Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LARRY KING LIVE
A Tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy; Stunning Reappearance
Aired August 27, 2009 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Senator Ted Kennedy leaves home for the last time on his final journey through history, from Hyannis Port past places that made him, people who miss him, to the Presidential Library that bears the name of his brother.
Senator John Kerry, Senator Chris Dodd, Senator John McCain, former Vice President Dan Quayle, salute their friend and former colleague and say farewell to Teddy, next on a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
At this hour, you're looking live inside the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The body of Senator Edward Moore Kennedy lies in repose there, family and friends keeping vigil while members of the public pay their last respects.
Just moments ago, Kennedy's widow Vicki spoke to reporters and "STATE OF THE UNION'S" John King caught up with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICKI KENNEDY, TED KENNEDY'S WIDOW: I just want to thank them so much for coming to see him and for showing their love and support for my husband. It's a tremendous solace to all of our family. And I just want to let them know how grateful we all are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT KENNEDY, JR., TED KENNEDY'S NEPHEW: Thank you.
Thank you all.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When you saw -- when you saw five, six deep driving through the city, how was that?
V. KENNEDY: It was deeply, deeply moving for all of us.
R. KENNEDY: And about, I guess, a week before he died, he -- he was out on his boat. And he was very sick by that. And he was losing some of his ability to find words. And he was still very cognizant and very -- you know, he was able to steer his boat and -- and to reason, to understand all the conversation. But it -- it was sometimes, during some parts of the day, difficult for him to -- to -- to find words that he was looking for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us to begin things is Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, the 2004 Democratic Party presidential nominee. He's on the phone with us.
The loss of Ted Kennedy, of course, is the topic of the day.
I know you've been in close contact with the family.
How are they doing, Senator?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, they're much, much buoyed and, I think, moved by the events of today. You know, they're an extraordinary, strong group of individuals who, through the years, unfortunately have -- have learned how to cope with loss. And this is one of those rare circumstances where they have a chance to say good- bye to somebody who lived an extraordinarily full life, a long life and unbelievably productive over the course of that.
So I think there's a great sense of pride, a great sadness, but, really, a celebration. I think people are feeling, you know, it's important to celebrate the accomplishments of this unbelievably capable public servant.
KING: You're speaking at tomorrow night's memorial service at the library.
What -- what will be the emphasis?
KERRY: Well, just Teddy. I mean I'm -- I'm sitting here actually, right now, Larry, trying to put some thoughts together. And I find it's a lot harder probably to keep it as narrow and, as you know, focused as it ought to be, because there's so much you want to talk about and there's so much to talk about.
Ted Kennedy had a bread that was really quite rare in public life. He -- he managed to nurture so many friendships at so many different levels, take care of an unbelievable number of children as a surrogate father, be present for so many birthdays and so many baptisms, so many graduations and so forth, and still implement one of the great legislative records of all time. And it's just -- it's an extraordinary story.
KING: You've said that you were his student in the Senate for 25 years.
What essentially did he teach you?
KERRY: Well, he taught me so many different things, Larry, frankly. I mean I wish I had learned some of the lessons earlier, I might have done a little better at some stages.
But I've got to tell you, you know, when I -- when I first got involved in politics, like a lot of young people, you sort of -- you know, it's about the issue. It's about how you change something or get something done immediately.
And Teddy really saw many more dimensions to it and taught me that. I mean for him, it was about people. It was about life. It was about, you know, values. But mostly people. And I think watching him, you know, reach across the aisle, seek to compromise, look for ways to get things done and know when to do that, you learn a lot about how to legislate, how to get things done and how to make the Senate work.
And, fortunately, I have some years ahead of me and I hope to be able to apply some of those lessons.
KING: Was any -- with all the ups and downs of his life, do you think he died happy?
KERRY: Oh, God, absolutely. No question about it. He -- first of all, his marriage and his family together were his joy. I mean I cannot tell you, he just was the proudest parent, unbelievably caring about every member of the family -- the extended family. And his love affair with Vicki is a really very beautiful relationship. And I think everybody who saw it up close understood. When he went into a room and introduced her and when they went to events together, she was just his absolutely inseparable partner. And it was very beautiful.
KING: We look forward to -- to watching you tomorrow night, Senator, and wish you the best.
KERRY: Well, thank you, my friend.
Take care and thanks for focusing on Teddy.
KING: Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.
This has been a day of memories and mourning in Massachusetts.
Here's part of a journey that began at Senator Kennedy's home on Cape Cod and will end Saturday at the Arlington National Cemetery.
KING: Senator John McCain lost a friend, colleague and a teacher yesterday.
And John McCain is next.
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE an old friend, Senator John McCain, a friend and colleague of the late Senator Kennedy -- it's hard to say that -- the Republican presidential candidate. The senator will speak at tomorrow's memorial service.
How did that come about, Senator?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, Vicki Kennedy was -- called me and asked me if I could be there and speak. And I told her I would move heaven and Earth, I would be there. And so I'm very honored to -- to have the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of a -- of -- of the last lion of the Senate.
KING: Give us a little advance notice what -- what your sub -- topic subject will be.
MCCAIN: Well, believe it or not, part of the subtopic will be that Ted Kennedy and I didn't always agree. And from time to time, we had very spirited discussions, even maybe to the point of questioning each other's recent ancestry.
KING: Well, I remember when, even during the campaign, when Teddy got sick and he was supporting your opponent, you still went out of your way to praise him.
What was -- what did he have?
MCCAIN: Well, he had an -- a gregarious personality. He had a keen sense of how to position himself with people. He -- he had an old Irish wit and was a great storyteller.
But all of those things probably pale in -- in comparison to the fact that once he was on an issue, he was relentless. And he -- once he gave his word, then there was never any -- any variance from that, to the point where he would cast votes on amendments that really were against his own position in order to keep a carefully crafted compromise intact. And when others from his own party and our party didn't do that, I've seen him chastise them rather severely.
KING: Some on the extreme right today are -- are going out of their way, it seems, to criticize him.
Is that a little too soon?
MCCAIN: Oh, I don't -- I don't think it's necessary. History judges all of us. And after a period of time, I think history will make a judgment about Ted Kennedy. All of us had our failings and weaknesses. But the fact is that Ted Kennedy was an institution within the institution of the Senate. And all of my colleagues, no matter how they felt about his causes or his positions, I think, would agree with that.
KING: In 2007, Senator, Ted Kennedy delivered quite a few stem- winding floor speeches. This is during the debate over the minimum wage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: What is the price, we ask the other side, what is the price that you want from these working men and women?
How much more do we have to give to the private sector and to business?
How many billion dollars more are you asking, are you requiring?
When does the greed stop?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What kind of an affect did those things -- those kind of speeches have on you?
MCCAIN: It was both entertaining and to all of us, a bit intimidating from time to time. He really did not need the sound system in the United States Senate.
And interestingly, you know, the -- especially when the topic is pretty important, a lot of senators line up. Ted would go over there, sit in his chair and his desk in the back row and sit there quietly, sometimes for an hour, sometimes for two hours. And then he would rise up and it was worth watching.
KING: Anyone in the media would say this and I think you'd agree. One of the things often overlooked about what makes a great senator is his staff.
He had a superior staff, did he not?
MCCAIN: He had a superb staff. And more importantly, he paid a lot of attention to them. For example, when we would be working on a piece of legislation, they were free with their opinions. And they sometimes would say things that maybe Ted Kennedy didn't necessarily agree with But he had a superb staff. And his alumni is everywhere in government and in the private sector and think tanks all over America.
KING: We'll take a break.
When we come back, a few more words from the senator. We'll ask you about the health care debate and his legacy in that area.
Back with Senator McCain and Ted Kennedy's important legacy in 60 seconds.
KING: We're back with Senator John McCain.
He will speak tomorrow at the memorial service for his friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.
Senator, it's going to be a difficult vote.
What if we put it this way, a way that Senator Kennedy once put it for me -- to me.
How can a nation this rich and this strong have anybody not insured?
MCCAIN: Yes, he's got an excellent point. But the question is, in all due respect, that whether health care can be made affordable and available to all Americans or, as is the present proposal through the Senate Health Committee, is a government takeover, including funding for -- federal funding for abortion, among other objectionable items that are in the bill, including 111 new mandates on the part of the federal government.
That's not my fundamental philosophy, which is competition, which is free enterprise and making health care affordable and available.
The problem with health care in America is not the quality, it's the cost. And we should address the cost, not restructure health care so that we end up with a government-run health care system.
KING: Will we have...
MCCAIN: (INAUDIBLE) that won't work.
KING: Will we have some kind of an improved system that we might say would appeal to part of that legacy?
Will we change things some way for the better?
MCCAIN: We have to, because Medicare trustees say that the system is going broke in eight years. In eight years, Medicare will be broke. And, obviously, we're not going to let that happen. So there has to be a fundamental restructuring. But it's going to go broke because of the inflation associated with health care, not the quality of health care.
KING: Now you talk about squaring off against him.
What about when you're with him?
On the immigration bill, the two of you -- you lost on that one, but what was it like to be with him?
MCCAIN: It was a lot of fun. Every morning at 8:30, he and I would meet for a few minutes, just the two of us, and then other senators. We would meet with other senators every morning at 8:30 that the bill was on the floor. And we would address the challenges of the day -- the amendments, how we were going to address them. And sometimes both of us had to take tough votes in order to preserve the fragile coalition.
It was also watching -- interesting watching him interact with the other senators, which I had seen a lot in the past. But he was -- he was a past -- he was a master at it.
KING: Did you talk to him since he was diagnosed with the brain cancer?
MCCAIN: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Yes. Of course we had.
KING: What was his spirit like?
MCCAIN: Indomitable. You know, he said, I'm in a tough fight, but I'm going to win. And, you know, it's -- it was very touching to see him on a couple of occasions come to the floor of the Senate to cast an important vote. And I always made a point to have a chance to say hi.
KING: Yes. Do you think we're ever going to beat this fight against cancer?
Nixon proposed a war against it years ago.
MCCAIN: I think that mapping the human genome is one of the breakthroughs in the history of the world. And I think that that will make it possible for us to defeat most of cancer that afflicts mankind today.
KING: How are we going to remember him, John?
KING: A lion. Lions have failings and lions get wounded from time to time. But an indomitable spirit, a person who -- who believed in his cause and -- and fought for it in a steadfast fashion. And once his presidential ambitions were put to rest, he devoted the rest of his time to -- to servicing the United States Senate.
And there's such thing as someone who's irreplaceable in any institution. But he comes as close to it as anybody that I have encountered in the Senate.
KING: When he was against you on any issue, was it ever personal?
MCCAIN: It would get so spirited, you would think it was personal. But once the -- once our -- sometimes a spirited discussion was over and we'd put our arm around each other and laugh about it.
KING: Senator, it's always great seeing you.
How is your health?
MCCAIN: Excellent. Thanks for asking.
KING: OK. Thanks for asking. I'm OK.
MCCAIN: Thanks, pal.
KING: See you tomorrow.
We'll watch you closely tomorrow.
MCCAIN: Thanks, Larry.
KING: John McCain.
One of Ted Kennedy's closest friends is us with, Senator Chris Dodd. And he'll join us soon.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: Today, more than ever before, I believe that each of us, as individuals, must not only struggle to make a better world, but to make ourselves better, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now, one of the senator's closest friends, Senator Chris Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut.
When did you last see him, Chris?
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I saw him, Larry, I think about -- I guess in July. I was at my niece's wedding. And it was in Massachusetts. And we stopped on the way back -- my two daughters, my wife and I. We had a wonderful visit with him.
He was so funny. I recall we spent, Vicki and I and Teddy sat and had a nice chat for about an hour or so. And I told him in passing that Vicki had said ahead of time that he really couldn't have children around him because his immune system was so vulnerable.
But when he heard that the children -- I never told him the children were in the car. And with -- with their babysitter. And he said oh, please bring them. Vicki said no, you can't do it. Well, he had them outside the window morning rabbit faces at them, which they loved. And this is a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old, Larry. And I know this may sound trite to some, but my two daughters, I'll tell you, explaining to that 7-year-old yesterday that Teddy was gone, it was very hard.
He -- he was very good to them. He had a wonderful ability to connect with people, including very young children in ways that was magical.
KING: The closeness between the two of you was much more than political, right?
DODD: Oh, absolutely, Larry. It was -- I mean I've lost a great friend. I mean we just had the best time over the past 30 years. I sat next to him on that Health Committee of his and so substantively, enjoyed him immensely working with him, and then, of course, developed a great personal friendship over the years.
And -- and so I know there will be a lot written about his abilities as a senator and how clever he was as a legislator, but I'll leave that for the history books. I just lost a great pal. And in life, as you well know, you end up with four or five great pals, you're a pretty lucky guy.
KING: You're not kidding.
DODD: Pretty rich. And I just lost one of those five.
KING: Senator McCain just said nobody is really irreplaceable, but he comes as close as there is to it.
Would you agree?
DODD: Yes, I do. I think that's true. And -- and, you know, Teddy is a very much a Senate guy. I know he ran for president, obviously, you know, in '80 and so forth. But he really -- he really was very -- he was very comfortable in the Senate. And I know that everyone has been analyzing his abilities. And I'm sure there will be volumes written about it. But it's not complicated, Larry.
Let me it will you what difference was. Good, he had a great staff. He had great issues. Teddy was smart. It really comes down to people liked him. I mean, I know, you know, in an institution of 100 people, if they don't respect you and admire you and at some level enjoy you as a human being, you're not going to be very successful at this. And Teddy was very well liked.
And I know people who came to the Senate believing they were going to run into this caricature they'd heard about and within a matter of days, they discovered that someone was warm, compassionate, interested in them, listened to their ideas, found them interesting and meant it.
And -- and even though they would go back and use him as a foil, politically, they would privately tell him how much they liked him and cared about him. And I've heard from several of my good Republican friends over the last several days (INAUDIBLE) tell you in my very good personal friendship and have called to express and tell wonderful stories about how Teddy treated them, despite the fact that they'd go home and, you know, use him, as I say, as that political foil...
KING: Yes. You...
DODD: ...in their campaigns.
KING: You recently underwent surgery for prostate cancer.
DODD: Two -- two weeks ago.
KING: Did you discuss that with him at all?
DODD: Oh, yes. Listen, I mean the first call I got, when he found out I was diagnosed with it, was to call me and say welcome to the club. That was back in June. And the very first call I got two- and-a-half weeks ago, coming out of the recovery room after the almost five hours of surgery, was Teddy. And -- and, again, having some roaring good laughter and the -- wondering how I was doing and some choice comments about -- about -- about catheters and other things like that, Larry.
KING: Senator, I know you'll be at both services, I gather, right?
DODD: Oh, absolutely. Yes. I'm going to make it up. And I'm doing better every day. And I have great doctors. And thousands of men have gone through prostate cancer.
I'm -- I'm doing well. I feel better every day and I'm getting -- taking advantage of this August break to get back on my feet again and will be back in the Senate.
And -- and I still believe we're going to get a health care bill. Teddy introduced his first health care bill 40 years ago. And -- and it isn't an exaggeration to say it was the cause of his life. And if we can sort of get beyond the rantings of August and start settling down and acting like Senator -- like Teddy did as a senator and do what John McCain just talked about, and others, and come together, we can get a good bill up and move forward. And I'm confident we will.
KING: Thanks, Senator.
DODD: Thank you, Larry, very much.
KING: Senator Chris Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut.
Does Kennedy's death make health care reform less likely?
That's tonight's Quick Vote. It's our question. Answer it at CNN.com/larrykinglive.
Ted Kennedy had many friends from both parties. His political opposite is next. Dan Quayle reminisces about his great friend, after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E. KENNEDY: Individuals, I believe very deeply, do best when they're challenged. Our country has always done best when it's been challenged.
I think the country is prepared for that kind of challenge and change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: On this special night, a tribute to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, we welcome former Vice President Dan Quayle, who served in the Senate with Senator Kennedy when he was U.S. senator from Indiana, from '81 through '89. You called him a good friend. How well did the two of you get along?
DAN QUAYLE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got along very well. Larry, I can first remember when I went to the Senate, he was one of the few senators that took me aside and said, make sure you take care of those young kids, because my children were really very young at the time.
But I was a chairman of the Employment Subcommittee of the Labor and Human Resources. And he was the ranking member. And the Seeder Program was going to expire. And he and I knew that we had to have some replacement. And I put together an outline of a plan. I took it to him. He made some adjustments and recommendations. We agreed upon a bill. It's called the Job Training Partnership Act.
I had trouble with the Reagan Administration. He had trouble with the Democrats. But we stayed together. And we -- the bill passed the Senate, believe it or not, 94 to nothing. Senators came up to both us and said, look, if Quayle and Kennedy agree on this, there is not much room for disagreement.
KING: When people were making kind of fun of you -- you know, who is Dan Quayle, and what is this, and after that incident on the debate? Do you know, he really stood up for you.
QUAYLE: Yes, he did. And he wrote me a letter during the campaign. And I don't have it memorized. But it was something like this: he said, good luck on the campaign trail. Good luck in the election, but without my vote. He said, I will speak kindly or unkindly about you, which ever you think will help you the most. Best wishes, Ted.
KING: What was special about him, Dan?
QUAYLE: His passion for life, his passion for people. He was such an -- he had such an engaging personality. People call it the Kennedy charisma. But you know him. We all know him. He just loved people.
Very interested in the family. He knew my kids by name. Not too many senators that would know other senator's children by name. He did. That's the kind of person he was. He had the biggest heart in the world.
Didn't always agree with him. But I tell you this, Larry, and he's going to be missed, sorely missed because he was able to reach across that divide in the Senate from time to time. And when he did -- when he did, normally it became law. With me, the Job Training Partnership Act. With others -- I mean, he would be very valuable to President Obama in the health care debate, because unfortunately today that divide has gotten a lot larger.
QUAYLE: -- than when Ted Kennedy and I served in the Senate.
KING: What was it like when you were vice president? Did you have dealings with him?
QUAYLE: Absolutely. And here's a very telling story about Ted Kennedy and the Kennedy family. I'm sure you recall the Letelier murder, with Ronny Moffet?
QUAYLE: OK. Ted Kennedy was very interested in pursuing who did that. And he accused the Pinochet government in Chile of doing that. Letelier was, I believe, the foreign minister to Ayinde, who was succeeding Pinochet in the election down in Chile. Ted called me up and says, I want to go to that inauguration. I said, look, I'd like to have you. Why do you want to go? He says, I want to be there when they pass the torch. But I also want to meet with Ayinde and talk about this investigation.
I said, OK, fine. But you have to promise me one thing, that when you're down there, you will not criticize our administration on what we've done with Chile, with Pinochet and with this investigation. He told me this -- it's very telling about him and his family. He said, my brother always said you do not criticize your country on foreign soil.
He kept his word. He was critical when he came home. But not down there. That's the kind of person he was.
KING: Last night, Joe Lieberman said his word was his bond. You would agree?
QUAYLE: I would. I mean, look, once he said I'm going to do this, he did it. You could put it in the bank. I dealt with him whether it was on the Job Training Partnership Act, or our trip to the inauguration in Chile. When he gave his word, it was good.
Now, believe me, it was difficult to get him to that position, because he had a lot of -- look, he had a lot of issues. I mean he had a lot of constituencies that he was trying to serve. But once he looked you in the eye and said I'm good for this, put it in the bank.
KING: And your president liked him very much, too.
QUAYLE: Yes, 41, as we affectionately call him now, he did like him. How could you not like him?
KING: That's right. How could you not?
QUAYLE: When he hear him speak -- and every once in a while, he'd get going. He'd go off on these tangents. I'd say, Ted, calm down a little bit. He'd say, you know, you guys on the Republican side don't really understand. We would banner back and forth.
But how you could not like the guy? He was a people person. He was a family person. As I said, he just had a passion for life, for people. And he was just a special person.
And he's going to be missed. He's going to be very missed. He is good at forging bipartisan agreements. And that's what this country needs today.
KING: Which is apparently a thing of the past. I thank you so much, vice president, for sharing your thoughts.
QUAYLE: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Former Vice President Dan Quayle on the legacy of his friend, Ted Kennedy. We'll be right back.
KING: Welcome back. The Kennedy family has established a Twitter account and website for information regarding the funeral and burial. Learn more at CNN.com/LarryKing. Click on blog. Our viewers have shared their thoughts on Kennedy's death.
Here's just a couple. Mary writes: "he is the end of an era. But what a legacy he's left behind."
Laurie says, "rest well, Ted. You've completed your tasks here."
As you know, Senator Kennedy made a number of speeches that will be in the history books. Some of the best ever were delivered at Democratic National Conventions. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E. KENNEDY: We are the party of the New Freedom, the New Deal and the New Frontier. We have always been the party of hope. So this year, let us offer new hope. New hope to an America uncertain about the present, but unsurpassed in its potential for the future.
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.
The vice president says he never saw or can't remember or did not comprehend the intelligence report on General Noriega's involvement in the cocaine cartel. So when that report was being prepared and discussed, I think it's fair to ask, where was George?
I have stood with so many of you in so many great causes. The times have changed. But the ideals are the same. 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.
Will we comfort the comfortable or will we strengthen the fabric of this country for all Americans? Our capacity to do better has never been greater. Let us not turn back to old policies and old ways that favor the few at the expense of the many.
Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I have seen it. I've lived it. And we can do it again.
There is a new wave of change all around us. And if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination. Not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation. And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans. So with Barack Obama, and for you, and for me, our country will be committed to his cause.
The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You can see more on our special Sunday edition of LARRY KING LIVE, the best of my interviews with Ted Kennedy over the course of 20 years. It's a look at good times and bad times in his own words. Back in 60 seconds.
KING: We'll be joined by CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, Ted Sorenson, special counsel and adviser to President John Kennedy, and John King, host of CNN's "State of the Union." They were all with us last night and they're back. We'll hear from them shortly.
First, time for this week's hero. His name is Jordan Thomas. Lost both legs in an accident when he was 16. He learned to walk again and then helped many others do the same thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN THOMAS, CNN HERO: Well, I was scuba diving with my parents in the Florida Keys and I slipped behind the boat. My legs were hit by the propeller. I lost both legs below the knee.
KING: How were you able to bounce back so much that you could then help others less fortunate?
THOMAS: I had a lot of great people around me. I was raised very well. And I just knew how fortunate I was to have them, especially seeing the other kids around me that were so much less fortunate. I realized that I had to do something to help them.
KING: How does the foundation work?
THOMAS: We raise money. We have raised just over 400,000 dollars in four years. And we provide kids with prosthetics that can't afford them.
KING: Jordan, I salute you. You're a true hero. We thank you very much and we honor your presence. You're a great guy.
THOMAS: I appreciate it. It's great to be here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Next, Gergen, Sorenson and King. Stick around.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWS BREAK)
KING: David Gergen, Ted Sorenson, John King all joining us now. John, we'll start with you. Are all the former presidents coming to the funeral, John?
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Three of the four living former presidents, Larry. George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, was invited. He told the Kennedy family he will be unable to make it. He did call Vicki Kennedy, the senator's widow, and Caroline Kennedy to pass on his condolences, and his thoughts at the passing of Senator Kennedy and Barbara Bush's.
But he will not be attending. The other ones will.
Larry, let me briefly describe the scene for you here. There are still thousands waiting in line. The line goes on as far as I can see this way into the dark. And one of the most remarkable things tonight is that the Kennedy family has been coming out to thank the people for turning out.
You showed some sound from Vicki earlier in the program. She came out at one point, the senator's widow, to say thank you to all these people. Bobby Kennedy spent nearly two hours. We lost track of him. He might still be out there, for all we know. Robert Kennedy Jr. shaking hands, saying, thank you to people for coming.
I had one moment to talk to him, Larry. I think we have the tape. He talked about his final conversation with Senator Kennedy. He talked about his role in keeping the family together, and he talked about what he hoped the American people would think of Senator Kennedy's legacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KENNEDY JR.: He really thought that his mission was to help America to live up to its ideal, to perfect the union, to make us an exemplary nation that he really believed that we ought to be, and that our history dictated, you know, a paradigm of democracy and justice, and to persuade Americans that we all have to be heroic, that we have to resist the seduction of this notion that we can advance ourselves as people by leaving our poor brothers and sisters behind, that everybody has to be included.
He did that with our family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
L. KING: Very telling. John King with young Mr. Kennedy. David Gergen, columnist George Will today declared Ted Kennedy the most consequential of the Kennedy brothers. What do you think of that?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I didn't agree with that. I think he was hugely consequential. As we discussed last night, the most effective legislator of the second half of the 20th century. His office has listed some 550 bills that he helped to author during his time in the Senate, an enormously productive senator.
But you have to say that John Kennedy had an enormous impact upon this country as a rising senator as well, and then particularly in his presidency. He inspired a new idealism in the country. He brought a new generation into public life. He continues to be a revered president by older Americans, especially. And his legacy is still being learned anew by young Americans.
So I didn't agree that Teddy Kennedy was the most consequential. I did think that he deserved to be remembered not only as a Kennedy, but for who he was. Not just a member of a large, almost dynastic family, but for a man of enormous contribution to the country. Perhaps his last contribution was to help elect Barack Obama.
L. KING: Ted, if Massachusetts does allow an interim senator, would Mike Dukakis be a good choice?
TED SORENSON, FMR. ADVISER TO PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: Mike Dukakis is one of the brightest men in Massachusetts, still. And I have no doubt that he would be a very effective United States senator. But I know enough about Massachusetts politics from my old days with JFK not to try to intervene as an outsider in that family feud.
L. KING: Do you think they might approve it? They might acquiesce to the senator's dying wish?
SORENSON: I think they should arrange for a senator to fill that spot soon and not let it go vacant. That would be a disservice to Massachusetts and a disservice to everybody Ted Kennedy fought for.
L. KING: We will be back with more in a moment.
We have an exclusive for you Wednesday night; R&B singer Chris Brown breaks his silence on assaulting Rihanna. We'll talk about what he did, why did he it, and how the law is making him pay. Chris Brown, his mother and attorney Mark Geragos here for the hour, Wednesday night, September 2nd. Back after this.
L. KING: John King, was there any thought to having the body lie in state at the Capitol?
J. KING: That was considered, Larry, it was decided in the end -- the family went through the arrangement that they wanted most of all for people to visit Senator Kennedy here in Massachusetts. That was the decision of the family. The Capitol option was a possibility. But in the end, they said 47 years representing Massachusetts, they wanted to take every precious moment they could to have him right here in the library he so loved.
Larry, you can see it was worth it, because there are still thousands waiting here, and there's more time tomorrow for the public to come and bid Senator Kennedy one last farewell.
L. KING: David Gergen, if the Kennedy story were fiction, it would be hard to believe, wouldn't it?
GERGEN: Absolutely. You know, there's so many stories here, they fill volumes. I don't know if Ted Sorenson would know this, but I bet there are almost as many books about the Kennedys now as there are about Franklin Roosevelt.
L. KING: Is that probably true, Ted?
SORENSON: There are more about Kennedy probably than Franklin Roosevelt.
L. KING: He was only in for a little over two years. Why, if he was only in for such a short time, Ted?
SORENSON: Because I think John F. Kennedy was an extraordinary president, who -- it was under his leadership that we first left behind the bounds of Earth and began to explore the universe. It was under his leadership that after centuries of discrimination against our black citizens we turned around and marched in a totally different direction. And it was under his leadership that the most dangerous 13 days, as historians call it, in the history of mankind were peacefully resolved by a cool, calm president, without firing a shot, which is why you and I are here today to talk about it.
L. KING: David, one of the extraordinary things that Teddy Kennedy did was step out of the shadow of his brothers, though, wasn't it?
GERGEN: Yes, it was. And in many ways, it appears that he spent the rest of his life -- one of the reasons he became such an effective senator was he spent the rest of his life trying to live up to the standards that he thought his brothers and his older sisters and his parents represented.
He was always the chubby kid not much was expected from. His sister had nicknamed him Biscuits and Muffins. He wasn't a very good student. He transformed himself. That's the reason I think it's a redemptive story about what Ted Kennedy made himself into it.
L. KING: Very well said. John, can you give us a little time table? What's going to happen, quickly, tomorrow and then Saturday?
J. KING: Well, Larry, you'll have more public viewing during the daytime tomorrow. Then they will shut it down in the afternoon. They will have an Irish Catholic wake, a celebration with a great number of VIP speakers tomorrow night, including the vice president, Senator John McCain, Caroline Kennedy, and Joe Kennedy.
Then Saturday morning is the funeral mass here. The president will deliver the main eulogy at that event. Senator Kennedy will fly to leave from a military airport here, fly to Andrews Air Force Base. Then he will take his final resting place next to the two brothers David and Ted have been talking about. A very still action packed weekend. The diversity in this crowd, Larry, lastly, is remarkable. Ted just about at achievements of Senator Kennedy and President Kennedy. If you could look at this crowd and see the diversity in age and ethnic origin, it's really quite remarkable.
L. KING: This whole thing is quite remarkable. We're going to do a lot more on it tomorrow night. We expect these three guests will be back to spend more time with us. David Gergen, Ted Sorenson, John King.
It's an historic time in New Orleans too. That's why returning to the scene of the crime, so to speak, is Anderson Cooper. He hosts "AC 360" right now. Anderson?