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Remembering Senator Ted Kennedy

Aired August 26, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the life and death of Edward Kennedy -- the youngest in a political dynasty. Once in the shadow of JFK and RFK, he rises to political power, triumphs over tragedy and emerges as an icon all on his own. The Senate's liberal lion is silenced forever.

Is it the end of an era?

Next on a very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

We have a very special program tonight and some outstanding guests.

We begin in Washington with Senator Joe Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut. He knew Senator Kennedy in the '70s. They became close friends when Joe came to the U.S. Senate in '89.

Senator Joe Warner, the former senator from Virginia, a longtime friend of Senator Kennedy. Warner did advance work for Nixon while Kennedy was doing advance work for his brother.


KING: Representative Ed Markey is in Boston, Democrat of Massachusetts and a longtime friend of the late senator.

And on the phone from Shanghai, China is former Senator Bill Frist, the former Senate majority leader and a good friend of Senator Kennedy.

What's your first reaction, Joe Lieberman, to all of this?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT, FRIEND OF SENATOR KENNEDY: The first reaction is that this was -- this is the end of an era -- certainly the end of a generation of a great American family. President John F. Kennedy inspired me and a lot of others of my generation into public service. Ted Kennedy carried it along, I also thought, with a kind of gratitude that, unlike three of his brothers, though his passing is sooner than any of us who loved him and served with him would have wanted, he died of natural causes. And he lived a full and -- and a wonderful life -- an inspiring, ultimately irresistible person.

I guess my other reaction was just plain personal. I felt lucky -- blessed to have come to know him personally and -- and to have learned a lot from him about how to get things done in politics. KING: Senator Warner, you're a Republican. You were an opponent of him -- an opponent of his on many issues, yet many senators are using the word love tonight.

Do you use that word?

WARNER: You know, I was privileged to know Ted for 50 years. You mentioned that we were on opposite sides in the 1960 presidential campaign. I worked for Vice President Nixon. He worked for his brother. And we boxed a good deal during that campaign.

And through the years, our friendship solidified and particularly the 30 years we served in the Senate. And, Joe, you remember we were all on the Armed Services Committee together.


WARNER: And he was very much against a lot of the policies and certainly war.


WARNER: But he loved the men and women in uniform and their families. And whenever we needed a vote to get them health care, educational benefits or anything else, he was there.

LIEBERMAN: He was always there. Larry, that's such an important point. Part of -- of the Kennedy hard that's probably not as much publicly known, he was really the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. He chose to be chairman of the Help Committee. Karl Levin is the chairman. But he served with distinction and honor...


LIEBERMAN: ...and really was loyal to the men and women in uniform for us around the world.

KING: Ed Markey...

WARNER: No question about it.

KING: Ed Markey, what kind of friend was he?

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS, FRIEND OF SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, for me, you know, just a kid growing up in Malden, Massachusetts at the Immaculate Conception Grammar School. And John and Robert and Ted Kennedy are saying, in 1960, ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country.

So he inspired me. He inspired millions of other people. And it was a great honor, for me, obviously, for 33 years to be a congressman from Massachusetts with him. And every day, for me, was a fulfillment of a political dream, because he was an idealist without illusions, as his brother used to say. He wanted to get things done. He knew when to cross over the aisle in order to cut deals. But at the end of the day, he was an inspiration to me. He -- he is going to be missed because he leaves a huge void.

The good news is that he passed the torch on to a new generation through Barack Obama and through millions of others in the country who will pick up his cause.

KING: Senator Frist, you opposed him often on the floor of the Senate.

What was he like for you?

BILL FRIST, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: You know, Larry, we did. But in truth, we came together because of his -- his unique ability to reach across the -- across the aisle.

But I think, in addition to what my colleagues have said, this whole personal aspect of a man whose passions are dominant, whose passions are supreme. But the passions were never about the Kennedys or about himself. But it came back to these passions that are more than just a bunch of stories, but almost a melody that carried throughout his -- his life.

And the passions are for -- for the under served, for healing, for passion.

KING: Yes. Very well said.

FRIST: And that's the thematic, I think, that's going to really play out as people tell their stories over the next couple of days.

KING: Ted Kennedy was one of only six senators in the United States history of the Senate to serve more than 40 years.

When I interview him in 2006, we talked about his long tenure.

Take a look.


KING: You've been there 44 years.

You're running again, right?


KING: Do you have any opposition?

KENNEDY: Well, there's -- out there, there's always people that are interested in -- in the challenge. So we've worked hard at it. And we're going continue to work -- work hard.

KING: How long do you want to stay?

KENNEDY: I say until I -- I get the hang of it, until I -- I usually hear that question from my nieces and nephews, wondering how long are you going to stay?


KING: I mean, you've been called one of the great senators of all time.

KENNEDY: Yes. Yes.

KING: "Time Magazine" dubbed you the deal maker. That must be a great honor to you.

You like the Senate, right, obviously?

KENNEDY: I enjoy it. I enjoy it.


KING: Joe Lieberman, is it true that his word was his bond?

LIEBERMAN: It is true that his word was his bond. And you can't stress how important that is in politics, in legislative politics, enough. We don't sign contracts, we make agreements. And it's your word that counts or doesn't count.

I'll just tell you a quick story. John McCain and Ted Kennedy led a bipartisan group a few years back to try to achieve immigration reform. We had about 12 of us, six Democrats, six Republicans -- agreed, finally, on a compromise and also agreed that we had to stick together to defeat all amendments, even though there would be amendments from the left and right the various of us would wish we could vote for.

And I will tell you the truth that not everybody kept that agreement. But Ted Kennedy did. He stood up and voted no on some amendments that he really wanted to vote for because he had come to a compromise that was going to achieve immigration reform.

Unfortunately, it didn't ultimately do it. But that was Kennedy. His word was his bond. He was willing -- he knew when to stand and advocate, to -- to use that almost operatic tenor of his to fill the -- the...

KING: Good point.

LIEBERMAN: ...the room with anger and passion, but then he knew when to sit down and negotiate...

KING: Will...

LIEBERMAN: ...make an agreement and keep his word.

KING: We'll continue in a moment.

By the way, as is customary, when a member of the Senate dies, Ted Kennedy's desk in the Senate is now draped in black and has a white vase of flowers on it. A copy of Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" has been placed on the desk, as well. Frost, you'll recall, recited an original poem at JFK's inaugural in 1961. We don't have a visual available of the desk. The Senate is not in session and no videos or stills are permitted in the chamber.

We'll be right back.


KENNEDY: The cause endures the hope still lives and the dream shall never die. We have only just begun to fight. We will never give up, we will never give in and in 1992, we are going to win.


KENNEDY: That is our challenge. That is our New Frontier. Cross it we can and cross it we must. The work begins anew, the hope rises again and the dream lives on.




KENNEDY: I will support the candidate who inspires me, who inspires all of us, who can lift our vision and summon our hopes and renew our belief that our country's best days are still to come.


KENNEDY: It is time again for a new generation of leadership. It is time now for Barack Obama.


KING: By the way, we've learned that President Obama will deliver one of the eulogies at the funeral on Saturday. The president is already in Massachusetts on vacation.

Would it be correct, Senator Warner, to call Kennedy the lion of the Senate?

WARNER: Oh, yes. I've never seen that defined, but he certainly -- he certainly earned it.

You mentioned the word love in the first question you threw to me. And I thought about that for a minute. That was a man who had love in his heart. He loved his wife. She really stood by him courageously throughout this last episode; his children, his family.

He loved the people who were less fortunate than he. You stop to look back through his work in the Senate, it was always to try and take care of those who needed health care, whether they needed educational benefits -- always thinking of those less fortunate than himself; a man who was born into wealth, but never stopped thinking one day in the Senate about those less fortunate. KING: Well said.

Ted Kennedy cast votes on most of the crucial issues of the second half of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st. When I spoke with him in 2006, he pointed to one vote above all others. Watch.


KING: You called Iraq the overriding issue.

You voted to go there or not?

KENNEDY: No. I -- the best vote I cast in the United States Senate was...

KING: The best?

KENNEDY: The best vote -- the best vote I cast in the United States Senate was not to go...

KING: In your life?

KENNEDY: Absolutely.

KING: Was not to go to Iraq?

KENNEDY: Yes, not to go to war.

KING: Why did you vote against?

KENNEDY: Well, I'm on the Armed Services Committee. And I was inclined to support the administration when I started -- we started the hearing. And it was enormously interesting to me that the -- those that had been -- that were the in the armed forces, that had served in combat, were universally opposed to going. And virtually all of them said no, this is not going to work.

KING: And that's what...

KENNEDY: And they virtually identified...

KING: ...moved you?

KENNEDY: And that really was a -- influenced me to the greatest degree.


KING: Congressman Markey, does that surprise you, that that he considered his greatest vote?

MARKEY: Well, you know, I think the reason that so many Americans admire him is that he didn't just measure his success by his victories, but how fiercely he fought even in defeat, if he felt that an important principle was at stake. I think that's really what makes him such a special senator -- such a special American, because people knew that when he spoke on the Senate floor, that they were listening to true north. They knew that this man was speaking the truth and they believed in him.

And so no, not at all. There are many achievements that he has and we can talk about them for the rest of the night and not even get to the end of the list. But in a lot of ways, when the Senate was in the minority -- the Democrats, that is -- and he didn't have a great chance for success, that's when he stood up. That's when his voice was loudest. And I think that's what he should be most proud of, because when that war in Iraq was being debated, his was a lonely voice, but he was proud of it...

KING: Yes. Well said.

MARKEY: And he should be.

KING: And in a couple of minutes, we'll ask Senator Frist about what it was like to deal with Senator Kennedy.

Be back in a minute.


KING: Health care reform was at the top of Ted Kennedy's agenda. He spent almost 30 years as a man on a mission. Here he is in 1908 and then again in 2008, talking about what he called the cause of his lifetime.



KENNEDY: We cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance.


KENNEDY: We must -- we must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level. Let us insist on real control over what doctors and hospitals can charge. And let us resolve that the state of a family's health shall never depend on the size of a family's wealth.



KENNEDY: And this is the cause of my life -- new hope that we will break the old grid lock and guarantee that every American -- north, south, east, west, young, old -- will have decent quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: That's the kind of guy Ted Kennedy was.

I wrote him a letter when it was revealed that he had brain cancer and expressed my thoughts and hopes for him. And I got this letter back, September 9, 2008: "Dear Larry. My doctors tell me it's important to wear rose-colored glasses these days. And things look even brighter because of you. With our blue and red wrist bands, we can conquer any challenge. I was very touched by your letter and your kind words. Knowing how well you've overcome health problems of your own, your personal support and encouragement were especially welcome. Thank you so much, Larry. It's reassuring to have such a caring friend. Vicki and I are deeply grateful to you for reaching out to us at this time. You truly lifted our spirits. All the best, Ted."

We'll be back with Ted Kennedy's friends from the Congress, after this.



KENNEDY: For 10 years, Republican leadership have refused to let us get a vote on increasing the minimum wage.



KENNEDY: Our goal is to improve public schools, not abandon them.



KENNEDY: This administration feels it's above the law.



KENNEDY: We have not seen such arrogance in a president since Watergate.



KENNEDY: Congress and the American people deserve to know the true risks of war.



KENNEDY: Five days we've been debating. This is Big Brother run amok.


KING: Senator Frist, what was it like to take him on?

FRIST: Larry, it was fascinating. I think your last segment brought out the consistency of his thematics, this melody of -- of serving the uninsured of health. And that played out. In 1972, when I was an intern in college, I came and spent an hour-and-a-half in his office because of his commitment to this same thing -- the same speech that you just played on universal care in national health insurance.

And then all the way through becoming majority leader, he consistently had that thing -- would negotiate hard, would stay at the table, would stick with his liberal egalitarian principles, but at the end of the day, he was always there for the greater good.

In that -- in that last segment, you also mentioned the caring because and just because it hadn't been brought out, being in the Senate In that last segment, Ted Kennedy, he was the first to call when my parents died. They died within 24 hours of each other. Of all of the United States senators and congressmen, it was Ted Kennedy and Vicki Kennedy who called, not just to give their condolences, but to grieve with sharing a little bit about their past.

That consistency of thematic and that caring are what we saw in the Senate day in and day out.

KING: Ted Kennedy's life encompassed both triumph and tragedy. We talked about that during our interview in '96.


KING: Can you take a step back, Senator, and explain what it is about the family that keeps them going?

KENNEDY: Well, I think, like many other families, we had -- we were blessed with two parents, different but complementary in so many ways, that made a very special house. At least I think most family members would feel that way about their own home. And...

KING: But had tragic (INAUDIBLE).

KENNEDY: And wonderful brothers and sisters, all of whom were our best of friends, all of different personalities, little Gracie and...

KING: Has it been, Senator -- (INAUDIBLE) -- a burden to be sort of the patriarch of this family -- I mean, two brothers got -- you -- you sort of -- they all come you to, don't they?

KENNEDY: Well, they do. But it's...

KING: I mean you're their uncle and father.

KENNEDY:'s -- it's a wonderful experience. And I mean, the circumstances that brought it about, obviously, remained with me every day. But they're really wonderful and there are so many of them that are doing such interesting things. I know that my brother Jack and brother Bobby would be enormously proud of -- of their children.


KING: Joe Lieberman, how do you explain the Kennedys?

LIEBERMAN: What a story -- a father committed to -- an American committed to seeing his family succeed and giving them the support to do so. A mother of profound religious faith, who instilled that faith in her children and give them the optimism and, I think, the ability to transcend difficulties that -- that comes with faith.

And, you know, this family loved America. They wanted to serve it and make it better. I -- I think that -- you know something I was thinking about today, Larry, when John F. Kennedy was elected, what struck all of us was not just his intelligence, his -- the nobility with which he approached public service. He broke a barrier. He was the first Roman Catholic to be erected president.

Well, for me, as a Jewish kid growing up maybe beginning to think about politics, probably for a lot of other minority groups, including racial groups -- minority groups, maybe that said to us, you know, anything really is possible in this country.

I'd say there's a direct line between the Kennedy family and the fact that Barack Obama is our president today. So...

KING: Well put.

LIEBERMAN: ...a great American family who -- who set a model for all of the rest of us for public service. Ted Kennedy, I think, was one of the most productive senators in American history. And the great thing to say is that though he didn't fill out the dream he had to be president, once he acknowledged that, he came back and set himself on being the best senator he could be and he was one of the greatest in American history.

KING: Could we say, Senator Warner, that he is -- he's one of those who is irreplaceable?

WARNER: Well, he certainly is going to have a chapter in Senate history. And it's a very interesting thing that occurred here in this interview and you might not be aware of it.

You asked the question of him, what was his most important vote?

And he gave you a clear answer. And to show you the uniqueness of the Senate -- and Joe Lieberman and I say with a deep sense of humility, we're among Ted's best friends. Yet that vote was cast against a resolution drawn up by John Warner and Joe Lieberman.

LIEBERMAN: It didn't have...

KING: Huh. LIEBERMAN: didn't have a bit of an effect on our relationship.

WARNER: Not a one.

LIEBERMAN: I hope and believe because we both -- we all knew we were doing what we believed was right and that our relationships would go on and we'd be working together on the next one.

KING: Well...

WARNER: That's the strength of the United States Senate.

KING: Thank you.

Boy, a great story.

Thank you all very much.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Congressman Ed Markey, former Senator Bill Frist, former Senator John Warner.

Good to have them all with us.

And Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

We'll talk with dear Nancy Reagan next.

Don't go away.



J. KENNEDY: The energy, the fifth, the devotion, which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it.

E. KENNEDY: You know, you try and remember at least the more hopeful times of those who you loved, impressed you with.


KING: It's not generally known. Nancy Reagan, the former first lady, joins us on the phone. But you and your husband were quite friendly with the Kennedys, were you not?

NANCY REAGAN, FMR. FIRST LADY: We were very friendly with them. Yes, we were.

Most people didn't realize the friendship, or didn't accept it, or didn't know about the friendship. You know, Ronny was so identified with the Republican party. And Teddy obviously with the Democrat party. But that doesn't make any difference, Larry, really. It shouldn't make any difference. I'm afraid it does now, but it shouldn't.

KING: I remember you telling me the story the night that you and Ronny went up to the Kennedy home in Mclean for an evening of fun and frivolity, right?

REAGAN: That's right. Actually, what happened was that Teddy had asked Ronny to speak at the library in Mclean, and do a fund- raiser for them, which he did, very happily.

KING: What was your reaction to the news? I guess it wasn't unexpected.

REAGAN: No, of course it wasn't. It's still sad, you know, terribly, terribly sad, but not unexpected, no.

KING: Do you think a common bond was also the Irish ancestry?

REAGAN: Well, it could be. I never thought about that. It's possible. They're both -- they both certainly enjoyed good stories.

KING: Yes, they did.

REAGAN: They both had very definite opinions about things. It was a wonderful, wonderful friendship.

KING: It said a lot about America, didn't it?

REAGAN: Yes, it did. Yes, it did. I wish -- I wish, Larry, that I could say that of now. I just don't get the feeling that that's there now. Do you?

KING: No. Respect seems to be gone. You and Ted had a lot of common ground on the issue of stem cells, did you not?

REAGAN: Yes, we did. Yes, we did. I was the one who was always calling people.

KING: No kidding.

REAGAN: These poor men. I'm sure every time somebody came in and said, oh, Mrs. Reagan is calling again. They said oh, my god, no. Not again.

KING: We hear a lot about Vicki. What's she like?

REAGAN: I didn't know her well, at all. But, yes, I understand she's a lovely, lovely woman, who has made him very, very happy.

KING: Obviously, huh? Well, he had a long and wonderful life. How, by the way -- before you leave us, how are you doing?

REAGAN: I'm fine, except, you know, I broke my pelvis. And that's not much fun.

KING: I'll bet. Are you OK now? You're pretty -- last time I saw you, you were very ambulatory. REAGAN: Kind of, kind of, Larry. I walk with a walker now. That's no fun. You know, this whole thing is not for me.

KING: Is it true that there's no such thing as the golden years?

REAGAN: That's true. There certainly isn't. Whoever made that up should be spanked.

KING: Thanks, Nancy. Thanks for joining us as always.

REAGAN: Thanks, Larry.

KING: The former first lady. Terrific lady. Nancy Reagan on the passing of Ted Kennedy. We'll be right back.



E. KENNEDY: My brother need not be idolized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. To be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it; saw suffering and tried to heal it; saw war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him, and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us, what he wished for others, will some day come to pass for all of the world.


KING: That was a great eulogy. Coming up in a couple minutes we'll be joined by David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst. Served as White House adviser to Presidents Ford, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton, and Ted Sorenson, who served as special adviser to President John F. Kennedy, long time friend of the Kennedy family, and author of the best selling memoir "Counselor, A Life at the Edge Of History," terrific book.

But first, we're joined by Governor Deval Patrick, the Democratic governor of Massachusetts. What's your reaction to his passing, governor?

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, Ted -- Larry, it's been just a long and sad day here in Massachusetts. We lost one of the Commonwealth's and country's brightest lights last night. He was larger than life, and completely down to Earth at the same time, as some of your other guests have said.

I certainly admired and respected him for his total commitment to social and economic justice, but I also just loved spending time with him personally.

KING: Prior to his death, he urged state lawmakers to change the special erection law to allow you to appoint an interim senator. Is that going to happen? PATRICK: I think it remains to be seen. We have a provision in our current that requires a special election in circumstances like this one. I support that law. So did Senator Kennedy. I also believe that the senator's request to permit the governor to appoint someone to serve for the approximately five months between now and that special election is imminently reasonable.

And I think that Massachusetts needs two voices in the United States Senate, especially at a time of momentous change like this.

But having said that, now is the time to reflect on his life and his contributions and to pray for the comfort of his wife, Vicki, and his family.

KING: But if the legislature passed such a bill to change this current law, you would sign it?

PATRICK: I will sign it, yes.

KING: Would you run for the Senate?

PATRICK: Goodness no. I've got my hands full with my current job.

KING: What's your best memory of Ted?

PATRICK: Well, there are so many great ones. I can remember him stewarding my confirmation through the Senate Judiciary Committee, when I was up for head of the Civil Rights division in the Clinton administration. And I can remember him and Vicki, and two wonderful Broadway star, and the conductor of the Boston Pops and his wife, sitting in our home in Western Massachusetts singing show tunes into the wee hours of the night.

As I say, at the same moment, both larger than life and totally down to earth. Smart, kind, warm, savvy and wicked funny.

KING: We will not see his likes again. Thank you, governor.

PATRICK: Thank you so much, Larry.

KING: Governor Deval Patrick, Democrat, Massachusetts.

Coming up, David Gergen, Ted Sorenson and our own John King too. Don't go away.


KING: Among the many mourning the loss of Ted Kennedy today were President Obama and Vice President Biden. Watch.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the past several years, I've had the honor to call Teddy a colleague, a counselor and a friend. And even though we have known this day was coming for some time now, we awaited it with no small amount of dread.

Since Teddy's diagnosis last year, we have seen the courage with which he battled his illness. While these months have no doubt been difficult for him, they've also let him hear from people in every corner of our nation and from around the world just how much he meant to all of us.

His fight has given us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us; the blessing of time to say thank you and good-bye.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He changed the circumstances of tens of millions of Americans, in a literal sense. Literally. Literally changed the circumstances. He changed also another aspect of it, as I observed about him. He changed not only the physical circumstance, he changed how they looked at themselves, and how they looked at one another.


KING: There was another big loss today, a good friend. Dominick Dunne died of bladder cancer at his home in Manhattan, a home I recently visited. He was 83. Dominick was an author, TV commentator, special correspondent for "Vanity Fair." He wrote about the rich and the famous. He was well known for chronicling big criminal cases. He became a vocal victims' rights advocate after the murder of his daughter and he was a great friend to this show.

There was no one like Dominick Dunne and late brother John Gregory Dunne. Dominick Dunne had a style like any other. The words flowed. A grand man. We'll miss him. We'll be right back.



E. KENNEDY: I think the first impression that I've always had is how fortunate I've been to have grown up in a family and been able to learn what I tried to learn, and continue to learn, but most of all learned what I did from wonderful parents and great brothers and sisters.



KING: Joining us now in Hyannisport, Massachusetts, David Gergen, senior political analyst for CNN. In New York, Ted Sorenson, special counsel and adviser to the president, author of the best selling memoir "Counselor, a Life at the Edge of History," and our own John King, CNN's chief national correspondent, anchor of "State of the Union with John King," a great show, every Sunday.

John, what can you tell us about President Obama attending the funeral? JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, President Obama, we're told, will attend the funeral mass. It is at the Mission Church, a couple miles from where I am at the Kennedy Library, in a gritty, blue collar neighborhood of Boston. It was a church where Senator Kennedy went to pray, receive communion and reflect repeatedly when his young daughter Kara was being treated for lung cancer.

So he formed a bond with that church.

President Obama will attend the funeral, and we're told, also, deliver a eulogy at that mass. That is on Saturday. Then, of course, they will fly on to Washington and he will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, near his brothers.

Here at the library, Larry, over the next two days, the senator will lie in repose. The people of Massachusetts and others can visit him and reflect on him. There will also be a big celebration, an Irish wake, if you will, here on Friday night, where Senator John McCain, Senator John Kerry, other family members and friends will speak and celebrate the life of Senator Kennedy.

KING: That's John King at the Kennedy Library in Boston. David Gergen, in Hyannisport, in the history of the Senate, where does he rank?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Very high. Let me say, for starters, that it's a honor on a night like this to be with Ted Sorenson on the same panel. Ted Sorenson was such a friend to the Kennedys. He had been in Hyannisport many, many times. It's sad that the Kennedy leaders were lions of a liberal movement in the United States and Ted Sorenson was the man who helped them find their roar.

So hats off to him. I know this is a very meaningful night for him.

I think Ted Kennedy will always be remembered as the man who rose from ashes. In fact, not much was expected from him. He had many personal failings, as he was free to admit. But yet overcame them. And the last 40 plus years of his life had an enormous impact upon American public life, as a voice for freedom, for equality, for justice.

A man who often pursued lost causes, but championed them in a way that brought them back to life repeatedly, such as national health insurance, that fight now.

But he also, I think, Larry, will be remembered as one of the most popular members of the Senate, because he stood up for these old traditions of making the Senate a body that tried to get work done. Not just talk, but work done. And that meant he reached across the aisle on numerous occasions, formed friendships with Republicans like Orrin Hatch, that were the life and blood of a Senate that often did great things.

And he deserves an awful lot of credit for that. KING: David has a lot of commitments, so we thank him. We'll be calling on him again probably tomorrow night. David Gergen, thanks so much, and thanks for those nice words about Ted Sorenson. Ted, if we used one word to describe Ted Kennedy, would it be growth?

TED SORENSON, FMR. ADVISER TO PRESIDENT KENNEDY: That's exactly right. Like all his brothers, he demonstrated extraordinary growth. So many politicians, once they get to Washington, they think they know it all. They stop growing. The Kennedys, when they reached Washington, knew there was a lot they did not yet know, and that they wanted to know. And Ted Kennedy was one who reached out for more information, more issues, new horizons.

KING: Historically, was he one of the greats?

SORENSON: Yes. Not only because of the length of his service, 46 years, but because he became a champion of so many causes, whether they were popular or not. And I can assure you that although I love the state of Massachusetts, not all of his causes, including civil rights, equal opportunities for all Americans, regardless of color, were at all times unanimously supported, even in his own party back in Massachusetts.

KING: John King, what was he like to cover?

J. KING: He was very fun to cover, Larry, because he loved his job so much. He was someone who truly loved legislating in the Senate, truly loved public battle. He loved to go to the floor of the Senate. And in the old days -- the Senate's not what it used to be. But in the old days, the Republicans wouldn't leave the chamber. They would come into the chamber and sit down and listen. Because you know, if Teddy was up giving a stem winder, even if you disagreed with everything he was about to say, it was going to be a great speech.

And he also loved, though, doing the business. Ted Kennedy, Tip O'Neill were from a generation where you did battle with the Ronald Reagans or the George H.W. Bushes of the world during the day, and then at night maybe you would have a drink and tried to figure out if there was a way to cut a deal and get 60 or 80 percent of what you wanted.

In the halls of the Senate, he would shuffle around. I covered, my first days in Washington, a debate about whether to raise the minimum wage. He would pull you aside, and he would whisper, ask this senator if he is ready to cave on that. He loved to go and give and take with the press as well.

And he always shuffled around the halls. Remember, he had that horrific back pain from the plane crash, couldn't quite lift his feet all the time. But he always had laughter. Despite the pain in his life, despite the tragedy in his life, he had that big trademark, big tooth Kennedy smile, and laughter all the time.

KING: We'll be back with Ted Sorenson and John King right after this.


KING: Ted Sorenson, how do you think he was able to overcome so many early deficits in his life?

SORENSON: You said one word was growth. I would say one word was survivor. All of his older brothers were violently killed when they were still young. He must have wondered, as a national figure who was often subject to words of scorn and hate -- he must have been wondered about the hate mail pouring into his office, whether he would survive.

He survived a plane crash in which he might well have been killed, as his oldest brother was. He survived the automobile accident in which his passenger was killed. He kept coming back because he was strong, because he was determined, and because he believed that he had a commitment to fulfill as the legacy of his older brothers.

KING: How much will his loss affect, John King, the health care debate?

J. KING: It is the fascinating policy question, as we reflect on the life and legacy of the senator, what will come of his death. You know, many -- and Ted could tell you better than I. I only know it from the history books. But Lyndon Johnson was able to pass some of the things that John F. Kennedy wanted to pass, that he couldn't get through in his day, because there was a change in the political dynamic after President Kennedy's assassination.

Will there be a change in the health care dynamic the cause of Senator Kennedy's life, after his passing? If you do the math right now, Larry, the answer would be probably not. But sometimes math doesn't apply to politics.

Here is the big challenge right now. President Obama so could have used the help of Senator Kennedy to bridge the differences within the Democratic party, and then perhaps some of the differences with the Republicans. But the big challenge is in the Democratic family.

The challenge now is for the president to do this himself. And whether he can invoke Senator Kennedy's memory and legacy in trying to muster that will within his party is the defining challenge when the president returns back to work next month.

KING: Ted, we only have a minute left. We must ask this. Did you write the line "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country?"

SORENSON: Well, Larry, I'm flattered that on a day when so much else is so much more important, that you even asked that question. But, I'm nice enough to say some kind words about my book and I try to set forth in full in that book the background of that phrase. So my answer has to be the same one I've given to others for all these years: ask not.

KING: Well, we're all going to miss Ted Kennedy. And I thank all of our guests tonight; Nancy Reagan, our panelists earlier from the Senate and from the House, David Gergen, the CNN senior political analyst, John King, who hosts "State of the Union With John King," that great Sunday morning program, and of course, Ted Sorenson, one of the heroes of anybody who's ever written a line. The brilliant Ted Sorenson.

I'm going to end a minute early tonight, and we'll end simply by saying, Ted, we'll miss you. Good night.