Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Memorial Service for Senator Ted Kennedy
Aired August 29, 2009 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They're gathering in Boston for the funeral mass of Senator Ted Kennedy. You're looking live at these pictures, buses arriving at the John F. Kennedy Library right now, a congressional delegation, senators, members of the House of Representatives are coming to pay their respects.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. Anderson Cooper is here. Anderson, let's walk through a little bit. We've got the best political team on television, what we're about to see beginning with the arrival at the library before they move over to the church for the mass. The senators, his colleagues, and friends they're coming to say good-bye to their colleague.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: This really will be the last sort of moment, personal moment that they'll be able to have to reflect and have some time with Senator Kennedy. You saw the casket there a moment ago. The senators and congressmen arriving in some very unpleasant conditions. There will also be a funeral mass which will be taking place in about an hour and a half or so.
BLITZER: About 10:30 A.M. Eastern. It will be a two-hour mass that will take place. The president of the United States, Barack Obama, will be delivering the eulogy. But before we get there, Anderson, let's just walk through a little bit. That's the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. That's the neighborhood church where the mass will take place. But there's Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives leading the delegation in the house.
But I think there are at least 50, maybe 60 senators who got on planes early this morning, very early this morning, to come over to the library and you're looking at the body, the coffin as it lies in repose, continuing at least for a little while longer before that body is moved to the church. Dana Bash is our senior congressional correspondent. Dana, do we have a final count of how many senators are coming to the church for this mass?
DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was an official congressional delegation that did leave Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington and took senators here on that plane, 58 senators, 21 former senators. Now the current cabinet secretary Salazar and six officers of the Senate but that does not include many senators who made it to Boston on their own. We saw many at the service last night. So we have at least a hundred, probably more senators and that doesn't include House members. There are at least 50 of those. BLITZER: Much more than a quorum that would be necessary for the senator. It's an extraordinary event that's unfolding, David Gergen. Do you remember a time when a senator, a United States senator has been sent off like this?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No senator. Presidents, yes. We have more of those funerals than we would like to count but this is the first. I do think it brings back a lot of memories of Bobby's funeral when he was a senator, it has some of the same elements. That was a shock of course. This was anticipated but dreaded. This is remarkable. It's almost like a state funeral.
COOPER: We know that in about an hour, about 9:30 A.M. Eastern time, the body of Senator Kennedy will leave the viewing area where it is now and head towards the Basilica. The service there will start at about 10:30. The funeral mass, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, a church which had great importance for Senator Kennedy over the years.
BLITZER: It's where he went to pray for his daughter who was suffering from cancer and he went on an almost daily basis we're told to go to this neighborhood church and they were surprised Wednesday morning, early Wednesday morning when they got the call saying this was where they wanted to have the funeral mass. And it's going to be a beautiful, beautiful service. The cellist Yoyo Ma will perform. The tenor Placido Domingo will perform and the president of the United States will speak. It will be a very traditional Catholic mass.
COOPER: And then later on today around 4:30 the body of Senator Kennedy will be brought by the Senate staff, a driver by and then en route to Arlington National Cemetery where he will be laid to rest.
BLITZER: There you see the United States Senate that will be an emotional moment. A lot of colleagues, friends, staffers, they will gather on those senate steps to say good-bye before the motorcade and the casket continues across the Potomac River to Arlington National Cemetery.
COOPER: That's one of the few public areas in Washington where people will be able to see the senator one last time.
BLITZER: John King, our chief national correspondent is over at the Basilica. John, set the scene for us where you are. First of all, how's the weather?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The weather, Wolf, is rainy, it's a bit raw this morning even though late August a bit of a chill in the air. That is complicating the arrivals and of course the security arrangements. It's a relatively orderly proceeding. You saw many of the congressional VIPs going in. Congressman John Lewis of course a hero of the civil rights movement walked in a few moments ago.
Martin Luther King III was in the security line as I was passing through. You just mentioned the formal title of the church but in this neighborhood it is called the Mission Church. The Mission Hill neighborhood for years has been one of the immigrant, blue collar communities of Boston, turning over Irish at one point, now it is a more Latino and Asian community.
You mentioned when Kara Kennedy was being treated for cancer. Wolf, just behind the church, you can't see it from where I'm standing, but just down the hill there is what is called the Longwood medical area and Senator Kennedy had so much to do with the federal money and other assistance that brought Dana Farber, Children's Hospital, Brigham Women's, Harvard Medical School.
There was a string of the elite medical institutions that defined Boston's medical community just down the hill from there. And because he was so close when his daughter was being treated he would come here virtually every day when he was here to pray, to receive communion.
The priests here say if anyone recognized him he would pause and say hello and so he formed a bond with this church during his daughter's fight with cancer and it is why he made this selection. Also, a reminder on this day. This is a complicated man that we are saying farewell to today and even as he has his funeral mass in this church, let's remember, this is a senator who at times despite his very deep faith was at odds with his church.
A supporter of abortion rights, a very public and messy divorce, and yet he would constantly come back to the church despite those political tensions and personal tensions. This church in particular if you ask friends or family members they say it deepened and in many ways redefined and strengthened his faith as he watched his daughter successfully fight that cancer -- Wolf?
BLITZER: And she is going to be here, his family, Anderson, and I think all of our viewers by now are very familiar, son suffered from cancer, survived. Daughter suffered from cancer, survived. He lost three brothers including his oldest brother Joe during World War II in combat. Two brothers, a president and a United States senator and this Senator Ted Kennedy has gone through a lot.
COOPER: Yes, and we saw last night the celebration of the life of the senator which was really fascinating to see, Gloria Borger, all the different, we had John McCain speaking, we had Vice President Biden, Orrin Hatch, Caroline Kennedy. There was often more laughter than tears.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: You had a sense that if all the TV cameras weren't there the stories would have gotten a little bit more raucous about Ted Kennedy. You know, I think there's a true sense of the, just the openness of this man's heart and how he reached out to everybody. You heard Senator Chris Dodd say at every important moment in his life, happy, sad, the first call, Senator Ted Kennedy. Orrin Hatch talking about that.
All of them, Caroline Kennedy talking about her uncle being the patriarch of the family, the pied piper who insisted on taking all the children on field trips. And so you got a sense of this man beyond the legislator that we know him to be in the United States Senate. These were people speaking from the heart about somebody who had actually touched their lives in so many ways. Joe Biden, the vice president, making the point that he would not have stayed in his Senate seat after a terrible car crash in his family which killed his wife and his daughter had Ted Kennedy not convinced him to remain in the Senate.
BLITZER: James Carville is here with us as well, he's watching. James, a lot of your friends are there at that church service this morning. They were there last night. This is the passing of an era, I think we can fairly say.
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, you know, I was sitting here thinking, are we overdoing this? And that's always the question you ask. You think back through his life and everything that he meant and the answer is, no, we're not.
This is not a case where we're -- where people are -- this is a man who (INAUDIBLE) the country every tragedy he had, every triumph, everything that happened, is probably the most accomplished legislator since World War II. The answer is I think the country is grateful for it and to see this. I think this is a man who is deserving of the sendoff that he's getting, I really do.
BLITZER: In addition to the current president of the United States and the vice president, they will be attending this church mass. The president will be eulogizing Senator Kennedy, three former presidents will be there as well -- Jimmy Carter, who was a rival back in 1980 when they were both seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, George W. Bush, the immediate past president, and Bill Clinton will be there as well. The first president Bush unfortunately will not be able to make it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most significant man in politics over the last 45 years. He was polarizing but the great thing about last night, you know, you always want to end your life surrounded by friends and first and foremost this guy was a friend. You could see that by the outpouring and many other candidates for president, those who saluted him last night. Your family, your friends, and your faith.
This is a man who you said had struggles at the end of the day and we all hope at the end of the day we can make our peace and I think he has made his peace. Obviously this is about friends, family, and faith, and I think his friends so overpowered the polarization that may have taken care of and I think the key thing is anybody who knew him loved him.
Those who didn't love him obviously the politics which James and I can attest to, there are people who may hate you who don't know you and you try to balance that off by people who love you and he certainly did.
COOPER: David Gergen how was he able to do that? How was he able to get a John McCain, an Orrin Hatch to be a friend and a colleague whenever possible?
GERGEN: I think Chris Dodd, the senator who I thought gave a really excellent speech last night summed it up well when he said the secret to his success was that people liked him. He just was very friendly but he had that laugh and you had a sense of tragedy that went with the laughter that made him an enormously magnetic person.
And I think what I've been struck by all along here is how much this family who was struck by tragedy but they kept finding the laughter side of it. John Kennedy famously sent a gift to his friend David Powers, and on it had an inscription that said there are three things in life that are real -- God, you and folly, and laughter. The first two are beyond our comprehension. We must do what we can with the third.
BLITZER: Roland Martin is here as well. Roland I know you want to weigh in. He was a significant figure in many respects including in the civil rights era.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Again, you look at the congressmen, they cover civil rights, they cover immigration, they cover deregulation of trucking industry, the airline industry. Any number of things. I thought what last night, why it was so important is because there are people outside of Washington, D.C. who have no understanding of the relationships that exist off the stage, out of the camera view.
When the congressman Nick Lieberman was killed in the plane crash I was interviewing Congressman Jack Fields and he said, here I am, a white conservative guy, black liberal. He couldn't play basketball, I could. We were the best of friends. And so the nation got an opportunity to understand Republicans, Democrats, playing jokes amongst one another, having those kinds of relationships but also admitting that when it came to politics we were simply at odds.
That was important for America to see that this is not just I hate Republicans, I hate Democrats, they're all terrible, there are relationships that go beyond.
BLITZER: And, unfortunately, and I'd love everyone to weigh in if they want, we're seeing a lot less of that right now.
MARTIN: Yes, absolutely.
BORGER: Sadly, that's disappearing. And I think you could almost hear that in the eulogies last night.
COOPER: Senator McCain last night saying Senator Kennedy took the long view and a lot of people have talked about, David Brooks wrote a column about how he was willing to negotiate. He was willing to compromise. He wanted to make achievements and was willing to do what it took to get them.
BORGER: And he was willing to learn from his mistakes and he was willing to wait to make legislation better. If you pass a piece of legislation that wasn't perfect, he knew he could perfect it five years down the road. That doesn't happen anymore. You have politicians who come into Washington, they term limit themselves. They're elected in very partisan districts. They don't take the long view anymore.
And when you hear them telling stories about a back room meeting with Republicans and Democrats where they all ended up getting along trying to figure out what they could do and what they could not do, that is fast disappearing in the senate.
BASH: It absolutely is. I see it every day and that was why when you saw groups of senators like Ted Kennedy and John McCain and Orrin Hatch get together, you really did get a different feel in watching them from watching other senators these days. It just is a different place. The Senate has always been known as a club and still is a club in many respects.
But because of the age of television, the age of cable, now the age of blogs, it's in that and just kind of a different sense, it's just not the same. So I think with the passing of Ted Kennedy, you are also kind of passing that generation where people just got along regardless of their politics separate from the legislation just on a personal level.
BORGER: And they don't see each other as much because they all go home every weekend now. So they used to have some kind of social connection that helped in legislation and that is totally disappearing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even the social is broken down. The last 20, 25 years in Washington, the combination of negative television that came about really in national politics about 1978, the '80s, there still was some with Reagan and Tip O'Neill and others even though the friendship may not have been quite what people portrayed it to be, it was still partisan. But really the '90s, the era of Gingrich, et al, it really became a very partisan place. The last place that was still a club was the Senate. That is diminishing by the day, too.
CARVILLE: What really struck me about last night is it was not orchestrated and it was much more about Senator Kennedy the human being than it was Senator Kennedy the senator. There were a lot of stories about him. There was some sort of talk oh, it was going to be like a political partisan event or something like that, it was anything but.
And I don't know -- I mean, the sense that he affected a lot of lives other than the people that knew him. Some of them were very poignant, very beautiful speeches but it was really much more about him and his individual humanity, the way he treated human beings other than his accomplishments as a senator.
MARTIN: I think at the end of the day when someone passes away that is what you take away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
MARTIN: Because the reality is the Senate is going to continue. There is going to be a replacement for Senator Kennedy.
CARVILLE: People loved him and they wanted to talk about their love for him and their relationship.
BLITZER: We're seeing the senators walking in. You saw Senator Leahy of Vermont, Senator Specter of Pennsylvania. You see their colleagues, they're coming in. They'll be paying their respects as Senator Kennedy's body lies in repose and then the body will be moved over to the Basilica to the church for the funeral mass.
The senators will be walking by and are continuing to walk in, many of them getting up so early this morning to fly out of Washington, D.C. to come to Boston to pay their last respects to this senator. John King is over at the Basilica at the church with Paul Begala and I know, John that Paul was there at the celebration of life last night.
KING: He was, Wolf. Let's just turn to Paul and have him take us inside the room. As I do so, I'll show you this headline in "The Boston Globe" a time to remember. It is striking Wolf, because you see here the young image, hard to see on television, but the young image of Jack Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, the youngest of the three brothers of course. The oldest brother, Joe Kennedy killed in World War II.
Teddy was the one we saw grow old and gray, Paul. And I think that was what was touching in all the stories last night tracing back his life.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was. And then to watch that next generation, Vice President Biden addressed the children and the grandchildren. He talked to the nation and the world but he was mostly talking to that next generation of Kennedys and it was interesting to see, telling them you have the same capacity, you have the same commitment to service, and sort of exhorting them.
I think by extension all of us to step into that breach and I think that's what a lot of people are wondering now, who can step up? Not in the sense of liberal conservative, but who's going to be the next generation of leaders in America?
KING: It is an interesting conversation, a great subject of conversation especially here in Massachusetts which for 60 years has had a Senator Kennedy for Massachusetts. I was talking to Bobby Kennedy, Robert Kennedy Jr. outside about this and I asked him would Vicki under pressure take the seat if there's an interim appointment? Would Joe Kennedy the former congressman run for the seat?
He laughed and smiled and said I don't have a clue. He had sort of a playful laughter, and he said, but look, we will serve. We may not run for office but we will serve. The next generation. He's an environmentalist. His sister is involved in human rights efforts. He said we will serve. Just how we serve, we'll think about this as we reflect on Teddy.
BEGALA: I think that's right, I think Bobby is probably speaking for the whole generation. Joe Kennedy and Caroline of that generation spoke last night powerfully and Joe particularly very personally. It was striking to me, James was talking about how they talked about Senator Kennedy the man and here was his nephew publicly thanking Senator Kennedy's wife and children for sharing this man with him.
Of course, one of nine children left by Senator Robert Kennedy when he was killed, President Kennedy's two children, knowing a few of them, he was very much a father to them and that was an incredibly personal moment for that family to share with the whole world and I think that's what's been such a wonderful balance.
I was hearing Ed and James talking about the lack of partisanship in him. I think it's also a testament to Orrin Hatch and John McCain, though. They rose above partisanship and were really wonderful last night.
KING: And, Wolf, as we throw back to you and Anderson in New York another interesting thing, we've seen all the VIPs, Supreme Court justices, senators, members of Congress. It's all so striking there are so many people who have worked for Senator Kennedy over the last 47 years. What they will tell you is just like Joe Biden they got the notes when they were in the hospital or when they had a kid having trouble and one of the interesting things about Senator Kennedy as a politician is he kept in touch with his staff and became as much a friend and a mentor, too.
BLITZER: All right. We're looking at these live pictures from inside the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. The widow Vicki Kennedy is personally receiving all of the senators who are there. They're walking past her. Some emotional moments just a few seconds ago when she was hugging Arlen Specter who himself has been suffering from cancer. All right. We're going to continue to watch what's going on. Our special coverage of "The Life and Times of Ted Kennedy" will continue after this.
BLITZER: Filing past the coffin, the casket of Senator Ted Kennedy over at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. You're looking at the widow, Vicki Kennedy, receive all the special guests, Dianne Feinstein the senator from California getting a hug right now. Both of them obviously very, very sad at this moment but they're also remembering Ted Kennedy who was a very good friend.
Anderson, it now the official list Dana was pointing it out earlier, 58 senators, 21 former senators, secretary of the interior Ken Salazar who was a senator from Colorado. Six officers of the Senate. This is an extraordinary outpouring of support. There's John Warner one of the former senators from Virginia.
COOPER: An extraordinary collection of the power of this country, senators and congress people and former presidents.
GERGEN: Isn't it, though. Isn't Vicki, the widow, Vicki Kennedy, isn't she a remarkable figure in all of this? She's so poised, a lot of grace and she is greeting each one of these people and she seems to know each person who's coming through the line.
BLITZER: She's an established figure in her own right. She was a highly regarded lawyer before she and Ted Kennedy fell in love. BORGER: This is something that tells me something about the Kennedys. They brought people together in their house in Washington. They hosted the Senate while the Senate may not be full of the comity it once was Ted Kennedy really never stopped and so the people she's hugging are people she knows quite well as friends. It's not just acquaintances here.
CARVILLE: She came from a remarkable area of Louisiana which is a little bit to the west of Lafayette, which produced the former governor of Louisiana Edwin Edwards, Senator John Brough (ph) and an array of families ...
BLITZER: Are you suggesting she could wind up in the United States Senate herself?
CARVILLE: It would be natural for a woman from Crowley, Louisiana and would actually -- his wife to be in the United States Senate but it's a remarkable place in south Louisiana. She is a remarkable woman. She really is.
BASH: We're talking about Orrin Hatch and you see he just greeted Vicki Kennedy now. He's right behind her. But I think when people are watching and wondering, you know, why Ted Kennedy was many people -- many people remember him as an extremely polarizing figure so a lot of people probably are scratching their heads wondering why there is so much of an outpouring especially among his colleagues.
I think that Orrin Hatch really did sum it up very well last night because he made very clear that he was one of those people who hated the Kennedys. He came into the Senate as a conservative with fire in his belly absolutely determined to do battle with him and it was not until he actually met him and talked to him that he realized what a different person he was than frankly, the caricature. And I think that is really kind of what we are seeing illustrated over and over again. I think Orrin Hatch is the ultimate illustration of that.
MARTIN: And I go over to what Governor Duvall Patrick said last night. When he head of the senate confirmation hearing -- when he shook the hand of almost 60 senators and he said it's harder for them to demagogue you if they've looked you in the eye.
And so it is very easy for people in the public when you read these blogs, when you see columnists, when you see radio talk show hosts who never met these people and never talked to them, that they've never had any conversation with them. So they attack and they demonize but then when they meet them wait a minute, he's a pretty good guy. And so it changes your perception of an individual. I think that's what last night it also did.
COOPER: It is also remarkable just the change that Senator Kennedy had over the course of his time in Washington. I mean, the man who first went to the Senate is a completely different man who we ended up seeing. BORGER: Right. And he always talked about, you can look at it as an ark of redemption, if you will. I mean, people are celebrating the humanity of this imperfect man who came to the Senate, people believed he was vacuous. He was a young kid who didn't deserve it. He got it just because of his name and his family.
And that may well have been true at the time. I mean, who knows? But this is somebody who decided after a period of making an awful lot of mistakes that what he wanted to do was be a legislator and that is what he became.
COOPER: And how much was the failure to be president and the realization that's not going to happen. That is off the table and then does that free you in a way?
BORGER: And that was a gift to him. In a way I think losing to Jimmy Carter in those primaries, he had to make a decision about what he was going to do with the rest of his life and he made a decision that the Senate was really the place that he could thrive and make a difference to the country and that's what did.
BEGALA: The Senate is -- I'm sorry.
CARVILLE: Is there a lesson here that in life when somebody makes a mistake and they're young that, no, they got to be kicked out because they can never serve again. Well, he was given -- you know, he was given redemption, redemption and look how much the country benefited from it.
BORGER: Do you think that would have happened today?
CARVILLE: Again, if people stood up now and say look at Senator Kennedy's life, do we really want to run this guy out of the United States Senate because he made a mistake? I mean, this is something that people who say, who believe in redemption, this is a great story.
COOPER: Anybody in particular you're talking about?
CARVILLE: You know, you never know.
CARVILLE: But I do think the real lesson here is life is redemptive and he showed us that and we should take that and learn from it so the next time someone gets into trouble or does something we should say maybe we ought to let this person stick around a little while.
BEGALA: Not to diminish that point because it's a very important, the Senate is a totally different place. When Kennedy went there his brother, obviously, was the president but it was a southern run entity. And the senior, the democratic Party was a southern party. The Republican Party was a western party. In the course of his lifetime all of that has changed with the exception of states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, still swing states.
You think you know, talking about 60 votes now to cut off, it was 67 in those days to cut it off. The civil rights debate went on for 81 days. Byrd, Senator Byrd spoke for 14 hours in a filibuster. You know, and every southern senator voted against civil rights. It was dramatic changes in our country during this period. He was a leader in a lot of them.
MARTIN: Dr. King talked about if you're going to be a ditch digger be the best ditch digger you can. A lot of people focused on, well, he could have been president. I think the lesson also is, you can change the nation just where you are. And so even though he was in the U.S. Senate, the kind of impact that he had, it's not always just about who is sitting in the White House. It's how can you change America in the particular job that you have? I think he typified that.
GERGEN: The growth that we -- Anderson, you referred to and Senator Kennedy, which was enormous, I think it's to a significant degree also a tribute to the family, to Joe and Rose Kennedy and the way they raised these kids. It was always, you know, Rose in particular stressed education and you got to keep going. Their family dinner table conversations were always about, you know, asking questions about public affairs and challenging each other.
And what you saw in Ed Rollins who started his career back with the Kennedys, interestingly enough, I think what Ed would also agree is that all three Kennedy brothers who lived to maturity grew. Jack Kennedy as president came in and he stumbled in the Bay of Pigs. He wasn't on top of the job but a year and a half later with the Cuban missile crisis he was masterful. Bobby Kennedy, you knew, and he changed enormously in the last three or four years of his life. He grew in enormous ways.
BORGER: And you know, Ted Kennedy suffered at first because of course he was compared to these perfect brothers whom we remember and memorialized in such ideal ways. And there was Ted Kennedy, the baby, with all the humanity and all of the flaws and he suffered in comparison at first.
CARVILLE: Ted Kennedy was vilified by the right. And we're talking about the son of bipartisanship and everything, I mean, I just think he wrote more fund raising letters sent out. More people have said more things to me, this stuff that you see ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Orrin Hatch said it.
CARVILLE: Right. He sure did. And you know, this wasn't when he, when his political battles oh, Teddy is a great guy, we just disagree with him philosophically. No, that wasn't really the way it was back then. I promise.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
CARVILLE: And it would be well if we kind of remembered that. These town halls that we see today, a lot of this origin is sort of Kennedy hating if you will and we can't escape that. That's part of our history and we shouldn't deny it.
BLITZER: Deb Feyerick is over there at the library and I just want to set the scene for our viewers who might just be tuning in. You're looking at live pictures from inside the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. The body of Senator Kennedy lies in repose. Just for a few more moments. It will then be taken over to the church that's not very far away, the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Mission Church as it's called, in Boston.
You're looking at live pictures of where the funeral mass is scheduled to begin at around 10:30 a.m. Eastern, a little bit more than an hour and 15 minutes from now. But around 9:30, the senators and everyone at the John F. Kennedy Library will begin making their way over to the church and we'll watch that as it unfolds and then they'll all be walking inside the church and the president of the United States and three former presidents will be attending the funeral mass.
Deb Feyerick, you're there at the library for us. Tell us what's going on outside because we see the pictures inside of all these members of the Senate and other distinguished guests. Most of them comforting the widow, Vicki Kennedy.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Wolf. We see the honor guard about to go in. There are dogs, explosive sniffing dogs, checking under the limousines that are going to be carrying members of the families as well. You know, it's so interesting. As somebody who has seen a lot of the people who came to honor him yesterday, you see all these very famous politicians inside and you have to remember that these were Ted Kennedy's buddies.
They were his friends. They were his foils, his frenemies and you know, even Vicki there so composed when she was out here greeting people the same exact way she is greeting those famous folks inside the building right now. You know, Teresa Heinz-Kennedy, a friend of hers, has said that she was doing OK. The senator's widow really felt they were so lucky to have that year together, that they were able to do things that they wanted to do.
There are reports that they watched "James Bond" movies and they watched episodes of "24" and they ate ice cream together. So you'd get a sense that she's just so down to earth, greeting these very famous people, and things started right on time. We were told that the congressional delegation was going to be arriving here at about 8:30. That's exactly when they arrived here.
Senator Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and what's also striking to me, Wolf, is that the younger kids, the kids that we -- we don't even recognize the grand kids. They're the ones here and I think that they, too, understand just how big this is and just how serious this is.
Everybody recognizes Ted Kennedy and his siblings, you know, people are having a little bit more difficulty putting names to the other generation and even the younger ones they pass by and nobody really knows who they are but they still have that sense of responsibility of what is expected and what's to come. So, a very interesting dynamic here, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we're looking at live pictures from inside the John F. Kennedy Library. Vicki Kennedy is receiving the distinguished guests, Barbara Boxer, the senator from California now walking past. There's a lot -- she has been doing a lot of this, Anderson, over the past couple days. She spent hours in -- at the library receiving just the public as they walked past that casket. She's been very, gracious and in her outpouring during these sensitive moments.
COOPER: Standing by the senator in death as she did in life. I mean, it is really a remarkable, late in life love story of these two. It was unexpected. And yet it came at a very critical time for Senator Kennedy.
BLITZER: There's a really powerful story about that love affair on the front page of the "New York Times" this morning if you haven't read it.
COOPER: She changed his life and enabled him to achieve all the more.
BLITZER: Yes. It's an amazing story. And I come back to this because I sense there's going to be enormous amount pressure on her, Roland Martin, to step up and continue that tradition now for more than 50 years of having a Kennedy in the United States Senate.
MARTIN: There is going to be enormous amounts of pressure but as one whose wife was a pastor and certified grief counselor she needs time to grieve. I mean, this is a widow. This is someone who has lost the love of her life. And so frankly and I'll say it, politics is secondary to her grieving process. And I think people need to give her that space and the time to grieve as a widow.
BLITZER: By the way, we're also getting pictures over at the Basilica, at the church and I think that's Walter Mondale, the former vice president walking in right now. He was at that celebration of life at the lake last night as well. The guests are beginning to come in to this. It's not a big church. I think they've made arrangements though for about 1,500 guests to come in and participate in this mass. Dana ...
BASH: And Walter Mondale is also sitting with Senator Kennedy on inauguration day when he had a seizure and he collapsed and they took him away. He was sitting at his table and I remember talking to him afterwards about how traumatic that was for everybody sitting there. That it was that day of celebration we all remember, obviously, the inauguration of Barack Obama, and we had that reminder that this, unfortunately, was probably going to be not too far away because Senator Kennedy did collapse and have that seizure.
BLITZER: Barney Frank is there, the congressman from Massachusetts. There had been talk at one point that he might be interested in that Senate seat although I think he sort of backed off. He's got a pretty significant role as chairman of the banking committee in the House of Representatives. But there are a few other delegates, representatives in that Massachusetts delegation. I don't know, who might want to talk about, who might want to throw their hat in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not to argue, the democratic politics for Massachusetts, it's not my place, but Mrs. Kennedy would be an incredible choice. She would -- she could calm the waters. Any of the rest of them will be very polarizing battle. Joe Kennedy, Barney Frank, not that a Democrat can't win there but she could basically go there and continue the Kennedy legacy for a period of time.
CARVILLE: Caroline Kennedy. We know she wants to be a senator. We know there is a history of Kennedys going to New York and running for the Senate. So the governor makes -- maybe Vicki doesn't want to be senator for any number of reasons so Governor Patrick would be popular in Massachusetts. She agrees to hold the seat and let somebody else run.
BLITZER: It didn't exactly work out well for her in New York.
MARTIN: I agree but Massachusetts is a lot different than New York state. I'm just saying here, trying to think of something a little different.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A name that's been thrown out on the interim basis is of course Mike Dukakis, a former governor of the state. But I was told by someone close to the family that when this discussion came up there was some sense that Vicki Kennedy might be interested in the interim seat but she didn't want to get involved in a kind of a political football here that it became and so she withdrew from that idea.
If everything calms down and maybe it would calm down if her name were thrown into that, maybe it would be different. But right now she doesn't want to talk about it.
BLITZER: You know what? I just want to point out in the middle of the screen you see the white haired Joe Kennedy, the nephew of Senator Ted Kennedy, the son of the late Robert Kennedy. He was a congressman for many years. I think six term congressman. He spoke last night.
John King, you've covered Boston politics, Massachusetts politics, national politics for a long time. I'll throw out the name Joe Kennedy. Would he be someone who could come in and step in and fill that Senate seat?
KING: Would he be someone who would be a formidable candidate if he decided to make a return to elected politics? Without a doubt especially because, of course, you're running in the context of his Uncle Ted's seat. A couple of quick points on this.
Here in Massachusetts, the expectation is and quietly people have been making calls for months. A little distasteful but quietly making calls for months preparing for this moment to happen. The expectation is that two or three members of the Massachusetts Democratic House delegation will run, people in Washington. Not Barney Frank but perhaps Steve Lynch and Michael Capuano and one or two of the other Democrats in the House delegation. The favorite among Massachusetts' political operatives, those who understand the state and have run campaigns here is the current attorney general Martha Copley because they believe in a race of four or five democrats she's a female candidate. She has won state wide. She has a good organization. She comes from Middlesex county, an area of the state that has a strong Democratic base and it is loyal to her.
If one of the Kennedys got involved that would change everything. One quick point on that. Yes, Vicki Kennedy has been focusing mostly on holding the family together and mourning right now but here is a very interesting footnote, Wolf and Anderson. She has been making phone calls to members of the Massachusetts Legislature including the state Senate president Teresa Marie, who is among those who were reluctant to change the law and allow for an interim senator appointment.
And in making those phone calls I'm told Vicki Kennedy mostly has said I'd like to invite you to the funeral. Thank you for everything the state has done to help the family at this moment. But by the way, she has said in those conversations, do you understand how important it was to my husband that you change that law so we could have an interim senator?
And if you talk to people involved in Massachusetts politics, they say in the last 72 hours the stars have aligned in a way that they are now voicing confidence when the legislature comes back in a week or so they'll quickly hold hearings and most believe quickly pass that law that would allow an interim senator and then the special election next January.
So you would have if that law passes somebody appointed for three or four, maybe four and a half months. And in that dynamic there would be extraordinary pressure on Vicki Reggie Kennedy, the senator's widow. She has said flatly no. I checked back with close friends. They have said no. I saw her brother last night, an accomplished photographer. He says no.
But after the period of mourning would there be a pressure on her to come down for three or four or five months and cast those votes in the health care debate? You bet.
BLITZER: Quickly, John, is it a done deal you think for all practical purposes that they will pass that legislation necessary for an interim senator from Massachusetts to be seated until the special election which probably will take place sometime in January?
KING: I would not call it a done deal but I would call it an increasingly likely probability. When I landed here the other day people were saying 50/50. Now they are saying 75/25 in part because the key players including the Senate president who initially said, you know, this would be distasteful maybe to go back and change this law just for Senator Kennedy. She has now, I'm told, told her deputies be prepared to hold hearings when the legislature comes back into session. And once you start the hearing process, if you talk to the people who are veterans of lobbying the legislature here, veterans of campaigns in Massachusetts, again, 72 hours ago they said 50/50. You ask them this morning they say 75/25 and maybe even 80/20. Wolf.
BLITZER: I think we could listen briefly to see what's happening inside the library right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Followed shortly thereafter by the family and we'll begin the celebration of the mass. At this moment, I want to introduce a friend of the Kennedy family, Father Gerry Creedon, pastor of St. Charles Parish in Arlington, Virginia (INAUDIBLE)
FATHER GERRY CREEDON, PASTOR ST. CHARLES PARISH: Let's begin with a prayer that Jesus gave us.
Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but to deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory now and forever.
I am the resurrection and the life. If you believed in me you shall never die. Belief and conviction were the foundation of sorts of Ted Kennedy's life and work. May this same faith bring him the fullness of life and joy in the kingdom. As we honor him today in life and liturgy send your angels to bring him safely home to rejoin his brothers and sisters and all of the Kennedys and Fitzgeralds who have gone on before us.
On the cross, Jesus said into your hands I commend my spirit. We never know whose hands he's talking about -- God's hands, our hands, your hands? We could ask the spirit of this great and generous friend be commended to the creator who gives life to all living creatures. His beloved dogs -- all creation. And the creator who sustained Ted Kennedy's life from the very beginning.
And while we commend his spirit to the creator, at the same time we garner a full measure of that same courageous spirit for ourselves. We pray that the spirit of Edward Moore Kennedy will abide with us to enlighten our vision and brighten the dream, for the dream will never die.
In his name we pledge to continue his quest for a world where spears are broken, the stranger welcome, the sick receive the oil of compassion, as Lazarus, the poor man is no longer outside the gate. Send your spirit to keep this family always in your tender care. Ted, may the angels lead you into paradise. May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. And in your sails. Until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of his hand. May you go in peace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Father.
BLITZER: The Congressional delegation is now going to get into buses and head over to the church not very far away. That was Father Gerry Creedon, by the way, a long-time Kennedy friend. He is one of the celebrants of the funeral mass. He is the pastor of the church in Arlington, Virginia. The Kennedys lived in McLean, Virginia for a long time and a very close friend of the Kennedy family.
And you see now I guess some 60 members of the United States Senate, current and former getting ready to head out together with other family members. A lot of representatives from the Congress are there with the Kennedy family. And, Anderson, I think all of our viewers know by now that Kennedy family is a pretty large family.
COOPER: A number of members of Congress wanted to touch the casket and flag one last time before it is taken out of the room.
BLITZER: The young kids just saying good bye to Senator Kennedy. This is going to take them a few moments to get over to the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, at the church there. You see it right now about 1,500 invited guests will be inside for this two-hour mass and the president of the United States will be speaking. President Obama came in last night from Martha's Vineyard where he's been vacationing and he's going to be delivering the remarks. Three former presidents will be there as well, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.
You see folks walking into the church right now. We'll continue our special coverage of Ted Kennedy remembered right after this.
BLITZER: This is the eternal flame over at the Arlington National Cemetery. Later this afternoon that's where this funeral will take place not far from that eternal flame right near the grave of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Kennedy will be buried.
We want to welcome back our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is going to be a day, almost every moment, Anderson, has been very, very carefully selected because they've got a lot of work between now and around 5:30 p.m. Eastern when the burial at Arlington takes place.
COOPER: And to give you a sense of what -- you see Chris Dodd there -- what is taking place, soon the casket with Senator Kennedy will be leaving the JFK Library, will be heading over to the basilica where the service we believe will begin if everything begins on schedule around 10:30. There's already an awful lot of people inside the church. Security obviously has been very tight. We'll talk about some of that ahead. A lot of dignitaries there, members of Congress, members of the Senate, former presidents as well.
BLITZER: No, that's Governor Corzine of New Jersey walking in right now. We saw Eric Holder, the attorney general, inside the church already. There he is right there.
COOPER: The service will be about two hours. We'll of course bring all of it to you live. President Obama is expected to speak as well then the casket will be brought back down to Washington where it'll be driven by the Senate then on to the Arlington National Cemetery.
BLITZER: And that's the outside of the church. The buses are bringing over the special guests. Tom Foreman, I hope you can walk us through this day. Tom's been carefully studying what the organizers plan.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Really, we showed the perpetual flame a moment ago at Arlington. Take a look at this trip today. Because it's going to be quite remarkable. Look at D.C. down here, Boston up here. If we fly into Boston, take a look at the lay of the land right now, what's going on right now.
This is the JFK Library down here where we've been watching all the activity last night and we saw the ceremony going on there. The people there at the moment. About four miles away is where we come to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, the Mission Church here, once the service is done there which I'm sure will be very impressive, then they will travel over toward the western side of Boston to the Air Force Base here.
No doubt once there will be people along the route as we saw when he was taken to the library the other day. Then becomes the long trip. They're going to fly 400 miles down the East Coast where he sailed so many, many times down to Andrews Air Force base, then into Washington, D.C. for one of these extraordinary processions that we see only once in a great while here in D.C.
This will be the route. They'll come by the Capitol here. They'll stop by the steps. The staff will greet him. I want to put on a little button on here so you can watch exactly the route as he travels. This is the motorcade with Senator Kennedy's body.
We will go down this way which will take him right along the Mall. He will come past the Smithsonian, the White House over here, the Washington Memorial over here, down here past the Lincoln Memorial then they will cut across the Potomac River, once again a place ...