a seat that his brother left after being elected president.

Did he -- I don't want to say run from that Kennedy name, trying to find if you will, his own way or -- because the Kennedy name always comes with a certain amount of mystique, if you will. But now, is he seen still carrying on that mystique, I guess, of that Kennedy name or is this someone that everybody just views now as a formidable opponent whose last name happens to be Kennedy?

SCHNEIDER: My audio is not entirely clear but I think you're talking about the Kennedy mystique which he brought with him, assumed his brother's seat in the 1962. And he's had a long career. Of course, he's been the leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate for so many years.

The bad years, so to speak, the years when mostly Republicans were elected to the presidency. And as a result, he has assumed the role of being spokesman for the Democratic tradition, the great Democratic tradition in the face of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and George Bush and now the current president George W. Bush.

Throughout all those years, the lean years for Democrats, the one person that Democrats have always turned to be the voice of their history, their tradition, their conscious, has been Ted Kennedy. Now, the irony, of course, is he ran for president himself in 1980.

He chose a bad year to do it. He was running against an incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter. The party was divided, of course, in 1980. A lot of people compare this year's division to the division in 1980. You may remember that Ted Kennedy took his fight with Jimmy Carter all of the way to the convention that year. And demanded a plank on anti-recession jobs program that the Democrats did not pass.

Nevertheless, he has remained the conscience of the party throughout this entire period when the Republicans were in office and the one thing we do remember that really kept the Kennedy mystique alive were some of his great speeches.

His speech at his brother's funeral when he broke down and his speech at the end of the 1980 Democratic convention when he talked about the dream and the hope that will not die when he made a very dramatic and eloquent statement that his has remained one of the great mythical speeches in Democratic Party history.

HOLMES: And Bill, he has been at this for some -- at this a while in the Senate, some 40 years, as we've been saying this morning. Has there been any indication. I know I guess this current term, isn't going to be done for another several years. Was there any indication that he was going to keep going or he was ready to retire when this term was up?

SCHNEIDER: Every indication that I can tell is that he intends to keep going and going and serve as long as he can. There have been senators serving well into their 90s. He's 76 years old. But there's every indication, every six years the question is raised, is he going to run for another term. He does and he wins handedly even in 1994, very bad year for Democrats when he was being challenged by Mitt Romney.

Everyone thought, my God, could a Kennedy lose in Massachusetts? He beat Mitt Romney quite handedly, so that in the end, you know, people expect this senator to go just as long as he is physically able to do it. We hope he is for a long time. We're awaiting word from the hospital any moment now about his condition.

HOLMES: We certainly do hope he can continue this for some time. He certainly keeps things interesting and fiery up there on Capitol Hill. Again, Bill Schneider there with us from Boston. We know you're standing by. And we appreciate you lending a hand for us this morning on this afternoon now, this story we have been watching since this morning.

Senator Ted Kennedy in the hospital right now under evaluation, according to his office, because of symptoms he had to go to the hospital for this morning that were similar to symptoms you would have if you were having a stroke. No official word yet from the hospital, however, but that could change shortly.

WHITFIELD: No statement from the hospital yet but we have received a number of statements from other parties who have been interested in his welfare. That being his family, which we mentioned earlier, which described that he is being evaluated and the examination is under way. You mentioned the John McCain statement and that was read as well.

And then, of course, Senator Obama has released yet another statement. He has remarked earlier this morning, clearly Senator Kennedy has been campaigning hard for his choice for president, Senator Obama, and just recently got another statement from Senator Obama saying "I know a lot of you are interested in this situation with Senator Kennedy. I have been in contact with the family. Obviously they are in our thoughts and prayers.

I am sure they will be releasing some sort of statement when they have a better assessment of what the situation is. You know as I have said many times before, Ted Kennedy is a great giant in American political history. He has done more for the health care of others than just about anybody in history and so we are going to be rooting for him and I insist on being an optimistic about how it's going to turn out."

The statement from Barack Obama there in Eugene, Oregon.

Of course, we continue to await the statement now coming from Massachusetts General Hospital which continues to evaluate the senator. We're going to be right back with much more here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

HOLMES: Hello, I'm T.J. Holmes.

We are following a breaking and slow-moving story if you will. Tough to get information on this but we are learning more about what is happening this morning to Senator Ted Kennedy.

WHITFIELD: That's right, Senator Ted Kennedy serving the U.S. in that senatorial role since 1962, now admitted this morning into Massachusetts General Hospital. That after initially being taken to Cape Cod Hospital because he was spending the weekend at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. Suffering from what his family is describing as stroke-like symptoms. The family has since released a statement underscoring indeed that Senator Kennedy went to Cape Cod Hospital this morning after feeling ill at his home.

After discussion with his doctors in Boston, Senator Kennedy was sent to Massachusetts General Hospital for further examination. Again, I'm reading the statement put out by his family. And then it continues on to say he is currently under evaluation and information will be released as it becomes available. Indeed, we're awaiting information to be released from the hospital itself. A statement is to be made momentarily. Of course, when that happens we will carry that live.

Meantime, Kevin Cohen is a columnist at "The Boston Globe" and he has known him for some 25 years.

HOLMES: Kevin Cohen we are getting on the line. We also want to turn now; we've been keeping up with the progress of our Dan Lothian who has been on the road heading to the hospital there at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dan Lothian has now made it to the hospital. Tell us what new information you've been able to learn about the condition of the senator but also just the scene out there at the hospital.

LOTHIAN: We're still waiting for that spokesperson to come out and talk to us. I was talking to Fredricka and I mentioned how sometimes when they tell you they're coming out in a couple of minutes it can turn into a couple of hours.

We're still waiting for the information to come from a spokesperson here at the hospital. Just about three minutes or so ago Senator John Kerry arrived at the hospital. He pulled up in a blue van. He was -- someone else was with him. I did not see who that person was. He did not come over to where the cameras are which is right across the street but he walked quickly into the hospital.

We know Senator John Kerry coming here to visit Senator Kennedy. We don't know if he's actually just going into the room to visit with Senator Kennedy or perhaps just going to be with the family members. But we can confirm that Senator John Kerry has come here to Mass General Hospital.

Also we were talking about some of the color that was happening here at the hospital, a lot of the local television stations are here. A lot of people have gathered around asking what's going on. When they hear what's happening you will hear things like that's sad that someone we've looked up to.

I was talking to a 74-year-old man, Jerry Lenox, who said he has known Senator Kennedy now for many, many years. He said, you know, I know him and I feel like I have a connection to him. He says when he heard he's in the hospital, he says, I'm saying a prayer for him and I feel very sad for him. That's a little bit of the color that's happening here at the hospital as we wait for more information to come out from in side.

HOLMES: That's something you can speak a little more on because you know Boston well, up in that area, and live in that area. You tell us, no matter what side of the political fence you fall on, a lot of people, he has just been such a part of politics in that state that, that area for such a long time, that a lot of people have a great affinity for him no matter if they agree with his politics or not.

LOTHIAN: That's right. The man I was talking to said he really is sort of an icon. We said why, he said, he's a Kennedy. He is an icon. That's a way a lot of people do feel about him here. You're right, you can certainly be on the other side of the political spectrum from a Kennedy but certainly there is a lot of respect for him here. The gentleman I was talking to, the 74-year-old, said he's done a lot for seniors. He's been supportive of seniors and issues that seniors care so much about. That's one of the reasons that he says he cares for him so much.

HOLMES: All right. Our Dan Lothian who has made it there to the scene, Massachusetts General Hospital, where Senator Ted Kennedy, from the state of Massachusetts, 76-years-old has been taken there now because he complained of symptoms of a stroke. We do not have official word about his condition, awaiting for the hospital spokesperson to come out to give us a statement on that. When we get it I know Dan Lothian is there on the scene and will bring that to us this morning. Dan, we appreciate that.

WHITFIELD: T.J., we're getting more statements from people reacting to the news that Senator Kennedy is being hospitalized from his niece, Maria Shriver, who is the first lady of California. She says in this statement, Senator Kennedy is in the thoughts and prayers of the first lady are coming from her office. The chief of staff from Maria Schriver saying Senator Kennedy is in the thoughts and prayers of the first lady and the governor. They appreciate the prayers and the messages that they have received.

Also a statement now coming in from the campaign trail, from Senator Hillary Clinton. She says that my thoughts and prayer prayers are with Ted Kennedy and his family today. We all wish him well and a quick recovery.

Jim Acosta also on the campaign trail. He is coming out of Portland, Oregon. He's been following Senator Obama's camp and he's been crisscrossing the state there.

Earlier, Jim, we heard from Senator Obama who described the senator in many ways as being a real leader in American politics and someone who is a real leader in the fight against health care for others as well. What more do you know about how the camp is responding to Senator Ted Kennedy and how much Senator Ted Kennedy has been campaigning for Senator Obama?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, Barack Obama made those comments about Ted Kennedy as he stopped at a hospital of all places in Eugene, Oregon, earlier today. And you mentioned much of what Barack Obama said, talked about Ted Kennedy as being one of his favorite people and for good reason Ted Kennedy gave Barack Obama's campaign a real injection of legitimacy within the liberal circles of the Democratic Party, right before Super Tuesday.

You'll remember Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy; both gave that big rousing speech there at American University in Washington, D.C. And it was notable because Ted Kennedy took the stage and borrowed a line from Hillary Clinton's campaign at that time, ready on day one, saying that he thought Barack Obama was ready on day one.

Here's Ted Kennedy at that announcement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED KENNEDY, (D-MA): I'm proud to stand with him here today and offer my help, offer my voice, offer my energy, my commitment to make Barack Obama the next president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And just an aside, when Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy, and you see them there with Patrick Kennedy there at that event at American University there in Washington, D.C. with Barack Obama, on that same day I was actually following the Clinton campaign, was with Senator Clinton who is in Massachusetts that day, of all places, campaigning. She ended up winning that state. It was noticeable, it was palpable, and you could feel the effect of the Kennedy endorsement for Barack Obama on the Clinton campaign that day.

The Clinton campaign looking very much deflated that day. Obviously she rebounded in many ways, winning several primaries after all of that went down. But as I was working that story that day, I talked to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the phone and he is actually one of the Kennedy clan members who endorsed Hillary Clinton. And it's interesting to note that Robert Kennedy repeatedly referred to his Uncle Teddy during that telephone call and Caroline Kennedy if you hear her out on the trail also refers to Ted Kennedy as Uncle Teddy.

When you hear the Kennedy clan talk about Senator Ted Kennedy, they're not just referring to the senior senator from Massachusetts; they're talking about somebody who has been very much a father figure to the surviving children of both the late president and the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy from New York -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK. Very interesting moments there, particularly in that primary involving Massachusetts and the split of the family going different ways for Obama and for Clinton. And then even though as powerful as Senator Kennedy is, Bill Schneider earlier pointing out as strong and as powerful, influential as he is, that state still went to Senator Clinton. Jim Acosta thank you so much -- T.J.

HOLMES: We will continue to watch the scene outside the hospital, Massachusetts General in Boston where the senator has been taken, we understand he is now. We do have video here and word we just got from our Dan Lothian. What you're seeing here, you can't make it out but they're on the right.

That gray-haired gentleman, the taller gentleman is Senator John Kerry. Former Democratic nominee and also the junior senator from the state of Massachusetts serving there in the Senate alongside Senator Ted Kennedy, certainly two very close friends there arriving there at the hospital to check on, again, like Dan said, not sure if he's there to speak with Senator Ted Kennedy, not sure if he's there to be with the family, just to show of support.

We can confirm and as we see there in these pictures that; in fact, Senator John Kerry has arrived there at the hospital, Massachusetts General. Again, still awaiting word from a hospital official. We've been waiting for some time now. Again, our Dan Lothian is on the scene, told us, sometimes they're told it will be a couple of minutes and sometimes you are waiting a couple of hours. A live picture we're expecting the hospital officials to come out and address the media. Not sure what information we might get. We will get hard facts; we will get hard information about what his condition is and how he is.

Not sure how much it will be allowed to say, how much the family is allowing them to say. But we do expect something more concrete word by confirmation. Yes, he is there in the hospital. We also have with us someone who has known the senator for some 25 years. This is someone who has had to cover him for some 25 years on and off. Kevin Cohen (ph) at "The Boston Globe" is on the line with me now.

Mr. Cohen, I appreciate you giving us some time. Of course, we have so many people in the business that we cover on a day-to-day basis over years and years. You can't help, no matter what you're not there to have an opinion about them but sometimes you form these relationships. You tell me, overall that time, tell me on a personal level just how -- what your thoughts are hearing this news about the senator.

KEVIN COHEN, "THE BOSTON GLOBE:" Well, T.J., the one thing that strikes me is that I saw Teddy last week and I think I reported back to a number of people after the meeting we had, just the talk we had, that Teddy seemed healthier and more energized than he had the last time I saw him down in D.C. like two months before that. He had lost a little weight. He was clearly taking better care of himself.

And when I asked -- I made some remark to him just jokingly. I said you look better you look like you're losing weight. He said he had to get fighting fit because he was going to be working for Obama, is the way he looked at it.

There's a certain point that he also, I don't know what the medical condition is. I talked to a couple of people that are -- were down there in Hyannis Port when this happened and they describe stroke-like symptoms but I mean, if it turns out to be a stroke, you know, it's the same place where his father had a stroke, where Joe Kennedy Sr. was incapacitated for a long time before he died. There's a real certain thing for the way this is unfolding.

HOLMES: Kevin, over the years we heard from a couple our correspondents this morning that the wait always kind of seem to be an issue, used to fluctuate. You could tell when he was having weight issues. Was that the health issue you really saw him fight with over the years? Did that seem to be the only real health issue? We know we had a surgery last year to remove some blockage in an artery. Did that seem to be the thing that was concerning to him over the years?

COHEN: I'm not a doctor, but I mean, Teddy was no spring chicken either. I mean he's 77. He had a bad back. His knees have been acting up on him. He's 77. And you know so but obviously wait for anybody at that age has got to be an issue. Like I said, I don't know pounds he dropped but he definitely dropped some pounds in the last few months. He had a lot more energy. I saw Kennedy live two weeks ago when the Irish prime minister was doing his victory lap through America, Teddy hosted the last day in America.

You could see a -- literally a bounce in his step. He was in much better physical condition. And I think he was mentally sharper than -- not that he has had any kind of mental drop off but he was really sharp this day. And so that's the thing that is so striking to me, T.J. it's just that just last week when I saw him, he looked better than he had in months.

HOLMES: Again, we're on the line here with Kevin Cohen, "The Boston Globe" columnist, covered him on and off. You said as well, of course you know a lot of people covering him all these years, connected to the Kennedy family, connected to that area. You said you've been of the line about these symptoms that he had. Have you been able to talk to anyone to describe his condition, how he was, if or whether what any of these symptoms might have been?

COHEN: No I haven't. It is like I said, I would stress the little information I have about it came from non-medical people. So they were just describing what they saw and also in some case what's they heard. So I wouldn't -- like I said, nothing's been confirmed. I wouldn't feel comfortable describing any of the physical conditions.

HOLMES: All right. Again, Kevin Cohen, sir, I appreciate you giving us some time this morning and perspective on the experience that you've had with the senator over these 25 years. Again, Kevin Cohen with "The Boston Globe" a columnist there for the paper. Thank you so much for your time this morning -- this afternoon now.

WHITFIELD: Of course, the optimism perhaps might grow among many of the people who know if Senator Ted Kennedy, hearing information from one source close to the family, telling one of our CNN reporters here, correspondents here, saying that the family members are telling some of their friends they are guardedly optimistic, that Senator Kennedy will be fine.

Which really does kind of sing in concert with one of the sources close to the family telling our Ed Henry earlier today who is traveling with the president overseas, telling him that Senator Kennedy actually made a phone call at about 10:00 a.m. this morning from the hospital there at Massachusetts General, which would be about two hours after that initial 911 call, that he actually called family friend saying I'm not going to be able to make it to that luncheon this afternoon. That would be nice.

We are awaiting officially from the hospital at Massachusetts General, a statement about the condition of Senator Kennedy as you see -- as he is admitted there and being treated and the family saying he is being evaluated, there examined there at the hospital. When that statement takes place, we will bring to it you live. We are going to take a short break for now here in the NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hello and welcome back to the NEWSROOM, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

HOLMES: Hello there, I'm T.J. Holmes.

We are of course following a breaking story today about the health of Senator Ted Kennedy who is right now we understand is at the hospital, Boston Massachusetts General Hospital after reporting of symptoms that were similar or synonymous with a stroke today.

WHITFIELD: That's right. We are now awaiting an official statement coming from Massachusetts General Hospital. We've heard various reports from various family members, people close to the Kennedy camp saying that they are optimistic and they're hopeful and that according to the family, he is, indeed being examined at the hospital and evaluated. But that's all we know right now.

We continue to wait for the official word from the hospital there. Of course, our own Dan Lothian is there outside the hospital. He'll be able to bring us the latest reports as well. When that official statement takes place, we'll be able to bring that to you. T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Our Ed Henry, is on stand by is back up with us right now. Ed Henry is not up but he is reporting from -- for us today. Our Ed Henry who has been helping us out with this story. He is in Egypt with the President but still doing some reporting on this story from his sources.

He is getting word from some sources that, in fact, they are optimistic, getting with the word from some family members telling that they are guardedly optimistic about what is happening right now and expecting that he is doing much better, the Senator Ted Kennedy doing much better.

The source is saying that they are expecting a full recovery. Again, this is coming from our Ed Henry who has been working his sources again from Egypt. Ed Henry was the one, Fredricka, telling us earlier and we all kind of just had to smile a little bit after hearing that he had to be taken to the hospital around 8:00 this morning and then around 10:00 he was canceling his own lunch plans in a very business like manner.

WHITFIELD: He was actually picking up the phone, according to Ed Henry, and making the call. Very encouraging.

HOLMES: If this also would maybe be in line of seeing a pattern of statements here, sources telling us that maybe had a scare or whatever it may be. He's possibly going to be OK. Our Bill Schneider is with us still from Boston today who is, of course, our political analyst who has been covering politics for quite some time. I guess possible some -- maybe encouraging signs from some of these statements and some of the information trickling out here, Bill Schneider. Tell us about this man, this beast of politics here in the U.S. He's certainly played a role in this political season. We talked about him and Obama and how he turned the tide from Obama, kind of helped that campaign to skyrocket. If he is out of the fray, even if he has to not campaign as hard, could that still have an impact on this campaign for Obama?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he's done his part, which is in January he gave his blessing to Senator Obama just before the Massachusetts primary, which Obama did not win. That was a bit of embarrassment for Senator Kennedy. Massachusetts voted for Hillary Clinton. I'm sure Senator Kennedy is fine with Hillary Clinton but he had endorsed Senator Obama.

But Obama, that endorsement meant the blessing of the Democratic establishment. There is no more revered figure in the Democratic Party establishment than Teddy Kennedy, who is a liberal lion of the senate, who has been in the senate since 1962 when he took his brother's seat, and when he gave his blessing to Barack Obama in an emotional and dramatic rally at American University in Washington, that was a breakthrough moment for Obama because it meant that the establishment of the Democratic Party was embracing him, they said he was OK and he began to take off big time.

It was a great disappointment, of course, to Senator Clinton who herself was an establishment figure. Her husband, of course, had been president of the country for two terms. But the embrace of Senator Obama, that was the role that Ted Kennedy played and will continue to play even if he cannot actively participate any more in this campaign. And of course, we hope he can.

HOLMES: There are several members of -- I mean, I guess you could call heads of the Democratic Party. Some, certainly Obama as you see there in that picture, he's taking a role of heading up the Democratic Party. You have Bill Clinton out there, Vice President Gore; you have so many others who are seen as leaders of the Democratic Party.

But the Democratic establishment which could be kind of something a little different than the Democratic Party itself. When people think Democratic establishment, liberal establishment, left wing, is it fair to call Senator Ted Kennedy the head of that wing, that Democratic wing if you will, that liberal wing of this party? He is the establishment Democrat.

SCHNEIDER: He's the conscience of the Democratic Party. When Democrats talk about the greatest president they will always talk about John F. Kennedy. Just like Republicans talk about Ronald Reagan. For Republicans, Ronald Reagan, 1980, was the year won. For Democrats, 1960 was the year won. Kennedy of course committed the party to the Civil Rights Movement. That was the beginning of the modern era of the Democratic Party. His tragic murder, of course, was a great trauma for the party.

And Democrats ever since 1960 have been saying what we need in this party is another Kennedy, another Jack Kennedy. Ted Kennedy himself ran for president in 1980. He picked a bad year to run because he had to run against the incumbent Democratic president, Jimmy Carter. He was unable in a famous interview with Roger Mudd; he was unable to articulate well his reasons for challenging an incumbent Democratic president and, of course, lost the Democratic primaries that year.

I can't remember a time -- I don't think anyone has ever beaten an incumbent president in his own party. Reagan tried it in 1976, Kennedy tried it in 1980. It's difficult to do, through all the bad times. This is the key. Through Presidents Nixon and Ford and Reagan and the first President Bush and now the second President Bush, when Democrats seem unable to win the White House, the voice of the Democratic Party, it is tradition, its conscience, was always Ted Kennedy.

HOLMES: Yeah. We want to pass along here, too, reset for our viewers what's happening here. We're watching the situation this morning with Senator Ted Kennedy, 76-year-old senior member of the U.S. Senate, liberal lion as he's been described.

Right now in the hospital at Massachusetts. The word was this morning from sources that he was suffering what they described as symptoms synonymous with a stroke. Wire just reporting now from the Associated Press, again, Associated Press wire saying a spokeswoman saying that Senator Ted Kennedy is hospitalized after suffering a seizure.

Again, that word is coming to us from the Associated Press, that a spokesman telling the A.P. that Ted Kennedy is hospitalized after suffering a seizure this morning. So we will still awaiting word there at the hospital for a spokesperson for the hospital to come out. We've been waiting for this it seems like, Fredricka, about an hour or so now. Our Dan Lothian has made it to the scene. He is there trying to collect information.

Still waiting for a spokesperson to come out and give us information and tell us exactly what his condition is and what happened to him, whatever the family might allow them to say. But we're waiting on that word. Until now, it's been a lot of speculation and sources and, again, the symptoms of a stroke. Nobody said he had a stroke, just symptoms of a stroke. But now according to the A.P. at least, spokeswoman says he suffered a seizure.

WHITFIELD: We're waiting for clarity from the Massachusetts General Hospital which will happen momentarily. As we continue to work all our sources not just there in Boston and other places stateside, it means taking you a broad as well. Our Ed Henry, White House correspondent is traveling with the president who is in Egypt meeting with Arab leaders.

The real headline right now that our Ed Henry is working on is this matter with Senator Ted Kennedy. Ed Henry has a number of sources that are close with this family and it is encouraging to hear, Ed, not just from your report earlier this morning, but a little trickling of some of your reporting coming throughout the morning is that this family is guardedly optimistic as a result of what they're learning. Try and describe what you're hearing exactly from them.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. Two sources now close to the Kennedy family say that they're telling friends that they're guardedly optimistic, that he is going to recover. It's still early. They still want to wait for all the medical evaluations. These two sources are saying the family is optimistic that the senator is going to recover.

One of the sources in particular told me that Senator Kennedy is doing, quote, much better than he had been doing this morning and this person added the family is expecting a, quote, full recovery. You remember we reported in the last hour that at one of these sources close to the family said that Senator Kennedy had actually placed a phone call to another family member about mid morning after he had already been in the emergency room in Cape Cod to say he would not be able to make a luncheon that he was supposed to be hosting near his own home.

I can tell you a lot of family members and friends I'm told are still gathering around that neighborhood there and basically going ahead with this luncheon. It's a luncheon for the Best Buddies Charity. Something the Kennedy family has been very closely involved in. It's run by Anthony Shriver, Kennedy family member, obviously. Members of the Shriver family, friends of the Kennedy family, they're there still celebrating this luncheon.

The fact that Senator Kennedy himself placed a phone call to a family member saying he couldn't make the luncheon gave some family members as little bit of peace in thinking that while he had some sort of a medical condition, he was lucid enough to place that phone call after he had already been in the emergency room.

And since that phone call, I'm now told, family members are telling friends that they're expecting the senator to have a full recovery because he's doing much better. They did not have that information about the seizure but they are still saying its stroke- like symptoms. We'll have to compare those two things. They now, bottom line, are more optimistic about his condition right now, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Interesting, Ed. We are now confirming, getting a statement from the Kennedy family saying, quote, unquote, it appears that Senator Kennedy experienced a seizure this morning. He's undergoing a battery of tests at Massachusetts General Hospital to determine the cause of this seizure. Senator Kennedy is resting comfortably and it is unlikely we will know anything more for the next 48 hours.

And of course, Ed, we are continuing to wait stateside here out of Massachusetts, out of Boston, outside of the Massachusetts General Hospital for official statement coming from hospital official there's. Meantime, Ed, you're with the president there in Egypt. Anything, any comment coming from the president on this matter that really has gripped the domestic audience?

HENRY: To be honest, I've been working my own sources on the Kennedy situation itself. I have not yet heard from the White House. We will be trying to get that. There have been, as you've been reporting, other politicians jumping in and just offering their warm wishes to make sure that he recovers. Obviously the president is here involved in Middle East peace negotiations and has a hefty schedule obviously through out the weekend.

But certainly you would expect the White House will send along their well wishes. This president, even though he's a Republican, has worked with Senator Kennedy. They haven't always gotten along, especially on the war in Iraq; Senator Kennedy has been the critic of this Bush administration on the issue of the war in particular.

But you will remember back to the early days of the Bush administration, it was Mr. Bush and Mr. Kennedy who came together in 2001-2002 to pass No Child Left Behind, education reform act, a signature bit of the Bush agenda, came together because Ted Kennedy worked with this president.

We've seen that many, many times throughout his long career, more than 40 years in the senate now, where he's reached across the aisle and worked with Republicans and worked with this president. That has been one of the marks of his career.

That's why you're hearing John McCain as a Republican coming forward saying he has warm wishes. That statement from Senator Kennedy's office still has some caution. They want to wait. They have to go through these medical evaluations. The headline is that the family is saying that they feel more optimistic right now.

WHITFIELD: That is good news. Ed Henry thanks so much. Of course, we're continuing to a wait from the live pictures you're seeing on the left-hand side of the screen, await word, official statement from Massachusetts General Hospital about the condition of Senator Ted Kennedy.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, we've been talking about the condition and, again, the symptoms were stroke-like, initial reports were, and now official word that he has had a seizure.

Let's bring in a doctor, if we can. Dr. Wendy Wright, Emory University neurologist. Dr. Wright thank you for giving us time. We need your help this morning. Can you confuse the two, a seizure and a stroke?

DR. WENDY WRIGHT, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. These are very easily confused. When one presents with a stroke we are mindful to remember that it can, in fact, be a seizure. We work as quickly as we can to try to determine which is the actual cause of the new symptoms that someone is experiencing.

HOLMES: How quickly can you make that determination sometimes?

WRIGHT: Sometimes it's fairly difficult because what should happen is the first thing -- one of the first things you want to do is get a cat scan. On the CAT scan, it can actually look fairly normal because the new findings on a cat scan can take a day or two to develop. You have this normal CAT scan and someone with new symptoms. What you will find with a seizure is the symptoms can resolve pretty quickly so you need to start talking to the people who were there when it started.

If they can tell you that a person had shaking or something that sounds like a seizure, foaming at the mouth, loss of consciousness, then you can start to feel a little bit more confident. What might also help you is that while you're standing there with the patient they go into another seizure. With medical training it's more easily to recognize.

HOLMES: Can these come out of nowhere or would he have had to have a history of seizures? Also, how do you stop it? How do you suppress a seizure once you determine or when you see somebody having these type symptoms?

WRIGHT: I'll answer the second question first. Most seizures are self limited. They will go away on their own. They will last a minute or two. There's a life-threatening form where the seizure can continue on and death rate from that is very high. That's something that we watch very cautiously when someone is in the hospital for this problem.

But to answer the first question, seizures actually can happen for no apparent reason. That is to say we can't find the cause. Oftentimes, especially when someone is of a bit of an older age like the senator is, the doctors are going to work very closely to find out what the cause was. What I'll see in my patients is a stroke can cause a seizure or a new brain tumor, a head injury, an infection; a change in medications, there's a very long list of things that can prompt a seizure.

HOLMES: Wait, did I hear you right that a stroke can cause the seizure?

WRIGHT: Exactly. Exactly. Especially if it's a bleeding type of stroke, like the former prime minister of Israel Ariel Sharon had, a bleeding type of stroke other than the blocked artery and all the blood flow is cut off to that part of the brain. Also a ruptured aneurysm which is also a form of stroke which is likely to cause a seizure. You can see how these would be confusing.

HOLMES: How closely will he need to be monitored and for how long now before he can, I guess, doctors can feel confident to send him on his way?

WRIGHT: It depends on how quick his recovery is. If he's coming back around very quickly, perking up, coming back to his normal self, oftentimes these patients really don't need to be monitored for much more than a day or two. All the while his doctors are going to be working to try to figure out the cause and see what is the best course of action to try to prevent a seizure from happening again.

If they're able to find something that caused the seizure they might be able to correct it or it might be something not so easy to correct. That's going to plan how long he needs to be in the hospital and monitored. HOLMES: I heard you right, sometimes you might never find out what is the cause of the seizure.

WRIGHT: That's right. It's very frustrating for the patients and very frustrating for the doctors to not know for sure because we feel like when we know we can work as best we can to prevent a recurrence of seizure because seizures are not something a person wants to have. You will lose your driver's license for a certain amount of time depending on what state you drive in. They can be very embarrassing if someone falls and has a seizure in public. They feel they lost control of the situation. If we feel like we can figure out the cause, we can do our best to prevent them.

HOLMES: Would you recommend for someone that age, just had a seizure, we don't know if we're going to find out exactly what caused it, as you were saying, would you recommend somebody like this to, I guess, slow down, the man has a heck of a schedule, he has no indication of slowing down. We just heard from someone who has known him for a while, his energy has been up, he lost weight, he has energized by the campaign. Would you certainly recommend, hey, just take it easy?

WRIGHT: Well, I'll tell you, I've taken care of a lot of seizure patients in my career. Stress, anxiety doesn't necessarily bring out seizures. For someone who has a seizure disorder, lack of proper sleep and lack of good nutrition can make their seizures worse but this is the kind of thing that is long-term management and this is not to say that the senator will go on to have recurrent seizures. Plenty of people just have one seizure because they have a new illness they've had to deal with or just changed medications. Hopefully this is not something that will happen to the senator again.

HOLMES: Finally here, Dr. Wright, what does this tell you we got word that he actually made a phone call and he sounded awfully business like, which was about two hours after the initial 911 call came. He had a seizure and had the symptoms, 911 call, and two hours later making a phone call. I guess if it was a seizure and sometimes only last a couple of minutes, can you glean anything from that about how he was doing? Does that tell us that he must have been doing fairly well and feeling all right if he could sit up and make out what somebody said a business call canceling a lunch?

WRIGHT: I think that's positive. A lot of times people will have a seizure and it's more common than not that they would return to normal within an hour or two. I would feel pessimistic if I heard that was not the case. But it's more normal that that would be the case that he would be back to himself within an hour or two, up and around.

I'm very happy to hear that and I'm glad that it sounds like things are going a little bit more normally for him and perhaps this is indicating that this was an isolated incident and hopefully the senator will make a complete recovery and the doctors will be able to figure out why it happened.

HOLMES: Dr. Wendy Wright, we are so happy we could get you. There's been so little information trickling in and the symptoms and what it was. We are getting word it was a seizure. You can break it down for us and help us understand what might have happened to the senator. Dr. Wendy Wright, right here in Atlanta. We appreciate your time this morning. Thank you, Dr. Wright.

WHITFIELD: Very encouraging hearing. Of course, our correspondents are, you know, spanning out and they are touching base with all of their sources. John King among them. He's from the Boston area. He's covered and known Senator Kennedy for a long time. He's learning from one of his sources that the senator's wife is there at the hospital. We saw earlier pictures of Senator Kerry who made his way to the hospital.

There are other friends and family members who have gathered, if not at the hospital but nearby and are in close touch with the developments there involving the senator.

In the meantime, we continue to await official statement from Massachusetts General Hospital there to update us on the condition of Senator Ted Kennedy. We will be right back right after this.

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WHITFIELD: Welcome back to the NEWSROOM. We are continuing to follow this breaking story involving Senator Ted Kennedy, good news perhaps his condition has been downgraded from what we initially heard as stroke-like symptoms to now according to family members he suffered a seizure. Not that that's something to sneeze at. He's being evaluated there at Massachusetts General Hospital. We hope to hear more.

HOLMES: We hope to hear more. We've been standing by waiting for some official word from doctors there at the hospital. We got help as we just heard from Dr. Wright from Emory Hospital, neurologist there explaining the difference between the two and how this could really and again, nothing to sneeze at, as you said, it could turn out to be nothing. This just kind of happens. Sometimes you never know why people might have a seizure. It could be because of a change of medication.

But these things oftentimes only happen for a couple of minutes. Could be scary but needs to be evaluated. That is what is happening right now, evaluation happening at that hospital. You see Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where he has been since this episode all started around 8:00 this morning for him at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. The Kennedy family compound, it started there.

Again, picture there from the "Cape Cod Times" of him being have been airlifted to the larger hospital there in Boston where he is right now. Again, understand that he is resting comfortably, some encouraging statements today from family members saying that they expect him to have a full recovery.

Also, just indications again from our Ed Henry that he actually placed the phone call. That was probably the first word we got covering this story that, you know what, maybe he's OK. That was kind of an encouraging little at this time bit for us to get this morning or this afternoon that he might be OK. He was placing phone calls, canceling a lunch, doing routine things like that after this started. That is the word again. Senator Ted Kennedy being treated in the hospital. Now we know it has been a seizure. He is being monitored there.

WHITFIELD: The family is guardedly optimistic. That's one of the, I guess, terms they've been using. We have heard a number of statements from a lot of folks, whether it be other politicos or other family members all sending their prayers. We'll have much more straight ahead.

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ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN, New York.

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