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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Continuing Coverage Relating to Senator Edward Kennedy's Death
Aired August 26, 2009 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it fell on Senator Dodd to do the difficult job that Senator Kennedy would have had to do and that is to negotiate some bipartisan compromise and would it be any different? We, of course, can't answer that question.
But the Republicans say they believe it would be different. In part because -- this perhaps maybe unfair to Senator Dodd -- but he is known as more partisan and he does not have the history on the big issue like this.
He has been involved in many of these fights, don't get me wrong, but they trusted Senator Kennedy almost uniquely, the Republicans did, on the big issues where they knew so much was at stake and how they knew it would be such a defining issue in the next campaign or inner politics.
Look at all the advertisements on television now during the recess. In a fight that all sides know is so critical and potentially defining in the next election, Republicans trusted Teddy Kennedy in a way they simply don't trust many other Democrats.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CO-ANCHOR: John King for us in Oklahoma City. And John will be with us throughout the morning.
If you're just joining us as we cross the top of the hour, it's 4:00 Eastern, we just want to let you know where we are with all of this.
Early this morning, we got word that Senator Ted Kennedy at the age of 77 succumbed to his disease, his brain cancer. He was first diagnosed in May of 2008. Had surgery for it, fought a valiant battle, came back for the Democratic National Convention in August of last year. And was again -- showed up for the inauguration of the President. Cast a very important vote on health care.
But he has passed this morning. And Kiran, it's interesting to note that his passing came one year to the day of that appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Let's just take you back to that night and hear a little bit of what Senator Kennedy had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I have come here tonight to stand with you, to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals and to elect Barack Obama President of the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: And Senator Kennedy at the end of that of course echoing the speech that he gave at the Democratic National Convention in 1980 when he was challenging Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nominations said, "The dream remains alive."
That really was, Kiran, one of the rallying points of his life and one of the signature lines that he became known for. And that is keep the dream alive. And in some of the tributes that we're hearing this morning as well, people are echoing those sentiments.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN CO-ANCHOR: It's amazing somebody who was faced with such personal tragedy throughout so many years of his life was still able to keep that optimism and to show that optimism and to continue fighting and help everyone and to continue staying in public office through thick and through thin. His family describes him as the "irreplaceable center of our family."
They released a statement this morning in the early morning hours. They called him "the joyous light in our lives, the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever."
It also went on to say that, "he always believed our best days were ahead but it's hard to imagine any of them without him." That was the statement again from the Kennedy family this morning.
ROBERTS: Yes. And the mark of his life was his ability to work across party lines on signature issues including the "No Child Left Behind" act that he got together with the White House President George W. Bush and worked on although in later years when Senator Kennedy discovered that there wasn't a funding there for the bill that he originally thought there would be, he became somewhat embittered about the whole thing and though that he was somewhat cheated by the White House.
But his ability to work across party lines earned him respect in the Senate and across the country as well and that's being reflected in some of the statements that we're hearing on the Republican side of the equation this morning.
This is from Nancy Reagan who said, "I was terribly saddened to hear of the death of Ted Kennedy tonight. Given our political differences, people are sometimes surprised by how close Ronnie and I had been to the Kennedy family. Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground and they had great respect for one another. In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research and I consider him an ally and a dear friend. I will miss him. My heart goes out to Vicky and the entire Kennedy family."
CHETRY: And also we got a statement in from President George H.W. Bush who also released a statement in the early morning hours writing, "Barbara and I were saddened to learn Ted Kennedy lost his valiant battle with cancer. We didn't see eye to eye on many political issues through the years, I always respected his steadfast public service so much so, in fact, that I invited him to my library in 2003 to receive the Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service. Ted Kennedy was a seminal (ph) figure in the United States Senate, a leader who answered the call to duty for some 47 years and whose death closes a remarkable chapter in that body's history. Barbara and I and all the Bushes send our heartfelt condolences to Victoria, Ted's kids and the entire Kennedy family."
So again, that coming from President George H.W. Bush. As John said, even though at times, he was a favorite punching bag from the GOP, you know, through the face (INAUDIBLE) liberal, in fact and in reality, he did find common ground with many of his political adversaries.
Again, you mentioned the "No Child Left Behind" act but remember with Senator John McCain also trying to pass immigration reform. The fact that it was called the McCain-Kennedy bill drew a lot of ire from some conservatives in the GOP.
ROBERTS: Certainly and John McCain suffered the slings and arrows of that partnership as well during the primary campaign and in the run-up to it.
John King who's with us in Oklahoma City. This ability to work across party lines and as Kiran said, while he was a favorite punching bag of the right, he was also a person who engendered tremendous respect among his colleagues even if they were completely on the opposite side of the political fence.
KING: I spoke recently to Senator McCain about the issue you were just talking about reflecting back on the immigration debate and on the health care debate and talking to Senator McCain about whether he expected the immigration debate to come up in the Obama administration and would he help his former campaign rival if that divisive emotional issue comes up again.
And Senator McCain said yes he would. He would stand with President Obama in that fight and he talked about how much he believed Ted Kennedy was almost irreplaceable. He said no United States Senator is irreplaceable but that Senator Kennedy just had a unique trust and a unique role, respect and friendship and collegiality but also just his word was bond and the Republicans who negotiated with him over the years trusted that.
And that is one of the -- Washington has become such a partisan, polarized place and Ted Kennedy at times was a partisan, polarizing figure -- don't get me wrong -- but he also knew when it was time to call a time out and that dates all the way back to -- the statement you read from Nancy Reagan reminds me of my earliest days in Washington. And those were days that doesn't happen this way anymore, John.
We had 8 years of polarization under President Clinton, 8 more years under President Bush. People thought it might be different under President Obama. It has not been as yet. It is still a largely divided, polarized town and Teddy Kennedy preferred the days where you debated on the floor of the Senate, you hash out your differences in private after it. I would tell you one thing I remember most -- in my early days in Washington when I spent a lot more time covering Congress than I do now. The Senate is very scripted and some senators come to the floor to give their speeches and there's nobody in the chamber. Or there are one or two people in the chamber; a presiding officer maybe, one or two colleagues and a staffer.
But every now and then on the big issues, when you had a Dale Bumpers come to the floor or a Teddy Kennedy come to the floor, other senators would come in and take their seats or they wouldn't leave when their turn was up. And that is a chapter of the United States Senate that we see less and less of in these days.
Just the great theater of American politics where even your foes wanted to sit and listen because they knew on a big issue, if Ted Kennedy were coming in the final minutes of the debate to give a big speech, that he would rev up the fire and rev up the energy and call the Senate to action. And even if you disagreed with him 100 percent, it was great theater you didn't want to miss.
CHETRY: You know John, you mentioned him being practically irreplaceable. The reality is that his seat will need to be replaced and Massachusetts is in a unique position. They have a law that requires a special election for any seat vacated and they say it's no sooner than 145 days and no later than 160 days.
That's something that as we understand, Kennedy himself, was asking lawmakers to change as late as last week.
Where does that stand? What do you know about that?
KING: There was some hesitancy and some reluctance even as Governor Patrick, a Democrat, the legislative leaders, Democrats of Massachusetts. As they all empathize with Senator Kennedy in his position that he wanted a replacement even if it was a temporary replacement to be in Washington at a moment's notice, as soon as possible because of the potential for key votes on health care and other issues.
There has been some reluctance as you noted to change the law because that was just changed not so long ago when John Kerry was running for president. As you know, the great irony there of course, is that it was Ted Kennedy filled a special election to take his brother's seat. He was not immediately appointed to that seat, he won the special election to take his brother's seat when Jack Kennedy became President of the United States.
It has been taboo in Massachusetts politics to talk about this publicly as to who might seek that seat. There are a handful of Democrats in the house delegation from Massachusetts who have been quietly thinking about it. And there are others back in the legislature of Massachusetts moving quietly thinking about it.
But it has been just outright taboo to publicly talk about it because of Senator Kennedy's great legacy not only in our national politics but in Massachusetts politics. He has held that seat for 47 years now. There has been a Kennedy in the United States going all the way back to his brother Jack in the late 1950s.
This is a giant generational shift for national politics with the passing of Ted Kennedy but even more so for Massachusetts politics.
ROBERTS: John, just coming back to what you were talking about a moment ago in his ability to work across party lines. Patricia Murphy who has appeared on AMERICAN MORNING many times as a political analyst -- I know she appears very often with Rick Sanchez as well -- sent me an e-mail a little while ago saying that she'd written a story for "Politics Daily" this past summer; interviewed several Republicans about missing Ted Kennedy during the health care debate.
Here's a few quotes that I think John you'll find interesting.
Senator John McCain said, "He always kept his word. That's far less common around here than a lot of people think." On working on the immigration bill together, Senator McCain said, "We just sat down together. We worked out a proposal. He didn't start it. I didn't start. We just sat down and said ok. Here's what we want to achieve. What do we want to do?"
Senator Judd Gregg said, "Will we be closer to a deal on health care here? Yes we probably would. He is the consummate legislator. He is interested in legislating and making progress and reaching agreements. He knows how to close a deal."
And certainly John he did close so many deals. And I remember back to the early days of the Bush 43 administration when he closed the deal on "No Child Left Behind" but as time progressed he felt somewhat burned by the White House feeling that they didn't live up to the agreement that they have crafted together.
KING: He felt burned by that John. He didn't think they put the money behind it. He didn't think they listen for one, any big legislation. You might have to come back a year or two later and tinker with it. Fix the things you didn't get exactly right. And Senator Kennedy did think that President Bush could have done more or should have done more to make "No Child Left Behind" better.
But on that key point, consider where we are on the health care debate. It is the Democrats fighting among themselves right now. Yes the Republicans don't like what the President's proposing but he Democrats have a nearly 80-seat majority in the House. They have, if you count the two independents, 60 votes in the Senate.
Again, without Senator Kennedy and Senator Byrd with health an issue but they could have 60 votes in the Senate and certainly 56 or 58.
So this is a Democratic problem right now. One of the big issues is that public option; a government-run, government-backed health care option to compete with private insurers. The votes simply aren't there in the Senate.
Ted Kennedy wants that public option. But Ted Kennedy knows the math as well as any member of the United States Senate. Could he go across the aisle and sit down with Speaker Pelosi. Sit down with Chairman Henry Waxman, Chairman Ed Markey from Massachusetts.
There are so many Democrats who have been fighting for health care, universal health care for 20, 30 -- in Ted Kennedy's case, 47 years. He is one with the standing who could go to the more liberal members in the house who are now angry.
They think the White House might be about to betray them on the public option. He is someone who could sit in a room and say, "Here' a piece of legislation, we can get 80 percent, 85 percent or we can get nothing. And I will lead the fight. I will back you up. I will say this is a good thing. And then maybe in two years or three years we can come back and try to get the rest."
There is no one -- and this is not to criticize any other member of the United States Senate -- it is just because of his history, because of his legacy and because of his commitment to this one particular issue, that he perhaps unlike any other senator could get the House liberals to move on that issue.
CHETRY: John, I wanted to ask you about this situation as well because as soon as we heard the news early morning -- and you know you start refreshing yourself, poring over the biography of Senator Kennedy. One thing that always comes up, that certainly is a mark and certainly something that people have talked about is the situation, that tragic accident that happened back in 1969 when he drove his car off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island. It was said that he failed to promptly report that accident and a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, who at the time was working I believe for his brother Robert passed away.
Is that the only reason or one of the key reasons why he was unable to successfully launch a candidacy and win the office of the presidency?
KING: Well, that is what many historians believe and it is certainly the scar on his character. He had other personal flaws, he had other personal problems in his life but that was a -- that is the giant scar on his life; the death of Mary Joe Kopechne. I believe he was 19 years old at the time.
He has owned what he described later as reckless and irresponsible behavior, leaving the scene of the accident, not initially reporting it. Many thought that would be the end of his political career. He had to give a televised address in Massachusetts explaining his actions.
And then when he did run for the presidency, many thought could he possible become President of the United States with something like that on his record?
Now, many say they believe he failed in that bid to take the Democratic nomination from President Carter because of the scar, the legacy of Chappaquiddick. At the same time, it is enormously difficult to challenge an incumbent sitting president. And so that was a hard task as it was as well.
There are others who said could he have run in '76 or did he need more time to pass after Chappaquiddick. It will forever be a point debated and it will certainly come up in the next 72 hours or so. But without a doubt it is the biggest scar on a rich legacy of political achievement, legislative achievement and family achievement; leading a family through so many tragedies. That will be the one giant scar on Edward M. Kennedy's legacy without a doubt.
ROBERTS: John King with us in Oklahoma City. And John will continue with us throughout our coverage this morning.
Right now we want to bring in John Hume and speak with him about the passing of Senator Kennedy. John thanks for being with us this morning.
Can we ask where your thoughts are running today with this news?
JOHN HUME, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE RECIPIENT (via telephone): Well, I'm very saddened to hear the news. Ted Kennedy was a great friend of Ireland and in particular a great supporter of peace and justice in Northern Ireland. There's no doubt that his support and his involvement in our movement for peace and justice played a very major role in achieving just that.
ROBERTS: When you talk obviously of the legacy of the Kennedy clan and the Irish roots, how was seen broadly there in Ireland and as well around the world?
HUME: Well, he's very highly respected throughout Ireland, there's no doubt about that and great loyalty to them and the respect has increased enormously given the positive role that he played in supporting our peace process.
ROBERTS: And how do you think that he will be remembered?
HUME: Well, he will be remembered very much as Ted Kennedy and the outstanding work that he did and that his family has done and the great support they've given to Ireland. It will be very, very heavily remembered in Ireland, there's no doubt about that.
And internationally, of course, the Kennedy family is very highly respected as well even the presidency by President Kennedy and by the outstanding work in the Senate of Senator Kennedy.
ROBERTS: Did you ever have the chance to meet him?
HUME: I met him very often and very regularly. We were very close friends.
ROBERTS: And what sort of person was he? How will he be remembered in your mind?
HUME: First of all, he's a very down-to-earth person and highly intelligent as well, of course. But I was very, very strongly linked to him and very pleased with the priorities that he gave to supporting peace and justice in Northern Ireland. He linked very strongly with the late speaker Tipp O'Neill as well. Both of them were great supporters of our peace process and they worked together to achieve a lot. ROBERTS: And what was it about his life, his legacy that will be forever remembered in your mind?
HUME: His legacy in Ireland -- he will always be remembered as Senator Kennedy a leading Irish-American. And the status of the Kennedy family and in particular the deep, deep gratitude for the priorities that he gave to the support for peace and justice in Northern Ireland.
ROBERTS: John Hume, thanks for joining us this morning; Nobel Peace Prize winner and former politician. Really appreciate your time.
You know Kiran, when we look at here at the passing of Senator Kennedy, you have to remember back to the great legislative accomplishments that he had. His part in the 1964 Civil Rights Acts, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the "No Child Left Behind," the "Family and Medical Leave" Act, the "Americans with Disabilities" Act; his imprint just far and wide across this country.
John Hume was saying there in Northern Ireland as well and around the world that such an indelible imprint that he has left on American politics.
CHETRY: And a great source of pride for the Irish and the Irish- Americans as well. And many noted that you don't get that much pass in the Senate by being completely partisan even though he was sometimes accused of that, that you really have to be creative and creatively cross the aisle when needed to make big things happen.
As we know, sponsoring and getting legislation passed -- they call it the sausage-making at times in Congress -- it's not easy. And one of the other interesting things is that he was -- even though as we've said before a favorite punching bag at times of the GOP, many say he was one of the most popular, if not the most popular, member of the Senate. That he got along great with many; he considered Orrin Hatch -- the Republican Senator from Utah -- as one of his great friends as well.
I want to bring John King back in just for a moment -- if you're still with us John.
Already the questions are being asked as to where this legacy goes from here. How does the Kennedy torch continue to burn? And two of the names that are coming up -- kind of interesting -- U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, his nephew; or even perhaps his widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy who's been his rock and a very, very strong and admired woman within the clan as well.
Any possibility of either of those two having political ambitions, senatorial ambitions in the future?
KING: That's a fascinating question. We will see if things change in these hours after the tragedy.
I know that Dana Bash made some calls last week when there was some speculation that perhaps Vicky Kennedy would want to seek the seat once her husband did pass from the scene. And she was told, definitely not.
Joe Kennedy, the son of Robert Kennedy, served in the Congress -- served in the House at some time and he now runs what's called Citizen's Energy which is a non-profit organization that helps get home heating and other fuel to low-income residents especially in the winter time up in New England when they're so desperate for that help.
Whether he would want to make a return to politics is an open question. He has once or twice flirted with it since he left the Congress and has decided against it. This -- there will be some reflecting, obviously, in the Kennedy family and throughout Massachusetts politics at this moment in time and Joe Kennedy would be someone to watch, of course.
The family will first deal with the important business at hand which is paying tribute, of course, to Senator Kennedy.
If I could just add one thing quickly, listening to the brogue of Mr. Hume reminds me that St. Patrick's Day among any Irish but certainly in Boston is a big deal. And Senator Kennedy in his younger days would be in the parades and he would go to -- Billy Bulger used to be the president of the Massachusetts Senate and has an annual St. Patrick's Day brunch and it is a no-holds barred -- was a no-holds barred fun roast if you will.
And those were the days when you saw a remarkable sense of humor that Senator Kennedy had. And that is one of the things he used in the Congress to build trust even with people across the aisle. He was a man who loved his work. Loved to ready policy papers but he also knew and loved to laugh as well and to hear the brogue of Mr. Hume reminded me of many fun St. Patrick's Days for Senator Kennedy who would enjoy his shamrocks and perhaps a sip or three of green beer as well.
CHETRY: Of course and the pride of many Irish and Irish-Americans associated with the Kennedy clan is palpable and that's one of the reasons why people are already asking. We discovered this news less than 3 or 4 hours ago of the passing of Edward Kennedy, the Senator from Massachusetts. And people are already saying will there be another Kennedy to step in his place? Will this legacy, as you said since 1950, there has been -- since the 1950s there's been a Kennedy in the Senate.
One of the things that of course we all covered breathless several months ago was the possibility that Caroline Kennedy would in fact step into politics. She was somebody who -- no one in the Kennedy clan to be more in the background. Of course, she was very devoted to education issues but was not seeking -- I guess you could say -- public office.
Is that something that's definitely off the table now or is there perhaps another go for his niece?
KING: That's another interesting question. Caroline Kennedy did not have a very good experience when she was among those who was viewed as a potential appointee from Hillary Clinton's seat when Senator Clinton became Secretary of State Clinton. Another Kennedy is of course, Robert Kennedy Jr. who has been involved in environmental causes in the state of New York. And some have thought from time to time that he might seek elected office. Patrick Kennedy, Senator Kennedy's son -- sometimes there are so many of them, it is sometimes easy to confuse the Kennedy children and grandchildren.
But Patrick Kennedy is the Congressman from Rhode Island. Teddy, Jr. of course who had cancer at a young age and who has battled that heroically -- another of Senator Kennedy's sons who from time to time people have asked would he enter into politics.
Some of the younger Kennedys have been involved in other ways mostly through other public and community service than elected politics. But it will certainly be a question asked as we ponder this moment. The three sons of Camelot -- there were 4 sons of Camelot of course, Joe Kennedy was killed. One of the other brothers was killed in World War II.
But that is what it was called in Massachusetts. The name became (INAUDIBLE). Edward M. Kennedy was the youngest of the brothers. Now that he has passed, many will ask the question, what about the next generation of Kennedys.
Maria Shriver is the first lady of California. Caroline Kennedy thought about getting involved and then thought better of it in the state of New York. Will additional Kennedys, younger Kennedys step forward.
That Kiran will be a big question as people discuss and debate the legacy of the Kennedy record in the Senate and the legacy in the future of the Kennedy family in politics.
CHETRY: John King, a wealth of information for us this morning. Thank you. And John's going to be with us throughout the morning.
Meanwhile, we want to bring in now Amalia Barreda of WCVB in Massachusetts. She's in Hyannis Port this morning; has covered the Kennedys for 3 decades.
Amalia, set the scene for us. Tell us what is happening behind you there at the Kennedy compound.
AMALIA BARREDA, WCVB, MASSACHUSETTS: Good morning. Well, what you see behind me is the heavy police presence that there is here in Hyannis Port. These officers behind me are at the entrance to the street that leads into the compound which is Marchant Avenue.
But beyond that the police have set up barriers. They've closed streets leading down into this part of Hyannis Port. So they're really controlling the situation here. Controlling us, our presence is getting bigger and bigger with every passing minute.
And so they're anxious to control us and make sure that everything stays under control. And they're anxious to not have too many tourists, if you will, come down this way. This has been a tourist area because of the compound so always buses and what-not have been somewhat restricted. But now the restrictions are really heavy with a heavy police presence.
There really hasn't been much movement at all, in and out of the compound. A couple of cars that went in; a couple of vans -- I should say that went in. This was about 1:30 in the morning. One of them came back out and then went back in only with the driver. The other van was a larger van with -- the windows were covered, painted over.
We don't know if that is the van that would be removing the body of Senator Kennedy. It has not come back out or perhaps a hearse will be brought in to do that. So we don't know that.
We do know also that the family has been spending time with him. This last week they had been with him. He has three children, he has two stepchildren. He has 5 grandchildren and we know that in this last week, they had been here at his bedside.
I can tell you that I was here for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver funeral and we realized that the situation was getting grave for Senator Kennedy at that time because he did not attend the public wake for his sister and he did not attend the funeral.
He did attend a private mass at the Shriver residence which is a couple of blocks from here. And we saw him -- that was the last day that we saw him, members of the media here who cover him regularly.
He was riding a van in the front seat. The window was open so we did get a look at him. And it was clear that the disease had advanced tremendously. He did not look well at all.
That's the last time that we saw him. And we were quite frankly surprised that he rolled his window down so that we could get a look at him. He didn't wave like he customarily did before. Clearly he was in advanced stage of his illness at that time.
So a difficult night here at the compound for the family. They gathered just a couple of weeks for a funeral. Now they've gathered for this funeral. There is only one member of the senior Kennedy family's brothers and sisters left and that's Jean Kennedy-Smith. She was here for Eunice's funeral and she will be here, I'm sure, for her brother Ted's funeral.
CHETRY: As you said, certainly a tough night and a tough morning for the Kennedy clan as they balance their private mourning of course with the knowledge that so many want to share in that public remembrance of Senator Ted Kennedy.
Amalia Barreda of WCVB covering the Kennedys for three decades. Thanks for being with us.
ROBERTS: Getting other tribute in. This one from former Massachusetts governor and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney who writes, "The last son of Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph Kennedy was granted a much longer life than his brothers. And he filled those years with endeavor and achievement. It would have made them proud. In 1994 I joined the long list of those who ran against Ted and came up short. He was the kind of man you could like even if he was your adversary."
A lot of people -- the landscape of Massachusetts is littered with those who tried to run against Ted Kennedy from 1962 onward. What an extraordinary run he had in politics. Eight full terms to the Senate and also finishing out his brother John's last couple of years when he ran in that special elections in 1962.
CHETRY: He served longer than anyone in the Senate with the exception of Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond. So he has served years and years there, made a lot of friends along the way and of course some political enemies as well. But that's to be expected.
It is interesting, both of us were looking in our Blackberries right now because this information is coming in minute by minute. And we are here early and we're going to be with you throughout the morning as soon as we get more information.
We have a lot of people that will be remembering Senator Kennedy throughout the morning; sharing your thoughts about the man and about his legacy.
It's interesting. Again we talked about Senator Kennedy crossing the aisle at times and that's not just federally, not just with national politics but as Mitt Romney pointed out they actually joined forces in 2006 to try to help pass universal health insurance in the state of Massachusetts that now is being thrown around as perhaps a model as we talk about universal health care on the national level. Can something be learned by how they're doing it there or where they have near universal coverage, in fact it's required there.
ROBERTS: Right. And certainly we've taken a look at that system in the context of the overall debate on health care and whether or not that's model that would work across the country. And it should be noted too that in the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney, while he championed universal health care in Massachusetts, he didn't necessarily think that it was a model that would translate across the country.
Health care is very much a personal issue in terms of the states and each state has to make its own decision.
CHETRY: Yes, he did point out of course though, that one of the biggest ways that they try to make it affordable was cutting out waste and trying to do things more efficiently using electronic records. And that something of course, that has come up now as well.
We still have John King with us this morning and as John Roberts just said, we're getting this -- these statements from people on -- of all political stripes remembering Ted Kennedy and not just as a colleague but calling him a friend.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And calling him a friend and the trust and respect that he had among -- across the political spectrum I think will be as much of his legacy as the specific legislative accomplishments. And those accomplishments are many, many and they are quite sweeping and you've been mentioning them.
Civil rights, voting rights, minimum wage increases, fighting for workers and their family, fighting for health care and even though he will -- he has passed from the scene in the middle of the big debate over whether there will sweeping national health care reform now.
It's so critical and the Medicare program, the expansion of the Medicaid program, the creation of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. You can list so many legislative accomplishments and because there are so many Senator Kennedy has been called and is being memorialised now as the most effective Senator from the legislative standpoint of his generation if not in the history of the United States Senate.
But what you get from all of these tributes, from Republicans, from former campaign rivals like Governor Romney. From presidents he's sparred with, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Nancy Reagan of course speaking for the late President Reagan, is the respect and the trust and the admiration that even his political enemies had, his political opponents had for the vigor and the energy to which he gave everyone of his causes up until he just simply could no longer be there in the halls of the United States Senate, the chamber he loved so much.
ROBERTS: Hey John stay with us from Oklahoma City. Let's also bring in Ed Henry, our White House correspondent. And Ed, we have a statement from the president?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right John. We've just gotten the statement from the President. We also have a little insight when the President learned of this. I'm told by a senior administration official the president was notified just after 2:00 a.m. about Senator Kennedy's death.
But obviously the President at Martha's Vineyard on vacation nearby there; he had been hoping to meet with Senator Kennedy and did not get to do that before he died. But the statement now coming in -- a written statement from the president saying, quote, "Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy. For five decades virtually every major piece of legislation he advanced done, the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts. I value his wise counsel in the senate where regardless of the swirl of events he always had time for a new colleague. I cherish his confidence and momentous support on my race for the presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness I've profited as president from his encouragement and wisdom.
An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country and has lost a great leader who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of all time. And the Kennedy family have lost their patriarch, their tower of strength and support through good times and bad."
The President goes on to extend his condolences to the family, his widow Vicky as well as his children, Ted Jr., and Patrick and Kara.
Now, what's also interesting is I'm told by a senior administration official that the president spoke with Vicky Kennedy about 2:25 a.m. Eastern time. About 25 minutes after he was informed of Senator Kennedy's death.
As I've mentioned in recent days there's been a lot of speculations about whether or not the president wanted to meet with Senator Kennedy. I was told reliably by very senior White House people that over the couple of weeks that the president did want to meet with Senator Kennedy. They were trying to work out a meeting but the bottom line was that Vicky Kennedy was just saying in private that Senator Kennedy was just not in great shape.
And as much as he wanted to see the president it's just -- it wasn't the right time. And so the president didn't get a chance to have that final meeting but now he puts out a statement that's very heartfelt mentioning what a pivotal role Ted Kennedy played in his presidential campaign but obviously more importantly because of the role that Senator Ted Kennedy had in the Senate and his impact on the nation -- John.
ROBERTS: And yes we are all expecting in the first a couple of days of his time in Martha's Vineyard that the president might have jumped on the helicopter and gone over to Hyannis Port for a quick visit but as you said Ed, the senator is too ill to be able to receive the President.
And this morning we now remember him dead from brain cancer at the age of 77.
CHETRY: That's right and right now we're going to check in with Dana Bash. She has a look back at the life and the legacy of Senator Edward Kennedy.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We first met him as the kid brother to Jack and Bobby. And yet Edward, Teddy was the survivor. The one we watched grow old; evolved into the patriarch and struggled with the challenge and burden of carrying the Kennedy torch.
Edward Moore Kennedy was born February 22nd 1932, the last of Joe and Rose Kennedy's nine children. His first prominent role in the family business of politics came at age 30. JFK was elected president and Teddy kept his senate seat in the family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President of the United States is dead.
BASH: He was 31 when he said goodbye to Jack. Five years later in 1968, another assassination another goodbye, Bobby this time.
Often invoking his brothers, Ted Kennedy turned to make his mark in the senate in the 60s and 70s, a proud liberal, champion of voting rights and civil rights. In 1980 he set his sights on the White House but perhaps the most haunting of his personal demons Chappaquiddick 11 years early would block his path.
EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: I regard as indefensible the fact that I did not report the action to the police immediately.
BASH: In 1969, Kennedy drove his car off the Chappaquiddick Bridge. Mary Joe Kopechne a former aide to brother Robert, drowned; Ted Kennedy fled scene. It was the character stain he could not overcome. He would lose his bid to beat President Carter but he promised to carry on in one of his most famous speeches.
KENNEDY: The work goes on, the cause endures, the hopes still lives and the dream shall never die.
BASH: He would not be president but he would master the senate and make his mark on government policy.
KENNEDY: If we really care about work, about family, about children and the future we will vote for an increase in the minimum wage for all workers.
BASH: Fighting for workers right, leading on education and health care reform.
KENNEDY: It's morally right; it's what this nation is all about.
BASH: And immigration reform.
KENNEDY: Si se puede.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: And I describe Ted Kennedy as the last lion in the senate. I tell that to you because he remains the single most effective member of the Senate if you want to get results.
BASH: To get those results, liberal Kennedy learned the art of compromise, sometimes angering fellow Democrats by partnering with ardent conservatives.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R) UTAH: Even though we fight each other most of the time and those are knocked down (INAUDIBLE) I have to say there are a very few people in my lifetime that I've had more respect and have a reverence for than Senator Kennedy.
BASH: All too often it fell to Uncle Teddy the patriarch to stir the family for trials and tragedy; the death of Jackie Onassis, a more painful goodbye to JFK Jr. and the dreams of Camelot.
His haunch and shuffle, the legacy of a brush with death in the 1960's a plane crash that broke his back and caused constant pain. He brought some pain on himself, dog bites, too much drinking, a messy divorce. Kennedy was frequent fodder for tabloids.
But he remarried, carried on, added to his policy accomplishment. GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've come to admire him and he's a smart and capable senator. You want him on your side I can tell you that.
BASH: And he steps once again into presidential politics. By-passing Hillary Clinton and harkening back to brother Jack's call for a new generation of leadership.
KENNEDY: 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.
BASH: Just five months later he had a seizure followed by a grim diagnosis, a malignant brain tumor. Still, with great drama, he made it to the Democratic Convention to pass the torch.
KENNEDY: The hope rises again and the dream lives on.
BASH: He ignored his doctors and when needed came back to his beloved senate.
KENNEDY: I look forward to being a part of the team.
BASH: And made a dramatic appearance at a White House Summit on Health Care Reform.
KENNEDY: I'm looking forward to being a foot soldier in this undertaking and this time we will not fail.
BASH: He never stopped looking forward and never lost that trademark smile; to the end the survivor.
Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.
ROBERTS: And we're on the air early this morning because we have sad news to pass along. The Lion of the Senate, Senator Edward Kennedy and a lengthy battle with brain cancer has passed away. He passed away last night in his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts at age of 77.
CHETRY: And while it was expected that he probably would not survive this condition, many are still mourning this morning the loss of -- as John said, the Lion of the Senate and also as his family at the center of their family.
They released a statement early in the morning as this news came out, "We've 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."
They went on to say that, he believe that the best was yet to come. They say that it's going to be hard to imagine life without him. And that is the case for many this morning who knew and love Senator Kennedy. Behind Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd he was the longest serving senator some five decades in the Senate.
ROBERTS: Yes, 47 years.
CHETRY: And also quite a legacy that he's leaving behind in terms of how much legislation over the many decades he was able to get passed.
ROBERTS: We are looking in the live pictures just outside the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port; there has been a flurry of activity overnight. People have been arriving at the compound.
Police have also setup a security area there. Of course the media is arriving en masse and we expect to see a lot more movement in the coming hour as the sun begins to come up and the Kennedy family makes funeral arrangements for the patriarch of the family of Senator Edward Kennedy who was the youngest of the Kennedy children but went on to lead the clan following the death of Robert Kennedy in 1968 the night of the California Democratic primary.
Our Dan Lothian is on Martha's Vineyard this morning and he is following President Obama. And Dan, we heard from the president just a little while ago his thoughts in the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy.
DAN LOTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The President Obama put a statement, "Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend Senator Ted Kennedy. For five decades virtually, every major piece of legislations to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.
I valued his wise counsel in the Senate where regardless of the swirl of events he always had time for a new colleague. I cherish his confidence and momentous support in my race for the presidency and even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom."
He goes on to say, "An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader who picked-up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time. And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad. Our hearts and prayers go out to them today to his wonderful wife Vicky, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family."
The President as he noted in here mentioning what a key position and the role he played in his presidency and getting him elected as President. You go back to January -- the end of January of 2008 where most people have thought that perhaps Senator Kennedy would be endorsing then Senator Hillary Clinton but instead he made a surprising endorsement of then Senator Barack Obama.
Let's go back and take a listen to what he said on that day back in January of 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENNEDY: He is tough minded but he also has an uncommon capacity to appeal to the better angels of our nature. 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)
LOTHIAN: And John, we have been talking about this all morning the critical role that Senator Ted Kennedy played in giving the White House advice on the most important issue (INAUDIBLE)
ROBERTS: Our apologies for the technical difficulties that we're having with Dan Lothian. He's actually coming to us via broadband this morning. And so that we can have a unilateral presence there in Martha's Vineyard right now they're just setup for the White House pool. And there are inherent problems with the technology still as well. So we apologize for these technical difficulties.
We talked about the tributes to Ted Kennedy, the statements of condolences that have been coming in all night long from many prominent Americans. It's been coming in from around the world as well.
A couple to share with you here.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, "Even facing illness and death, he never stopped fighting for the causes which were his life's work. I'm proud to have counted him as a friend and proud that the United Kingdom recognized his service earlier this year with the award of an honorary knighthood."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "Kennedy has been a friend for 30 years; a great American patriot, a great champion of a better world, a great friend of Israel. He will be sorely missed.
And Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says this morning, "Ted Kennedy was a great American, a great Democrat, and also a great friend of Australia. He has made an extraordinary contribution to American politics and extraordinary contribution to America's role in the world.
CHETRY: And we have many more of this coming in and throughout the morning we're going to be joined by many people who share their thoughts and who are sharing their memories of Senator Kennedy including former Boston Mayor who's been a friend for decades of Senator Kennedy. Ray Flynn is going to be joining us actually in just a few moments.
Right now, we want to head out to John King. John King has covered the Kennedys for years, an expert up and down. And one of the very interesting things in this whole dynamic is that Kennedy has said and he said it for years that the cause of his lifetime was universal health care. He said last August at the DNC that it's a right of every American, north, south, east, west, young, old to have decent quality health care as a fundamental right not a privilege.
And of course, right now we're steeped in this debate even thought there was the August recess. He's not going to be in the Senate. Do we know what happens next in terms of the health care debate in Washington with the loss of one of its biggest champions?
KING: We do not Kiran. You do see in many of the statements from Democrats paying tribute to the legacy in the life of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. You do see them saying now the job is to carry on that cause that he dedicated 47 years of his life in the Senate to and that is health care for all Americans.
We've seen that in this statement from Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader. We've seen that in the statement from Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives. They say now the challenge is to honor his legacy by getting to the finish line the legislative battle that he tried so hard for so many years to accomplish.
And it has been a sad irony, regardless of your position on the specifics of the health care debate. It has been a sad irony these past 7 months as the Obama administration has tried to advance health care legislation that Senator Kennedy has largely been on the sidelines because of his illness.
And it is striking when you have Mayor Flynn on in a few moments, ask him about St. Patrick's Day with his friend Senator Kennedy and he will share you the great gift of humor Senator Kennedy had. That was one of his keys in making legislative progress.
Also striking, those pictures you showed at the top of the program in the sense that we remember the Kennedys especially if you grew up in Massachusetts as I did as those three young vibrant men: Jack, Bobby and Teddy. Senator Kennedy was the one we saw get old. And he was not only the Liberal Lion of the Senate. He was the Silver Lion of the Senate.
And it's been 41 years since Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and it was only Ted Kennedy who grew old before our very eyes and with that we saw all of his flaws but we also saw a remarkable tenacity and resilience in so many legislative fights over the years. And such a legislative success record that even those who disagreed with him on almost every issue, John and Kiran, are paying tribute to him as the president did as perhaps the leading senator, at least of his generation, and many would say of the 20th century and now of course into the 21st century.
ROBERTS: And in terms of those people who he worked on opposite sides of the aisle with but also worked together with from time to time and how he had the respect of so many people on both sides of the aisle.
Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican of Utah who was such a terrific friend of Senator Kennedy sent a note of condolence today saying, "Today America lost a great elder statesman, a committed public servant, leader of the Senate. Today I lost a treasured friend. Ted Kennedy was an iconic, larger than life, United States Senator whose influence could not be overstated."
Regardless of your political stripes, you couldn't help but either respect Ted Kennedy for what he did and what he believed in and the way he did it or value his friend as Senator Orrin Hatch does.
CHETRY: And it's interesting John King how you pointed out as well that he is the youngest of 9 children. His mother actually said it was the 9th child talent to be able to help people get along and to be able to bring consensus.
Like you're used to getting beat up probably and bullied and getting the hand-me-downs over the years. And she actually called it the 9th child talent of how he was able to get people to get along.
KING: I'm not sure there are a lot of hand-me-downs in the Kennedy family. But they did have those great football matches on the grounds of Hyannis Port. And there's no doubt about it.
He grew up under such pressure. His father, Joseph Kennedy wanted a son who was President of the United States. And it was supposed to be the eldest brother, Joe Kennedy who was killed in World War II. And then the torch passed to Jack Kennedy and then Bobby Kennedy after the assassination of President Kennedy. And then Teddy became a senator of course when Jack became president.
And he carried the burden of the grief of tragedy in his family. And there were other tragedies as he carried it forward. He failed in his own bid for the presidency in 1980. Chappaquiddick had something to do with that. Trying to challenge an incumbent Democrat, Jimmy Carter, also had something to do with that.
But he did finally become comfortable in the Senate. And he loved and relished the Senate and in listening to Dan Lothian and listening to that sound of Senator Kennedy on that fateful day in the Democratic primaries when he very much changed the dynamic of the race in endorsing Barack Obama over Senator Clinton. I ran into Senator Kennedy several times in that campaign before the cancer struck him.
And he was having so much fun, John and Kiran, and he loved getting on the small plane and going out to Ohio and going to out to California and going out to other places to raise money and to campaign. If you go to little union halls for Barack Obama, he was having a great time doing something that he loved.
He loved the big legislative fights in Washington. But he also just loved to go out and give a rip-roaring shoe leather red meat campaign speech and he had a blast in his final campaign.
ROBERTS: I remember seeing him on the election campaign with Al Gore in the year 2000 and there's a particular appearance at that hall in Massachusetts. They were standing in front of hay bales. He was casually dressed with his jeans on and open-collared shirt. And he was just having the time of his life out there on the stump.
John, stay with us thanks; from Oklahoma City. We want to go now to Hyannis Port. That's where Amalia Barreda is and she is monitoring the situation -- she's monitoring the situation outside of the Kennedy compound there. And obviously there's a lot of comings and goings Amalia this morning. What have you seen in the last 20 minutes, half an hour?
AMALIA BARREDA, WCVB, MASSACHUSETTS: Well, there's comings and goings but none in and out of the compound. The compound continues to be dark and quiet. More and more members of the media have joined in. And of course there is a pretty large police presence here to control the situation. They've set up barriers and what-not, closed down streets.
And these officers here are at the entrance to Marchant Avenue which is the street that leads into the compound. And it's dark behind them, you can't really see anything. And in fact -- unfortunately you can't see the two flag poles that are on the compound property as well. One's in front of the Senator's home, the main house on the compound. And then the other is in front of Ethel's; it belonged to Ethel and Senator Bobby Kennedy.
As far as we know the flags are still at full staff on both of those flagpoles behind. But I think right now that it's of course dark and still -- well not the middle of the night but not quite -- not enough for daylight.
I think once daylight comes, we're going to start seeing more and more members of the public and of the neighborhood to come around here.
It happened 10 years ago. In fact, this is so reminiscent of the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. when we were all here just like this in a row. The family had gathered for a wedding, Rory Kennedy was getting married that day. And instead they were gathered for, of course, the horrible story of John F. Kennedy Jr. crashing his plane and dying with his wife and sister-in-law.
I remember that so well. And it goes to this part of the statement where it says we've lost the irreplaceable center of our lives. That's exactly what Senator Kennedy has been to this family in good times and in bad. And when John F. Kennedy Jr. died, he had big shoulders. And everybody, every member of the family was leaning on him for that.
And it had to have broken his heart on the day that a Coast Guard helicopter landed on the property. He boarded it and took off. And we knew that he was on his way. The bodies have been found. He was on his way to identify them.
A very painful day for the senator back then but he was the patriarch and everybody looked to him to handle things, as I said, in good times and in bad.
ROBERTS: I remember, actually Amalia, being on the Vineyard the night that John Kennedy Jr.'s plane went down and the ensuing search for the plane the next day.
We talked about this being not just the death of a senator but the end of an era as well. And although the Kennedy family continues to be involved in politics, it really does sort of bring to an end the family dynasty, at least of the immediate children of Joe and Rose Kennedy, doesn't it.
BARREDA: It really does. It will be interesting to see who tries to fill his shoes at least in a partial way because I don't think -- his shoes are huge, they're not going to be able to be filled by anyone of his nephews.
But yes, it's a big loss and it really is the end of an era.
It's a sad thing to see as someone who has covered the Kennedys for many years, it's sad for me. It is certainly very sad for the Commonwealth. The Kennedys continue to be loved here in the Commonwealth.
Whenever the senator comes in to a neighborhood or whatever -- whenever he's in Boston or wherever he is here, people just lock to him. They love him and it's -- this is a tough thing for the Commonwealth.
ROBERTS: Amalia Barreda for Boston station WCVB this morning outside of the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.
Amalia thanks very much. We'll check back with you a little bit later on.
CHETRY: You know one of the things that -- for some people they remember it clearly and saw it; for others, we read about it in the history books. But it was when then Senator Kennedy tried to challenge Jimmy Carter, the sitting Democratic president at the time.
He announced his candidacy back in November of 1979. He was unable to persuade the Democrats to try to unseat their seating president. But it was a memorable moment, to say the least. And a speech that will live in history forever in the summer of 1980 at the DNC when he conceded but also said that the dream is going to live on.
Here's a bit of that right now. This is Senator Kennedy back in 1980.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I congratulate President Carter on his victory here. I am confident that the Democratic Party will reunite on the basis of democratic principles and that together we will march towards a Democratic victory in 1980.
And someday, long after this convention, long after the signs come down and the crowds stop cheering and the bands stop playing, may it be said of our campaign that we kept the faith. May it be said of our party 1980 that we found our faith again. And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved and that have special meaning for me now, "I am a part of all that I have met. To whom much is taken, much abides. That which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts; strong in will just try to seek to find and not to yield." For me a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on. The cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: And again, that was a little snippet there of the 1980 speech of the Democratic National Convention back in August of 1980 when President Carter went on to win the Democratic nomination even though there was a big touch challenge and a very divisive fight for Democrats.
It actually changed the entire primary process or at least the convention process and the nomination process because of what happened. The party looked very weak, infighting within itself to see who its nominee was going to be all the way up until the convention.
ROBERTS: Certainly there was that moment when people were waiting for Jimmy Carter to shake hands with Ted Kennedy and that was one of the moments that you know pauses in political history and it seemed to last a lifetime.
We're just coming up to the top of the hour. It's 5:00 Eastern. We want to tell you where we are if you're just joining.
We have the sad news: early this morning, Senator Ted Kennedy, the lion of the senate, after serving 8 full terms in the senate, 47 years there in that body has passed away. He succumbed to the brain cancer he was diagnosed with in May of 2008.
And so this morning, the nation mourns the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy.
Ray Flynn is the former mayor of Boston, also the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. He's on the phone with us this morning.
Mayor Flynn, thanks very much for being with us. Can we ask you where your thoughts are running this morning on the news that Senator Kennedy has passed?
RAY FLYNN, FORMER MAYOR OF BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: Well, it's something that we've been thinking about obviously when we first heard that Teddy was not well. So it's a sad, sad day for all of us here in the neighborhood and I suspect across the country.
This is where the Kennedys really got their start here and grassroots politics in South Boston and Charles Town and the neighborhoods of Boston. So they're more than just a Camelot family, they're neighbors. They're people that we practically grew up with
ROBERTS: You said you last saw him, 6 to 7 months ago. What did you talk about when you met?
FLYNN: At that time, we're talking about the presidential -- I think it was just before the presidential election. Teddy always had a good sense of the national politics and how it was going to go.